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The United Nations on Wednesday said nearly three months of the war in Sudan had uprooted more than three million people. Refugees flood South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other neighboring countries. The EU and UN humanitarian assistance must be increased immediately, as well as imposing sanctions on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their proxies. The West should pressure Saudi Arabia and UAE to stop funding the war.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a new investigation into alleged war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan, writes the BBC. The bodies of at least 87 people allegedly killed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan have been found in a mass grave, according to the UN. There are apprehensions that the Masalit community might face attacks from the RSF and Arab militias, potentially leading to a recurrence of the tragic events of the 2003 Darfur killings. During that period, the Janjaweed militias, which later evolved into the RSF, were responsible for the deaths of approximately 300,000 people.

The current war in Sudan is an armed conflict between rival factions of the military government of Sudan. It began on April 15, 2023, when clashes broke out in cities, with the fighting concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region.

The conflict is rooted in the power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The SAF is the regular army of Sudan led by army general Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, the de facto ruler of Sudan. At the same time, the RSF is a paramilitary group formed to fight in the Darfur conflict. The RSF is led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also the deputy chairman of the SAF.

The fighting has caused widespread civilian casualties, with over 3,000 people killed and 6,000 injured. Over 2.4 million people have been internally displaced, and 724,000 have fled the country as refugees.

Why are foreign powers interested in the current war?

Sudan’s geopolitical importance stems from its location, resources, and role as a trade transit route. The country is a critical player in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East and can potentially be a significant regional power.

Sudan has many essential resources, including oil, gold, and Arabic gum. It is also home to the headwaters of the Nile River, a vital water source for Egypt and Sudan. Sudan has an 853 km coastline bordering the Red Sea. The Suez Canal is a critical waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, providing a shortcut for maritime trade between Europe and Asia, bypassing the lengthy and dangerous route around the southern tip of Africa. It significantly reduces shipping distances and time, making it one of the world’s busiest and most important trade routes, facilitating the movement of goods, oil, and natural resources between major global markets. Approximately 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal, representing 30% of all international container traffic, and over USD 1 trillion worth of goods per annum, according to the New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade. Sudan’s strategic location has immense economic and geopolitical significance, making it vital for international trade and regional stability.

Sudan became Saudi-UAE Proxy War?

YouTube: Why Sudan is on the Verge of Civil War by Johnny Harris

The ongoing conflict in Sudan is now in its third month, and it has become a proxy war between regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The two Gulf nations view Sudan as a bridge between the Middle East and Africa, and its rich natural resources make it strategically important. The conflict stems from the power struggle between rival generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti. The UAE supports Hemeti, while Saudi Arabia backs Burhan. Both countries seek to solidify their hegemonic status in the region, potentially leading to a fragmented state similar to the situation in Libya.

More needs to be done than the EU humanitarian assistance to Sudan.

The war in Sudan is a major humanitarian crisis. It has caused widespread suffering and displacement, and it has the potential to destabilize the entire region. 

In 2023, the EU allocated an initial amount of €73 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan. But in response to the conflict, the EU gave an additional €60 million (€52 million for Sudan and €8 million to neighboring countries). This is on top of the €800,000 in support of the various Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies and the €350,000 for Chad, but that’s not enough.

UN calls for US$3 billion to rush life-saving aid and protection to people impacted by the Sudan crisis.

A Sudanese man who fled the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, and was previously internally displaced in Sudan, walks past makeshift shelters near the border between Sudan and Chad while taking refuge in Borota, Chad, May 13, 2023. © Zohra Bensemra, Reuters

The Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan seeks $470.4 million to support refugees, returnees, and host communities in the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The funds are intended to help over 1 million people, including refugees, returnees, and third-country nationals.

The war is killing the momentum of the budding democracy movement in Sudan. A greedy few have once again snatched away protests from 2019 that successfully took out dictator Omar al Bashir, and there seems to be no end in sight. The international community needs to take urgent action to end the violence and prevent further bloodshed.