Since the outbreak of the war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on 15 April, Egypt has expanded its role beyond merely ensuring the safety of its citizens in Sudan and facilitating their prompt evacuation from conflict zones. Instead, Egypt has collaborated with friendly countries to assist in the evacuation and support of their nationals. The opening of an integrated relief center on the border to support all those evacuated without discrimination and to receive Sudanese fleeing the conflict without restrictions, as well as the balanced diplomatic role of Egyptian institutions at the regional and international levels to reach a lasting cease-fire between the two disputing parties, were clear indications of the humanitarian aspect of the Egyptian state’s handling of the Sudanese crisis.
Prioritizing the Evacuation of Nationals
While other countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, concentrated on evacuating diplomatic missions and their families and shut their embassies in Khartoum, leaving behind their citizens in a state of uncertainty about the likelihood of their evacuation, the Egyptian diplomatic mission continued to be fully operational in Port Sudan and Wadi Halfa while relocating some of its personnel to Khartoum in response to the growing security threats there and the martyrdom of one of its personnel, in order to carry out and monitor the operations of the national plan to evacuate Egyptian citizens, which gave Egypt an advantage over the rest of the countries in evacuating its citizens, whose number, according to official statements, is estimated at ten thousand citizens, of whom 7,000 were returned.
However, Egypt’s efforts in this regard went beyond simply evacuating and securing Egyptians; they also included receiving Sudanese fleeing the conflict as well as other nationals and employees of international bodies and organizations. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that as of April 30, Egypt had welcomed more than 16,000 non-Egyptian arrivals, including 14,000 Sudanese, 2,000 people from fifty different nationalities, and 6 international organizations. This means that within one week, more than 23,000 people fled Sudan through Egyptian borders, giving Cairo an advantage over the countries that border Sudan or those that have influence in Africa. Table 1 displays the number of evacuees from Sudan and their final destinations.
Table 1: Number of evacuees and their destination
|Country||# of evacuees|
Source: Reuters, last updated 1 May
Some may argue that Egypt’s proximity to Sudan explains why it is such a popular destination for evacuees of all nationalities, not just Egyptians. However, Sudan shares extensive borders with six other countries—South Sudan, Libya, Chad, Central Africa, Ethiopia, and Eritrea—and none of these countries received the same number of refugees as Egypt.
Table 2: Number of Sudanese who have fled to neighboring countries
|Country||# of fugitives|
|Chad||20,000 (of whom only 5,000 are registered)|
According to the UNHCR, the above figures are estimates. There are no available statistics on those fleeing to Libya and Eritrea.
Also, it is not just a matter of crossing borders; rather, it is about how countries deal with people who have crossed borders and create living conditions that are more humane for them. Sudanese living in Egypt receive the same treatment as Egyptian citizens, including freedom of movement, residence, employment, and property ownership, all of which are guaranteed by the 2004 Four Freedoms Agreement. In contrast, the majority of the approximately 400,000 Sudanese refugees living in Chad reside in refugee camps in the border region (as is the case in other neighboring countries) and lack access to the most basic means of subsistence, education, and health care, prompting the international organizations supporting them to seek out more material resources to help them meet their basic needs.
Argeen Relief Center: Everyone is Safe
Only a few days after fighting broke out in the capital of Sudan, the Egyptian Red Crescent established a center for humanitarian aid at the Argeen border crossing to offer all possible assistance to all refugees from the conflict that the Egyptian government was able to evacuate to its territory, regardless of nationality. Since the Egyptian relief teams have started working, it has become evident that what they provide, despite their limited financial resources in comparison to the relief teams of the United Nations in its various bodies, represents a success akin to what the international relief organizations accomplished during the Russian-Ukrainian war to manage the humanitarian crisis and protect and secure civilians at the borders at all costs.
Similarly, Egyptian relief teams, which work closely with the relevant authorities and bodies to ease the suffering of those affected by the conflict in Sudan, confirmed their efficacy by providing over 20,000 services in just 10 days. These included first aid services, medications, and light meals for everyone in need who was able to make it to the border. These teams’ efforts stood out from the norm during war and armed conflicts because they prioritized the mental health of children and the elderly upon receiving them, made it possible for everyone to stay in touch with their loved ones via phone and the internet, and helped reunite families that had been separated by long distances (roughly a thousand kilometers).
In addition to offering food and medicine on a daily basis to those in transit, Egypt also maintained coordination between all institutions and organizations involved in managing the crisis to make it easier for everyone who was evacuated from Sudan to move to the locations they desired. And at a time when bus owners took advantage of the crisis and increased the cost of per-person land travel from Sudan to Egypt from $50 to $550, the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation coordinated with Egyptian bus drivers in Khartoum and Dongola to transport students and families to Argeen. It also ran additional trains daily from Aswan to Cairo, in addition to buses that run nonstop around the clock for EGP350 per person ($11 only) without discrimination between Egyptians and others, in order to contain the growing number of displaced people and returnees in Aswan.
Gradual Steps to Ease Tensions Between Conflicting Parties
While providing first aid, food, psychological support, and facilitating transportation and communications are all important aspects of managing the crisis and containing the current situation, Egypt’s goal since the conflict’s first day has been to put an end to the fighting so that people aren’t forced to flee the cities in Sudan where fighting is taking place and head to safer areas. The presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to take gradual steps at the regional and international levels to end the conflict and stop the bloodshed on the land of brotherly Sudan.
In order to preserve the lives and capabilities of the Sudanese people, Egypt’s position from the beginning was to demand an immediate, unconditional cease-fire, not limited to humanitarian purposes, and a return to the negotiating table. Egypt maintains its stance that events in Sudan are an internal matter, and that no outside party may interfere in any way that fuels the conflict and threatens peace and security, not just in Sudan but also throughout the region.
Moreover, on multiple occasions since the outbreak of the clashes, the Egyptian government has emphasized the importance of preserving the cohesion of Sudanese institutions and not exposing them to the risk of disintegration and collapse. The Egyptian position has also concentrated on the fact that the continuation of the current conflict would accelerate the deterioration of Sudan’s economic situation and double the burdens on the Sudanese, necessitating an immediate intervention to stop the crisis from getting worse.
In light of this position, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the two sides in the conflict in Sudan in an effort to end the fighting there. Egypt’s communication with South Sudan and offer of mediation to end this conflict were perhaps the most notable actions it took at the outset of the crisis. However, the two parties to the conflict did not respond favorably to this mediation offer, like they did to the rest of the calls for pacification from different international parties. The matter did not end with coordination with South Sudan and the offer of mediation, as Egypt continued to discuss ways to calm the situation in Sudan with the United Arab Emirates due to the latter’s good relations with the RSF leader.
The Egyptian government extended its efforts to find means of enabling a sustained pacification in Sudan through effective communication with the governments of the neighboring Arab countries, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and China to discuss the developments of the situation and its potential effects on the region as a whole and to discuss means of pacification, to bring the crisis to the attention of the regional and international organizations and bodies listed below.
- The Arab League (AL): In response to an invitation from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the AL convened an extraordinary session to discuss the crisis in Sudan. In its concluding statement, the AL reaffirmed the aforementioned points of the Egyptian position.
- African Union (AU): The AU convened a special ministerial meeting with the participation of the foreign ministers of Sudan’s neighboring countries, the African members of the Security Council, the permanent members of the Security Council, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, the representative of the European Union, and the representative of the IGAD organization in order to unite efforts and take collective action to end the civil war in Sudan.
- Security Council (SC): The SC held a special session to discuss the situation in Sudan, during which Egypt reaffirmed its position and stated its willingness to provide the necessary support to return Sudan to the path of peaceful dialogue.
In short, of Sudan’s neighboring countries, Egypt is the most impacted by the current situation in Sudan because it has taken in and is still taking in large numbers of internally displaced people from Sudan and other countries. The Egyptian state’s actions since the beginning of the crisis have confirmed its adherence to shouldering responsibility towards Sudan and its citizens, its focus on the humanitarian dimension in dealing with the displaced to its borders, and the persistence of its efforts to achieve a thorough and lasting pacification while maintaining the cohesion of state institutions, which necessitates international backing beyond a mere urging of the warring parties to seize violence.