Sudan’s humanitarian crisis: 7-day ceasefire amid fighting

The longest ceasefire negotiated by a third party and agreed upon between former allies turned foes in Sudan; General Abdel Fatah Al-Burhan of the Sudan Armed Forces and General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo of the Rapid Support Forces is expected to start on Thursday, May 4th, and end seven days later on the 11th.

This latest agreement between the two warring parties, brokered by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, hours after another ceasefire brokered by the United States and Europe, was further extended for another 72 hours.

“The two generals have agreed to name representatives to peace talks to be held at an agreed venue and also will name representatives to the talks,” stated the Foreign Affairs Ministry of South Sudan in a statement released on Tuesday, May 2nd.

Even then, some pockets of fighting have been reported in the capital Khartoum and in some cities in the northern part of the country, as civilians trapped in their homes for over three weeks without food, water, and electricity scramble to get the scarce transport opportunities available into safer destinations.

The United Nations is reporting that over 100,000 Sudanese nationals have crossed the border into neighbouring Chad, Egypt, and Ethiopia. A further 334,000 people have been displaced within Sudan.

The humanitarian situation has been complicated by a struggling medical system that has been affected by hospital damages, lack of water, power, and a dwindling supply of medical material.

In the last three weeks of fighting, many countries continue to evacuate their citizens, with Africa not being left behind, even as many complain of a lack of swift response to the evacuations. Dr. Hassan Khannenje, Director of the Horn Institute, believes that “there are two problems that plague general African evacuations. When it comes to cases of situations of conflict, one is the lack of capacity of many African countries to be able to evacuate citizens at a moment’s notice. A lot of times African countries do not anticipate and prepare for eventualities insofar as their citizens are concerned.”

Kenya has conducted evacuations from Sudan all week last week, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reporting at least two flights arriving in Nairobi every day in the last three days.

But even as many leave for safety, in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, the Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders (MSF) supported El Geneina Teaching Hospital, the major referral hospital in the state, has been directly affected by fighting. During a violent intrusion in the past two days, parts of the hospital were looted.

There are news reports from El Geneina of widespread looting and destruction, burning of property, including the central market and gathering sites and camps where displaced people are living.

MSF officials have been quoted in a statement posted late last week stating, “The current fighting has forced us to stop almost all of our activities in West Darfur. Our teams have not been able to reach the hospital, nor could they conduct mobile clinic activities in the nomadic communities of Galala, Mogshasha, Wadi Rati, and Gelchek. We have been able to continue providing services in Kreinik hospital to date, but we have seen a reduction in the number of patients coming from outside the town.” Mohamed Gibreel Adam, project coordinator in El Fasher, Sudan, explains that “the situation is very, very difficult here. The access to healthcare is interrupted.”

The United Nations is worried about a serious humanitarian crisis in Sudan, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expected to address the issue on Wednesday morning (ET) in New York {3 pm EAT}. Warplanes on bombing raids drew heavy fire Tuesday over Khartoum as fighting between Sudan’s army and paramilitaries entered a third week, with the UN chief warning the country was falling apart.

The situation in medical facilities inside Sudan is reported to be in ailing shape. Dr. Mohammed Gibreel Adam, project coordinator at El Fasher, Sudan, while capturing the situation on his phone camera, explained the situation at the accident and emergency room on Sunday afternoon.

“Here is our accidents and emergency area where you see some ladies are trying to be registered to see a doctor, but due to the many cases in triage and registration, there are so many people being admitted on the floor, and there are patients also in the corridor because of space,” he said on the video.

More than 500 people have been killed since battles erupted on April 15 between the forces of army chief number two who commands the paramilitary rapid support forces (RSF).

Dr. Majaak D’Agoot, a research fellow at Africa Leadership Centre, believes that “this blow-up hasn’t dropped from the blue sky; it was a result of a buildup and the ousting of President El Bashir. At that time, the coalition of the militaries, which were not precisely the same army, provided leadership in order to fill the vacuum after the fall of President El Bashir. This was a coalition of different armed groups.”

Sudanese citizens, many of whom are stuck in their country with little possibility of getting out, have expressed their desire to see peace – and a lasting one at that – return to their home country. While the two warring parties have agreed to multiple truces, none has taken hold as the number of dead civilians continues to rise and chaos and lawlessness grip Khartoum, a city of five million people where many have been cloistered in their homes, lacking food, water, and electricity.

Tens of thousands have been uprooted within Sudan or embarked on arduous trips to neighbouring countries in the region to flee the battles.

“There is no right to go on fighting for power when the country is falling apart,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television. The civilian population, in their written statement to the warring generals, has also cited a need for the country to get back to the course of transition to democracy and civil rule and ensure a full military exit from political and economic spheres.

Dr. Edgar Githua, an academic and analyst of international relations, diplomacy, and security, while agreeing with the position held by the Sudanese people, also notes that “where the international community should have stepped in was in 2021 when Hamdok was thrown out. That is the time the international community should have sat down Burhan and Dagallo and told them to come up with concrete steps in how we are going to restore civilian rule. And if pressure had been applied then, they would not have been given an opportunity to entrench themselves to an extent where right now you cannot ignore them.”

They are also calling for the rejection of all forms of external intervention in local affairs, except international efforts to stop the war, provide humanitarian aid, and reach a comprehensive and just peace. Dr. Githua notes that “an arms embargo on Sudan needs to be put in place and for players within the region and in the Arabian peninsula to hold off on their interests in Sudan, and it is only through this that peace talks can truly begin.”

The People’s voice, calling themselves the Civilian Front for Ending the War and Restoring Democracy, have stated that they will deploy effective coordination mechanisms to accelerate nationwide action. They have also stated that there is a need to implement a comprehensive reform of the security and military institutions and create one professional army through peaceful steps and under the umbrella of a national civilian transitional democratic process.

The violence has killed at least 528 people and wounded 4,599, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, but those figures are likely to be incomplete. About 75,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Khartoum and the states of Blue Nile, North Kordofan, as well as the western region of Darfur, the UN said.

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