There is no doubt that the war in Sudan affects neighbouring countries and the rest of the region, perhaps by spreading even more chaos. As such, the summit of Sudan's neighbouring countries held in Cairo last week was important. It followed the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Two IGAD countries participated in the Cairo meeting, which is significant: Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The summit in Cairo concluded with a structure for foreign ministers to seek a solution with an emphasis on the need to prevent Sudan from collapsing. Several important questions now arise: What are the mechanisms to ensure that Sudan is not divided again, and how can this group put pressure on the conflicting parties to agree on a ceasefire and adopt dialogue instead of the gun to resolve the conflict? Moreover, will the warring parties listen and adopt a united road map to get Sudan out of the mire?
In order to ensure the success of the summit, it is necessary to form a single negotiating platform, and integrate the initiative that began in Saudi Arabia with American support and the efforts of the quartet — the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK — with the efforts of IGAD and neighbouring countries. Unity in their work will ensure the presence of more than one influential player at the table.
Despite the importance of unity, the biggest challenge is getting everyone to respect the ceasefire and agree on a comprehensive truce. There have been many attempts to monitor the ceasefire and satellites have picked up violations, but there is no deterrent, accountability or pressure being put on the parties to the conflict.
What happened in Cairo reflects the importance of the countries neighbouring Sudan; it tells the international community that there are other countries with an interest in ending the war, given that they are already suffering from serious domestic problems. Monitoring and follow-up procedures are thus important. They will emerge from Chad and must work in the coming period. There must also be ways to communicate with the parties to the conflict.
Cairo waited three months after the outbreak of the fighting in Sudan to get involved formally, but from the start of hostilities in April has been trying to calm the situation in its southern neighbour. It is arguably the most affected by the conflict, given the shared reliance on the River Nile and the fact that more than 300,000 Sudanese citizens have sought refuge in Egypt. Moreover, around 5 million Sudanese citizens live and work in Egypt. The refugees place an additional burden on its already critical economic situation.
The fighting has achieved little apart from killing tens of thousands of people, and destroying the printing presses used for Sudan's bank notes, along with the central bank, museums, university libraries, land records, courts, medicine warehouses, most of the capital's hospitals, the main satellite TV station, the general command buildings of the armed forces and Khartoum's airports. At least three million people have been internally displaced, particularly from the capital. Bank branches have been looted, and government and private buildings have been destroyed and looted. Water and electricity supply networks have been damaged and disrupted.
The coup led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in 2019 was neither new nor surprising for Sudan. Its history as an independent state since 1956 is full of military coups, which always reflect a power struggle, like all military coups in the Arab world and across Africa. The army has been in charge for around 90 per cent of the time since independence, interspersed with short-lived transitional councils.
Al-Burhan's rival in the current conflict is Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemetti, who leads the Rapid Support Forces militia. "There is nothing worse than my grandfather except my grandmother," says an Egyptian proverb. This applies to these two; each is worse than the other.
According to Burhan, his war objective is to end the existence of the RSF as an army operating in parallel to the official armed forces. Hemetti, meanwhile, claims that he is the godfather of civil rule. However, neither have a clear direction and so follow the Tatar approach of burning, looting and destroying homes and public and private property in the Sudanese capital and the Darfur and Kordofan regions.
Hemetti continues to claim that he is working towards a democratic civilian government, but they both want to rule Sudan, even if it means seizing power unilaterally on the ruins of the Sudanese people, who are paying the price for this conflict. Most of the victims of the fighting are civilians caught between the hammer of the army and the RSF anvil. The two archenemies in charge do not appear to care that their fighting may lead to civil war and the division of Sudan into several smaller states, such as Darfur. This is the likeliest possibility, as the province is a stronghold for Hemetti and the RSF. Sudan suffered the secession of the south in 2011 and could turn into fragmented entities constantly at war with each other.
Do Burhan and Hemetti care about this? Apparently not, or at least not much. They just want power. If they really cared about what the good people of Sudan are going through — they are by reputation the kindest in the Arab world — these two warlords would surely have done something of note to solve the economic crises that have escalated since the 2019 coup. All they care about, though, is power. Cursed be the seat that is stained with the blood of the people, and cursed be whoever sits on it surveying the ruins of the country.