Diplomatic initiatives in ruins, but no peace deal on the horizon in Sudan

Egypt hosted a summit of Sudan’s neighbors on Thursday in a bid to end three months of bloody conflict between rival military factions that threatens regional stability. For several weeks, diplomatic offensives have multiplied, but without succeeding in charting the beginning of a way out of the crisis.

It is one of the countries on the front lines of the fratricide currently taking place in Sudan. On Thursday 13 July, Egypt hosted a summit of Khartoum’s neighbors and representatives of various Sudanese military and civilian groups. Your ambition? Find ways to end the conflict that has been raging since April 15 and has sparked a major humanitarian crisis in the region.

The summit was aimed at “putting an end to the bloodshed of the Sudanese people” and the “negative consequences for neighboring countries”, according to a press release from the Egyptian authorities, who are concerned about the deadlock in the war between the army loyal to. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, head the Rapid Support Forces (FSR), a powerful paramilitary group.

“From a security point of view, Egyptian leaders are concerned about the risk of terrorist infiltration along the border,” Alessia Melcangi, a researcher at the Atlantic Council, told Al-Jazeera. “This situation would put additional pressure on the Egyptian security forces, which are already engaged on the western border with Libya and on the border with the Gaza Strip to defend the Sinai Peninsula.

The intense trade between Cairo and Khartoum is also suffering from this crisis, which comes at the worst time for Egypt, which is struggling with a catastrophic economic situation. In June, inflation reached 36.8% over a year, while poverty is gaining ground and external debt is soaring.

Since the start of the conflict, the fighting has forced 700,000 Sudanese to flee to neighboring countries, including more than 255,000 to Egypt, according to the latest figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Faced with this situation, the seven neighboring countries of Sudan, gathered in Cairo, asked for help from the international community, which had pledged 1.5 billion dollars at a summit in June. The latter “must keep its promises” and “help neighboring countries”, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi insisted.

Concurrent initiatives

After the failure of several ceasefires, Egypt, the mainstay of the Sudanese army, intended to regain the initiative despite sometimes conflicting interests with its neighbors in Sudan. Starting with Ethiopia, whose Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had made the trip to Cairo.

Egypt and Addis Ababa have had strained relations for several years over the Great Renaissance Dam, a mega-project wanted by Ethiopia, but which Cairo says threatens water resources in countries downstream of the Nile. A case where the two rivals try to curry favor with the Sudanese authorities.

“The Ethiopians have a preference for Hemedti, but does that mean they will get involved in the war? “There is no reason for Addis Ababa to take a firm position today,” suggests Roland Marchal, researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research ( CNRS) and specialist in Sudan.

Diplomatic efforts to end fighting between the Sudanese army and the RSF have so far proved ineffective, with competing initiatives creating confusion over how to bring the warring parties to negotiations.

Last month, talks initiated in Jeddah under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and the United States were suspended due to a lack of agreement. Negotiations in which neither Egypt nor the United Arab Emirates, one of Sudan’s main donors with a reputation for being close to the FSR, participated.

Matches without a winner

A summit also took place on Monday 10 July in Addis Ababa at the suggestion of Igad, the East African regional bloc comprising Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Sudan. But the Sudanese army boycotted the meeting, condemning the “bias” of Kenyan President William Ruto, who chairs the organization.

“Hemedti and William Ruto knew each other before the crisis and are on very good terms. Hemedti in particular has placed funds in Kenya, which is the major financial power in East Africa. Not entirely illegitimate on Al-Burhane’s part,” clarifies Roland Marchal.

Despite calls to silence the sound of weapons, fighting continues unabated on the ground, particularly in Khartoum, where millions of people are still stranded, often without water or electricity, and in oppressive heat.

“The problem is that we don’t currently see fatigue in the battles. For the moment there has been no real strategic victory on one side or the other, camps that each have existential reasons to want to win”, analyzes Roland Marchal.

Violence has also erupted in other parts of Sudan, including in the western Darfur region, where residents say Arab tribal militias and Sudanese security forces have targeted civilians because of their ethnicity.

The United Nations reported on Thursday the discovery in Darfur of a mass grave of at least 87 people who were allegedly killed last month in Sudan by paramilitary forces and their allies.

They would be “victims of the violence that followed the assassination of the governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abdullah Abakar, on June 14, shortly after he was arrested by the RSF”, the UN specifies.


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