By Nafisa Eltahir
CAIRO (Reuters) - A top Sudanese general has said the United Arab Emirates is sending supplies to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), publicly accusing the UAE of involvement in its war with its powerful paramilitary rival for the first time.
Army leaders had previously only hinted at interference from unnamed neighbouring countries in the seven-month-old war, which has displaced more than 6 million people and triggered waves of ethnically driven killings in Darfur.
"We have information from intelligence, military intelligence, and the diplomatic circuit that the UAE sends planes to support the Janjaweed," General Yassir al-Atta said in a speech to members of the General Intelligence Service in Omdurman, in a video circulated on social media and viewed by Reuters.
The RSF developed from Arab militias known as the Janjaweed that helped Sudan's army crush a rebellion in Darfur in the 2000s.
In response to a request for comment, a UAE official said that from the outset of the war, the UAE had "consistently called for de-escalation, a ceasefire, and the initiation of diplomatic dialogue" in Sudan.
It had also provided humanitarian support to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and neighbouring countries, including through a field hospital established in the Chadian city of Amdjarass in July, the official said.
Atta said the UAE had funnelled unspecified supplies to the RSF through Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. Support had arrived this week through the airport in Chad's capital Ndjamena, having previously come through Amdjarass, he said.
Atta praised Russia for dismantling the paramilitary Wagner Group which he said had facilitated supplies through CAR. The RSF has denied links to the group.
"We warn any country that participates in supporting this rebellion that what goes around comes around," Atta said, to cheers from intelligence officers.
DRONES AND ARTILLERY
The comments come after the RSF has gained momentum in the war, dislodging the army from four states in the Darfur region. The RSF quickly gained control of most of the capital, Khartoum, soon after the start of the war.
Eyewitnesses have said the RSF has used drones and more advanced artillery than it had at the start of the conflict. RSF sources have said the force seized the weaponry from army bases.
Uganda's state minister for foreign affairs called Atta's claims "absolute rubbish." Sudan's army, Chad and the CAR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The army released a video of Atta's comments in which mention of the UAE appeared to have been edited out.
Atta serves as a deputy to army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who recently announced his first trip to the UAE since the outbreak of war to coincide with U.N. climate summit COP28 next week.
While the UAE backed Sudan's aborted political transition after the 2019 overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, it has remained publicly quiet on the war.
Last year the UAE signed a deal to build a port on Sudan's Red Sea coast, among investments in agriculture and other fields. It is also a main destination for Sudanese gold.
(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Dubai and Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Alex Richardson)