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Sudan in Turmoil over calls to arm civilians

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Sudan Conflict Khartum
Sudan Conflict Khartum

The call by the general commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) to arm civilians in a popular campaign, or the “Sudanese Popular Resistance,” to fight the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has sparked controversy and concern over involving civilians into war.

Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, addressing soldiers at the Jabait military base in eastern Sudan on Friday, said, “We will arm the popular resistance with any weapon we have, and we will not prevent the Sudanese resistance from bringing any weapons.”Al-Burhan’s statements evoked varied responses from politicians and popular entities regarding the controversial issue of arming civilians to fight alongside the army. The RSF slammed the call as an indication of the army’s “inability to defend Sudan,” adding that arming civilians would “harm” them and increase the risk of a comprehensive war in the country. “Any person who gets armed and stands with the armed forces will be considered a legitimate target for the RSF,” Haroun Mahmoud Medikhair, a senior RSF advisor, said in a statement on Saturday.

However, Husham Al-Shawani, a Sudanese politician, believed that popular resistance “is a right, a duty, and an inevitable necessity.” “The popular resistance is a necessary movement to defend the homeland … and it is a popular revolution that will lead to building the state and the local government in the future,” Al-Shawani said in a statement posted on his X account on Saturday. For his part, Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman, a former member of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, warned against the dangers of putting dangerous weapons into the hands of citizens and the involvement of civilians in war.

Khalid Omer Yousif, a leading figure in the Coordination of Civilian Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), meanwhile, said the call for popular armament indicated that the ongoing war in Sudan has taken on an ethnic and racial dimension. “The dynamics of the war are evolving toward a point of no return. The war has now taken on an evident regional dimension with its parties engaged in extensive recruitment and mobilization,” Yousif said Saturday on the social media platform X.

Sudan has been witnessing deadly clashes between the SAF and the RSF since April 15, 2023. More than 12,000 people had been killed in the fighting, according to a statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in December last year.

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