September 16, 2019

Situation in Sudan

Specialized: United Nations Security Council

Topic: Situation in Sudan

The situation in Sudan is the result of a military coup that overthrew the power sharing government that replaced the Omar al-Bashir regime in 2019. The coup replaced most of the civilian members of the Sovereign Council, and placed General Abdel-Fattah Burhan of the Sudanese military as Chairman and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as Deputy Chairman.  The Rapid Support Forces are a paramilitary group formed out of the Janjaweed, a coalition of militia groups used by the Bashir government to violently put down an armed rebellion in Darfur during the 2000s. The actions taken by the Sudanese military and Janjaweed in Darfur led the International Criminal Court to charge Omar al-Bashir with genocide. Dagalo felt deceived by Burhan as plans originally made to dissolve the RSF and integrate it under the regular Sudanese army over a decade were accelerated to two years or less. This paired with Dagalo claiming that Burhan sought to reinstate much of the old Bashir regime has led to the outbreak in fighting on April 15.

The fighting between the Sudanese army and RSF have spread from the capital of Khartoum to several other cities in the Kordofan and Darfur regions, forcing millions to flee from the fighting. Some three million people have been displaced inside of Sudan and another million have fled neighboring states, including South Sudan. Over four thousand civilians have been killed in the fighting so far. Fighting in South Kordofan is also threatening to spill over into the Jazira province, the heart of Sudan’s food production. Food stocks in Kordofan and Khartoum are already depleted and fighting has blocked many of the routes used by aid agencies. The United Nations has called for peace talks and ceasefires since April, however, ceasefires have not lasted and as long as both sides feel there is a chance of victory, there will be no peace talks. The International Criminal Court has begun investigations into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides.

The situation presents a threat to the stability of the region as refugees flee in search of safety and aid. In some cases, the situation in Sudan is the second conflict refugees have fled, as is the case for the 93,000 Syrian refugees who reside in Sudan. Some 240,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees have fled to South Sudan where refugee camps offer limited supplies. The United Nations Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan continues to attempt to bring the Sudanese military and the RSF to the negotiating table, having suspended most of its other functions after the outbreak of fighting in April. The mission has evacuated most of its staff from Sudan and those remaining in country have moved to Port Sudan to continue limited operations. Port Sudan, some 417 miles to the northeast of Khartoum has become a refuge for those fleeing the conflict in the capital. However, it is a long journey, those fortunate enough to have a car have over 500 miles of road to cross, possibly exposed to fighting, landmines, and unexploded ordinance. This route is equally dangerous for those that would distribute aid out of Port Sudan. Although Port Sudan is far from the fighting, it has not been untouched. The Sudanese Sovereign Council has prioritized fighting the RSF, leaving Port Sudan with rolling blackouts and doctors who have gone months without pay. Port Sudan with a population over 500,000 has seen over 100,000 refugees flood every aspect of the city and push it to its breaking point.

The United Nations Security Council, if it cannot resolve the conflict must at least reduce the impact of the crisis on the surrounding region. The conflict has not yet spread to the entire country, so there is time to contain it and secure routes for humanitarian aid. The council should consider how two warring political factions may be brought to the negotiating table without favoring one side or the other. The council must also consider how humanitarian aid may be distributed without putting aid workers at additional risk in fashion that will give an advantage to one of the two factions.

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