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Civil war in Sudan | The UN negotiates the passage of humanitarian aid

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(Khartoum) The head of UN humanitarian affairs discussed the passage of aid in Saudi Arabia on Sunday with army emissaries and paramilitaries who are negotiating a truce after more than three weeks of deadly fighting.

Sunday, and like every day since April 15, fighting resounds everywhere in Khartoum where the five million inhabitants survive, barricaded for fear of stray bullets, without water or electricity and with reserves of food and money soon to dry up. .

While Americans and Saudis assure that the belligerents are negotiating a truce in Saudi Arabia, the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of rival General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo do not say anything about the discussions between their emissaries .

“The army delegation will only talk about the truce and how to properly implement it to facilitate humanitarian access,” army spokesman General Nabil Abdallah told AFP. .

The FSRs did not reveal anything about this new mediation, after several “ceasefires” were broken in the seconds following their announcement.

The UN chief for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, joined the talks on Sunday in Jeddah.

Already on Wednesday, during a whirlwind visit to Sudan, he had asked the generals for “technical details” rather than “general commitments” to let in humanitarian aid and get out civilians caught in the crossfire.

For their part, Riyadh and Washington “welcome” the opening of a dialogue and urge the belligerents to “be actively involved” but have announced neither the formal start of the talks nor their content.

Meanwhile, witnesses report to AFP fighting and air raids on different districts of Khartoum.

The war left 700 dead, 5,000 injured, 335,000 displaced and 115,000 refugees.

For Aly Verjee, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, for this ceasefire to be different from previous ones, it would be necessary to specify its operational details and to put in place observation and sanction mechanisms.

Before going to war, Generals Burhane and Daglo together ousted civilians from power with their 2021 putsch.

Two years earlier, the 45 million Sudanese had hoped to return to democracy: the army accepted under pressure from the streets to dismiss the dictator Omar al-Bashir, in power for 30 years.

But the transition got out of hand, and internationally-sponsored negotiations to bring the FSR under army command only exacerbated tensions between generals. On April 15, when they had promised to meet to negotiate, they preferred to fire their guns.

This logic “deserves a complete overhaul”, pleads Mr. Verjee.

After that failure, he said, negotiations in Jeddah are focused on “the lowest common denominator of the international community”: the cessation of hostilities. Because “for the aftermath, there is no apparent consensus”.

To discuss it, the FSR dispatched to Jeddah relatives of General Daglo and his powerful brother Abderrahim, who passes for the financier of the FSR via his gold mines.

On the military side, high-ranking military and state officials known for their hostility to paramilitaries are present.

Riyadh, an ally and funder of both camps, and Washington, whose lifting of sanctions brought Sudan back to the concert of nations in 2020, want to take precedence over regional initiatives.

Their main competitor remains Igad, the East African bloc led by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, historic mediator in Sudan.

The African Union lost its leverage when it suspended Sudan after the 2021 putsch, experts say.

With the UN, these two blocs nevertheless “welcomed” the Jeddah negotiations on Sunday.

At the Arab League, the head of Egyptian diplomacy Sameh Choukri called for “avoiding a regional skid” when his country, in the midst of an economic crisis, has already taken in more than 56,000 refugees.

The secretary general of the pan-Arab organization, Ahmed Abou el-Gheit, called on him to “support” the “indirect negotiations of Jeddah” to avoid “the fragmentation of Sudan”.

The Arab League is deeply divided: Egypt supports the army, while the United Arab Emirates has chosen the side of the RSF, according to experts.

The war will be long as the two belligerents seem to have the same combat capabilities and to be reluctant to negotiate before having won on the ground, analysts agree.

If the war lasts, the UN has already warned, up to 2.5 million more people will go hungry – a scourge that already affects a third of Sudanese.

In Darfur (west), civilians were armed to take part in clashes mixing soldiers, paramilitaries and tribal or rebel fighters which left nearly 200 dead.