Region must avert spillover of Sudan crisis

Smoke is seen rising from Khartoum's skyline, Sudan. [AP photo]

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Kenya this week on a signature visit that coincided with events making the 2023 World Press Freedom Day.

The celebrations culminated in the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards (AJEA) by the Media Council of Kenya graced by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. It saw the men and women who burn the midnight oil to keep the nation informed feted.

Same week, the country focused its energies on the high drama around the so-called bipartisan talks that have gradually made opposition and government sides a laughing stalk. Vested interests have made it difficult for the teams to engage.

It is tragic how leaders in Kenya take peace for granted. With a raspy cash-strapped government struggling to do its work and a protest-happy opposition ready to unleash chaos at every turn, we are doomed. Such a time, my heart goes out to citizens of countries that made the costly mistake of taking peace for granted. Sudan is one of them.

Guterres, while in Nairobi, spoke passionately about Khartoum. He called for immediate ceasefire on a trip whose underlying mission was to rally the region to speak in one accord against a situation that has disenfranchised civilians. Citizens have not known peace since April 15 when battle erupted between the country’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the regular army, and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Guterres warned against any “spillover” effects of the Sudan conflict. Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan have equally gone through troubling times in the recent past and are now undergoing a delicate political and post-conflict period. And tensions caused by the long-standing row between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo is yet to dissipate. The bloody clash in Sudan has since led the death of more than 500 people and displaced 1,000,000, some of whom have fled to other countries. According to aid workers, there are many more casualties than documented. Heartrending!

The UN chief’s visit should offer a fresh impetus to regional efforts to end the crisis. Regional leaders, the Africa Union and the UN must sustain pressure on the warring military men to talk to each other. They have agreed to multiple truces but failed to end the chaos.

Meanwhile as usual in African politics, we have two distinctive sets of people –the oppressors and the oppressed. It should worry us that bad decisions by overbearing leaders have cast pale shadows, with needless conflicts endangering stability, growth and human development.  

True to Guterres’ call for more pressure on Sudanese officials, no country – individually and under the AU – should be a bystander in efforts to ensure a capable government, respect for human rights and sound relations with neighbours.

More and more now, the delayed return to civilian rule after the overthrow of leaders spells doom for the continent and its disenfranchised people. We saw events in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Central Africa Republic. While it is wrong for civilian rulers to turn years of self-rule into self-ruin, it is not any better overthrowing them and leaving power at the hands of ruthless military regimes whose outlining upshot is jihadist insurgency, widespread poverty and looting resulting into increased sanctions.

African nations, if not the world, must sustain pressure on de facto rulers to do the right the thing. They should quit and call elections even if sham. By taking away the people’s right to speak and be led through the ballot, they are putting a sick continent on the edge. It could easily tip over. The aftermath would be unthinkable.

Guterres is right. Let governments, business leaders, regional blocs, donors and all non-state actors seek insistent ways of making governments and leaders accountable to the rule of law.

-The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter:@markoloo