Sporadic Clashes in Sudan Capital Test Fourth Cease-Fire Attempt

Renewed clashes in Sudan’s capital and other areas of the country tested the fourth attempt at a nationwide cease-fire since conflict erupted in the North African country in mid-April.

(Bloomberg) — Renewed clashes in Sudan’s capital and other areas of the country tested the fourth attempt at a nationwide cease-fire since conflict erupted in the North African country in mid-April.

Smoke was seen rising from the vicinity of the presidential palace in Khartoum, where residents said there was fighting between army soldiers and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Tuesday morning. There was also violence in the nearby city of Omdurman and in Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, according to eyewitnesses.

The clashes came hours after Sudanese army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, backed a 72-hour humanitarian truce. The army said there had been “a lot of violations” of the truce since it was announced late Monday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Infringements include RSF forces attempting to occupy unspecified sites in the capital and elsewhere in the country, and snipers continuing to operate in parts of Khartoum, the army spokesman said in a statement. “We retain every right to deal with these dangerous breaches,” he said.

Despite the latest fighting, Khartoum was calmer than it has been since the start of the conflict. Foreign governments used the lull in fighting to evacuate more of their citizens, with India, South Korea, South Africa and Ukraine among those announcing they’ve successfully removed people from the country. 

The accord, announced by Blinken late on Monday, was the result of Saudi-US mediation, the army said in a statement.

The cease-fire is “a potential lifesaver for civilians who have been trapped in their homes without the ability to access food, clean water, and medical care,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement. “Street battles and the use of heavy explosive weapons in Khartoum have had a devastating impact on civilians and critical infrastructure over the last week, forcing many to flee or seek shelter.”

Diplomats have so far failed to get Burhan and Dagalo to agree to talks about ending the conflict, the culmination of a long-simmering struggle between the army and the RSF. The fighting has left 427 people dead, more than 3,700 injured and upended plans for a power-sharing government that was supposed to lead the nation of about 45 million to democratic elections after a 2021 coup.

Foreign governments are increasingly looking to the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional bloc, to lead mediation efforts since they may be able to bring the pressure of countries in the region to bear on the two men, the diplomats said. The continental body will hold a briefing on April 28 to discuss the situation in Sudan and other conflicts on the continent.

“We strongly support African-led efforts to help both mediate this crisis, to end the hostilities,” Blinken told reporters in Washington on Monday. The US is working with international partners and Sudanese groups to create a committee “to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities,” he said.

Sitting at the crossroads of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan has drawn interest from foreign powers including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Western powers have dangled billions of dollars in frozen aid in a push for a return of civilian rule after a 2021 coup in a country also coveted by Russia and China for its strategic Red Sea coastline and mineral resources.

Egypt has historically backed the army in Sudan, and the two nations are aligned in opposing the construction of a massive hydro-power dam in Ethiopia — the neighboring country that’s the main source of their fresh water. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have forged close ties with the Rapid Support Forces through the use of its fighters in a war in Yemen, while Dagalo is thought to have business links in the Gulf.

–With assistance from Kateryna Kadabashy, Dasha Afanasieva and Jon Herskovitz.

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