Volker Perthes, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Sudan and head of the U.N. Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, briefs the Security Council on the current situation in the Northeast African nation. Photo by Eskinder Debebe/United Nations
May 23 (UPI) -- As the warring sides in Sudan's bloody five-week-long conflict were set to silence their guns Monday night for a seven-day cease fire, the United Nations envoy for the Northeast African country urged them to use the pause in fighting to pave the way for lasting peace.
Sudan has been submerged in violence since April 15 when differences between the Sudanese Armed Forces and its breakaway Rapid Support Forces spilled into the streets.
Volker Perthes, the U.N. special representatives of Sudan, told the Security Council on Monday prior to the cease-fire going into effect that the conflict has shown no signs of slowing and in some regions has spiraled into ethnic violence that threatens to engulf the entire nation, prolong the conflict and impact the region.
"Both parties have been calling on me to condemn the respective other side's action. I call on both to end the fighting and return to dialogue in the interest of Sudan and its people," he said.
The U.S.- and Saudi Arabia-mediated cease-fire was agreed to Saturday after the warring sides pledged a week earlier to protect civilians amid the fighting, with Perthes stating the temporary halt to the conflict "offers hope for the civilians and it shows that the violence can be ended if both sides comply."
"The agreed short-term cease-fire could and should also pave the way for talks for a durable cessation of hostilities and as the talks advance a diverse array of civil and political stake holders must play their role, ultimately only a credible civilian-led transition can chart lasting peace in Sudan," he said.
The Northeast African nation has for years teetered on the precipice of war and stability since the military ousted the country's former three-decade dictator government of President Omar al-Bashir in a civilian-backed coup in 2019.
As the country crawled toward a democracy, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and his deputy, Rapid Support Forces head Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, executed another coup but infighting over control of the government has turned into the bloodshed earlier this month, with civilians paying a heavy price.
More than 860 civilians, including more than 190 children, have been killed with another 3,500 injured, according to the U.N., citing the local doctors union. The conflict has also displaced more than a 1 million people, with 250,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.
Perthes said serious human rights violations have been committed and he's "appalled" by reports that women and girls have been victims of sexual violence including rape.
"The warring parties have fought their war with little regard for the laws and norms of war," he said. "Homes, shops, places of worship, water and electricity installations have been destroyed or damaged. The health sector is collapsing. With more than two-thirds of hospitals closed, many healthcare workers killed and medical supplies running low."
He said that the decision of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to seek to settle their differences through war instead of dialogue "is devastating Sudan."
He added that some are blaming the fighting on the international community for not heeding warning signs while others blame the political process that fell apart.
For Perthes, blame lies with those who chose war.
"Let us be clear: the responsibility for the fighting rests with those who are waging it daily. The leadership of the two sides who have chosen to settle their differences on the battle field rather than at the table," he said. "It's their decision that is ravaging Sudan, and they can end it."