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ICC to probe war crimes as conflict rages on

Prosecutor tells UN the country risks repeating its 'miserable history' as neighbouring states step up efforts to find a peaceful solution

There are at least four regional and international initiatives to stop the fighting as reports emerge of a devastating wave of ethnic killings in Darfur but neither side in Sudan looks prepared to give any ground in peace talks (Dispatches 11/7/23, Cacophony of peace missions take off in Addis Ababa).

Karim Khan, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last week that the ICC would launch a new investigation into war crimes involving both sides in the conflict.

'The simple truth is that we are… in peril of allowing history to repeat itself – the same miserable history,' Khan told the UNSC on 13 July, following the news last week that the bodies of 87 people, allegedly killed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), were found in a mass grave in Darfur, the latest indication of the ethnic element to the war (AC Vol 64 No 14, Reliving Darfur's tragic history 20 years on).

In the meantime, small steps forward include a summit in Cairo attended by Sudan's neighbours, and a phone call between army chief General Abdel Fattah al Burhan  and Kenya's President William Ruto at the weekend.

The Ruto-Burhan phone calls marks a slight diplomatic advance. Burhan's Sudan Armed Forces have opposed Ruto's role as chief mediator for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the eight-country trade bloc covering Eastern Africa and the Horn, arguing that he is a former business ally of RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo 'Hemeti'. The SAF boycotted the first IGAD peace talks earlier this month (AC Vol 64 No 14, A man for all summits).

This points to another stumbling block that will have to be circumvented in any peace talks – the fact that Burhan presents himself as the leader of Sudan, rejecting the idea that he and Hemeti should be treated as equals. IGAD, meanwhile, insists that Hemeti must be part of any peace talks and possible political settlement.

While Burhan opposes IGAD's intervention and has criticised Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for calling for a no-fly zone, the two generals have recognised last week's Sudan Neighbouring States Summit hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi. The summit agreed to establish a 'mechanism', comprised of ministers from neighbouring countries, to develop a plan to end the conflict, but did not attempt to settle the question of whether SAF and RSF representatives should meet face to face.

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