The six-month civil war in Sudan has caused immense human suffering and devastation, with up to 9,000 lives lost and 6 million displaced. An estimated 25 million people are in dire need of aid. The international community’s focus on Sudan’s crisis has led to a “visibility crisis,” which is expected to worsen as calls for global intervention and support become suffocated due to divided attention.
Additionally, the conflict-ridden parts of Sudan are already grappling with cholera outbreaks, with over 1,000 suspected cases reported. Continued fighting hampers aid efforts and exacerbates the spread of communicable diseases, creating a vicious cycle of violence and despair. The war rages on, with the potential for significant long-term damage, creating another “lost” or displaced generation. Basic services are crumbling, infrastructure is devastated, and the social fabric is torn apart. The underfunding of humanitarian efforts, with only 33% of the required $2.6 billion received, further compounds these challenges.
The Sudanese conflict is centered around the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which were instrumental in overthrowing the Omar Bashir regime in 2019. However, a power struggle over the integration of the RSF into the SAF has led to these allies becoming enemies, causing catastrophic consequences for Sudan’s civilian population. The SAF has secured its base in Eastern Sudan, headquartered at Port Sudan, which gives it control over maritime trade routes. However, the capital, Khartoum, is under the control of the RSF. The SAF’s ability to dislodge the RSF from Khartoum will determine the conflict’s trajectory.
The RSF’s control of the city is significant for its practical control over Sudan’s administrative apparatus. The RSF’s seizure of Kas in South Darfur has strengthened its foothold in Sudan’s peripheries, highlighting its ability to expand operational reach. However, a “return” to Darfur with unremitting violence, much attributed to the RSF, paradoxically surpasses the brutality of the Janjaweed, intensifying the damage to Sudan’s social fabric. The SAF’s control of Eastern Sudan and Port Sudan offers it a strategic advantage, potentially facilitating foreign military assistance from Egypt. This rush to establish competing areas of influence risks transforming Sudan into a disastrous mirror image of neighbouring Libya, torn apart by internal conflict and external meddling.
Foreign patrons with vested interests and reduced deterrence from the global community are likely to continue fueling the conflict in Sudan, particularly the SAF, which maintains strongholds in and around Khartoum. The international community’s role in this conflict is influential, with the UAE’s relationship with the RSF and Egypt’s ties with the SAF potentially influencing the outcome. The possibility of foreign reinforcement for either combatant could drastically alter the military landscape and shape the contours of an enduring settlement. Despite renewed attempts, diplomacy, and conciliatory efforts at conflict resolution, the quest for enduring peace remains elusive.
Efforts persist to bring the feuding sides together at the negotiation table, but it is premature to predict whether the latest iteration of talks will establish a durable ceasefire, freeze the conflict, or sow more discord. The imminent return of Sudan’s army and RSF to negotiation talks convened by the US and Saudi Arabia offers some hope, with both sides indicating a readiness to resume discussions. The military’s declaration that it will not stop fighting raises serious concerns, but it could be more bluster to eke out greater leverage before engaging in dialogue behind closed doors.
The situation in Sudan remains precarious, with prolonged inaction leading to disillusionment and distress. The balance of power between the Sudan Liberation Front (SAF) and the Regional Security Forces (RSF) is oscillating, with both sides showing resilience and defiance. The international community’s role, particularly regional powers, will be crucial in determining the outcome.
The world must act swiftly to quell violence and restore peace in Sudan, as civilians will endure unimaginable suffering if fighting resumes. A coordinated response is needed to broker lasting peace and address the crisis while avoiding the mistake of facilitating Sudan’s stabilization with deadlines and ultimatums. The conflict in Sudan is not a localized squabble but a regional crisis with potential global implications.