Sudan’s warring factions signed an agreement late on Saturday for a seven-day ceasefire, the US and Saudi Arabia said in a joint statement, as fighting that has plunged the country into chaos and displaced more than a million entered its sixth week.
The fighting between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to a collapse in law. Stocks of food, cash and essentials are rapidly dwindling, and mass looting has hit banks, embassies, factories and aid warehouses.
The seven-day ceasefire will begin on Monday evening. Numerous previous ceasefire agreements were violated.
Saudi- and US-sponsored talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah had until Saturday only resulted in a declaration of principles on 12 May but no change on the ground.
Aid groups have said they are unable to provide sufficient assistance in Khartoum, the capital, in the absence of safe passage and security guarantees for staff.
Earlier on Saturday, the US state department said secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke to army leader Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan about the Jeddah talks.
“In this step-by-step process, the secretary urged flexibility and leadership,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Airstrikes were reported on Saturday by eyewitnesses in southern Omdurman and northern Bahri, the two cities that lie across the Nile from Khartoum, forming Sudan’s “triple capital”. Some of the strikes took place near the state broadcaster in Omdurman, the eyewitnesses said.
The RSF is embedded in residential districts, drawing almost continual airstrikes by the regular armed forces.
Eyewitnesses in Khartoum said that the situation was relatively calm, although sporadic gunshots could be heard.
The conflict, which began on 15 April, has displaced almost 1.1 million people internally and into neighbouring countries. According to the World Health Organization, 705 people have been killed and at least 5,287 injured.
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.
The war broke out in Khartoum after disputes over plans for the RSF to be integrated into the army and over the future chain of command under an internationally backed deal to shift Sudan towards democracy after decades of conflict-ridden autocracy.
On Friday, army leader Burhan removed RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as his deputy on the ruling council they led. He replaced him with former rebel leader Malik Agar.
In a statement on Saturday, Agar said he had accepted the position to help secure peace and support for the approaching agricultural season, the failure of which would spell widespread hunger.
He said his message to the army was, “There is no alternative to peace but peace, and no way to peace other than dialogue.”
“My message to the RSF is that there is no way for stability except with one united army,” he added.
The US Agency for International Development announced late on Friday that more than $100m in aid to Sudan and countries receiving fleeing Sudanese, including much-needed food and medical assistance.
“It’s hard to convey the extent of the suffering occurring right now in Sudan,” said agency head Samantha Power.