Sudan’s warring generals agree to ceasefire and face-to-face peace talks, US diplomat says

Sudan's army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan (left) and Gen Mohamed Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. AFP
Sudan's army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan (left) and Gen Mohamed Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. AFP


Sudan’s warring generals have agreed to an unconditional cessation of hostilities and a face-to-face meeting to end their eight-month-old war that has devastated the already impoverished African country, displacing millions and creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, a senior US diplomat has said.

Speaking at a panel of the Doha Forum on Monday, the special US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, said the two generals agreed to a ceasefire and a one-to-one meeting during a summit meeting of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in Djibouti over the weekend.
Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan attended the meeting, but his one-time ally and deputy, Gen Mohamed Dagalo, now leader of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, who has rarely appeared in public since the war’s early stages, stayed away, instead talking to the gathered leaders on the telephone.

“We were able to get commitments from both of them for an unconditional ceasefire, as well as a hopefully assumed to be held, one-to-one meeting between the two,” said Mr Hammer, who attended last weekend’s IGAD summit that brought together leaders from member-states Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

“Really, this is a conflict between two military establishments. It’s not really a conflict of the Sudanese people. And it is regrettable that those institutions that pledged to protect people are the ones who are causing them the most harm.”

Mr Hammer made no mention of the particulars of the proposed ceasefire or the face-to-face meeting between Gen Al Burhan and Gen Dagalo, and there was no word immediately available from either the army or the RSF on what was agreed on in Djibouti.

The two generals had not met since fighting broke out in mid-April after weeks of growing tension over the terms of Sudan’s transition to democratic rule and plans proposed by politicians to integrate the RSF into the armed forces, something that Gen Dagalo has vehemently opposed. Also resisted have been calls to take the military out of politics.

Gen Dagalo was Gen Al Burhan’s deputy in the military-led Sovereign Council that acted as a presidency after the 2019 removal of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

Speakers discuss the Sudan war during a session at the Doha Forum on Monday 11/12/2023. Mohamad Ali Harisi / The National

The pair jointly seized power and toppled a civilian-led government in a coup in October 2021, derailing the democratic transition, plunging the nation of some 49 million into its worst economic crisis in living memory and creating a security vacuum that led to tribal and ethnic violence in Sudan’s outlying regions.

Both men insist they are fighting for the benefit of the Sudanese people and to restore the democratic transition, claims that are universally rejected as empty rhetoric in a nation that has seen seemingly endless civil strife since independence nearly 70 years ago.

The fighting has laid waste to large parts of the Sudanese capital and displaced 6 million people. It has also killed up to 9,000 people as of October, according to the UN. However, activists and doctors’ groups in the country say the real toll is far higher.

Deadly sectarian-motivated attacks in the western Darfur region are blamed on the RSF and its allies. They killed thousands from ethnic African communities and forced many more to flee to neighbouring Chad.

Last week, the US concluded that both sides have committed war crimes, citing the Darfur attacks and the army’s reckless use of air strikes and heavy artillery in densely populated Khartoum districts. The International Criminal Court says it is investigating the killings in Darfur last summer.

“They have to live up to their words and their actions have to live up to their commitments,” said Mr Hammer, alluding to the agreement of a ceasefire and face-to-face meeting by the two generals.

“Enough is enough! they have destroyed the country,” he said. “If they do not stop (the fighting), this will inevitably lead to the break-up of Sudan, which no one wants to see,” he added, saying Gen Al Burhan and Gen Dagalo would be held responsible if that happens.

“The situation is grave, the moment is now for them to stop.”

Sudanese displaced by the fighting riding with their furniture and other belongings on a truck on a road from Khartoum to Wad Madani to the south. AFP

Representatives of the army and the RSF participated in two rounds of indirect negotiations sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia since the war broke out in April.

The negotiations, held in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on the Red Sea, produced a series of ceasefire agreements during the early stages of the war, but collapsed soon after coming to force or were not diligently respected.

“None of the combatants have an incentive to stop fighting,” Hanna Tettah, the UN Special envoy to the Horn of Africa told the Doha Forum panel on Monday. “And there is no end in sight that meets the desires of the combatants.”

Citing the impact the war has had on the region, she suggested that the Jeddah process be broadened to include Sudan’s neighbours, like Egypt and Chad, as well as regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Hamza Hendawi reported from Cairo.

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