29 August 2023

Sudan’s military leader visits Egypt on first trip abroad since conflict began

29 August 2023

Sudan’s top military officer made a one-day visit to Egypt on Tuesday for talks with the Egyptian president, making his first trip abroad since his country plunged into a bitter conflict this year.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council, arrived in the Mediterranean city of el-Alamein and was met at the airport by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the council said.

The two leaders discussed efforts to end the conflict in Sudan in a way that preserves “the sovereignty, integrity of Sudanese State”, an Egyptian statement said. The statement offered only generalities about the war.

Sudan plunged into chaos in mid-April when simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen Burhan, and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere.

The conflict has turned the capital into an urban battlefield, with the RSF controlling vast areas of the city. The military command, where Gen Burhan has purportedly been stationed since April, has been one of the epicenters of the conflict.

In televised comments to Egyptian media, Gen Burhan accused the RSF of initiating the war to seize power in Sudan.

“We’re facing a destructive war initiated by rebel groups … that committed heinous crimes that amount to war crimes,” he said.

The military has sought to end the conflict and establish a transitional period until “fair and free elections”, he said.

Gen Burhan was accompanied by acting Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq and Gen Ahmed Ibrahim Mufadel, head of the General Intelligence Authority, and other military officers.

There was no immediate comment from the RSF either on Gen Burhan’s trip or on his comments.

The Sovereign Council announced late on Tuesday that Gen Burhan had returned to Port Sudan, the country’s largest coastal city controlled by the military. The general had departed from the Red Sea city to Egypt earlier in the day.

Gen Burhan managed last week to leave Sudan’s military headquarters in Khartoum. He visited military facilities in Khartoum’s sister city of Omdurman and elsewhere north of the capital.

In months of fighting, neither side has managed to gain control of Khartoum or other key areas in the country. Last week, large explosions and plumes of black smoke could be seen above key areas of the capital, including near its airport.

Egypt has longstanding ties with the Sudanese army and its top generals. In July, el-Sissi hosted a meeting of Sudan’s neighbours and announced a plan for a cease-fire. A series of fragile truces, brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia, have failed to hold.

The fighting is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people, according to the UN human rights office, though activists and doctors on the ground say the toll is likely to be far higher.

More than 4.6 million people have been displaced, according to the UN migration agency.

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s humanitarian chief, said on Tuesday that the organisation had added an additional 20 million dollars (£15.8 million) from its emergency funding to help cover Sudan’s growing humanitarian needs.

This year a total of 60 million dollars (£47.5 million) from the fund has been allocated to Sudan, Mr Griffith said in a post on Twitter, now known as X.

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