(Khartoum) The head of humanitarian aid at the UN on Wednesday demanded guarantees to be able to send aid to the Sudanese still caught up in the fighting in defiance of a truce which could be extended for a week at midnight.
The army and the paramilitaries accuse each other of ignoring the ceaselessly violated truce. Above all, it allows for the safe evacuation of civilians and the pursuit of indirect negotiations abroad, according to experts.
“Clashes and explosions” occurred in Khartoum on Wednesday, one resident reported, while another reported military planes flying over the capital. The fighting has left at least 550 dead and 5,000 injured since the start of hostilities in Sudan on April 15.
850 kilometers east of Khartoum, in the violence-spared coastal city of Port Sudan, UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths sounded the alarm.
We need guarantees from the head of the army, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and his number two, Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, at the head of the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR), engaged in a deadly struggle for power since the April 15, he said.
“These commitments are a prerequisite for large-scale humanitarian action,” he said.
Upon the arrival of the first shipments of humanitarian aid, six trucks were looted on Wednesday while they were “en route” to Darfur (west), where the worst fighting took place. According to the UN, they have killed around 100 people since last week, in a region already traumatized by a bloody war in the 2000s.
In the chaos, three UN aid workers were killed there and the stocks of aid workers, including UN agencies and hospitals, have been looted and ransacked for days.
In Sudan, one of the poorest in the world, one in three inhabitants already depended on humanitarian aid before the war.
South Sudan announced “an agreement in principle” on a truce “from May 4 to 11” between the belligerents. Neither party had reacted to this announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
The FSR released images this week of their men brandishing weapons in the courtyard of the ransacked presidential palace.
Saudi Arabia, mediator in this conflict, reported on Wednesday an attack and looting by “an armed group” of its cultural office in Khartoum.
The fighting has displaced more than 330,000 people and pushed another 100,000 into exile in neighboring countries, according to the UN, which expects eight times as many refugees.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi believes that “ the whole region could be affected ”. “We are doing everything we can for discussions to take place,” he said as Egypt “already hosts millions of Sudanese” and other refugees despite the worst economic crisis in its history.
The Sudanese who remained in Khartoum face significant shortages of water, electricity and food, a “ catastrophe ” according to the UN. Foreigners continue to be evacuated by the hundreds, especially via Port Sudan.
On the diplomatic front, Juba is not alone in the maneuver. The UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, says the two belligerents have said they are ready to “start technical discussions” for a ceasefire only, probably in Saudi Arabia.
Now at war, the two generals led the 2021 putsch together to oust the civilians with whom they had shared power since the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir two years earlier. But they did not manage to agree on the question of the integration of the FSR into the army.
An emissary from General Burhane has visited Riyadh and then Cairo in recent days. The African Union (AU) called for its part to avoid “dispersed action” which would prevent a “resumption of the political process”.
For Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, Sudan specialist at the Atlantic Council, the international community must “ strategically apply pressure ” by freezing the bank accounts and blocking the commercial activities of the belligerents to reduce their capacities to “ combat and resupply ”.