Tension continues in Sudan despite truce efforts

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A Palestinian evacuated from Sudan is welcomed by his relatives at the Rafah Border Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, April 28, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Despite several ceasefires declared by Sudan's conflicting parties, tensions and some deadly fighting continue to rage in the capital Khartoum and other areas.

According to Xinhua reporter in Khartoum, gunfire and explosions could still be heard in Khartoum on Monday when representatives from the two sides are in Saudi Arabia for talks which mediators hope could bring an end to the over three weeks of hostilities that have killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

Sudan's health ministry stopped updating the number of casualties on May 2, when the death toll stood at 550 with 4,926 people injured.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese are fleeing to neighboring countries. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a total of 123,110 refugees have fled to South Sudan, Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic since the conflict erupted in mid-April.

The UN agency projected the number could rise to 860,000 in the next six months.

Ceasefire breached

Several ceasefire agreements were reached and breached by the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over the past few weeks, according to recent statements or tweets by both sides.

Both sides have sent their envoys to Jeddah for peace talks brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States, but both had made it clear that they would only discuss a humanitarian truce, not an end to the conflict.

Tensions had been building up between the Sudanese army and the RSF in recent months before it plunged into a conflict.

The two sides, once allies in toppling former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and ousting the transitional civilian government in 2021, disagreed on the RSF's integration into the army, a key condition of Sudan's political reconciliation process to resume civilian rule.

The two sides were at loggerheads over how the RSF would be integrated into the military and who would have ultimate control over fighters and weapons.

The simmering tension finally broke out into a conflict on April 15, when fighting erupted at a military base south of Khartoum, with each side blaming the other for having initiated the violence.

Since then, the army and the RSF have battled each other with heavy weapons in densely populated areas of the capital and the adjoining cities. The Sudanese army has pounded the RSF bases with airstrikes.

People evacuated from Sudan arrive at Marka Military Airport in Amman, Jordan, April 24, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Humanitarian crisis

In addition to the hundreds of thousands that have been displaced, people who had no choice but to stay in Sudan are suffering from a shortage of basic services.

Residents in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Bahri (Khartoum North) are enduring serious hardships that feature a short supply of bread, water, and electricity.

Several hospitals are out of service due to a shortage of medicines. According to the Sudanese Doctors Union, medical staff is unable to reach hospitals and health facilities have either been destroyed or seized and turned into military barracks.

Additionally, Internet services are hardly accessible to the residents of Khartoum, who are also facing difficulties in communicating through the main telecommunications networks.

MTN Communication Sudan, a telecommunications provider, announced on Friday that it had to suspend all services provided to subscribers in Khartoum because of power outages at its facilities.

Meanwhile, the lack of a humanitarian corridor in Sudan has disrupted the assistance of international organizations. The UN World Food Programme said six of its trucks heading to Darfur had been looted on Wednesday "despite assurances of safety and security," amid the ongoing power struggle.

With no end in sight to the conflict, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned on Friday that there will be 19 million acutely food-insecure people in Sudan in three to six months if the conflict continues.

The UNHCR said the agency and its partners will need 445 million U.S. dollars to support an outflow of refugees from Sudan and asked neighboring countries to keep their borders open to those fleeing the violence. It also requested the suspension of forced returns to Sudan, including those who previously had their asylum claims rejected.

Considering the dire humanitarian situation, the international community has intensified efforts to broker a ceasefire between the two sides.

During a high-level global meeting on April 20, 2023, the United Nations (UN) and regional organizations including the African Union (AU), the Arab League, and Sudan's neighboring countries agreed to exert pressure on the belligerent two sides to silence the guns.

They agreed to support Sudanese stakeholders through a jointly led AU-UN mechanism aimed at coordinating international action to end the violence and the destabilization of Sudan, the region and the continent, according to a press release by the AU.

The Arab League Council issued a resolution on Sunday to form an Arab ministerial contact group to communicate with the Sudanese parties and influential countries, aiming to reach a settlement of the crisis in Sudan.

The contact group will hold communication with the Sudanese parties, influential countries regionally and internationally as well as relevant international organizations, and coordinate with international relief organizations to provide urgent humanitarian and medical support to citizens and displaced persons inside Sudan.

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