Warring factions in Sudan have agreed to a seven-day ceasefire following talks in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, according to a statement from Washington and Riyadh, as fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced more than a million entered its sixth week.
The ceasefire agreement was signed late on Saturday.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
It will take effect 48 hours after, at 9:45pm local time (19:45 GMT) on Monday, the sponsors of the talks, the United States and Saudi Arabia, said in their joint statement.
Numerous previous ceasefire agreements were violated. However, this agreement will be enforced by a US-Saudi and international-supported monitoring mechanism, the statement said without providing details.
The agreement also calls for distributing humanitarian assistance, restoring essential services and withdrawing forces from hospitals and essential public facilities.
“It is past time to silence the guns and allow unhindered humanitarian access. I implore both sides to uphold this agreement — the eyes of the world are watching,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
The fighting between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has plunged the country into chaos. Stocks of food, cash and essentials are rapidly dwindling, and mass looting has hit banks, embassies, aid warehouses and even churches.
A spokesman for the Forces for Freedom of Change – Central Command (FFC-CC) had said prior to the signing of the ceasefire that it was expected to facilitate distribution of humanitarian aid and allow repairs for health, water and electricity services in conflict-affected areas under a “monitoring mechanisms” by international brokers whose details he also did not elaborate.
The FFC-CC is a bloc of political parties that shared power with the army in a transitional government before the country’s 2021 military coup. Civilian groups have criticised it for offering little support to them during the ongoing conflict.
Will this truce hold?
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the capital’s twin city, Omdurman, said the agreement will freeze the conflict, with the warring sides allowed to hold on to their current positions.
“The Rapid Support Forces will keep control of the presidential palace and the army keeps control of its headquarters, the General Command of the Armed Forces. As for the airport, the RSF has more control of the facilities there, so they will keep that,” she said.
But the Sudanese people — who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance — were deeply sceptical of the agreement, said Morgan.
“People say that they are not sure if this ceasefire will hold. They’ve seen how previous ceasefires have played out. And they say that until Tuesday or Wednesday, when and if they do not hear the sound of artillery in their neighbourhoods and when and if they see humanitarian aid, then they will know if there’s an actual ceasefire.”
The ceasefire came as residents in Omdurman and Khartoum North, the two cities that lie across the Nile from Khartoum, reported heavy air raids.
Some of the attacks took place near the state broadcaster in Omdurman, the witnesses said.
“We faced heavy artillery fire early this morning, the whole house was shaking,” Sanaa Hassan, a 33-year-old living in the al-Salha neighbourhood of Omdurman, told the Reuters news agency by phone.
“It was terrifying, everyone was lying under their beds. What’s happening is a nightmare,” she said.
The RSF is embedded in residential districts, drawing almost continual air attacks by the regular armed forces.
Witnesses in Khartoum said that the situation was relatively calm, although sporadic gunshots could be heard.
Fighting in Darfur
The conflict, which began on April 15, has killed at least 705 people and wounded at least 5,287, according to the World Health Organization. Some 1.1 million people have been displaced internally and into neighbouring countries.
In recent days, ground fighting has flared once again in the Darfur region, in the cities of Nyala and Zalenjei.
Both sides blamed each other in statements late on Friday for sparking the fighting in Nyala, one of the country’s largest cities, which had for weeks been relatively calm due to a locally-brokered truce.
A local activist told Reuters there were sporadic gun clashes near the city’s main market close to army headquarters on Saturday morning. Almost 30 people have died in the two previous days of fighting, according to activists.
The war broke out in Khartoum after disputes over plans for the RSF to be integrated into the army under an internationally-backed deal to shift Sudan towards democracy following decades of conflict-ridden rule by former President Omar al-Bashir, who had appointed himself as leader of the country after staging a coup in 1989.