Sudan warring forces sign agreement to protect civilians, aid workers

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Refugees fleeing the conflict at a camp in Chad.
Image: Henry Wilkins.

Representatives from Sudan's warring army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to a declaration of principles on Thursday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia promising the safety of civilians, aid workers and humanitarian aid.

The declaration said: "We affirm our commitment to ensuring the protection of civilians at all times, including by allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis in the direction of their choice".

The declaration also ordered forces to leave public and private properties, including hospitals and energy facilities, and for the "respectful burial of the dead".

Volker Perthes, the United Nations (UN) special representative in Sudan, said Friday: "I think the most important element of this understanding that was signed yesterday night is that both sides commit to continue their talks".

A United States representative described the agreement she helped negotiate: "This is not a ceasefire. This is an affirmation of their obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the treatment of civilians and the need to create space for humanitarians to operate".

The Center for Strategic and International Studies's Cameron Hudson argued: "These are things they should be doing already without being told. They should get no credit for that". Hudson questioned if the RSF could prevent their troops from violating the deal.

Humanitarian agencies, including the UN's, previously suspended activities in the capital, Khartoum, and Darfur, citing violence; since the conflict's outset on April 15, it has killed at least 18 aid workers and over 750 total.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported around 200,000 people have fled the nation, while 700,000 were internally displaced.

At a human rights-focused summit in Geneva, Switzerland, Western nations accused the RSF and the army of human rights violations.