The African Union’s absence in Sudan is not merely a matter of geopolitical interest; it is a crisis with significant human costs and far-reaching implications for the credibility of the union’s regional governance.
Sudan, a nation of strategic importance in Africa’s eastern region, is presently in the throes of a deepening crisis. The country, which already had a troubled past with post-colonial violence, was just starting to see glimmers of hope after the fall of former president, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019. But the path to stable governance has been far from smooth. As of July 2023, Sudan finds itself grappling with a severe crisis that has its roots embedded in a variety of political, economic, and social issues. The fragile transition to democracy, following the 2019 overthrow of President al-Bashir, has been marred by deep divisions within the transitional government, consisting of military and civilian parties. At the centre of the unfolding Sudanese conflict, a high-stakes tug of war between Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo exposes an intricate power play. Burhan, at the helm of Sudan’s official military, is locking horns with Dagalo, the commander of the Rapid Support Forces—a paramilitary group inching for a larger slice of the governmental pie.
Escalating inflation and food and fuel shortages have further catalysed public dissatisfaction, prompting widespread protests. Exacerbating the situation are ongoing conflicts in Sudanese regions like Darfur and South Kordofan, which have been fuelled by ethnic and tribal tensions, as well as a power struggle over resources. Finally, the effects of climate change have intensified, leading to frequent floods and droughts, putting additional pressure on the country’s already strained resources.
Today, Sudan faces many challenges beyond political instability: human rights violations are rising, the economy is in tatters, and citizens face severe hardships, including displacement. As violence escalates and threatens to spill over into a full-scale civil war, international eyes are increasingly focused on this beleaguered nation.
In this tumultuous context, there’s a glaring absence of one key player: the African Union (AU), the body established to promote unity, peace and stability on the continent. Its conspicuous absence from active intervention in Sudan’s crisis attracts criticism and sparks questions about its efficacy.
Historically, the AU has been at the forefront of managing crises within Africa, providing peacekeeping forces and mediating disputes to restore stability. The AU’s efforts have been instrumental in managing situations in countries like Liberia in 2009, and more recently, the Gambia in 2018.
However, when it comes to Sudan, the AU’s engagement has been, at best, tepid. Despite the worsening situation, the AU has yet to make a significant move to intervene, leaving a vacuum in the continent’s collective crisis management strategy.
This lack of involvement could have far-reaching implications, not just for Sudan, but for the credibility of the AU as an effective regional peacekeeper. The unfolding situation in Sudan provides a critical litmus test for the AU, one that could determine the perception of its commitment to fostering peace and stability in the continent. As the crisis escalates, the spotlight on the AU’s response, or lack thereof, will only intensify.
AU IN THE PAST
Established in 2002, the AU is the successor of the Organization of African Unity, which was founded on 25 May 1963. The AU carries the heavy responsibility of fostering unity and cooperation among African states. Key to its mandate is the promotion of peace, security, and stability on the continent. This critical objective is geared towards creating a harmonious environment conducive for socioeconomic development, political stability, and the overall well-being of the African population.
Peacekeeping is at the core of AU’s mandate and is an integral component of conflict resolution within Africa. The AU’s Peace and Security Council operates under the principle of ‘African solutions for African problems’, aiming to manage and resolve conflicts within member states through mediation, sanctions, or the deployment of peacekeeping forces.
The AU’s track record in intervening in regional crises is noteworthy. Its involvement in Liberia and Sierra Leone’s civil wars, for instance, saw the deployment of peacekeeping forces and facilitation of peace talks, contributing significantly to the resolution of these conflicts. In 2017, AU played a key role in alleviating the Gambia’s political crisis by pressuring then-president Yahya Jammeh to accept election defeat and step down, thus averting a potential civil war.
Each of these examples underscores the AU’s ability to respond to crises within the continent and work towards sustainable peace. However, the current situation in Sudan has highlighted a seeming disconnect between AU’s mandate and its actual response, raising questions about its commitment and capacity to effectively manage crises within its member states. The unfolding crisis in Sudan is proving to be a critical test of the AU’s resolve and effectiveness.
SO, WHERE IS THE AU?
The conspicuous lack of the AU’s intervention in the Sudanese crisis has many observers scratching their heads. Various factors may be contributing to this seemingly unexpected reticence. The crisis in Sudan is multifaceted and deeply rooted. It extends beyond political instability to encompass a range of humanitarian, economic, and social issues, making it a daunting task to address comprehensively. The recurring military coups, the fractured nature of the opposition, and the various external interests vying for influence in Sudan add additional layers of complexity. Such a convoluted crisis demands a nuanced and multifaceted approach, something that could potentially be overwhelming for AU.
The AU, like any multilateral organization, is subject to internal politics which could impact its decision-making processes and actions. The influence of certain member states, particularly those with significant political or economic clout, cannot be overlooked. If these states have vested interests in the situation in Sudan, or differing views on the appropriate response, this could potentially cause inertia within AU or even lead to a dilution of its response.
Deploying peacekeeping forces, a critical part of the AU’s conflict resolution strategy is not a simple or inexpensive endeavour. It involves substantial funding, intricate planning, and robust logistical support. Given that the AU often faces financial constraints, mobilizing the necessary resources for a large-scale intervention in Sudan could pose a significant challenge. Additionally, logistical issues such as securing the safe passage and effective deployment of peacekeeping forces could also be a hurdle.
While these factors provide some insight into why the AU may be absent in Sudan, they also underscore the need for it to address these challenges head on. After all, the AU’s credibility and its ability to fulfil its mandate of promoting peace and stability across Africa are at stake. With the situation in Sudan escalating, the call for the AU’s decisive action is becoming increasingly urgent.
The AU’s lack of active involvement in Sudan’s crisis has far-reaching implications for Sudan and the broader African community. Without the decisive intervention of a credible regional body like the AU, the situation in Sudan continues to deteriorate. Violence is escalating, and instability is deepening. The failure to de-escalate tensions or facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties may lead to an ever-worsening cycle of violence, pushing Sudan further towards the precipice of a full-blown civil war.
The intensifying violence is directly feeding into an escalating humanitarian crisis. Displacement is on the rise, and essential services are increasingly inaccessible for many. The AU’s absence in mitigating these issues is leading to a critical gap in regional support for the affected population.
One of the most significant impacts of the AU’s absence may be the potential erosion of trust in regional bodies. The AU’s mandate is to promote peace, security, and stability in Africa. Its apparent reluctance or inability to intervene effectively in one of the continent’s most pressing crises raises questions about its effectiveness as a regional peacekeeper. This could lead to diminished confidence in the AU, weakening its authority and jeopardizing its role in future crises.
In summary, the AU’s absence in Sudan is not merely a matter of geopolitical interest; it’s a crisis with significant human costs and far-reaching implications for the credibility of regional governance. The call for the AU to step up and play its part in addressing the crisis is not just an appeal for intervention, but a call to uphold the very principles upon which it was founded.
AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS
Given the escalating crisis in Sudan, there’s an urgent call for the AU to take more assertive action. Its involvement is critical in demonstrating the power of continental unity and collective security.
As a representative body of the continent, the AU should embody the spirit of unity and solidarity among African states. By taking a more assertive role in resolving Sudan’s crisis, the AU has an opportunity to showcase the effectiveness of African solutions to African problems. Its meaningful involvement could reinforce the principle of continental unity and mutual support in times of crisis.
The AU’s core mandate revolves around the promotion of peace, security, and stability in Africa. By intervening in Sudan, the AU could strengthen its role as the guardian of collective security in the region. This could serve as a deterrent against the escalation of future conflicts within the continent.
The situation in Sudan is precariously perched on the edge of a full-scale civil war. Each passing day of inaction means further deterioration of the crisis. The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated. It’s not just about restoring peace and stability in Sudan, but also about preventing a humanitarian disaster and potential destabilization of the region.
The AU’s involvement in Sudan is not just crucial—it’s essential. The escalating crisis underscores the necessity for the AU to overcome its internal challenges, mobilize resources, and leverage its authority as a regional body. The call for action is a call for the AU to fulfil its mandate, uphold its founding principles, and indeed, for it to act as a union that is truly African⎈
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