Fears of prolonged war as Sudan hostilities continue

As a three-day ceasefire is renewed experts warn that a prolonged conflict in Sudan could drag in regional neighbours.



Sporadic fighting continued in parts of Sudan on Thursday as a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia was extended for another three days.

Fighting began 12 days ago between the forces of Sudan’s army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), under General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. The window of opportunity is closing for the ceasefire to take hold and peace negotiations to begin, warns Ben Hunter, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

“We do not expect a negotiated solution to the conflict within the next three months. The regional and global diplomatic effort trying to achieve this has been lacklustre at best.”

Late on Wednesday, General al-Burhan agreed to back an extension of the three-day old ceasefire that was due to expire on Thursday, and said he would send an envoy to the South Sudan capital, Juba, for talks. But with no response from the RSF to the proposal, fears are growing that the truce will not take effect.

Risk of protracted struggle

A protracted war risks dragging in regional neighbours like Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad and South Sudan, who all have direct interests in Sudan.

“In the event of a prolonged conflict, we expect Chad to be pulled in on the side of the SAF,” Hunter says.

The RSF is likely to target oil infrastructure linking South Sudan with Khartoum and the export terminal at Port Sudan, where pipeline transit fees are controlled by the SAF.

“Hemedti’s forces will seek to cut this off in the event of an extended war. Damage to oil infrastructure would disrupt the oil exports of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian operators in South Sudan that are 100% dependent on accessing the global market via Sudan,” he says.

Indonesian Armed Forces assist nationals as they board an Indonesian Air Force Boeing 737 before being evacuated from Port Sudan to the Saudi city of Jeddah. (Photo by Handout / Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) / AFP)

Years of US sanctions on the country under its former ruler, Omar al-Bashir, have locked foreign investors out of Sudan’s economy, limiting the economic disruption of the latest unrest, Hunter says.

“It is likely that Hemedti and al-Burhan will face fresh sanctions in association with the war and this would further dissuade inward investment.”

Evacuation effort

Since fighting broke out on April 15, governments from all corners of the globe have organised road convoys, aircraft and ships to get thousands of their nationals out of Sudan, and citizens have fled overland to neighbouring countries.

On Monday, Kenya’s minister of foreign affairs, Alfred Mutua, said that the country intended to evacuate 400 citizens by land and air, while Uganda was intending to evacuate some 300 citizens.

On Wednesday Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced 2,679 Egyptians had been evacuated by air and land routes. On the same day, Nigeria announced that it would be evacuating around 5,500 citizens by bus to Egypt, from where they would be flown home.

At least 459 people have died and 4,072 have been injured so far, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

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