Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al KetbiCourtesy

The conflicting parties in Sudan are facing significant doubts about their ability to reach a genuine agreement that resolves the ongoing crisis. The evidence suggests that the division between the adversaries, Burhan and Hemeti, runs so deep that it’s hard to imagine them cooperating for the country’s future.

Private talks aimed at achieving a ceasefire, which some view as a sign of agreement, actually indicate a substantial discord, in my view. Both adversaries are moving towards an open conflict, disregarding the potential costs in terms of losses and casualties, as each believes they can militarily defeat their opponent and emerge victorious.

Additionally, there are indications that this conflict involves settling old scores and seeking revenge, involving elements from the previous regime and other parties involved in the crisis.

The major catastrophe in Sudan stems from the confusion between the “civilian” and the “military.” The Sudanese army firmly believes that the Rapid Support Forces are hiding in residential neighborhoods, leading them to shell these areas based on sometimes misleading information to implicate the forces. As a result, the conflict transforms into a form of urban warfare with unpredictable paths and outcomes. (Where is the UN?)

The recent agreement signed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which commits to humanitarian rules of engagement, does not constitute a ceasefire, according to American statements.

The parties pledge to consistently protect civilians and ensure their safe passage out of conflict areas. They affirm the prohibition of using human shields and agree not to target public and private facilities, such as hospitals and water and electricity facilities, for military purposes.

The agreement also guarantees the delivery of humanitarian aid to those affected throughout the country and the non-interference with the work of humanitarian organizations. This, if implemented, is in itself a significant stride concerning the humanitarian aspect of the crisis.

However, the dilemma in this agreement, or the “Declaration of Commitment” as named by the US State Department in its statement, lies in the monitoring mechanisms for implementing the agreement and, more importantly, ensuring its enforcement and determining the responsibility of either party in case of any violation or breach.

It is challenging to pin down the responsibility of any party amidst the mutual accusations since the beginning of the crisis regarding human rights violations and humanitarian transgressions.

The positive aspect is that the agreement is a step forward in reaching a ceasefire agreement. The Saudi and American mediators could take into account the nature of the conflict and pursue a gradual approach that could eventually lead to a permanent cessation of fighting by building trust, currently lacking between the two parties.

Another aspect is that the agreement provides a glimmer of hope to avoid a potential famine amidst supply disruptions and the expected depletion of reserves. The UN World Food Programme warns of a hunger crisis that could impact approximately 19 million Sudanese.

The significance of the agreement is further magnified by being the remaining beacon of hope after the failure of all regional Arab and African initiatives aimed at containing the crisis.

Earlier mentioned, the Sudan conflict presents a dilemma intertwined with regional and international complications and deep-seated personal animosity between the two generals. General Burhan openly acknowledged this animosity, asserting that the crisis with the Rapid Support Forces rebels has a long history, with Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and his brother Abdelrahman seeking to forcefully dominate Sudan entirely. Both generals firmly believe in their military capabilities for decisive action, although it is unlikely to definitively and fundamentally resolve such an asymmetrical military conflict.

Based on current field evidence, predicting the trajectories of the Sudan crisis is challenging. Millions of people remain trapped in their homes, yearning for an end to the fighting. If the current situation persists, many of them will be compelled to either flee like their predecessors or directly or indirectly involve themselves in the conflict.

The situation could escalate into regional or factional conflicts, as past experiences demonstrate that civilians are coerced into taking up arms for self-defense or participating in battles, driven by political or ideological motives, or even by the pursuit of financial security.

The hope is that the Sudanese crisis diverges from the course of ongoing crises in Arab and African nations, and that political endeavors succeed in diffusing the conflict. Although prospects for successful mediation efforts are limited due to the absence or lack of trust among the parties involved, they remain viable as long as the circle of regional and international mediators and partners expands. This expansion is crucial for realistically addressing the roots, causes, and motives of the conflict, facilitating meaningful discussions and agreements that prevent the repetition of situations witnessed in other crises, such as Libya and Syria.

Involving all parties and not excluding others is crucial in preventing the crises from dragging on and undermining the effectiveness of any agreements reached. This holds true, especially when considering the historical and present-day circumstances surrounding the Sudanese crises, encompassing security, military, economic, political, and livelihood aspects.

Israel would do well to take heed and sprinkle more than a few grains of salt on the efforts to end the Sudan crisis.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst