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El Burhan demands UK apologies to Sudan for colonial crimes

September 7 - 2022 KHARTOUM
Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan (File photo)
Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan (File photo)

The chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council and Commander of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, has asked the United Kingdom to provide an official apology for crimes committed during the British colonial era in a speech on Tuesday. He further denied rumours that the SAF and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) will take up arms against each other.

In a speech celebrating the 124th anniversary of the Battle of Karari between the British army and Sudanese Mahdist forces, El Burhan described the British actions as a crime against humanity that should be accounted for.

“They (British forces) committed murder and atrocities for four days after the battle,” said El Burhan, before going on to describe British actions as “tantamount to genocide and ethnic cleansing”.

The Battle of Karari, also known as the Battle of Omdurman, was fought on September 2, 1898 between British-Egyptian and Sudanese Mahdist forces in an area just north of Omdurman.

The British Government has not replied to the apology request. In 2008, the now-ousted President Omar Al Bashir, also called for Britain and other western countries to apologise for the ‘massacres’ that took place in Sudan and other countries, and to return what had been stolen.

Rapid Support Forces

During the same speech, El Burhan said that the Sudanese army and the RSF would not take up arms against each other, accusing unnamed groups of attempting to sow division between the two military institutions.

“The army and the Rapid Support Forces are one entity, so do not try to create discord between us,’ warned El Burhan.

The RSF, in Arabic El Guwat El Daam El Saree, is a large paramilitary group headed by Sudan’s Vice President of the Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo.

The militia was created in 2013 to fight armed rebel groups throughout Sudan. Its members were recruited for a large part from the janjaweed militia groups who fought for the government in Darfur since war broke out in the region in 2003, though recruitment continued in the following years.

During the era of Al Bashir, the RSF operated under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which is accountable to the Sudanese president. Hemeti, a former commander of the paramilitary Border Guards and Janjaweed militia leader, commanded the militia on the ground.

The RSF gained significance outside Sudan, when it joined the Saudi-led military coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Most of the militiamen sent to Yemen were young men from Darfur and Kordofan. Many were killed and wounded.

Former rebel movements that signed the Juba Peace Agreement on October 3, 2020 have long called for all of Sudan’s armed forces to merge, along with, changes in army leadership.

According to a recent report by the Washington-based NGO C4ADS, military actors in Sudan have, over time, accumulated vast wealth and power through their strong ties to Sudan’s financial institutions and export of natural resources.

* C4ADS is a non-profit organisation dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide. Breaking the Bank, How Military Control of the Economy Obstructs Democracy in Sudan was published on June 29.

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