Africa Watch – Sudan stalemate

20th March 2024

The Sudan Army deputy commander, Yasser al-Atta, has ruled out a truce in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan unless the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fulfils its previous commitment of leaving civilian and public sites. This commitment was made last year during talks in Jeddah mediated by Saudi Arabia and the US. Atta said this after the army claimed advances in Omdurman and the United Nations Security Council appealed for a truce during Ramadan, which begins this week. Meanwhile, Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Programme, said, “The war in Sudan risks triggering the world’s largest hunger crisis.”

The United Nations has raised concerns about the risk of the world’s largest hunger crisis, with approximately 18 million people in Sudan facing acute food insecurity, many of whom are trapped behind the frontlines, but frankly, international attention is currently shuttling between Gaza, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Once Western diplomats and aid workers were safely evacuated from Khartoum, Sudan fell off the agenda, leaving the conflict mediation to the powers fuelling it.

The mediators in the Sudan conflict had hoped that the Ramadan ceasefire initiative in the Israel-Hamas war would cease hostilities in Sudan, but this is unlikely because the sides in the Sudan conflict have no defined, clear objective they are willing to compromise on. The RSF continues to be propped up by its Middle Eastern partners, the Saudis and the Emiratis, so it sees no need for a truce.

The appetite for fighting has not waned. Sudan’s internal conflict continues unabated, despite recent military victories claimed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). In a significant move, the SAF seized control of the state broadcaster headquarters from the paramilitary RSF a few days ago. Hopes for a comprehensive ceasefire remain distant as the military insists on the withdrawal of RSF from key areas before considering halting hostilities, according to Yasser Al-Atta, a prominent figure in the Sudanese military who holds influential positions as the Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the SAF and as a member of the Sovereign Council, the country’s governing body.

The ongoing conflict has resulted in a devastating humanitarian catastrophe, displacing millions of people and plunging the region into the brink of famine. The situation remains dire despite international calls to prioritise humanitarian aid delivery and pursue a ceasefire. Additionally, the imminent cessation of food assistance to Sudanese refugees in Chad due to insufficient funding underscores the urgent need for immediate action and international intervention.

However, as the food and famine crisis shows, Sudan’s instability is a regional threat because it can spill over into South Sudan. The situation in South Sudan is even more fragile, with millions of refugees overlooked by the international community. Without urgent action, the humanitarian disaster in Sudan and South Sudan could have devastating consequences for the whole region. The failure of Sudanese warlords to reach a compromise not only perpetuates violence and suffering within Sudan but also poses a significant threat to regional stability. Immediate measures are imperative to address the pressing humanitarian challenges and alleviate the plight of millions affected by the conflict.