Addis Ababa — A summit of four heads of state from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) Quartet, which includes Kenya, Djibouti, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, to discuss the Sudanese crisis began in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia yesterday, amid a boycott by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) army delegation.
The Sudanese Foreign Ministry insisted on refusing Kenya’s chairmanship of the IGAD sessions, citing “the Kenyan president’s lack of neutrality in the crisis”.
At the opening of the summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on both sides in the conflict in Sudan to stop fighting.
Kenyan President William Ruto said: “I call for an immediate cessation of fighting in Sudan without preconditions to end the suffering of civilians.”
This is the first meeting of the IGAD Quartet at the level of heads of state. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee is also participating.
In a communiqué following the opening session, the IGAD Quartet expressed “deep concern regarding the impact of the ongoing war in the Republic of Sudan which has so far killed thousands of people, and displaced almost three million people including 2.2 million IDPs and nearly 615,000 refugees that have crossed the border into neighbouring countries; and appreciates the neighbouring states of Sudan that have opened their borders to provide protection to our Sudanese brothers and sisters.”
The statement calls for discussing the deployment of the Standby Force for the Protection of Civilians (ISAF) and ensuring the arrival of humanitarian aid.
The IGAD statement says that the Quartet “is further concerned by the escalation of the conflict, repeated violations of the various ceasefire agreements and the spread of violence outside of Khartoum to the other parts of Sudan particularly in Darfur as well as Kordofan where it is assuming ethnic and religious dimensions thereby threatening to deepen the polarization in the country; and regrets that this escalation driven by external interference that is prolonging and exacerbating the conflict.”
Human rights abuses
The Quartet is appalled by the reports of widespread serious human rights abuses including sexual violence targeting girls and women, condemns the ongoing violations and in this regard, commits to work closely with the international community to put in place a robust monitoring and accountability mechanism that will be instrumental in bringing perpetrators to justice, the statement underlines.
The IGAD statement also expresses “the regrettable absence of the delegation of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in spite of the invitation and confirmation of attendance”.
According to Adil Khalafallah, Spokesperson for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Sudan, “we must bear in mind that the continuation of the war, despite all efforts to stop it, means that there is a major factor absent, which concerns the question to what extent the warring parties can be convinced that fighting does not solve political issues or a struggle over power.
“It depends whether the IGAD members have the ability and mechanisms to lead the two parties to this firm conviction, which is reinforced by more than three months of military indecisiveness,” he said in a statement on social media.
“The IGAD platform however, faces some complications set by the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Sudan Armed Forces in the path to a solution, as they reject Kenya’s presidency of the IGAD Quartet, saying that Kenya is not neutral because of the political and financial relation of RSF Commander ‘Hemedti’ with the Kenyan president,” he explained, and pointed as well to “negative attitude of the army regarding the head of UNITAMS”.
With regard to the position of the foreign ministry, which called on the African Union to mediate, Khalafallah wonders how the ministry can ask this from an institution that froze Sudan’s membership of the Union after the coup d’état staged by the army and the RSF in October 2021. “It weakens Sudan’s position when it cooperates with a party that suspended its membership.”
In late April, IGAD launched an initiative to mediate between the two parties to the conflict and had planned to send a high-level peace mission to Khartoum, including the presidents of South Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti, to urge the two sides to agree on a ceasefire.
Several other countries have proposed mediation initiatives in the hope to get the warring parties to sit around a table and engage in dialogue. Local mediation efforts and negotiation initiatives to contain the crisis between the SAF and RSF essentially came to a halt as the warring parties refused to communicate.