Sudan’s warring sides accuse each other of violating ceasefire

The truce between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces was reached after 5 weeks of warfare in Sudan.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023.
A man walks as smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023 [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Sudan’s warring sides have accused each other of being behind breaches of the latest ceasefire that was negotiated by the US and Saudi Arabia, now in its third day.

Clashes between the rival factions broke out again on Thursday in Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman, witnesses said, as well as the strategic city of El Obeid to the southwest.

“Residents in the cities of Omdurman and Khartoum reported hearing overnight gunfire being exchanged between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Omdurman.

“In the early hours of Thursday we were able to hear reconnaissance planes flying overhead in Omdurman and when we spoke to people in Khartoum, they said they also were able to hear the planes,” she added.

Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North make up Sudan’s greater capital area. They are separated by the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile.

The week-long ceasefire was reached after five weeks of fighting in Khartoum and outbursts of fighting in other parts of Sudan, including the long-volatile western region of Darfur.

The fighting – centred on a power struggle between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – has worsened a humanitarian crisis, forced more than more than one million people to flee and threatened to destabilise a fragile region.

The war broke out in Khartoum on April 15 after disputes over plans for the RSF to be integrated into the army under an internationally backed deal to shift Sudan towards democracy following decades of conflict-ridden rule by former President Omar al-Bashir, who had appointed himself as leader of the country after staging a coup in 1989.

Short-lived ceasefire

The truce was violated only minutes after it came into effect on Monday night, with residents of the capital Khartoum reporting air attacks and artillery fire shaking the city.

There have since been further breaches of the ceasefire agreement, which is meant to allow for much-needed humanitarian aid to reach war-ravaged parts of the North African country.

It is the latest in a series of truces that have all been systematically violated.

It is unclear whether either side has gained an edge in recent weeks of fighting.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the RSF, which is led by Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, sought to place the blame for ceasefire breaches on the army led by Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The army “launched a series of unwarranted attacks today”, the RSF said, adding that “our forces decisively repelled these assaults.”

“Our forces successfully shot down a SAF MiG jet fighter,” it said, reiterating, however, that it remained “committed to the humanitarian truce”.

According to Morgan, “The RSF claims that it has shot down a fighter jet belonging to the army but the army says that the plane crashed due to a technical error and that it was due to an air-to-surface missile fired by the RSF.”

The army also said on Thursday morning that it had “countered an attack on armoured vehicles by the militias of the Rapid Support Forces in a clear violation of the truce”.

Continuing violations of the ceasefire

The US Department of State said the ceasefire monitoring mechanism on Sudan had detected possible breaches of the agreement, including observed use of artillery, military aircraft and drones.

“We have continued to see violations of the ceasefire,” Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

“We retain our sanctions authority and if appropriate we will not hesitate to use that authority.”

The UN envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hanna Tetteh, said the continued fighting was “unacceptable and it must stop”.

Washington also warned that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has been supplying the RSF with surface-to-air missiles to fight Sudan’s army, saying it was “contributing to a prolonged armed conflict that only results in further chaos in the region”.

The army relies on air power while the RSF has spread out and taken cover in Khartoum’s streets.

The health ministry said some 730 people had been killed and 5,454 injured, though the real number could be much higher.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies