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The United Nations (UN) has warned that the bloody conflict in Sudan could soon cross the country’s borders and spread. Its Secretary General António Guterres he said ‘A catastrophic blowout inside Sudan… could engulf the entire region and beyond.’
A humanitarian crisis is already evident in the number of Sudanese who have sought refuge or sought refuge in Egypt, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Ethiopia. The consequences are dire in a region still recovering from war in Ethiopia and prolonged instability in Somalia.
The current conflict erupted on April 15 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti). With two warriors as leaders, the city war has declared 500 it lives in the strife between equally balanced forces armed and ready for battle. Repeated claims by both leaders that they will achieve “total victory” leave little chance of averting an all-out civil war.
Sudan and neighboring countries
Regional and international efforts to stop the fighting have been swift but largely ineffective. A day after the explosion, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU). condemned they called for a cessation of hostilities and quarrels. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development in East Africa (IGAD) responded in kind, appointing the leaders of Djibouti, South Sudan and Kenya to lead a regional peace process.
The UN’s strong call for a ceasefire has been accompanied by pressure from the United States (US) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although the first steps were quick and commendable, they highlight two main challenges in maintaining the status quo and preventing a spillover in the region.
The first is that consistency between multiple peace processes is essential. While several factors contributed to the transition and deadlock in Sudan, the proliferation of actors and peace processes in recent years has been an important catalyst. Among others, the UN-AU-IGAD mechanism; USA, UK, Saudi Arabia and UAE team; Sudan’s “group of friends” and the Arab League, to name a few.
Each brings strategic interests, approaches and ideas to solve the transition crisis. While all aim to address the worsening humanitarian situation, consensus and alignment of commitments is urgently needed to avoid duplication of effort and help stabilize Sudan.
In February, Abbas Kamel, director general of Egypt’s General Directorate of Intelligence, tried mediator Among the signatories of Burhan, Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), FFC-Democratic Bloc and the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement. This ‘Cairo track’ created a separate peace process with a deadly consequences.
It was created outside the AU-IGAD-UN mechanism, supported the Sudanese army and sidelined the RSF from the talks. This sowed further distrust between the two generals and increased the risk of confrontation. These parallel processes ultimately prolong crises and undermine efforts to find lasting solutions.
In order to move forward, since 2019 the interventions of international and regional actors must be evaluated. Also, a collective agreement is needed to clarify the comparative advantage of each actor between global, continental and regional efforts.
The second challenge to stabilize Sudan is how to achieve regional consensus. Since the fighting broke out, some countries have been accused of meddling in the conflict. The military says the two Sudanese neighbors support the RSF and have delivered ammunition and supplies to its troops.
Some separatist forces in Ethiopia have reportedly taken advantage of the lack of security oversight to try to regain control of the disputed al-Fashaga area on the Sudan-Ethiopia border. Although Ethiopia refuting this, due to the lack of consensus and common goals, has allowed the conflicting parties to play different political processes against each other. They also arm themselves through neighboring territories or regional friends or gain time to reorganize.
Since the fall of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan’s residents have sided with different factions and actors at crucial moments in the transition. Judging by their diplomatic visits, it is no secret that Burhan and Hemedti are close to certain countries. Apart from the trips to the Gulf nations, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, African countries such as Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda have received these generals.
While this is not evidence of support, it does show that the two men have regional connections that can be exploited when necessary. In a protracted war where international goodwill may be eroded, the possibility of such states leaning to one side or the other cannot be ruled out.
Given Sudan’s history of complex relations with its immediate neighbors, it is inevitable that geopolitical priorities and alliances will be at the heart of the choices of neighboring states. In the past, proxy influences have prolonged crises in Sudan, making it harder for citizens to solve problems on their own.
Avoiding such power struggles and supporting warring factions can prevent the evolution of a full-blown civil war. Commitments that risk strengthening the hardline stance of the warring parties and escalating the conflict must be maintained.
Peace and stability in Sudan and the region are mutually reinforcing. Unless efforts are made to avoid further fragmentation of peace initiatives and ensure that regional actors do not tip the scales, any attempt to build lasting peace may be derailed. The agreement of the regions is essential.
Andrews Atta-Asamoah, Program Leader and Maram Mahdi, Government Researcher for African Peace and Security, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Addis Ababa
(This article was first published By ISS Today, Premium Times syndicate partner. We have their permission to republish).
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