GP Short Notes # 703, 29 June 2023
In the news
On 27 June, Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announced a two-day "unilateral ceasefire" ahead of Eid al-Adha. Hamdan Dagalo, the leader of the RSF, said: "We are declaring a unilateral ceasefire, except for self-defence situations, on the eve of Eid and on the day of Eid al-Adha."
On 25 June, the RSF announced that they had seized the headquarters of the Central Reserve Police (CRP) after three days of fighting. The RSF stated: "Victory in the battle for the police headquarters." Reuters quoted the RSF saying that they had captured 160 pick-up trucks, 75 armoured personnel carriers, and 27 tanks. According to Reuters, at least 15 civilians were killed, and more than 80 were wounded during the fighting. The Sudanese Army has not yet responded to the claims by the RSF. However, the Army has accused RSF of attacking the "state institutions."
On 22 June, Reuters reported on clashes between the Army and Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group active in South Kordofan since 2011. The SPLM-N also attacked the city of Kurmuk in the Blue Nile bordering Ethiopia. On 25 June, Africanews reported violence in El Geneina in West Darfur.
On 26 June, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union called for "unconditional and immediate cessation of hostilities and demilitarisation of Khartoum" and establishing humanitarian corridors to facilitate humanitarian aid.
Issues at large
First, the Sudanese Army's shortcomings. The seizing of the CRP headquarters is a major development for RSF as it is the base of a well-equipped police brigade in Khartoum. Despite airpower being the greatest strength of the Sudanese Army and having 200,000 soldiers, which is twice the size of RSF troops, the Army failed to prevent RSF from advancing in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. The RSF has turned the oil terminal in Khartoum into their base; the headquarters of the state media and Khartoum international airport are under RSF control.
Second, the continuous failure of ceasefires. Although unilateral, the latest ceasefire is the ninth and turned out as futile as the previous ones. On 17 June, following the US-Saudi Arabia mediated talks, a 72-hours ceasefire was announced. Although initially, it brought a lull to the fighting, it resumed to a full scale after warring parties accused each other of violating the ceasefire. Previously, on 22 May, a week-long ceasefire was initiated following US-Saudi Arabia mediation. The latter was assumed a success as it was the first official ceasefire signed by both the warring parties and enforced by a "ceasefire monitoring mechanism." However, both the RSF and the Army showed little commitment to compliance.
Third, increasing violence. The violence is intensifying between the groups, expanding to other regions and including more communities. The fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF has reached its 11th week. Since 24 June, the fighting has surged in three major cities- Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri. Both sides are accused of human rights atrocities and sexual violence in conflict zones. The violence has also evolved into ethnic conflicts in other states, including South Kordofan, Blue Nile and West Darfur. The violence has escalated in terms of landscape and intensity. BBC Africa reported RSF siding with Arab militias and carrying out sexual violence and ethnic targeted killings against non-Arabs in the El Geneina region in West Darfur. According to the BBC report, in El Geneina alone, at least 1,100 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict. The conflict has also triggered rebel insurgencies, especially by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Fourth, the flailing regional and international initiatives. The UN had appealed for USD three billion for humanitarian efforts in Sudan; however, only 17 per cent has been provided. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officer Dominique Hyde pointed out how the situation in Sudan is underrated, claiming that the Sudanese "should receive the same support as was seen for Ukrainians, Afghanis or Syrians." Meanwhile, the US-Saudi Arabia peace mediation seems off-course. Besides the latest statement demanding demilitarisation in Khartoum, the African Union remains silent on the conflict. Initially, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and a few other African countries, including Kenya and South Sudan, had expressed willingness to negotiate peace in Sudan; however, it showed slow progress. Besides, there was no mention of the African Union or any African countries during the Jeddah peace negotiation mediated by the US and Saudi Arabia.
First, the RSF advances. It has advanced nationwide, and the Sudanese Army opts for silence. It's unclear whether the Army has lost the fighting, raising new concerns about a potential coup led by RSF leader Hamdan Dagalo. The RSF is a pro-Arab paramilitary group and the remnants of the Janjaweed militia, which committed large-scale human rights atrocities against the non-Arabs during the Darfur conflict in 2003. Considering the circumstances of RSF-Arab militias leading violence across the country, ethnic conflicts will exacerbate, as well as the plight of Darfurians.
Second, the elusive ceasefires. African efforts by the AU, IGAD and other African countries are overshadowed by the US-Saudi-led Jeddah mediation, which remains ineffective. Sudan needs a coordinated, comprehensive intervention from international and regional actors. Meanwhile, failing efforts also show the constraints faced by the international actors in bringing a solution to African problems and the flawed structure of the AU failing its bid to "African solution to African problems."