Sudan's army warns civilians to avoid rival RSF positions

US says it hopes for peace talks to resume from April 18

Selling ice blocks on the street amid rising temperatures during Ramadan, in Gedaref, eastern Sudan. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Sudan's army is advising citizens to move away from areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces across the country, warning that the paramilitary's positions are legitimate targets for its warplanes.

The army led by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan is fighting for control of Sudan against the RSF.

The paramilitary force evolved from the notorious Darfur-based Janjaweed militia and is led by Gen Al Burhan's one-time ally Gen Mohamed Dagalo.

On Tuesday, the army accused the RSF of using civilians as human shields.

Since the war broke out in April, the RSF has commandeered private homes in districts of the capital Khartoum that it controls, using them as battlefield bases and accommodation for its fighters.

It has followed similar practices in other areas under its control in the western regions of Darfur and Kordofan and more recently in Wad Medani, the capital of Al Jazeerah province south of the capital, which it captured in December.

“The armed forces would like to draw the attention of citizens to the need for them to stay clear from areas across the country where Dagalo's terrorist militia maintains a presence,” said the army, which has recent weeks made sizeable battlefield gains in the capital.

“They are legitimate targets for the strikes of our air force.”

US hopes for peace talks

The army's warning came as the US said it hoped peace talks would resume next month.

The US is aiming for April 18 for a possible resumption of peace talks in Saudi Arabia, Washington's new special envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello said on Tuesday.

America has clearly communicated that peace talks with the warring parties in Saudi Arabia would need to be inclusive, including the UAE, Egypt, regional East African bloc IGAD and the African Union, Mr Perriello told reporters.

While it was not confirmed if the warring parties would agree to negotiations ahead of April 18, Mr Perriello said it would be a natural time for talks to resume after the end of Ramadan and following a donor conference in Paris planned for April 15.

“I'd like the talks to start tomorrow, but I think that realistically we're looking at after Ramadan. But I think in the meantime, we want to use that period between now and the start of talks to be exploring every angle we can so that it's teed up for success,” Mr Perriello said.

“That would be a good timeline to do it. But it's not firm.”

International attempts to stop the fighting have so far failed. A series of previous ceasefires mediated by the US and Saudi Arabia during the early days of the war proved short-lived or collapsed as soon as they went into force.

The army has rejected a UN Security Council resolution adopted earlier this month that called for a ceasefire during Ramadan, which began on March 11, signalling its intention to fight on until victory.

It has said there would be no peace negotiations with the RSF before the paramilitary gives up the areas it captured during the war.

'Horrific violations'

The UN has accused both sides have been of committing "horrific violations and abuses" during the war.

In a report published last month, the UN said the army and RSF have “used explosive weapons with wide area effects, such as missiles fired from fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons and artillery shells in densely populated areas”. The report also accused the RSF of using human shields.

“For nearly a year now, accounts coming out of Sudan have been of death, suffering and despair, as the senseless conflict and human rights violations and abuses have persisted with no end in sight,” UN human rights chief Volker Turk said after the release of the report.

“Some of these violations would amount to war crimes,” he said.

The RSF has been accused of ethnically motivated attacks in Darfur that have killed hundreds and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. It is also accused of sexual assault, arbitrary detentions and torture of suspected army spies or collaborators.

The army, on the other hand, stands accused of killing hundreds of civilians in Khartoum and elsewhere through the use of air strikes and heavy artillery shelling to target RSF positions located in populated areas.

In the latest incident, at least nine civilians were killed and 14 injured on Monday in air strikes targeting RSF positions in the city of Al Fasher in northern Darfur.

Residents said the air strikes destroyed five homes and forced hundreds to flee their homes in the city's Al Wefaq district and take refuge elsewhere in Al Fasher.

The war began when simmering tensions between the two generals over details of Sudan's democratic transition turned into violence. The conflict has displaced about eight million people and is thought to have killed tens of thousands.

According to the UN, 18 million people in Sudan now face acute food insecurity as a result of the war. The UN has also warned that about 730,000 children in Sudan, including more than 240,000 in Darfur, are believed to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 11:55 AM