Controversy Surrounds Sudan’s Call to Arm Civilians Against RSF

Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan
Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan

The recent declaration made by the general commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) urging the arming of civilians in the “Sudanese Popular Resistance” against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has ignited controversy and raised concerns about involving non-combatants in conflict.

During an address to soldiers at the Jabait military base in eastern Sudan, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan stated, “We will provide the popular resistance with any available weaponry, allowing the Sudanese resistance to procure any arms they need.”

Al-Burhan’s remarks have elicited diverse reactions from politicians and public figures regarding the contentious move of arming civilians to fight alongside the military.

The RSF condemned the call as an indication of the army’s “inadequacy in defending Sudan,” cautioning that arming civilians could jeopardize their safety and escalate the country’s overall conflict.

“Any individual armed and supporting the armed forces will be considered a legitimate target by the RSF,” stated Haroun Mahmoud Medikhair, a senior advisor to the RSF, on Saturday.

Contrarily, Sudanese politician Husham Al-Shawani regarded the popular resistance as “a legitimate right, a duty, and an unavoidable necessity.”

“The popular resistance is an imperative movement to safeguard the homeland… and it signifies a grassroots revolution aimed at shaping the future state and local governance,” Al-Shawani expressed in a statement shared on their platform on Saturday.

However, Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman, a former member of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, cautioned against the risks associated with providing dangerous armaments to civilians and involving non-combatants in warfare.

Khalid Omer Yousif, a prominent figure in the Coordination of Civilian Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), highlighted that the call for civilian armament indicated a shift in the Sudanese conflict towards ethnic and racial dimensions.

“The conflict dynamics are approaching an irreversible point. It has taken on a clear regional aspect with extensive recruitment and mobilization by involved parties,” Yousif expressed on the social media platform X on Saturday.

Sudan has been embroiled in deadly clashes between the SAF and the RSF since April 15, 2023. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 12,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict as of December last year.

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