Sudan has rejected the appointment of Kenyan President William Ruto as head of a quartet to facilitate peace under the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad)
The junta leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan accused Nairobi of having “harboured” sympathies for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose leader Mohammed Hamdan Daglo Hemedti was once his deputy, but is now an arch-enemy.
The latest statement on Thursday came as Sudan had also rejected the Igad mediation schedule, which would have seen Ruto arrange for a face-to-face meeting, for the first time, between the two warring generals.
Igad had insisted it would stick to the mediation quartet led by Kenya in the search for peace in Sudan, even after Khartoum rejected the proposals, in spite of Sudanese protests.
According to officials familiar with the decision, resolutions publicised in an official Igad communique remain in force until formally revised by the heads of state and government of the eight-member bloc.
On Monday, Igad had named Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti as members of a quartet to help Sudanese warring generals seek peace.
Sudan said, after the meeting, that Igad announced the mediation plan without consent from Burhan.
The rejection portends early problems with the ‘roadmap’ to help achieve long-term ceasefire and came as the governor of West Darfur was assassinated.
On Monday, just two days after the Igad summit in Djibouti, Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed it had rejected any mention of mediation and also opposed being replaced as chair of Igad. The summit had appointed Djibouti to replace Sudan for the next one year, under the new rules that follow an alphabetical order of members.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs ministry said it “expressed its disagreement and objection to a number of paragraphs that were mentioned in the draft final statement of the summit due to the fact that they were not discussed and agreed upon, and the delegation called on the Igad Secretariat to delete them.”
“These paragraphs relate to changing the chairmanship of the Igad committee, as the delegation demanded that South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit retain the chairmanship of the committee and demanded the deletion of any reference to the subject of mediation.”
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Korir Sing’oei said there had been no official protest from Sudan but did suggest only the Summit can revise the decisions.
“Both the inclusion of the Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the Troika mandated to seek peace in Sudan Crisis and the appointment of President William Ruto to lead the quartet was arrived at by the Igad Summit and can only be vacated by the Summit,” Dr Singoei said.
No official communication on this yet. But both the inclusion of PM @AbiyAhmedAli to the Troika mandated to seek peace in #SudanCrisis & appointment of @WilliamsRuto to lead the Quartet was arrived at by the IGAD Summit & can only be vacated by the Summithttps://t.co/ePhMqqbUzh— Korir Sing'Oei (@SingoeiAKorir) June 15, 2023
Incidentally, a Sudanese representative Malik Agar, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of the Republic of the Sudan, chaired the summit. Agar replaced Mohamed Hamdani Daglo ‘Hemedti’, the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has since April 15 been fighting Burhan’s Sudan Armed Forces.
Sudan says it notified Igad regarding the need for Kiir “to continue chairing the Quartet Committee that was approved by the summit in accordance with the objective considerations mentioned by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni in the Igad Emergency Summit that was held online on April 16, 2023.” At the time, Juba led Uganda and Kenya in the earlier troika that sought to travel to Khartoum but failed.
During the summit attended by leaders from the eight member states and officials from associated organisations, Sudan is said to have rejected proposals for dialogue with Hemedti.
“Igad underlined the importance of consultation and coordination with the Government of the Sudan regarding all-inclusive efforts aiming at solving the ongoing conflict,” a communique said.
Somalia or Djibouti?
But behind the scenes as a raging Khartoum felt the weight of the proposals by Igad, Ruto said a quartet of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia would work with the AU to help achieve peace in Sudan. The official communique released, unusually more than 24 hours after the meeting, named Djibouti, rather than Somalia in the quartet.
“This group was supposed to arrange, within ten days, a face-to-face meeting between Burhan and Hemedti in one of the regional capitals, and, within 2 weeks, secure a commitment for humanitarian corridor. An inclusive political process towards a political settlement was to start within three weeks,” it said.
“We have taken the decision…so that we can speak to them directly on behalf of Igad, with the view of stopping the war that is raging,” said President Ruto at a press briefing in Djibouti, where the summit had gathered on Monday.
“Kenya commits to meet the two Sudan generals face to face to find a lasting solution to the crisis.”
A diplomat familiar with the discussions told The EastAfrican, Sudan had indeed opposed the clauses, and especially the inclusion of Ethiopia with which they have a decades-old unresolved border dispute. But was convinced South Sudan will still play a leading role on the committee, including hosting the meeting. Traditionally, communiques have often been released only on the endorsement of the respective ambassadors of member states.
But the official said Sudan’s beef with Kenya in the lead is the fact that they already gave an ear to an envoy of the RSF earlier this month. On June 3, Ruto met with RSF political advisor Youssef Ezzat. But the RSF claimed the meeting was “part of a tour encompassing friendly nations, aimed to elucidate the evolving situation in Sudan.”
Burhan considers himself the definitive head of Sudan and has labelled Hemedti as a rebel.
“With a comprehensive understanding, Ezzat provided Ruto with an insightful explanation of the war's causes and the prevailing circumstances, backed by accurate information regarding its motives and the responsible parties,” RSF tweeted of the Nairobi meeting.
Since April 15, their clash has led to more than 1,200 deaths, 800,000 displacements and serious property destruction. The sides have signed seven ceasefire deals, all broken within hours of declaration.
On Wednesday, Khamis Abdullah Abakar, the Governor of West Darfur was murdered as the war continued to expand to key strongholds.
Burhan accused RSF of killing the governor hours after he had accused Hemedti's forces and its militia allies of committing genocide in his region.
But RSF, denying the claims, condemned his killing and accused the army of being responsible for arming one of the parties to the conflict.
Activists in Sudan had published videos and pictures of his earlier arrest, and later of him being killed.
The news of the killing comes days after the intensification of armed clashes in the city of El Geneina (the centre of West Darfur State), after the city "turned into something like a ghost town due to the continuous fighting," according to the Sudanese Doctors Syndicate statement.
The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams) said it was “deeply shocked by the killing of governor of West Darfur in El Geneina.”
Unitams in a statement “strongly condemns this heinous act. Compelling eyewitness accounts attribute this act to Arab militias and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), even though the RSF communicated a denial of their involvement to the mission”.
The UN Mission in Sudan called for the perpetrators to be swiftly brought to justice and the cycle of violence in the region to not expand further.
“The loss of Khamis Abdullah Abakar, a key interlocutor in the region and a signatory of the Juba Peace Agreement, is deeply regrettable for Unitams” the statement said.