Analysts say a spat between Sudan and Kenya is hurting regional efforts to mediate an end to the war in Sudan. This week a Sudanese general accused Kenyan President William Ruto of favoring the paramilitary forces battling the Sudanese army, after Ruto suggested deploying East African peacekeeping troops to Sudan.
Anwar Ibrahim Ahmed, an Ethiopian political analyst who monitors the Horn of Africa region, says a recent uptick in tensions between Sudanese army leaders and the Kenyan government could hinder efforts to restore peace and stability in Sudan.
He adds that members of the East African bloc IGAD will have to consider a grievance raised by Sudan over Kenyan President William Ruto.
Ruto leads an IGAD sub-committee, called the Quartet Group, tasked with mediating an end to Sudan's 3½-month-old war. Sudan’s government has repeatedly accused Ruto of having business ties with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Ruto denies the allegations.
However, Sudanese leaders have refused to cooperate with the Quartet Group until he is replaced.
Ibrahim said IGAD is supposed to have a speedy response to Sudan’s rejection of Ruto’s role as head of the Quartet Group, and said IGAD should have intervened with a new mechanism in response to the demands of Sudanese military leaders, in order to prevent further tensions.
On July 10, the Ruto-led Quartet Group proposed deploying a regional coalition of peacekeeping troops in Sudan to protect civilians and secure humanitarian corridors.
Sudanese army leaders rejected the move as an “invasion.”
Addressing the Sudanese Engineering Corps over the weekend in Omdurman, Lieutenant General Yasser al-Atta, assistant commander-in-chief of the Sudan Armed Forces, criticized Ruto for interfering with Sudanese internal affairs.
He said the Sudanese army is capable of defending its own country and routing what he described as armed “mercenaries.”
Al-Atta challenged Ruto to face the Sudanese army.
“President Ruto should leave East Africa reserve forces alone, and instead he should come along with the Kenyan army to face us," al-Atta said.
On Monday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua responded cautiously to the remarks, which were reported by the TRT Africa channel, saying that Kenya has yet to get the full context of what al-Atta said.
Mutua indicated the government cannot rely on information shared through social media to respond to an issue with diplomatic implications.
“We cannot verify the authenticity of the video or whether the Sudanese army officer actually made these statements,” he said.
Zaheer Jhanda, a member of Kenya’s national parliament, condemned al-Atta’s statement.
In a video shared on social media and seen by VOA, Jhanda said Ruto’s intention is to ensure that peace prevails in Sudan and people have access to aid.
He said Kenya has no interest in who governs Sudan but the people must be protected.
“Our business with Sudan is not about who leads Sudan, our business is to ensure that the humanitarian corridor is open so that the people in Sudan should not die. They should be given food; they should be given medicine.”
Mekki El Moghrabi, a Sudanese former diplomat to the U.S., downplayed the tensions between the two countries, saying Kenya has enough internal issues to solve.
He said the statement of al-Atta was not a surprise to many Sudanese because of the long military rule in Sudan.
“Maybe for Kenyan people this is new. But for Sudanese; because they have long history with war, it is normal for army leader to defend the country by strong speeches,” he said.
The United Nations said more than 3 million people have been displaced due to the conflict in Sudan both internally and across the border into neighboring countries.