Gunfire and explosions again rocked Sudan’s capital Monday, hours before a one-week humanitarian ceasefire was due to take effect after a series of previous truce deals were all violated.
The United States and Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced that the ceasefire agreed between the rival camps would take effect at 9:45 pm (1945 GMT) Monday to enable humanitarian assistance to civilians.
Desperate residents voiced hopes that the new agreement will stem the brutal warfare that has shaken the capital Khartoum and other parts of the impoverished country.
Fighting erupted on April 15 between the army, led by Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Burhan’s former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
The two sides on Sunday affirmed that they would respect the ceasefire, which was welcomed by the United Nations, African Union, and East African bloc IGAD.
But for the 37th consecutive day, the capital of five million awoke to the sound of air strikes and anti-aircraft fire, said witnesses, as the city endures sweltering heat and only intermittent water and power supplies.
“Fighter jets are bombing our neighbourhood,” Khartoum resident Mahmoud Salah el-Din told AFP. “We have seen no sign that the Rapid Support Forces are preparing to withdraw from the streets.”
Around 1,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced in the more than five weeks of violence that have plunged the already poverty-stricken country deeper into humanitarian crisis.
Despite the previous breached truces, war-weary civilians clung to hope that the upcoming ceasefire would hold, allowing desperately needed aid to bolster the dwindling supplies of food, medicine and other vital resources.
For residents like Khaled Saleh, who lives in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman across the Nile, the latest truce pledges are a lifeline.
“With a ceasefire, running water can be restored and I will finally be able to see a doctor because I am supposed to see one regularly for my diabetes and high blood pressure,” he told AFP.
Medics have repeatedly warned that the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse in Khartoum and elsewhere, particularly the western Darfur region that has been wracked by decades of deadly conflict.
The joint US-Saudi statement sought to assure that this ceasefire would be respected, saying it was “signed by the parties and will be supported by a US-Saudi and international-supported ceasefire monitoring mechanism”.
The UN’s envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes was due to brief the Security Council on the situation in the country on Monday evening.
Burhan and Daglo in October 2021 jointly staged a coup that ousted a civilian government, derailing a fragile transition to democracy put in place after the 2019 overthrow of former autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
But they later fell out in a bitter power struggle that erupted into violence, with the most recent bone of contention being the integration of the RSF into the regular army.
In the latest move, Burhan on Friday formally sacked Daglo from his position as his deputy on the Sovereign Council instated after the 2021 coup.