Sudan’s top military officer Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, visited Egypt Tuesday and held talks with Egypt president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in his first trip abroad since a bitter conflict broke out this year.
Gen. Burhan, chairman of the ruling Sovereign Council, arrived in the Mediterranean city of al-Alamein and was received at the airport by President al-Sisi, 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 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 swaths of the city. The military command, where Burhan has purportedly been stationed since April, has been one of the epicentres of the conflict.
In televised comments to Egyptian media, Burhan accused the RSF of initiating the war to seize power in the country.
“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.
Burhan was accompanied to Egypt 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 Burhan’s trip or on his comments.
Burhan managed last week to leave the military headquarters. He visited military facilities in Khartoum’s sister city of Omdurman and elsewhere in the country. Burhan traveled to Egypt from the coastal city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Despite 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, al-Sisi hosted a meeting of Sudan’s neighbours and announced a plan for a cease-fire. A series of fragile truces, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, have failed to hold.
Many residents of Khartoum live without water and electricity, and the country’s health care system has nearly collapsed.
The sprawling region of Darfur saw some of the worst violence in the conflict, and the fighting there has morphed into ethnic clashes, with RSF and allied Arab militia targeting ethnic African communities.
Clashes intensified earlier this month in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, with both sides using heavy weapons in densely populated areas, according to activists and local media.
Shelling hit in Nyala’s al-Sekka al-Hadeid neighbourhood on Aug. 22, killing at least 39 civilians including women and children, activist Adam Mousa said.
Mousa, who is a media officer with the Darfur Bar Association, called for the International Criminal Court to investigate the attack and hold the perpetrators accountable.
Clashes were also reported in the provinces of South Kordofan and West Kordofan, according to the United Nations.
The fighting is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people, according to the U.N. human rights office, though activists and doctors on the ground say the toll is likely far higher.
More than 4.6 million people have been displaced, according to the U.N. migration agency. Those include over 3.6 million who fled to safer areas inside Sudan and more than 1 million others who crossed into neighbouring countries.