Q&A: RSF adviser on Sudan ceasefire, Wagner and civilian killings

Ibrahim Mukhayer speaks to Al Jazeera about the allegations against the paramilitary group and what would it take for the war to end.

Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) soldiers
The violence in Sudan has killed hundreds of people and forced 1.5 million from their homes [File: Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Mediators have announced that the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to a one-day ceasefire starting early on Saturday in the latest effort to bring nearly two months of civil conflict in Sudan to an end.

The agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States on Friday is meant to facilitate the safe passage of desperately needed humanitarian aid across the country.

It is also hoped that it would halt the fighting that has been raging since April 15 when a rivalry between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo – partly due to disagreements over the chain of command amid military restructuring plans – exploded into war.

A string of previous ceasefires has fallen through with both sides accusing the other of violations.

On Friday, Al Jazeera asked Ibrahim Mukhayer, a London-based adviser to the RSF commander, about the allegations against the paramilitary group and what it would take for the war to end. The interview below has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Al Jazeera: There are many reports citing residents in Khartoum accusing RSF fighters of committing atrocities and occupying their homes while aid agencies speak of occupation of hospitals. You signed a commitment to vacate those spaces. When will you abide by that?

Ibrahim Mukhayer: We are insisting to have observers on the ground – from the US and Saudi Arabian initiative – because all these accusations can be clarified when we have these observers. The issue here is not the accusations of each other. The issue is to focus on how to stop the war, how to [implement] the ceasefire and how to abide by the initiative.

Al Jazeera: You’re suggesting that you need other observers, but you are in contact with RSF troops on the ground. Can you tell us, based on your communication with them, whether there have been killings of civilians?

Mukhayer: There is no truth about [this]. You have to remember that the forces are a part of the military, they are very organised, very obedient to the commanders, and they abide by human rights laws.

Al Jazeera: People say they are scared to go outside their homes because women are being raped, civilians are being killed and their homes are being occupied by your forces. Aid agencies also say the RSF is occupying hospitals. Are you denying that any of this is taking place?

Mukhayer: Starting with the aid agencies – yesterday, for example – our forces facilitated the evacuation of 300 children from Mayqoma orphanage … with the cooperation of the Red Cross.

In the beginning of this crisis, about 7,000 or more criminals were let out by the armed forces from the prisons. Those are very dangerous people who are going around. In addition, there is also propaganda that is trying to smear the reputation of the forces.

This government is not very serious in trying to resolve this crisis. … We are very keen for the American, the Saudi Arabian and also African [mediators] to try to convince them that there is no way out of this crisis without abiding by the international law.

Al Jazeera: Are there any Rapid Support Forces fighters at the moment occupying hospitals or civilians’ residences in Khartoum?

Mukhayer: Not at all. There is no force of ours occupying any hospitals. As for civilian residences, [there is] evidence that there are snipers from al-Burhan’s forces occupying those houses. This is a great hazard for civilians and for us too. And that’s the only reason why we sometimes go in those houses – to eliminate such hazards.

Al Jazeera: Where is the RSF getting its weapons from? The US government is saying the Russian military contractor Wagner has supplied the RSF with surface-to-air missiles.

Mukhayer: Our forces are besieged in the capital, and they are surrounded by the armed forces, … so how can these weapons come to us? All the weapons we’ve found, we’ve found them in the capital. … So we don’t have any relations with Wagner or even the Russians. [Former] President Omar al-Bashir was the one who went to Russia and asked for protection. All the elements of his government is the one we see now [in power] and we are fighting against.

Al Jazeera: You say you are very keen for a peace process to take place. What would it take, in your mind, for this war to end?

Mukhayer: We are waiting for the American and the Saudi Arabia initiative to show the pathway out of this crisis. And we will be abiding by the results of such negotiations.

Source: Al Jazeera