Accessibility links

Breaking News

Sudan Cease-Fire Largely Holding

FILE - Sudan's Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks in Khartoum, Sudan, on Dec. 5, 2022.

KHARTOUM - Sporadic artillery fire still echoed through Sudan's capital Tuesday but residents said fighting had calmed following a U.S. and Saudi-brokered ceasefire, raising faint hopes in the embattled city.

Witnesses in Khartoum reported a welcome respite after a rocky start to the one-week humanitarian truce which took effect the previous evening only to be quickly marred by more gunshots and blasts.

By around noon on Tuesday, witnesses reported a relative calm had taken hold, both in greater Khartoum and in the Darfur region's cities of Nyala and El Geneina, which have been among the other main battlegrounds.

"We have not heard shelling in our neighborhood since last night," said a witness in southern Khartoum, who told AFP the last airstrike was five minutes before the truce formally started at 1945 GMT on Monday.

As the uneasy silence held in Khartoum, residents desperately hoped for a pause in combat to allow in life-saving humanitarian aid, and to enable more people to flee the strife-torn city of five million.

"If the cease-fire is violated, we'll know," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a video message. "And we will hold violators accountable through our sanctions and other tools at our disposal."

More than five weeks of war have pitted the army, led by Sudan's de-facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

The battles since April 15 have killed an estimated 1,000 people, forced more than a million to flee their homes and sparked mass evacuations of foreigners and major refugee flows into neighboring counties.

People have run low on water, food and basic supplies, and more than half the population, 25 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

- 'Broken promises' -

A series of previous cease-fires were quickly shattered, and a foreign aid group Monday voiced frustration about the crisis which has piled new misery on the already poverty-stricken northeast African nation.

Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council wrote on Twitter "We've had over a month of broken promises and empty words while humanitarian colleagues were killed, together with children and others and hospitals destroyed."

While no previous truce has held, the United States and Saudi Arabia said this agreement was different because it was "signed by the parties" and would be supported by a "ceasefire monitoring mechanism."

Neither side has yet blamed the other for violating the truce, as they did within minutes after the previous ceasefires unraveled.

- 'Victory or martyrdom' -

Hours before the truce was scheduled to start, Dagalo released a voice message on social media in which he told his fighters: "It is either victory or martyrdom, and victory will be ours."

Addressing reported violations by his forces - including rampant looting, targeting of civilians and attacks on churches - he blamed "coup plotters" in the army.

Major fighting has rocked the western Darfur region near Chad, where the U.N. has reported hundreds of civilians killed in the West Darfur capital El Geneina.

United Nations envoy Volker Perthes told the U.N. Security Council that "the conflict risks to expand and prolong ... with implications for the region."

"In parts of the country, fighting between the two armies or the two armed formations has sharpened into communal tensions, or triggered conflict between communities," he said, after reports of civilians being armed in Darfur.

Sudan has a long history of military coups and the army in 2019 overthrew the veteran Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir after mass protests against his rule.