Precarious 72-hour truce in Sudan, evacuation scramble continues

Smoke columns in Khartoum, which is witnessing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (UN / open source)

KHARTOUM – April 25, 2023

The warring Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to a new 72-hour ceasefire, reportedly mediated by the USA and Saudi Arabia, which started at midnight. Previous temporary truce deals were not upheld by both sides and witnesses reported continued shooting today. Evacuation efforts continue.

The SAF said that both the USA and Saudi Arabia mediated the ceasefire.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that “following intense negotiation over the past 48 hours, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24, to last for 72 hours”.

“During this period, the United States urges the SAF and RSF to immediately and fully uphold the ceasefire,” the official statement read.

On social media, Blinken added that the US welcomes “their commitment to work with partners and stakeholders for permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements.”

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) said in a statement yesterday that agreeing to the armistice “is conditional on the rebels’ commitment to stopping all hostilities”.

The RSF affirmed their commitment to a complete ceasefire during the agreed period but warned of continued violations of what it called “the second party’s continued non-compliance with armistices”.

An hour ago, it reiterated its “complete commitment to the 72-hour truce that aims to open up humanitarian corridors”.

‘The Sudanese army has violated the ceasefire by continuing to attack Khartoum by planes’ – RSF

“However, the Sudanese army has violated the ceasefire by continuing to attack Khartoum by planes, which is a clear breach of the ceasefire agreement,” it wrote in a statement published on Twitter.

“This confirms the existence of multiple decision-making centres within the coup armed forces and the remnants of the defunct regime.”

Mediation attempts

Israel announced yesterday that it had proposed hosting talks between the leaders of the two parties to the conflict in Sudan for a ceasefire.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated that, since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan, Israel has been working to reach a cease-fire through various channels. Cohen said that the progress achieved in the talks with both sides in the past few days is very promising.

Cohen visited Sudan three months ago to work towards a peace agreement and normalisation of diplomatic ties.

The American news website Axios reported yesterday that the US administration had seen the Israeli proposal regarding mediation and that the two are coordinating efforts, also working with countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Evacuation efforts aided by truce

The UK has launched a large-scale evacuation operation of British nationals. Military flights have departed from an airfield outside Khartoum and are open to those with British passports. Families with children, elderly people, and those with medical conditions will be given priority to access the flights.

“The government has begun a large-scale evacuation of British passport holders from Sudan on RAF flights,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced via Twitter.

Flight path of British Royal Air Force (RAF) evacuation flight at 12:07 (CET)
bound for Akrotiri in Cyprus where the RAF has a base (flightradar24)

Other countries are coordinating their efforts, taking in citizens from a variety of countries. Of the roughly 100 Dutch citizens who were evacuated, half were lifted out of Sudan on planes from other European countries.

Yesterday evening and last night, a third and fourth Dutch evacuation plane landed in Jordan from Sudan. According to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch took at least 70 people of other nationalities.

A Spanish evacuation operation also brought citizens from Sudan, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Ireland, Portugal, and Poland to safety.

German evacuation operations took citizens from at least 20 other nations.

On Sunday, US citizens were advised to join evacuation convoys organised by the UAE and Turkey.

Many other countries, including Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and France had evacuation operations planned yesterday, which are likely to be carried out during the truce.

All Japanese citizens who desired to leave Sudan have reportedly been evacuated successfully.

Diplomat slain

Mohamed Al Gharawi, an Egyptian diplomat, was shot and killed on his way back to the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum yesterday after monitoring “evacuation procedures for Egyptian citizens in Sudan,” Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Belgian EU official Wim Fransen, head of the EU’s humanitarian agency in Sudan, was shot in Sudan six days ago as a German evacuation mission was forced to halt amidst fierce fighting in Khartoum.

Three UN World Food Programme (WFP) employees were killed not long after the clashes erupted.