The Sudans want Ruto out of Igad group as peace efforts stall

Saturday July 29 2023
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William Ruto, President of Kenya (C) and Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (R) at an Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting for the resolution of the crisis in Sudan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 10, 2023. PHOTO | FILE


Regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), is grappling with the next step on the Sudan peace bid, weeks after a proposed face-to-face meeting collapsed on the perceived impartiality of a mediator.

And sources told The EastAfrican the beef is centred on a squabble between Nairobi and Juba on who should handle the mediation.

Until last month, South Sudan had been trying to prevail upon the main protagonists in Khartoum; Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudan Armed Forces and Mohammed Hemedti Daglo of the Rapid Support Forces to lay down the arms.

President Salva Kiir’s efforts didn’t quite succeed, even though he spoke to both leaders.

Then an Igad Summit on June 15 decided to recalibrate the quartet of leaders pursuing peace in Sudan. Juba was dropped to be a member and Nairobi was selected to lead the mediation. Addis Ababa and Djibouti were also included.

Read: Igad to hold direct talks with Sudan generals


Yet, sources told The EastAfrican this week, the move did not please Juba, even though it has not publicly criticised the decision.

A senior diplomat familiar with the movements said that while President William Ruto has not been accepted in Khartoum yet, it is South Sudan pushing for the rejection of Kenya, indicating that even the quartet is not on the same page.

“Nothing has moved as far as the peace process is concerned,” the official said, choosing to remain on the background due to sensitivity of the matter.

The feeling in Juba, explained the diplomat, is that the mediation role had given South Sudan a chance to show its usefulness to the region, having been in trouble itself, including a civil war which only ended after Igad brokered a peace deal there.

“They were leading this thing and it gave them legitimacy. Now they feel the opportunity has been snatched from them,” the source said.
Officially, South Sudan denies stifling Igad moves. James Pitia Morgan, South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, African Union and Igad, said his country supports regional efforts as long as they do not amount to interference.

“Juba has no interest in the internal affairs of other nations. Sudan’s problem is an internal matter of Sudan, which we believe Sudan as an old country in the region has the capability of resolving its own problems without foreign interference,” he told The EastAfrican.

“Kenya and South Sudan, like other Igad member states, are doing their best to convince the warring parties in Sudan to stop fighting and get into dialogue. There is no military solution, only peace through dialogue can bring peace. But still it depends on the Sudanese people because peace belongs to them.”

As is tradition with Igad, a decision of the Summit can only be reversed by another sitting of the same level.

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

In fact, last month’s was an ‘ordinary’ summit, which implies that it was a normal debate dealing with planned issues within Igad. The EastAfrican understands there has not been any scheduled ‘ordinary’ summits yet, at least for August, even though the bloc may call for ‘extra-ordinary’ meetings, which will not reverse the decision.

Naming Kenya’s President William Ruto continue leading a quartet, which the bloc named last month, however, remains divisive even in Khartoum.

The Sudan Armed Forces under Burhan have been critical of Ruto, accusing him, without evidence, of being a supporter of the RSF ostensibly because Hemedti is a past business partner. Nairobi rejected the claims.

This week, Kenya’s Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei said Nairobi has no intention of taking sides, and argued Kenya only wants a stable neighbourhood.

“Kenya, acting in concert with Igad, has been invited. Kenya is neutral,” he said in an interview with NTV.

“Kenya is committed to its neighbours and the peace of our neighbourhood. It is not involved in any internal developments that have taken place.”

Read: Kenya offers to mediate in Sudan conflict

Earlier this week, a Sudanese military officer dared Kenya to intervene in the conflict. General Yasir al-Atta, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of Sudan Armed Forces, in an address to the media on Sunday, accused President Ruto of “being a mercenary for another country” — which he did not name.

Nairobi has denied taking sides in the conflict. Gen al-Atta maintained that Sudan was still opposed to the proposal by the Igad for the deployment of an East African standby force to protect civilians and aid workers.

Instead, Khartoum says any of the Igad offers can only be considered once President Ruto is replaced as the chairman of the quartet.

The deputy commander-in-chief, while inspecting a special Engineering Division in Khartoum, claimed that the unnamed country that supports President Ruto is also a major backer of the RSF led by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

In a bid to prevail upon SAF, on July 15, President Ruto spoke with the Sudan junta leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan by phone to persuade him to cooperate with the Igad quartet and consider a ceasefire that would allow humanitarian agencies to reach the more than 2.5 million people displaced internally by the conflict that started on April 15.

President Ruto also proposed that parallel mediation talks under the Jeddah Initiative fronted by the US and Saudi Arabia should work hand-in-hand with Igad to avoid duplicity.

Sudan’s Saf, however, insists neighbours should consider Burhan as the bonafide leader of Sudan, even though he came on via coup and has faced deadly battles against the RSF which is competing with SAF to align with other local armed groups and political movements.

Igad now faces a dilemma, on how to proceed with the peace bid while facing a member who is openly rejecting a decision it was part of.

On June 15, Malik Agar, the Sudan deputy leader of the Transitional Sovereignty Council chaired the Summit, then protested its plan to mediate in the conflict.

Read: Igad reform hits first bump over Sudan war as mistrust erupts

The Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said then that 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 President Salva Kiir Mayardit retain the chairmanship of the Committee and demanded the deletion of any reference to the subject of mediation.”

Two weeks later, Kenya pledged neutrality. A dispatch from the virtual meeting of the quartet foreign ministers said Kenya would “ensure that all the concerns and requests of the Sudanese people are duly considered and addressed”.

“As we have always stated Kenya’s only interest in Sudan is regional peace. We remain a neutral arbitrator on matters of peace for our neighbours as a precursor to the much sought-after development,” Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said.