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In Sudan, a year of war and no end in sight

Photo: Patricia Simon Associated Press Sudanese children suffering from malnutrition are treated at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Chad.

France Media Agency to Port Sudan

April 12, 2024

  • Africa

A year ago, the two ruling generals in Sudan went to war. Since then, humanitarians and experts have painted a sad picture: famine, displacement, sexual violence, ethnic violence, the list is long and no end is in sight.

For the UN, the country, already one of the poorest in the world before the war, is experiencing “one of the worst humanitarian disasters, the worst displacement crisis, and soon the worst hunger crisis of the world”.

Since the first fighting on April 15 in Khartoum between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohammed Hamdane Daglo, thousands of people have been killed — including between 10,000 and 15,000 in a single town in Darfur according to the UN. Six and a half million were forced to move and nearly two million others to go into exile.

Of 48 million Sudanese, 18 are acutely food insecure, hundreds of thousands of women and children could die of hunger and humanitarians feel helpless amid visa refusals, exorbitant customs duties, looting and impassable front lines.

The agricultural sector, by far the leading provider of jobs in what was the grain basket of Africa, is nothing more than scorched land. The few factories have been bombed, the health system almost no longer exists and the state says it has lost 80% of its budget.

All that remains for civilians are the “resistance committees”, these neighborhood groups which run dispensaries and soup kitchens thanks to an army of volunteers and donors from the diaspora.

“Nothing indicates that we are heading towards the end of the war” and with “the state which has collapsed, the road to rebuilding it will be long and difficult”, warns researcher Alex de Waal.

And the announcements of breakthroughs from both camps fool no one. “With their troops weak and exhausted due to supply difficulties, any victory is impossible,” journalist Mohammed Latif assures AFP.

On the ground, the FSR hold the ground – mainly in Khartoum and Darfur, the vast West where these former Janjawid militiamen were the auxiliaries of the Islamo-military dictatorship of Omar el-Bashir at the beginning of the 2000s.

Impossible Victory

And the army, the sole master of the air, pounds with its planes without setting foot on the ground, making the prospect of “a final victory unthinkable”, according to a former officer who requested anonymity.

In this urban guerrilla war, civilians are the first victims: those who were not killed or rounded up saw their homes occupied by the RSF. Today, the army is doing the same in Omdurman, the suburb of Khartoum which it has just taken from the paramilitaries, accuses the emergency lawyers committee.

This collective, like dozens of others – as well as international NGOs and the UN – lists the litany of abuses by both camps against men sometimes killed on ethnic grounds, women victims of ” sexual violence used as a weapon of war” or children forcibly conscripted.

Without ever succeeding in attracting the attention of the world.

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The UN only collects a few percent of its numerous appeals for funds and the international community quickly stopped trying to bring the two generals back to the negotiating table.

The parallel negotiating groups of the African Union, the East African IGAD bloc, the Arab League or the United States allied with the Saudis have never unified their efforts. The United States promises a new meeting on April 18, but the army has already issued arrest warrants against its potential civilian interlocutors.

Yet, notes Alex de Waal, “it should not be difficult to achieve consensus that a collapse of Sudan is in no one’s interest.” Because, he warns, “this vortex of transnational conflicts and global rivalries can inflame the entire region”.

Forgotten War

For political commentator Khaled al-Tijani, “the nature of this war makes things unpredictable: beyond the two generals, there are multiple foreign interferences confronting each other”.

The United Arab Emirates – the first buyers of Sudanese gold – supports the FSR. Egypt threw all its weight behind the army. Wagner's Russians have long trained and helped the FSR, as has Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Saudi Arabia, determined to establish itself as a regional leader, attempted several diplomatic coups, without success.

Experts denounce the role of Iran, a former great ally of Bashir, while others mention that of neighbors Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Within the borders, the Islamists of the Bashir era publicly support the army, while the rebel groups have brought out their weapons to defend their ethnic group or their territory.

The international community — which evacuated its nationals, including diplomats and UN personnel, from April 2023 — is taking stock of the horrors.

US envoy Tom Perriello warns: the approaching rainy season “could worsen a humanitarian crisis already on the verge of collapse […] with signs of famine, horrific atrocities particularly against women and children, forced recruitment and even slavery”.

The UN speaks of a possible “genocide” in Darfur, the International Criminal Court of possible “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. But the Sudanese keep reminding us that 20 years after Darfur, Bashir is still not in The Hague.

As for the two generals, they stick to their positions: “we do not negotiate with terrorists,” their lieutenants repeat.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116