Sudanese political factions meet in Cairo with little prospect of peace

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FILE PHOTO: Sudanese refugees collect water from a borehole at the Gorom Refugee camp hosting Sudanese refugees who fled recent fighting, near Juba, in South Sudan January 26, 2024. REUTERS/Samir Bol/File Photo

By Nafisa Eltahir Reuters

Rival Sudanese political factions formally attended reconciliation talks in Cairo on Saturday, the first since a conflict in the country began almost 15 months ago, but admitted there was little prospect of quickly ending the war.

During the conference the Democratic Bloc, which is aligned with the army, refused to hold joint sessions with Taqaddum faction, which it accuses of sympathising with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Neither the army nor the RSF attended.

The war in Sudan, which erupted in April 2023, has forced almost 10 million people from their homes, sparked warnings of famine and waves of ethnically-driven violence blamed largely on the RSF.

The force this week swept through the state of Sennar, causing new displacement. In response, army head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army would not negotiate with the RSF or its supporters.

“The stark deterioration in the humanitarian situation and the catastrophic consequences of this crisis, call on all of us to work to immediately and sustainably to stop military operations,” said newly-appointed Egyptian foreign minister Badr Abdelatty.

Talks in Jeddah between the army and RSF that were sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia broke down at the end of last year.

Taqaddum is a coalition of pro-democracy parties, armed groups, and civil society that has called for an end to the war. The army-aligned Democratic Bloc includes several armed group leaders participating in the fighting.

While Egypt was able to wield its influence to assemble the group, the main attendees were seated at opposite sides of the hall at the conference’s opening.Look at the numbers that have come over in the first six and a bit months of this year. They are record numbers.

The two political factions agreed only to form a small subcommittee to come up with a final communique calling for an end to the war, which three Democratic Bloc leaders with forces fighting alongside the army did not sign.

“We told them [the Egyptians] not to have high ambitions for this meeting,” Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim told Reuters. He along with Darfur governor Minni Minawi and Sovereign Council deputy Malik Agar did not sign the communique.

“Given the situation on the ground, if we sit and eat and drink and laugh with the people who are allied and partners in the crimes that are happening we would be sending the wrong message to our citizens and to our soldiers,” he said.

He added that an end to the war was not realistic without the withdrawal of the RSF from civilian areas, in line with an agreement signed in Jeddah last year, and the end of material support to the RSF by the United Arab Emirates. U.N. experts have said that accusations of such support are credible though the UAE has denied them.

Former Prime Minister and Taqaddum head Abdalla Hamdok rejected accusations that the coalition was linked to the RSF, saying he awaited the army’s agreement to meet.

“A crisis this complicated and deep is not expected to end in one meeting… The lesson is for us to be patient and to build on anything positive that comes out of it,” he told Reuters, echoing sentiments from diplomats at the meeting.

U.S. Special Envoy Tom Perriello said he hoped momentum from Saturday’s talks would carry on to another meeting called by the African Union next week, another of several overlapping initiatives.

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