Sporadic shelling as combat eases after Sudan ceasefire
24 May 2023, 08:12 am | Updated: 02 December 2023, 02:26 am
Sporadic artillery fire still echoed in Sudan's capital Tuesday but residents said fighting had calmed following a US and Saudi-brokered ceasefire, raising faint hopes in the embattled city.
The truce, to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid for civilians, took effect Monday night only to be quickly marred by more gunshots and blasts.
By around noon on Tuesday, witnesses reported a relative calm had taken hold, both in greater Khartoum and in the Darfur region's cities of Nyala and El Geneina, which have been among the other main battlegrounds.
"We have not heard shelling in our neighbourhood since last night," said a witness in southern Khartoum, who told AFP the last airstrike was five minutes before the truce formally started at 9:45 pm (1945 GMT) on Monday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a video message that the truce is "backed by a remote monitoring mechanism" supported by the US.
"If the ceasefire is violated, we'll know," he said. "And we will hold violators accountable through our sanctions and other tools at our disposal."
More than five weeks of war have pitted the army, led by Sudan's de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
The battles since April 15 have killed an estimated 1,000 people, sparked mass evacuations of foreigners and forced more than a million people to flee their homes internally and across borders, fuelling concerns for regional stability.
Those who remain have run low on water, food and basic supplies, and more than half the population, 25 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.
- 'Broken promises' -
Khartoum residents had longed for a pause in combat to allow in life-saving humanitarian aid and to enable more people to flee the city. The United Nations said nearly 650,000 had already done so during the war.
A series of previous ceasefires were announced but quickly violated, and a foreign aid group on Monday voiced frustration about the crisis which has piled new misery on the already poverty-stricken northeast African nation.
"We've had over a month of broken promises and empty words while humanitarian colleagues were killed, together with children and others and hospitals destroyed," Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council wrote on Twitter.
Volker Perthes, the United Nations envoy to Sudan, told the UN Security Council on Monday that "fighting and troop movements have continued even today, despite a commitment by both sides not to pursue military advantage before the ceasefire takes effect".
While no previous truce has held, the United States and Saudi Arabia said this agreement was different because the seven-page document was "signed by the parties" and would be supported by the monitoring mechanism.
Neither side has directly blamed the other for breaking this truce -- as they did within minutes after previous ceasefires collapsed.
But the health ministry released a statement on Tuesday accusing the RSF of violating hospitals.
The ministry, loyal to Burhan, said RSF troops "stationed themselves" inside two hospitals in greater Khartoum Tuesday, "assaulting medical staff and ejecting patients".
The RSF called the accusations "lies".
Major fighting has devastated the western Darfur region near Chad, where the UN has reported hundreds of civilians killed in the West Darfur capital El Geneina.
Perthes in his Security Council address warned that "the conflict risks to expand and prolong... with implications for the region."
"In parts of the country, fighting between the two armies or the two armed formations has sharpened into communal tensions, or triggered conflict between communities," he said, after reports of civilians being armed in Darfur.
Sudan has a long history of military coups and the army in 2019 overthrew the veteran Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir after mass protests against his rule.
Sudanese were promised a gradual transition toward civilian rule, but Burhan and Daglo staged another coup in October 2021 before simmering tensions between the two men flared into the current war.
Category : International