(Khartoum) Fighting is raging in Sudan on Monday and talks for a ceasefire are stalling in Saudi Arabia between two belligerents “certain they can win” militarily, according to a diplomat.
In Khartoum, five million inhabitants live for the fourth consecutive week barricaded in their homes, for fear of stray bullets.
Without water or electricity, with almost dry food stocks and less and less money in their pockets, they survive in the scorching heat thanks to networks of solidarity between neighbors and relatives.
They only inform each other of their fate or their needs when the telephone or internet network comes back, thanks to the efforts of telecommunications companies which struggle to find fuel to run the generators which keep the country connected to the world.
And the fighting continues. A resident of southern Khartoum told AFP “ heard air raids near a market in the city center ”.
Across the Red Sea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the two warring generals for power, army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the boss of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, sent emissaries to negotiate a truce.
These “pre-discussions” are “technical” only, Sudanese and international negotiators have been warning for several days. They do not concern any political aspect in a country in the doldrums since the putsch of the two generals in 2021.
They will be limited, say the experts, to clearing secure corridors for humanitarian aid arriving on the east coast, in Port Sudan, in order to feed and treat civilians trapped in Khartoum and Darfur, in the western border of Chad.
In these two areas, almost no hospitals are functioning anymore, targets of bombardments. Their reserves of food and medicine are almost systematically looted.
The talks in Jeddah have not, however, resulted in “ major progress ” so far, a Saudi diplomat told AFP on the second day of negotiations.
And the head of the UN for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, who arrived in Jeddah on Sunday, “ asked to participate in the negotiations ”, but his request has not yet been successful, reports a UN official to AFP on condition of anonymity.
Since the beginning of the war on April 15, the channels of diplomatic negotiations have multiplied, without always crossing.
Washington and Riyadh seem to have taken the upper hand since the two generals sent relatives to negotiate in Jeddah. But on both sides, the chosen envoys have long been known for their notorious hostility to the other side.
At the same time, the African Union — which suspended Sudan in 2021 and therefore no longer has great levers of pressure — and Igad, the East African regional bloc of which the country is a part, are trying to return to a format of discussions under the aegis of the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir.
The Arab League, for its part, had to be satisfied with a minimum consensus on Sunday, its member countries calling for the preservation of the country’s “ sovereignty ” and a cessation of hostilities.
Because its heavyweights are not on the same line: Egypt supports the army while the United Arab Emirates supports General Daglo. Saudi Arabia has long supported both, experts say.
In Jeddah, Riyadh therefore pleads for “ an effective short-term cessation ” of hostilities, the facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian aid and the restoration of essential services, according to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Saudi kingdom also hopes for “ an expanded negotiation schedule ” aimed at ending the conflict permanently.
So far, many promised ceasefires have been broken within minutes of being announced. The NGO ACLED has already counted more than 750 dead, the Sudanese authorities 5,000 injured and the UN 335,000 displaced and 117,000 refugees.
In the midst of an economic crisis, Egypt has already taken in more than 60,000 Sudanese refugees. She dispatched her head of diplomacy on Monday to other Sudanese neighbors, Chad and South Sudan, which have also received more than 57,000 people fleeing the war, according to the UN.