SUDAN: Pope and African Religious Leaders Call for Ceasefire, Urge Dialogue for Peace

By Arnold Neliba

KHARTOUM, APRIL 18, 2023 (CISA)– Nearly 200 people have been killed and over 1,800 wounded as fierce fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces  and the paramilitary group, Rapid Support Forces,  rage in Sudan for the fourth day.

In solidarity with other world leaders, the Holy Father and the African religious leaders have also called for a ceasefire in the nation while urging the warring parties to seek a path for dialogue and peace.

“I am following with concern the events unfolding in Sudan,” Pope Francis said while appealing for dialogue in Sudan.

“I am close to the Sudanese people and I invite you to pray so that they might lay down their arms and pick up the path of peace and harmony,” he added.

The fighting in Sudan is part of a power struggle between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces group (RSF). The two generals are former allies who jointly orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that disrupted Sudan’s short-lived transition to democracy.

The Pope’s concerns followed calls by the United Nations, African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other regional bodies in calling for a ceasefire and dialogue in ending hostilities in the country.

In an April 16 statement by the African Council of Religious Leaders under the umbrella body Religions for Peace, the religious leaders while expressing their sadness at the unfortunate developments in Khartoum emphasized the crucial role of religious leaders in Sudan can play in promoting peace, fostering dialogue and healing divisions within communities.

“We call on religious leaders in Sudan to come together in a spirit of unity and engage in peaceful efforts to resolve the conflict through inclusive and constructive dialogue,” reads the statement, which also invited the international community to support efforts for peace in Sudan.

“We urge regional and international partners to engage in diplomatic initiatives and provide support for a peaceful, inclusive and sustainable solution to the crisis. It is essential that all parties work towards a political process that addresses the root causes of the conflict, upholds human rights, and ensures the rule of law,” stated the religious leaders.

Fighting in Sudan started on April 15 after weeks of tension between the SAF and RFS, and a failed negotiation on the transition to a civilian-led government.

The power struggle has its roots in the years before a 2019 uprising that ousted the dictatorial ruler Omar al-Bashir, who built up formidable security forces that he deliberately set against one another.