Sudan Conflict Enters Two-Month Mark with Diplomatic Efforts Stalling

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Sudan Conflict

The conflict in Sudan, now in its second month, shows no signs of resolution as diplomatic peace initiatives encounter obstacles and the risk of a wider ethnic war looms. The ongoing clashes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), described as «suicidal» behavior by a US diplomat, have resulted in the displacement of 2.2 million people and a death toll exceeding 1,000, though medics believe the actual numbers are higher.

The devastating consequences of the conflict are evident as it has crippled the economy, leaving millions of Sudanese suffering from hunger and reliant on foreign aid, while also causing the collapse of the health system. The fighting, which originated from disagreements between the army and RSF over troop integration during the transition to democracy following the ousting of autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, has now spread to key cities in the west of the country. El Geneina, in West Darfur, has been hit the hardest, with activists claiming that 1,100 people have been killed and the UN reporting that 150,000 have sought refuge in Chad.

Recent developments have escalated tensions further. The governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbakar, accused the RSF and allied Arab militias of carrying out a genocidal attack in El Geneina. Tragically, Abbakar was later killed, and the Sudanese Alliance armed group, led by Abbakar, blamed the RSF for his death while he was under their custody. The RSF, however, denies responsibility, asserting that Abbakar sought refuge with their forces but was subsequently kidnapped and killed by rogue tribal actors.

The killing of Abbakar, a member of the targeted Masalit tribe, poses the risk of further escalation in El Geneina, where the conflict has already inflicted severe damage on the city. Witnesses report seeing numerous bodies in the streets, with fear preventing their burial. Fighting has also erupted in other state capitals, including Nyala, Elfashir, Zalingei, El Obeid, and Kadugli, exacerbating long-standing ethnic tensions.

Suliman Baldo of the Sudanese Transparency and Policy Tracker warns that if the conflict persists, it may evolve into an ethnic and regional conflict in various parts of the country. Moreover, the imminent rainy season poses additional challenges as it hampers the delivery of limited assistance and makes it impossible for hundreds of thousands to flee the war zones, often resorting to arduous journeys on foot.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have thus far proved unsuccessful. The RSF, which originated from the infamous janjaweed militias that wreaked havoc in Darfur in the early 2000s, has entrenched itself in residential areas of Khartoum. The army, in response, has launched extensive artillery and air strikes, indicating no signs of relenting. Cease-fire attempts have repeatedly faltered, leading US diplomats to acknowledge that negotiations in Jeddah have not yielded positive results, and alternative paths are now being considered.

In a bid to mediate, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional East African organization, has initiated a mediation effort chaired by Kenya, aiming to bring together General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, leaders of the RSF and the army, respectively. Ethiopia has offered to host the meeting. However, Sudan›s foreign ministry, controlled by the army, accused Kenya of harboring the RSF and expressed a preference for South Sudanese leadership in the mediation process.

As the conflict persists, reports have emerged from Khartoum of RSF soldiers and armed gangs looting homes. Residents of East Khartoum, such as Waleed Adam, have shared accounts of armed individuals, including those in RSF uniforms, ransacking houses and stealing money. The Combating Violence Against Women Unit, a government agency, has reported that the majority of documented rape cases, which are believed to represent only a fraction of the actual number, attribute the crimes to men in RSF uniforms. The RSF, however, denies responsibility, claiming that criminals and loyalists of former President Bashir have been known to steal uniforms for illicit activities.

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