GP Short Notes # 744, 14 September 2023
In the news
On 11 September, BBC Africa reported that at least 35 people were killed and 60 others were injured in an air strike at a market in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. The fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began in April. Neither SAF nor RSF has claimed the latest attack. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated that Khartoum was hit with “explosive weapons'' and shelling continued in “another day of unthinkable suffering and loss of life.”
The same day, UN humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Clemente Nkweta Salami condemned the attack as “completely unacceptable and violates international humanitarian law.” RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, in his conversation with the UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian efforts, Martin Griffins, promised to support humanitarian organisations, to deliver aid to those affected by the conflict.
On 8 September, RSF condemned the sanctions imposed by the US on 6 September describing it as "unfair and shocking.” Sanctions included financial restrictions on RSF deputy leader, Abdel Rahim Dagalo, and a travel ban on the group's commander in the state of West Darfur, Gen Abdul Rahman Juma, over alleged rights abuses.
Issues at large
First, the use of heavy weapons and continuing air strikes. Despite several ceasefire efforts, the fighting is continuing in Sudan. Both warring parties are accused of using explosive weapons including tanks, artillery, rockets, and air-delivered munitions. The use of explosive weapons has severely impacted civilian lives and properties. At least 20 people were killed in an SAF air strike in the Kalakla Al-Qubba neighbourhood of south-west Khartoum. The SAF has been carrying out frequent air strikes to dislodge the RSF who have control over much of Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri. Air strikes were also reported in the Darfur region where the fighting has evolved into ethnic conflict.
Second, conflicting parties gathering allies internally and regionally. Since the beginning of the conflict, RSF and SAF have been seeking alliances with Arab and non-Arab militias respectively. On 11 September, the Sudan Tribune reported that the SAF leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, held a meeting with the rebel group Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement’s leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, requesting to support its fight against the RSF. Besides, Al-Burhan visited South Sudan, Qatar, and Eritrea in its bid for political and humanitarian support. Meanwhile, RSF political advisor and special envoy, Yousif Izzat, met with the African Union chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on 3 September to discuss RSF’s vision to end the conflict.
Third, failing efforts to end the conflict. Several rounds of ceasefires and talks led by external actors failed. The US-Saudi-led ceasefires and peace mediations in May and June failed with little compliance from both the warring sides. In May, the Arab League had offered a draft resolution calling for “immediate and comprehensive cessation” of conflict; however, failed in bringing resolution. In August, RSF called for a negotiated settlement with his vision of resolution through the restoration of a civilian-led government. However, after SAF denied a settlement, RSF announced that its troops “have a strong presence in the capital” and “will fight on to the last soldier.” Mistrust between the parties prompts them to seek military advantage over each other.
Fourth, increasing humanitarian suffering. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than seven million people have been forced to leave their homes. The UN has warned that the humanitarian situation could lead the region into catastrophe. Air strikes on civilian areas have caused major casualties, damage to critical infrastructure and left millions without access to basic needs. According to Human Rights Watch, 42 per cent of the population faces acute food insecurity. At least 498 children have died of hunger. Widespread sexual violence and human rights violations are recorded in conflict-hit regions.
First, the fighting in Sudan appears to be continuing with a slow expansion. Persisting hostilities imply that a peace talk will be difficult to hold, and international and regional efforts will be ineffective. Each side attempting to gather international and regional support implies both sides trying to prove their legitimacy with external actors.
As long as RSF and SAF continue the strife for legitimacy, a chance for negotiations will not be in sight. Hence, a road towards peace talks and a lasting resolution remains elusive. The continuing and slow expansion in the fighting implies the humanitarian catastrophe that is yet to come.