Sudan’s warring factions are failing to agree on a ceasefire that could help delivery of aid and halt a mounting death toll, largely because they either think fighting is a good means to an end, or an insurance for income.
Experts, and sources from both camps; the Sudan Armed Forces (Saf) and the Rapid Support Forces, say the war that erupted on April 15 has helped the RSF maintain an illegal line of revenues that trickle down to support militias in far-flung regions. Stopping the war could mean breaking this bond between the RSF and those support militias.
This week, representatives of the warring parties failed to agree on an immediate ceasefire, in spite of mediated talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The outcome of the new round of Jeddah talks, mediated by the Saudi Kingdom, the US and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) means there is no guarantee that the sides will be reaching a peace deal soon.
Jihad Mashamoun, Dr Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese political analyst and honorary research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the university of Exeter in the UK told The EastAfrican that the former regime remnants who are supporting Saf leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Sudanese Armed Forces see the war as their way to get back to power and hence are not motivated to lay down arms.
“They do not forgive Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo ‘Hemedti’ for betraying them with him arresting al-Bashir and some of them in the coup of April 2019. For that they will continue their war efforts and rhetoric of war,” he said, referring to the leader of RSF, a former ally of Burhan.
Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019 after months of civilian protests, but the military crossed the floor and took power immediately. Sudan as struggled with the transition since.
The Jeddah talks said they will narrow talks to humanitarian corridors, ceasefire and confidence building.
But the war that broke out in April was a result of misunderstandings over security transitions. Now it has created more suspicions between parties.
“The media outlets of the former regime believe that allowing any humanitarian access will mean that the RSF will be resupplied weapons through the humanitarian conveys," Dr Mashamoun argued.
“For the RSF they have a problem. If there is a pause in war, they do not have a source of income to support their mercenaries. Those mercenaries are Arab militia men who have been traveling from the Sahel into Sudan. That is because in the Sahel countries they are marginalised forcing them to become mercenaries. The countries they are originating from is Niger, Chad and possibly Mali.”
RSF is also believed to be getting arms through porous borders from Chad, and the Saf say UAE’s humanitarian aid to Chad could be smuggling in arms as well. Abu Dhabi recently denied the claims even though Hemedti has had ties in Dubai in the past.
The Jeddah talks began in May but have failed to broker a ceasefire. In fact, they had broken down in July after Saf accused RSF of being unserious.
Some senior army generals say Jeddah talks are far removed from the situation on the ground where more than 10,000 people have been killed and over 5.2 million displaced.
A Sudanese military source, speaking anonymously as he is not authorised to speak to the media, told The EastAfrican that “the army and RSF leaders are not able to control their forces on the ground.” A ceasefire, he says, will be violated just like earlier truces which didn’t last.
“The Saf is still under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood group and the RSF factions are not directly commanded by the leadership at the top,” he said.
“There is no real willingness on both sides to achieve peace and stop the war.”
In Jeddah, the co-facilitators of the talks said they had pushed parties to agree on opening humanitarian corridors and reopen direct contacts between them. A dispatch from Igad, however, did not indicate timelines.
“The co-facilitators regret that the parties were unable to agree on ceasefire implementation arrangements during this first round. There is no acceptable military solution to this conflict,” said a statement issued by the Horn of Africa bloc, Igad which is taking part in the talks on behalf of the African Union.
[The co-facilitators] are able to announce that the Saf and RSF have committed to take steps to facilitate increased humanitarian assistance, and to implement confidence-building measures (CBMs).”
The UN said last week the civilian suffering had worsened over the six-month period, calling for a ceasefire.
In Jeddah, the parties return to the table had been seen as initial victory, having fallen out in May when they signed the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians but violated them.
Igad said the parties, in spite of failing on ceasefire, committed to participate in a joint humanitarian forum led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) “to resolve impediments to humanitarian access and deliveries of assistance.”
It also said that they agreed to identify points of contact to assist with movements of humanitarian personnel and assistance.
They also agreed to implement confidence-building measures by:
- Establishing communication between Saf and RSF leaders
- Arresting prison escapees and fugitives who had broken out of jail assisted by warring factions
- Improve each side’s official media discourse, and reduction of inflammatory rhetoric
- Tame actions concerning each side’s warmongers and pro-war elements
Additional reporting by Aggrey Mutambo