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Sudanese still await relief on day two of tense ceasefire

A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum as fighting had calmed following ceasefire. — AFP
A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum as fighting had calmed following ceasefire. — AFP

KHARTOUM: Fighting had eased but not stopped in Sudan on Wednesday, the second full day of a ceasefire that has raised cautious hopes among beleaguered civilians that aid corridors and escape routes will open soon.

Sporadic air strikes and artillery fire have still echoed across the capital, residents said, but US and Saudi observers said "fighting in Khartoum appeared to be less intense" since the one-week truce entered into force late Monday.

Washington and Riyadh, which brokered the ceasefire deal between the forces of two rival generals, however pointed to reports "indicating that both sides violated the agreement".

Nonetheless, they stressed that preparations were underway "to deliver lifesaving assistance" to the people of Sudan, who have endured more than five weeks of fighting that has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The chaos has left millions hunkering down in their homes to hide from the combatants and roaming looters amid power blackouts and desperate shortages of water, food, medicines and other staples.

Khartoum resident Ali Mohammed said water supply "still hasn't been restored" on Wednesday, "but at least I was able to go out and buy water for my family".

Mohammed Taher, 55, was finally able to "go to Khartoum's central market five kilometres away to buy food and return without incident", he said.

The fighting pits Sudan's de facto leader, the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, nicknamed "Hemedti", who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

It has displaced more than a million people inside Sudan, the International Organization for Migration reported on Wednesday, with a further 319,000 people seeking refuge across borders.

Those unable to flee have run low on basic supplies, and more than half the population, 25 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

"The whole country has been taken hostage", said the UN's expert on human rights in Sudan, Radhouane Nouicer."

Hopes for quick relief from the fighting and suffering were dimmed by the fact that a series of earlier ceasefires were all quickly broken, with both sides trading blame for the violations.

Saudi and US mediators also voiced "concern" that the warring sides had sought to gain military advantage in the lead-up to the truce.

A mass exodus of Sudanese has meanwhile continued into neighbouring countries, including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan, sparking regional fears the conflict will spread across borders because of transnational ethnic ties. — AFP

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