Conflict and Fragility


To stop the war in Sudan, bankrupt the warlords

03 May 2023 - 15:59
Source: Reuters
Cutting off finance to Sudan’s generals can pressure them to stop the fighting

This publication is part of a research initiative led by Sudanese researchers and data analysts in Sudan and abroad.

Since the 15th of April 2023, a conflict between Sudan’s two largest armed actors, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has ravaged the country. Forty-five million civilians stand in the crossfire, their lives threatened by the war. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the country. Sudan’s international partners have both a moral duty and a practical interest in promoting peace in the country. As Sudan’s generals resist international calls for a ceasefire, there is one potential way to stop the fighting: deny the SAF and the RSF the financial resources they need to finance their war efforts.

War is an expensive business. Large sums of money are required to pay for soldiers, weapons and all kinds of supplies that are needed – both before the start of a conflict, and throughout its duration. Over the last decades, the SAF and the RSF have built strong economic power through their control over vast business empires, made up of hundreds of companies managed without any form of public accountability towards the Sudanese population. The resources amassed through these business empires have been used to build up the military strength that the two forces are now unleashing against each other – and against Sudan’s population.

To bring the fighting to a halt, Sudan’s Western partners should target the warring parties’ business networks, and particularly their foreign branches, which are most vulnerable to external pressure. This can be achieved through targeted sanctions against companies that generate revenue for the generals, while delivering no benefits for the population – gold mining companies, for instance. In addition, Western countries should nudge Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – the main foreign backers of the SAF and the RSF respectively – to roll back the support they provide to the warring parties, including by enabling the operations of their business networks. 

Read the Clingendael Alert on the war in Sudan.