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US: Sudan Generals Agree to 72-Hour Cease-Fire

FILE - Smoke is seen rise from buildings during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, April 22, 2023.
FILE - Smoke is seen rise from buildings during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, April 22, 2023.

Sudan's battling generals have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday, after over a week of combat killed hundreds, wounded thousands and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners.

Internationally-brokered cease-fires have repeatedly failed since fighting began on April 15 between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The previous cease-fire attempt, which brought almost no reduction in fighting, was due to run out Monday evening.

"Following intense negotiation over the past 48 hours, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24, to last for 72 hours," Blinken said in a statement.

So far, at least 427 people have been killed and more than 3,700 injured, according to U.N. agencies.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned of a "catastrophic conflagration" that could engulf the region. He urged the 15 members of the Security Council to "exert maximum leverage" on both sides in order to "pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss."

Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the U.S. are among the nations using aircraft and convoys to bring foreign nationals out of Sudan.

Despite the pullout, U.S. and European officials insisted they were still engaged in trying to secure an end to the fighting.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called for a "cessation of hostilities" in Sudan after the U.S. evacuated its embassy in Khartoum.

Calling for an immediate and unconditional end to the violence in Sudan, the regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) last week resolved to send Kenyan President William Ruto, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to broker a cease-fire.

Former Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, who resigned last year in protest of a political agreement between former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Burhan, urged opposing sides to stop fighting.

"It must come to an end by consent. They must agree to a truce. And that truce can go on for a permanent cease-fire. And we see the terms of how to finalize the terms of constituting, one unified professional national army. At the same time, we negotiate with them the submission of power to the civilians," Mahdi told VOA Sunday.

A pro-democracy uprising led to the 2019 ouster of former strongman Sudanese Omar al-Bashir. But in 2021, Burhan and Dagalo joined forces to seize power in a coup.

The U.S. and EU have been working with the generals for years, trying to push them into ceding power to a democratic, civilian government.

"What the Sudanese people have asked for and that no one in the international community has ever really supported is a truly inclusive peace process that brings in the marginalized communities, that brings in the women, that brings in the whole of Sudanese society," Rebecca Hamilton, professor of law at American University, told VOA.

"When you have a history of 30 years of dictatorship that you’re having to overcome, the people that benefited from that dictatorship, they don’t just disappear overnight. But you also can’t get them out of the country, so you have to figure out a way to deal with them. There is always going to be this really messy transition, period," she added.

Information for this report came from The Associated Press and AFP. VOA's James Butty and Carol Carol Van Dam Falk contributed.