Khartoum / Washington DC / Djibouti / London — The Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) yesterday agreed to extend the humanitarian ceasefire for an additional 72 hours, following an initiative put forward by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to organise a meeting between the leaders of the warring parties. The US State Department plans to form an international committee to mediate a permanent truce.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed “the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces’ announcement extending the ceasefire in Sudan by an additional 72 hours. In unison with international and regional partners, we urge the parties to commit to end the fighting and ensure unimpeded humanitarian access”.
The members of the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism and the Sudan Quad (Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, and USA) lauded the extended armistice as well.
“We also welcome their readiness to engage in dialogue towards establishing a more durable cessation of hostilities and ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access. This initial phase of diplomacy to establish a process to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements will contribute to action on development of a de-escalation plan as outlined in the April 20 African Union communique, which was endorsed by the League of Arab States, the European Union, the Troika, and other bilateral partners,” the countries said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The General Command of the Sudanese Army announced yesterday that Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council and commander-in-chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), agreed to an initiative put forward by IGAD* to extend the April 24-27 armistice brokered by the USA and Saudi Arabia with an additional 72 hours, starting today.
President of South Sudan and Chair of the IGAD mediation team Salva Kiir Mayardit on Wednesday briefed the IGAD members on his engagement with El Burhan and SRF Commander Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo.
Workneh Gebeyehu, the executive secretary of IGAD commended “President Kiir’s consistent engagement and support to IGAD mediation efforts” and underscored the need for “de-escalation and return to the negotiating table, and to allow the high-level IGAD peace-mission to take place without any further delay”.
SAF spokesperson Nabil Abdallah yesterday confirmed the extended armistice and stated that El Burhan agreed in principle to send a representative to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to negotiate the details of the IGAD initiative.
South Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Dau told Al Jazeera that the proposal of Salva Kiir requires that the two parties to the conflict send their representatives in order to start negotiating a permanent truce. “A direct dialogue between the two men is not possible at the present time.”
The USA are also working to achieve “a more durable end to the fighting,” US State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel reported on Tuesday.
“We are coordinating with regional and international partners and Sudanese civilian stakeholders to assist in the creation of a committee to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements in Sudan.”
The earlier ceasefires did not hold everywhere, as fighting continued in various parts of the country. The large-scale battles that erupted between the army and the RSF almost two weeks ago, have led to a humanitarian catastrophe.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported that at least 427 people have been killed and more than 3,700 injured.
“However, the actual death toll is expected to be much higher, as access has not been possible to many locations where people have been killed, and current figures include only deaths reported to health facilities,” OCHA said in its latest Situation Report released on Wednesday.
In response to the extremely dire humanitarian situation, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Vision, and Save the Children on Wednesday highlighted the danger to children “if the current ceasefire is not respected by all parties. Millions of vulnerable girls and boys need immediate humanitarian assistance, and all children need to be protected from harm.”
On Thursday, Amnesty International reported that it had received reports about unlawful killings of civilians in Sudan.
The London-based human rights organisation said in a tweet that “We are receiving credible allegations of indiscriminate attacks and unlawful killings of civilians across Sudan. We reiterate our call for all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, allow safe passage for those who want to leave and for humanitarian assistance to reach all in need.”
* IGAD is a body of seven countries in the Horn of Africa. The regional organisation, based in Djibouti, supports its member states in their development efforts, especially in the areas of peace processes and food security.