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Sudan's Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks in Khartoum, Sudan, on Dec. 5, 2022.Marwan Ali/The Associated Press

Sudan’s warring generals agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting as part of efforts to establish a ceasefire and initiate political talks to end the country’s devastating war, an African regional bloc said Sunday.

Sudan slipped into chaos after soaring tensions between military chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, exploded into open fighting in mid-April in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere across the country.

The country has been in turmoil for several years, ever since a popular uprising forced the removal of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The short-lived transition to democracy was derailed when the two generals joined forces to lead a military coup in October, 2021. After they fell out, war followed 18 months later.

On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said an attack on its humanitarian convoy in Khartoum killed two people and injured seven.

The wounded included three ICRC staff members, the Red Cross added in a statement.

“The humanitarian convoy, consisting of three ICRC vehicles and three buses, all clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, was due to evacuate over a hundred vulnerable civilians from Khartoum to Wad Madani when it came under attack upon entering the evacuation area,” the statement read.

The ICRC said it is shocked and appalled by the attack, which it described as deliberate.

It did not point the finger at any party, but Sudan’s army said the convoy had come under fire after violating an agreement by approaching its defensive positions, using a car “belonging to the rebels” – a reference to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The ICRC convoy was evacuating civilians, including foreign nationals, from St. Mary’s Church in Khartoum, according to the army.

In a separate statement, the RSF accused the army of attacking the convoy. It said the incident had resulted in deaths as well as injuries.

The conflict has wrecked the country and killed up to 9,000 people by October, according to the United Nations. However, activists and doctors’ groups say the real toll is far higher.

In a meeting of the leaders of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a grouping of East African countries, both Sudanese generals agreed to “an unconditional ceasefire and resolution of the conflict through political dialogue,” and to hold a “a one-to-one meeting,” the bloc said in a statement Sunday.

Gen. Burhan, who chairs Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, attended the meeting Saturday in Djibouti, which holds the rotating IGAD presidency.

Meanwhile, Gen. Dagalo, whose whereabouts are unknown, spoke by phone with IGAD leaders.

The statement gave no further details, including when and where the two generals would meet.

However, Alexis Mohamed, an adviser to Djibouti’s president, said Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the Sudanese generals “accepted the principle of meeting within 15 days in order to pave the way for a series of confidence-building measures” that would eventually lead to political talks to end the conflict in Sudan.

There was no immediate comment from either the Sudanese military or the RSF.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the generals’ commitment to a ceasefire and a face-to-face meeting and called for them to “abide by these commitments and enter talks without delay,” said Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department.

IGAD is part of mediation efforts to end the conflict, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States, which facilitated rounds of indirect talks between the warring parties as recently as early in November.

When the war began, fighting initially centred in Khartoum but quickly spread to other areas, including the western region of Darfur.

More than six million people were forced out of their homes, including 1.2 million who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, according to the UN figures.

In Darfur, which was the site of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s, the conflict has morphed into ethnic violence, with the RSF and allied Arab militias attacking ethnic African groups, according to rights groups and the UN.

The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that the RSF and the Sudanese military were responsible for either war crimes or crimes against humanity, or both, in Darfur.

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