Sudan’s army-aligned foreign ministry has rejected a regional summit proposal to consider deploying peacekeeping forces to protect civilians, dashing tentative hopes it might help efforts to end the country’s three-month war.
The East African regional body the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) suggested on Monday that the rival sides consider the deployment of a regional force and new peace negotiations. The mediation offer was the first in weeks after talks in Jeddah were suspended by the United States and Saudi Arabia after numerous ceasefire violations.
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The army boycotted IGAD’s mediation plan and accused Kenya, which spearheaded it, of providing a haven to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the Sudanese military’s challenger.
“The disrespect of IGAD towards the opinions of its member states will cause the Sudanese government to rethink the utility of its membership in the organisation,” the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
“The Sudanese government rejects the deployment of foreign forces in Sudan and will consider them enemy forces.”
The power struggle between the army and paramilitary RSF since April 15 has killed more than 1,000 civilians and displaced 2.9 million, according to the United Nations.
Neither side has gained a clear advantage, and much of the capital has been abandoned or destroyed while mediation efforts so far have failed.
‘Indignation and condemnation’
Reporting from Port Sudan, Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall said the rejection of IGAD’s proposal went as far as describing it as a violation of Sudan’s sovereignty.
The Ethiopian and Kenyan presidents’ comments at the IGAD summit stating Sudan was suffering from a power vacuum were seen as particularly offensive.
“The statements were met by indignation and condemnation here in Sudan. The [Sudanese] ministry of foreign affairs described these statements as unacceptable,” said Vall.
Tuesday’s foreign ministry statement did welcome an upcoming summit held by Egypt – widely seen as closer to the army than to the RSF – to be held later this week.
The IGAD summit, held in Addis Ababa, also featured the US envoy who appeared to reject the prospect of future military rule in Sudan.
“Reaching a negotiated settlement does not – and cannot – mean returning to the status quo that existed before April 15,” said US Ambassador John Godfrey.
‘Horror, devastation, and despair’
Also on Tuesday, gunmen killed at least 40 civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region as ethnically motivated bloodshed escalates, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.
In the West Darfur city of el-Geneina, several prominent figures have been killed in recent days and volunteers are struggling to bury bodies littering the streets, the Darfur Bar Association, which monitors the conflict, said in a statement.
Violence and displacement in Darfur have surged sharply as the regular army and RSF continue to battle in the capital Khartoum and other urban areas.
In el-Geneina, witnesses reported waves of attacks by RSF and allied Arab militias against the non-Arab Masalit people, the largest community in the city. The violence has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing across the nearby border with Chad.
In a new report, HRW said dozens of civilians were killed and noted the execution of at least 28 Masalits, in the West Darfur town of Misterei, 45km (28 miles) from el-Geneina.
Attackers surrounded Misterei on May 28, entered homes and schools, and shot civilians at close range before pillaging and burning most of the town, HRW said, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate the violence.
“The accounts of those who survived recent attacks in West Darfur echo the horror, devastation, and despair of Darfur 20 years ago,” said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, HRW senior crisis and conflict researcher.
HRW said it had shared its findings with the RSF and received no response.
The RSF – many of whose fighters came from the Arab Janjaweed militia blamed for ethnic atrocities in Darfur’s conflict two decades ago – has previously denied responsibility for killings in the region, and said any members found to be involved in abuses will be held to account.