Sudan’s military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is returning to the international stage, after months of being holed up in Khartoum, with a pledge to end the war, but also eliminate longtime rivals, the Rapid Support Forces.
On Thursday, Burhan visited Doha, Qatar, his third trip outside of Sudan in a week. In Doha, he “discussed the latest developments in the situation and challenges facing Sudan” with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, a dispatch said.
Burhan has visited Egypt and South Sudan in the other two trips since August 30. In Qatar, he was assured of support to end the conflict. In Egypt, he received the same support on August 30, but he did pledge to bring peace to Sudan as long as warring rivals lay down the arms.
In South Sudan, Gen Burhan reminded the region that Juba is the preferred mediator in the conflict.
Ali El Sadig, the Foreign Minister told a press briefing on September 5 that Khartoum believes Juba is best placed to help the country.
Some observers see the recent shuttle diplomacy as both seeking out the support of friends, as well as reestablishing international legitimacy.
Shraf Abdelaziz, a political analyst, argued this bid on world stage may, however, be affected by how the war progresses on the ground.
“The situation on the ground may alter these scenarios, particularly if the RSF achieves significant victories and gains full control of Khartoum, he told Radio Dabanga, an online radio.
South Sudan, Egypt and Qatar have been crucial to Burhan since he took overpower in a coup. And Khartoum protested bitterly after regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development elbowed Juba out of the lead role on mediation. The bloc named a quartet led by Kenya and includes South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti instead. But Khartoum has been reluctant to accept it.
Burhan, some diplomatic sources told The EastAfrican, has indicated he will travel to New York next week to address the UN General Assembly from where he expects to galvanise support and also address the key concerns his government has about the nature of the conflict.
Burhan sees himself as the legitimate leader of Sudan even though he came to power via coup and his country suspended by the African Union. He rejects the idea that the RSF leader Mohamed Hamdani Daglo is his equal.
On Wednesday, the Igad quartet meeting in Nairobi sort of admitted failures of their peace bid. Instead, their communiqué on Thursday called for an amalgamation of peace efforts, suggesting that Sudan’s neighbours be more involved.
The Quartet met in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit, for only the second time since it was mooted controversially two months ago. Chaired by Kenyan President William Ruto, it began on a wrong footing after the junta rejected Kenya’s role and insisting on South Sudan chairmanship.
In Nairobi, it was attended by Djibouti’s Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who is also the Chairperson of Igad; President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, the Deputy Chair of Igad. Ethiopia was represented by Dr Abreham Belay, the Minister for Defence. Others were Igad Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu and Moussa Faki, chairperson of the AU Commission.
“(The Quartet) nevertheless suggests consolidation of all peace initiatives for the Republic of Sudan under a framework that comprehensively addresses the conflict, humanitarian access and long-term political dialogue to deliver comprehensive and lasting peace,” it said in a communiqué Thursday.
They also say the discussions on the peace in Sudan should include other political actors, however, beyond the main protagonists: The Rapid Support Forces and the Sudan Armed Forces.
“The Quartet Cautions that the conflict in the Republic of Sudan is becoming increasingly complex and risks taking on a regional dimension with the entry and participation of other armed movements, in addition to the rapid proliferation of small arms and light weapons posing severe security, humanitarian, and political risks for Sudan and the broader region.”
Igad says it was invited to take part in a parallel dialogue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia fronted by the US and the Saudi government. The Jeddah Process had also, sort of, stalled after parties failed to adhere to the ceasefire. Now the Igad team says there is a need to consolidate those processes.
Now, Igad says it will work with the African Union to consult widely and determine agenda, venue and participants “in support of a political dialogue that clearly defines a Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led political process.”
Though both the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf) under Burhan have had their linked firms sanctioned by the US and UK, Burhan may have gained more advantage this week after the brother of Daglo was sanctioned this week for rights violations.
The State Department said Abdelrahim Hamdan Daglo, deputy leader of RSF, and Abdul Rahman Juma, a commander in West Darfur, had been banned from US soil for overseeing violations including assassinations and kidnappings in Sudan’s five-month war that has seen nearly 2 million people displaced and over 2000 people killed.
“According to credible sources, on June 15, 2023, RSF forces led by General Juma kidnapped and killed the Governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbakar, and his brother. This act came just hours after Abbakar’s public statements condemning the actions of the RSF.
“Concurrently, the Department of the Treasury is imposing sanctions on RSF senior commander Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo for his connection to the RSF, whose members have committed human rights abuses against civilians in Sudan, to include conflict-related sexual violence and killings based on ethnicity,” the State Department said on Wednesday.
Khamis was shot dead in broad daylight and both RSF and the Sudan Armed Forces issued statements accusing one another of killings.
Yet the US said members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Darfur have committed atrocities and other abuses, inducing ethnically motivated killings, “targeted abuses against human rights activists and defenders, conflict-related sexual violence, and looting and burning of communities.”
In June, Washington sanctioned companies and individuals seen as fueling the war in Sudan by helping protagonists access arms and money through smuggling and other underhand businesses. Some of the firms were registered in the United Arab Emirates.
Yet the war that erupted on April 15 between the RSF and Saf, once allies, has refused to ebb away in spite of regional efforts to seek dialogue. The US though warned that external actors have helped fuel the war.
“We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to hinder the ability of the RSF and Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf) to further prolong this war, and we will also use such tools to deter any actor from undermining the Sudanese people’s aspiration for peace and civilian, democratic rule.
“We will act to promote accountability for those responsible for atrocities and to pursue justice for the victims. The parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, hold accountable those responsible for atrocities or other abuses, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and negotiate an end to the conflict.”
Meanwhile, Sudan’s humanitarian situation has got worse. Igad said each of their members will contribute $1 million towards a response kitty. On Thursday, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced a $163 million additional humanitarian assistance for Sudan and neighbouring countries.
The money includes $103 million provided through the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and nearly $60 million through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.
US has sent $710 million to Sudan humanitarian response in 2023, and the money will be spent on operations in Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic where more than 2 million Sudanese refugees have been displaced to.