US, Saudi Arabia call on Sudan warring sides to extend ceasefire

As a shaky truce signed last week is set to expire, Sudanese civilians worry fighting between the army and a rival paramilitary force will intensify.

A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment
Mediators from the US and Saudi Arabia accused both Sudan's army and the RSF paramilitary of violating the ceasefire they signed last week [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

The United States and Saudi Arabia have called on the warring sides in Sudan to extend a fragile ceasefire as weeks of fighting reached a deadlock in the capital and elsewhere in the African country.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Washington and Riyadh called for an extension of the current truce, scheduled to expire at 9:45 pm [19:45 GMT] on Monday.

“While imperfect, an extension nonetheless will facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people,” the statement said.

It also urged Sudan’s military government and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to continue negotiations to reach an agreement on extending the ceasefire.

The fighting broke out in mid-April. Both military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo led the 2021 coup that removed the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The conflict has killed hundreds of people, wounded thousands and pushed the country to near collapse. It has forced nearly 1.4 million people out of their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or to neighboring nations, according to the UN migration agency.

The army and RSF had agreed last week to the weeklong truce brokered by the US and the Saudis. However, the ceasefire, like others before it, did not stop the fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country.

Residents reported renewed sporadic fighting on Sunday in parts of the capital’s adjacent city, Omdurman, where the army’s aircraft were seen flying over the city. Fighting was also reported in al-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the delivery of humanitarian aid had not been possible in many parts of the capital and country.

“Humanitarian aid was able to trickle in by Saturday, but it reached very few people,” Morgan said. “People are worried that with the ceasefire due to expire, there will be more fighting and that they will be caught up between the two sides.”

Fragile truce

In a separate statement, the US and Saudi Arabia accused both the military and the RSF of violating the ceasefire, saying that such violations “significantly impeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services”.

The statement mentioned air attacks by the military, including one that reportedly killed at least two people on Saturday in Khartoum. The RSF is also accused of continuing to occupy civilian homes, private businesses and public buildings and to loot some residences.

“Both parties have told facilitators their goal is de-escalation to facilitate humanitarian assistance and essential repairs, yet both parties are posturing for further escalation,” the statement said.

Mini Minawi, the governor of the war-torn Darfur region in western Sudan, on Sunday called on people there to “take up arms” after markets were burned and health and aid facilities looted.

“I call on all our honourable citizens, the people of Darfur, old and young, men and women, to take up arms to protect their property,” he said on Twitter.

Much of the heaviest fighting has raged in Khartoum and in Darfur near the border with Chad.

Morgan said Minawi was also head of an armed faction whose involvement could escalate the fighting.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese have fled across the border into Chad as concerns rise about the militarisation of those who remain.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies