Sudan is undergoing a major transition following the 11 April ouster of Omar al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. The strongman’s toppling, prompted by a sustained, peaceful campaign by a diverse and well-organised protest movement, raised hopes that the country might make a transition to more inclusive, civilian-led rule. That transition has been halting and is fraught with risk, with the old military regime showing little appetite for real change. Sudan matters not least because it sits in one of the most geostrategic locations on the continent, straddling the Horn and North Africa, with a long Red Sea coastline, and serving as a historical bridge between North and sub-Saharan Africa. Through field research and advocacy with Sudanese and international actors in the region, we aim to reduce the likelihood of conflict inside Sudan and encourage a genuine transition to more inclusive governance by Khartoum and an attendant shift toward positively engaged regional and international relations.
In early 2020, Vice News correspondent Julia Steers was the first foreign journalist in five years to set foot in the Jebel Marra mountains, Darfur’s last rebel-held area. She tells of a region traumatised by war and explains why these rebels stayed out of an August peace deal.
Govt and some rebel groups struck landmark peace agreement; intercommunal violence in urban and rural areas continued. Following year-long negotiations in South Sudanese capital Juba, rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi 31 Aug signed peace agreement with govt. Agreement provides for redistribution of economic and political powers in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and integration of rebel fighters into military. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu withdrew from peace talks 20 Aug, and holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur refused to take part. Intercommunal clashes persisted in south, west and east. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 1-2 Aug attacked several villages in Kass locality and clashed with Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Boronga village, killing unknown number and displacing some 3,000. In Kassala state, clashes between Zaghawas and Halfawis 1 Aug left two dead in New Halfa area. In Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan, clashes between Nuba and Beni Amer tribes 9-12 Aug left at least 34 dead; authorities imposed curfew 9-17 Aug and govt 13 Aug deployed over 100 RSF paramilitary to stamp out violence, at least 85 arrested. On first anniversary of constitutional declaration establishing three-year transitional period, hundreds of thousands 17 Aug took to streets in capital Khartoum and other urban areas to protest delayed implementation of transitional agenda; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters and detained dozens. Sudan continued start-stop negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters). Sovereign Council Chair Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Chadian President Déby 20 Aug met in Chad to discuss reinforcement of security cooperation along mutual border. U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo 25 Aug visited Sudan, met with PM Hamdok and Sovereign Council chair to discuss normalisation of Sudan’s ties with Israel and support to Sudan’s transition, including removal of country from U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Govt and South Sudan 26 Aug vowed to settle dispute over Abyei region in south.
Mounting economic turbulence is rocking Sudan’s delicate political transition. Without urgent donor assistance to provide economic relief to a suffering population, public support for the cabinet’s reform agenda could collapse. Any failure in the civilian-military government could have tragic consequences for Sudan and the region.
Sudan’s post-Bashir transition holds the promise of civilian rule but also perils, among them renewed insurgency, economic stagnation and backsliding into autocracy. Outside powers should press the military to adhere to its power-sharing pact with the opposition. Authorities in Khartoum should pursue peace with rebels.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
Ethiopia is building a mighty dam on the Blue Nile, promising economic benefits for both itself and Sudan. But Egypt fears for its freshwater supply. The parties should agree on how fast to fill the dam’s reservoir and how to share river waters going forward.
Popular protests are rumbling across Sudan, shaking President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year grip on power. The authorities have cracked down hard and, as the demonstrations intensify, they may ratchet up the repression. External powers should urge restraint and offer Bashir a way to the exit.
By 12 October, Washington will decide whether the steps Sudan has taken qualify it for lifting some U.S. sanctions. But to push forward afterwards will require a new roadmap that ties further sanctions relief and improved bilateral relations to political reform and human rights.
Sudan has been pretty isolated for a long time. It is very keen to get off this [terror] list. This is the carrot.
The violence [in Sudan] has triggered a wave of sit-ins across the region, demanding authorities protect civilians from the militias, who are scrambling to secure their gains now that Bashir has gone.
The transitional government and the international community [in Sudan] must move quickly to avert an economic collapse and accompanying disintegration of the transitional dispensation.
The attack [in Sudan] may have the effect of increasing the solidarity between the civilian and military components of the transition.
Overt Israeli endorsement of a [sanctions] lift for Sudan will provide a key push to the U.S. government.
An underappreciated dynamic [in Sudan] is the split between the military, who traditionally have a Muslim Brotherhood background, and Islamists themselves.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and William Davison, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, discuss Ethiopia's plans to start filling the massive dam it is building, including the complex dynamics at play, negotiations, and the parties' varius concerns.
With rains swelling the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is just weeks away from beginning to fill the massive dam it is building. Egypt and Sudan demand that it not do so without an agreement. All three countries urgently need to make concessions for a deal.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and David Mozersky, co-founder of Energy Peace Partners and a former Crisis Group project director for the region, discuss the conflict in Darfur, UN climate goals and the international community’s carbon footprint.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell joins five Crisis Group analysts to analyse the pandemic's political and economic implications.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this episode, Alan Boswell is joined by Harry Verhoeven, a leading academic expert on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to discuss everything from the politicisation of the dam to environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity in the Nile Basin.