Sudan peace talks 'must include all parties'

Warring generals must be brought to the table, experts say

Sudan's army chief, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan (left) and Gen Mohamed Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. AFP
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Peace talks in Sudan must include all actors with a stake in the future of the country, including its warring generals, Sudanese Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and Gen Mohamed Dagalo, leader of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, experts have said.

The 10-month war has devastated the already impoverished African country, killed thousands, displaced almost 8 million, and sparked warnings of famine.

Fighting broke out in mid-April last year after weeks of growing tension over the terms of Sudan's transition to democratic rule and plans proposed by politicians to integrate the RSF into the armed forces, something Gen Dagalo has vehemently opposed.

Gen Dagalo was Gen Al Burhan's deputy in the military-led Sovereign Council, which acted as a presidency after the 2019 removal of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

The pair jointly seized power and toppled a civilian-led government in a coup in October 2021, derailing the democratic transition, plunging the nation of 49 million into its worst economic crisis in living memory and creating a security vacuum that led to tribal and ethnic violence in Sudan's outlying regions.

Since the war broke out, representatives of the army and the RSF have participated in two rounds of indirect negotiations sponsored by the US and Saudi Arabia.

The negotiations, held in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, produced a series of ceasefire agreements during the early stages of the war, but all of them collapsed soon after coming to force or were not diligently respected.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Comfort Ero, president and chief executive of International Crisis Group, said several actors had been “left out of the process”.

“We are repeating the same pattern of leaving key actors off the table. All key actors who have a direct interest in what Sudan’s fate is, you have to bring all of those actors to the table who have interests in the country,” Ms Ero said.

However, she said, neither general has shown any interest in negotiating so far.

“The reason why we had a coup was because they were nervous about what that transitional process was going to look like. And the reason why we’re not going to get them back to the table is because the fundamentals in which they went for the coup hasn’t changed. You can’t bypass them,” she said.

Burhan and [Gen Dagalo], both of them have to be at the table. We have to negotiate with both of them. I don’t see any way out of this.”

Nisreen Elsaim, a Sudanese climate activist, said both generals had to participate in any peace talks.

“We need to get them all round the table. But it is easier said than done,” she said.

If there was a way to get them to sit down for talks, Sudan would not be in the position it finds itself in, Ms Elsaim said. “I think this is the problem.”

Hanna Tetteh, special envoy of the UN Secretary General to the Horn of Africa, said part of the issue was that one side in the conflict believes many heads of state have already chosen sides.

“Unfortunately, we have a situation where one side in the Sudanese conflict perceives that many of the heads of state within the region have already taken sides, and therefore do not want to be part of that process,” she added.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Sudanese Army claimed its first major advance in 10 months of war, regaining control of part of the city of Omdurman from the RSF.

The army said it had succeeded in connecting its two main bases in the city, prompting celebrations among soldiers and local residents.

The RSF denied the army had advanced. “The army has turned to propaganda as it is on the verge of defeat,” the paramilitary's media office said.

Updated: February 17, 2024, 11:51 PM