Sudanese army chief asks UN to dismiss envoy

May 28, 2023

KHARTOUM: Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has accused UN special envoy Volker Perthes of stoking a brutal conflict with paramilitaries, the latest in a series of apparent moves to bolster his war effort.


United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by Burhan’s letter, which requested “the nomination of a replacement” to Perthes and accused him of committing “fraud and disinformation” in facilitating a political process which broke down into six weeks of devastating urban warfare.

Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, were meant to meet for negotiations facilitated by the UN on April 15, the day they turned Khartoum into a war zone.

The meeting aimed to end a political crisis that has gripped Sudan since 2021, when Burhan and Daglo together seized power in a coup. As their feud worsened, the international community tried to get the intransigent generals to reach a deal on integration of Daglo´s RSF into the regular army, part of a deal to restore the transition to civilian rule.

Since late last year Perthes and the UN mission in Sudan, which he heads, have been the target of several protests by thousands of military and Islamist supporters who accused Perthes of “foreign intervention” and demanded his dismissal. Similar protests have taken place in the eastern city of Port Sudan since the war started.

Perthes had maintained his “optimism” and said he was “taken by surprise” by the war, which has since killed around 1,800 people and uprooted more than 1.3 million. In the letter, Burhan said Perthes presented a misleading picture “of consensus” in his reports to the UN.

“Without these signs of encouragement, the rebel leader Daglo would not have launched his military operations,” said Burhan. It has never, however, been possible to verify who fired the first shots in the war.

In a statement from UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, Guterres said he was “shocked by the letter” and “proud of the work done by Volker Perthes and reaffirms his full confidence in his Special Representative.”

The rival forces are currently in the fifth day of a one-week ceasefire brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia. In a joint statement Friday, the mediators “noted improved respect for the agreement” but said there was nevertheless “isolated gunfire in Khartoum”.

Burhan last week officially sacked Daglo as his deputy in the ruling Sovereign Council, replacing him with former rebel leader Malik Agar. After reports of Burhan´s letter emerged, Agar said he spoke to Perthes about “ways to resolve the crisis and end the war”. The army is now also seeking to reinforce its ranks.

On Friday the defence ministry called on “army pensioners” and “all those capable of bearing arms” to head to command units and “arm themselves in order to protect themselves,” their families and their neighbours.

A statement later in the day revised the call to just army “reservists” and “pensioners”. The RSF called it a “dangerous decision”.