Sudan warring parties in Jeddah agree on protection of civilians

Soldiers at Khartoum International Airport , April 15 (Social media)


Representatives of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed in Jeddah yesterday to allow safe escape routes and passage of humanitarian aid in Sudan.

After a week of negotiations in the Saudi city of Jeddah, it has been agreed that the warring parties will discuss a cessation of hostilities in further talks. Earlier the SAF and RSF agreed several times on a ceasefire but did not seem to be able to commit themselves to the agreements.

By singing the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan, the warring parties “agree that the interests and well-being of the Sudanese people are our top priority and affirm our commitment to ensure that civilians are protected at all times. This includes allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose.

“We affirm our responsibility to respect International Humanitarian Law and international human rights law,” the text reads. This includes “obligations to distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military targets”, and “refrain from any attack that may be expected to cause incidental civilian harm that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”.

The SAF and RSF further “commit to prioritizing discussions to achieve a short-term ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services, and we commit to scheduling subsequent expanded discussions to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities”.

Joint initiative

The talks in Jeddah are a joint initiative of Saudi Arabia and the USA. The two countries called on the warring parties to enter into a dialogue that “hopefully leads to the end of the conflict”.

The negotiations were very tough [..] and a lot of that has to do with the depth of enmity between the two parties and the level of mistrust.

– senior US State Department official

“One important point that will be different from the earlier ceasefires that we have tried to negotiate is that we have developed a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, which is being supported by the UN, the Saudis, and other members of the international community,” a senior US State Department official said in a briefing yesterday.

“The negotiations were very tough [..] and a lot of that has to do with the depth of enmity between the two parties and the level of mistrust.”

“So given the depth of enmity [..] and the struggle for dominance, we don’t see an easy solution to this, which is why we were focused in the near term on moving from this important document, which sets the frame, to moving as quickly as possible into real discussions about how they’re going to move around to allow the steps that we’ve enumerated.”

His colleague added that they “also started talking about with civil society representatives and civil society – and representatives of resistance committees, for example, is how some of the really brave ongoing local efforts they’ve undertaken to provide humanitarian assistance and essential services on the ground during the fighting, primarily but not only in Khartoum, could be coordinated with the international humanitarian assistance delivery and the efforts to restore essential services [.. such as] water, power, telecommunications, and efforts to distribute fuel”.

Representatives from the mediation team from the US embassy in Riyadh, the US military attaché, the US ambassador in Khartoum, and a coordinator from the US National Security Council are participating in the Saudi talks.

Humanitarian catastrophe

In the violence that broke out between the SAF and RSF in Khartoum on April 15, 604 people have been killed and more than 5,000 have been injured, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

More than 200,000 people fled their homes, and millions remain trapped in their homes.

More than 19 million people, about 20 per cent of the Sudanese, are currently affected, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said earlier this week that the displacement in Sudan doubled within one week. More than 700,000 people are now displaced within Sudan. According to the UNCHR, at least 150,000 Sudanese and refugees of other nationalities fled to neighbouring countries.

Yesterday, Radio Dabanga reported that the WFP has resumed food assistance in Sudan, and European Union launched a Humanitarian Air Bridge to address the growing humanitarian needs. 

Two Saudi planes arrived at Port Sudan International Airport carrying 10 tonnes of food baskets, shelter materials, and medical supplies.

The aid flights on Thursday were the fourth and fifth of a Saudi directive to provide the Sudanese people with assistance worth $100 million.

On May 3, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his grave concerns over the humanitarian catastrophe developing in Sudan, and warned of the potential for the conflict to “explode into a war that will affect the region for years to come”.