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Saturday, May 18, 2024

International and Regional Efforts Needed to End the War in Sudan, One Year On

As the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) enters its second year, there is no significant progress towards a negotiated peaceful solution.
However, there is a glimmer of hope with the announcement of the resumption of negotiations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, within the next two weeks.

Domestically, military escalation, both on the battlefield and in the rhetoric of military leaders, has dominated the scene. This situation has raised substantial concerns among experts and observers that Sudan may be on the path to a protracted war that could lead to its division and threaten regional security. The war has significantly impacted eastern Sudan, a region that was previously unaffected; for instance, on April 9, RSF drones targeted military and security facilities in the city of Al Qadarif, in eastern Sudan.

Time is of the Essence

The success of peace negotiations in Sudan is closely linked to timing. The longer the war continues, the more challenges arise, complicating the negotiation process, such as potential splits within the army or RSF. Dr. Bakri Al Jak, the official spokesperson for the "Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces" (Progress), warns that the war's shift towards mobilization on ethnic and regional bases, rather than ideological or political grounds, increases the risk of both sides losing control over their forces on the ground. This situation is the first step towards dividing the country.

Al Jak emphasizes the importance of quickly reaching a negotiated solution by delegitimizing the war domestically and intensifying regional and international communications to support peace in Sudan, to prevent the war from dragging on.

The Need for Political Will

Experts estimate the direct economic losses to Sudan's economy in the first year of the war at $100 billion. Ninety percent of factories were destroyed, agricultural production decreased by 65%, and the service sector by 75%. Adding the missed opportunities, the total loss amounts to $200 billion. Beyond economic damage, the conflict has claimed the lives of 14,000 civilians, with thousands wounded or missing, and 11 million people displaced or seeking refuge. While the exact number of military casualties remains undisclosed due to media blackout from both sides, it is undeniably high. Despite these tremendous losses, the fighting parties have not yet demonstrated a genuine political will toward negotiation, although a significant number of Sudanese civilians and political forces call for peace.

The Integration of National and Regional Will

Like many other conflicts in the region, the war in Sudan is unlikely to cease without the integration of national will for peace with supportive and pressing regional and international intentions. The writer and political analyst Haj Warraq believes that key factors will determine whether the war will extend or be contained. One critical factor is the coherence, consistency, and clarity of the United States' policy towards Sudan. The current divide within American politics, between Democrats and Republicans, and the lack of a clear, consistent strategy are major impediments.

War and Gold

An important factor influencing the conflict in Sudan is the networks financing the war, particularly those involved in gold smuggling and extraction. These networks not only fund the war but also have created the largest markets for slavery and political bribery in the country. If peace-aligned forces can mobilize support in the West, sanctions can be imposed on these networks to speed up the end of the war.

Moreover, uniting peace and democratic civil government forces could be crucial. Despite the "Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces" (Progress) forming a broad alliance, Warraq suggests it needs more public openness and to include additional sections of new and non-party forces to become more effective.

If national peace-aligned forces can closely work with effective regional and international roles, this collaboration could help create a pro-peace and civil governance stream among the warring parties themselves. There are various factions within both the army and RSF. If international, regional, and local developments support the emergence of a peace stream within the conflict parties, this could expedite the end of the war. The aim is not to encourage divisions or splits due to their dangers but to create a political environment where peace becomes the only feasible option.
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