Sudan army chief visits Eritrea on latest trip abroad

Tuesday September 12 2023

President of Sudan's Transitional Sovereignty Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan boards an airplane at Port Sudan airport, heading to South Sudan on September 4, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Sudan's Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, at war for the past five months with paramilitaries, returned to Port Sudan on Monday after visiting neighbouring Eritrea, his government said.

General Burhan's visit for talks with Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara was his fourth trip abroad in two weeks after he also went to Egypt, South Sudan and, last week, Qatar.

Burhan, Sudan's de facto leader since a 2021 coup, has been fighting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo since April 15.

Experts say his recent travels aim to burnish his credentials in the event of talks to end the conflict that has killed nearly 7,500 people, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Read: Burhan’s shuttle diplomacy to pledge Sudan peace, clear RSF

The war has uprooted more than five million people, including one million who fled across borders, according to United Nations figures.


Monday's Asmara visit "affirmed Eritrea's support for Sudan and its territorial integrity", according to a statement from Sudan's ruling Transitional Sovereignty Council.

Eritrea's Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on X, formerly Twitter, that Afwerki had "reiterated Eritrea's views on transition to safety" and published a picture of the president seated beside Burhan.

Eritrea, which borders Sudan to the southeast, has refrained, unlike other neighbours, from welcoming any of the more than one million refugees fleeing the war, with the borders closed since 2019.

In early September, Burhan announced from Kassala, a Sudanese state bordering Eritrea, that border posts were reopening, signalling a strengthening of security along what has been known as a porous border.

Afwerki participated in a Cairo meeting in mid-July with the heads of state of Sudan's other neighbours, condemning "a war launched for no reason" in Sudan.

In one of the war's deadliest single attacks yet, air strikes killed at least 47 people and wounded dozens Sunday at a market in the south of the capital Khartoum, local activists said Monday, updating earlier tolls.

Read: Sudan at risk of disease outbreaks, charity group says

The Mayo neighbourhood resistance committee announced Monday it was going to bury "12 unidentified bodies" after the "massacre of the Qouro market".

On social media, it published photos of volunteers in surgical masks laying white shrouds in shallow graves, up to eight bodies in a plot.

The committee is one of many groups that used to organise pro-democracy protests and now provide assistance during the war.

The armed forces control the skies over Khartoum, while RSF fighters continue to dominate the city's streets.

On Sunday, the RSF accused the military of the "air strikes against civilians in the south of Khartoum". The army denied attacking the market, saying it "fully adheres to international humanitarian law".