The African Union is doing everything possible to prevent an impending civil war and further escalations in neighboring countries and thus the entire Horn of Africa region – the crisis meetings of regional organizations are continuing.
crisis meetings in the region
With the help of international actors, including the United States, both parties to the conflict agreed on a 72-hour ceasefire on Monday evening – a narrow time window for evacuations from the war zone and the capital Khartoum and for the establishment of humanitarian corridors. Meanwhile, the peace efforts of the neighboring countries, including the important neighbor Ethiopia, are in full swing.
The Confederation of States on the Horn of Africa (IGAD) had already scheduled an extraordinary summit meeting of the heads of state and government a few days ago. On Tuesday, IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu, an Ethiopian, received Ambassador of Sudan Rahma Saleh at IGAD’s Djibouti headquarters and tweeted: “We discussed the situation and plight of the people of Sudan and reiterated the IGAD Summit’s call for a an immediate ceasefire, a permanent truce and dialogue.”
Ethiopia uses regional channels
At this point, Ethiopia has largely undertaken its mediation efforts through regional fora such as the regional economic communities and the African Union, said Maram Mahdi, a researcher at the Addis Ababa Institute for Security Studies (ISS). This included in particular the efforts within the framework of the IGAD.
The rotating presidency is actually held by Sudan. But this is eliminated as a direct conflict party for mediation. Now, in Sudan’s absence, IGAD has held a series of extraordinary meetings to work out a mediation plan that takes into account neighboring and regional actors who can influence both the Sudanese military and the opposing RSF militia, Mahdi told DW .
Ethiopia’s neutrality is in question
“Ethiopia has long-standing ties with both the military and the RSF. Due to proximity, history and other factors, Ethiopia is in a strategic position to advance the interests of the two camps,” Mahdi said.
However, according to the expert, contrary perceptions play an important role. “Issues of neutrality are emerging and some of the Sudanese actors may oppose Ethiopia’s forthcoming attempt at mediation.” It is therefore all the more important that Ethiopia’s attempts to bring about a peace process are anchored in IGAD and the AU.
Ethiopia celebrates peace deal with Tigray: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government seeks dialogue in Sudan
According to Mahdi, it remains to be seen whether Ethiopia will also start bilateral negotiations with the conflicting parties. On the other hand, the country will have to increase its commitment at the regional level in the future, she estimates: “In my opinion, Ethiopia must take the lead, especially within IGAD, to determine whether the current approach to de-escalating the situation was effective and whether it is working that way .”
According to Mahdi, the success of the Ethiopian attempts to mediate peace in Sudan depends on whether Ethiopia can convince the two conflicting parties to accept the country as a neutral mediator – or even persuade one of the fighting parties to sign a ceasefire.
Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia
But relations between the two Horn of Africa countries have been fraught with tension in recent years, including over a border dispute and conflict over refugees displaced in the aftermath of war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and neighboring Amhara region fled Sudan. In November 2022, the civil war was officially ended after two years.
The “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” has been producing electricity since February – despite poor agreements with neighboring countries
In the past, the mega dam on the Blue Nile “GERD” built in Ethiopia has repeatedly led to disputes with neighboring Sudan. The neighboring countries of Sudan and Egypt, for whom the Nile is an important lifeline, fear a lack of water if the dam dams up the water to generate electricity. The first turbine went into operation in February.
Securing a gun silence in Sudan is considered extremely difficult. After decades of dictatorship by Omar al-Bashir, a first attempt to transition to a civilian government failed in October 2021 with a coup led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan. Since then, Burhan has been in rivalry with General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s (aka Hametti) paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). His militia should be incorporated into the army, a democratic process to follow. But the prospects are bleak.
Conflicting expectations in Sudan
According to Mukerrem Miftah, a professor at the Ethiopian Civil Service College, Sudan has been in a political and economic downward spiral for some time. “Politics in Sudan has deteriorated to the worst possible level,” Miftah told DW. “One of the main reasons for this is the different views that many political actors have.”
According to Miftah, the very contradictory expectations of Sudan result from the large number of actors. There is the big political party (Umma Party), as well as Marxists, Islamists, liberals, and elites created by the University of Khartoum, and various civil organizations also play a role, says Miftah. These differences contributed to the current conflict.
“If two forces in a country are involved in a civil war, they will not engage in discussion or negotiation unless there is some pressure on them to talk to each other,” Mifthah said. In order to start a conversation and find a lasting solution, it is helpful if one of the two forces emerges as the dominant force, he says. According to the United Nations, around 170,000 people in the region are already fleeing.
Collaboration: Negash Mohammed