Egypt to host summit of Sudan's neighbours to try to end war

Cairo is back after being left out of earlier diplomatic efforts to end the fighting

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Reuters
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Egypt is seeking to retake its traditionally leading role in Sudan, inviting its neighbours to a summit meeting in Cairo this week to find ways to end the war there.

A presidential statement on Sunday said the July 13 summit will bring together the leaders of Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea to look into ways to end the conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

The summit would also look into the effects of the conflict on Sudan's neighbours and seek to “put in place effective mechanisms to peacefully settle it in co-ordination with other regional and international tracks", said the statement.

It said the summit would also look at ways to curb the fallout from the war in Sudan on the wider region.

Thousands have been killed since the fighting began in mid-April. The war has also created a major humanitarian crisis, including the displacement of nearly three million people.

Of the displaced, nearly 700,000 found refuge in Sudan's neighbours, with more than 250,000 fleeing across the border into Egypt, which has a resident Sudanese community estimated at 4 million.

Most of the rest reached Chad, South Sudan and Republic of Central Africa.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Sunday that Sudan was on the verge of a full-scale civil war that could destabilise the whole region.

Egypt and its southern neighbour have been on-and-off allies for decades. Egypt has traditionally viewed Sudan as part of its national security sphere.

Sudan controls the middle reaches of the Nile, on which Egypt depends for nearly all of its fresh water needs.

Cairo has always regarded Sudan's vast agricultural potential as a possible source of food for its growing population of 105 million, which is more than twice Sudan's.

The two nations are also bound by centuries-old social, cultural and economic ties.

Egypt was surprisingly left out of indirect negotiations between the army and the RSF mediated by the US and Saudi Arabia.

Those talks, held in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, produced a series of ceasefires that were consistently breached by both sides.

Washington and Riyadh last month suspended the talks, reportedly looking for a more effective formula for the negotiations.

Egypt has forged close ties with army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, who seized power in October 2021.

That was just weeks before he had been due to step down as head of the ruling, military-led Sovereignty Council so that a civilian could replace him under a power-sharing deal reached in August 2019.

Cairo has in the meantime kept Gen Mohamed Dagalo, the RSF commander and Gen Al Burhan's one-time ally and deputy, at an arm's length.

It was angered when Gen Dagalo's fighters captured a group of Egyptian soldiers stationed in northern Sudan for what Cairo said at the time had been war games with the Sudanese soldiers.

A video posted online of RSF fighters ill-treating the Egyptian soldiers and verbally insulting them sparked an uproar in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Sudanese delegations, including from civilian parties that shared power with the army and RSF after the overthrow of former president Omar Al Bashir four years ago, were expected to meet on Monday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for exploratory talks.

The leaders of former rebel groups from Darfur that signed a partial peace deal with the military in 2020 are expected to travel to Chad for talks, although the timing is unclear and travel in and out of Sudan is complicated.

Khartoum has been the main theatre of the Sudanese conflict, but violence has also flared in other parts of Sudan, including the western region of Darfur.

There, residents say Arab militias and the RSF have attacked civilians from ethnic African tribes, raising fears of a repeat of the atrocities in the region after 2003.

Updated: July 09, 2023, 7:42 PM