n a rare move of tentative diplomacy amidst Sudan’s ongoing turmoil, the country’s army chief has hinted at a willingness for dialogue with the rebel commander, thus creating ripples of hope in a conflict that has witnessed brutal ramifications for civilians.
A Nation Torn Asunder
Sudan has been embroiled in a devastating internal conflict since April, a tragedy which, according to the United Nations, has led to the unfortunate demise of over 5,000 individuals. The strife has also uprooted over five million from their homes, painting a bleak picture of a nation grappling with deep internal schisms.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who spearheads the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the rebel leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), have been at the epicentre of this confrontation. The seismic rift between the two factions reverberated globally when Gen. Burhan expressed, during a BBC interview, his conditional readiness for talks, marking a potential departure from the longstanding deadlock.
Seeking Legitimacy on the World Stage
Gen. Burhan’s address to the UN General Assembly in New York revealed this revelation. Having assumed power through a coup in 2021, the General is on a quest for international validation. His tour aims at procuring support and establishing legitimacy despite criticisms stemming from his unwillingness to transition power to civilian oversight.
In the interview, Gen. Burhan rejected claims, upheld by the UN and various charities, that his troops were indiscriminately bombarding civilian regions. Asserting confidence in imminent victory, he also acknowledged the move of his operational base to Port Sudan due to the escalating skirmishes in Khartoum.
Conditions for Dialogue
The caveat for dialogue, as elucidated by Gen. Burhan, rests on Gen. Dagalo’s adherence to earlier commitments. Earlier this year, both parties had previously vowed to safeguard civilians during discussions in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Gen. Burhan emphasised the precondition, “We are ready to engage in negotiations.” The sentiment was reciprocated when Gen. Dagalo, commonly called ‘Hemedti’, voiced his openness for political dialogue via a video message. Notably, while both leaders have previously mooted the idea of ceasefires, a tangible reduction in hostilities still needs to be discovered.
A Nation’s Hope Amidst Despair
Gen. Burhan fervently negated the grim prognosis of Sudan’s becoming a failed state akin to Somalia or fragmenting like Libya. He reiterated his faith in Sudan’s unity, vouching for the nation’s collective will to quash the rebellion through peaceful negotiations or combative means.
However, the UN has cast aspersions on the likelihood of either faction achieving a conclusive military triumph.
The Toll on Civilians
Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, has borne the brunt of this war, with multiple reports suggesting that innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire, primarily through indiscriminate aerial bombings by SAF. Gen. Burhan vehemently denies these allegations, pointing the finger at rebel forces for orchestrating such narratives.
However, the former UN special representative to Sudan, Volker Perthes, highlighted to the Security Council that these bombardments are primarily executed by entities possessing an air force, thus indirectly implicating SAF.
As Sudan navigates this tumultuous chapter, the potential for dialogue offers a glimmer of hope. While the path to peace is fraught with challenges, the mere suggestion of talks underscores the need for a resolution that prioritises the welfare and aspirations of the Sudanese populace.