INTERVIEW – UN special envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes rejects accusations that the West is to blame for the current crisis in Sudan. In this interview with Kossivi Tiassou, he warns of “fortune seekers” and mercenaries from abroad joining the conflict while tens of thousands of Sudanese citizens flee their country
Mr Perthes, you arrived a few days ago in the Sudanese port of Port Sudan, from where people are trying to flee the fighting by ship. Civilians in Sudan are very frustrated. You were greeted on arrival by demonstrations. What message did you take with you?
Volker Perthes: We were not greeted by demonstrators, but by the governor of the Red Sea State, the federal state in which Port Sudan is situated. But you are right: a few days previously, about 150 people from a certain political camp demonstrated against both the presence of the UN and my presence. This is part of the political dispute here in Sudan between Sudanese parties and forces.
There is fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and in other parts of the country like Darfur or Kordofan. American intelligence predicts a drawn-out conflict. Do you agree?
Perthes: We in the United Nations are working together with other international partners, and especially with Sudanese society, to make sure that this war does not drag on. The first step must be a solid cease-fire. Not just a declaration of cease-fires, but a cease-fire with a monitoring mechanism.
From there, the next step must be towards talks between the fighting parties in the hope of re-establishing a functioning government in a more stable situation. American intelligence has its own assessments; I will not comment on those. But our goal is to prevent just that: a long war that would likely bring the country to the brink.
What role do Sudan’s northern neighbours, Egypt and Libya, play in all this? Some observers assume that the conflict cannot be resolved without Egypt and the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, two supporters of the belligerent Sudanese generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
Perthes: Haftar is the supporter of one of the two parties, but he has no decisive role in this war. You are right to ask about the neighbouring states: Egypt, South Sudan, and others too. We need the contribution of these neighbouring countries for a solid solution, a solution that stabilizes the country. South Sudan has already been very active. The current cease-fire — which is not, however, being fully observed — was negotiated by Salva Kiir, the South Sudanese president. Egypt is also pushing for a cease-fire as a first step towards ending the war.
There is also speculation that mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group, which is present in the country, are involved in this conflict. What can you tell us about this?
Perthes: I have no concrete evidence that there are Wagner mercenaries fighting in this war. I can neither confirm nor deny that.
Read the full interview on Qantara.de.