Agreement to respect humanitarian rules but no truce in Sudan

Warring parties in Sudan signed an agreement overnight in Saudi Arabia Thursday to Friday to clear corridors to allow trapped civilians to exit combat zones while letting in humanitarian aid.

This declaration of principle is contained in a four-page document, a copy of which AFP was able to consult, which contains no mention of a truce or a ceasefire, after nearly a month of fighting which left more than 750 dead, 5,000 injured and more than 900,000 displaced and refugees.

After six days of negotiations, emissaries from General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane’s army and paramilitaries from General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) signed this “Jeddah declaration for the protection of civilians in Sudan”.

The two camps have been accusing each other since April 15 of killing civilians: the army assures that the FSR, whose bases are scattered in densely populated districts of Khartoum, of using them as “human shields” and the FSR denounce the air raids of the army on the capital of more than five million inhabitants.

Many truces violated

But in Jeddah on Thursday evening, they agreed to “create safe passages so that civilians can leave the combat zones in the direction of their choice”.

They also pledged to “authorize and facilitate the rapid passage of humanitarian aid” as well as “the passage of humanitarian workers into and within the country”. At least 18 aid workers have been killed so far trying to help a traumatized population.

For four weeks, millions of Sudanese, mainly in Khartoum and Darfur, in Chad’s western border, have been barricaded in their homes, surviving sweltering heat without running water or electricity for fear of going out and being mowed down by a lost bullet.

Everywhere, food and money are running out and the UN is warning of soaring hunger, a scourge that has long afflicted Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world.

So far, Americans and Saudis have announced that they have obtained half a dozen truce promises from both sides, all of which were violated within minutes of their theoretical entry into force. An American official said, however, overnight from Thursday to Friday that negotiations are underway to obtain a new temporary truce allowing the delivery of aid, with a proposal to stop the fighting for ten days.

“Not there yet”

Washington hopes that the signing of the agreement will create a “momentum” that can lead to the delivery of aid, she added on condition of anonymity. But the army and the paramilitaries are “not there yet”. Despite everything, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FLC), the civilian bloc sacked from power in 2021 by the putsch of the two generals now at war, welcomed Jeddah’s declaration as “a first step in the right direction “.

The UN, the African Union and Igad – the East African bloc of which Sudan is a part – also welcomed in a joint statement the declaration of Jeddah, “an important first step to alleviate the suffering Sudanese”. On the ground Thursday, however, fighting, air raids and now widespread looting did not stop in different districts of Khartoum, residents reported to AFP.

The UN’s main body for the fight against human rights violations decided on Thursday to strengthen the monitoring of abuses in Sudan without, however, creating an investigation mechanism.

The situation is probably the most sensitive in Darfur, torn in the 2000s by a bloody war, where 450 people according to the UN died in recent fighting involving – in addition to soldiers and paramilitaries – armed civilians and combatants tribes or local armed groups.

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