The United Nation’s top envoy in Sudan on Monday welcomed a U.S.-Saudi brokered cease-fire even as he warned that the Sudan conflict shows no sign of slowing down.
“This is a welcome development, though the fighting and troop movements have continued even today, despite the commitment of both sides not to pursue military advantage before the cease-fire takes effect,” Volker Perthes told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Perthes traveled to New York from Port Sudan. The United Nations has temporarily moved some of its staff and operations to that Red Sea city after intense fighting erupted in the capital, Khartoum, on April 15.
A vehicle of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces drives down al-Sittin (sixty) road in Khartoum, Sudan, on May 22, 2023, as fighting persists between two rival generals.
The cease-fire, signed by the rival Sudan Armed Forces of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Security Forces led by General Mohamed Dagalo, went into effect at 9:45 p.m. local time on Monday and is set to last for an initial period of seven days, which the parties can renew.
While fighting has continued during previous cease-fires, this one was agreed upon during formal negotiations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and will include a monitoring mechanism made up of three representatives each from the Saudis, Americans, and the two Sudanese forces.
“I call on both [sides] to end the fighting and to return to dialogue in the interest of Sudan and its people,” Perthes said. “Lives and infrastructure have been destroyed. The growing ethnicization of the conflict risks to expand and prolong it, with implications for the region.”
Perthes said five weeks of fighting has killed more than 700 people, including 190 children. Another 6,000 people have been injured. Over a million people are internally displaced, and 250,000 have fled the country.
In addition to airstrikes and fighting in the capital, West Darfur has seen a resumption of large-scale intercommunal violence. Perthes said there are signs of tribal mobilization in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, as well.
He stressed that the temporary truce is not the ultimate goal but an instrument to go forward toward talks about a permanent cessation of hostilities and a new Sudanese-owned-and-led political process.
“I think that both parties over the last five weeks have learned that they will not achieve an easy military victory,” Perthes told reporters. “That even if they were to achieve a victory over the other side after a long struggle, that could be at the expense of losing the country, and that there is no alternative if they want to preserve their country than ceasing the fire and going back to some form of political process.”
The African Union commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security briefed Monday's meeting by video link. He said the regional group is working “relentlessly” to bring an end to the conflict.
“Our conviction is that only a well-coordinated, collective action will give chance to the success of international action of peace and stability in Sudan,” said Bankole Adeoye.
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“Separate, competing or rival actions will further complicate and undermine the search for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.”
He said the AU has developed a comprehensive de-escalation plan for resolving the conflict — focusing on an immediate, unconditional, permanent cease-fire; humanitarian action; accountability for actions taken by the warring parties; support to neighboring countries impacted by the crisis; and the resumption of an inclusive political process aimed at the return to a democratic civilian-led government.
Adeoye said African leaders will meet later this week at the AU Peace and Security Council to endorse the de-escalation plan.
The executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African regional bloc, also briefed the Security Council by video. Workneh Gebeyehu said the chance of success is higher if efforts are coordinated.
“We all have one purpose and goal in Sudan: to silence the guns and resume the inclusive Sudanese-led, Sudanese-owned political process that will pave the way towards the formation of a civilian-led transitional government,” he said.
Security Council members echoed support for the new cease-fire and a return to a civilian-led democratic transition. Members also called on the SAF and RSF to immediately stop fighting, protect civilians and allow safe access for humanitarians.
The United Nations estimates that 15 million people needed assistance before the fighting erupted, and that has risen to 18 million. Last week, the organization appealed for $2.6 billion to help cope with growing needs.