Egypt and the Darfur Conflict

Report – external series

Rolandsen, Øystein H. & Jacob Høigilt (2010) Egypt and the Darfur Conflict. NOREF Policy Brief: 9. Oslo: NOREF.

Report published on NOREF web-site

Can Egypt save Darfur?

The conflict in Sudan's western province of Darfur has revived even as the peace talks in Qatar between Sudan's government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) seem to have collapsed. Egypt has hitherto refrained from involvement in negotiations to end the conflict, a strategy that has contributed to further diminishing Cairo's already weakened status as a major player in regional politics and diplomacy.

Now, however, several developments present Egypt with an opportunity to assume a more active mediating role. Among these is a direct invitation to Egypt from the JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim. Egypt's position is complicated by its need to balance its relations with Sudan and those of other Sudanese political actors, and inhibited by narrow security calculations – chief among which is ensuring a stable government in Khartoum.

But Egypt still has the political stature and regional influence to impel the parties to the conflict to negotiate in earnest. Such an effort would carry risks for Cairo, not least the possibility of damaging its relationship with both Khartoum and the rebel groups. However, a more active contribution to peace diplomacy over Darfur would restore Egypt's position as a regional heavyweight and could help resolve one of the most intractable disputes of the past decade.

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