An international donors’ conference for Sudan was set to kick off in Geneva on Monday, one day into a 72-hour ceasefire between the country’s warring generals aimed at allowing for the delivery of desperately needed aid.
The army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has since April 15 been battling paramilitary forces commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, after the two fell out in a bitter power struggle.
Multiple truces have been agreed and broken in the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people and driven another two million from their homes, including at least 528,000 who fled abroad.
The latest ceasefire came into force at 6 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday, with mediators saying the two sides had agreed to refrain from attacks and allow freedom of movement and the delivery of aid.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United States of America announce the agreement of representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on a ceasefire throughout Sudan for a period of 72 hours,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.
Witnesses in Khartoum said the situation was “calm”.
“We want a full ceasefire,” Sami Omar, who lives in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, told AFP.
“A truce is not sufficient for us to return to our lives. They may stop fighting, but the RSF will not leave the homes (they occupy).”
The United Nations in Geneva, meanwhile, was preparing to convene an international pledging conference for Sudan in conjunction with several state partners, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres among those scheduled to address the Monday afternoon meeting.
Donors were expected to “announce financial commitments to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis and reiterate the need for the parties to the conflict in Sudan to adhere to their obligations under International Humanitarian Law”, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
“To date, this year’s revised Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan has received less than 16 per cent of the US$2.57 billion required, while the Regional Refugee Response Plan for $470 million is just 17 per cent funded.”
Clashes in Sudan had intensified before both sides pledged to respect the truce on Saturday.
The RSF said it would abide by it, while the army said that despite its “commitment to the ceasefire, we will respond decisively to any violations the rebels commit”.
Saudi Arabia had threatened on Saturday to postpone negotiations on its soil “should the parties fail to respect the 72-hour ceasefire”.
The warring generals have also sent envoys to regional capitals.
In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday hosted former rebel leader Malik Agar, who replaced Daglo as Burhan’s deputy.
Warplanes on Saturday struck residential districts of Khartoum, killing “17 civilians, including five children”, according to a citizens’ support committee. AFP was unable to independently confirm the figures.
The RSF accused the army of targeting residential areas and claimed to have shot down a fighter jet.
A video the paramilitary forces posted online showed destroyed homes and blankets covering what appeared to be dead bodies.
Multiple diplomatic missions in the capital have come under attack or been looted, most of them having ceased operations since the fighting began.
Tunisia on Sunday protested looting by “armed groups” at the ambassador’s residence in Khartoum.
Since battles began, the death toll across Sudan has topped 2,000, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project says.
A record 25 million people — more than half the population — now depend on humanitarian aid, the UN says.
Intense fighting has rocked the western region of Darfur, with the United States saying as many as 1,100 people have been killed in the West Darfur state capital of El Geneina alone.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity issued an urgent call for more beds and staff across the border in Chad, where it said more than 600 patients — most with gunshot wounds — had arrived.
Chadian leader General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno visited the border town of Adre to assess the scale of “the influx of refugees and ensure that the borders with Sudan are effectively closed”, his office said.
The International Organization for Migration says at least 149,000 people have fled from Darfur into Chad, among the roughly 2.2 million uprooted by the fighting.
The United States attributed this week’s atrocities in Darfur “primarily” to the RSF and said alleged rights violations were an “ominous reminder” of the region’s previous genocide.
A years-long war in Darfur began in 2003 with a rebel uprising that prompted then-strongman Omar al-Bashir to unleash the Janjaweed militia, whose actions led to international charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The RSF have their origins in the Janjaweed.