SUDAN CONFLICT, CEASEFIRE AND A CRUEL FUTURE FOR THE REGION
As powerful countries evacuated first, their diplomatic staff, then citizens, and reluctantly nationals from other countries from Sudan conflict, the 72-hour ceasefire agreed upon by the fighting Generals, those left behind face grim prospects, and is a tragedy for Africa. The overwhelming majority of Sudanese civilian citizens cannot flee beyond their country’s borders. While any pose in the fighting is welcome because it offers reprieve to civilians trapped to replenish the essential supplies for daily living and possibly move to relative safety, the lull also offers the warring parties time to re-arm, regroup, and as it appears consolidate areas of control.
For Uganda, knowing our very limited capacity, government has done exceedingly well. Eight days ago, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the evacuation of Ugandans and tasked Ambassador Joseph Ocwet, the Director General External Security Organisation to coordinate. Uganda’s Defence Attaché in Khartoum, Brig. Fred Karara was on ground to mobilize Ugandans living, studying, and working or on transit in Sudan who he then cantoned at the Chancery and University of Africa from where 211 evacuees were transported by buses into Ethiopia. After three days of perilous journey, they were airlifted to Entebbe international airport where Uganda Airlines touched ground early Thursday morning. Museveni sought and was granted special landing permission in Ethiopia’s north regional airport that doesn’t ordinarily accept foreign aircrafts.
With foreign nationals especially Americans and Europeans now safely out and Khartoum emptied, the belligerents may now return with little regard as they appear to want to fight to the finish. The more serious issue now is the fate of Sudanese civilians unable to flee yet without access to food, water, and medical supplies with some probably too ill to escape, no transport money or just scared to venture out and abandoned to cruel fate as violence continues into uncertain future, and Sudan becoming a failed state.
With reports that some prisons have been emptied, criminals could be enlisted like it happened in Iraq and Libya which expanded Islamic State networks, and scary for Africa north of the Equator where Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria-inter-connected and in armed conflicts they’re yet to extinguish. It threatens to undermine the modest relative stability and progress Africa made over the last two decades.
This huge swath where no government has effective control means terrorists and other rogue elements will enjoy military recruitment, train, traffic arms, drugs, humans, counterfeit goods, and illicit money, and spawn. The Horn of Africa is just emerging from years of Ethiopia’s internal conflict, and then now Sudan where the national army and its erstwhile militia, otherwise known as the Rapid Support Force (RSF) threaten to derail transition to civilian and perhaps democratic rule from army generals who have ruled since Bashir ousted elected civilian Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi in 1989.
The RSF was created by General Omar Hassan Ahmad-al Bashir when still president. Bashir manipulated sectarian alliances believing they would offer him a strong foundation but sadly discovered wasn’t to be, and is now squatting in prison unsure when or how he will end up. The fight triggered partly by the integration process of RSF into the regular army is pitting former allies army chief Abdel Fattah a-Burhan and RSF supremo Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemedti.
And climate change causing dwindling, unreliable rainfall, and water bodies to shrink, crop and livestock distress is a calamity threatening humanity. Refugees are streaming into Ethiopia, Egypt, South Sudan, and CAR themselves going through internal civil strife which puts further strain to the resources and social service infrastructure. The net effect is that resources will be diverted from development to managing the unfolding humanitarian crisis, which could in turn create fertile grounds for political and economic uncertainties.
Sudan’s politics of exclusion, agitation and confrontation could be in for a long haul especially if those in the Forces for Change who caused Bashir’s ouster demand democratic transition accompanied with justice and accountability, although temporarily stymied by the military, don’t settle for less. And because some army and RSF leaders are accused of crimes in Darfur, Khartoum and elsewhere, they know they cannot get justice when not in full control, and want to thwart the transition and the fighting reflects their unpreparedness or unwillingness to transfer power, and will now ask its postponement.
While the regular army ought to be superior to RSF that superiority is being put to question by its failure so far to gain an upper hand in the battle field within Khartoum and elsewhere. RSF seems to enjoy good intelligence, logistics, tactical capacity and alleged foreign connections to paralyse the country. It’s crucial that people fleeing conflict are given safe passage and refuge. Fragile countries bordering Sudan and already having their own IDPs alongside thousands of refugees from other countries should be supported with logistics for humanitarian and development needs because they cannot manage on their own, after-all some of these conflicts are part of geo-politics of the big powers.