Date: Wednesday, 12 July 2023
When the IGAD Quartet (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan) met in Addis Ababa to mediate in Sudan's war of the generals on 10 July it started with the highest of ambitions – to agree on sending in a regional force to protect civilians and secure humanitarian aid corridors.
It also invited the widest range of participants – the UN, the African Union, the United States, European Union, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Britain as well as representatives of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and Sudanese civilian activists.
Yet the Addis summit, launched after the US-Saudi Arabia attempts in the Jeddah talks to broker a longer-term ceasefire fizzled, hit formidable obstacles within hours of opening.
The biggest blockage was that the SAF representatives, who had arrived in Addis ahead of the talks, had refused to attend because they regard Kenya's President William Ruto, who chairs the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)'s mediation on Sudan as favouring the RSF.
The SAF has called for Ruto to be replaced as IGAD's lead mediator, accusing his government of harbouring members of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo 'Hemeti's' RSF (AC Vol 64 No 14, A man for all summits). The SAF want the IGAD effort to be led by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who skipped the Addis meeting and flew to South Africa. Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh also failed to attend.
But the RSF sent Hemeti's advisor Yousuf Ezzat, who met Ruto at State House in Nairobi last month, as its representative to the IGAD quartet meeting.
Unlike the Saudi Arabia and US talks in Jeddah, the Addis meeting was attended by civilian activists and politicians who were in the power-sharing transitional government alongside the military before the 2021 coup led by General Abdel Fattah al Burhan and Hemeti (AC Vol 62 No 22, General Al Burhan's power grab).
The role of the civilian groups, which ousted Omer Hassan el Beshir, will be crucial to any political rebuilding of Sudan after the civil war. Molly Phee, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, and US Ambassador to Khartoum John Godfrey led the US delegation arguing it was critical to restore civilian rule as part of a negotiated settlement.
On the sidelines of the Addis talks, Phee met with Abdalla Hamdok, prime minister in the ousted transitional government in Sudan.
The IGAD Quartet called for a regional summit to request the convening of the East African Standby Force (EASF) to assess a plan to send soldiers to protect civilians and humanitarian aid convoys.
Even before the myriad logistical and security hurdles, the first problem would be the strident opposition to IGAD from the SAF in Khartoum. Undaunted, the Quartet is ploughing on with its to convene a regional summit attended by both the RSF's Hemeti and the SAF's Burhan.
Parallel to the IGAD Quartet, some AU officials have been discussing with their EU counterparts some work with Sudanese civilian organisations on initiatives to protect communities trapped in the war zone and plans for a post-war transition.
But Sudan's acting Foreign Minister, and former acolyte of Beshir, Al el Sadig argues that it is impossible for his government to consider any initiative from the AU as long as its membership remains frozen.
And on 13 July, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi is planning to host yet another regional summit to which he has invited: South Sudan's Salva Kiir; Chad's Mahamat Idriss Déby 'Kaka'; Central African Republic's Faustin-Archange Touadéra; Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed; and Eritrea's Issayas Afewerki.
El Sisi, who is close to the SAF's Burhan, may be trying to rebalance regional sentiment on Sudan's war but has not stated any precise aims for his summit, other than ending the conflict. With the UAE accused of indirectly arming the RSF and Egypt accused of flying bombing missions for the SAF, the focus on Abu Dhabi's and Cairo's involvement in the war is likely to increase in the coming weeks.