After weeks of violence and bloodshed, the warring rivals in Sudan’s devastating crisis have agreed to extend their current cease-fire for an additional five days, according to reports from the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The initial 7-day cease-fire between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) expired on Monday, but this crucial extension provides a measure of hope that some progress can be made towards achieving a more comprehensive truce.
The horrific clashes between the two sides since April 15 have left at least 863 dead and thousands injured, according to local medics. In an effort to secure the country’s fragile transition to democracy following the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, the army and the RSF reaffirmed their commitment to the cease-fire and pledged to use the five-day extension to make up for provisions not achieved in the first cease-fire, including further deliveries of humanitarian aid and necessary repairs to essential services.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia clearly emphasised the need for both sides to honour their obligations and refrain from any further acts of violence during the five-day period. Furthermore, the statement noted that they will also work to discuss a longer-term cease-fire that will involve vacating of forces from urban areas, further removal of restrictions on civilian movement and passage of humanitarian assistance, and empowering public servants to resume their duties.
Sudan’s Lurch Into Instability
Since October 2021, Sudan has been without a functioning government after the military ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his transitional government in a move that political forces have denounced as a “coup.” This was a major setback for the Sudanese people, as well as for the international community, which had collectively invested billions of dollars in the fragile state since August 2019 when Omar al-Bashir was overthrown.
Sudan’s political transition was meant to be an avenue for the country to achieve lasting stability and a lasting democracy. This would be achieved through elections that were slated to take place in early 2024. Unfortunately, Sudan’s interim government has been unable to deliver on this promise as militarily and social tensions have escalated. These culminated in the military’s decision to seize control of the country, leading to a prolonged period of chaos and uncertainty.
The unravelling of Sudan’s transitional period has primarily been due to the dispute between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—the government-backed paramilitary group—and the Sudanese military. This has descended into violence, with both sides accusing the other of illegal activities and attempts to undermine the government. This makes talks between both sides incredibly difficult and adds more tension to an already volatile situation.
The end result of the current instability is that the innocent civilians of Sudan are now suffering the most. They have been caught in the crossfire of rival forces and have had to bear witness to a cycle of destruction and violence that has no end.
The African Union and the United Nations have responded to this conflict by extending the African-led cease-fire in March 2021 in response to the violent clashes. This critical action has helped create a much-needed pause in the bloodshed, while also providing an opportunity to restart dialogue and find common ground.
If both sides can reach a negotiated settlement and create a path towards unity; then perhaps Sudan has a chance of regaining its place in the international community and of delivering on the promise of democracy. But for now, Sudan remains at the mercy of its warring parties, and stability remains far from certain.