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Different setting and script, but Sudan war shaping up like Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict

Smoke billows during fighting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Smoke billows during fighting in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

  • International pressure remains the only way to stop the war in Sudan.
  • A coalition of Sudanese lawyers, academics, and human rights activists plead to the UN for more support for negotiations.
  • The Sudan war has similar negative impacts on civilians and the economy to the recently ended Tigray war in Ethiopia.

Sudan is a different setting and context, but the playbook is the same as that of the recently ended two-year conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Civilians and their infrastructure are suffering the most as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) loyal to Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as “Hemedti,” and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of de facto President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan continue to fight.

Despite the breaking of numerous ceasefire agreements, international pressure remains the only way to nudge warring factions to stop the war and march towards restoration in Sudan, according to a coalition of Sudanese lawyers, academics, and human rights activists.

The coalition’s representative, Ali Mohamed Agab emphasised this while briefing the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday.

He said:

Without a strong international call for accountability, there is no incentive for warring parties to adhere to the rules of war, let alone to broker peace.

He added that at the centre of every negotiation platform, civilian interests should be strongly represented.

“The disproportionate impact of the conflict on civilians urges all negotiations and actions in Sudan to place the protection of civilians and accountability at their heart,” he said.

Six months ago, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia to end a protracted war with the government, the cost of human life and its support structures was huge.

Ethiopia has yet to come to terms with the cost of war.

READ | Air strikes, combat as one-week Sudan truce officially starts

According to a report by the Ethiopian ministry of finance titled Ethiopia’s Damage and Needs Assessment, tabled this week at the House of People’s Representatives, 3 million people further sank into poverty during the conflict.

The country’s GDP fell by 25.9%. The war was fought at a cost of R440 billion, which represents 20.4% of Ethiopia’s GDP.

In Sudan, the situation is heading in that direction, and fast. With the war entering its second month, the coalition said massive looting of artefacts and destruction of monuments, places of worship, and other public infrastructure was rampant.

Ali Mohamed Agab said:

We have been receiving extremely concerning reports of indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes targeting residential areas, occupation of hospitals, forcible evictions, looting and targeting of homes and places of cultural heritage and worship, and targeting of civilian infrastructure and installations essential for the survival of the civilian population.

The cost of living has since gone up in parts of the country where there’s minimal or no fighting. This presents another catastrophic scenario.

“The failure to establish safe humanitarian corridors and the soaring prices of commodities throughout Sudan as a result of the conflict will only amplify a dire situation and cause the loss of many more lives over the coming weeks,” he added.

In Sudan, the cropping season ranges from April to November, with a land preparation period in April and May followed by planting in July or early August. Already, the land preparation period has been hampered by fighting.

This can only mean that more people will need food aid, as communities fail to produce adequate food.

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The coalition’s main appeal to the international community was the establishment of an international accountability mechanism to investigate and document international crimes in Sudan.

The amount of bloodshed in Khartoum and other parts of the country was similar to the 2003 Darfur conflict, which led to the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and called for the arrest of former president Omar al-Bashir.

On Monday, a new seven-day truce kicked in, but reports in Sudan said instead of silencing the guns, shelling continued into the dead of the night as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) continued to fight.

Hours after the peace agreement between Hemedti and Fattah al-Burhan, Dagalo accused the latter of being a warmonger.

He also called his RSF fighters “courageous” and did not show any sign of stopping despite the peace deal.

He said:

We ask our brave forces to double their efforts.

The RSF has a social media presence to shape its narrative, while the government has largely been silent.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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