We Can’t Ignore the Conflict in Sudan

by Hero Aiken

What is the history of this conflict?

The current civil war erupted in April of 2023, and has its roots in decades of armed conflict between rivalling factions in Sudan. The most recent violence has taken place between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), led by general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan “Hemdti” Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In 2019, the two groups joined forces in order to oust the then dictatorial leader Omar al-Bashir, in response to “broad popular and civil society mobilization for a change in leadership” (Vox). However, the ensuing attempts to transition to a democratic government were unsuccessful, and created a power struggle between the SAF and the RSF which has resulted in direct military conflict between the two parties (The Guardian).

While violence initially broke out in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman, it has since spread to the regions of Port Sudan and Darfur. This widespread conflict zone covers almost the entirety of Sudan, which is one of Africa’s largest countries. Unfortunately, this military conflict has been accompanied by “inter-communal violence” in the Darfur region, as well as the formation of armed self-defence groups from what had previously been “neighbourhood resistance communities,” committed to the return of civilian democratic governance in Sudan (UNHCR, Chatham House). What’s more, there have been credible reports that the RSF is engaging in targeted assaults on certain minority groups, such as the Masalit, much as they did during the ethnically motivated violence in the Darfur region in 2003 (Vox).

Tragically, “both the RSF and army have been accused of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, targeting civilians and obstructing and commandeering essential aid” (Aljazeera). However, despite the dire nature of the situation in Sudan, as well as linked crises in the region of the Horn of Africa, “the African region is critically undercovered in the media, and the Sudan war has suffered that fate.” It is clear that “the conflict and humanitarian situation will only continue to spiral if the international community keeps ignoring it” (Vox).

What are its current and future effects on Sudan’s people?

It goes without saying that the current civil war is producing untold suffering among Sudan’s civilian population. Of the country’s nearly 46 million inhabitants, roughly 12% have been internally displaced – that amounts to about 6 million people. Besides this, over 1.4 million Sudanese individuals have fled to neighbouring countries including Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic in search of safety (UNHCR). This means that Sudan is currently facing one of the world’s largest displacement crises (OCHA).

Besides this, the Sudanese population is being confronted with the threat of famine and disease due to the fact that the civil war has rendered it “challenging to establish an effective and competent civilian government capable of fulfilling the state obligations in providing public services” (Sudan Tribune). The widespread violence in Sudan has made it nearly impossible for individuals to receive adequate medical care, and cholera has proliferated, with there having been around 10 700 suspected cases as of February 2024 (OCHA). What’s more, “with expectations of a reduced upcoming harvest, prices of staple food are likely to remain atypically high in the harvest season” (OCHA). This issue will only contribute to the rampant food insecurity which is already present in Sudan. To this point, Aljazeera reports that “more than 18 million Sudanese are facing acute food insecurity – 10 million more than at this time last year – while 730,000 Sudanese children are believed to be suffering from severe malnutrition.”

On top of this, the risk of sexual violence and rape at the hands of armed forces has risen sharply for Sudan’s women and girls, and the number of children who are without education in the country is close to reaching 19 million (The Guardian). This heartbreaking information is even more striking when considering the dearth of Western media attention which has been focused on Sudan in the past year. As we approach the one year anniversary of the beginning of the current hostilities, Edem Wosornu, director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs has argued that, “simply put, we are failing the people of Sudan” (Aljazeera).

What paths are there to peace?

From the above, it is clear that the Sudanese people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, a need which cannot be adequately responded to in the absence of a ceasefire. According to Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, this outcome will necessitate the mediation of international groups, as well as neighbouring countries, and regional cooperation. Moreover, he argues that “a common goal of preventing the worst outcome should override differing preferences for who should lead the country” (Chatham House). It seems clear that mitigating the suffering of the Sudanese civilian ought to be the greatest concern in considering how to handle the current conflict in that country, and that the desire for increased power in the form of control over land or natural ressources is a serious impediment to peace in Sudan and the surrounding area.

Above all, a resolution to Sudan’s civil war will be reached most quickly through global cooperation, something which requires that we keep our attention trained on the atrocities that are currently taking place in that country. In the words of de Waal, “if Sudan remains an international orphan, the calamity will only deepen” (Chatham House). We owe it to the people of Sudan to value their safety over our discomfort, and to engage with humanitarian and news reports which emerge from within the current crisis.

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. (2024, March 11). Sudan War threatens “world’s largest hunger crisis”: WFP. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/6/sudan-war-could-trigger-worst-famine-in-world-wfp

de Waal, A. (2024). Sudan is collapsing – here’s how to stop it. https://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/the-world-today/2024-02/sudan-collapsing-heres-how-stop-it

Grandi, F. (2024). Sudan emergency. UNHCR. https://www.unhcr.org/emergencies/sudan-emergency

Guardian News and Media. (2024, April 15). What caused the Civil War in Sudan and how has it become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/mar/22/what-caused-the-civil-war-in-sudan-and-how-has-it-become-one-of-the-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crises

Ioanes, E. (2024, March 5). Don’t ignore Sudan’s horrific conflict. Vox. https://www.vox.com/24090710/sudan-conflict-war-crime-allegations-briefly-explained

Saeed, S. (2024). Options for a transitional government in war-torn Sudan. Sudan Tribune. https://sudantribune.com/article283604/

Sudan crisis one of the “worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory”: Un. AlJazeera. (2024, March 20). https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/20/sudan-is-one-of-the-worst-humanitarian-disasters-in-recent-memory-un

Sudan maps. Worldometer. (n.d.). https://www.worldometers.info/maps/sudan-maps/#google_vignette

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2024). Sudan Situation Report. Situation Reports. https://reports.unocha.org/en/country/sudan/

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