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Mechanisms to stop the fighting in Sudan must be activated

May 14, 2024 at 9:17 am

Demonstrators take part in a protest march to draw attention to the civil war in Sudan as the conflict between Sudan’s army and a paramilitary group has been ongoing for over a year in London, United Kingdom on 11 May, 2024 [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency]

In tones filled with anxiety among some, and fear among others, the Sudanese people wonder whether there will soon be an end to this accursed war, allowing people to return to the homes that they left by force and in distress. Their fear stems from the worsening destruction, killing and brutality, and the domination of everything that goes against humanity, which threaten the worst possibilities unprecedented in Sudan’s modern history.

Anxiety and concern arises from two sources. The first is the delay in convening the Jeddah platform, although US special envoy to Sudan, Tom Perriello, had called for its resumption at the end of Ramadan in early April. It is as if the situation is saying that perhaps the platform will succeed this time in overcoming the failure of the previous occasions and take a step towards stopping the conflict. Perriello spoke at the end of a tour that included Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the IGAD Secretariat, and indicated, according to press reports, the expectation of international interventions to stop the war and apply pressure for a peace agreement, in implementation of the desires of the aforementioned countries. The second source of concern is the severe disappointment in Sudan’s civil society groups, which are still immersed in political polarisation, rejecting the other side and practicing politics as if they are unaware of the country’s circumstances.

They act as if they are not concerned about the country’s unity being broken, a very serious possibility.

The previous Jeddah talks, as well as the initiatives by regional and international institutions, and the resolutions and agreements they issued, including UN Security Council ceasefire resolutions during the month of Ramadan, all remain filed away without any practical steps taken to implement them. As I have mentioned before, if we accept the explanation for this as the absence of the will and seriousness required on both sides — the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces — then it is very difficult to accept any explanation citing the inability and lack of resourcefulness on the part of countries and international and regional institutions and their knowledge and practical experience. It is also difficult to absolutely reject the hypothesis that some external parties may not want to stop the Sudan war and, indeed, want it to continue.

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Nevertheless, according to current developments, there are several factors that may force international and regional mediators to increase their pressure on the two parties to achieve a breakthrough in the expected round of negotiations:

  • The international and regional repercussions, both official and popular, regarding the humanitarian catastrophe of 15,000 dead, nine million displaced and 25m people besieged by hunger.
  • Both sides must be asked about the horrific human rights violations and what may constitute considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. In addition, the stick of legal action must be raised against both parties due to the many past crimes, including the June 2019 sit-in dispersal massacre.
  • Anger over the role of the conflicting parties in blocking the path to civil democratic transformation following the December 2018 revolution.
  • Increased international fears regarding the repercussions of the war on global and regional security, including the security of the Red Sea, Europe’s most important maritime link with Asia and the Pacific, and the possibility of Sudan becoming a fertile ground for terrorist groups and a revolving door for human trafficking, extremist fighters, weapons and all kinds of illicit trade between the Sahel region, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, despite these and other pressures, the Jeddah and any other platform will remain unable to achieve its main goal of stopping hostilities, unless it is accompanied by tried and tested mechanisms to pressure both sides to implement a permanent cessation of hostilities or at least the creation of demilitarised zones to achieve the flow of humanitarian aid. The two parties have not adhered to what they signed off on in numerous truce agreements, including ceasing fire, facilitating the arrival of humanitarian aid to civilians through safe corridors, withdrawing from hospitals and medical clinics, or even allowing the dead to be buried with respect, and so on.

Saving civilians and averting disaster from Sudan requires direct intervention from the international and regional community.

This must be carried out in accordance with international resolutions, to forcefully impose a cessation of fighting and establish safe corridors that allow the flow of humanitarian aid to the citizens besieged in the areas of operations and allow efforts that can help start the wheel of production in the areas and Sudanese states far from military operations. This is in light of the defective performance of banks, the scarcity of cash liquidity, the lack of salaries, the absence of relevant institutions and the damage to the private sector caused by the war.

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As for the available and tested pressure mechanisms, they include a block on the flow of weapons and ammunition to both parties; freezing accounts in global and regional banks; imposing sanctions on institutions and individuals on both sides of the conflict; and, if necessary, the repositioning of the warring forces by sending emergency African forces as per the African Union, with the support of the international community, to establish demilitarised zones in the country. It is worth noting that the African Emergency Forces were formed by the African Union to prevent the spread of fighting and armed conflicts within African countries, and Sudan is a member of its coordination committee. It is true that it is difficult to implement this, but it is not impossible, especially when we remember the success of the evacuation of citizens of Western countries following the outbreak of the fighting. In my opinion, these were full-fledged military operations by the US, Germany, France and the UK, and there are similar packages that were implemented in a number of countries where fighting took place. Certainly, we must consider the experience of the UN forces, UNMIS and UNAMID, in South Sudan and Darfur.

Stopping the fighting and paralysing the hands that commit these violations, in addition to ensuring the flow of humanitarian aid and securing the lives of the Sudanese people besieged in the country is the highest priority that must be discussed on the negotiating platform before embarking on any political process or considering any transitional measures. No matter how it is done, though, stopping the fighting is imperative.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 12 May 2024

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.