Hemeti’s speech sparks speculations about the SAF and RSF split in Sudan

Hemeti during a speech in 2019 in which he said that the RSF is not guilty of June 3 Massacre (File photo: SUNA)

KHARTOUM – February 21, 2023

A speech by Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council and Commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo on Sunday sparked widespread reactions, including speculations about the split between the Sudan Armed forces (SAF) and Hemeti’s RSF.

Hemeti acknowledged that the October 2021 military coup was wrong, in his speech at a press conference in Khartoum on Sunday, and admitted that the coup has become a gateway for affiliates of the former regime to return. 

These words sound perhaps surprising given the fact that Hemeti was one of the most important people behind the coup, together with SAF Commander and Chairman of the Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan.

Hemeti’s statements reportedly came against the background of the recent speeches by El Burhan in which he pledged his commitment to the formation of a civilian government and ‘integrating the RSF militia into the SAF’.

Muffled struggle

Writer and political analyst Mohamed Hereika said that the contents of the speech “cannot be read outside the context of the conflict within the military establishment, represented by SAF Commander El Burhan and RSF Commander Hemeti”.

He told Radio Dabanga that “the hidden conflict between the two sides surfaced and intensified after the signing of the Framework Agreement, which stipulates the unification of the various military institutions”.

In recent speeches, El Burhan has continuously mentioned the integration of the RSF ‘into the SAF’, rather than speaking about an equal merging or ‘unification’.

“El Burhan, in his recent speeches about merging the army and the RSF, is trying to win over the block of armed movements represented by rebel leaders Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minawi,” he explained.

‘El Burhan, in his recent speeches about merging the army and the RSF, is trying to win over the block of armed movements represented by rebel leaders Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minawi’ – Mohamed Hereika

“Whereas Hemeti, through his political manoeuvres, wants to present himself as an opponent against the Islamists and confirm that his political future is radically linked to the Framework Agreement – which El Burhan signed under international pressure and for personal gains.”

Journalist and columnist Haidar El Mukashfi underscored that the integration of the RSF into the army is a demand of the December revolution, not the SAF.

“The merger is included in the Framework Agreement, which was signed by representatives of the military junta, including Hemeti,” he said.

“His speech was clear and confirmed his commitment to the Framework Agreement. El Burhan’s repeated talk about the integration of the RSF can be considered as incitement from Al Bashir supporters, who are seeking to thwart the Framework Agreement by creating strife and conspiracies to achieve a rift between the Rapid Support Forces and the military establishment.”

In his speech, Hemeti accused “elements of the defunct regime of seeking to drive a wedge between the Sudanese army and the RSF”.

Deep split

Other political analysts also pointed to the split between the RSF and the SAF.

Mohamed Abdelaziz, journalist and political analyst, commented on Hemeti’s speech by saying that “it clearly expresses a deep division within the military, which is now surfacing”.

Abdelaziz told Radio Dabanga that, “since the military coup d’état of October 2021, Hemeti discovered that the coup was only an attempt to restore former officials of the Al Bashir regime to power again”.

Abdelaziz said that the RSF commander’s statements “reveal a big gap between the two sides of the military that seriously widened after elements of the defunct regime began to return to power and regained control over its joints”.

According to the political analyst, “El Burhan seeks to exploit supporters of the former regime to overthrow Hemeti or tame him in order to monopolise power”.

‘El Burhan seeks to exploit supporters of the former regime to overthrow Hemeti’ – Mohamed Abdelaziz

He warned that one of the possible scenarios is a clash between the SAF and the RSF militia, “which could develop into an all-out civil war that may last for years and will eventually lead to the division of Sudan”.

Journalist Ali El Dali said he agrees with this scenario and expects a confrontation between the two parties in the near future as well.

Resistance Committees

The resistance committees rejected the contents of Hemeti’s speech and Ahmed Esmat, spokesperson for the Khartoum Resistance Committees, downplayed its importance.

“It does not concern us in anything, and it does not affect our activism against the entire military-paramilitary system,” he told Radio Dabanga.

Esmat criticised the 40 signatory parties to the December 5 Framework Agreement for welcoming the speech. “The resistance committees consider Hemeti an enemy of the revolution,” he stated.

‘The resistance committees consider Hemeti an enemy of the revolution’ – Ahmed Esmat

“The resistance committees consider the RSF a militia that must be disbanded and brought to trial for the crimes it committed against the revolutionaries and other people,” he explained further. “They are controlling the country’s resources, such as gold and other minerals and the export of livestock, and use the revenues to wage wars in the country.”

He added that the resistance committees will continue to conduct their street protests until the people have taken over power from the military.