Sudan’s military ruled out negotiations with the paramilitary force dubbed the Rapid Support Force, or RSF, on Thursday, saying it would only accept its complete surrender.
The announcement has threatened the latest attempt at a 24h ceasefire declared between the two sides on Wednesday evening.
Sudan is at breaking point, having endured five consecutive days of violence in the capital Khartoum and other parts of the country. Alarm has grown that the country’s medical system was on the verge of collapse, with many hospitals forced to shut down and others running out of supplies.
Hours before the truce was set to end, the military said in a statement that it would not negotiate with its rival, the RSF, over an end to the crisis and would only discuss terms of its surrender.
“There would be no armed forces outside (of) the military system,” it said.
If the truce collapses completely, it would mark the second failure by the international community to push Sudan’s two top generals — army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo — to halt their battle for control of the country.
A similar truce Tuesday, which came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with both generals, collapsed almost immediately.
At least 330 people have been killed and 3,300 wounded in the fighting since it began Saturday, the UN’s World Health Organization said, but the toll is likely higher because many bodies lie uncollected in the streets.
A fight for power
Both generals have positioned themselves as saviours of Sudan and guardians of democracy – in a country which has known only brief democratic interludes.
The 2021 coup which the generals orchestrated derailed a transition to civilian rule.
The battles that began Saturday followed bitter disagreements between Burhan and Daglo over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army – a key condition for a final deal aimed at resuming the democratic transition.
Both claim to be in control of key sites, including the airport and the presidential palace – none of which could be independently verified.
A number of organisations have temporarily suspended operations in the country, where one-third of the population needs aid and three UN World Food Programme staff are among the dead.