Africa

Conflicts within Sudan Part 3

Despite the peace agreement, the violence continued on several fronts, now mostly in the form of local conflicts over arable and pasture land, water sources and minerals. The more political dimension was less and less heard about, but the conditions for the civilian population were just as difficult. Many were killed in new clashes and people continued to be driven from their homes.

How many have been affected by the conflict is difficult to assess. The violence claimed the most deaths in the early years. The total number of dead is estimated at at least 300,000, of which 80 percent are believed to have succumbed to diseases in the wake of the war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that about 2.5 million Darfurians are homeless in the country and that hundreds of thousands more are living in refugee camps in Chad.

New roadmap for Darfur

In mid-2018, rebel groups from Darfur were strengthening their presence on Libyan soil, according to a report submitted to the UN Security Council. Some had joined forces with warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, but UN experts believed they intended to resume warfare in Sudan as soon as they saw fit. The Sudanese government said it only maintained security patrols in Darfur, no major military action, but the UN panel claimed that weapons were flowing into Darfur, which violated the UN arms embargo (see Foreign Policy and Defense ).

In December 2019, Sudan’s new transitional government (see  Current Politics ) and the rebel alliance Sudan’s Revolutionary Front (SRF) entered into an agreement on a roadmap for peace in Darfur. According to the agreement, the deepest causes of the conflict would be analyzed, refugees would be helped to return home, a system of division of power in the region would be developed and rebel forces would be integrated with the government army. The transitional government was also ordered to deal with land issues, such as how property destroyed during the conflict should be replaced.

Out in the Darfur region, however, violence flared up again in January 2020, forcing around 57,000 people to flee, according to the UN agency UNHCR. Of these, 11,000 crossed the border into Chad while the rest were internally displaced. In Chad, refugees settled in villages along the border. Most were short of food and water. The battles were fought this time between agricultural masalites and Arab nomads belonging to rizeigat. The two groups have repeatedly fought over land and water resources since the outbreak of the Darfur conflict in 2003.

In August 2020, a formal peace agreement was signed between the Transitional Government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). The agreement touched on everything from security issues and land rights to power sharing and refugee issues. The rebels will be integrated into the regular army by November 2023. A faction of the rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement stood outside the agreement. SPLM-Nord was divided by the peace agreement when a breakaway group refused to agree to the deal, on the grounds that the sovereign council’s second highest leader, General Hamdan Dagalo, had committed serious human rights violations in Darfur. Dagalo leads the paramilitary militia RSF. (The sovereign council is part of the transitional government, see Political system ).

Conflicts in the east

On the other side of Sudan, according to agooddir, among the mountains to the east along the Red Sea coast and the border with Eritrea, lies an area that is at least as neglected as Darfur but with a slightly less complicated history. The three states of the Red Sea, Kassala and Gedarif are dominated by the African ethnic group Beja and Arab Rashaida.

In 1957, the Beja Congress (BC) was formed to work with peaceful, political means to promote the development of the region. The Red Sea region had the lowest level of education and the worst access to health care in Sudan, as well as fewer representatives in the country’s governing bodies and in the military leadership.

Periodically, BC was banned and in 1993 the party joined the broad opposition movement National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which was formed in Eritrea. BC now turned to armed resistance against the Islamist-backed Sudanese military regime and focused on sabotaging roads and oil pipelines. BC was supported by the Eritrean government and the South Sudanese SPLA. The Eritrean government supported the Sudanese opposition in response to Sudan’s suspicion of supporting Islamists in Eritrea.

In the early 2000s, BC managed to take control of a number of cities and smaller areas and quite successfully recruited followers among students and other young people. However, BC considered itself violated within the NDA and refused to participate in peace negotiations with the regime. When the SPLA left the NDA after concluding a peace with the Sudanese government, BC in 2005 merged with the Rashaida Free Lions, an armed group formed in the Red Sea region in 1999, to form The Eastern Front. The rebel movement JEM from Darfur also joined in to create a position as a national resistance movement and increase pressure on the regime.

Conflicts within Sudan 3