Sudan conflict: African states and US race to extend truce, gunfire still heard in Khartoum area

  • Several
    African nations, along with the US, are racing to secure a ceasefire extension
    in the ongoing Sudan conflict.
  • Despite
    a lull in fighting during a three-day ceasefire, many foreign nationals are
    still trapped in the country.
  • At
    least 512 people have been killed and close to 4 200 wounded in the fighting so
    far.

KHARTOUM
– The United States and African nations were racing to secure an extension of a
ceasefire in Sudan on Thursday, with the Sudanese army giving an initial nod to
an African proposal calling for talks even as fighting continued.

Hundreds
of people have been killed in nearly two weeks of conflict between the army and
a rival paramilitary force – the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – which are locked
in a power struggle that threatens to destabilise the wider region.

An
RSF statement accused the army of attacking its forces on Thursday and
spreading “false rumours”, making no reference to the proposal which
the army said came from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD),
an African regional bloc.

OPINION | Thembisa Fukude: The conflict in Sudan proves why Africa must reject military parallelism

Gunfire
could be heard on Thursday in the Khartoum area, a resident told Reuters.

The
existing three-day ceasefire brought about a lull in fighting, without
completely halting it, but was due to expire at midnight (22:00 GMT) and many
foreign nationals remained trapped in the country despite an exodus over the
past few days.

The
army said late on Wednesday that its leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan,
had given initial approval to the plan to extend the truce for another 72 hours
and to send an army envoy to the South Sudan capital, Juba, for talks.

Growing refugee crisis

The
military said the presidents of South Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti worked on a
proposal that includes extending the truce and talks between the two forces.

“Burhan
thanked the IGAD and expressed an initial approval to that,” the army statement
said.

Reuters
could not immediately reach an IGAD spokesperson for comment.

US
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and African Union commission chairperson
Moussa Faki Mahamat discussed working together to create a sustainable end to
the fighting, the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.

At
least 512 people have been killed and close to 4 200 were wounded by the
fighting since 15 April.

READ | ‘We’ve been in this game for some time’: Kenya volunteers to mediate in Sudan crisis

The
crisis has sent growing numbers of refugees across Sudan’s borders. The UN refugee
agency has estimated 270 000 people could flee into South Sudan and Chad alone.

With
air strikes and artillery unleashed during the fighting, the conflict has
destroyed hospitals and limited food distribution in the vast nation where a
third of the 46 million people were already reliant on humanitarian aid.

Bodies littering streets

An
estimated 50 000 acutely malnourished children have had treatment disrupted due
to the conflict, and those hospitals still functioning are facing shortages of
medical supplies, power and water, according to a UN update on Wednesday.

Deadly
clashes broke out in Geneina in West Darfur on Tuesday and Wednesday, resulting
in looting and civilian deaths and raising concerns about an escalation of
ethnic tensions, the update said.

France
said on Thursday it had evacuated more people from Sudan, including not only
French nationals but also Britons, Americans, Canadians, Ethiopians, Dutch,
Italians and Swedes – part of a wider exodus of expatriates.

Foreigners
evacuated from Khartoum have described bodies littering streets, buildings on
fire, residential areas turned into battlefields and youths roaming with large
knives.

Tension
had been building for months between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary RSF,
which together toppled a civilian government in an October 2021 coup.

The
friction was brought to a head by an internationally backed plan to launch a
new transition towards elections and a government led by civilian parties.

A
final deal was due to be signed earlier in April, on the fourth anniversary of
the overthrow of long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular
uprising.


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