UN urges Sudan’s warring parties to respect seven-day ceasefire that began Monday night
UNITED NATIONS — The UN envoy to Sudan has called on the country’s warring generals to respect a seven-day ceasefire that began Monday night, warning of the risks of a growing ethnic dimension engulfing Sudan in a protracted conflict.
Volker Perthes told the UN Security Council that the conflict, which began on April 15, showed no signs of slowing down despite six previous cease-fires declared by both sides. All previous truces have been violated.
Monday’s ceasefire is the seventh announced since the conflict between the Sudanese army led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Force led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo broke out last month.
Hours before the cease-fire began, Perthes called on both sides to stop fighting so that badly needed humanitarian aid could reach those in need and civilians caught in the fighting could leave safely.
The violence was most severe in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, where the RSF still maintains a strong armed presence.
According to conservative estimates, Perthes said more than 700 people died, including 190 children, and 6,000 were wounded. He said more than 1 million people had been forced from their homes and many more were missing.
Perthe also expressed concern about the troubling ethnic dimension of the war, most visible in the restive Darfur region.
In the early 2000s, African communities in Darfur, which had long complained of discrimination, rebelled against the government in Khartoum, which responded with a military campaign that the International Criminal Court later said amounted to genocide. State-sponsored Arab militias, the Janjaweed, have been accused of widespread killings, rape and other atrocities. Many of its fighters were later assigned to the fast support forces.
Perthes said clashes between rival forces in West Darfur’s El Geneina erupted into ethnic violence on April 24, with tribal militias joining the fight and civilians taking up arms to defend themselves. About 450 civilians are reported to have died.
“Homes, markets and hospitals were ransacked and burned, and UN premises were looted,” he said.
Unlike previous cease-fires, Monday’s agreement — brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia — is accompanied by a cross-party commission designed to monitor potential violations, the two mediating nations said. The 12-member commission will consist of three representatives from each warring party, three from the United States and three from Saudi Arabia.
Suliman Baldo, director of the Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker think tank, expects the two sides to better adhere to this week-long ceasefire.
“I think the RSF needs the break as it has been under considerable pressure from (the Sudanese army) in Khartoum to evacuate RSF units from residential areas,” Baldo said.
“They (the Sudanese army) may be tempted to continue their offensive in Khartoum, but it will become clear to them that this would come at an even higher cost due to the additional civilian casualties,” he added.
Perthes called the renewable agreement a “welcome development” but warned that “fighting and troop movements will continue today, despite commitments from both sides not to seek military advantage before the ceasefire takes effect”.
Perthes accused both warring parties of disregarding the laws of war, attacking homes, businesses, places of worship, and water and electricity networks.
Health facilities are collapsing, more than two-thirds of hospitals are closed, many health workers are dead, medical supplies are running out, and health facilities are reportedly being used as military posts.
The UN is monitoring reports of sexual violence against women and girls, including those in Khartoum and Darfur, he said.
“Reports of rampant looting of Sudanese homes and businesses, intimidation, harassment and enforced disappearance of residents are deeply concerning,” Perthes said, adding that UN buildings, residences and warehouses had also been looted. He said criminal activity was compounded by the release of thousands of prisoners and the proliferation of small arms.
While the warring rivals do not trust each other, the UN envoy later told reporters that he believed both had learned from weeks of fighting “that they are not going to achieve an easy military victory,” Perthes said. Even if one side wins after a long time. fight, “this could be at the expense of losing the country”.
In a subsequent video briefing, African Union Commissioner Bankole Adeoye also called for “more concerted and actionable efforts towards a lasting cessation of hostilities” and urged the rival generals to “go all the way for peace”.
Associated Press writer Jack Jeffery contributed in London.