Efforts Aimed at Resolving the War

Staff Writer

Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in Sudan on April 15, 2023, numerous efforts have been made to try to stop the war and initiate serious dialogue between the conflicting parties and representatives of the broader Sudanese society. This is the visible part for everyone, but those knowledgeable about the intricacies and complexities of Sudanese politics know that these efforts have been ongoing long before the war and have continued at certain intervals when disputes between the partners became apparent.

Historically, the Sudanese political scene has witnessed multiple disagreements, both among partners in civil political work and between civilian forces and the military component. Within the military component itself, disputes have arisen between the main partners—the Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces.

The documentation of these differences came within the framework of the initiative presented by Dr. Abdullah Hamdouk, the Prime Minister of the Transitional Government, in the initiative known as the “Prime Minister’s Initiative,” presented to the Sudanese society in June 2021. This was an attempt to save the transitional period from the conflicts that threatened its completion. Many were convinced that the disagreements within the civilian forces posed a danger to the transitional period, as well as the disagreements between civilian forces on one hand and the military component on the other. However, the greater danger lies in the nature of the disagreements within the military component between the Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, as it is likely to involve the use of weapons, and then dialogue, discussion, and reason will have no place. This is exactly what happened on April 15, 2023.

The Prime Minister’s initiative did not make much progress towards success, but it seems to have succeeded in uniting the two wings of the military component, who somehow reached the conclusion that all their problems and the country’s problems were caused by the civilian partner. This led to the military coup against the transitional period and its executive bodies on October 25, 2021.

Testimonies from General Abdel Rahim Daglo, Hamedtti’s brother and deputy, indicate that disagreements between the partners began to surface the day after the coup when coordination appeared between General Burhan’s faction and groups affiliated with the previous regime—fierce enemies of Hamedtti. These disagreements were initially confined to closed rooms, but their repercussions were evident to all, causing the partners’ inability to govern the country after the coup and even failing to form a government.

A – National Efforts

The official disagreement became evident, and it appeared that it might lead to violent confrontations on the final day of the scheduled workshop according to the Framework Agreement on security and military reform. The workshop was supposed to conclude on March 28, 2023, but just hours before the final session, representatives of the armed forces, along with representatives of the police and the general intelligence, withdrew. The withdrawal resulted from disagreements between army representatives and Rapid Support Forces representatives regarding technical aspects and the scheduling of the integration process of the Rapid Support Forces into the armed forces. Since that day, sharp media statements between the two parties escalated.

On the evening of that day, national mediation efforts initiated by the signatory forces of the framework agreement began. They rushed to meet with both parties, General Burhan and General Hemeti, along with some of their representatives.

On April 5, the signing of the framework agreement between the various parties was announced to be postponed due to the ongoing disagreement between the army and the Rapid Support Forces. In the following week, disagreements escalated again due to the Rapid Support Forces sending military units to the Marawi region, with the army objecting to these movements as being carried out without their knowledge or coordination. The Rapid Support Forces argued that there were Egyptian forces at Marawi Airport, which constituted a threat to them.

The dispute continued on April 11 and 12, and the Rapid Support Forces reached Marawi Airport and occupied it. From there, the first sparks of the battle began until it escalated to the stage of full-scale war on Saturday, April 15.

During the period from March 28 to the early morning of April 15, the mediation efforts of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) met with the parties on a daily basis, attempting to calm the situation in Marawi before it exploded. At the same time, the Democratic Bloc, which includes armed movements that signed the Juba Agreement led by Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Arko Minawi, intervened and made an attempt to mediate parallel to the mediation of the Forces for Freedom and Change. According to testimonies from both sides, their steps often intersected as they rushed to meet with the parties.

On the evening of April 14, meetings continued until the early morning of the next day. An agreement was reached to calm the situation at Marawi Airport by withdrawing Egyptian planes in exchange for withdrawing Rapid Support Forces. Representatives of both parties were to meet with a committee from the mediation to discuss other points of disagreement and set a timetable for it. April 15 was set as the meeting date.

On the morning of Saturday, April 15, the full-scale confrontation began at the Sports City, then at Khartoum Airport and the General Command of the Armed Forces. National mediation was no longer able to do anything.

After that, national efforts turned into a front calling for an end to the war, presenting many initiatives in this direction. The result was a preparatory meeting held in Addis Ababa in October 2023, followed by the announcement of the formation of the “Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces – Tagdom” led by the former Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah Hamdouk. The front worked on creating a roadmap for ending the war, which it presented to the various parties. However, there was no response from the government side, which began to categorize every call to end the war as a denial of the national role of the armed forces institution and standing with the Rapid Support Forces.

B – Regional and International Efforts

1- Jeddah Forum

The first initiative from outside Sudan to stop the war came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in partnership with the United States, with support from pre-war working groups, including the Quartet composed of the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Troika mechanism consisting of UNITAMS, the African Union, and IGAD.

The mediators invited the warring parties to meet in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah Forum began its activities on Saturday, May 6, with the presence of representatives of the parties and mediators. The focus was on achieving a humanitarian ceasefire, and indeed, an agreement committing to the protection of civilians was reached on May 11, leading to partial halts in the fighting. However, civilians did not benefit from these ceasefires, as violations, looting, and theft continued. Negotiations were suspended on June 1 due to the failure to reach agreement points, and the Sudanese army delegation withdrew. Mediators issued a statement criticizing both parties, accusing them of lacking seriousness.

In mid-July, negotiations resumed, and several proposals were presented. The army requested the Rapid Support Forces’ withdrawal from civilian properties and government facilities as a condition for a ceasefire. The negotiations stumbled again, leading to their suspension.

On October 25, the third round of negotiations resumed with the African Union and IGAD as observers. The parties signed specific terms on November 7, regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid and confidence-building measures, including the arrest of leaders of the previous regime who were in prison until the beginning of the war, at the request of the Rapid Support Forces. A timeframe was set, but this was not achieved, leading to the suspension of negotiations for the third time after failing to reach an agreement on a ceasefire between the parties. The Sudanese army delegation insisted on the Rapid Support Forces’ withdrawal from civilian properties, service centers, and all civilian areas. The Rapid Support Forces delegation refused to withdraw from the areas it occupied and insisted on retaining control points and inspections. Mediation failed to persuade both parties to initiate a ceasefire and other subsequent steps.

2- IGAD Initiative

The IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) organization presented an initiative immediately after the start of the war, calling for the disarmament of Khartoum, an unconditional cessation of hostilities, and the start of a comprehensive political process. The plan included deploying African forces to guard strategic institutions in the capital, with police and security forces securing public facilities. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union expressed support for IGAD’s plan, but the Sudanese government rejected it.

The heads of IGAD member states held a summit meeting on the situation in Sudan in June. The summit was chaired by General Malik Agar, whom Burhan appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, as Sudan has been presiding over IGAD since the time of former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk. IGAD member countries participating in the summit included Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and South Sudan, along with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki. The meeting approved IGAD’s pre-existing plan, in addition to calling for a direct meeting between General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” under IGAD’s auspices.

The summit decided to assign the task of implementing its plan to the Quadripartite Committee, chaired by Kenyan President William Ruto, and comprising South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, Djibouti’s President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Immediately after the summit concluded and a final statement was issued, the Burhan government rejected its outcomes and any plan to deploy African forces. It also rejected the chairmanship of the Quadripartite Committee by Kenyan President William Ruto, accusing him of lacking neutrality and having commercial and business interests with the Rapid Support Forces.

In line with the summit’s resolutions and in coordination with the African Union, the Quadripartite Committee held a summit on the Sudan issue in Addis Ababa on July 10, 2023. The summit was attended by Kenyan President William Ruto, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister, and the personal envoy of South Sudan’s President. The meeting was also attended by the African Union Commissioner for Political and Peace and Security Affairs, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the African Union, the United States, Britain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The conflicting parties were invited to participate in the meeting.

The Sudanese government delegation boycotted the meetings, expressing prior objections to William Ruto’s chairmanship of the Quadripartite Committee. The Rapid Support Forces delegation, led by Youssef Ezzat, and a delegation from political forces, including representatives from the Forces for Freedom and Change, participated in the meetings. The summit expressed concern about the escalation of fighting and requested an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. It reiterated the call for a direct meeting between the leaders of the conflicting parties. Additionally, the summit of the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) was convened to consider the possibility of deploying the standby force to protect civilians and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. The summit called for coordination between various initiatives and efforts to stop the war in Sudan. The Sudanese government reiterated its rejection of the meeting and its resolutions.

After months of intense attacks on Kenya, Ethiopia, and IGAD, Sovereignty Council President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan visited Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. He expressed hope that these countries and IGAD would play a positive role in ending the conflict in Sudan. Al-Burhan held a meeting with IGAD’s Executive Secretary, Workneh Gebeyehu, after which it was announced that an urgent summit of IGAD heads of state would be held in Djibouti on December 9. This step is considered an announcement of the end of the rift between the organization and the Burhan government

General Burhan participated in the 41st extra-ordinary summit of IGAD, which was distinguished by high-level regional and international attendance and participation. After deliberations that lasted one day, a concluding statement was issued by the IGAD Organization, confirming the approval of Burhan and General Hemedti, the leader of the Rapid Support Forces, to a comprehensive and unconditional ceasefire. They also endorsed the negotiated political solution as a means to resolve the conflict and agreed to participate in a direct face to face meeting between the two men through the mediation of the IGAD within two weeks. The negotiation process would be led by the IGAD and the African Union.

These results received broad local, regional, and global resonance, and they were welcomed by the United States, the European Union, and neighboring countries as a significant step towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Sudan.

However, before the ink on the concluding statement could dry, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement retracting the commitments of General Burhan. The ministry stated that the IGAD communique did not reflect the positions of the Sudanese government and considered it as if it never happened. The ministry specifically pointed to the issue of the unconditional ceasefire and the meeting between Burhan and Hemedti, stating that Burhan had stipulated a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Rapid Support Forces from the capital, gathering them in camps before meeting Hemedti.

The spirit of optimism that prevailed at the summit quickly dissipated, and the IGAD or any of its officials did not comment on the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement. They may be awaiting an official clarification from the Sudanese government

3- Initiative of Sudan’s Neighboring Countries:

Another regional initiative was extended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who invited Sudan’s neighboring countries to a summit on the Sudanese issue. The summit took place in Cairo on July 13, 2023, at the invitation of the Egyptian government. Participants included the heads of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Central Africa, Chad, South Sudan, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The meeting was dedicated to discussing the situation in Sudan, exploring ways to end the war, and achieving a peaceful resolution. These countries agreed to make concerted efforts to halt the fighting, acknowledging that they are negatively affected by the instability in Sudan, just like Sudan itself.

The summit agreed to establish a committee of foreign ministers that would meet regularly. The first meeting of the foreign ministers occurred on August 7, 2023, in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena. The meeting endorsed a three-point action plan: achieving a permanent ceasefire, organizing comprehensive dialogue among Sudanese parties, and managing humanitarian issues. The meeting also called for the establishment of humanitarian aid depots in neighboring countries to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian assistance to different regions of Sudan, according to the concluding statement.

The second meeting took place on September 19 at the United Nations in New York, emphasizing the adoption of a roadmap and coordinating efforts among the countries to implement it.

4- African Union Initiative:

From the earliest moments when the Sudanese war became part of the African Union’s agenda, there were reports suggesting that the AU was considering inviting a large group of Sudanese to a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to engage civilian forces in efforts to stop the war through a political process. In the last week of July, a senior official in the African Union announced that the meeting would take place on August 25, with significant Sudanese participation.

An initial list of participants was published, including some leaders from the dissolved National Congress Party. Opposition leaders, particularly from the Forces for Freedom and Change, expressed their refusal to participate, likening the meeting to the failed Alsalam Rotana Hotel meeting called by the Tripartite Committee (UNITAMS, African Union, and IGAD) before the war. This individual initiative was seen as a reward for those responsible for the escalation and outbreak of war and did not materialize in due course.

5- Individual Initiatives:

Among the individual initiatives to end the war was the invitation from South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit in late April 2023 for the Army and Rapid Support Forces commanders to meet in Juba. The purpose was to discuss ways to end the war, and this meeting was included in the proposals of the IGAD organization. Juba announced receiving preliminary approval from General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for the proposed meeting. However, the meeting did not take place, and instead, representatives of the parties visited Juba without a direct meeting. Later, Salva Kiir apologized for health reasons for presiding over the Sudan Committee in IGAD, and the task was delegated to Kenyan President William Ruto. In September 2023, al-Burhan visited Juba and met with Salva Kiir.

Why Did Initiatives Fail to Stop the War?

The first part of this article attempts to summarize all initiatives and attempts to resolve the Sudanese conflict and stop the war that has persisted into its eighth month at the time of preparing this study. It becomes logical for anyone interested in the situation in Sudan to wonder: Why did all these initiatives and attempts fail to stop the war and set the country on the path to peace? What is the missing piece of the solution?

Here, we gather various observations and comments that attempt to address this question:

  • Lack of Political Will:

   This reason has two wings upon which it relies:

  • The continued belief among each of the belligerents that it will triumph in the future, leading to a commitment to persist in the war until the promised moment arrives.
    • The absence of a unified decision-making authority, with diverse voices within the leadership cabinet desiring either the continuation of the war for their specific interests (as in the case of the Army) or conflicting interests among armed groups on the ground, making it difficult for leadership to control them, and this is present on both sides.
  • Impact of Parties Benefiting from the War

There are political groups that have lost their influence and political impact after the revolution, finding themselves absent from the new political scene. These elements saw an opportunity in the war to redraw the political landscape and adjust the balance of power in their favor. They may also view the war as their only chance to attempt a return to power by aligning themselves with the military leadership and providing political and military support. This is often done through committed volunteers organized structurally, with an aim to impose their perspective in the upcoming phase.

  • Weakness of Civilian Popular Action:

Despite efforts by political movements such as the Forces for Freedom and Change, the Democratic Bloc, and some civil society leaders, the political instability and military efforts to weaken civilian action, coupled with disagreements among political partners, weakened civilian popular action. This made its influence on both military components weak and minimally impactful.

  • Weak or Absent of Regional and International Pressure:

 Major Powers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia, China, and some Gulf countries, alongside Egypt, possess clear influence in Sudanese politics. These countries could have exerted greater pressure on warring parties that threatened their interests, pushing them toward agreeing to a ceasefire. However, these pressures were mostly verbal, diminishing their effectiveness and reducing their impact. This weakness contributed to the lack of responsiveness from the warring parties to calls for a ceasefire or serious commitment to agreed-upon truces and the facilitation of humanitarian aid<

  • External Support for the State of War:

 Some foreign countries played a role in igniting the war from the beginning, either through insinuation and incitement or by continuing and prolonging it through political and military support to warring parties. Without this external support, these parties wouldn’t have had the capacity to continue the war for eight months, given Sudan’s known economic conditions. The forms of intervention varied, including financial, military, and operational support, and some countries opened their borders for the passage of external support, and there are accusations of limited actual participation from some countries

  • Lack of visions and practical concepts to stop the war, and what comes after it.

 Many mediations and initiatives were characterized by calling for a ceasefire without providing practical plans or visions with specific proposals on how to stop the war. Exceptions include the IGAD Action Plan.  Additionally, many initiatives lacked popular support that could have acted as a lever had they presented general visions for post-war issues. These include the role of the military in the political dialogue following the war, the status of the Rapid Support Forces and whether they would have a political role in the future, and which parties would participate in the political dialogue, among other issues.

Written by Staff Writer

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