Pope Francis has called for prayers for Sudan as a seven-day ceasefire was scheduled to begin Monday.
The ceasefire is the first one to be agreed to by both parties in the conflict that broke out April 15.
Representatives of the rival factions — the Sudanese Army controlled by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan — began talks in the Saudi port city of Jeddah two weeks ago.
“On Saturday, the sides promised to stop their forces from occupying new areas; to refrain from detaining or threatening civilians; and not to impede aid groups and workers from providing lifesaving assistance,” The New York Times reported. “The warring groups also agreed not to loot civilian properties or humanitarian supplies, nor to seize critical infrastructure such as electricity, fuel and water installations.”
On Sunday, during his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis told the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, “It is sad, but, a month after the outbreak of violence in Sudan, the situation continues to be serious. While encouraging the partial agreements reached so far, I renew my heartfelt appeal for the laying down of weapons, and I ask the international community to spare no effort to make dialogue prevail and to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
So far, the conflict has killed at least 850 persons and injured at least 3,400. More than 843,000 have been displaced inside Sudan, and many have fled to neighboring countries.
“Day-to-day living is also becoming increasingly difficult amid frequent power outages,” Vatican News said. “Compounding matters, prices for staple goods have shot up and there is a dearth of imported goods such as flour and cooking oil.”
The New York Times said that before Saturday’s announcement of the latest truce, the two sides had “signed a pact only to protect civilians but not to suspend fighting altogether, leaving their soldiers clashing across Sudan. Previous cease-fire announcements, including one brokered by the United States and another by South Sudan, have faltered, leading to a mounting death toll and a vast displacement of people.”