Sudan War Ignored As Russia, Iran Allegedly Supply Arms To Both Sides

JOHANNESBURG With the that up to 10 million people have been displaced and U.S. sources claiming up to 150,000 killed and some five million facing famine in a devastating year-long conflict between government and rebel forces, Sudan has been ripped apart.

But observers say it is a forgotten war.

“Sudanese (people) are asking why the world turns a blind eye as the third-largest country in Africa is laid to waste while at the same time fixating on the smaller conflict in Gaza,” Hadeel Oueis, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab media outlet Jusoor, told Digital. 

“There is no extensive media coverage, and nobody cares about what’s happening here,” Abu Muhammad, a businessman in Sudan, told the Center for Peace Communications (CPC). “The little attention we attract fades away immediately. It’s the opposite of what is happening in Gaza. All the media channels are about is Gaza, Gaza and Gaza.”

With the aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) estimating that 25 million people – half the country’s population – needing humanitarian assistance, the organization’s president, Christos Christou, said in April that the situation is not acceptable and “this level of international neglect is shocking.”

On the ground in Sudan, student Muhammad Khalid told CPC, “The media makes decisions based on ratings, so it focuses on the world’s hot-button issues.”

“The media’s focus is on other issues like the war in Ukraine or Palestine. As to Sudan, problems in African society are seen as tiresome for Europeans and Middle Easterners. No one wants to watch it anymore.” 

In the Zamzam refugee camp in Sudan’s North Darfur, the MSF recently stated that around 75 people are dying of malnutrition and disease every day. A spokesperson told Digital, “Five million people in Sudan are on the brink of famine. We demand all parties immediately remove all obstructions to humanitarian assistance and enable full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access, including cross-border and cross-line.”

Each dawn brings more misery for the ordinary people of Sudan, and “They face what could be described as a double tragedy,” Sudanese analyst Hamid Fathi told CPC. “First, these people fled from Khartoum to Gezira. Then they were forced out of Gezira and its capital, Wad Madani, and had to flee east when the Rapid Support Forces (rebel forces, the RSF) took control of the area. There is no extensive media coverage, and nobody cares about what’s happening here.”

Oueis told Digital that the people of Sudan “wish the world’s great powers would respond to the magnitude of humanitarian tragedy, which the war in Sudan has caused, or at least recognize the high geopolitical stakes.”

“Iran and its Russian and Chinese allies are determined to dominate Sudan and will undoubtedly succeed if the U.S. and Europe stay on the sidelines,” Oueis continued.

Cameron Hudson, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed and said, “The longer the conflict goes on, the more determinative external players become.” Hudson, director of African affairs in the National Security Council for the George W. Bush administration, told Digital that “after a year of fighting, both sides are now heavily dependent on outside support and resupply. The UAE has been the principal backer of the RSF from the start. Recently, Sudan’s army has begun receiving aid from Iran, and in the last week announced a to allow them a refueling port on the Red Sea in exchange for undisclosed weapons transfers.”

“The crisis in Sudan, including the ongoing genocide in Darfur, is a human catastrophe,” , ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Digital. “President Biden has the power to highlight and influence this tragedy, but he remains silent.”

“Despite Congress and the Sudanese people’s desperate pleas for more action, the Biden Administration offers only empty statements and commitments and no real accountability,” Risch continued.

In February, the announced the appointment of Tom Periello as special envoy to Sudan. But Risch is dismissive.

“Even the U.S. envoy, who has an opportunity to offer greater U.S. leadership on Sudan, suffers from the same ineptitude and political indifference that has characterized this administration since the war’s outset,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently phoned Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, and called on him to “urgently end the conflict in Sudan.”

Hudson told Digital that “prior to Secretary Blinken’s call, it was more than a year since Blinken had spoken with him. Blinken parachuting in at the 11th hour has had little effect, other than to demonstrate just how little leverage the U.S. has remaining over the parties.”

“The U.S. should have been using its leverage over countries like the UAE to suspend their support for this war,” Hudson added. “And it should have been encouraging other closer allies of the U.S. who are inclined to support Sudan’s army, like Turkey or Egypt, to do so. Instead, the army has turned to Russia and Iran as suppliers of last resort and over whom the U.S. has no direct leverage.”

A State Department spokesperson told Digital in a statement that “the Administration is working, alongside our international partners, to achieve an end to the conflict, meet humanitarian needs and support a return to a democratic transition.”

“We are pressing the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to engage in direct ceasefire negotiations; immediately end the fighting; adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law; and take immediate steps to improve humanitarian access to meet the emergency needs of civilians.”

Analysts say gold from Sudan’s mines and geopolitical influence are the main reasons external players have become involved in the conflict. The State Department spokesperson said Sudan’s warring parties are “turning to external actors seeking to take advantage of Sudan’s fragile state and resources, deepening the suffering of the Sudanese people.”

“The United States opposes external interference to support the belligerents in the Sudan conflict; it will only exacerbate and prolong the conflict and risks further spreading regional instability.” 

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. singled out the UAE when talking to reporters in April about the conflict in Sudan, saying, “We do know that both sides are receiving support, both with weapons and other support to fuel their efforts to continue to destroy Sudan. And yes, we have engaged with parties on that, including with our colleagues from the UAE.”

But a UAE government official, presented with the ambassador’s comments, told Digital that “the UAE strongly rejects these false claims and categorically denies the provision of any military, logistical, financial or political support to any faction in Sudan.”

The official continued, “Sudanese allegations pertaining to the UAE taking sides or supporting one side over the other appear to be nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing conflict and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.”