Egypt is scheduled to host a summit meeting of countries neighbouring Sudan on 13 July, with the aim of mobilising efforts to resolve the crisis that has plunged the country into bloody conflict over the past three months.
The humanitarian, political, security, economic, and social situation in Sudan has now reached catastrophic levels, and the conflict threatens to escalate into an all-out civil war and poses a threat to neighbouring countries, the Arab region, and the African continent.
The situation in Sudan is complex, with various internal military, civil, tribal, and Islamic parties involved, as well as external parties, both regional and international, with their own interests and aspirations.
Egypt and other neighbouring countries of Sudan are concerned about the consequences of the conflict and are hoping that the summit meeting will contribute to other regional and international efforts to stop the bloodshed, pressure the conflicting parties to reach a permanent ceasefire, and work towards a solution through dialogue.
According to Ahmed Fahmy, spokesman for the Egyptian Presidency, the summit meeting will focus on ways to end the conflict and limit the grave effects of the crisis on neighbouring countries.
It will seek to ensure the security and stability of the region as a whole and aim to formulate a common vision for countries directly neighbouring Sudan and agree on effective mechanisms to settle the crisis peacefully.
This will be done in coordination with regional and international efforts, Fahmi said.
If the crisis in Sudan persists, its repercussions could threaten the stability of the Horn of Africa region, the Red Sea, North Africa, the Sahel region, Central Africa, the Nile River, and the African Great Lakes region, he said.
Egypt has been preparing for the summit for some time. It was originally scheduled to be held in May, but was postponed to allow for Saudi-American mediation efforts. Through this summit and in partnership with neighbouring countries in Africa and the Arab world, as well as international partners, Egypt seeks to bring an end to the conflict in Sudan.
The summit is the latest in a series of initiatives Egypt has launched since the outbreak of the conflict in Sudan. Egypt regards the conflict as one of its gravest challenges in the region due to its potentially dangerous repercussions on its national security and political, security, economic, and social fronts.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that some three million people have been displaced internally or across borders in Sudan since the beginning of the crisis, many of them joining the nearly five million Sudanese already in Egypt.
The conflict in Sudan also threatens common strategic interests and projects as well as the thorny issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa is proceeding with, including the fourth filling of its reservoir.
Egypt has taken a balanced position since the beginning of the conflict in Sudan. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has announced that Egypt is at an equal distance from both sides in the conflict and has called for an immediate ceasefire and the start of a political process to resolve the crisis.
This position has won the respect of many circles in Sudan and is in line with the international position, dispelling doubts about Cairo’s siding with one of the two parties to the conflict.
Egypt’s balanced position qualifies it to play an important role in supporting a political process that brings together the two conflicting parties and other civil parties and to coordinate and work with all serious regional and international efforts to save Sudan from this destructive conflict.
Egypt has longstanding relations and connections with the various groups and forces in Sudan, enabling it to contribute to bridging the trust gap and finding common ground for understanding to exit from the current crisis.
The summit meeting of Sudan’s neighbouring countries will discuss ways to reach a permanent ceasefire in Sudan and work to protect the Sudanese people from the devastating effects of the conflict. This includes addressing the conditions of the displaced and refugees who are suffering tragic conditions and urgently need aid and assistance from host countries.
The summit will also focus on the importance of a political process that will foster the building of a democratic civil society in Sudan and the building of a unified Sudanese army.
Egypt recognises the need for a Sudanese-led regional and international approach that serves the interests of Sudan and its people. It acknowledges that a significant number of countries in Sudan’s direct neighbourhood are affected by the crisis and cannot be excluded from initiatives aimed at resolving it.
These countries have a right to be part of the solution, not only because their presence is reflective of their importance, but also because they possess valuable knowledge about the situation in Sudan and its wider impact. Their participation in the solution can help secure many interests, including the preservation of Sudanese unity, which is currently under threat.
Meanwhile, battles continue in the Sudanese capital Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), both of which want to come out victorious. The battles have intensified in the three neighbouring cities of Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman, with aviation, artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, and other weapons being used.
The conflict has expanded to include eight other states in addition to Khartoum out of a total of 18. They include the states of West Darfur, North Darfur, South Darfur, Central Darfur, East Darfur, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. There are concerns that the conflict could extend to other areas and drag the country into all-out civil war.
Three months of conflict have caused deep rifts within Sudanese communities, resulting in the forging of alliances based on tribal and ethnic affiliations as well as geographical locations, as has been the case in the regions of Al-Geneina and Darfur.
Estimates say that some 2,800 Sudanese have lost their lives since the conflict began, but health authorities in Sudan have said the real numbers are much higher. The conflict has also resulted in the displacement of 2.8 million people, 800,000 of whom have fled to neighbouring countries.
The summit meeting of Sudan’s neighbouring countries is taking place at a time of intense movement, with various capitals in the region witnessing diplomatic efforts to address the crisis.
An Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit meeting has been held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, with the participation of mediators from the Jeddah Platform, representing Saudi mediation efforts, the US, and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan.
The heads of the Sudanese armed movements have also visited the Chadian capital N’Djamena at the invitation of President Idriss Deby, and a Sudanese delegation has visited Uganda and Ethiopia. Vice President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council Malik Agar has also visited Russia and Eritrea.
These diplomatic efforts reflect the desire of the Sudanese parties to find a solution to the crisis. However, each party wants a solution according to its agenda, presenting a real dilemma for the mediators. It is also essential that the various mediators address the aspirations of the Sudanese people for the rights and freedoms they have fought for.
It is to be hoped that the forthcoming summit will install peace in Sudan and resolve other pending issues between other African countries, such as problems in Libya and disagreements over water, food, and bilateral issues.