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Consensual National Project: The Only Way Out

Muawad Mustafa Rashid

According to news articles, the recent inter-tribal clashes in El Geneina in West Darfur State have forced around 2,000 refugees to cross into neighbouring Chad in the last few days.

The refugees, mostly women, children, and the elderly, have fled homes in villages near the border in the aftermath of deadly clashes that began on 3rd April.

The resurging violence has reportedly left 144 people dead and more than 230 injured. In the meantime, humanitarian agencies are trying to establish the exact number of newly displaced people within West Darfur, which is estimated to be in the thousands.

Refugees arriving in Chad speak of houses and properties being destroyed, and of sites hosting displaced people being targeted. Some of the new arrivals had already been displaced by earlier clashes last year and in January this year.

El Geneina is only 20 kilometers away from the Sudan-Chad border. Refugees have crossed near the town of Adré, in Ouaddaï province, and are currently being hosted just 200 metres away from the volatile border.

UNHCR teams from a nearby office in Farchana have rushed to receive refugees. The staff reports conditions on the ground as being dire with displaced families staying in the open or under the little shade of trees or makeshift shelters, with barely any protection from the elements in an area where temperature can rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Food and water are also urgently needed.

UNHCR, with our government counterpart and humanitarian partners, is on the ground and coordinating the humanitarian response. The priority is to relocate the refugees to a safer location where essential assistance and access to health can be provided, and quarantine measures against COVID-19 implemented.

Ouaddai province where the new arrivals are crossing already hosts 145,000 Darfurian refugees and UNHCR expects the influx to continue if security is not quickly restored in Darfur. 

Central Government Moves

To contain the situation, the Security and Defence Council declared a State of Emergency. 

UN Special Representative, Volker Perthes, welcomed the move and urged the government’s security forces to prevent further violence and restore order.

He noted that they should be seen to act in the interest of peace and to protect all civilians, in full compliance with international human rights standards and without any special treatment based on tribal or ethnic affiliations. 

The UN official conveyed to the Prime Minister, government members, and others committed to the Juba Peace Agreement, that the UN and its humanitarian partners are mobilizing additional staff and resources to respond to the displacement and growing humanitarian needs from this latest round of violence.  

The President of the Transitional Sovereign Council, 1st Lt. Gen. Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan led a high-level delegation to El Geneina, and from there several decisions were taken to bring about control in the aftermath of the clashes.

It is apparent that the government is seriously endeavoring to resolve the issue, but we believe that all the steps taken up to this moment are just painkillers and did not address the core of the crisis.

The conflict in Darfur, in general, is not just a dispute over the deteriorated natural resources, but it has become about power and wealth share considering that the region is one of the richest production centers in the country, but despite that the area is suffering from the marginalization and absence of basic services.

The recent tragic incidents in El Geneina will not be the last and might repeat any time.

Urgent Measures

What is most important is to recognize that the security measures will not lead to resolving the issue, so there should be other urgent steps beginning with arresting and charging those who were involved in the clashes and utilized them to serve their interests e.g. the remnants of the ousted regime.

That, and dissolving and disarming the militias besides monitoring all the bordering paths to prevent the sneak of insurgents could also help in eliminating the tribal clashes.

Since July 2020 it was decided by the government to form joint forces to protect the citizens, especially in the IDPS camps. It is high time now to expedite in forming the joint forces to include troops from the peace signatory armed struggle movements, considering that they can play a major role in stopping the tribal conflicts and preventing its renewal.

The joint forces can also help in proving the foodstuff and medicine to the affected persons through secured paths supported by the international community.

The government should work out an emergency plan to support the repatriation of the IDPs to their home villages to start their normality.

Those measures should be implemented as soon as possible before addressing the roots of the crises in order to come out with effective solutions.

Again, we insist that the security solutions are not enough and couldn’t stop the renewal of the clashes.

The security solutions should be accompanied by political ones; the appropriate approach of which is that what is going on in Darfur reflects the actual general crisis which Sudan is witnessing on top of which is the marginalization in all parts of the country, especially Darfur. Therefore, the problem is political and requires a national political solution.

We propose launching an inclusive political conference with engaging the army in its deliberations an inclusive political conference representing all the political and military movements in the country.

Darfur stakeholders should be consulted in all steps and their initiatives to resolve the crisis should be discussed during the proposed conference sessions.

To sum it up we say that the ultimate solution could only be through a national consensual project to bring Sudan out of its crisis.

This national consensual project should consider the ethnic and cultural diversity, besides the developmental disparities in all parts of the country.

The national consensual project should be inclusive to discuss the issues of balanced development, just power, and wealth shares so that Sudan can remain united and stable.

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