Sudan war escalates
According to the United Nations, a mass grave has been discovered outside El-Geneina in Sudan, containing the bodies of at least 87 individuals who were allegedly killed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The victims include members of the Masalit community and were found buried in a shallow grave. Ongoing intense clashes have been taking place since April between the RSF and Sudan’s armed forces. The RSF and their allied militias have denied any involvement in the recent fighting in West Darfur. The conflict between Sudan’s regular army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, led by al-Burhan’s former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, also known as “Hemedti,” has resulted in numerous casualties and the displacement of millions of people. On June 20, the UN reported that 37 bodies were buried in the West Darfur region, followed by an additional 50 bodies at the same location the following day. Women and children were among those laid to rest in the mass grave.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, expressed his deep shock at the disrespectful treatment of the deceased individuals, as well as their families and communities. He emphasized the need for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding their deaths and stressed that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had an obligation to handle the deceased with dignity. Türk’s remarks came after Human Rights Watch accused the RSF of killing 28 members of the Masalit community, injuring numerous civilians, and destroying the town of Misterei in May. The RSF, however, rejected these allegations. Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim, an adviser to the RSF leadership, referred to the clashes as part of a longstanding and recurring civil war between Arab groups and the Masalit community.
In a concerning development, the governor of West Darfur was assassinated last month shortly after accusing the RSF of perpetrating genocide against the Masalit people. The Masalit community, who previously lived under a sultanate in West Darfur, has faced marginalization by successive Sudanese governments, with claims of neglect in essential services such as education and healthcare despite being predominantly Muslim. There are fears that the attacks by the RSF and Arab militias on the Masalit community could lead to a repeat of the 2003 Darfur genocide, where the Janjaweed militias, who later transformed into the RSF, were responsible for the deaths of approximately 300,000 people. The UN has already received reports of targeted attacks by Arab militias on Masalit men and has acknowledged the escalation of the conflict along ethnic lines.
High-ranking officials from six neighboring countries of Sudan gathered in Cairo, Egypt, for a significant peace conference aimed at addressing the ongoing conflict that has plagued the northeastern African nation since mid-April. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi hosted the meeting, which saw the participation of leaders from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, and Libya.
During the gathering, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi expressed deep concern regarding the worsening humanitarian situation in Sudan. He strongly condemned the repeated attacks on civilians, healthcare facilities, and public service establishments. The leaders collectively urged international community leaders to intensify their efforts in providing essential humanitarian aid, addressing the severe shortage of food and medical supplies in Sudan, and mitigating the dire consequences of the crisis on innocent civilians.
This meeting follows the breakdown of talks held in Jeddah, involving the United States and Saudi Arabia. Despite multiple attempts to halt the fighting and uphold cease-fire agreements, both sides failed to reach a resolution. As a result, the recent Cairo meeting aimed to establish a ministerial mechanism, comprising foreign ministers from neighboring countries, to tackle the Sudanese crisis. The mechanism’s inaugural meeting will take place in Chad, focusing on implementing practical solutions, ceasing hostilities, and achieving a comprehensive resolution through direct engagement with various Sudanese parties. This effort will be coordinated with existing mechanisms such as IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) and the African Union. Notably, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudan’s military have previously agreed to multiple cease-fires, many of which were negotiated during the Jeddah talks.
Why Egypt needs peace
Sudan’s internal conflict has spilled over its borders, raising concerns for Egypt’s security, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and economy. Egypt aims to safeguard itself from the crisis and hopes for a resolution that doesn’t elevate General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti,” to a dominant position in Sudan’s political landscape.
Egypt seeks to keep the fighting as far away from its territory as possible to prevent exploitation by non-state actors that could pose a direct threat. The risk of terrorist infiltration along the border is a major concern for Egypt, as it has previously faced attacks and smuggling activities. Additionally, the potential spread of the crisis to neighboring African countries worries Egypt, particularly due to its security implications.
The timing of Sudan’s crisis is unfortunate for Egypt, as it grapples with economic challenges, including the possibility of a credit rating downgrade and trade disruptions, particularly in the agricultural sector. Egypt has pursued diplomatic approaches to resolve the crisis, supporting Sudan’s army and engaging with various Sudanese figures. However, Egypt’s influence in Sudan has somewhat diminished, as other actors view Cairo differently.
The outcome of the ongoing summit and Egypt’s role in facilitating a resolution remain uncertain.