Peace a must as Sudan crisis threatens regional stability

Peace a must as Sudan crisis threatens regional stability

Peace a must as Sudan crisis threatens regional stability
Sudanese Army soldiers walk near armored vehicles positioned on a street in southern Khartoum. (AFP)
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The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month held a hearing titled “Conflict and Humanitarian Emergency in Sudan: A Call to Action,” attended by US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. He began his testimony by expressing regret over the catastrophic situation in Sudan, warning of famine, ongoing ethnic and regional fighting and the potential collapse of a state with a population of 50 million.
The Sudanese people have endured death, crimes against humanity, sexual violence, famine and ethnic cleansing, with 8 million people displaced and 3 million children fleeing the country since the outbreak of war in mid-April last year. Twenty-five million people need food and medicine, with 4.9 million on the brink of famine. Women and girls face continuous violations from both warring factions.
The escalating humanitarian crisis stems from conflict and the obstruction of humanitarian aid. Eighteen million people face severe food insecurity, with 5 million on the verge of famine. Three million children are severely malnourished and the crisis is expected to worsen during the summer.
Sudan faces famine due to blatant violations of international humanitarian law by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. The prevention of access to and disruption of humanitarian aid have exacerbated the crisis. In refugee camps in Chad, food resources have dwindled, prompting the US Congress to approve additional humanitarian funding. The US has provided more than $1 billion in aid since the beginning of the war but still faces challenges in pressuring the Sudanese forces to allow aid access.
The only solution to the crisis is to end the war, which is not a civil war, but a conflict waged by two generals and their followers against the Sudanese people. In December, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the actions of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Office of Foreign Assets Control has imposed sanctions on individuals and entities linked to both sides.
This is how the divided political scene looks like in Sudan today. The Rapid Support Forces militia controls most of Khartoum, the nation’s capital, and has done so since April last year. It has also been able to capture Darfur. This is where the leaders of that movement come from.
In December, the Rapid Support Forces also seized Wad Madani, the capital of Al-Jazirah state. However, things have not gone well for the group since. In February, the Sudanese army took back the center of Omdurman, which is the second-largest urban area in the country. Then the army consolidated its gains in most of western and northern Sudan, especially in Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast. 

International efforts are needed to enforce a peace agreement that meets the aspirations of the Sudanese people.

Maria Maalouf

It is relevant to mention Darfur, as the peace calls have been renewed to stop the vicious and devastating rivalry between the two contending Sudanese armed factions. Had there been more government responsibility toward the Darfur crisis, the fighting in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities would not have happened.
Worse, atrocities are still unfolding in Darfur, the western region that has been plagued by a war that started early in the new millennium. The Darfur crisis now runs parallel to the fighting that has been taking place around the country since April 2023.
The fighting in Sudan is also burdening neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have fled to Chad, the Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan and many other countries. It is estimated that as many as 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur alone. There is a military campaign about to take place around the besieged city of Al-Fashir. The horrible scenes of the killings in Darfur have been seen by millions of people around the world. Paramilitaries are opening fire on the village. The civilian population are the victims and many children are counted among the dead. Darfur used to be the breadbasket of Sudan. Not anymore, for sure.
The war could escalate into a regional conflict if the situation is not addressed. The Biden administration must elevate its leadership and focus on Sudan. The US Treasury Department could play a crucial role by expanding sanctions on the perpetrators of atrocities. The US Agency for International Development and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration also support calls for humanitarian access and aid to civil society groups.
International efforts are needed to enforce a peace agreement that meets the aspirations of the Sudanese people, as this crisis poses a threat to regional stability. All actors, even those who have played a negative role, must be invited to become partners in a peace agreement to prioritize stability.
The resilience and unity of the Sudanese people reflect their desire to end the war, achieve full humanitarian access and have a professional, unified army under a unified government authority. Sudan faces two different paths: famine and state failure or peace and a democratic future. The international community must strive to impose peace by any means necessary.

Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer.
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