Sudan’s leader of the Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was this week recording new successes on the diplomatic front, shaking hands with Kenya’s President William Ruto and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
It happened as ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resurfaced as the face of the alternative political movements seeking a role in the transitional dialogue in Sudan.
Hamdok on Thursday met with President Ruto in Nairobi, ostensibly to brief him on the political processes “towards resolution of the conflict,” according to a dispatch from state house.
“Efforts to bring all the concerned parties in the Sudan conflict together to resolve the conflict are in top gear. It is important that all stakeholders in the Sudan are involved in reaching a solution that will stop the loss of life, destruction of infrastructure and property and return the country to normalcy,” Ruto said.
Hamdok, the prime minister of Sudan between August 2019 and October 2021 when he was ousted by Burhan’s military, had failed to harmonise the army and civilian vision of transition. Burhan accused him of leading a wrangling government.
But since his ouster, he has become the face of the fractured civilian movements that have sought to end the standoff between the Sudan Armed Forces (Saf) and the Rapid Support Forces.
A diplomatic source told The EastAfrican, Hamdok was leading the Freedom for Change (FFC), a coalition of civilian movements that had helped negotiate a transitional government earlier in 2019.
When Ruto met with Burhan on Monday, he said he was pushing for an expanded dialogue for all political entities, suggesting Burhan was behind further isolation of the RSF by tapping into the civilian movements.
They agreed to plan for a summit by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) “to find ways to accelerate the Jeddah [peace] process towards cessation of hostilities in Sudan.”
That summit will also “agree on a framework for an all-inclusive Sudanese dialogue,” a dispatch from State House said.
The trips to Kenya and Ethiopia were important because they had not been part of Burhan’s earlier shuttle diplomacy as he toured the Horn and the Middle East to seek to isolate his arch-enemy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo Hemedti, who leads the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The trips mean Burhan has, at least in public, mended fences that looked broken and confirm that he is still the de facto leader of Sudan. Nairobi and Addis had earlier been rumoured to support RSF and other armed groups, claims both capitals had denied.
Burhan’s delegation showed something else: Burhan’s continuous bid to amass support from local armed groups. In Nairobi and Addis Ababa, he was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ali Al-Sadiq. There was also Minni Arko Minawi, the Governor of the Darfur region and leader of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army that had initially refused to take sides. Burhan was also accompanied by Ahmed Ibrahim Mufaddal, the Sudanese spy chief, according to an itinerary issued by the Sudan News Agency.
Their presence, especially Minawi’s, means North Darfur won’t fall into enemy hands yet, suggesting that the RSF will be pinned against expanding their territory.
Burhan has also recently tightened military command in Khartoum by naming a new leader in Omdurman. This means the RSF will face a stronger resistance there, according to Dr Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese political analyst and honorary research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.
“Of course, if the Saf decides that it is done with talks and decides on military confrontation in Darfur after Khartoum then I do not see how RSF can win,” Dr Mashamoun told The EastAfrican.
His Addis Ababa trip, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, was to find ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, “and the developments of the situation in Sudan, issues of peace, security and development in the region, and a review of issues of common interest.”
Burhan, however, isn’t opening his arms to everyone yet. And South Sudan hinted last week it was more preferred to handle the search for peace more than the other neighbours.
On the sidelines of the Saudi-Africa Summit last week in Riyadh, South Sudan President Salva Kiir met his counterparts from Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Sudan to discuss the conflict in Sudan, focused on “ways to resolve the ragging war in Sudan.”
A dispatch from Juba said Foreign Minister James Pitia Morgan had said “regional leaders have given their full support to President Kiir to continue engaging the Sudanese political and military leaders to find an amicable solution to the eight- month conflict.”
President Kiir was expected to organise meetings with the Sudanese political leaders and the current warring parties to review the situation in the country, the dispatch added.
“To Burhan and his allies, both Egypt and South Sudan are reliable venues for talks,” Dr Mashamoun told The EastAfrican.
“I recall when the conflict started, the supporters of Burhan didn’t accept Ruto heading the Igad committee to lead talks for both sides. Instead, they preferred Salva Kiir.”
More than 9,500 people have been killed since the fighting between Sudan Armed Forces and the RSF started on April 15.
In Nairobi, President Ruto and Burhan “underscored the urgent need to find a solution for the conflict in Sudan in the shortest time possible.”
For President Ruto, the meeting signals a buried hatchet with Burhan who had publicly castigated the Kenyan Head of State and threatened to quit Igad.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the US began the Jeddah Process which also came unstuck after several ceasefire deals were violated hours after signing.
Igad and the African Union have since backed Jeddah Process which last week signaled movement by agreeing to establish contacts between warring parties as well as secure humanitarian corridors. However, new violence erupted hours later, and the two sides could not agree on a ceasefire yet.