Sudan Update

The armed confrontation between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has entered its fourth week, with no intention from the conflicting parties to end the war peacefully despite many ceasefire truces brokered by the United States of America (US), United Nations (UN), South Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Ground and Military Operations

Since last week, there have not been significant changes in military presence on the ground, RSF is dominating around 70 per cent of Khartoum town areas including some strategic and important institutions such as the Republican Place. In addition to its presence in many residential areas in Southern Khartoum, and East Nile province, SRF is also controlling a round 50 per cent of Bahri Town as well as some areas in Ummdorman town. Majority of the military clashes over the past couple of days have been and continue to take place in the downtown of Khartoum particularly areas around the Republican place, airport, East Nile province of Khartoum Town, some areas near Elmanshia bridge, as well as vast areas in Bahri Twon including Shamhat and Hilat Hammad. While SAF is controlling the other 17 states politically and militarily with RSF presence in North, Central, and South Darfur.

On the other hand, there have been armed clashes in Nyala-South Darfur and Elobied North Kordofan. SAF has declared that many convey from Darfur and West Sudan are still heading to Khartoum to reinforce RSF, and SAF has been attacking them by airstrikes, there are also many reports on foreign fighters/groups from some African countries fighting alongside RSF. Mr.Volker the Head of the UNITAMS-UNSG special representative has mentioned the participation of fighters from three African Countries with RSF,  SAF  has also officially accused RSF in a press statement by its spokesperson, but RSF strongly denied such allegations.

Humanitarian Situation

The overall humanitarian situation is dire, over the past three weeks, people are running out of basic requirements, food, electricity, water, and other basic commodities. The banking system is not operating, no cash in the hands of civilians, employees in governmental and private sectors are still awaiting payments for the last month. The speedily deteriorating situation in the health sector is also devolving into a crisis, according to the Doctors Union, 22 hospitals are totally occupied by RSF, civilians have no access to health services, main stores of medicines are also controlled by RSF, medicines distribution has been stopped. Additionally, there are acute shortages in fuel supplies, almost 90 per cent of petrol stations are out of service which resulted in restricting citizens movements, and a sharp increase in transportation prices and fees.

Ceasefire Talks

Preliminary-indirect talks started two days back in Ghadah, Saudi Arabia brokered by the Saudi and the US governments. SAF spokesperson announced that the talk will only focus on ceasefire truces for humanitarian reasons and would not touch upon permanent ceasefire or military and political agenda. SAF’s position is to solve the crisis militarily and will not confess RSF, so far there has been no official communication on the progress of the talks, with rumors indicating that SAF has withdrawn from the talks. While African Union (AU) has welcomed the talks, there has been no comments from Ethiopia, Egypt, and South Sudan. Despite this there are no clear linkages or coordination between IGAD, AU, and Egypt-South Sudan initiatives. The League of Arab States has issued a declaration in the closing session of its council of ministers meeting today in which they perceived RSF as a rebel militia. On the other hand, the Egyptian minister of foreign affairs Ambassador Samih Shokry will start official visits to Chad and South Sudan. This visit might produce a new initiative by the three countries as Egypt will not accept being sidelined by the Saudi and US, given the closed social and economic ties between Egypt and Sudan and its historical role in Sudanese issues, in addition to the likelihood of being negatively affected by the conflict. It is possible that the Saudi-US initiative is facing competing agendas from other regional bodies that might threaten its results.

The United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) in Addis Ababa has talked about an UN-AU proposal as a road map for solving the Sudanese Crisis. However, there is no information about its contains and how it looks like, the official presentation of the roadmap is needed, so that AU can lead or coordinate regional and international efforts in handling the crisis. In this context, no more information about the IGAD initiative as well, the three presidents have been assigned to solve the problem have yet to visit Sudan, but in an unexpected move today, IGAD has issued a press statement expressing its follow-up and monitoring of the Saudi-US initiative without pointing out to possible cooperation or integration of the two initiatives, more active steps by IGAD would be of great added value.

The League of Arab States has started giving due consideration to the crisis in Sudan, in its declaration of the ministerial meeting yesterday it affirmed the following: First, refusal of foreign interventions in Sudan’s internal affairs. Second, supporting Sudan’s sovereignty, and the unity of its territory. Lastly, establish a communication body from the LAS Secretary General, Egypt, and Saudi to liaise with regional and international bodies to solve the problem.

Expected Impacts on the Regional Zone

Worries of cross-border, regional, and international impact are mounting, Sudan is bordering seven fragile African countries, and those seven countries are bordering 14 others, thus, the conflict will impact around 22 countries with almost 500,000 population. Sudan is also an exporter of food and basic commodities to some Arab countries who will be impacted by food insecurity. As Sudan is in the center of tension areas given the situation in Chad, Central African Republic (CAR). In Ethiopia and South Sudan, tribal and internal conflict in their bordering areas to Sudan are likely a result.

Where are the worries come from?

So far, most of the armed confrontations are in Khartoum, but there are likely to spell out to other bordering areas with the abovementioned neighbors, the impact has begun in humanitarian and economic aspects, around 100,000 Sudanese crossed the borders into neighboring countries. Trades, Imports, and exports are declining or stagnating.

Waves of armed groups who are moving in big numbers from Libya, CAR, and Mali through Darfur to Khartoum to fight along SRF continue their attempts to reach Khartoum, those countries have not enough capacity to prevent the influx of fighters into Sudan. Apart from neighboring countries, it’s also crucial to bear in mind the quite big numbers of armed forces belonging to the Armed Struggle Movements signatories to the Juba peace Agreement. Those forces are awaiting security arrangements and integration into SAF, and considerable numbers of them with nexus to bordering communities who share ethnic relations with tribes from the abovementioned countries.

The conflicting priorities and competing interest of the neighboring countries in Sudan, and the closed relationship between the conflicting parties and influential regional and international powers has increased the likelihood of eminent cross-border impacts.

What is needed to be done by neighboring countries to prevent regional impacts?

In the immediate future, neighboring countries should close and control borders with Sudan to prevent movements of fighters, trafficking in arms, goods, and other transnational crimes.

In the following months, they should demonstrate strong political well, and push all efforts to solve the conflict peacefully. In this regard, regional and international powers need to stop competing with each other and prioritize Sudan’s stability and peace.

Sudan’s neighbors should exert concerted and coordinated political and diplomatic efforts to control the conflict from being spelled over across borders and descent into civil and inter-tribal conflict.

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

Photo: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemeti (left), with the chairman of the Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (Anadolu Agency/Mahmoud Hjaj)

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