Burhan back in Igad fold as he attends summit

Saturday December 09 2023
Sudan's President Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan

Sudan's Army Chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan. PHOTO | CHRISTOPHE ENA | AFP


Sudan's leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is attending a summit of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) in Djibouti for the first time since his country imploded on April 15, 2023 with a conflict displacing more than 5.4 million people.

Leaders of the Igad member states are meeting to correct initial strategies meant to end the war, which Burhan had initially rejected and threatened to quit the bloc.

But on Saturday, Burhan travelled to Djibouti to gather with leaders or their representatives from Igad member states including Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and the hosts Djibouti who are also the current chair of the bloc.

Read: Sudan’s peers move to secure peace deal

It is a significant turnaround that may also show lessons learnt by both sides. The 42nd Extra-Ordinary Summit has also invited representatives from the UN, African Union and other countries previously involved in Sudan peace bid. Former Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra who is now personal envoy for the UN secretary general, and US Horn of Africa Special Envoy Mike Hammer are among guests in attendance.

The leaders hope to unify their peace bids on Sudan, which has been in conflict since April when the Sudan Armed Forces led by Burhan clashed with the Rapid Support Forces after a disagreement on a transitional plan.


“Our region stands at a critical juncture, with the ongoing conflict in Sudan casting a shadow over our aspirations of a peaceful and prosperous Horn of Africa,” said Igad Executive Secretary Dr Workneh Gebeyehu in an opening speech.

“It is our moral duty to expedite the implementation of the partial resolutions of the Jeddah agreement which has been co-facilitated by Igad….and our partners,” he said referring to recent peace bids led by Saudi Arabia, the US and Igad in Jeddah, which saw parties agree on opening humanitarian corridors but didn’t follow through.

Now Burhan has lobbied countries in the Horn to see him as the legitimate leader of Sudan. The summit came on the back of recent shuttle diplomacy trips to Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea, besides Sudan itself being directly involved in preparing for the summit and the agenda.

Read: Burhan’s shuttle diplomacy to pledge Sudan peace, clear RSF

The new move involves what is known as the Expanded Mechanism on the Crisis in Sudan, an African Union-led platform that includes Sudan’s neighbours in Africa and the Gulf as well as the European Union, League of Arab States, the US, Russia, China, France and Norway. It also includes Ghana, Mozambique and Gabon, the three African countries currently sitting on the UN Security Council.

On December 4, the Mechanism agreed that warring parties in Sudan, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudan Armed Forces (Saf) must stop the fight but said actual peace solution can only come from everyone participating at the table.

“Only an inclusive, representative, Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led dialogue among all Sudanese stakeholders…can lead to a peaceful and sustainable solution to the crisis,” the Mechanism said in a statement after the meeting. They listed the warring a parties, other armed movements, political parties, civil society organisations, women and youth groups, resistance committees, labour unions and professional associations, traditional leaders, and academics as crucial for the long-term peace.

Western countries like the US, however, are also pushing for specified efforts to ensure justice for the victims of the war, which include killings, rape and other atrocities.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared Sudan a scene of crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing; finally agreeing with assessments by rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Read: Sudan rival commanders face war atrocities charges

“Based on the State Department’s careful analysis of the law and available facts, I have determined that members of the Saf and the RSF have committed war crimes in Sudan.  I have also determined that members of the RSF and allied militias have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing,” he said.

“This determination provides force and renewed urgency to African and international efforts to end the violence, address the humanitarian and human rights crisis, and work towards meaningful justice for victims and the affected communities that ends decades of impunity.”

President Ismail Guelleh of Djibouti, William Ruto of Kenya, Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, South Sudan Foreign Minister James Morgan, Ugandan Minister for Defence and Veteran Affairs Vincent Ssempija, African Union Commission boss Moussa Faki Mahamat and Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary for IGAD are also attending. Others include Saudi Ambassador to Djibouti Faisal bin Sultan al-Qabbani, EU ambassador to Djibouti Sylvie Tadesse.