Sudan’s military and its paramilitary rival made a new attempt at a 24-hour cease-fire on Wednesday, April 19, as people who have been trapped for days in their homes by fighting in Khartoum fled the capital.
The two sides separately announced that they would abide by the new halt in fighting that took effect Wednesday evening, after a failed truce the day before. Residents reported that sporadic gunfire and explosions could still be heard, pointing to the fragility of the efforts.
Nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the past five days, the UN’s World Health Organization said, but the toll is likely higher, since many bodies have been left in the streets, unreachable because of clashes.
Residents said the military was pounding the positions of the opposing Rapid Support Forces with airstrikes since early Wednesday, while gunbattles continued to rage outside the main military headquarters in central Khartoum, which the RSF has tried repeatedly to capture.
Fierce clashes were also reported at the airport, and around the state television building across the Nile River in the adjacent city Omdurman. The army’s monopoly on air power has appeared to give it an edge in fighting in Khartoum and Omdurman, enabling it to take several RSF bases over the past few days.
A 24-hour cease-fire was to have been in effect from sundown Tuesday to sundown Wednesday. It was the most concrete attempt yet to bring a pause that it was hoped could be expanded into a longer truce.
It came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke separately by phone with the two rivals – the leader of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the head of the Rapid Support Forces, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as ” Hemedti”. But fighting continued after the intended start of the truce and through the night. Each side blamed the other for the failure.
The RSF said it has agreed on a day-long truce to take effect Thursday at 6 pm local time. There was no immediate comment from the military.
Democratic transition derailed
Aid agencies and foreigners, including diplomats, have also been trapped in the fighting. German media reported that three planes were dispatched to evacuate German citizens from Khartoum, but turned around Wednesday due to security concerns in Khartoum. Japan said it was preparing to send military aircraft to evacuate about 60 Japanese nationals.
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A spokeswoman for the EU said the EU office in Khartoum is still operating and the delegation is not being evacuated. The EU ambassador, who was assaulted when gunmen broke into his residence several days ago, is back at work, she said.
The conflict between the military and the RSF has once again derailed Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after decades of dictatorship and civil war. A popular uprising four years ago helped depose long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir. But Burhan and Dagalo joined to carry out a 2021 coup. Both generals have a long history of human rights abuses, and their forces have cracked down on pro-democracy activists.
Under international pressure, Burhan and Dagalo recently agreed to a framework agreement with political parties and pro-democracy groups. But the signing was repeatedly delayed as tensions rose over the integration of the RSF into the armed forces and the future chain of command.