May 24, 2023

Tenuous Ceasefire in Sudan Offers Some Needed Relief After Weeks of Brutal Fighting Transcript

Tenuous Ceasefire in Sudan Offers Some Needed Relief After Weeks of Brutal Fighting Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsCease FireTenuous Ceasefire in Sudan Offers Some Needed Relief After Weeks of Brutal Fighting Transcript

After weeks of brutal fighting, a ceasefire brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia was signed by leaders of the two factions at war for control of Sudan. Read the transcript here.

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William (00:00):

After weeks of brutal fighting, a ceasefire is supposed to have started last night in Sudan. It was brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia and signed by leaders of the two Army factions who have been at war with each other for control of the third-largest country in Africa. The ongoing conflict has killed hundreds, injured more than 5,000, and sent nearly a million people fleeing to neighboring countries. Millions more have been trapped in their homes, unable to access basic services or healthcare.

To better understand what’s happening now, we turn to Kholood Khair. She’s a Sudanese policy and political analyst and founding director of the Confluence Advisory, which is a think tank based in Sudan. Kholood, thank you so much for being here. Could you just give us a status report? This is now the seventh ceasefire that has been agreed to. Is this current one holding as far as you can tell?

Kholood Khair (00:56):

Well, we’re getting some mixed reports. Overall, it seems like there is more calm than there has been during the other ceasefires. But we are hearing reports of intense fighting in some areas. So what it looks like is that the fighting has been scaled down, which is no mean feat and it’s something to be thankful for. But at the same time, we haven’t seen a total ceasefire.

The other six ceasefires that have preceded this one have not held because there was no “or else” as part of the agreement. It was, “Pretty please, would you stop fighting?” What we are seeing this time round is that the US who helped broker the ceasefire is saying that it is prepared to use, for example, sanctions to enforce a ceasefire. But as yet, we don’t have an idea of what that will look like.

William (01:42):

You were in Khartoum when the fighting first broke out, back in the spring, and you’ve since been able to get out. What has Sudan’s life been like in these weeks of this conflict?

Kholood Khair (01:53):

What this war has done in a matter of weeks is completely annihilate Sudanese political, social, and economic life. People haven’t been earning a wage for April or now for May likely too, and there’s not enough money to go around. Where there is, people can’t afford to buy what’s in the shops. Sudan is a net importer of goods and hasn’t been able to get goods into the city, including some agricultural products. And so we’re looking at the city, particularly Khartoum being on the brink of starvation.

William (02:27):

I mean, what you’re describing in certain parts of the country is an obvious humanitarian disaster. We know that, I believe it’s 25 million people need humanitarian aid. The UN has asked for several billion dollars, but yet we are also seeing reports of different factions attacking aid groups and hijacking their convoys, destroying their medical supplies. Given the need in the country, could you help us understand why these warring factions would be attacking the very people who are there to help?

Kholood Khair (02:59):

Well, they would like an advantage. And any advantage right now in terms of supply, particularly medical equipment, would be vital. And they would rather compile all of the aid coming in, particularly health aid and food aid, for their own troops. Now, we understood that this was going to be the case, that despite the dire humanitarian situation, both sides would politicize the aid.

William (03:21):

I understand that there have been accusations of war crimes on both sides here. Can you just tell us a little bit of the kinds of crimes that we have seen allegations of?

Kholood Khair (03:32):

Well, both sides have been committing crimes, but it looks different depending on which faction we’re talking about. So for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, they have been looting people’s homes. There have been allegations and evidence of sexual assault. There have been abductions, forced abductions. For the Sudan Armed Forces, which is the official army, there have been accusations, again evidenced, of aerial bombardments of for example, hospitals, schools, and other public buildings that are protected by international humanitarian law.

Now, the Sudan Armed forces says that they are bombing these buildings because they’ve been taken over by the paramilitary forces. And because of the way that this has effectively been a race to the bottom, we are likely to see the rate of atrocities go through the roof. Already, we are seeing in parts of Darfur, which you’ll remember, has been through 20 years of conflict, we’re already seeing atrocities ratcheting up there, particularly in the Western part of Darfur.

William (04:35):

On this issue of accountability, you touched on this before, but given that there is no seeming mechanism to hold either of these sides accountable for their crimes, for all of these things that you are describing, is there any sense that this conflict can truly be brought to an end anytime soon?

Kholood Khair (04:54):

The leverage lies elsewhere. The leverage lies with their partners in the region, their supporters in the region, Egypt for the Sudan Armed Forces and the United Arab Emirates for the Rapid Support Forces, respectively. Is the United States willing to, and other actors, are they willing to sacrifice some political cache and force some of their regional allies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others, for the sake of Sudan’s continued peace and stability? That is the core question. If the answer is yes, we may see some traction. Until then, I’m afraid this looks like it’s going to be a protracted conflict.

William (05:31):

All right. Kholood Khair of the Confluence Advisory, thank you so much for being here.

Kholood Khair (05:35):

Thank you, William.

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