Lethargy on Sudan: A case of breakdown of peace and security diplomacy

Thursday September 07 2023

Refugees from war-torn Sudan hold a sit-in seeking support in front of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Tripoli, Libya on July 15, 2023. PHOTO | MAHMUD TURKIA | AFP

By Solomon Ayele Dersso  

Unlike many of the earlier wars in Sudan, the current one, which broke out on April 15 and is billed as the most brutal and destructive, is between two rival state security forces the formal Sudan Armed Forces (Saf) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

This war is also unprecedented by the nature and scale of suffering it is inflicting on civilians and civilian infrastructures. Not surprisingly, the war is leading to one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of Sudanese are internally displaced. Nearly one million of them have crossed into neighbouring countries. A large number of people, including hundreds of thousands of children, has no access to food and basic services like health care.

Most shocking is the absence a robust regional and international diplomatic mobilisation of the kind shown during the earlier Darfur war. This war epitomises consequences of the current breakdown of peace and security diplomacy both continentally and at the international levels.

Read: Sudan war summit urges calm, UN reports mass grave in Darfur

While there were various diplomatic initiatives including the US-Saudi led ceasefire negotiations, the African Union initiative for an all-inclusive process and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), none has achieved any meaningful breakthrough. Each has broken down.

The AU, which took a lead in convening its standing decision-making body and an international ministerial meeting as well as in establishing a coordination forum, has been unable to convene the core group nor launch the much-anticipated intra-Sudanese dialogue sought to bring together the various Sudanese civilian actors. Its initial lead lost momentum in the face of lack of sustained engagement and absence of a high-level facilitation body dedicated to work on a full-time basis for peace mediation in Sudan. Similarly, the ambitious Igad initiative that promised to bring together the leaders of the Saf and the RSF also failed to take off as the Saf persists in rejecting the role of Kenya as chair of the Quartet tasked to facilitate talks between the warring parties.


Sudan is now suffering from both the collapse of mediation and the neglect by regional and international diplomatic actors.

The last time the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met exclusively on Sudan was in May. Despite the degeneration of this war in Darfur into mass atrocities, no PSC session was held. The session initially expected to take place in September is not on the agenda of the programme of work of the PSC for September either. No meeting was convened by the Igad mechanism, the Quartet either since its first and last meeting in early July that was boycotted by the Saf.

Read: Igad sticks to talks plan amid Sudan rejection of Ruto

Similarly, the UN Security Council also failed to hold a meeting. While attempts at the UNSC were frustrated by opposition from Sudan and the three African members of the UN, the failure of the UNSC to engage meaningfully is a testament to the depth of the paralysis of the mechanisms for promoting peace and security today.

It is ironic that the world since the first Darfur war-built norms, institutions and processes not only for civilian protection but also for robust peace and security as well as humanitarian diplomacy. What explains the lack of kind of diplomacy mobilized during the earlier Darfur war today despite such normative and institutional advances more than the lack of concerned leadership both at the continental and international levels even in the face of the difficult geopolitical situation?

If African and international actors entrusted with securing peace do not rise to the occasion, the continuation of the lack of leadership both continentally and internationally while Sudan is fast disappearing before our eyes will not be anything less than a dereliction of duty that borders on the criminal.   

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD, is the founding director of Amani Africa Media and Research Services