Fighting in Sudan enters a second week as truce breaks

By AFP – Apr 22,2023 – JORDAN TIMES

Smoke billows over residential buildings in eastern Khartoum on Saturday, during ongoing battles between the forces of two rival general (AFP photo)

KHARTOUM — Fighting in Sudan’s capital entered a second week on Saturday as crackling gunfire shattered a temporary truce, the latest battles between forces of rival generals that have already left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.

Overnight, the heavy explosions that had previously rocked the city in recent days had subsided, but on Saturday morning, fighting resumed.

Heavy gunfire, loud explosions, and fighter jets roared in many parts of the capital Saturday morning, according to witnesses.

Violence broke out on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The former allies seized power in a 2021 coup but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.

The army announced Friday that it had “agreed to a ceasefire for three days” for the Eid Al Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called for a day earlier.

Daglo said in a statement he had “discussed the current crisis” with Guterres, and was “focused on the humanitarian truce, safe passages, and protecting humanitarian workers”.

Two previous 24-hour ceasefires announced earlier in the week were also ignored.

The fighting has seen the RSF — a force tens of thousands strong, formed from members of the Janjaweed militia that led years of violence in the western Darfur region — take on the regular army, with neither side seemingly having seized the advantage.

‘Stench of blood’

In Khartoum, a city of 5 million people, the conflict upended the lives of civilians, who have sheltered in terror inside their homes without electricity in baking heat for days.

Many civilians have ventured out only to get urgent food supplies or to flee the city.

Eid is meant to be spent “with sweets and pastries, with happy children, and people greeting relatives”, resident Sami al-Nour told AFP. Instead, there has been “gunfire and the stench of blood all around us”.

While Khartoum has seen some of the fiercest battles, violence also exploded across the country.

Late Friday, the army accused the RSF of attacks in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman where they released “a large number of inmates” from a prison, accusations the group denies.

Battles have also raged in Darfur, where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the city of El Fasher said their medics had been “overwhelmed” by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children.

Embassies prepare for evacuation

Plans are being made to evacuate foreign nationals, with the United States, South Korea and Japan deploying forces to nearby countries and the European Union weighing a similar move.

On Friday, the US said the situation was still too risky for an evacuation of embassy personnel.

Later, the RSF said it was ready to “partially” open “all airports” in Sudan to evacuate foreign citizens.

Though it is not possible to verify which airports the RSF controls, Burhan on Saturday told Al Arabiya TV that the army was in control of “all airports, except for Khartoum airport” and one in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

In an earlier statement, Sudan’s army said Burhan had received calls from leaders of multiple countries to “facilitate and guarantee safety for evacuating citizens and diplomatic missions”.

It noted that the evacuations are expected to begin “in the coming hours”, adding that the US, Britain, France, and China are planning to airlift their nationals out of Khartoum using military jets.

Saudi Arabia evacuated its mission in the country, with staff heading to Port Sudan in the east and from there to the kingdom, the army said. Jordan is planning a similar evacuation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said 413 people had been killed and 3,551 wounded in the fighting across Sudan, but the actual death toll is thought to be higher.

More than two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum and neighbouring states are now “out of service”, and at least four hospitals in North Kordofan state were shelled, the doctors’ union said.

The World Food Programme said the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where one third of the population needs aid.

Burhan and Daglo’s dispute centred on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army, a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition.

The military toppled autocratic president Omar Al Bashir in April 2019 following massive protests.

In October 2021, Burhan and Daglo joined forces to oust a civilian government installed after Bashir’s downfall.

Daglo now says the coup was a “mistake”, while Burhan believes it was “necessary” to include more groups into politics.


Categories: Africa, Arab World, North Africa, Sudan

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