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Sudan’s devastating year of war

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Sudan’s devastating year of war

It has been a year since the brutal Sudanese civil war erupted between the governmentbacked Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an armed militia once allied to the regime.

Over those twelve months, according to the UN, over 14,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands wounded. Half the country’s population – 25m people – need lifesaving assistance and more than 8.6m people have been forced to flee their homes, including 1.8m refugees. At least 18m people are facing acute hunger, a number that is set to surge as the lean season fast approaches, threatening a potentially devastating famine. The IMF expects the economy to shrink by 4.2% this year.

Rosemary DiCarlo, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said “allegations of atrocities abound” and cited reports of widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict and the extensive use of torture and prolonged arbitrary detention by both parties.

Seeking spoils of collapse

This is a far cry from the hopes that were unleashed when long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by his military under the pressure of a citizen-led protest movement in 2019. Any hopes of a democratic revival were quickly crushed by the determination of the armed forces to monopolise power, and by the subsequent breakdown in relations with the equally brutal RSF as the two parties scrambled for the spoils of al-Bashir’s collapsing state.

It is not only the warring Sudanese who have shown a total disregard for the human rights of their own people – the conflict has also been fuelled by outsiders. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, high representative for the Silencing the Guns initiative of the African Union Commission, said external interference has been “a major factor” fuelling the war.

“External support in terms of supply of war materiel and other means has been the main reason why this war has lasted for so long,” he said. “It is the elephant in the room.” Actors who are openly sending arms to the warring parties – or whose arms have been found in their hands – include Iran (supporting the government), and the UAE and Russia (supporting or arming the RSF), according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ukraine has even sent commandos to fight the RSF in Sudan as a way of internationalising the war with its Russian invader. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to bring the crisis to an end have waned.

Insufficient pressure

Ibn Chambas insisted that the African Union had been proactive in its diplomacy, but Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, says the organisation has lagged well behind events, as has the always-divided UN Security Council. “The international community has not exerted sufficient pressure on the warring parties to stop violating the human rights of people caught up in this war. The African Union, in particular, has not displayed the required level of leadership nor taken concrete actions that match the scale and gravity of the conflict,” Chagutah says.

Given the scale of the conflict in the heart of Africa, the African Union – in coordination with the UN and the broader international community – must redouble efforts to bring the warring parties back to the table and end the flow of weapons that are overwhelmingly being used to kill and mutilate innocent Sudanese.

Such an effort must include severe consequences for government soldiers and RSF militiamen who continue to act with impunity. Ibn Chambas says that it will already take “more than a generation to rebuild Sudan to its pre-war state”.

Africa simply cannot afford another lost Sudanese generation.

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