The war must stop

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Thursday 1 Jun 2023

The short-term ceasefire brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) was extended on Monday.


But this is unlikely to put a stop to the suffering of the Sudanese people in the capital Khartoum, as well as in Darfur and many other parts of the country.

Since the fighting broke out on 15 April, many short-term ceasefires have been declared. Yet the war persists, and so does the suffering of the people who have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries, topped by Egypt.

According to UN figures, more than 1.4 million Sudanese have been displaced so far, most of them internally. Meanwhile, more than 700 people were killed, including dozens of children. Egypt alone has received more than 164,000 refugees so far, and the numbers are expected to rise with no end in sight.

According to a recent joint statement issued by Saudi Arabia and the United States, appealing for the renewal of the ceasefire: “Both parties have told facilitators their goal is de-escalation to facilitate humanitarian assistance and essential repairs, yet both parties are posturing for further escalation.”

In a recent report residents of the capital told Reuters, “we are living in the devil’s city. People are looting everything. Where’s the state?”  Eyewitnesses told the newswire that order has all but collapsed, with criminals and militiamen looting banks, shops, and homes.

But the more horrific and heartbreaking details Reuters revealed had to do with a government-run orphanage where, due to the people in charge abandoning their responsibilities, at least 50 children  including two dozen of them babies have died in the six weeks since the war broke out. On Friday, 26 May alone 13 babies died.

The Mygoma orphanage, located at the centre of Khartoum where most of the fighting has been concentrated, does not have enough staff to care for the children, who succumbed to severe malnutrition and dehydration. The scenes of babies lying dead in their cribs have been “terrifying,” said one Sudanese doctor. “It is very painful.”

Mygoma’s dead babies are among the countless invisible victims of the war in Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country by area. They also include elderly people who could not flee their homes, as well as thousands of poor Sudanese who do not have the means to pay for transportation. It’s for the sake of those children, elderly and ordinary Sudanese people that the meaningless war must stop.   

With a population of about 49 million, Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The fighting has weakened its already stretched healthcare and other infrastructure, including hospitals and airports. Nearly 16 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance before the war began. That figure has now jumped to 25 million, according to the United Nations. More than two thirds of the hospitals in combat areas are out of service, according to the World Health Organisation.

In Khartoum, factories, offices, homes and banks have been looted or destroyed. Power, water and telecommunications are often cut off, and there are acute shortages of medicines and medical equipment, with food supplies running low. The United Nations and aid groups say that despite the truce, they have struggled to obtain bureaucratic approvals and security guarantees to transport aid and staff to Khartoum and other places in need.

Indeed Riyadh and Washington have been exerting sincere efforts to stop the war and provide humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people. Yet the warring sides’ repeated failure to adhere to the agreements reached mean that much more needs to be done by the international community as a whole.

In a speech at a summit meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) on Saturday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi affirmed that Egypt will continue coordinating with its partners and relief organisations to provide urgent humanitarian aid in order to alleviate the deteriorating situation in Sudan. The president stressed that the humanitarian consequences of Sudan’s crisis go beyond its borders and impact neighbouring countries, necessitating close coordination with them. He noted that Egypt has lived up to its duties in this regard by accepting displaced Sudanese citizens, in addition to hosting approximately five million other Sudanese citizens who are treated as nationals.

The Egyptian president stressed the need for close coordination among Sudan’s neighbouring states to resolve the crisis, noting that “these states are the most affected by the crisis and, therefore, the keenest to end it as soon as possible.” He urged an immediate end to the crisis in Sudan based on reaching a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire and preserving state institutions. “Preserving national institutions in Sudan is the basic guarantee to protect the state from the danger of collapse,” he stressed. The Egyptian president also reaffirmed Cairo’s respect for the will of the Sudanese people in their internal affairs, stressing the need to prevent foreign interference in Sudan’s affairs.  

Perhaps the world should listen to the chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, who visited Egypt this week and met with President Al-Sisi, as well as dozens of Sudanese families who had managed to flee the horror in Sudan. He described the stories he heard of family separation, difficult journeys and looting of houses as “heart-wrenching.” He noted that this was not the first time a refugee crisis has broken out in the world following wars, pointing to the recent case of Ukraine. Yet, perhaps what the UN official did not openly admit was the fact that Ukraine is located in Europe and its residents are white, while Sudan, being in the heart of Africa, is of infinitely less concern to the developed, so called civilised world.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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