President of Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan addresses the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Mi

Veteran soldier leads Sudan’s army against rival general

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM, May 5 (Reuters) – General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan pledged to take Sudan to civilian rule, but after going to war last month with his former partner in a military coup, that looks a distant promise.

As his warplanes rain strikes on the capital and his troops battle the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of rival general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, Burhan has shown no inclination to compromise.

“There is no other option but the military solution,” he said five days into fighting that he was believed to be initially directing from a presidential guesthouse near the airport.

The war comes after Burhan had already turned Sudan’s fortunes upside down twice by removing veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir during a popular uprising in 2019 and then by halting a democratic transition in 2021 by ousting a civilian government.

A career soldier in his 60s who served Bashir loyally for decades, Burhan rose through the ranks in wars in South Sudan and Sudan’s Darfur region. Few expected he would one day rule as head of a “Sovereign Council” established after Bashir fell.

Hemedti, whose powerful RSF had operated alongside the army during the war in Darfur, stepped in as Burhan’s deputy on the council. Despite occasional tensions, they presented a united front and in 2021 dissolved government in a coup.

Their relationship, never close, fell apart as they jostled for an upper hand, squabbling over the terms of a promised transition to democracy and the RSF’s merger into the regular armed forces, which Burhan wanted to accelerate.

With ties worsening before clashes broke out on April 15, Burhan was already making preparations for war as his air force scoped out bombing targets, military sources have said.

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