Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Seven-Day Cease-Fire in Sudan Fails to Hold

Voice of America
24 May 2023, 05:05 GMT+10

NAIROBI, Kenya - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that cease-fire violators in Sudan will be held accountable as the latest agreement between the country's two warring factions failed to hold hours after going into effect.

Representatives of the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces had agreed to a seven-day truce to allow for the resumption of essential services and humanitarian aid.

The newest cease-fire agreement signed by the two fighting parties in Sudan was a result of intense diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday on Twitter.

Although brokered with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia, Blinken said it was up to the warring parties to implement the truce.

'If the cease-fire is violated, we'll know, and we will hold violators accountable through our sanctions and other tools at our disposal," said Blinken.

This comes after negotiators for the two sides, for the first time, agreed to establish a team to monitor the cease-fire.

Truce hard to enforce, says expert

With intense fighting over the weekend and Monday, the United Nations envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, said the warring parties had already violated the agreement by failing to honor their commitment not to seek military advantage in the 48 hours preceding the cease-fire.

Hassan Khannenje, director of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies in Kenya, said that neither side in Sudan's war has an interest in stopping hostilities now because both want to "increase their battleground advantages" to "strengthen their hand at the negotiating table in the near future."

"With that in mind, none of them then has the incentive to completely cease fire at this point,' he said.

Smoke billows in Khartoum, Sudan, on May 23, 2023, after a one-week ceasefire between Sudan's army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces officially went into force. Smoke billows in Khartoum, Sudan, on May 23, 2023, after a one-week ceasefire between Sudan's army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces officially went into force.

Khannenje told VOA that for a cease-fire to be binding, there must be potential enforcement of it - and he's not sure there's a way to effectively monitor the situation on the ground.

'Right now, there is a problem when it comes to controlling the militia groups, both [those] that have been supporting the military as well as those supporting RSF," he said. "And to the extent that even the two competing forces, they don't have complete control over their fighting men - and women if there are any - means it's going to be extremely difficult to enforce a cease-fire.'

Fighting limits delivery of aid

Meanwhile, aid groups are still struggling to provide much-needed help in many parts of the country.

In Geneina, in West Darfur, an estimated 100,000 internally displaced people remain at the mercy of the violence, the Norwegian Refugee Council's Karl Schembri told VOA.

'The situation in Geneina is still pretty precarious," said Schembri. "Our colleagues have themselves had to stay inside or flee. It's been out of control over the last week now.'

Schembri said he hopes the latest cease-fire will have some kind of impact - although his expectations are not high.

'Not that we have seen any impact so far in over a month of broken promises and empty words from the two parties to this conflict," he said. "We are at the point now where the displaced people in Geneina are among the most vulnerable; they have nowhere else to go and we've been completely unable to give any aid services given the extremity of the fighting.'

Doctors Without Borders, also known by the French acronym, MSF, said it had recently performed nearly 250 surgeries in one week. Most who showed up at a hospital south of Khartoum suffered from gunshot wounds or injuries related to recent explosions.

The U.N. said since the war started in mid-April, more than 860 civilians have been killed, around 1 million people have been displaced, and a quarter of a million others have fled to neighboring countries.

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