ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Tuesday it was open to an immediate, unconditional ceasefire through talks with the Sudanese army as it signed a declaration with the Taqadum civilian coalition and invited the army to do the same.
A nine-month war in Sudan, which now faces the world’s largest displacement crisis, has devastated the country’s infrastructure and prompted warnings of famine.
Attempts to end the conflict through negotiations, lead by the United States and Saudi Arabia, have so far come to nothing and previous agreements to protect civilians have gone unheeded.
By signing the so-called Addis Ababa Declaration, which is intended to serve as the basis for further negotiations and a political settlement, the RSF has made its clearest commitment to ending the war so far.
“If the army came with this same document I would sign it immediately,” RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said of the declaration, which also included commitments to return millions of displaced people to their homes, create safe passages and include civilians in peace talks.
But with the RSF, which is accused by the U.S.of crimes against humanity, gaining an upper hand in recent weeks, it is unclear to what extent Dagalo will implement the declaration’s commitments. He apologised on Tuesday for violations and has said rogue actors will be dealt with.
Although the RSF has publicised the return of police and markets in some areas under its control, residents and human rights monitors say soldiers have occupied and looted homes and detained and sometimes killed civilians.
Meanwhile, artillery fire between the two sides in the capital Khartoum has intensified in recent days.
The army, which has launched extensive air strikes, has also been accused of war crimes by Washington, which it denies.
It was not immediately clear whether the army, much of which is hostile to Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and accuses it of being allied with the RSF, would welcome the declaration.
Dagalo, who is known as Hemedti, denied any such alliance.
“We invited the leadership of the armed forces. We expect, we hope they will respond to our invitation positively,” Taqadum coalition leader and former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said.
Hamdok was ousted by the RSF and the Sudanese army in a joint coup in October 2021.
While Hemedti and army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan have accepted an invitation by regional body IGAD to a meeting, this has yet to materialise, with Hemedti citing issues on his side.
The war was sparked by a dispute between the two forces, which took power in 2019 after ousting Omar al-Bashir, over their integration, which the new declaration calls for.
“There is no way Sudan, I think, stays as a peaceful country if we have this multiplicity of armies. So the aim is to have one army,” Hamdok told Reuters.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa, Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo and Khalid Abdelaziz in Dubai;Writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Alison Williams and Alexander Smith)