German foreign minister urges 'pressure' on Sudan warring sides

AFP , Wednesday 24 Jan 2024

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock set off for east Africa on Wednesday to push for sanctions to force Sudan's warring parties to start peace talks.

Djibouti President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, center
Djibouti President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, centre, attends the IGAD summit in State House, in Entebbe, Uganda, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. AP


Baerbock will go to South Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti, where she will also discuss ways to protect shipping in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen's Huthi rebels.

Baerbock had been due in Djibouti on Wednesday but was delayed as her flight failed to receive clearance on time to overfly Eritrea.

Instead, her plane circled over the Red Sea before finally landing in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah for refuelling, delegation sources told AFP.

No reason was provided for the refused approval, but Baerbock has already had ministerial flight problems. She was forced to cancel a trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji last August because of a defective plane that only took her to the United Arab Emirates.

Baerbock had been due to meet her Djibouti counterpart as well as the leader of East African bloc IGAB on her arrival.

Ahead of her visit, she said Sudan would be a focus of talks.

Since April 2023, the war in Sudan pitting forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commonly known as Hemeti, who commands the Rapid Support Forces, has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced 7.5 million.

Images from Darfur have brought back grim memories of the genocide 20 years ago, Baerbock said.

"Together with my partners in Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan, I will explore possibilities to bring generals Burhan and Hemeti finally to the negotiating table, so that they don't drag the people in Sudan deeper into the abyss and destabilise the region any further," she said in a statement.

"For me it is clear that we must raise the pressure on both sides -- through sanctions, by holding them accountable for their violations against the civil population and by influencing their supporters abroad."

Previous mediation attempts have yielded only brief truces, and even those were systematically violated.

Beyond political talks, Baerbock will hold meetings with members of Sudan's civil society.

"Sudan will only find longterm peace with a civil democratic government," she said, emphasising that the conflict should not become a "forgotten crisis".

Sudan's army-aligned government this month spurned an invitation to an east African summit organised by the IGAD East African bloc and subsequently suspended its membership in the group for engaging with Daglo, commander of the rival forces.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes, including the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, torture and arbitrary detention of civilians.

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