/ 26 April 2024

Editorial | Sudan’s dark fate

Clashes Continue In Sudan
Smoke rises as the clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue in Khartoum, Sudan on June 09, 2023. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Sudan is staring down one of the greatest humanitarian crises of a generation. 

This month marked a year since the military junta — established after Omar al-Bashir was toppled in 2019 — split into two factions, plunging the country into another devastating civil war. 

Shelling, air raids and street-to-street firefights have reduced the capital Khartoum, home to six million people before the latest conflict began, to bloodied rubble. 

Ethnic-centric violence has spread across the rest of the vast nation, latching on to the cinders of past genocide. International powers have pounced, fighting their own pernicious power struggle.

That is the broad outline. What we lack is the details. 

The latest UN estimates measure the dead at more than 14 000. Given that credible reports claim at least 10 000 people were massacred in the city of Geneina alone, that is almost certainly woefully conservative. 

It’s equally difficult to measure the number of people who have been displaced. Different estimates suggest it is anywhere between eight million and 12 million. On either side of the scale, that means roughly one fifth of all Sudanese have been forced to flee from their homes.

Beyond those broad figures, many observers’ fear is that unconscionable war crimes are being committed daily. Crimes that will never be reported, legally or in the media.

There are undoubtedly practical aspects that make it increasingly difficult to know what is happening in Sudan. Humanitarian organisations are regularly denied access to regions that are in the most need; few others would dare to venture into regions ruled by warlords or engulfed by anarchy.

That reality notwithstanding we, the media, must also take the blame for not providing a level of attention that is commensurate with the severity of the crisis. Of course, there have been pockets of good journalism, such as Mukanzi Musanga’s distressing article in The Continent, reprinted in our pages this week. 

But, as a collective, we cannot deny that Sudan has not been afforded the coverage or column inches given to the Ukraine invasion or Israel’s war on Gaza. This is not a tirade of “whataboutism” but a reflection that we are remiss, as media writers and consumers, in allowing a gross blind spot to fester in our minds.

Even if we could bend our conscience to ignore the unfolding human tragedy, the flames in Sudan threaten to spread far beyond its borders. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, Ukraine and the Russian Wagner group are each, to some extent, involved in proxy battles amid the conflict; all tussling for complicated geopolitical objectives. 

As war rages, millions of displaced people are fleeing to Libya, Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan — countries that have had their own civil wars in recent years and are perpetually fragile.

This is one of the great global conflicts of our age. History will condemn us if we recognise that fact too late.