Secret talks between rival Sudanese generals
Joint initiative of Arab states as East African political track falters
Sudan’s military regime and the renegade paramilitary that it is fighting held secret talks earlier this month in the Arabian Gulf, even as a more prominent track of negotiations facilitated by the East African bloc IGAD broke down.
Secrecy around the meetings underscores the reluctance of the Sudanese army to negotiate openly with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) at this time, after public backlash over a series of stinging military defeats.
The army’s loss of large parts of Al-Jezira State last month, including the state capital Wad Madani, triggered chatter of a potential coup d'état, and a rare public rebuke from the Islamic Movement, which has substantial influence in the military and intelligence service.
At the same time, Arab states with historically close ties with Sudan have begun to coordinate more closely, amid growing Western diplomatic pressure and widespread, prominent media coverage over the United Arab Emirates’ role in supporting the RSF.
The recent talks were held in Manama, Bahrain, a Gulf Arab state with close relations with the Emirates, according to multiple sources. Although the talks seemingly were driven by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt participated.
Muzamil Abu al-Gasim, a well-known pro-army Sudanese journalist, wrote on his Facebook page yesterday,
“Three unannounced meetings were held during the current month of January between Lieutenant General Shams al-Din al-Kabbashi and the deputy commander of the rebellion, Abdelrahim Dagalo, in the Bahraini capital Manama sponsored by the Emirates and Egypt, to launch a track of “Manama negotiations.”
However, a Western source denied that the Manama meetings represented a “new track,” suggesting instead that the Jeddah talks in Saudi Arabia could be revitalized.
Similarly, multiple Sudanese newspapers reported that the Manama talks are not an alternative to the Jeddah negotiations, but rather a complementary initiative, hinting at the resumption of the Saudi-led talks in Jeddah in February.
Abu al-Gasim reiterated his reporting about the Manawa initiative in an interview today on the TV program Al Jazeera Mubasher, adding, “There will be another round of talks that will take place in the coming days.”
He said that the RSF made several demands at the talks, including restoring the political and executive role that the Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo had held before the war as deputy chairman of the Sovereignty Council, removal of measures taken against RSF-controlled companies, and eliminating the role of the Islamist leaders of the former regime. The army, for its part, demanded that the RSF pay a compensation of $30 million, release of prisoners of war, among other demands.
The Sudanese army representative at the Manama talks, Shams Al-Din Al-Kabbashi, is the deputy to army commander-in-chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. He served as a member of the Sovereignty Council both before and after the October 2021 coup and was the public face of the military after the ouster of al-Bashir in 2019, representing them in negotiations with civilian political forces.
On the RSF side, Abdelrahim Dagalo is the brother of the RSF commander-in-chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and the deputy commander of the paramilitary.
According to Abu al-Gasim, representatives of four Arab intelligence agencies participated in the Manama negotiations between Kabbashi and Dagalo, as well as an American representative. The Sudanese General Intelligence Service was excluded from the meetings.
Diyaa al-Din Bilal, another Sudanese journalist and political analyst, commented about the meeting in a post on his Facebook page, writing,
Obviously, eliminating Rapid Support completely is not currently possible, at least anytime soon. The continuation of the war may complicate the situation, multiply the suffering, and take the conflict out of everyone’s control.
The popular resistance disrupted the calculations of the militia and those behind it. At this point it is possible to negotiate on better ground.
It is important to present an integrated vision by the army and the political and societal forces supporting it:
Determining what can be agreed upon and what must not be conceded.
Peace is required, but a booby-trapped peace will practically mean a continuation of the atmosphere of war.
Continuing the fighting without a comprehensive vision will mean more devastation and destruction without a time limit.
Negotiation is very necessary, and its continuation does not mean the cessation of military operations. You can negotiate and fight, what is important is the final results.
The conspiracy is greater than the capabilities of the Sudanese state, which suffers from fragility and conflict.
Wisdom and intelligence are needed, and the ability to use all possible cards.
The militia is suffering a lot from problems and pressures. This is an appropriate circumstance to dismantle its coup project by increasing pressure on it on the ground and besieging it at the negotiating tables in order to reach a just, safe and unmined peace agreement [i.e., one that is not a trap].”
Fighting raged in the Hattab/Kadroo area today, which is one of two pockets of Khartoum Bahri where army troops still are present. Pro-RSF media claimed that they killed and wounded more than 50 soldiers and captured another 50. Videos confirmed fighting in the area but not the death toll. We will bring details later.
The Sudan air force dropped barrel bombs on El Daien in East Darfur State,
Airstrikes were also carried out Babanusa, West Kordofan, during fighting between the Sudanese army and the RSF. Ayin Network reported that at least 2,000 people arrived in neighboring cities coming from Babanusa, many of whom were looted by gunmen along the way.
A workshop organized by the French organization Promediation, involving Darfur armed groups, concluded with an agreement to facilitate humanitarian access.
Civil society activists are worried about growing militarization in Eastern Sudan and neighboring Eritrea, where SAF-linked groups set up training camps.
RSF’s official media report cooperation between RSF and Chadian border troops to recover stolen livestock, which were brought from Chad into West Darfur.