Sudan‘s army launched air strikes in the capital, Khartoum, on Monday. This is according to reports by residents in the capital. The strikes were an attempt to gain an advantage over their paramilitary rivals, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), just hours before the commencement of a week-long ceasefire. Witnesses also stated that air strikes occurred on Sunday evening, specifically targeting mobile units of the RSF operating within residential areas. This conflict between the two military factions began on April 15, and while previous ceasefires have been violated, this marks the first formally agreed truce following negotiations.
The ceasefire agreement includes a monitoring mechanism involving the army, RSF, and representatives from Saudi Arabia and the United States, who brokered the deal in Jeddah. This development has raised hopes of temporarily halting the war, which has displaced almost 1.1 million people, including over 250,000 who sought refuge in neighbouring countries, thus posing a threat to regional stability. Volker Perthes, the UN special representative to Sudan, stated that the ceasefire should allow for the movement of civilians and enable access to humanitarian aid.
Whilst the ceasefire was scheduled to take effect, reports emerged on Monday regarding air strikes in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Bahri – the three cities forming the greater capital, separated by the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. Salma Abdallah, a resident of Khartoum’s Al Riyadh neighbourhood, described the situation as “horrible,” with planes bombarding from all directions, causing intense vibrations that made them fear for their lives.
The army has faced difficulties in dislodging the RSF from strategic positions in central Khartoum and from civilian-occupied buildings in various neighbourhoods. Ground combat is a strength of the RSF, which originated from feared militias that previously fought alongside the government in Darfur. In contrast, the army has largely relied on air strikes and heavy artillery. The ongoing fighting in Khartoum, lasting for over five weeks, has resulted in many residents being trapped in their homes or neighbourhoods, experiencing escalating lawlessness, looting, and severe shortages of power, water, and food. Most hospitals have also ceased operations.
UN envoy Perthes expressed concerns about the “growing ethnicisation” of the conflict, cautioning that it could further escalate and prolong the war, with potential implications for the entire region. Those fleeing the ongoing violence have endured gruelling and perilous journeys, with a significant number seeking refuge in Egypt and Chad. Perthes stressed the importance of keeping borders open for those seeking safety and expediting procedures at border crossings.
The agreement reached in Jeddah primarily focuses on facilitating aid delivery and restoring essential services. Mediators state that further negotiations will be necessary to address the removal of forces from urban areas and to broker a permanent peace agreement with civilian involvement.
The war erupted in Khartoum amidst plans for army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo to endorse a new political transition towards elections under a civilian government. Burhan and Hemedti assumed top positions in Sudan’s ruling council following the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir during a popular uprising in 2019, sharing power with civilian groups. In 2021, they staged a coup as the deadline approached to transfer leadership of the transition to civilians.
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