Tomorrow, Tuesday, achievements and shortcomings will be assessed in the context of World Refugee Day, formerly known as Africa Refugee Day 2000.
Any description of the ordeal through which the lives of these millions of individuals made outcasts by circumstance is an incomplete picture of the truth.
An estimated 30 million refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers live in Africa, almost a third of the world’s population of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.
For the United Nations, there are differences in classifying who falls into one of these three categories, and this is linked to the nature of the humanitarian actions planned and budgetary decisions to assist them.
The region is the one that hosts the most refugees, about eight million, according to UN data in 2022, that is, not including those incorporated after the current Sudanese conflict unleashed last April.
A refugee is a person who remains outside his or her country for fear of persecution, conflict, generalized violence or other events that seriously disturb public order and requires international protection, the Organization describes.
Although backed by conventions, agreements and treaties endorsed at the highest levels, the reality exceeds any documentary construction, however laudable its objective and justified its content.
The persistent Somali war, the strife in Ethiopia’s Tigray, the incursions of radical armed groups in the Sahel region and the most recent lethal threat, the war in Sudan, are fueling the escalation of refugees in Africa.
KNOTS IN THE SKEIN
Until recently, the behavior of the flows of displaced persons and refugees highlighted Sudan as the African country with the highest reception figures, for a reason: the war (2013-2018) in neighboring South Sudan.
A process was observed between two States – more than historically known – linked and with a similar psychology and life routine at least until 2011, when the southern region emerged as the youngest international subject in the world.
Sudan once sheltered 792,000 South Sudanese, half of whom fled the war in their area of residence, but that dynamic has now changed with the war between two members of the military apparatus: the Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Today, neighboring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic – especially the latter – are receiving thousands of displaced persons from the struggle for power that since April has been embodied by Generals Abdel Fatah al Burhan and Mohamed Handan Dagalo.
Although many citizens have become hostages and have become anxious to command the authority, the consequences of the dispute are not fading away, but on the contrary are materializing with the suffering of thousands.
The fighting has caused 3.7 million internally displaced persons, many of whom are now surviving in camps in Darfur (West), and a major humanitarian crisis in which more than 800,000 people have fled to countries such as Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
However, how far is the end of the conflict and the threat of it spreading to other countries? It is a difficult question to answer and -as is often the case with war – there is more speculation about it than accurate assessments.
For example, on more than a dozen occasions the opposing sides agreed to negotiate truces that were broken time and again by the onslaught of one of them, thus saying goodbye to supposed relief corridors.
In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, “promising” talks were held, facilitated by the Saudi Arabian authorities, according to media reports, but no water flowed from the spring, everything turned into sand.
Western newspapers refer to the third Sudanese civil war, but scholars refer to it as a low-intensity conflict in which portions of power are disputed, while the process of political transition in progress since 2019 is being dodged.
The U.S.-based Los Angeles Times hinted at the fates of the rivals once the contest is over: one is likely to be Sudan’s next president, and the defeated one will face exile, arrest or death.
“It is also possible that there will be a protracted civil war or that the country will be partitioned into rival fiefdoms,” which has already happened in the cases of Somalia’s Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and the Congolese Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, but the split carries greater danger because it foreshadows the subsequent succession of other disputes.
Properly understanding the idea that each chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it is interpreted that in the case of the Sudanese war there are brittle rings that do not withstand the strain, among them refugees.
Sudan has a long history of hosting refugees, with over one million refugees, the second highest such population in Africa, mostly from South Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Chad and Yemen.
The change of circumstances with the current conflict caused the stampede of more than 800,000 nationals across the borders, which engendered a potential risk of becoming chaotic migration and thus extending the aftermath of the war.
A forecast by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees indicates the possibility that – from June to November – the number of Sudanese refugees could rise to more than one million.
If the humanitarian situation in such a scenario threatens to spiral out of control, such an unchecked growth would be the greatest man-made tragedy in East Africa, according to non-governmental organizations.