Sudan’s warring sides have agreed to extend a ceasefire in their battle for control of the country, after two key international mediators signalled impatience with persistent truce violations.
The five-day extension of the ceasefire between Sudan’s military and its rival, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), was announced in a joint statement late on Monday by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
“The extension will provide time for further humanitarian assistance, restoration of essential services and discussion of a potential longer-term extension,” the statement said.
The development came after both Riyadh and Washington on Sunday criticised both warring sides for specific breaches of a week-long truce that was to expire on Monday evening rather than issue another general appeal to respect agreements.
Sudan descended into chaos after fighting erupted in mid-April between the military, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
The fighting has killed at least 866 civilians and wounded thousands more, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. The toll could be much higher, the medical group said.
The conflict has turned the capital, Khartoum, and other urban areas into battlefields, forcing nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossing into neighbouring countries.
Early on, foreign governments raced to evacuate their diplomats and nationals as thousands of foreign residents scrambled to get out of the African nation.
For weeks, the US and Saudi Arabia have been mediating talks between the military and the RSF in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. So far, there have been seven declared ceasefires, all of which have been violated to some extent.
In Sunday’s statement, the US and Saudi Arabia noted that the military continued to carry out airstrikes, while the RSF was still occupying people’s homes and seizing properties.
Fuel, money, aid supplies and vehicles belonging to a humanitarian convoy were stolen, with theft occurring both in areas controlled by the military and by the RSF, the statement said.
Alan Boswell of the International Crisis Group think tank said the joint statement was meant to pressure both sides into greater compliance, at a time when the US and Saudi Arabia do not have an alternative for the Jeddah talks.
“There is still no clear path to a successful ceasefire,” said Mr Boswell, who is project director for the Horn of Africa at the Crisis Group. “It’s becoming clearer by the day that mediators can’t afford to wait for a stable ceasefire to kick-start the wider political process needed to find a way out of the conflict.”
The conflict has come to a stalemate as neither side has been able to deliver a decisive blow.
Cameron Hudson, a former US diplomat, said selectively observed ceasefires and slow-moving talks in Jeddah are likely to continue.
“Washington and Riyadh have become too invested in the success of the ceasefire and the process they have in place because failure at this point would reflect poorly on them as much as the parties,” said Mr Hudson, a senior associate with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“In the current scenario, the diplomats get their ceasefire and can claim progress towards peace,” he said. “The parties get to keep fighting, and the only people who lose are the 45 million Sudanese.”