Can Sudan Neighbouring Countries Summit in Egypt end the crisis finally?

Haitham Nouri , Wednesday 12 Jul 2023

As Egypt prepares to host the Sudan's Neighbouring Countries Summit on Thursday, Ahram Online takes a look back at previous regional and international initiatives that have failed to end the ongoing conflict.

Sudan conflict
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (R). AP

 

According to a statement released by the Egyptian presidency, the summit aims to develop effective mechanisms to settle the crisis in Sudan peacefully in coordination with other regional and international partners.

Since the outbreak of fighting on 15 April between the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), there have been multiple initiatives proposed to resolve the crisis, none of which has produced lasting results.

IGAD initiative
 

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), made up of eight countries from northeast Africa including Sudan, proposed an initiative in late April to halt the fighting.

The two sides were invited to Juba for negotiations, but neither side sent representatives.

A brief ceasefire only took hold when the UN, African Union (AU) and several influential neighbouring countries joined the efforts.

The pause in fighting allowed the evacuation of thousands of foreigners and Sudanese citizens holding foreign nationalities.

Khaled Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist specializing in Sudanese affairs, has criticized IGAD, calling it “a weak institution” that has not been able to find a serious solution to any issue in its member states.

The bloc’s current meetings in Addis Ababa Ethiopia are “faltering” due to internal divisions, according to Mahmoud.

The Sudanese government rejected Kenya's presidency of the IGAD Quartet – consisting of Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Sudan – citing its "lack of neutrality" and alleged support for the RSF, and is boycotting the talks as a result.

AU initiative
 

In May, after the initial IGAD initiative faltered, the AU announced a "road map" to resolve the conflict.

The plan included an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, completion of the transitional political process and the formation of a civilian government.

However, Rashid Abdi, a Somali journalist specializing in AU issues, believes that the African Union had no chance of succeeding.

According to Abdi, the union is divided between Francophone and Anglophone countries, as well as alliances from countries outside these two blocs, such as the Portuguese-speaking group, Ethiopia and its neighbours, and non-aligned countries like Egypt.

These divisions negatively affect any effort to resolve the Sudanese crisis, he added

Civil Front initiative
 

Also in May, the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States received an initiative from high-ranking civil figures in Sudan under what was then known as the Civil Front.

However, the initiative produced no tangible progress on the ground.

This group included political and trade union figures as well as civil society leaders who had little influence once fighting started, according to Mohamed Youssef Abdel-Majid, a professor of political science in Khartoum.

Saudi-US initiative
 

On 5 May, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States announced an initiative to establish a ceasefire and find a political solution.

Despite multiple truces and prolonged negotiations, the initiative failed to find common ground between the conflicting parties.

Khaled Mahmoud expressed surprise at the intransigence of the two parties towards the Jeddah initiative.

“No truce lasted more than a day. This was a confusing situation considering the historical influence of Saudi Arabia in Sudan.”

“The reason for the lack of progress in negotiations is that the two warring sides are fighting a final battle that cannot be resolved by bargaining," Mahmoud explained.

Egypt’s new role
 

According to Mohamed Youssef Abdel-Majid, a professor of political science in Khartoum, Egypt does not want to intervene in the Sudanese crisis alone but rather as part of a group that includes countries neighbouring Sudan, the AU, IGAD, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States.

He added that Cairo seems to be aware that one country, no matter how influential, cannot solve the problem alone. Instead, Egypt wants to involve everyone to increase pressure on both sides.

Abdel-Majid also noted that Sudan's neighbouring countries have different positions regarding the crisis. Chad, Central Africa, South Sudan and its ally Uganda are against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whereas Ethiopia and Kenya support the RSF.

However, the Arab side, represented by Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, just wants to calm the situation down.

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