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February 22, 2024

Sudan suspends ties with IGAD as tensions escalate

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Jan 20, 2024

Sudan has announced it is suspending all cooperation with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional bloc amid rising tensions over IGAD’s involvement in mediating Sudan’s internal conflicts. This move comes as violence continues to escalate within Sudan and disputes between neighboring countries threaten to further destabilize the region.

Sudan accuses IGAD of violating sovereignty

On January 16th, Sudan’s foreign ministry announced it was suspending contacts with the IGAD mediation group facilitated by Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Sudan accused IGAD of interfering in its internal affairs and failing to understand the complexity of the situation:

“IGAD reloaded the same initiative previously presented by the trilateral mechanism of the African Union, United Nations and the IGAD itself six months ago without making progress in understanding the Sudanese crisis and its complexities” [1]

This move came just days before an extraordinary IGAD summit scheduled for January 20-21st in Djibouti. The summit aimed to address the ongoing conflicts in both Sudan and between Ethiopia and Somalia.

However, Sudan rejected the summit and suspended all cooperation with IGAD after the bloc invited General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the controversial Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, to attend. Sudan’s civilian groups have accused Dagalo and the military of escalating violence and hindering prospects for a political settlement since the 2021 coup. [2]

IGAD summit proceeds without Sudan

The IGAD summit went ahead as planned without Sudan’s participation. In a communique, IGAD said it “deeply regrets” Sudan’s decision and vowed to continue engaging with all Sudanese stakeholders. [3]

The bloc also gave Sudan’s rival political and military factions just two weeks to start face-to-face talks, warning “IGAD will take appropriate action” if they fail to meet. Specific details on potential actions were not provided. [4]

Country Leader
Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Sudan General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

Table 1: IGAD member state leaders

Meanwhile, the summit addressed rising tensions along the Ethiopia-Somalia border that have sparked fears of potential military confrontation. Leaders called for an immediate de-escalation and constructive dialogue between the two sides. [5]

Sudan conflict at risk of further escalation

Sudan remains plagued by political instability and violence since the October 2021 military coup. The coup derailed Sudan’s transition to democratic rule following the 2019 ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. [6]

Despite initial cooperation after the coup, talks between the military and main opposition coalitions have collapsed. Both sides blame the other for the failure of negotiations. [7]

In recent weeks, clashes between rival ethnic groups have killed over 250 people in southern Blue Nile state. Meanwhile, fighting continues in Darfur between government forces and holdout rebel groups who reject the 2020 peace deal with Sudan’s transitional government. [8]

There are now concerns Sudan’s withdrawal from IGAD mediation could eliminate one of the few remaining avenues for a negotiated solution. The civilian opposition coalition, Forces for Freedom and Change, urged the military on January 19th to “reconsider its position” and reengage with the AU-UN-IGAD trilateral mechanism. [9]

However, prospects appear dim as both sides seem intent on achieving outright military victory rather than compromise. Sudan’s security forces continue to conduct violent crackdowns on anti-coup protests and raids against activists. [10]

The Gulf States and Egypt are also accused of providing political and material support to shore up Sudan’s military rulers. [11] This external backing reduces incentives for the generals to give up power.

International concern over regional instability

Instability within Sudan combined with rising tensions along its borders have raised international alarm over threats to wider regional security. On January 18th, the EU, African Union, and United States issued a joint statement warning the “overall peace and stability of the Horn of Africa” was under threat from ongoing conflicts. [12]

The statement highlighted Sudan and the Ethiopia-Somalia dispute as primary concerns but also noted spillover effects exacerbating conflicts in South Sudan and eastern Congo. It called for all states to exercise restraint and engage in peaceful dialogue while refraining from “provocative military deployments.” [13]

US Horn of Africa envoy Mike Hammer recently visited the region for talks aimed at deescalating tensions between conflicting parties. However, Hammer admitted there are limits on external mediation if local leaders are unwilling to pursue political solutions. [14]

With Sudan now rejecting IGAD involvement, the path towards stabilizing the turbulent region remains unclear. The coming weeks will prove crucial in determining whether further conflict can be avoided.

Outlook remains uncertain

Sudan’s suspension of ties with IGAD over its attempted mediation role has added a new layer of uncertainty to the prospect of a peaceful resolution. The civilian opposition and international community continue urging the country’s military leaders to restart negotiations.

However, with both sides apparently committed to achieving outright victory and regional states fueling instability through material support to proxies, the risk of continued violence looms large.

IGAD has threatened unspecified action if progress is not made within two weeks. But the bloc’s limited leverage and internal divisions between member states like Ethiopia and Sudan cast doubt on its ability to effectively pressure the warring factions.

The situation across the wider Horn of Africa also remains fragile with a risk of conflicts along Sudan’s borders spiraling out of control. While world powers have raised the alarm, options for externally imposed de-escalation appear sparse.

With the key drivers of instability left unchecked, the coming weeks could see Sudan plunge deeper into turmoil alongside further deterioration of regional security. All sides must act urgently to pull back from the brink.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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