“I feel that things will only change when We – The People – of Sudan, of Africa, of the world, find ways of punishing the three belligerents (SAF, RSF, the Islamists) more than we have done in 2023. What we need are sticks, not carrots. The question to agonise and brainstorm about, as we hurtle at breakneck speed into 2024 is, just what sticks can we The People, leverage that would work?”
Donald Deya – CEO Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)
Africans for the Horn of Africa (Af4HA) welcomes the Communiqué issued by the 42nd Extraordinary Assembly of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Heads of State and Government held on Thursday, 18th January 2024, in Entebbe, Uganda on the crisis in Sudan. The efforts of IGAD to resolve the conflict are to be commended.
In the nine months of violent conflict in Sudan, thousands of civilians have been killed and injured. More than 7.4 million, 15% of the total population, are displaced making Sudan the largest displacement crisis in the world according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A key feature of the conflict has been the perpetration of serious human rights violations and abuses, including ethnically based killings, conflict-related sexual violence perpetrate against civilians, slavery of women and girls and the destruction of homes and villages and looting of property. The suffering of civilians has been exacerbated by economic collapse and insufficient humanitarian aid leading to lack of access to basic needs like food and water. Humanitarian efforts have been hampered by a lack of funding, obstruction by the belligerents, and insufficient support to Sudanese civil society, who have worked tirelessly to provide aid and document abuses and violations. Targeted attacks have been carried out on health infrastructure, humanitarian aid workers, human rights defenders and civil society.
In its communiqué, IGAD “emphasized that Sudan does not belong to the parties to the conflict, but rather to the Sudanese people and reiterated their call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and cessation of hostilities to pave the way for a political dialogue.” The communiqué also underscored the primary responsibility of IGAD Member States to ensure the will of the people of Sudan prevails. Although the resolution pointed to previous calls by IGAD for a resolution to the crisis, was less detailed than the previous communiqué, which called for an “all-inclusive Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led civilian dialogue aimed at forging national consensus towards the formation of a civilian-led transition that will culminate in the holding of open, transparent and democratic elections.” While we welcome IGAD’s continued engagement, we urge the body to continue to emphasize the need for an inclusive process and a civilian and democratic outcome, as a reflection of the will of the Sudanese people.
IGAD directed its Secretariat to revise the Roadmap for the Resolution of Conflict in Sudan adopted in June 2023 with clear timelines and the convening of a Sudanese-led process towards a democratic future within one month. This is a useful mechanism for ensuring continued engagement, but also a reminder of the need for political will more broadly.
In addition, it is positive that there was civilian representation in the Summit, an element that has too often been neglected by other mediation efforts. However, there is a need to make such engagement more inclusive and more central, as identified by Sudanese civil society in the Outcome Statement of the High-Level Dialogue with Sudanese Civic Actors on the Situation in Sudan held on 15th July 2023 by the Af4HA and the Government of Kenya. Much more remains to be done. Member States of IGAD must make stronger and more decisive efforts to push the belligerents to the negotiating table. Protection of civilians, which is not mentioned in the communiqué, must be centred in all international debates. We also condemn the actions of the SAF to withdraw Sudan’s membership from the IGAD. The SAF does not have such a constitutional mandate, and its leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is not a legitimate Head of State. The SAF’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue indicates how detached the army is from the will of the civilians to end the war and find a sustainable political solution; that IGAD and the AU are seeking to support. Such actions will only prolong fighting and increase human suffering.
“I believe the drafters of the Constitutive Act anticipated scenarios similar to the one in Sudan, when they drafted article 4(h). Africans cannot stand by and continue to watch atrocities being committed in Sudan without taking all necessary measures to stop them.”
Shuvai Nyoni – ED, the African Leadership Centre (ALC)
We call on IGAD to reinforce its efforts to bring peace to Sudan, and to honor the demands of the Sudanese people for protection and meaningful representation and participation of civilians in securing a ceasefire and finding a political solution to the war.