Loin des yeux, loin du coeur

06 Oct 2023

(far from the eyes, far from the heart)

The war in Sudan has intensified, but at the same time, ironically, slipped off the front pages of the international press. It may be in danger of becoming a “hidden” or “less thought about” war, now that most if not all the foreign nationals have been withdrawn from the country. The mainstream press is engrossed in conflicts potentially involving superpowers—such as Ukraine. Sudan, constrained within its own borders, seems to be hurting only itself.

The Sahel, likewise, is a conflict that is rarely thought about outside the region. The countries that fell to coups made headlines for a while, but now neither the Sahel nor the Sudan make the front page of the New York Times (nor even the World section, as of this writing); the Economist has a single article about Darfur on its front page index.

A less reported conflict gets less international attention, which hinders aid, peacekeeping, and diplomacy. Without pressure from the international community, conflicts are likely to drag on and on. Sudan, right now, looks at risk of a “defacto partition.” In the Sahel, Burkina Faso’s leader alleges security is more important than democracy, and it doesn’t look like any international power will disagree with him—but nothing is being done to alleviate the violence in the area.

The ongoing conflict of course makes any humanitarian work very difficult. Displacement, famine, and the breaking down of health care systems are characteristic of both the Sahel and Sudan. Nearly a quarter of Sudan’s population is displaced, with a large chunk refugees outside the country. But the surrounding countries, too, are poor, and the plight of the refugees within their borders isn’t making headlines either.

The fighting will impact global trade, to some level, but probably not enough to cause sufficient pain for markets to try to stop the war. Sudan has significant resources, and the disruption of their supply could make prices for them go up. This can only enrich the coffers of the warlords. People around the world will see some economic impact, but not much. At the same time, other forms of global trade will benefit from the violence: arms merchants are doing a brisk business, out of sight of much of the global press (although this time, a snippet of this was caught by the NYT). The planet will spin on.

One could argue that the absence of international media attention could actually benefit the peace process - that overexposure can lead to exaggerations, which exacerbate tensions. But it doesn’t look to me like this will be the case for either Sudan or the Sahel. The simple fact is that there seems, at present, no end to the fighting, at least in the near future.

The Roundup will continue to hunt for links and articles that cover the situation in these various places. One of our primary focuses is to document access issues—either opportunities for or obstacles against. Some ministries operating in the area have had to withdraw due to safety concerns. Other, more localized ministries have continued to work, but have found communication, coordination, collaboration all to be very challenging and work in general to be risky. Not that they are shirking from the risk.