Fierce fighting continues in Sudan in the midst of a humanitarian "catastrophe", but the South Sudanese neighbor assures Tuesday that it has won an "agreement in principle" from the two warring generals for a one-week truce.
"We hear gunshots, military planes and anti-aircraft fire," a Khartoum resident told AFP, as a three-day truce, officially in effect since Monday but violated from the start, must end. finish Wednesday at midnight.
South Sudan, a traditional mediator in Sudan, has announced that it has obtained "an agreement in principle" from army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (FSR) who have been vying for power since April 15.
The two rivals have approved a truce "from May 4 to 11", said in a press release the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan.
Acting on the initiative of the East African regional organization Igad, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir pleaded for them to take advantage of this truce "to appoint representatives and propose a date for the start of negotiations" with a view to achieve a permanent ceasefire.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, welcomed the announcement. “First, of course, we will have to see if it is accepted by all parties,” he nevertheless said during a press briefing.
However, no belligerent immediately commented on the South Sudanese declaration, and in the meantime several witnesses reported "aerial bombardments" in Khartoum.
The capital has been in chaos since the beginning, in mid-April, of the fighting which left more than 500 dead, mainly in Khartoum and Darfur (west), and thousands of injured, according to the Sudanese Ministry of Health. A balance sheet which could be largely underestimated according to the UN.
Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia said Tuesday they had evacuated hundreds of their nationals, after similar announcements in recent days from many countries.
More than 330,000 people have been displaced and 100,000 have left for neighboring countries, according to the UN, which expects eight times as many refugees. Those who remain endure water, electricity and food shortages in Khartoum.
The conflict has plunged the country, one of the poorest in the world, into a "real disaster", according to the UN.
Before the announcement of the truce by Juba, the UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, had indicated that the two belligerents had said they were "ready to start technical discussions" which "could be held in Saudi Arabia" .
But a return to political negotiations will only be possible after a real truce, he insisted.
In their 2021 putsch, Burhane and Daglo together ousted the civilians with whom they had shared power since the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir two years earlier. But they are divided on the question of the integration of the FSR in the army.
After the Saudi authorities, an emissary from General Burhane met with the Egyptian authorities and the Arab League. He too pleaded for the international community to negotiate a truce.
But the African Union (AU) called for avoiding "dispersed action". "Our priority today is to enforce and prolong the ceasefire," said Moussa Faki, chairman of the AU Commission.
The objective is "the resumption of the political process in the country", he added.
"Without decisive intervention, the most likely scenario is that of a protean, long and bloody civil war", warns for his part Ernst Jan Hogendoorn for Atlantic Council.
This expert from Sudan expects a “staggering humanitarian disaster, similar to that in Somalia, Syria or Yemen”, with a risk of regional destabilization.
From Nairobi, the head of the UN for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, is trying to negotiate the entry of aid while the bombings and looting have spared neither hospitals nor humanitarian organizations.
The aid, however, arrives in dribs and drabs: MSF sent "ten tons" of medical supplies on Tuesday after six containers from the WHO and a plane from the Red Cross.
The situation is even more critical in West Darfur, bordering Chad, where violence has killed, according to the UN, a hundred people since last week, in this region traumatized by a bloody war in the 2000s.
02/05/2023 19:58:26 - Khartoum (AFP) - © 2023 AFP