Speculation over the balance of power created by the civil war in Sudan has mounted after the leader of the regular army left Khartoum.
Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan held a series of public appearances and toured military sites on the way to Port Sudan, where he made a passionate speech to troops, decrying Islamists.
His itinerary included the Wadi Seidna Air Base in the western part of Omdurman and the government’s new headquarters in Port Sudan, via Atbara.
Al-Burhan’s departure came after growing chatter that the Rapid Support Forces militia had gained an upper hand over the army in Khartoum and were encircling the regular army’s headquarters.
Al-Burhan has rarely been seen since the conflict with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia began in mid-April and was thought to be in hiding.
RSF members reported seeing a helicopter land — possibly to evacuate the general. However, they did not attack it, citing humanitarian concerns for what could have been a medical mission.
Al-Burhan has kept busy in his absence from Khartoum, addressing public rallies in other areas of the country. He was even spotted sharing a cup of coffee with a roadside vendor.
المناطق التي زارها الفريق عبدالفتاح البرهان عند الساعة السادسة صباح اليوم الخميس 24 /8/2023 سكان الحارة ١٠٠ إسكان الصحافيين وارتكاز القوات المسلحة بترجله من سيارة رئاسية والجلوس لبائعة الشاي ملاك وطلب قهوة صباحية وسط دهشة الحضور وتدافع الحضور بلقائية نحوه وقد داعب بعضهم و غادر... pic.twitter.com/z1qlbjEjaK— أحمد القرشي إدريس (@ahmadhgurashi) August 24, 2023
Claims over the departure denied
The RSF claimed that other army leaders were not informed of al-Burhan’s departure, but reportedly two members of his security detail were killed and one of his close military aides was shot in the foot during the operation to get him out of the capital.
Its media and propaganda machine claimed it was the result of an international agreement for him to leave — a claim echoed by leaders from the Freedom and Change movement, Sudan’s coalition of civilian groups and organisations opposed to Islamist rule.
Al-Burhan denied these claims in a passionate speech to his troops at Port Sudan’s Flamingo Naval Base. He said that his departure was part of a military operation and no mention was made of any agreement reached.
The lack of direct or indirect communication between the regular army and the RSF since the breakdown of negotiations in Jeddah seems to back his claims. Ongoing disagreements among the intermediaries also make any international deal on moving the general unlikely.