Africa: Conflict and governance Sudan

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Nesrine Malik: The seeds of Sudan’s collapse were sown decades ago
How International Diplomacy Failed to Stop Sudan From Sliding Into Civil War
(Global Dispatches) We kick off discussing why this conflict erupted when it did. We then spend a good deal of time discussing how and why this incipient civil war is very much an international affair, including a discussion of the diplomatic failures that lead to this moment. (podcast)
The bloody conflict in my birth country has its roots in a power struggle that began with the Darfur genocide 20 years ago
Explainer: tracing the history of Sudan’s Janjaweed militia
By Tsega Etefa, Associate Professor of History, Colgate University
The term Janjaweed refers to the armed groups of the Arabs of Darfur and Kordofan in western Sudan. They call themselves fursan (horsemen)

The Guardian view on the gathering disaster in Sudan: a war that the world is ignoring
Millions are displaced and starving as two generals fight for power and other countries pursue their own interests
Even before a communications blackout hit Sudan two weeks ago, few were watching a war that has killed thousands of people and displaced more – almost 8 million – than any other current conflict. “It’s not a forgotten crisis. It’s a wholly ignored crisis,” Kitty van der Heijden of Unicef told a meeting at the Munich Security Conference last week.
Eighteen million people in Sudan are acutely food insecure, and around 3.8 million children are malnourished. At the Zamzam camp in Darfur, a child dies every two hours. There have been widespread atrocities including massacres and sexual violence. Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warns that “textbook ethnic cleansing” in Darfur – by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militias – has forced almost 700,000 to flee. Yet while the region’s genocidal violence became a global cause two decades ago, it barely registers now.
In just five years, Sudan has transitioned from dictatorship to revolution to coup – and then to civil war last April, when Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto leader and army chief, and Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti), who controls the RSF, turned on each other. The International Crisis Group warns that what comes next could be de facto partition if not state disintegration. Not only are multiple players involved, but tensions in the Sudanese armed forces appear to have grown as the RSF has gained ground in recent months. Meanwhile, militias are beginning to mobilise against the RSF. There is concern that jihadist fighters may be drawn in.

What will it take to end hunger and malnutrition in South Sudan?
UN warns Africa’s youngest nation is facing a food crisis.
(Al Jazeera) South Sudan is on the verge of a devastating hunger catastrophe, the World Food Programme has warned.
In its short history, Africa’s youngest country has been battered by armed conflict and the effects of climate change.

2 January
Sudan is the Worst Crisis in the World That Receives The Least Amount of Attention
“It is neglected by the White House and in the State Department.”
Mark Leon Goldberg
As we enter 2024, the conflict in Sudan is shaping up to be one of the worst crises in the world. Nearly 7 million people have been displaced and hunger is widespread. A hallmark of this civil war is ethnic cleansing that may have crossed the threshold to genocide.
Despite being a calamitous catastrophe, Sudan has not received much media attention, nor sustained high level engagement by policy makers, particularly in the West. “It is neglected by the White House and in the State Department,” longtime Sudan analyst Kholood Khair tells me in this week’s Global Dispatches podcast episode. She is the founder and managing director of Confluence Advisory, a “think and do tank” formerly based in Khartoum. …
We kick off discussing her analysis of why conflict broke out in April between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. We then discuss how this conflict evolved to the point where the Rapid Support Forces appear to very much have the upper hand and why international diplomacy has thus far failed to end this civil war.

2023

26-31 October
Sudan Facing the Abyss as Peace Talks Resume: Next Africa
(Bloomberg) The latest round of peace talks in Jeddah this week are being attended by officials from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African bloc whose members include Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Notably absent are representatives from Sudanese political parties and former rebel groups — although they had met in Addis Ababa to lay out plans for a return to democracy.
The situation within Sudan is growing increasingly desperate.
The war in Sudan is a consequence of a derailed transition
Sudan’s transition should have focused on stabilising the economy and convening elections, not dismantling the ancien regime.
(Al Jazeera) Two hundred days into the war in Sudan, the Sudanese people remain trapped in a conflict not of their own making. More than 9,000 civilians have been killed and 5.6 million forced to flee their homes, while the capital, Khartoum, continues to be ravaged by savage internecine warfare. Meanwhile, the world’s attention is gradually shifting elsewhere.
When the war erupted on April 15, the story circulated by international media outlets was that this is a typical power struggle between two generals who were once allies… Nothing is further from the truth.
Recently, in a statement marking the six months of the war, United Nations Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths said this is “one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history”. He emphasised the horrific reports of rape and sexual violence and asserted that the country has been engulfed in chaos. Yet, he said nothing as to why the war is being fought.
… Sudan sits at the intersection of the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, and the Sahel. As such, it is very much in the throes of all ills of these regions. In this accursed quarter, if you profess a position tolerating the possible return of Islamists to power, you are grabbing the third rail with both hands.
Sudan warring sides resume peace talks in Saudi Arabia
Representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces return to negotiating table in Jeddah.
(Al Jazeera) Sudan’s warring parties have resumed negotiations in Saudi Arabia aimed at ending the war that has killed more than 9,000 people and displaced some 5.6 million since April.
The deadly war between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has devastated the country.
The United States and Saudi Arabia brokered the mediation efforts, which have had limited effect, yielding brief truces that were systematically violated.
The warring sides announced on October 25 that they had accepted an invitation to resume negotiations.
The talks are taking place “in partnership” with representatives of the African Union and the East African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), led by close US partner Kenya, according to Riyadh.

28 July
Sudan conflict brings new atrocities to Darfur as militias kill, rape, burn homes in rampages
(AP) Two decades ago, Darfur became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias against populations that identify as Central or East African. Fears are mounting that that legacy is returning with reports of widespread killings, rapes and destruction of villages in Darfur amid a nationwide power struggle between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
“This spiraling violence bears terrifying similarity with the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur since 2003,” said Tigere Chagutah, a regional director with Amnesty International. “Even those seeking safety are not being spared.”
Fighting erupted in the capital, Khartoum, in mid-April between the military and the RSF after years of growing tensions. It spread to other parts of the country, but in Darfur it took on a different form -– brutal attacks by the RSF and its allied Arab militias on civilians, survivors and rights workers say.
Two decades ago, Darfur became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias against populations that identify as Central or East African. Fears are mounting that that legacy is returning with reports of widespread killings, rapes and destruction of villages in Darfur amid a nationwide power struggle between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces.

10 May
US ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Sudan ceasefire talks
Official says US-backed talks seek ‘narrow’ goal of securing ceasefire before working towards permanent end to fighting.
The talks, which started Saturday, involve members of two rival groups: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
“Our goal for these talks has been very narrowly focused: First, securing agreement on a declaration of humanitarian principles and then, getting a ceasefire that is long enough to facilitate the steady delivery of badly needed services,” Nuland said.
Clashes and air raids intensified in the capital Khartoum and surrounding areas on Wednesday despite the talks in Jeddah, residents reported.

6 May
Sudan’s warring sides arrive in Saudi Arabia for talks as fighting rages on
US and Riyadh confirm talks amid reports of more airstrikes and gun battles in Khartoum despite threat of sanctions
(The Guardian) Sudan’s rival factions have arrived in Saudi Arabia for direct talks, after three weeks of clashes in the capital, Khartoum, and the south-western region of Darfur that have killed at least hundreds and wounded many more.
Representatives of the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were in Jeddah on Saturday for “pre-negotiation talks” aimed at establishing a durable ceasefire that would allow aid to reach millions of desperate civilians trapped by the fighting.
A joint statement by the US and Saudi governments, which have brought the two sides together after a number of fruitless attempts, said: “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States urge both parties to take in consideration the interests of the Sudanese nation and its people and actively engage in the talks toward a ceasefire and end to the conflict.”

5 May
Sudan’s conflict will have a ripple effect in an unstable region – and across the world
By John Mukum Mbaku, Professor, Weber State University
(The Conversation) Sudan shares borders with seven countries in an unstable region. This means that Sudan’s current conflict will have economic, social and political ripple effects across a number of countries, including the Central African Republic, Egypt, Libya, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The conflict might also affect countries further afield, including the US, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, which have close economic ties with Sudan. It could destabilise the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa and jeopardise US interests in these regions. It could also delay the ratification, by the yet-to-be-formed legislative assembly, of the agreement for Russia to build a naval base at Port Sudan. Finally, the conflict could interfere with trade between Sudan and the Gulf states – the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

4 May
Foreign interests complicate fighting in Sudan
(The World) Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have all made investments in Sudan and consider the Red Sea country an important location. These interests further complicate the ongoing fighting on the ground

3 May
Clashes rock Sudan ceasefire as UN official seeks aid protection
UN humanitarian official Martin Griffiths, in visit to the country, seeks pledges from warring sides to allow movement of staff and supplies.
(Al Jazeera) Fighting between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has continued despite the declared extension of a ceasefire, as a senior United Nations official arrived in the country for talks on providing relief to millions of trapped civilians.
At least 550 people have been killed and 4,926 wounded, according to Wednesday’s latest health ministry figures, which are likely to be incomplete.
Multiple hospitals have been hit, humanitarian facilities looted and foreign aid groups forced to suspend most of their operations. Tens of thousands of Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries in an exodus that has sparked warnings of a humanitarian “catastrophe” with implications for the entire region.
The failure of the warring sides to abide by their commitments in efforts to end nearly three weeks of fighting has drawn mounting international criticism.
“The two generals, even though they accept the ceasefire, at the same time they continue fighting and shelling the city,” complained Ismail Wais, of IGAD.
He said the persistent fighting “compounds and complicates the political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground making it harder to resolve”.

1 May
‘Last ones in’: Canada wraps up ‘extremely cautious’ Sudan evacuation
‘We simply don’t have the capacities, we don’t have the people and we don’t have the political will,’ says one Royal Military College professor
(National Post) Canada ended its evacuation flights of Canadian citizens in Sudan over the weekend, an extraction effort that one expert says amounted to a “last ones in, and first ones out” approach.

27 April
Fighters rampage in Darfur as Sudan extends fragile truce
(AP) — Armed fighters rampaged through a city in Sudan’s war-ravaged region of Darfur on Thursday, battling each other and looting shops and homes, residents said. The violence came despite the extension of a fragile truce between Sudan’s two top generals, whose power struggle has killed hundreds.
The U.S. State Department released a statement welcoming the cease-fire and the two sides’ “readiness to engage in dialogue toward establishing a more durable cessation of hostilities and ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access.”
The joint statement named a wide array of mediators, including the African Union, an eight-nation East Africa bloc, the U.N., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and the U.S. It highlighted the breadth of international peace efforts, which have thus far failed to end the fighting.

26 April
Humanitarian fears as thousands of Sudanese flee to Chad on foot
UN estimates 100,000 people will flee Sudan conflict to Chad, which already hosts more than half a million refugees.
(Al Jazeera) Tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Sudan are spilling into Chad, with aid agencies warning that larger flows of refugees are expected to arrive.
Since fierce fighting broke out in Sudan on April 15, an estimated 20,000 people have entered Chad and at least 100,000 are set to arrive, the United Nations said on Tuesday, raising concerns about the stability of a fragile region.
Sudan: fighting eases during truce as thousands flee country
With partially held ceasefire due to expire on Thursday, UN says neither side ready to seriously negotiate
(The Guardian) Sounds of gunfire and explosions have continued to rock Sudan’s capital, but the intensity of the fighting across the country has eased for a truce that residents hope will provide relief for people trapped with dwindling food, water and medicine.
The countrywide fight has killed at least 459 people, wounded more than 4,000, and destroyed hospitals. A third of Sudan’s 46 million people already rely on humanitarian aid.
Sudanese people have been leaving the country en masse, taking perilous journeys across the vast country and crossing international borders. More than 10,000 people crossed north into Egypt from Sudan in the past five days, authorities in Cairo said. An estimated 20,000 have entered Chad to the west.
On Wednesday, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) painted a bleak picture of the conflict’s “terrible toll” on Sudan’s already stretched healthcare system.
Sudan crisis: WHO warns of biological hazard at seized lab
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there’s a “high risk of biological hazard” at a laboratory caught up in the ongoing conflict in Sudan.
Officials said it was unclear who was behind the occupation of the National Public Health Laboratory in the capital Khartoum.
Letters: The long history of civil war in Sudan
Douglas H Johnson, Author, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars, says the continual neglect of economic and political disparities in the regions was bound to foment conflict
“…the seeds of Sudan’s tragedy go back further than that, with central governments of whatever political configuration waging war in the peripheries while keeping the central riverine region of the country free from violence. The Janjaweed/RSF are merely the latest in a long line of militias used by the government to counter regional opposition.”

What are the implications of the meltdown in Sudan for Europe?
Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics from Stockholm.
“Well, evacuating diplomats, as has been done with success is one thing but it’s hardly a solution. We have faced a period of prolonged instability in the third largest country of Africa. That sort of makes Europe worried about the entire belt of instability across the Sahara, along the Sahara even more profound, with also the risk of the Russians starting to meddle in there, as well.”

23 April
Wagner in Sudan: What have Russian mercenaries been up to?
Russia’s Wagner mercenary force is accused of having various commercial and military ties to Sudan, but the group denies any involvement in the current conflict in the country.
Its founder, Yevgeny Prighozin – who has close links to President Vladimir Putin – has said that “not a single Wagner PMC [private military company] fighter has been present in Sudan” for over two years.
We’ve found no evidence that Russian mercenaries are currently inside the country. But there is evidence of Wagner’s previous activities in Sudan, and Mr Prighozin’s operations in the country have been targeted by both US and EU sanctions.
In 2017, Sudan’s then President Omar al-Bashir signed a series of deals with the Russian government during a visit to Moscow.
These included an agreement for Russia to set up a naval base at Port Sudan on the Red Sea, as well as “concession agreements on gold mining between Russian company M Invest and the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals”.
The US Treasury alleges that M Invest and a subsidiary group, Meroe Gold, are fronts for the activities of the Wagner Group in Sudan, Africa’s third-biggest gold producer.

Libyan warlord could plunge Sudan into a drawn-out ‘nightmare’ conflict
As Khalifa Haftar’s influence emerges, analysts warn the area could be a battleground for multiple players
(The Guardian) The Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar helped to prepare the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a militia now fighting for control of Sudan, for battle in the months before the devastating violence that broke out on 15 April, the Observer has been told by former officials, militia commanders and sources in Sudan and the UK.
The involvement of Haftar, who runs much of the eastern part of Libya, will raise fears of a long-drawn-out conflict in Sudan fuelled by outside interests. Analysts have described a “nightmare scenario” of multiple regional actors and powers fighting a proxy war in the country of more than 45 million people.
A new effort to impose a ceasefire on warring factions in Sudan appeared to be failing on Saturday, with continued fighting, airstrikes and bombardment in Khartoum, the capital. There were also renewed clashes in the Darfur region, in the south-west

18-20 April
A Major Crisis is Unfolding in Sudan
(Global Dispatches) Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The RSF out of the Janjaweed militia responsible for the worst atrocities in Darfur and became a very capable fighting force hired out by Saudi Arabia to support their goals in Yemen and by the United Arab Emirates to advance their interests in Libya. The RSF has also partnered with Russia’s Wagner Group around mineral extraction in Sudan.
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo: the feared ex-warlord taking on Sudan’s army
Commonly known as Hemedti, the general of the Rapid Support Forces rose through ranks of Janjaweed in 2003-05 war

Diplomats, aid workers under attack in ‘nightmare’ Sudan violence
Endre Stiansen, the Norwegian ambassador to Sudan, said the ‘urban warfare’ in Khartoum is unprecedented.
Aerial and artillery bombardments have killed at least 270 civilians and injured nearly 2,000 as Sudan’s rival generals duel in a fifth day of fighting.
Sheltering in place like the rest of the population, staff of foreign missions have found themselves caught in the conflict’s crosshairs and have called on the Sudanese government to ensure their safety in accordance with international treaties.

Humanitarian aid ‘impossible’ as fighting in Sudan traps millions
Hopes of 24-hour ceasefire to evacuate civilians and wounded after US secretary of state intervenes
At least 185 people have been killed and more than 1,800 injured in more than four days of fighting that has pitted army units loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional governing sovereign council, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who is deputy head of the council. Their power struggle has derailed a shift to civilian rule and raised fears of a wider conflict.
Days of street battles have deprived much of Khartoum of basic services, cutting off supplies of food and medicine and trapping thousands of students in schools and colleges. The death toll is thought to be considerably higher than the 185 estimated by the UN, with reports of many bodies lying in the streets.

16 April
Fighting in Sudan: What we know so far
Fighting between the army and a paramilitary force rages for a second day as the international community calls for a ceasefire.
(Al Jazeera) The battles follow rising tensions over the proposed integration of the RSF into the military. The disagreement has delayed the signing of an internationally backed agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.

Sudan conflict: why is there fighting and what is at stake in the region?
Power struggle between military factions erupted after faltering transition to civilian-led government
(The Guardian) The Sudanese armed forces are broadly loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a collection of militia, follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.
The power struggle has its roots in the years before a 2019 uprising that ousted the dictatorial ruler Omar al-Bashir, who built up formidable security forces that he deliberately set against one another.
What are the faultlines?
A central cause of tension since the uprising is the civilian demand for oversight of the military and integration of the RSF into the regular armed forces.
Civilians have also called for the handover of lucrative military holdings in agriculture, trade and other industries, a crucial source of power for an army that has often outsourced military action to regional militias.
Another point of contention is the pursuit of justice over allegations of war crimes by the military and its allies in the conflict in Darfur from 2003. The international criminal court is seeking trials for Bashir and other Sudanese suspects.
What’s at stake in the region?
Sudan is in a volatile region bordering the Red Sea, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Its strategic location and agricultural wealth have attracted regional power plays, complicating the chances of a successful transition to civilian-led government.
Several of Sudan’s neighbours – including Ethiopia, Chad and South Sudan – have been affected by political upheavals and conflict, and Sudan’s relationship with Ethiopia, in particular, has been strained over issues including disputed farmland along their border.
Major geopolitical dimensions are also at play, with Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other powers battling for influence in Sudan.

2022

26 January
Sudanese protest against UN talks to resolve post-coup crisis
(Al Jazeera) Protesters in Khartoum demand the expulsion of the UN, which has begun talks to try to solve Sudan’s political crisis.
Sudan pro-democracy faction agrees to UN-brokered talks
The Forces of Freedom and Change says it will take part in UN-sponsored talks to end months of political deadlock. (16 January)

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