DEBATE OF THE WEEK: Could this be the start of World War Three?
Fear: Multiple ceasefires have been announced and then broken in Sudan.
THE NEWS: No signs of peace as conflict enters second month. The conflict between two of Sudan’s military leaders has driven thousands from their homes and could draw in many countries including Russia, China and the USA.
“I stayed calm,” said eight-year-old Leen. “I didn’t cry, because we couldn’t make any noise.” She was describing how she and her family hid when armed men burst into her home. The men belonged to one of Sudan’s two warring groups, the RSF (Rapid Support Forces).
The family finally made it to the safety of Saudi Arabia. Thousands of others have also fled Khartoum since fighting broke out two weeks ago.
“Streets closed off by gunfire,” reported Reuters. “Militiamen demanding bribes. Bodies in bombed-out buildings. Airstrikes, pounding artillery, and a terrible feeling that time was running out.”
Many people have fled to Port Sudan, 400 miles away, hoping to escape by sea. Saudi Arabia has been praised for evacuating over 5,000 people. But it is also part of the problem.
The cause of the conflict is a power struggle between two men. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the head of Sudan’s army. General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo commands the RSF militia.
In 2021 the pair took control of the government. But Dagalo resented the fact that he was Burhan’s number two. This led to the present fighting.
Sadly other countries are keen to exploit Sudan’s mineral wealth and strategic position.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see Dagalo as a valuable ally against militant Islamists. But they also have ties to Burhan.
Russia is keen to exploit Sudan’s gold mines, and wants a naval base on the Red Sea. Egypt wants Sudan as an ally to stop its neighbour Ethiopia building a dam on the River Nile.
China also has extensive interests in Sudan, which owes it over $6bn in loans.
Could this be the start of World War Three?
There are so many countries with conflicting interests involved that the fighting is bound to escalate. Russia’s desire for a naval base in Sudan will surely lead to confrontation with the US.
The conflict has all the making of a proxy war. Different countries might support the two factions with arms and military expertise, but they will be careful not to involve their own troops.
It will not start a world war, but it will result in a massive refugee crisis. Sudan has a population of over 45 million and several of its neighbours are already coping with conflicts of their own.
Sudan-A country in northeast Africa with a population of 45 million. Saudia Arabia-The second-largest country in the Arab world, with a population of nearly 35 million. Khartoum-Built at the meeting point of two rivers, the Blue Nile and the White Nile, it has a population of five million. Bribes- Persuade someone to do something by giving them a gift, often money. Artillery- Weapons. Ally-A country that has agreed to support another one. Red Sea-A seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean. To its right is Saudi Arabia, to its left the coast of north Africa.