Why Sudan’s conflict defies diplomacy and de-escalation efforts

Special Smoke plumes billow from a fire in south Khartoum, main, amid the ongoing violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which began on April 15. (AFP)
Smoke plumes billow from a fire in south Khartoum, main, amid the ongoing violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which began on April 15. (AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2023
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Why Sudan’s conflict defies diplomacy and de-escalation efforts

Why Sudan’s conflict defies diplomacy and de-escalation efforts
  • Warring sides have repeatedly violated a series of fragile ceasefires, leading to the suspension of talks
  • Many see a power-sharing arrangement as the only incentive for de-escalation in the short or long run

NAIROBI, Kenya: Now approaching its fourth month, the conflict in Sudan has continued to intensify with little sign of the feuding factions returning to the negotiating table.

More than 4 million people have now fled from their homes — 3.2 million people displaced internally, and close to 900,000 people who have crossed the border into Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and other countries.

Despite the nonstop fighting, neither side is believed to be close to achieving victory or making significant battlefield gains. Nevertheless, many see dialogue following by power sharing as the only way to achieve de-escalation in the short or long run.

Malik Agar, deputy chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, recently set out a government-proposed road map to end the conflict, beginning with the separation of the warring parties and culminating in a comprehensive political process.

Agar’s proposal, outlined on Aug. 6, prioritized the delivery of humanitarian aid and the safeguarding of civilians with a subsequent shift of focus toward an inclusive political process with power-sharing agreements.

However, analysts remain cautious about any such peace initiatives, pointing to several factors that keep the military and its paramilitary foe from committing themselves to a lasting settlement, thereby prolonging the conflict.




This grab from UGC video footage posted on social media on August 8 shows a member of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) firing an automatic machine gun turret mounted on the back of a truck towards positions held by the Rapid Support Forces in central Omdurman. (AFP/UGC image)

“There have been scarce instances of ceasefires with enduring longevity. Especially in the initial stages of the conflict, ceasefires were frequently breached within mere hours,” Abiol Lual Deng, a South Sudanese-American political scientist, told Arab News.

“This underscores a situation where both sides seem unwilling to accept victory for the opposing faction.”

Instead, analysts believe efforts are needed to address the root causes of the conflict if a sustainable resolution is to be found, including steps to reduce militarization and tribalism, while also reviving the waning interest of the international community.

The power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, escalated into violence on April 15.

The conflict has resulted in thousands of casualties, millions of displaced people, and a major humanitarian emergency.

Fighting has killed at least 3,900 people nationwide, according to a conservative estimate by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, while more than 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.




Chadian cart owners transport belongings of Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, while crossing the border between Sudan and Chad in Adre, Chad August 4, 2023. (Reuters)

The UN says more than 6 million people are “just one step away from famine,” as aid groups struggle to deliver life-saving assistance through bureaucratic hurdles, security challenges and targeted attacks.

Despite the efforts of the international community to initiate talks and find a solution, the conflict has persisted, as both sides have repeatedly violated a series of fragile ceasefires, leading to the suspension of peace talks.

The SAF withdrew its negotiating delegation from the Jeddah process in July due to the RSF’s refusal to redeploy its forces outside Khartoum.

Diplomats and aid agencies are concerned about the consequences of a prolonged conflict, both from a humanitarian standpoint and as a matter of wider regional security.

Indeed, the violence threatens to push the nation into an all-out civil war, which could drag neighboring states into the fray and leave borders open to exploitation by extremist groups.

The SAF has in recent weeks been ramping up its mobilization through the establishment of training camps in the northern River Nile state and the town of Kassala, providing basic training to volunteers — some of whom are reportedly underage.




An image grab taken from a handout video posted on the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) page on Twitter on July 28 shows its commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo addressing RSF fighters at an undisclosed location. (AFP)

Concerns have been multiplied by the fact that recruitment appears to follow tribal lines, which could aggravate inter-communal tensions. Developments such as these could also serve to prolong the conflict.

Sudan had long been undergoing a process of militarization even before the latest uptick in violence. Both the SAF and the RSF had already become the biggest employers in the country, outstripping even the Ministry of Education.

For many in Sudan, the SAF, despite numerous allegations of atrocities, remains associated with statehood, while the RSF is seen as a mercenary militia that grew from a provincial paramilitary unit into a force capable of challenging the national army.

INNUMBERS

* 3,900 Conservative estimate of people killed. (ACLED)

* 4m People have been uprooted from their homes. (UNHCR)

* 80% Proportion of Sudan’s hospitals now out of service. (WHO)

* 6m People who are “just one step away from famine.” (UN)

“The RSF, having no public support in the capital, relentlessly pursues a campaign of violence to displace people that they have no trust in,” Osama Ahmed Odorous Ahmed, an associate professor of strategic and security studies, told Arab News.

“Now, they want to gain control over strategic locations by pursuing grievous offenses including looting, rape, and merciless attacks on innocent civilians.”

The RSF’s lack of support among the people of Khartoum might end up being its Achilles’ heel, however, forcing it to ultimately seek a compromise with the SAF.




Sudan’s history is one of resilience and perseverance, and its people deserve a chance at peace and stability, said Abiol Lual Deng, a South Sudanese-American political scientist. (Supplied)

Marco Arnaboldi, a security professional and an expert on militant Islamism, argues that because the RSF is “well aware of facing opposition from a restive population, which in the end hinders their ability to consolidate power,” it will come to an agreement with the SAF at some point.

He says the RSF’s strategic approach is therefore to bolster its military position before embarking on any negotiations, which makes a prolonged stalemate the most likely scenario.

“The RSF is resolute in enhancing its position through continued military advancements, recognizing the complexities on the ground. Their goal isn’t total control of the nation, let alone effective governance,” Arnaboldi told Arab News.

“From a purely military perspective, a long stalemate looks likely, as the SAF is also showing a dreadful inability to regain the lost territories, especially in Khartoum.

“The RSF, while it is expanding its military control over the country, is grappling with internal disorganization and inadequate supply lines.”

The notion of pressuring the RSF to relinquish control and embrace genuine political discourse might offer a ray of hope, yet this path comes with its challenges.




Experts say addressing the conflict’s root causes is key to preventing further escalation and achieving a lasting solution. (Reuters)

“The splintering of authority and interests among different factions and elites has set back the chances of a harmonious outcome for the nation,” said Odorous Ahmed.

“There is potential for a military resolution supported by external reinforcements for the RSF, as it has external backers, but also diplomatic avenues through negotiated agreements, as well as the exertion of international pressure propelled by regional powers, and the elusive pursuit of political reconciliation.”

Deng underscored the need for a multifaceted approach to de-escalating the conflict and resuming the transition process, involving civilian leaders, regional powers, and the international community.

“A significant step involves insisting on a democratic transition, where civilian leadership plays a pivotal role in steering the nation toward stability and inclusivity,” she said.


HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria

HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria
Updated 6 sec ago
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HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria

HRW: Turkiye responsible for abuses in north Syria
  • HRW: Turkiye ‘bears responsibility for the serious abuses and potential war crimes committed by members of its own forces and local armed groups it supports’ in Syria’s north’
BEIRUT: Turkiye bears responsibility for human rights abuses and violations of land and property rights in swathes of northern Syria it controls alongside its proxies, a Human Rights Watch report said Thursday.
Since 2016, Turkiye has carried out successive ground operations to expel the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Syria’s north, with its proxies now controlling two large border strips.
Turkiye “bears responsibility for the serious abuses and potential war crimes committed by members of its own forces and local armed groups it supports” in Syria’s north, HRW said in its report.
Turkish officials in Syria’s north have in some cases “been directly involved in apparent war crimes,” with Turkish forces and intelligence agencies involved “in carrying out and overseeing abuses,” the report said.
Abuses and violations are “most often directed at Kurdish civilians and anyone else perceived to have ties to Kurdish-led forces,” HRW said.
Kurdish women detainees have reported sexual violence including rape, while children as young as six months old have been detained with their mothers, the report said.
Ankara views the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group.
The military police and the myriad rebel factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA), both backed by Ankara, “have arbitrarily arrested and detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured and otherwise ill-treated, and subjected to unfair military trials scores of people with impunity,” HRW said.
A Syrian who formerly lived under SNA rule told HRW: “Everything is by the power of the weapon.”
The rights group has also accused Ankara of having “summarily deported thousands of Syrian refugees” from Turkiye to areas under its control in Syria.
In July 2023 alone, Ankara sent back more than 1,700 Syrians into the Tal Abyad border area, the report said.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in northeast Syria’s Turkish-controlled border strip have been displaced from their homes, with SNA factions looting, pillaging, and seizing their properties, the report said.
“The hardest thing for me was standing in front of my house and not being able to enter it,” a displaced Yazidi man from Ras Al-Ain told HRW.
Turkiye and its proxies “should grant independent investigative bodies immediate and unhindered access to territories under their control,” the rights group said.
Syria’s war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Urgent UN Security Council action sought to end war in Sudan

Urgent UN Security Council action sought to end war in Sudan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Urgent UN Security Council action sought to end war in Sudan

Urgent UN Security Council action sought to end war in Sudan
  • “It is clear that this is an urgent matter of peace and security that demands greater attention from the Security Council,” says US envoy
  • UN says that nearly 25 million people — half Sudan’s population — need aid and some 8 million have fled their homes

UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Wednesday pushed for the United Nations Security Council to take action to help end a nearly year-long conflict in Sudan between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The United States says the warring parties have committed war crimes and the RSF and allied militias have also committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The UN says that nearly 25 million people — half Sudan’s population — need aid and some 8 million have fled their homes and hunger is rising.
“It is clear that this is an urgent matter of peace and security that demands greater attention from the Security Council,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told Reuters in a statement.
“The council must act urgently to alleviate human suffering, hold perpetrators to account, and bring the conflict in Sudan to an end. Time is running out,” she said, without specifying what action the 15-member council should take.
Since war erupted on April 15, 2023, the council has only issued three press statements condemning and expressing concern about the war. It echoed that language in a resolution in December that shut down a UN political mission — following a request from Sudan’s acting foreign minister.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed in one city alone in Sudan’s West Darfur region last year in ethnic violence by the RSF and allied Arab militia, according to a UN sanctions monitors report, seen by Reuters last month.
“I am deeply disappointed that the allegations detailed in this report have received such little attention, both inside the UN Security Council and outside the United Nations,” said Thomas-Greenfield, who visited a refugee camp in Chad near the border with Sudan’s Darfur in September.
The Sudanese government recently prohibited aid deliveries through Chad, effectively shutting down a crucial route for supplies to the vast Darfur region, which is controlled by the rival RSF. Thomas-Greenfield described the move as “unacceptable” for threatening a “critical lifeline.”
Reuters last year chronicled the ethnically targeted violence committed in West Darfur. In hundreds of interviews with Reuters, survivors described horrific scenes of bloodletting in El Geneina and on the 30-km (18-mile) route from the city to the border with Chad as people fled.
 


Food aid reaches north Gaza for first time in weeks. Israeli hostages’ families push for release

Food aid reaches north Gaza for first time in weeks. Israeli hostages’ families push for release
Updated 29 February 2024
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Food aid reaches north Gaza for first time in weeks. Israeli hostages’ families push for release

Food aid reaches north Gaza for first time in weeks. Israeli hostages’ families push for release
  • The plight of the hostages has deeply shaken Israelis, who see in them an enduring symbol of the state’s failure to protect its citizens from Hamas’ assault

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Aid convoys carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, Israeli officials said Wednesday, the first major delivery in a month to the devastated, isolated area, where the UN has warned of worsening starvation among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s offensive.
The increasing alarm over hunger across Gaza has fueled international calls for a ceasefire as the US, Egypt and Qatar work to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas for a pause in fighting and the release of some of the hostages seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack.
Mediators hope to reach an agreement before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts around March 10. But so far, Israel and Hamas have remained far apart in public on their demands.
Increasing the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a deal, families of hostages on Wednesday launched a four-day march from southern Israel to Jerusalem to demand their loved ones be set free. Some of the around 100 hostages freed during a ceasefire in late November are joining the march, which is to end near Netanyahu’s official residence.
The plight of the hostages has deeply shaken Israelis, who see in them an enduring symbol of the state’s failure to protect its citizens from Hamas’ assault. In its Oct. 7 attack, the Palestinian militant group abducted roughly 250 people, according to Israeli authorities, including men, women, children and older adults. After the November releases, some 130 hostages remain, and Israel says about a quarter of them are dead.
Israel’s assault on Gaza, which it says aims at destroying Hamas after its attack, has killed more than 29,900 Palestinians. UN officials warn of further mass casualties if it follows through on vows to attack the southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has taken refuge. They also say a Rafah offensive could collapse the aid operation that has already been crippled in the fighting.
Across Gaza, more than 576,000 people – a quarter of the population – are a step away from famine, the UN says. But northern Gaza in particular has been gutted by hunger. The north has largely been cut off and much of it has been leveled since Israeli ground troops invaded in late October. Several hundred thousand Palestinians are believed to remain there, and many have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive. The UN says one in 6 children under 2 in the north suffer from acute malnutrition and wasting.
A convoy of 31 trucks carrying food entered northern Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli military office that oversees Palestinian civilian affairs said. The office, known by the acronym COGAT, said nearly 20 other trucks entered the north on Monday and Tuesday. Associated Press footage showed people carrying sacks of flour from the distribution site.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the deliveries. The UN was not involved, said a spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian coordination office, Eri Keneko.
As of Sunday, the UN had been unable to deliver food to northern Gaza since Jan. 23, according to Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees that has led the aid effort during the war. On Feb. 18, the World Food Program attempted a delivery to the north for the first time in three weeks, but much of the convoy’s cargo was taken en route by desperate Palestinians, and it was only able to distribute a small amount in the north. Two days later, the WFP announced it was pausing deliveries to the north because of the chaos.
Since launching its assault on Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. Despite international calls to allow in more aid, the number of supply trucks entering has dropped dramatically in recent weeks.
COGAT said Wednesday that Israel does not impose limits on the amount of aid entering. Israel has blamed UN agencies for the bottleneck, saying hundreds of trucks are waiting on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom for aid workers to collect them.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday countered saying large trucks entering Gaza have to be unloaded and reloaded onto smaller Palestinian trucks, but there aren’t enough of them and there’s a lack of security to distribute aid in Gaza. Police in Gaza stopped protecting convoys after Israeli strikes on them near the crossing. There is also “insufficient coordination” from Israel on security and deconfliction, which puts the lives of UN staff and other humanitarian workers at risk.
“That’s why we’ve repeatedly asked for a humanitarian ceasefire,” he said. The UN has called for Israel to open crossings in the north to aid deliveries and guarantee safe corridors for convoys.
The director of Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza said the number of children who have died in recent days from severe malnutrition and dehydration had risen to four.
Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya said that operations at the hospital will shut off starting Wednesday due to fuel shortages. “Dialysis, intensive care, childcare, and surgeries will stop. Therefore, we will witness more deaths in the coming days,” he said.
But the pain from the lack of supplies extends across Gaza. Project Hope, a humanitarian group that runs a clinic in the central town of Deir Al-Balah, said 21 percent of the pregnant women and 11 percent of the children under 5 it has treated in the last three weeks are suffering from malnutrition.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll from Israel’s offensive had risen to 29,954 people, with 70,325 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, but it says two-thirds of the dead were children and women.
In its attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, Hamas and other Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians.


Gaza officials report two more child malnutrition deaths

Gaza officials report two more child malnutrition deaths
Updated 28 February 2024
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Gaza officials report two more child malnutrition deaths

Gaza officials report two more child malnutrition deaths
  • The latest fatalities were at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city
  • The death toll from the famine among children rose to six martyrs as a result of dehydration and malnutrition

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Two children have died “of dehydration and malnutrition” in war-torn Gaza, the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry said Wednesday, the latest reported deaths as the UN warned of “imminent” famine.
The latest fatalities were at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city, the largest hospital in the besieged territory, said health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
“The death toll from the famine among children rose to six martyrs as a result of dehydration and malnutrition,” Qudra said.
The deaths could not be independently verified.
“We call on international institutions to take immediate action to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe in the northern Gaza Strip,” the spokesman added.
UN agencies have said the latest humanitarian convoy was allowed into the north more than a month ago.
The United Nations humanitarian coordination office on Wednesday said two children had died earlier of dehydration and malnutrition in northern Gaza’s Kamal Adwan hospital — deaths previously announced by Qudra.
A dire humanitarian emergency is unfolding in Gaza as Israel continues its relentless bid to eliminate Hamas in response to the Palestinian group’s October 7 attack.
The surprise attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Nearly five months into the war, the Israeli campaign has killed at least 29,954 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
With aid still blocked from entering northern Gaza by Israeli forces, and only entering the rest of the territory in dribs and drabs, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday that “if nothing changes, a famine is imminent.”
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNWRA, has reported a 50-percent drop in trucks entering Gaza so far this month compared to January.
The UN humanitarian office OCHA also cited projections indicating that “the entire population of the Gaza Strip faces crisis or worse levels of food insecurity.”
More than 500,000 people out of Gaza’s 2.4 million inhabitants are “facing catastrophic conditions characterised by lack of food, starvation and exhaustion of coping capacities,” it warned.


US urges Israel to let Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan

US urges Israel to let Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan
Updated 28 February 2024
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US urges Israel to let Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan

US urges Israel to let Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan
  • “It is not in Israel’s security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters
  • Israel has been assessing how to address worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday urged Israel to allow Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during Ramadan, after a far-right minister proposed barring Palestinians from the occupied West Bank from praying there.
“As it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers during Ramadan consistent with past practice,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters, using the Jewish term for the site, the holiest in Judaism.
“That’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve and to which they have a right, but it’s also a matter that directly is important to Israel’s security,” he said.
“It is not in Israel’s security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region.”
Israel has been assessing how to address worship in Jerusalem during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
The month of fasting comes as Israel wages a relentless military campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to a major attack by Hamas inside Israel on October 7.
Hamas has called for a mass movement on Al-Aqsa for the start of Ramadan.
“We call on our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the occupied interior (Israel) to travel to Al-Aqsa from the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan, in groups or alone, to pray there to break the siege on it,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised statement Wednesday.
Last week, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said that Palestinian residents of the West Bank “should not be allowed” entry to Jerusalem to pray during Ramadan.
“We cannot take risks,” he said, adding: “We cannot have women and children hostage in Gaza and allow celebrations for Hamas on the Temple Mount.”
Ben Gvir leads a hard-right party advocating Jewish control of the compound.
The United States has been pressing for a deal before Ramadan begins in which Israel would halt strikes in the Gaza Strip and hostages snatched on October 7 would be freed.
The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest figures by the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
It was launched in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.