According to several sources, the Sudanese military government (Sudanese Armed Forces, SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have met for private high-level talks three times within January. The talks, which were not publicly announced until now, have been hosted in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain.
Besides representatives from the RSF and the SAF, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. While the US, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have all been involved in peace talk attempts prior to Bahrain (the US and Saudi Arabia facilitated several talks in Jeddah, while Egypt had been pursuing parallel discussions with the two sides), the UAE is a new presence. Notably, several international entities, including the UN, have accused the UAE of arming the RSF, which they have denied.
Successful or Failed..?
Neither the RSF or the SAF have commented on the talks. In addition, neither have the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. The US similarly has also not directly commented on the talks, however stated that they were “prepared to partner with regional actors that have leverage over the belligerents”.
Reportedly, the talks hosted in Bahrain have had mixed successes.
While they have managed to get high level officials from both sides, General Shamseldin Kabbashi of the SAF and General Abdelrahim Dagalo of the RSF (the brother of RSF leader Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Hamdan Dagalo), to meet, there have been no breakthroughs on a peace deal to end the war, or even a temporary ceasefire.
Supposedly further talks to discuss a ceasefire are planned, however it is unclear when that will be taking place. Such talks were apparently supposed to be held last week, but were postponed for an unknown reason.
As time has gone on, the SAF have come into a less and less advantageous position when it comes to negotiations. Over the last several months the RSF have continued to make significant advances throughout the country.
As things currently stand, the RSF controls the majority of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and significant portions of western Sudan. Darfur, where the RSF is accused of carrying out ethnic cleansings, remains a particular stronghold for the RSF. The RSF has been making attempts to expand their territory eastward, meanwhile the SAF has been attempting to regain control over the capital.
Notably Hemedti, the leader of the RSF, in early January toured around to several different African nations, where he was officially received by the host governments. Many see this as an attempt for Hemedti to legitimize himself as a potential leading force in the nation, much to the dismay of the SAF.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s Military Junta, has condemned the meetings. Sudan’s government stated that any nations meeting with Hemedti were “making themselves a partner in the murder of the Sudanese people” by the RSF, who they referred to as “killers”.
Contradictions Between Public and Private
January was a tumultuous month to peace processes for the War in Sudan, or so it seemed. Several different groups made attempts to host peace talks, and facilitate a ceasefire, or even just a meeting between the two sides, which had not happened in months.
Publicly, the Sudanese government largely rejected all attempts at talks. At the beginning of January a Sudanese civilian group met with the RSF in Ethiopia, where the RSF signalled their readiness to sign a ceasefire. This was rejected by the government.
In mid-January, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, an East African trade-bloc) also attempted to host peace talks between the two sides. However, Sudan’s government rejected the invitation to the talks, and then later suspended cooperation with IGAD due to the bloc’s invitation to Hemedti to attend.
The exact reason why Sudan’s government has publicly rejected talks with the RSF, while it has been participating in private talks outside the public view, is presently unclear.
Pressure is increasing on both sides to establish at least a temporary ceasefire as Sudan threatens collapse.
Since the beginning of the war, approximately 7.6 million people have been displaced, around 1.5 million of which have become refugees outside of Sudan, with a large number escaping to neighbouring Chad.
Additionally, 18 million people in Sudan are facing acute hunger, of which five million are facing emergency levels of hunger. Over 75% of those in emergency hunger are largely unreachable by humanitarian organizations because of the heavy fighting throughout the country.
The UN has warned that if the situation does not improve soon, it could very quickly give way into a famine.
While the talks are certainly a step in the right direction, they have a long way to go before they produce anything meaningful. A series of talks have been held before, and almost all, if not all of the commitments made at these talks have been abandoned by both sides.
Burhan has stated that the war will continue until negotiations make sure that RSF soldiers are “brought to justice”, and displaced civilians can return to war-torn areas.