Three-day ceasefire holding in Sudan as countries race to evacuate citizens

PEOPLE fleeing from Sudan arrive at a bus station in Aswan, Egypt, on April 25, 2023. Many people crossed into Egypt through the border crossing between Egypt and Sudan, as conflict in the latter country continues. (Photo by Radwan Abu Elmagd/Xinhua)


The security situation in Sudan has deteriorated sharply in recent days, prompting many countries to evacuate their diplomats and citizens. A three-day nationwide ceasefire to facilitate humanitarian efforts and evacuations appears to be holding.

After 48 hours of intense negotiations, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and its rival, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to a nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24, to last for 72 hours. Previous attempted ceasefires have failed.The two parties continued to exchange fire on Monday, with heavy gunfire heard in certain areas in the capital city Khartoum. 

Witnesses said constant gunfire was heard on Monday morning at the Khartoum International Airport and along the Nile River. A stray bullet hit the compound of Xinhua’s Khartoum bureau.Brutal fighting erupted in the Sudanese capital on April 15 and swiftly escalated in different parts of the country.

Neither side has announced casualties. According to data from the Sudanese Health Ministry, more than 400 civilians have been killed, with roughly 4,000 others injured.Many international organizations and governments have urged the warring parties to stop fighting and solve the current crisis through dialogue. 

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the violence “risks a catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the whole region and beyond” and called on UN Security Council members to exert maximum leverage. Countries are racing to evacuate their civilians from the battle-scarred African country. On Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said authorities evacuated 436 Egyptian nationals from Sudan as fierce fighting continues in the neighboring country.

Early on Monday, Uganda evacuated more than 200 nationals from Sudan, Ugandan Ambassador to Sudan Rashid Yahya Ssemuddu told Xinhua. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on Monday that more than 200 Palestinians in Sudan were evacuated from Khartoum. The European Union (EU) has completed the evacuation of 1,200 European citizens on 31 flights from Sudan, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Monday, adding that an estimated 400 citizens remain in the country.

“With the concerted efforts of all parties, most of the Chinese nationals in Sudan have been safely evacuated in batches and in an orderly manner to the ports on Sudan’s border or Sudan’s neighboring countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily press briefing on Tuesday.”The security situation in Sudan remains complex and challenging,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile a top United Nations envoy for Sudan said that the military leaders of the warring parties in Sudan are not ready for a complete ceasefire.

“Both leaders (of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces) have not been able to fully commit to a complete ceasefire or implement one. The two generals continue trading accusations and issuing competing claims of control over key installations,” said Volker Perthes, the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan. 

There is yet no unequivocal sign that either is ready to seriously negotiate, suggesting that both think that securing a military victory over the other is possible, he said. “This is a miscalculation. As fighting continues, law and order will further break down throughout the country, and command and control will dissipate. Sudan could become increasingly fragmented, which would have a devastating impact on the region,” he warned. And even if one side wins, Sudan will lose, said Perthes.

A 72-hour ceasefire, brokered by the United States on Monday, seems to be holding in some parts of Sudan so far. However, there have been reports of fighting and movement of troops. The Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces have accused each other of violating the ceasefire, he said via a video link from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where nearly 1,200 people, including 744 UN staff and their dependents, international nongovernmental organization staff and their dependents. 

Diplomatic staff from several embassies were relocated from the capital city of Khartoum on Monday. In Khartoum, fighting around the Republican Palace, Khartoum international airport, Sudanese Armed Forces headquarters, Rapid Support Forces bases, and other strategic locations have largely continued or in some cases intensified. Airstrikes and heavy shelling have also continued, particularly in Bahri and Omdurman on the outskirts of Khartoum. Khartoum airport is reportedly now operational, but its aprons are damaged, he said.

Residential areas near installations of the two military factions have come under persistent attacks. Homes, shops, schools, water and electricity installations, mosques, hospitals, and other health facilities have been damaged or destroyed. Reports of home invasions, looting of homes and shops and cars at checkpoints have been rampant. 

These have included the homes and cars of Sudanese citizens, United Nations staff, humanitarian workers, and the diplomatic community, he said. “We have also received disturbing reports of attempted sexual assaults. With supply lines running out and destroyed, fear of increased criminality is mounting. Reports of prisoners being released from detention centers across Khartoum have compounded these fears,” he said. 

The situation in western region of Darfur remains volatile. Other regions of Sudan, while spared from armed confrontation, are feeling the impact of the fighting. Several are hosting thousands of internally displaced people. Yet supply routes are disrupted, resulting in fuel shortages, said Perthes.Throughout Sudan, significant price hikes of basic commodities are reported. There are also increasing reports of armed robbers at checkpoints on some roads, looting civilians who are fleeing from violence, he said.The United Nations and partners are doubling their efforts to ensure that the 72-hour temporary ceasefire holds and evolves into a lasting cessation of hostilities and return to political negotiations, said Perthes.



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