Civil War in Sudan: a Long Delayed Response of the International Community?

29 avril 2024
Le point de vue de Jean-Marc Gravellini

While the civil war in Sudan has caused extensive human and material damage for over a year, leading to the collapse of Sudanese social and political life, there are still fears that the conflict could spread to other regions of the country. On April 15th in Paris, the international community pledged to deliver more than billions in humanitarian aid to stem a situation predicted by UN bodies to be catastrophic. The war in Sudan is also being played out by outside powers, notably Russia, which has allies in Sudan to increase its presence on the African continent. What is the current state of the military situation and the humanitarian crisis in Sudan? Jean-Marc Gravellini, associate researcher at IRIS and a specialist in security and development issues in the Sahel region, provides some answers.

After more than a year of clashes between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), how has the situation evolved in military, security and political terms?

In military terms, the initial clashes have evolved into a full-scale confrontation, with considerable loss of life on both sides. The Sudanese people are enduring unbearable suffering, with more than 15,000 people killed and an ‘appalling’ humanitarian situation. Half the country’s population is in need of vital aid, while more than 8.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes. In this context, there are regular reports of the widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the recruitment of children by the parties to the conflict, and the massive practice of torture and arbitrary detention. In addition to the thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and other essential civilian infrastructure demolished, the war has destroyed vast swathes of the country’s productive sectors, paralysing the economy. Some estimate that it will take at least a generation to rebuild the country. The conflict, which began in Khartoum, is spreading to other parts of the country. In Darfur, recent UN reports point to a possible imminent attack by the Rapid Support Forces on El-Fasher, raising the spectre of a new front that could intensify the bloody inter-communal conflicts throughout the region.

On 15 April, the International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan was held in Paris, at which the international community pledged over €2 billion in humanitarian aid to the country. What is the current state of the humanitarian crisis in Sudan? To what extent are the funds mobilised still insufficient for the current crisis?

The conference did indeed result in new pledges of funding for the humanitarian response in Sudan and the response to refugees in neighbouring countries. Quite apart from the amount, it is vital that this new aid is disbursed as soon as possible. Basic necessities must be pre-positioned before the start of the rainy season in June, farmers must be supplied with seeds before the planting season, also in June, and displaced people must be given money before they face starvation.

The conference also enabled progress to be made in discussions on the conditions of access for humanitarian aid to certain parts of Darfur and Khartoum. This is an essential point, because the parties to the conflict are exploiting, attacking and obstructing humanitarian operations.

What role is the international community playing in managing the crisis in Sudan? What is the position of neighbouring countries and international powers?

Last Monday’s conference attempted to focus the international community’s attention on Sudan. However, it is regrettable that for most of the past year the conflict has been largely absent from the media. The conference was an opportunity to make the case for greater international engagement to silence the guns.

Regional escalation remains a major concern. Thousands of Sudanese are ready to cross borders into the highly unstable Sahel region. This conflict is destabilising all the countries that receive migrant flows. The war is making way for increased circulation of arms and capital and a proliferation of mafia networks and activities.

After having called on the belligerents to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and to adhere to the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment for the protection of civilians, the UN considers at the same time that, if the belligerents have been able to maintain their confrontation, it is largely thanks to the material support they receive from outside.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Sudan has become the theatre for the confrontation imposed by Russia on Ukraine. The latter seems to be coordinating with Saudi Arabia. The RSF’s Hemeti is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

According to Ukrainian military intelligence, the ‘ex-Wagner’ militias, now under the control of the Russian special services, are heavily involved in Sudan. Russian mercenaries have long had links with Hemeti militants. This complicity has made it possible to finance the Russian militias and perhaps also Putin’s regime with gold from Sudan. As early as 2022, CNN reported on Russian involvement in this business in Sudan. According to some estimates, smuggling consumes up to 90% of the gold mined in the country. The Russians are said to have sent 16 aircraft loaded with gold from Sudan to Syria. The exact amount of gold exported could be worth billions of dollars. Ukraine is now trying to attack this source of funding for Russia.

Ukraine’s success in Sudan should also contribute to a more ambitious objective: to give Ukraine the image of a state capable of confronting Russia anywhere in the world.


Translated by Deepl.
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