No to second anniversary of Sudan war

By Brian Kagoro

April 15 marked one year since the breakout of the devastating war in Sudan that has killed 14,000 people, displaced over 16.5 million and led to the worst humanitarian crisis today with half of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.

Almost five million people are on the brink of famine, 18 million face acute food insecurity and the economy has contracted by 40 per cent since the war began.

The magnitude of this crisis is being felt in the broader eastern, northern and Horn of Africa regions with 1.75 million people having fled mostly into South Sudan, Chad and Egypt. The scale of the suffering of the Sudanese is unimaginable and the crisis affects the most vulnerable. Some 53 per cent of the internally displaced are women and girls, 19 million children are thought to be out of school while 70 per cent of health facilities in conflict-affected areas are not functioning.

Apart from the wanton destruction of infrastructure and looting, whole households have had their lifetime savings, assets, and basis of livelihoods wiped out by this senseless war. This war is producing poverty on an industrial scale.

What began as clashes between military and paramilitary forces in Khartoum last year became a fully-fledged war engulfing the country, drawing in other armed groups. The belligerents have also been accused of looting, sexual violence and the use of starvation as a weapon of war.

Humanitarian crisis

However, despite its being one of the worst, Sudan’s humanitarian crisis has received very little attention compared to other crises of even smaller magnitude. The human carnage alone should have elicited African and international outrage as well as swift action. Yet Sudan’s crisis is met with a deafening silence and outstanding indifference.

This is also reflected in the grossly under-resourced humanitarian response. The UN reports that only six per cent of the estimated $2.7 billion needed for the country’s Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan has been received. There is also very little media coverage of the scale of the war and the dire humanitarian situation. Which begs the question: Do Sudanese lives matter at all? Or rather, as much as others? How can a conflict of this magnitude elicit such underwhelming attention, except such inattention be deliberate or reckless abandonment?

Sudan was mired in a multilayered crisis of governance, development and security way before the war. However, the exacerbated situation since then has, sadly, been obscured by conflicts and humanitarian crises elsewhere—including the equally dire situations in Gaza and Ukraine, where the world has put most of its focus.

The ‘securocracy’ in Sudan has placed severe restrictions on the media environment with local journalists facing threats to their lives while their international colleagues are denied entry or have stopped covering the country. Besides, the shutdown of the telecommunications systems has created an information blackout with far-reaching ramification. Aid organisations report that a two-month internet blackout blamed on warring parties is preventing people from communicating and also making or receiving payments, severely impacting markets and food providers.

Actively silenced

Sudan’s crisis is not only being ignored; it is being actively silenced. Fundamentally, Sudan is suffering from a lack of political will to end the fighting. Finding a sustainable resolution of the conflict and addressing the dire humanitarian crisis should be a top priority of all parties in Sudan, the African Union (AU), the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD) and the international community.

The AU and IGAD, in particular, must find a sustainable political solution to end the war. This must be immediate and decisive before the magnitude of the crisis spreads further across the broader eastern, northern, and Horn of Africa regions and its long-term impact on the Sudanese people deepens beyond what national resources and development aid can address. The international community must turn their attention on Sudan by committing to support the gravely under-resourced emergency response and call for unimpeded humanitarian access for food distribution to be secured.

But there is hope even amid grave adversity, demonstrated in small but resilient acts of solidarity and support by Sudan-based civil society groups providing medical, food and water, sanitation and adequate hygiene (WASH) aid despite grave threats from belligerents.

The ‘Can Do’ and ‘Never Allow Tyranny’ have inspired Sudanese everywhere to make extreme sacrifices to serve the under-served of their compatriots. We must ensure that their heroic sacrifices are not in vain.

For us who care about justice, freedom, dignity, equal humanity and rights, we must refuse to normalise the abnormal. It cannot be that one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises continues to be one of its most hidden. Sudan cannot afford a second anniversary of civil war. And solidarity and positive action by all of us can make a difference!

Mr Kagoro is the managing director, Open Society Foundations.

Read the original article on Nation Africa