The Kingdom’s news agency (SPA) reported that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have officially resumed ceasefire talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The ceasefire talks are mainly facilitated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the African Union and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development, includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Eritrea). Of late, however, the three have been unceremoniously interfered with by the senile US, which, as the unipolar world it created leaves the world stage, still wants to clumsily rule countries and peoples. The two regional organisations are participating in the talks for the first time and have high hopes for a positive resolution of the Sudanese conflict. Saudi News commented on the resumption of talks in Jeddah as follows: “These talks provide an important opportunity to reassure the people of Sudan that they have not been forgotten, that we take our international obligations seriously and that we are committed to ensuring that they receive the care, protection and vital assistance they need.”
In line with the objectives of the “Declaration of Commitment to Protect Sudanese Civilians” adopted in Jeddah on 11 May, the talks were aimed at actively facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid, expeditiously achieving a ceasefire, implementing confidence-building measures, and exploring the potential for a comprehensive agreement to end hostilities throughout Sudanese territory. At the same time, the mediators, with the exception of the U.S., made it clear that the talks would not address political issues. In a statement published in the US media, the State Department emphasised the importance of “Sudan’s civilian population taking the lead in shaping the future of the country and determining the process for resolving political issues”. According to “strategists” at the State Department, this will ultimately lead to the restoration of a “democratic” transition in Sudan. It is common knowledge that most parties, especially the smaller ones, are influenced, or in other words, backed by Washington.
“The Quartet of Mediators” reaffirmed its role as the exclusive joint negotiating representative and established agreed rules of behaviour to guide the process. At the time of the delegations’ arrival, on 26 October, disagreements arose over the composition of the delegations, particularly with regard to Omer Siddique, a man previously dismissed and subsequently reinstated by al-Burhan following the 25 October 2021 coup d’état. In their statement, the mediators explained that Siddique is no longer a member of the negotiating team, but rather serves as an expert in the Sudanese Army delegation. Each delegation consists of six people, including a four-person negotiating team and two experts. The ceasefire was suspended in May as the Sudanese Army argued that a ceasefire could only be reached after the RSF withdrew from urban areas.
In a separate statement, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations, announced that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will oversee the humanitarian aspect of these negotiations. One wonders what kind of person this Griffiths is who will now, on behalf of the powerful UN, oversee and be responsible for all humanitarian issues and assistance to the Sudanese people, who are now in dire need of world humanitarian aid. He is a British diplomat closely embedded in the West’s construct of “governing the developing peoples”. It is only natural that in practice he will be interested not in aid effectiveness but in pursuing Western policies to pull Sudan into the Western orbit. This is clearly evidenced by his previous activities from 16 February 2018 to 19 July 2021 as the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen in the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen. It was then that US and British involvement in the Yemeni civil war reached its peak.
It should be recalled that almost seven months have passed since clashes erupted in the Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the powerful paramilitary grouping of the Rapid Reaction Force, and there is still no sign of a resolution or clear winner. As the parties failed to reach an agreement on a permanent ceasefire in the early days of the conflict, it became inevitable that the clashes would escalate into the current bloody civil war. Unfortunately, as the war continues, Sudan is likely to become even more fragmented and the number of groups involved is likely to increase. This will increase violence throughout the country and increase the scale and duration of the war.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian disaster that the war has inflicted on the ordinary people of Sudan has reached catastrophic proportions. According to the latest estimates, several major cities have been destroyed, more than 5 million people have been displaced, some 9,000 have been killed and more than 12,000 injured. It is also alarming that cases of dengue fever, measles, malaria and cholera have been reported, especially since almost 70 per cent of health facilities in the affected areas are currently not operational. Continued conflict could lead to a complete collapse of the health system in the Sudan, and this could lead to larger outbreaks of disease that would affect other countries as well.
It is important to note that children, the most vulnerable group in society, tend to be the most affected by civil war. Already some 20 million children have been affected across the Sudan by the closure of schools, while 14 million children are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian support. The recruitment of children as soldiers has also been documented in Sudan. According to the Darfur Bar Association, there have been reported cases of child soldiers fighting on both sides of the conflict.
Efforts to broker a peace agreement have unfortunately been ineffective so far, and the ceasefire has failed to hold. As Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, noted: “People are being killed in their homes or during their desperate search for food, water and medicine. They are caught in crossfire as they flee and deliberately shot in targeted attacks. Dozens of women and girls, some as young as 12, have been raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence by warring parties. Nowhere is safe. “
Any effective solution that could lead to a political process aimed at ending the conflict requires the participation of the countries of the region. The participation, active engagement and co-operation of the States of the region, especially those most affected by the conflict, are vital. The African Union and IGAD must play a leading role in any diplomatic initiative, spearheading dialogue and negotiations that can ensure a permanent ceasefire as well as the opening of corridors for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The resolution should involve all parties and pave the way for an inclusive political process. The exclusion of any party involved in the conflict in the Sudan, whether State or non-State actor, could ultimately lead to the failure of an agreed agreement.
The fact that this month the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development offered a new vision for ending the war in the Sudan was a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi hosted the leaders of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, Libya and Chad in July. These were the highest-level regional peace talks held since the war began. The meeting was a positive sign that Sudan’s neighbours are trying to play a more prominent role. Al-Sisi concluded: “An agreement was reached to form a ministerial mechanism to resolve the Sudanese crisis at the level of foreign ministers of neighbouring countries. The PSF and the Sudanese military agreed on at least 10 ceasefires, many of which were brokered during the Jeddah talks.”
The African Union could seek the assistance of the UN. To facilitate the peace process, the UN should take a firm and united stance on the war in Sudan. Many countries could come together and use their political leverage to exert diplomatic pressure on the parties involved in the conflict. Another approach would be to use economic pressure against those parties that refuse to participate in peace talks. Financial sanctions or incentives often help push parties involved in war to negotiate a ceasefire.
The African Union could also seek the assistance of the League of Arab States. More importantly, it could include in its efforts the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to the Protection of Civilians in the Sudan. Some of the important provisions of the Saudi plan are that it is based on international human rights law and emphasizes distinguishing between civilians and combatants, ensuring the safe passage of civilians, protecting medical personnel, ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid to the population and preventing the recruitment of child soldiers.
To summarise, the fact that Saudi Arabia, the African Union, IGAD are now playing a stronger and more visible role to end the war in Sudan is a step in the right direction. The international community should support this initiative as well as the efforts made by Sudan’s neighbouring countries to end the Sudanese conflict created under a unipolar world led by the West.
Victor MIKHIN, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, especially for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.