The Sudan War Humanitarian Assistance and Humanity Before Politics Stopping the War Before Ending It Vision Before Mission


By Yasir Arman

In a statement last week on Sudan, the African Peace and Security Council focused on restoring the political transition, ending violence, and addressing the humanitarian situation in Sudan. The statement has addressed the most important issues facing the peace process in Sudan. Given the vital role of the African Union, IGAD and the African Peace and Security Council, particularly due to the current division in the UN Security Council, it is important to reflect on those issues, especially the most common question among the Sudanese inside and outside of Sudan: are there any tangible plans to end this catastrophe in Sudan? Frankly speaking, despite the great efforts from the regional and international communities, it seems there are no robust plans to end the war in Sudan. As well, the Sudanese civilian actors are not working together effectively.

The Sudan war has become a number among many African wars despite the strategic location of Sudan, which links the Horn of Africa with the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa plus Sudan’s location on the Red Sea and its geopolitical dimensions. The war in Sudan has forced millions of Sudanese to look for space outside Sudan instead of inside Sudan. This adds to the migration problems in the neighboring countries, Europe, the U.S., etc., and increases the crimes of human trafficking and terrorism, given the record of the former ruling Sudanese Islamic movement’s historical link with terrorism over decades and its organic link to the current situation. Despite all these dimensions, the Sudanese war is competing with many regional and international situations of paramount importance and that is a recipe for a prolonged war in Sudan.

The Parties to the Conflict and the Lack of Political Will

The objective situation that is surrounding the two parties to the conflict in Sudan suggests they are lacking the necessary will for a political settlement.

The Army:

The Sudanese army rank and file are feeling humiliated and the balance of forces on the ground are not in their favor. They have a weak infantry; and therefore, they are trying to focus on aerial bombardment, heavy artillery and drones. The strongest group in the army is being led by the Islamists, who are the most organized within SAF. The other weaker group is from the professional officers. Both groups can only be united on the agenda of war and not on the peace agenda. This will cause them to prolong the war as is the case in some regional wars around us. SAF today has adopted guerilla tactics to fight and talk. Their main tactic is fighting and they use negotiations as a tool to appease the international community. This will continue unless the regional and international communities develop the necessary leverage in dealing with both parties to the conflict.

The RSF:

The RSF has made a substantial gain on the ground. The current balance of forces is in their interests; and therefore, they will not accept the demands of the army. The army will not accept their demands either. Both will indulge in looking for more gains. The war might shift to a community ethnic war.

The Regional and International Community:

It does not seem that the regional and international communities have a coherent plan, and as of now, there are six competing initiatives: Jeddah Forum, IGAD Initiative, the African Union, the initiative by the neighboring countries led by Egypt, the attempt of Chad to bring peace to Darfur, and the Eritrean engagement on Sudan. There is no mechanism for those initiatives to complement each other. Yet, Jeddah Forum remains the nearest point to achieving a humanitarian cessation of hostilities. This requires a mechanism that solicits the goodwill of the different initiatives, especially the involvement of the Africans as it will get a blessing in the UN Security Council. This is the only way to deny the Islamists of their habit of forum shopping to buy time and prolong the war with the aim of recapturing power. This mechanism can bring the different initiatives together and open space for the interaction of United Nations, Europe, and important countries in the Arab and African worlds, countries which are necessary for a resolution to the Sudan conflict.

Humanitarian Assistance and Humanity Before Politics

Stop the War Before Ending It:

From our previous experience in Sudan regarding political settlements of war, we should distinguish between two faces, how to stop the war and how to end the war. They are different and interrelated. To stop the war is part of creating a conducive atmosphere to the second phase. It is similar to the exercise of any medical doctor who finds a patient bleeding. He/She would stop the bleeding before diagnosing the cause of the bleeding. Given the current situation, the only entry point is focusing on the humanitarian situation, the gross violations of human rights, and the protection of civilians. Both national, regional and international actors, who are anti-war, need to concentrate maximum attention on a long humanitarian cessation of hostilities that will entail giving priority to issues of humanitarian access and civilian protection, including a no-fly zone and stopping the artillery and all types of bombardment in the civilian residential areas by a joint resolution from the African Union, the Arab League and the UN Security Council.

The cessation of hostilities is different from a ceasefire. The ceasefire is linked to the political arrangement that ends war. The cessation of hostilities will require monitoring and verification – a physical one that can be provided by Africans and others. Resolutions to open humanitarian corridors and to protect civilians can be taken by the African Peace and Security Council and be tabled to the UN Security Council to stop the current bleeding and to expose the human rights violations and the deteriorating humanitarian situation, especially in the areas of food, water, power, and the collapse of the health sector. The humanitarian cessation of hostilities needs to allow and enable the national and international agencies to deliver their assistance that would create a conducive environment for a political settlement. Humanitarian assistance and humanity before politics.

Can we End the War without Addressing the Root Causes?

After all this destruction, the only compensation for the Sudanese people and Sudan is to get a permanent solution and this can only come through addressing the root causes of the problem on clear principles that will include, among others, the principle of having one single professional army, which is needed for stability, democracy, development and peace. Issues of governance, equal citizenship without discrimination, unity in diversity, the relation between the center and the region, etc. are necessary for a paradigm shift that can constitute a new national project. That does not mean everything is a top priority and everything will be implemented on day one. It will definitely be in phases and it may take decades in the implementation, but the journey of one million miles starts with a step in the right direction, and the right direction is humanitarian cessation of hostilities that will change the dynamics of the current situation.

Vision Before Mission

A quick fix can only reproduce the current situation; therefore, we need a vision of how to stop the war and how to end it and arrive at a permanent solution.

Civilian Unity in a Pro-Democracy and Anti-War Front:

The right conditions for a successful political process starts with a unity of the forces who are pro-democracy and anti-war. Those forces include the December Revolution forces, the groups who have accepted the need for change, and the wider forces that are anti-war inside and outside of Sudan, who can constitute a democratic civilian front that enjoys sufficient internal, regional and international support. This front is necessary for a successful political process that may include other forces from civilians who do not fit in the civilian democratic front, but they are necessary for the political process.

The forces of the civilian democratic front should make a concession to each other. We are behind time and we have committed many mistakes. Addressing these mistakes depends on recognizing each other and our common future, which can only be achieved through our unity. This unity is needed to lift the suffering of our people, and it is needed yesterday and today before we lose the goodwill of our friends in the region and the international community. We need to accelerate the pace of our current process.

The Invitation for the Political Process by the African Union:

We value the effort of IGAD and the African Union; and therefore, any invitations to the political process without the necessary preparations and sufficient consensus among the Sudanese will only increase the division and polarization among the civilians, and it will repeat the experience of the past. The African Union and IGAD have an important card and they need to use it at the proper time and in coordination with all the important actors before issuing any invitations.

Rebranding the Issues of the Marginalized and the Resistance Movements of the Rural Areas:

The issues of the marginalized Sudan and the historical resistance of the rural areas cannot be forgotten or drowned as a result of the 15th April war. They are important on their own and the current war actually highlighted their importance and value. We are having a discussion with the Sudan Revolutionary Front and some of the Juba Peace Agreement signatories on the need of rebranding both on the basis of the democratic agenda and the wider anti-war movement as well as the agenda of those who did not sign the Juba Peace Agreement. Issues of equal citizenship without discrimination, unity in diversity, and a new system of governance cannot possibly be forgotten. The resistance movement issues of the Sudan rural areas against the successive regimes in Khartoum need to be recognized as part of comprehensive solutions that will not negate the particularities of Darfur, the Two Areas, Eastern Sudan and other similar situations. We should not repeat the piecemeal approach. We need a comprehensive solution that does not forget the particularities.

International and Regional Division:

It is necessary for the pro-democracy and anti-war movement, when dealing with the current war in Sudan, not to forget the bigger picture of the divisions regionally and internationally, which will have its fingerprint on Sudan and its war. The issues of justice and social justice, as much as it is an internal issue, equally they are regional and international issues. We are living in a very interesting time that will reshape our future. It will require from the Sudanese pro-democracy forces to address new situations carefully in the interest of democracy, respect of human rights, peace, cooperation and stability in our country and beyond.

Addis Abba