Can Egypt Succeed In Sudan Where Others Have Failed? – OpEd


By Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy

In efforts to address the Sudanese crisis, there is a consensus that the only viable solution lies in an immediate ceasefire, a return to the negotiating table and the initiation of a political process.

This call for action resonates among Sudanese citizens, the African Union, which previously has intervened to mediate negotiations, and Egypt, the key neighboring country most affected by the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan.

This conflict not only exacerbates the refugee crisis but also raises concerns about the cross-border security threats posed by armed groups, arms smugglers and human traffickers, along with the implications for the security of the Nile River waters.

As the focus of conflicting powers is increasingly diverted to the internal turmoil in Sudan, particularly recent movements of forces from Darfur toward Khartoum, there is an increased risk that border security with Egypt will be neglected.

Despite Egypt’s strict control measures along its 1,276-kilometer border with Sudan, palpable concerns remain about the potential exploitation of security vacuums by armed groups seeking to infiltrate Egyptian territory.

Given these pressing concerns, Cairo has been compelled to intensify its efforts to quell the conflict in Sudan, as evidenced by the recent flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding the crisis, including the visit of Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former prime minister, to Cairo on March 8.

Hamdok’s delegation from the Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces, or Taqaddum, attracted a significant level of attention during its visit, reflecting a shared interest in addressing the post-transitional period of the Sudanese crisis. The Addis Ababa Declaration, signed by Taqaddum and the Rapid Support Forces in early January, notably outlined provisions designed to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The Sudanese delegation’s visit to Egypt provided an opportunity for both parties to engage in dialogue and exchange perspectives. For Cairo, it presented a chance to incorporate Taqaddum’s insights into the formulation of a new initiative. For Taqaddum, it served as an opportunity to clarify its road map for navigating the crisis and assure Egypt of its commitment to fostering positive bilateral relations.

During a press conference in Cairo, Hamdok emphasized the alignment of Taqaddum’s vision with that of Egyptian authorities, along with the necessity of a political dialogue process and the establishment of a unified army to preserve Sudan’s stability and territorial integrity.

Furthermore, he hinted at the possibility of Cairo hosting a meeting between Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, the leaders of the rival Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces respectively, to explore avenues for ending the conflict between them.

Some Egyptian politicians interpret Cairo’s reception of Hamdok as a potential signal of openness to engaging with the Rapid Support Forces. They assert that Egypt remains receptive to dialogue with all of those involved in the crisis, while remaining committed to upholding the legitimacy of recognized military institutions and preventing the imposition of militia control.

As Egypt navigates its role in addressing the crisis, diplomatic engagement and strategic initiatives offer hope for progress toward a peaceful resolution. By leveraging its regional influence and fostering dialogue among stakeholders, Egypt aims to contribute to stability and security in Sudan.

Through its recent diplomatic initiatives, Egypt has emerged as a key player in addressing the complex crisis in Sudan, as it intensifies its efforts to broker peace there.

Ahead of a pivotal meeting in Cairo in late February between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Al-Burhan, who in addition to commanding the Sudanese Armed Forces is head of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the discussions centered on the latter’s vision for ending the conflict and fostering sustainable peace in Sudan.

On March 6, the Egyptian capital hosted a crucial gathering of the African Union High-Level Panel on Sudan, which met representatives of the country’s former ruling Congress Party to strategize ways to resolve the conflict, the first anniversary of which is approaching on April 15.

Cairo also convened the Sudan Humanitarian Crisis Conference in November 2023, focusing on relief efforts.

Diplomatic engagements such as these underscore Egypt’s commitment to addressing the deteriorating situation in Sudan, and navigating its relations with key stakeholders. Its approach to resolving the crisis prioritizes ending the armed conflict, respecting Sudan’s sovereignty and unity, and curbing external interference while safeguarding the integrity of the Sudanese state.

The recent resurgence of Egyptian diplomatic activity coincides with a perceived lull in international efforts to resolve the Sudanese crisis. Alongside efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc in Eastern Africa, and an initiative by neighboring countries, which have made limited progress toward halting the conflict, Egypt has also stepped up its unilateral attempts to find a resolution.

The urgency of the situation has been compounded by the escalating humanitarian crisis in Sudan, which has resulted in a significant influx of refugees into Egypt that has placed further strain on Cairo’s resources amid an ongoing economic crisis.

The impasse in Sudan has prompted Egypt to develop a new initiative in an attempt to overcome previous shortcomings and galvanize Sudanese factions in the hopes of reaching a comprehensive political settlement. Cairo seeks to identify and address the underlying obstacles and challenges that have thwarted previous initiatives, with a view to effecting a transformative change in the trajectory of the crisis.

Regional and international developments have thrust Sudan back onto the list of Western priorities, particularly amid escalating security tensions in the southern Red Sea and burgeoning relations between Sudan and Iran.

The appointment by the US of a special envoy to Sudan signals increased American engagement in reconciliation efforts, presenting an opportunity for Cairo to reinvigorate regional initiatives and shape its approach to the Sudanese crisis accordingly.

Despite these efforts, numerous barriers remain that hinder the realization of a comprehensive political settlement in Sudan. The persistence of armed conflict, exacerbated by external interventions and the fragmented nature of Sudanese political forces, presents formidable challenges to mediation efforts.

The entrenched positions of key actors, including Al-Burhan and Hemedti, coupled with the external support for both sides, further complicate the prospects for an immediate end to hostilities.

As the protracted conflict continues to unfold, Egypt finds itself grappling with mounting economic, political and security pressures. The path to Sudan’s post-conflict future hinges on the emergence of a cohesive, pro-democracy civil front, yet the road ahead remains fraught with uncertainty.

Against this backdrop, Egypt’s diplomatic endeavors serve as a crucial linchpin in efforts to navigate the complexities of the crisis and chart a course toward lasting peace and stability in the region.

  • Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. X: @ALMenawy

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