Sudan Conflict Update: Examining the Latest Developments and Ongoing Mediation Efforts

During the first week of July, intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) resulted in a surge in casualties, making it the deadliest week since the eruption of the conflict. The capital city of Khartoum, along with the adjacent cities of Omdurman and Bahri, witnessed fierce ground confrontations, airstrikes, and artillery shelling. The RSF-controlled neighborhoods were particularly targeted by SAF.

In Khartoum, clashes centered around the SAF Headquarters, with violent confrontations also reported in the area surrounding the Elshajara Armored Corps military base and other southern parts of the city. SAF successfully pushed back the RSF in areas such as the Public Market, Ellamab, Oshara, and parts of Jabra.

Omdurman saw SAF launching a wide-scale military operation to regain control, especially in the northern, southern, and western parts of the city. The strategic area of the National Radio and Television Corporation, under RSF control since the beginning of the conflict, was surrounded by SAF. RSF was holding detainees and engaging in sabotage within the buildings. Currently, SAF controls approximately 80% of Omdurman, with significant casualties reported on both sides.

In Bahri City, brutal fighting occurred in the northern parts, particularly around the strategic EHalfaya bridge, Ekadarow, Shambat, and the city center. SAF made slow advances in areas such as Ommelgura, north Bahri Doroshab, and Zakiab.

The conflict also expanded to other regions outside of Khartoum. In El-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, RSF surrounded the town and restricted logistic access for civilians. Clashes also took place around El-Obeid airport. Fighting spread to Baara, a strategic town south of Khartoum and the nearest major town to Omdurman on the highway to Darfur. Military confrontations were reported in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, where sporadic clashes between the two parties have been frequent.

It is worth noting that SAF made significant military progress in Darfur and Khartoum. However, RSF still controls vast areas in Khartoum City, Bahri, and Darfur. Over the past three days, the three neigbouring cities of Khartoum have experienced relative calm, without an official ceasefire truce. Ground confrontations, as well as air and artillery shelling, have decreased, possibly due to war fatigue and the withdrawal of RSF forces from some areas, relocating to the western region of Darfur.

Public Mobilization

Numerous Sudanese youth have responded to the call of the SAF leader to join SAF units and garrisons. This heightened response from the citizens is largely driven by the egregious human rights violations committed by the RSF, including killings, detentions, robberies, and the unlawful occupation of homes, vehicles, and money. Additionally, reports of gender-based violence and rape crimes, which were recently condemned by the chiefs of UN Agencies, have further motivated the Sudanese population. The Sudan Gender-Based Violence Unit has documented nearly 90 cases of sexual assault and rape against women and girls since the outbreak of the conflict in April, indicating that there are likely many more unreported cases.

The involvement of civilians and reserves in the war effort has provided the SAF with significant social, communal, military, and political support. Recent military achievements by the SAF have also encouraged more civilians to join and contribute financial and logistical assistance to the cause. On the other hand, certain tribes in Darfur have expressed their collective military and logistical support for the RSF due to the substantial presence of RSF officers and soldiers among their ranks. However, influential voices within these tribes have rejected this call and urged tribal leaders to distance themselves from supporting the RSF.

The mobilization of the public has had a noteworthy impact on the dynamics of the war. It is crucial to carefully manage and prevent the military mobilization of both sides from escalating into an ethnic or tribal armed conflict. This necessitates clear measures such as strong leadership, a well-defined chain of command, a clear mandate, and strict adherence to punctuality in order to maintain full control. It is imperative to prevent political and communal interventions, as they can further exacerbate the situation.

Mediation Efforts

The facilitation forum in Jeddah, brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia, has yielded limited results and has not successfully reached long-term ceasefire truces or achieved a peaceful solution to the ongoing catastrophic war. Since the two facilitators declared the postponement of the talks until further notice, there has been a lack of a meaningful platform aimed at resolving the conflict in Sudan. However, in July, there have been some initiatives by regional bodies as follows:

Darfur Leaders Converge in N’Djamena

In a new development, the President of the transitional council in Chad, General Mohamed Debi, has extended an invitation to the leaders of the armed struggle movement – signatories to the Juba peace agreement, as well as the deputy commander general of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Abdelrahim Dagalo, for talks in N’Djamena. This information comes from official sources in Chad. The primary objective of the meeting is to discuss potential opportunities for an immediate resolution to the crisis in Sudan. Additionally, the leaders will address concerns regarding cross-border security, particularly between Sudan and Chad. The conflict has had a significant impact on Chad, as the country has provided refuge to tens of thousands of individuals fleeing the conflict in Darfur. Moreover, thousands of fighters from Chad’s Arab tribes have been actively involved alongside the RSF in the ongoing war in Sudan.

Debi’s attempt to bring together leaders of the armed struggle movements and RSF at one table reportedly failed due to the refusal of Mr. Manni Mannawi-Gover, the chairperson of SLA in the Darfur region, and Dr. Jibreel Ibrahim, the federal minister of finance and chairperson of JEM, to meet with RSF. It is alleged that Debi has opened the border between Sudan and Chad from the Chadian side, allowing easier access for troops and logistics from certain Chadian tribes to join RSF in Darfur and Khartoum. It is important to note that Chad is heavily affected by the ongoing war in Sudan, and the continuation of the conflict will exacerbate economic, security, and humanitarian challenges.

Failure of IGAD’s Forum on Sudan

IGAD’s mechanism for solving the crisis in Sudan, chaired by the Kenyan president, invited the two conflicting parties for a meeting in Addis Ababa on July 10th. The objective of the meeting was to find a way to halt the fighting in Sudan, establish conditions for humanitarian operations, and explore political solutions to the crisis. General Abdelfatah Elborhan expressed apologies through a statement issued by Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Sudan sent a delegation consisting of high military officials and diplomats, chaired by its ambassador to Ethiopia, to attend the meeting. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), Saudi Arabia, League of Arab States (LAS), and the United Kingdom, among others.

The Sudanese delegation did not participate in the meeting when it was chaired by Kenya, citing concerns raised during the previous IGAD summit regarding the final communiqué. Sudan accused the Kenyan president of bias and supporting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Nonetheless, the Sudanese delegation remained in Addis Ababa, awaiting IGAD’s response regarding the removal of Kenya from the chairmanship of the mechanism. The RSF was present at the meeting and delivered a statement. The meeting resulted in certain outcomes aimed at ending the conflict and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance. However, the absence of Sudan’s delegation weakened the impact of the meeting and reduced the effectiveness of the forum.

In light of these developments, IGAD may need to assess its initiative and seek an amicable solution to resolve the differences between Kenya and Sudan. Urgent reconciliation between the two countries is essential for the forum to regain its effectiveness.

Sudan’s Neighboring Countries Forum in Egypt

Egypt has demonstrated a glimmer of hope amid the prevailing gloom by convening a meeting of Sudan’s neighboring countries on 13th July. This forum holds immense potential, given the strong relationship between Sudan and Egypt, along with Egypt’s commendable efforts in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from war. Currently, there is no information available about the meeting’s program agenda and the proposed initiative.

The forum is expected to complement the ongoing efforts of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States (LAS), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It should call for an inclusive and integrated approach to addressing the Sudanese crisis. The upcoming meeting by Egypt should focus on addressing the regional and international dimensions of the conflict, with particular attention to the role of General Khalifa Hafter of Libya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In order to find a practical and amicable solution to the crisis, it is crucial to provide clear and fair responses to key questions such as why the conflict has prolonged and what goals the two parties are currently fighting for. These answers will serve as an entry point for any viable solution. Egypt must present a concrete proposal on the way forward that is acceptable to both parties and other facilitating platforms.

Dr. Mahmoud Zainelabdeen Mahmoud is the Secretary General at African Centre for Governance, Peace & Transition in Khartoum, Sudan

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