How the US can lead the way on Sudan peace efforts

Dalia Al-Aqidi

The protracted nature of the ongoing conflict in Sudan portrays a grim outlook, with it so far lacking any conclusion or resolution. It is disheartening to witness how two rival generals have effectively converted the peaceful capital Khartoum into a dreadful battleground, driven solely by their personal vendettas.
The ongoing power struggle in Sudan involves two influential figures vying for control and authority. At the forefront, we have Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, a prominent military commander who has assumed the de facto leadership role in Sudan, for an extended period, through his commanding presence and actions. Opposing him is Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who holds leadership over the Rapid Support Forces, a formidable paramilitary group within the country. This intricate power dynamic experienced a significant turning point in October 2021, when Al-Burhan and Dagalo formed an alliance to orchestrate a military coup that resulted in their ascension to the positions of effective leader and deputy leader of Sudan, respectively. However, the harmony between these two leaders has deteriorated, leading to public clashes and disagreements.
These tensions have manifested themselves in overt and covert maneuvers, as both generals have been observed deploying additional troops and equipment to military camps in Khartoum and across the nation. This accumulation of forces is a worrisome escalation, reflecting their intensified rivalry and determination to consolidate their power and influence. Regrettably, the civilian populace of Sudan is bearing the brunt of this power struggle. Within the city of Khartoum, an unfortunate multitude of individuals have found themselves trapped within the confines of their own homes since the initial eruption of violence on April 15. Perpetrators stationed in various central neighborhoods have engaged in relentless exchanges of fire, utilizing rooftops and the narrow spaces between buildings to target the warplanes above. This prolonged siege has resulted in an intermittent electricity supply, essential provisions such as food and water becoming scarce and a surge in incidents of looting and robbery, further intensifying the hardships endured by residents.
According to the Ministry of Health, the distressing casualty figures stemming from the ongoing conflict indicate a civilian death toll in excess of 865, with an additional 5,000 individuals sustaining injuries. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that these reported numbers likely represent a conservative estimate, with the actual magnitude of human suffering and loss probably surpassing the official figures. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has severe apprehensions regarding the ongoing conflict in Sudan and its dire consequences for civilians. According to spokesman Jeremy Laurence, the office highlighted a particularly distressing incident that occurred last week involving an attack on a bustling livestock market in Khartoum. This assault tragically resulted in the loss of eight civilian lives, including three members of the same family. The Sudanese Armed Forces was responsible for the airstrike on the Al-Muwaliyyah market. Additionally, Laurence mentioned another incident that took place on the same day, when a child was reportedly killed after a shell struck their family residence in southern Khartoum. These incidents exemplify the grave toll being exacted on innocent lives amid the conflict.
In the quest to end the conflict and restore peace, there are several measures that the US could consider implementing. Firstly, it could leverage its diplomatic influence by engaging in high-level negotiations with the conflicting parties in Sudan. By actively mediating and facilitating dialogue, America can encourage the rival factions to seek common ground, while emphasizing the importance of human rights, stability and reconciliation in their discussions. Moreover, Biden’s administration can exert diplomatic pressure on Sudan by collaborating with international partners and organizations, such as the UN and regional bodies like the African Union. By coordinating efforts and leveraging collective influence, a united front can be presented to Sudanese authorities, reinforcing the imperative of a rights-based approach and encouraging them to actively pursue a peaceful resolution.
In addition to such diplomatic endeavors, Washington can offer support for humanitarian efforts within Sudan. By providing robust assistance, including financial aid, resources and expertise, the US can contribute to alleviating the dire humanitarian conditions the Sudanese population faces. This could involve facilitating access to food, clean water, healthcare and shelter, thereby addressing the immediate needs of the affected civilians. Furthermore, the leader of the free world could prioritize efforts to strengthen governance structures, the rule of law and institutions in Sudan. The US could help establish a foundation for sustainable peace and stability by promoting transparency, accountability and inclusive governance. This may involve supporting capacity-building programs, fostering civil society engagement and promoting initiatives that uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
By aligning its actions with its stated commitment to human rights, the Biden administration could demonstrate its dedication to upholding its fundamental values and principles, while working toward a positive resolution in Sudan. However, the Biden administration’s handling of the issue has been deemed inadequate. One notable example was the exclusion of Sudan from the summit with African leaders in Washington last December, which was partly influenced by the country’s military coup. Additionally, during President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2022, Sudan did not feature prominently in policy discussions. Arguably, the US could have pursued a more assertive stance against the rival generals in Sudan, although the feasibility of such a course of action is debatable.
Sudan’s state of affairs has undergone such profound and transformative changes in recent months that a mere restoration of the previous status quo is no longer feasible or viable. Recognizing the urgency and magnitude of the challenges at hand, a concerted and collaborative effort is required to bring about meaningful change and restore stability in Sudan.