Speakers at AJCS seminar on Sudan: Sudanese-Sudanese dialogue is the key to the solution.

From left to right: Muzammil Abu al-Qassim, Hamza Baloul, Hassan Haj Ali, and Asmaa Ali (as moderator). [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and Al Jazeera Mubasher organised a seminar entitled, “The Course of the Sudanese Crisis,” on Wednesday, 14 February 2024, in Doha, Qatar. The seminar featured Hassan Haj Ali, Professor of Political Science at the University of Khartoum and Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Conflict Studies and Humanitarian Action in Qatar; Hamza Baloul, a leader in the Forces of Freedom and Change, former Minister of Information and journalist; and Sudanese writer Muzammil Abu al-Qassim.

The speakers addressed the Sudanese crisis through three axes. In the first and second axes, they attempted to describe the crisis and explore its internal and external causes, while dedicating the third axis to presenting their perspectives on what they see as means of leading Sudan out of the current impasse.

Additionally, the speakers at the seminar argued that the current crisis, in the form of brutal warfare between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army, has deeper, broader roots. They asserted that it did not begin on 15 April 2023 but rather traces back to decades of marginalisation of certain regions and remote areas; military coups; wealth and power disparities; ethnic, tribal, racial and regional conflicts; the mismanagement of the transitional period; each political actor's desire to monopolise power; political, intellectual and ideological polarisation; and the weakening of state institutions and the widespread financial and administrative corruption within them. Additionally, they mentioned the intervention of regional and international powers that found opportunities to pursue their conflicting agendas. The speakers pointed out that all these factors combined have led to the current state of Sudan, the destructive conflict and intense fighting between the Rapid Support Forces – which operate in cities and receive external military, financial, media and political support – and the national army.

The speakers also touched upon the diplomatic efforts and mediation endeavours of external parties through various platforms, such as the Jeddah talks, the Manama talks and others, to reach a settlement for the crisis and agree on a political solution to end the conflict, restore security and create conditions for the return of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants, estimated by the United Nations to be 10.7 million, making it the largest displacement crisis in the world at present. The speakers concluded these efforts have failed due to the fact that they do not address the root causes of the issue, and because some regional powers do not want the crisis to end. These regional powers are reluctant to see the Sudanese army, which represents the state, gain supremacy over the Rapid Support Forces and quell the “sedition” stemming from the “coup” staged on 15 April 2023. This reluctance stems from their vested interests in Sudan, seeking to exploit its wealth, resources and strategic location. They believe that achieving these interests would be more feasible through the Rapid Support Forces than the Sudanese army. In this context, they pointed to the Egyptian role, which has receded - despite the strategic importance of Sudan to it - in favour of the Emirati role, which has grown through the United Arab Emirates’ various forms of support to the Rapid Support Forces across several countries like Libya, Central Africa and Chad.

Accordingly, the speakers warned that the Sudanese crisis would worsen without an expedited resolution. This is not only due to the deterioration of humanitarian conditions but also because of the possibility of Sudan becoming a breeding ground for terrorism and organised crime groups, which would have a significant detrimental impact on the African Horn, the Red Sea and neighbouring countries.

On their vision for the solution, the speakers emphasised the need for Sudanese national forces and political actors to prioritise Sudan's interests as a nation, state and people. They urged these parties to prioritise national interests over their narrow and self-serving agendas. In this regard, they highlighted the importance of the Sudanese coming together in a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue to address the issues that have led Sudan to its current dire state and find thorough solutions. Through this dialogue, the speakers emphasised, the need to eradicate the phenomenon of armed groups, which amount to eight groups, each armed and fighting to achieve its demands, could be met. They also stated that everyone is required to make concessions for the sake of the nation's interests, and engage in calm and rational dialogue free from polarisation and tension. This approach would block regional and international interventions and restore Sudan’s security and stability as well as coexistence among all its components, thus embarking on its long-awaited journey of development and progress.