Progress towards peace as Sudan warring sides agree to talk

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Sudan, torn apart by internal strife between its military leaders, has taken a step towards resolution as the warring generals have agreed to a face-to-face meeting for the first time. The announcement followed a meeting held Sunday in Djibouti by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an African regional bloc, part of ongoing efforts to establish a cease-fire and initiate political talks to bring an end to the devastating war in the country.

The turmoil in Sudan escalated after tensions between military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo erupted into open fighting in mid-April in Khartoum and other parts of the country. The conflict has its roots in the aftermath of a popular uprising in 2019 that led to the removal of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. The subsequent transition to democracy was short-lived, disrupted when the two generals joined forces for a military coup in October 2021. War ensued after their falling out 18 months later.

In a recent meeting of the IGAD, a consortium of East African countries, both Sudanese generals committed to “an unconditional cease-fire and resolution of the conflict through political dialogue.” The leaders also agreed to a “one-on-one meeting,” according to a statement from the bloc on Sunday. The details, including the time and place of the meeting between the generals, were not disclosed.

IGAD country heads at summit in Djibouti. December 9, 2023.

The toll of the conflict has been severe, with up tens of thousands of lives lost by October 2023, according to the United Nations. Activists and doctors’ groups claim that the actual number is much higher. While General Burhan attended the meeting in Djibouti, his arch nemesis General Dagalo’s whereabouts remained unknown. It was said he participated via phone.

According to AP News, Alexis Mohamed, an adviser to Djibouti’s president, stated on social media that the Sudanese generals had accepted the principle of meeting within 15 days to pave the way for confidence-building measures, ultimately leading to political talks to end the conflict.

The U.S. government, represented by Special Envoy Mike Hammer, welcomed the generals’ commitment to a cease-fire and a face-to-face meeting. The State Department called on them to “abide by these commitments and enter talks without delay.”

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which includes, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Uganda is actively involved in mediation efforts to end the conflict, alongside Saudi Arabia and the United States, which facilitated rounds of indirect talks between the warring parties in early November.

As the war unfolded, it initially centered in Khartoum but quickly spread to other areas, including the western region of Darfur. Over 6 million people were displaced, with 1.2 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries, according to U.N. figures. In Darfur, the conflict has evolved into ethnic violence, with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Dagalo and allied Arab militias targeting supporters of the Sudanese Armed Forces led by General Burhan. Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department accused the RSF and the Sudanese military of being responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity, or both, in Darfur. The international community seeks to end the war soon before it becomes a wider configuration that threatens the very survival of the Sudanese state.

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