Hemedti in charm offensive as Sudan peace bid stalls once again

Friday December 29 2023

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni meets Sudan's RSF leader Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo at Rwakitura in Kiruhura District, Uganda on December 27, 2023. PHOTO | PPU


Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces Commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo ‘Hemedti’ this week emerged from isolation to make the first public trips abroad, ostensibly seeking to undercut his nemesis in the war, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

On Thursday, Hemedti arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the second station of a rare foreign tour and in his first appearance outside Sudan since war broke out between the RSF and the Sudanese army in mid-April. He had earlier on Wednesday met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday to “brief” him on the war.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he had received Hemedti and his delegation “to discuss peace and stability in Sudan.”

Read: Mediators target wider consensus in Sudan peace talks

Hemedti’s public appearance may sound like his own push to rival Burhan’s recent trips. But it also signals that he was in fact still alive, putting online rumours about his status to bed.

It also sends frustrations to the army leadership, including Burhan and members of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation loyal to former President Omar al-Bashir who was ousted in April 2019. Hemedti, sources say, has agreed to meet with Burhan one-on-one on January 3 having failed to show up at a meeting planned for Thursday this week in Djibouti.


As such, his shuttle diplomacy also presents an image of a man confident of winning the war on the ground, hence an important person at the table.

Burhan, in his trips, had sought to isolate Hemedti and his RSF, even though evidence now shows that both sides have committed brutality against civilians. RSF though was recently indicted by Washington of committing war crimes, including ethnic cleansing in Sudan.

Read: US sanctions Sudan's RSF deputy leader over abuses

Hemedti had initially been accused of being close to Kenyan President William Ruto, the reason Burhan rejected Ruto’s mediation role under the regional bloc, Igad.

But touring Uganda and Ethiopia, two other countries, the Sudan Armed Forces say, have been leaning to Hemedti’s side, even if they deny, may now show that he has his own networks to fix such high-profile sessions.

It may also explain why there is little consensus among local and international parties influencing events in Sudan, on how to achieve peace.

Nine months

Meanwhile, Sudan’s war is entering its ninth month with various peace bids failing to achieve, at least, ceasefire. The RSF has been announcing victories including the recent taking control of most areas of Gezira State, south of Khartoum, and its capital, Wad Madani.

One problem that raises is whether ‘winners’ on the ground can sign on a peace deal, or if losers will remain united under one leader or splinter.

Read: Mistrust between factions stalls search for Sudan truce

The Sudanese Army has not been sharing its own data on achievements or losses and its senior commanders relocated to city of Port Sudan, some 1,000 kilometres from Khartoum.

The Rapid Support Forces has claimed control of all major cities on the road linking the capital to the borderlines of Gezira state and the depth of Sennar state in the south, more than 300 kilometres away.

The war between the Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces has led to 12,000 deaths, devastated the capital Khartoum, forced some 7 million people to flee their homes and sparked waves of ethnic killings in the Darfur region. At least 1.4 million are refugees in neighbouring countries of Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.