High-stakes Sudan peace talks postponed for 'technical reasons'

Sudan's Army chief Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec 5, 2022. [AP Photo]

Amid the ongoing conflict in Sudan, the highly anticipated face-to-face meeting between the top commanders of the warring Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces was postponed for "technical reasons," Djibouti's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.

Facilitated by the East African regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the meeting was scheduled to take place Thursday in Djibouti.

The meeting would have marked the first known direct encounter between military chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the commander of RSF, since Sudan's conflict erupted more than eight months ago.

In a letter addressed to IGAD’s member states Wednesday, Djibouti said the meeting scheduled for "28th December 2023 has been postponed to early January 2024 for technical reasons," promising that the exact dates would be "communicated in due time.

The war has devastated half of the northeast African country and resulting in the loss of more than 10,000 lives and the displacement of 7 million, according to United Nations estimates.

The RSF’s recent military gains in various parts of Sudan, including Darfur and Jazeera state, have added complexity to the peace process.

Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had released a statement earlier Wednesday citing a memorandum from Djibouti that indicated the RSF leader was "unable to reach Djibouti for the scheduled meeting ... due to technical reasons."

The ministry clarified that coordination would resume for the meeting in January.

Speaking to VOA via WhatsApp, RSF adviser Yousif Izzat earlier dismissed the ministry’s claim as “fake news” and denied technical issues on the RSF side.

Izzat asserted the “RSF commander agreed to meet, and today [Wednesday] he [would head] outside of Khartoum to the region.”

Meanwhile, Dagalo highlighted his Wednesday visit to Uganda on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Dagalo said he discussed “developments in Sudan and the suffering of the Sudanese people,” with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, presenting what he says is his vision for negotiations, ending the war, and rebuilding the Sudanese state.

On Monday, former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok sent official letters to the warring generals requesting “an urgent meeting for consultation on effective ways to halt the war.”

Hamdok emphasized the conflict’s devastating impact on Sudanese citizens, including loss of life, displacement, and infrastructure destruction, and highlighted the ongoing threat to the country’s stability.

Dagalo acknowledged receiving Hamdok’s letter “with a sense of urgency and responsibility,” expressing eagerness to hold the meeting and welcomed “all national initiatives aimed at fostering peace and reducing the hardships resulting from this war.”

Sudan army chief Burhan has not publicly commented on Hamdok’s call.