Eastern Sudan could turn into the next Darfur unless Khartoum addresses rising communal and separatist tensions, and shares wealth from resources more equitably, conflict-prevention NGO, the International Crisis Group (ICG), warned in a report released this week.
"Residents worry that eastern Sudan will become the next Darfur, with conflicts developing between local actors over claims to land and resources, some backed by the state," said the report, released Tuesday.
Some groups in the region, which has not endured deadly conflict since the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) was signed, have been calling for independence from the government in Khartoum, the ICG said.
“What some of the people in eastern Sudan told us was that they no longer have any hope to get a fair representation in the national government of Sudan. They’re increasingly turning to ideas of self-rule or indeed secession,” said Cedric Barnes, director of the Horn of Africa project at the ICG.
Sudanese living in the east also feel marginalized, Barnes saiod.
"They’re still suffering from poverty, lack of access to basic services and also political representation," he said.
Many of the grievances that have given rise to the tensions were supposed to have been resolved by ESPA, but the seven-year-old agreement has been poorly implemented, the ICG said.
The NGO blamed Khartoum's "piecemeal approach to resolving conflicts and the divide-and-rule default politics of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP)" for the worsening situation in the east.
It recommended that Sudan craft a "truly comprehensive national mechanism... that addresses the core questions of identity, governance, wealth and power sharing" when it writes a new constitution.