Delay in the integration of former Darfur armed groups into the national military threatens the country’s stability
Twenty-seven months after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, the transitional government is still grappling with the security sector reform agenda, as the military wing opposes changes in the military and some Darfur rebels do not trust elements of the former regime in the government.
Security experts say that Sudan will not achieve peace even after signing the Juba peace agreement in October 2020, if the country does not embark on security sector reforms and the confiscation of weapons in the wrong hands.
The latest United Nations Security Council report released in late June says that even with the deployment of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan to assist in the transition, the delay in the integration of the armed groups into the national remains a threat to the county’s stability.
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM–N), led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and based in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, has been advocating for the integration of armed groups into the national army as the first step toward resolving conflicts in the country, but the military wing is reluctant to accept former rebels.
Last week, SPLA-N Chief of Staff Izzat Koko issued a statement saying that reforming the military and security systems is necessary for peace, otherwise the country will continue to be fragmented due to the multiplicity of armies, militias, and shadow battalions, as well as the spread of weapons even within the capital, Khartoum.
In particular, the Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council, Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti), who is also commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused of human rights violations in Darfur and on the eve of al-Bashir’s fall, has refused to incorporate his forces into the national army.
Hemeti and many other generals were heavily involved in the war that erupted in Darfur in 2003, when rebel groups revolted against the government after years of marginalisation. However, the signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement demanded that the RSF be incorporated into the national army because these militias were formed to combat them and protect the deposed regime.
Secondly, the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW), the main rebel group in Darfur, has been hesitant about the unification process because some of the generals who led the Darfur massacre since 2003 are still in charge.
According to a recent report by the Organisation for World Peace, the Forces of Freedom and Change — the civilian wing led by Prime Minister Dr Abdalla Hamdok — is finding it difficult to push for the security sector reforms in the face of opposition from the military wing, which continues to wield enormous power in the military.
“Many had high hopes for Sudan’s future after signing the Juba agreement in October 2020, which was viewed as a first step toward bringing peace and laying the groundwork for democracy and economic reform across the country.”