Last week peace talks between the breakaway faction of the Sudan Peace Liberation Movement- North led by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El-Hilu) and the interim Sudanese government adjourned without final agreement. At the crux of the remaining contentious issues is the proposition to fully integrate the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into a unified, national army. The RSF, led by General Hemeti, is a paramilitary branch of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The forces were formed and used by the previous regime to perpetrate the Darfur genocide and commit the crimes against humanity which al-Bashir currently stands accused of. Despite officially answering to the interim government, the size and power of the RSF has allowed them to keep considerable autonomy and continue their heinous attacks against civilians.
Most recently, the RSF has been implicated in the violence ravaging South Kordofan. When intercommunal fighting broke out June 10-15 in Kologi between Dar Ali and Kawahla tribesmen, RSF and local police did not intervene to protect civilians. Six were killed as a result of the fighting, as well as at least 4 serious injuries and a number of houses burnt to the ground. On June 17, 200 armed Popular Defence Forces (PDF) and RSF uniformed men looted markets in Kologi and robbed civilians of their possessions. When Kawahla tribesmen retaliated the next day, six people were killed in a shootout with the militia. South Kordofan has experienced a surge in violent attacks since January in which the RSF either instigated the conflict or did not intervene. Insecurity in South Kordofan has impacted all areas of life, including disrupting supplementary school education in the region.
Rampant mistrust by citizens has followed RSF since its inception in 2013. The RSF was formed through a consolidation of smaller Janjaweed militias under the previous government. The RSF, dubbed the “New Janjaweed,” has made clear their allegiance to Hemeti and to the continuation of violence. The RSF has been widely considered responsible by the citizens and the international community for the rape and genocide of Darfur and the Two Areas under the order of al Bashir and General Hemeti. On June 3, 2019, the RSF broke up a pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum and massacred 127 peaceful protestors. On June 26, 2021, the New York Times reported the uncovering of a gravesite outside of Khartoum with several hundred undiscovered bodies from the June 3 massacre.
The allowance of RSF to continue operations unchecked during the transitional period undermines efforts to advance civilian protection and overall stability. Reports of rising tensions between the SAF and RSF threaten Hamdok’s hope for a peaceful integration into a centralized national army. While DWAG acknowledges the wishes of the interim government to integrate the RSF into the SAF, we strongly urge the interim government to acknowledge the brutality of which the RSF has utilized to attack Darfur and the Two Areas over the past eight years. Genocidal tactics and forces cannot be reformed. The RSF is overrun by perpetrators of the Darfur genocide and General Hemeti refuses to crack down on continued attacks against the people of Darfur. If the politically ambitious Hemeti is granted any measure of control over a national army, DWAG expresses grave concern that a vulnerable Sudan risks falling back under an autocratic, violent regime.
The defence budget was increased by 58% to accommodate for the structural reforms and training necessary to integrate RSF forces into the SAF. At the same time, spending on health and education declines as skyrocketing inflation threatens underprivileged populations with famine. Rather than using the money to stimulate the economy, improve infrastructure, or provide local police with the resources to ensure stability, Sudan has invested in an army disproportionate in size to security needs. DWAG strongly cautions against neglecting vital sectors to stability and development.
DWAG calls for the interim government to immediately intervene against the growing violence in South Kordofan. If Janjaweed members or sympathizers are allowed to continue their hold of the transitional government and expand their influence, DWAG fears history may repeat itself for the people of Darfur. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity within the RSF must be held accountable for their crimes and removed from the forces without delay.