US, Saudi Arabia urge extension in Sudan ceasefire

The fighting has forced 1.3 million people to flee their homes as observers fear regional destabilisation

Web Desk
May 28, 2023
Smoke billows in the distance in Khartoum amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals, on May 18, 2023. — AFP
Smoke billows in the distance in Khartoum amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals, on May 18, 2023. — AFP

Amid the ceasefire that is to expire Monday evening, Saudi Arabia and the United States urged Sunday to extend a week-long ceasefire that reduced the intensity of six-week-long fighting in Sudan between the two warring generals.

The war has disrupted the basic humanitarian supplies for its citizens leaving them confined to their homes without basic necessities including power.

Residents of the capital city Khartoum said they heard armed clashes overnight while human rights monitors noted deadly fighting was underway in El Fashir, one of the principal cities in the western region of Darfur.

The fighting between a Sundanese army led by Abdul Fatah Alburhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo erupted on April 15 with the capital being the main ground for the fierce fighting.

Sudanese Army soldiers walk near tanks stationed on a street in Khartoum, on May 6, 2023. — AFP

So far, the fighting has forced 1.3 million people to flee their homes as observers fear regional destabilisation.

The current ceasefire was mediated by Saudi and US-led talks in Jeddah. Both the mediators are remotely observing the truce, which has been repeatedly violated, and called on the army and the RSF "to continue discussions to reach agreement on extending the ceasefire".

The picture from May 21, 2023, shows Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan (C), flanked by representatives of the Sudanese army and the rival Paramilitary Rapid Support forces, posing for a photograph after the signing of a ceasefire agreement in Jeddah. — AFP

"While imperfect, an extension nonetheless will facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people," Saudi Arabia and the US said in a joint statement.

RSF has said it is ready to discuss the possibility of renewing the truce and that it would continue to monitor the truce "to test the seriousness and commitment of the other party to proceed with the renewal of the agreement or not".

The army said it was discussing the possibility of an extension.

Since the war began, more than 300,000 people have passed Sudan's borders, with the largest numbers headed north to Egypt from Khartoum or west to Chad from Darfur.

There is a situation of lawlessness as factories, shops, homes and offices were ransacked and looted with power and communication lines disrupted. The city is also running short of medicines and medical equipment, and food supplies have been running low.

Sudan's army chief, Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L), and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (R), commander of RSF. — AFP/File

"We left because of the impact of the war. I have children and I fear for them because of the lack of medical treatment," said one resident of the capital, told Reuters from the road to Egypt.

"I also want my children to have a chance of schooling. I don't think things in Khartoum will be restored soon."

Hurdles in assistance

Though the ceasefire brought some calm to the fighting, there were sporadic clashes and air strikes carried on.

The United Nations and aid groups said that despite the truce they have struggled to get bureaucratic approvals and security guarantees to transport aid and staff to Khartoum and other places of need. Warehouses have been looted.

Darfur has also witnessed violence which is already scarred by conflict and displacement, with hundreds of deaths recorded in El Geneina near the border with Chad during attacks that residents blamed on "Janjaweed" militias drawn from Arab nomadic tribes with links to the RSF.

The governor of Darfur, Minni Minawi, a former rebel whose faction fought against the militias in the Darfur conflict, said in a tweet that citizens should take up arms to defend their property.

In recent days there has also been fighting in El Fashir, the capital of North Darfur State.

One El Fashir hospital recorded three deaths and 26 injuries Saturday, including children, according to the Darfur Bar Association, an activist group, adding that "many more people were missing."

Across the country, the Health Ministry said at least 730 people have died in the fighting, though the true figure is likely much higher. It has separately recorded up to 510 deaths in El Geneina.