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Africa Weekly #66 | Ceasefires in Sudan & Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #66 Vol. 2, No.21

6 June 2023


Ceasefires in Sudan: An uneasy trajectory

The latest ceasefire has frozen the conflict, bringing relative calm. However, impending tensions surrounding the persisting hostilities imply that the ceasefire is uneasy and international and regional efforts are uncertain.

Anu Maria Joseph

On 22 May, a week-long ceasefire between the warring parties, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), began in Sudan. The US and Saudi Arabia have brokered the latest ceasefire. According to a US-Saudi Arabia statement on 21 May, a "ceasefire monitoring mechanism" will enforce the deal. The US State Department stated: "Unlike previous ceasefires, the agreement reached in Jeddah was signed by the parties and will be supported by a US-Saudi and international-supported ceasefire monitoring mechanism."

On 22 May, despite the ceasefire deal, airstrikes and clashes were reported in multiple cities, including Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North. Separated ethnic violence were reported in the Darfur, Blue Nile and White Nile regions. However, according to Khartoum residents' reports to the media, the intensity of the fighting has come down.

On the same day, the United Nations special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, stated: "In parts of the country, fighting between the two armies or the two-armed formations has sharpened into communal tensions, or triggered conflict between communities." He added: "This [the ceasefire] is a welcome development, though the fighting and troop movements have continued even today, despite a commitment of both sides not to pursue military advantage before the ceasefire takes effect." He called on the parties to comply with the ceasefire deal, end the fighting and "allow access for humanitarian relief, protect humanitarian workers and assets."

A seventh ceasefire, impending violence and humanitarian crisis

The latest ceasefire is the seventh one; the earlier week-long ceasefire agreed on 2 May was unsuccessful after both the warring parties failed to comply. Although they agreed to hold talks, the SAF and RSF have continued to fight; both have been accusing each other of violating previously agreed ceasefires. Hours before the ceasefire agreement was meant to be effective, RSF leader Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo released an audio message saying his troops would not retreat "until we end this coup."

The fighting in Khartoum has evolved into Ethnic violences, threatening the troubled West Darfur, Blue Nile and White Nile regions. On 14 May Al Jazeera reported on Arab fighters executing 14 wounded non-Arab civilians in el-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. The Darfur region has been a hotspot for ethnic violences for two decades. Clashes between Arab and non-Arab communities over land and water resources are decades-long in the region. As the fighting escalates, the army and the RSF has been mobilizing non-Arab and Arab militias respectively to align with them. Besides, the shortage of security apparatus in the ethnic conflict prone zones especially, Darfur has made the regions vulnerable to ethnic clashes. On 9 May, Africanews reported that at least 16 people were killed in a clash between Hausa and Nuba tribes in White Nile region.

According to the UN, more than half of the Sudanese population are in need of humanitarian aid. However, humanitarian assistance is limited as the fighting has disrupted due to insecurity on the roads. According to the UN refugee agency, more than one million people have been displaced since April. Over 843,000 are internally displaced, while over 255,000 are refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries including Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The majority of Sudan's neighbours are struggling to cope with the refugee surge. Five of Sudan's seven bordering countries struggle with internal conflicts of their own. With the number of refugees steadily increasing, UN experts have raised a concern that the total number of refugees might exceed one million if conflict continues. The majority of refugees are women and children, who are especially vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence.

The gap between negotiations and compliance

Both RSF and SAF claim openness to negotiations but show little commitment to compliance. Mistrust between the parties prompts them to seek military advantage during the ceasefire. The RSF has accused the army of breaking the ceasefire by "continuing to attack Khartoum with planes." An army spokesperson told Sky News Arabia that the RSF was responsible for "storming prisons" after reports of gunfire in Port Sudan.

International actors (the UN, the AU, the US, and the EU) have urged the warring parties to negotiate to end the fighting. The African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have also urged regional actors to work together to de-escalate the crisis. Previously on 1 May, in an Arab League emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt had offered a draft resolution calling for an "immediate and comprehensive cessation" of conflict. Until now, efforts by external parties to implement a long-lasting ceasefire have been ineffective.

The Trajectory

The latest ceasefire has frozen the conflict, bringing relative calm. However, impending tensions surrounding the persisting hostilities imply that the ceasefire is uneasy and international and regional efforts are uncertain. Persistent tensions have put the sustainability of the latest ceasefire in question.

Still, a road towards peace talks and a lasting resolution remains elusive. Neither side has much incentive to compromise. Ceasefires in Sudan are fragile. It seems the structural issues within a temporary ceasefire provokes the warring sides to violate the ceasefire, prior to the end of the period, to gain advantage over the other. Although there is a significant external effort to end the fighting, as long as neither RSF nor SAF has the upper hand, a chance for negotiations will not be in sight. The continuing fighting would mean triggering ethnic tensions within and worsening the humanitarian crisis. More the number of failed ceasefires, the harder it will be to reach a long-lasting peace negotiation.

Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: Reasons for its continuation

The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is a prolonged issue due to cultural marginalization and it remains unresolved due to the incompetence of the government in resolving the crisis

Jerry Franklin

On 24 May, separatists in Cameroon's Northwest region kidnapped around 30 women in Big Babanki, a village near the Nigerian border for protesting against separatists' imposition of tax. AP news quoted the commander-in-chief of the separatist group, Ambazonia Defence Forces, Capo Daniel, that the women were being punished for “allowing themselves to be manipulated” by Cameroon's government.

On 1 May 2023, at least 15 Anglophone separatists attacked a military post in the village of Matoukee. The rebels killed at least six people, including five Soldiers and one civilian, and wounded several others.

On 1 June 2022, Soldiers from the 53rd Motorised Infantry Battalion killed nine people including four women and an 18-month-old girl in Missong Hamlet, Northwest region, in a retaliation operation against a population accused of harbouring separatist rebels.

The Anglophone-Francophone crisis in Cameroon is a prolonged issue that remains unresolved. Anglophone grievances remain unaddressed and intensifying.

A brief background to the Cameroon crisis

The long-standing difference between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians dates back to colonial rule when the Northwest and Southwest regions were under British control while the other areas were under French control. Until now, the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon are dominated by the English-speaking population and the French-speaking population dominates the rest of the country. The Francophone population constitutes the majority. The two English-speaking regions which constitute about 20 percent of the population claim that the francophone majority discriminates and excludes them.

The immediate crisis dates back to 2016 when the Francophone-dominated government repressed peaceful rallies and strikes demanding the protection of English-language educational and judicial systems in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. The government's harsh response to the protests resulted in calls for secession and the rise of extremist groups that used violence and intimidation, intensifying the political crisis. The crisis originated from grievances expressed by the English-speaking minority, who felt marginalized by the French-speaking majority and the central government. The ongoing crisis that started as a political dispute has gradually evolved into an armed conflict and humanitarian crisis.

Separatist insurgency and violations by security forces

The historical marginalization of the Anglophone population by the Francophone majority led to the rise of separatist movements. Multiple Anglophone separatist groups, including the Ambazonia Defense Forces, Ambazonia Self-Defense Council, and African People's Liberation Movement, comprise nearly 4,000 members supported by Cameroon's Anglophone diaspora. These groups seek independence for the Northwest and Southwest regions. The separatists regard the region as an independent state, calling it Ambazonia. Armed separatists have become increasingly brutal, involved in killing, kidnapping, and terrorizing civilians while consolidating authority over large parts of the Anglophone regions. Armed groups have targeted schools and educational institutions, resulting in the disruption of education for hundreds of children. This has had a long-term impact on the development and prospects of the affected youth.

Security forces react violently to separatist assaults; frequently attacking civilians in Anglophone regions. Security forces have been accused of using excessive force, including arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and torture, in their operations against separatist groups and protesters.

The conflict between the government forces and armed separatist fighters has killed more than 6,000 people. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that at least 628,000 people have been internally displaced due to the conflict. Both security forces and armed separatist groups have engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions, targeting individuals perceived to be associated with the opposing side. Many individuals have been held for prolonged periods without trial or due process. Separatists and government forces have committed targeted attacks on health facilities and humanitarian workers that restricted humanitarian access to the region.

Minimal interference of the international community

In reaction to the situation, the international community has taken only minimal action. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has only met once to discuss the situation in Cameroon. The European Union Council, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and others have called for an end to the violence and demanded immediate government action. Additionally, efforts to broker a peace accord between the warring groups have deteriorated and failed.  On 21 January 2023, Canada's foreign ministry announced that it had accepted a mandate to mediate a peace process between Cameroonian authorities and some separatist forces to end the conflict. However, the Cameroonian administration said that no foreign country has been entrusted with the duty of the mediator to resolve the situation.

The unresolved crisis

The Cameroon government continues to downplay the severity of the problem and has taken no meaningful action. Additionally, the Cameroonian government has not been involved in any inclusive dialogue and negotiation leading to a prolonged and unresolved crisis.

One of the reasons for the prolonged crisis is the degenerated armed separatist groups, and an increasingly disorganized and competing collection of groups, making the possible ways to peace highly challenging. Before the 2016 crisis, the Federalists were the majority who demanded federal autonomy for the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. However, they were alienated by the prolonged crisis which paved the way for the rise of radical separatists who are demanding absolute and complete independence of the region. This split between the population in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon is one of the reasons which hinders peaceful talks and possible negotiation.

The Cameroon government granted a special status to the Northwest and Southwest regions in 2019, making the regional councils’ regional assemblies. However, the move failed to resolve the conflict as the government pushed the changes without consulting Anglophone leaders and separatists. After the special status provided by the government to the northwest and southwest regions to resolve the crisis went ineffective, it is evident that any efforts or negotiations to sustain it should be subjected to the popular will.

31 May-6 June
by Jerry Franklin

Egyptian migrants sent back to the country
On 5 June, BBC reported that thousands of Egyptian migrants were deported back to Cairo. Further, 4,000 migrants have been found during raids on people traffickers in the east of Libya. According to an Egyptian security source, just around half of those detained were in Libya illegally, and they were the only ones deported. The migration agencies stated that there are approximately 500,000 migrants in Libya, many of whom are attempting to travel to Europe by boat, while others have found jobs and established themselves in the nation. (“Libya expels thousands of Egyptian migrants,” BBC, 5 June 2023)

Clashes continue despite US sanctions
On 2 June, BBC reported that the fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued in Khartoum despite US sanctions. The army had resumed air strikes and was using more artillery to clear the paramilitaries off the streets. The army announced that the reinforcements were brought from other parts of Sudan to Khartoum. Meanwhile, there were no signs of RSF retreating from the occupied streets and houses. (No sign of RSF fleeing shelling - Khartoum residents,BBC, 2 June 2023)

17 people died in a rocket attack at a market
On 1 June, BBC reported that 17 people were killed and 106 people were wounded by a rocket attack in a market south of the capital Khartoum. This is the highest number of individuals killed by shelling since fighting began on 15 April between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The shelling raised the total number of civilian deaths in the conflict to 883. (“Rocket attack kills 17 in Sudan market - medics,” BBC, 1 June 2023)

US sanctions Sudanese firms linked to the warring sides
On 1 June, Al Jazeera reported that the US government issued its first sanctions targeted over Sudanese firms and various individuals for fuelling the conflict between the warring factions in Khartoum. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated: “Through sanctions, we are cutting off key financial flows to both the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces, depriving them of resources needed to pay soldiers, rearm, resupply, and wage war in Sudan. The United States stands on the side of civilians against those who perpetrate violence towards the people of Sudan.” The US sanctions targeted enterprises held by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) chief Mohamed Hamdan in the UAE and Sudan's capital Khartoum, as well as two defence firms related to the Sudanese army, which is led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. (“US imposes first sanctions over Sudan conflict,” Al Jazeera, 1 June 2023)

Withdrawal of Sudanese Armed Forces from peace talks
On 31 May, Sudanese officials reported that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) suspended truce talks with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accusing the group of frequent violation of previous truce agreements. The decision appears to end the extended ceasefire mediated by the US and Saudi Arabia for enabling humanitarian access that both warring sides accepted on 29 May. The army accuses the paramilitary of never implementing a single one of the provisions of a short-term ceasefire which required their withdrawal from hospitals and residential buildings, and have repeatedly violated the truce. However, neither the army nor the RSF has publicly commented on the alleged retreat. (Sudan army withdraws from truce talks – sources,” BBC, 31 May 2023)

UN extends sanctions for a year
On 31 May, BBC reported that the UN Security Council voted to extend the arms embargo and sanctions imposed on South Sudan for a year. The council passed the sanctions on 30 May with 10 votes in favour and five members abstaining. The countries that abstained were China, Russia, Ghana, Gabon, and Mozambique. The UN member states were directed to restrict the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of armaments to South Sudan. The council expressed its concern over the continued intensification of violence, prolonging the political insecurity, economic, and humanitarian crisis in most parts of the country. Representative of the Republic of South Sudan to the UN, Ambassador Akuei Bona Malwal stated that the sanctions were done in “bad faith and ill intention.” (“UN extends sanctions on South Sudan for a year,” BBC, 31 May 2023)

Nuclear energy deal with Russia
On 31 May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Burundi’s Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro in Bujumbura on 30 May. Lavrov stated that the preparation for the nuclear energy inter-governmental deal between Russia and Burundi was in its final stage. Previously, in November 2022, the two countries had signed a nuclear energy roadmap deal in which Russia pledged to assist Burundi in the establishment of nuclear power stations. Additionally, Lavrov stated: “The roadmap on nuclear energy has already been signed between Rosatom, a Russian state energy corporation, and its Burundian partners. Both parties committed to cooperating in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” (“Russia-Burundi nuclear energy deal in final stage - Lavrov,BBC, 31 May 2023)

Eight people died in a shooting
On 5 June, Africanews reported that gunmen broke into a men’s hostel near the city of Durban on 3 June. The South African Police Service stated that eight people were killed and two others were injured during the shooting. South Africa has one of the world's highest homicide rates, and there has been a rash of mass shootings in recent years. Earlier this year, at least two mass shootings were reported. According to official crime figures, 30 people were killed by firearms in South Africa per day in the first three months of 2023. During the same three months, authorities reported over 4,000 occurrences of illegal gun or ammunition possession. (“8 dead in South Africa shooting at men’s hostel near Durban,” Africanews, 5 June 2023)

Parliament passes bill to punish unpatriotic acts
On 1 June, Zimbabwe's parliament passed a contentious bill that will penalize citizens for unpatriotic behaviour by imposing high penalties or even the death penalty. The controversial revisions were enacted as part of a series of reforms to the Criminal Law Act. The patriotic clause of the Criminal Law Act aims to punish those who harm the national interest of Zimbabwe. The bill has been criticized as unconstitutional since it would infringe on freedom of association and free speech. (“Zimbabwe passes bill to punish 'unpatriotic acts',” BBC, 1 June 2023)

Announcement of general election
On 31 May, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that Zimbabwe would have its presidential and parliamentary elections on 23 August and a presidential run-off vote if required on 2 October. The election proclamation came amid rising tensions ahead of the elections as the opposition party, Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC), demanded an audit into the voters' roll. The opposition stated that the voters' roll has been missing names, including some of its officials and voters being moved several kilometres away from their wards of residence. The electoral body stated that the ongoing voters' roll inspection would resolve the aberrations. (“Zimbabwe election set for 23 August,” BBC, 31 May 2023)

Constitutional referendum to remove the president's term limit
On 31 May, President Faustin-Archange Touadera announced 30 July as the date for the referendum on a new constitution that would allow him to seek a new term in 2025. Currently, the president can only serve two four-year terms. Touadera stated that the current constitution has provisions that compromise the country’s development. The opposition parties criticised the constitutional referendum citing it as a move to allow Touadera to run for a third term. The former prime minister and opposition leader, Nicholas Tiangaye, stated: “This new constitution will be written so that Touadera remains president for life.” (“CAR plan to scrap term limits goes to referendum,” BBC, 31 May 2023)

40 killed in two separate jihadists attacks
On 31 May, BBC reported that 40 people were killed in two separate attacks by jihadists on 27 and 28 May. The attacks killed around 20 army volunteers near Bourasso which is close to the Malian border and 20 people died in another attack in the same region the next day. Following the violence, the militants were neutralized in an aerial operation by government forces. Prime Minister Apollinaire Kyelem de Tambela stated that his government would never negotiate with the jihadists. (“Forty killed in Burkina Faso attacks - reports,” BBC, 31 May 2023)

Hike in petrol prices as Nigeria ends fuel subsidies
On 2 June, BBC reported that petrol prices in Benin doubled after Nigeria declared the end of the fuel subsidies. The subsided petroleum products were regularly smuggled into Benin which served a large part of the population. The smuggled gasoline was sold by the roadside and considered cheaper than fuelling up at stations. The announcement of the end of fuel subsidies by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu in his inauguration speech triggered panic buying and a surge in fuel prices. (“Benin petrol prices soar as Nigeria moves to end subsidy,” BBC, 2 June 2023)

Over 350 people sustain injuries during clashes
On 5 June, the Red Cross in Senegal reported that almost 360 people were injured in the violence which broke out after the Senegal court sentenced Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail for corrupting youth. Additionally, 16 people were declared dead in clashes between protesters and security in the capital, Dakar, and in the city of Zinguinchor on 1 June. The government has banned mobile internet access in order to prevent subversive messages from being shared. (Over 350 were injured in Senegal clashes - Red Cross,BBC, 5 June 2023)

Nine dead in lethal clashes
On 2 June, Al Jazeera reported that nine people were killed in clashes between riot police and supporters of Ousmane Sonko after he was sentenced to two years in prison by a Senegal court. Cars and buses were set on fire in Dakar, while disturbances were reported from other places, including Ziguinchor, where Sonko has served as mayor since 2022. Interior Minister Antonie Diome stated: “We have noted, with regret, violence that has led to the destruction of public and private property and, unfortunately, nine deaths in Dakar and Zinguinchor.” The sentence may disqualify Sonko from contesting next year’s presidential elections. (“Nine dead as protests rock Senegal after Sonko jail sentence,” Al Jazeera, 2 June 2023)

Court sentences opposition leader Ousmane Sonko
On 1 June, Al Jazeera reported that the Senegal court sentenced the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko two years in jail for corrupting the youth. Sonko was found guilty of a criminal offence for immoral behaviour towards individuals under the age of 21 by the court. Protests erupted in Senegal’s capital, Darkar, with Sonko’s supporters condemning the charges against him as politically motivated. Justice Minister Ismaila Madior Fall stated: “The sentence must be carried out. This is an absentia case, and the measure can be carried out at any time.” (“Senegal’s Sonko can be arrested ‘at any time’: Justice minister,” Al Jazeera, 1 June 2023)

About the Authors

Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Assistant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. Jerry Franklin is a Postgraduate Scholars from Madras Christian College, Chennai.

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