Sudan crisis is a chance for Kenya to step up role as regional arbiter

Fire seen over houses nera Khartum International Airport amid clashes between the Sudan Military and the RSF. [Courtesy VOA]

Sudan is in turmoil because of the power struggle between General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The two worked together in the past to topple the regime of former President Omar Bashir and now their supremacy battles threatens both Sudan's and regional security.

This conflict offers a perfect opportunity for Kenya to reassert its position as an effective regional arbiter. For a considerable period of time, Kenya has been relegated to the periphery when it comes to solving some of the security issues confronting the two Sudans (South Sudan and Sudan). Ethiopia had taken an upper hand on some of the issues. However, the internal conflict between the government and the Tigray regional government has given much focus on addressing the internal security challenges. This gives Kenya and especially President William Ruto a gilt-edged opportunity.

Kenya needs to hasten the revival of the moribund Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) by rallying the member states to speak with one voice over the Sudan crisis. Already, an extraordinary summit has been held with a key resolution of sending Presidents Salva Kiir of South Sudan, President Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and President William Ruto of Kenya to Sudan. This is a good signal to show that IGAD still has some muscle within the Horn of Africa. In addition to these rapid actions by IGAD, President Ruto needs to push for regional inclusivity by fast tracking the readmission of Eritrea which remains to be viewed as a pariah state in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea with all its internal contradictions and alleged meddling in neighbouring states remains a key player in the security complex of the Horn of Africa. AU seems to have moved away from its norms and values that are enshrined in its protocols and charters. At the moment, the AU is perceived not to be promoting the African solutions to African problems mechanisms. Instead, we have witnessed the outsourcing of some of the peace resolution efforts to the Gulf countries who have vested conflicts of interests in the region.

The fact that Sudan is a Muslim country does not mean that the AU outsources solutions from the Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE. Even though Sudan's political posturing and identity gravitates towards the Gulf, the AU remains a key player in the internal conflict. In addition, after Sudan was suspended from AU after the coup, the continental body has failed on repeated occasions to fully engage and support the political processes. This to a large extent has created a vacuum filled by the Gulf states.

Kenya stands a better chance leading this initiative because the situation favours President William Ruto. As a new entrant into the regional politics, President Ruto comes in with the proverbial clean hands. As a new kid on the block, he is not beholden to anyone. To achieve this, Kenya needs to take up the leadership role of IGAD from Sudan leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Once Kenya takes over the leadership of IGAD, President Ruto needs to embark on rebuilding its role in the regional security issues. Kenya can pivot on recent efforts like the peace agreement between TPLF and Ethiopia government; and Kenya's continued lead role in the solving the conflict in the Eastern DRC. Kenya's regional leadership requires some form of mutuality. Mutuality in this context being the shared condition among the regional leaders in the pursuit of common goals. The common goals pursued by the regional leaders here being the peace in Sudan. It is difficult to achieve leadership effectiveness in dealing with situations of conflict in the region when there is no common goal among the key actors. Kenya's success in leading regional efforts will not be easily achieved without some form of exercise of influence.

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