A Feast For Warlords, A Famine For The People: Sudan’s Descent Into Darkness

Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz report that the fragile truce in the Sudanese city of al-Fashir has collapsed, raising fears of a renewed outbreak of ethnic violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis. Al-Fashir, a major population centre in Northern Darfur, had been a rare haven of relative stability throughout the year-long conflict between Sudan’s military (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). However, the recent escalation began after the RSF captured the town of Melit this month, effectively cutting off vital supply lines to al-Fashir. This move by the RSF, a group accused of ethnic massacres in Darfur, has sparked fears of a full-scale assault on the city. Residents report that the SAF has reinforced its presence in al-Fashir in preparation for a potential attack, which increases the risk of urban warfare. With tensions running high and one million people that could potentially starve and die by June, the breakdown of the truce threatens to plunge Darfur back into the abyss.

Luigi Toninelli and Luca Saviolo confirm that the year-long conflict in Sudan shows no signs of abating. While sporadic ceasefires have not held, the humanitarian crisis deepens with over 8.5 million people displaced so far. Experts see the situation as a proxy war fuelled by regional rivalries: the UAE backs the paramilitary RSF, while Saudi Arabia supports the military. This interference will only hinder peace efforts. The RSF’s control of gold mines and its alleged illicit trade with the UAE further inflames the war. The US and EU advocate for peace talks, but their influence is limited by complex regional dynamics. There is a glimmer of hope, as the US and other nations call for a more inclusive peace process. However, the illicit gold trade and regional powers’ conflicting interests are likely to impede lasting peace.

Sudan’s descent into war is not only a tragedy for its people; it clearly has the potential to destabilise a fragile part of the world. The involvement of external actors like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who are fuelling the conflict through proxy forces, risks igniting a much wider conflagration. Food production has been crippled, pushing the country to the brink of famine with millions on the verge of starvation. The international community cannot afford to be passive onlookers. Pressure needs to be exerted on all sides to stop the fighting, and every party must engage in genuine peace talks that address the root causes of the conflict. Sudan’s war could become a breeding ground for extremism, terrorism, and instability if allowed to fester, with devastating consequences for the region and the wider world.

Sudan, once considered a beacon of hope following the 2019 revolution that ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir, has been embroiled in a civil war for a year. Colby Pacheco and Quscondy Abdulshafi argue that what began as a power struggle between two military factions — the SAF led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF under the command of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemedti) — has spiralled into a complex web of competing militias and rebel groups. However, Amr Hamzawy points out that this crisis began long before the power struggle of 2023. Sudan has a long history of instability, including decades of civil war in the south that only ended in 2011 with the independence of South Sudan, and the conflict in Darfur, which began in 2003 and ended in 2020.

Sudan is falling deeper into a quagmire. Millions of innocents are trapped in war zones, their pleas for peace drowned out by a cacophony of gunfire. The spectre of famine looms large as warlords reap immense profits. Foreign actors in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are hedging their bets on a protracted proxy war– machinations that threaten to ignite a conflict that could engulf the entire region. The world cannot afford to be a bystander in this unfolding tragedy. The time for empty platitudes is over. The world must stand united, demanding an immediate ceasefire, unrestricted humanitarian access, and genuine peace talks. Only then can Sudan stagger its way back from the precipice and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from spiralling into an endless nightmare.