France hosts Sudan conference a year into 'forgotten' war

AFP , Monday 15 Apr 2024

France is hosting an international conference on Sudan on Monday, exactly a year after war broke out in the northeast African country, leading to a humanitarian and political crisis.

A Sudanese refugee and teacher gives Arabic lessons to young Sudanese refugees at the Al-Tadamoun sc
A Sudanese refugee and teacher gives Arabic lessons to young Sudanese refugees at the Al-Tadamoun school in the Farchana refugee camp, on April 8, 2024. AFP


France is seeking contributions from the international community, and attention to what officials say is a crisis crowded out of the global conversation by ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

A ministerial meeting on political matters is to be accompanied by talks about the humanitarian situation in Sudan, which organizers said would include dozens of representatives of Sudan's civil society.

"The idea is to move this crisis up to the top of the agenda," said Christophe Lemoine, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry.

"We cannot let Sudan become a forgotten crisis," he added.

In addition to humanitarian issues, officials said there were also political dangers, such as the possible break-up of Sudan into splinter states.

Sudan is experiencing "one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory" and "the largest internal displacement crisis in the world", the United Nations said recently.

Aid workers say a year of war between rival generals that broke out on April 15, 2023, has led to a catastrophe, but the world has turned away from the country of 48 million.

"The civilians here are enduring starvation, mass sexual violence, large-scale ethnic killing, and executions," said Will Carter, Sudan country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

"Millions more are displaced, yet the world continues to look the other way."

An estimated 1.8 million people have fled Sudan -- many to neighbouring Chad, now also suffering a humanitarian crisis -- and 6.7 million have been internally displaced.

According to the French foreign ministry, only five per cent of the 3.8-billion-euro ($4.1 billion) target in the UN's latest humanitarian appeal has funded so far this year.

"We don't have the ambition to cover the whole sum, but we have hope that the international community wakes up," said one ministry official.

Behind closed doors, the ministerial meeting notably brings together representatives from Sudan's neighbours, as well as from Gulf nations and Western powers, including the United States and Britain, along with regional organizations and the UN.

Meanwhile, actors from Sudan's civil society, including activists, unionists, and journalists, will get together to discuss "a possible peace process, and what happens after the war", an official said.

Laetitia Bader, at NGO Human Rights Watch, said she hoped that the conference would deliver "a very tough message" to the belligerents, including threats of sanctions.

The warring parties had blocked access to humanitarian assistance, pillaged foreign financial aid, and targeted humanitarian workers in attacks, she said.

"This conference is very important, but it should not become an excuse to turn the page and forget about Sudan, again," she added.

Short link: