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Sudan: Despite frequent breaches, parties agree to extend truce by 72 hours

The Sudanese army said in a statement on Sunday that it had agreed to extend a truce with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for a period of 72 hours, starting from the end of the current ceasefire arrangement. This was announced in spite of the fact that both sides have accused each other of fresh violations of the ceasefire that was to last until Sunday as their deadly conflict rumbled on for a third week.

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Both sides said a formal ceasefire agreement which was due to expire at midnight would be extended for a further 72 hours, in a move the RSF said was “in response to international, regional, and local calls”.

At least 528 people have been killed and 4,599 wounded since the fighting erupted on April 15, the health ministry said. The United Nations has reported a similar number of dead but believes the real toll is much higher.

The conflict has derailed an internationally backed political transition aimed at establishing a democratic government in Sudan, where former autocratic President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was toppled in 2019 after three decades in power.

“This war will not lead to a singular army or to a democratic transition, and there is no guarantee that the deposed regime will not return to power once more,” prominent civilian politician Khalid Omar Yousif said on Twitter.

Situation on the ground

The army said it hoped what it called the “rebels”, as it describes the RSF, would abide by the deal but the truce believed they had intended to keep up attacks. The parties have kept fighting through a series of ceasefires secured by mediators including the United States.

The situation in Khartoum, where the army has been battling RSF forces entrenched in residential areas, was relatively calm on Sunday morning, a Reuters journalist said, after heavy clashes were heard on Saturday evening near the city center.

The army said on Sunday it had destroyed RSF convoys moving towards Khartoum from the west. The RSF said the army had used artillery and warplanes to attack its positions in a number of areas in Khartoum province.

In an apparent bid to boost its forces, the army said on Saturday that the Central Reserve Police had begun to deploy in southern Khartoum and would be deployed gradually in other areas of the capital.

Sudan’s police said that the force had been deployed to protect markets and property that had been subjected to looting.

The force is a large and heavily armed division of Sudan’s police force that has fighting experience from conflicts in the western region of Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan.

In March 2022, the United States imposed sanctions on the reserve police force, accusing it of using excessive force against protesters who were demonstrating against a 2021 military coup.

The RSF on Saturday warned the police against becoming involved in the fighting.

No direct negotiations

Sudan ceasefire still in force as evacuation continues

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Foreign countries have undertaken an effort to extract their citizens. Many have found their way to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast and are awaiting to be evacuated.

The conflict has also sent tens of thousands of Sudanese fleeing across the country’s borders and prompted warnings that the country could disintegrate, destabilizing a volatile region.

The prospects for negotiations have appeared bleak.

“There are no direct negotiations, there are preparations for talks,” UN special representative in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told journalists in Port Sudan, adding that regional and international countries were working with the two sides.

Perthes, who told Reuters on Saturday the sides were more open to negotiations than before, said he hoped a direct meeting between representatives of the sides would be held as soon as possible aimed at “achieving an organized ceasefire with a monitoring mechanism”.

Army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said he would never sit down with RSF chief General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, who in turn said he would talk only after the army ceased hostilities.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, whose government has played a part in mediating the ceasefires, met Burhan envoy Daffalla Al-Haj Ali in Riyad and called for calm, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

Adding to the diplomatic pressure, United Arab Emirates Vice President Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed had phoned Burhan, state news agency WAM reported.

Humanitarian aid badly needed

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With the United Nations reporting only 16 percent of health facilities in Khartoum operating as normal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivered 8 tonnes of medical aid.

“Healthcare workers in Sudan have been doing the impossible, caring for the wounded without water, electricity, and basic medical supplies,” said Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s regional director for Africa.

But while approval had been given for the supplies to go to Khartoum, negotiations were ongoing with the sides to facilitate delivery within the city, where hospitals, convoys, and ambulances have been attacked, he said.

A third of Sudan’s 46 million people needed humanitarian aid before the fighting began.

At least five aid workers have been killed in the fighting.

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