Deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference in Khartoum
Deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference at Rapid Support Forces head quarter in Khartoum, Sudan February 19, 2023. Reuters

The Sudanese army on Thursday warned of the risk of confrontation after the mobilisation in the capital Khartoum and other cities of a para-military force headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) moves represented a "clear violation of law," the army said in a rare comment on an ongoing dispute that has hampered a planned transition to democracy.

"These movements and deployments happened without the agreement of the leadership of the armed forces or even coordination with it," the army spokesman said.

"Their continuation will lead to more tension and divisions that could lead to insecurity in the country."

The RSF is a powerful paramilitary force which emerged from militias involved in the conflict in Darfur which broke out 20 years ago, and has been accused of widespread human rights abuses.

It joined with the military to overthrow long-ruling strongman Omar Hassan al-Bashir in a coup in 2019. The two forces then carried out another coup in October 2021.

Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is now deputy leader of Sudan's ruling military council. But he has recently pulled away from the military and found common ground with a civilian political alliance.

Relations between the military and the RSF have worsened, forcing a delay to the signing of an internationally-backed agreement with political parties for a two-year civilian-led transition to elections.

The head of the National Umma Party Fadlallah Burma Nasir, a retired soldier, invited the military and the RSF leadership to a meeting, saying: "If we are not careful the situation will go beyond all our previous political mechanisms and processes, and we can take as lessons many countries in the region."

Central to Dagalo's disagreement with the military is his reluctance to set a clear deadline to integrate the RSF into the army, two military sources said.

Dagalo has said repeatedly in speeches that he did not want a confrontation with the army, a move that would spell prolonged insecurity across a country already dealing with economic breakdown and flare-ups of tribal violence.

The RSF, which operates under a special law and has its own chain of command, said in an earlier statement that it deploys across the country as part of its normal duties.

Concerned about Dagalo's intentions, the army under ruling council leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has stationed more soldiers in Khartoum on a state of alert, the military sources said.

Dagalo commands tens of thousands of fighters in the RSF and has amassed considerable mineral wealth.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Jacqueline Wong and Angus MacSwan)