Khartoum sneezed: Lampedusa is likely to catch cold. Sudan and Europe. The current crisis in Sudan has received significant attention from regional and global actors. Apart from its potential to destabilise an already volatile region, the proximity of busy maritime traffic and the Arabian Peninsula to the country make security players sit on tenterhooks.
These notwithstanding, a major ramification of the situation in Sudan is its probability of creating a refugee crisis of its own and consequently worsen the Europe’s refugee problems. How?
To start with, Sudan has a population of about 40 million which is youthful. This makes any conflict situations potential causes of internal displacements. In many cases, internally displaced persons tend to have the appetite to migrate outside the conflict state. When they are predominantly youth, it is more likely they will.
Furthermore, even before the current conflagration in Sudan, majority of the population already face socio-economic challenges that are by themselves push factors to migration. Many abled youths who face unemployment and cannot afford the basic necessities of life will risk almost anything to leave the country. Why should Europe worry? Firstly, Libya—a major transit point for African refugees trying to reach Southern Europe—shares a direct overland border with Sudan. Already, Sudan’s north-eastern corridor to Libya is a busy migration route for East African migrants trying to reach Europe.
If Eritrean, Ethiopians and other East African including Sudanese have used this corridor for decades, youth trying to flee the current mayhem will know what to do. The accessibility to Libya literally translates into seeing more refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach Southern Europe—yes Lampedusa could have more guests. And so what?
With European government often divided by questions related to refugees from Africa and looking for ways to mitigate them, peace in Sudan cannot be the business of Africans alone. Brussels must therefore, support regional actors who are pursuing peace in Sudan to do so timeously and effectively. While Africans lead in finding solutions, global actors have roles to play. Europe’s commitment to peace will benefit the two continents. Most importantly, short term peace should not be the goal of such efforts. Cease fire will not better the living conditions of the ordinary person in Sudan. For stability that becomes consequential, local stake holders must be supported to institutionalize democratic governance in Sudan. The people will be better off if they allowed to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
Below: map showing migrant route from Africa to Europe (2016). Most of these routes are still active. Kindly pay attention to Libya and Sudan.