Fears 860,000 could flee as Sudan fighting leaves truce in tatters


Gunfire and explosions rocked Sudan’s capital Khartoum for a 20th straight day Thursday, leaving the latest ceasefire effort in tatters as the UN warned of an exodus of 860,000 refugees.

As the latest ceasefire expired at midnight, the army said it was ready to abide by a new seven-day truce, but there was no word from its foes in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

In Khartoum, witnesses reported loud explosions and exchanges of fire on the streets around dawn and clashes during the day in the city of five million people.

The foreign ministry accused the RSF of attacking the Indian embassy in Khartoum, the latest in a spate of such incidents which the diplomatic mission did not immediately confirm.

Deadly urban combat broke out on April 15 between Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who commands the regular army, and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who heads the RSF.

The fighting has killed about 700 people, most of them in Khartoum and Darfur, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

The UN refugee agency said it was preparing for an outflow of 860,000 people from the north African country, adding $445 million would be needed to support them just through October.

“We urgently need timely, new funding to respond to the mounting needs,” said Raouf Mazou, the UNHCR’s assistant chief of operations.

“The needs are vast, and the challenges are numerous. If the crisis continues, peace and stability across the region could be at stake.”

More than 115,000 people have already fled Sudan since the fighting erupted.

– ‘Settlements burnt, destroyed’ –

On the day the fighting began, the two generals had been due to meet with international mediators to discuss the RSF’s integration into the regular army — a key condition for the transition to democratic rule.

Instead, Khartoum awoke to the sound of gunfire ringing through the streets.

“Every minute of war, more people die or are thrown into the streets, society disintegrates and the state weakens and decomposes a little more,” said Khalid Omar Youssef, a civilian minister in the government overthrown by the rival generals in a 2021 coup.

The UN’s top humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, made a lightning visit Wednesday to Sudan to try to negotiate safe passage for aid and aid workers, after six trucks laden with food supplies from the World Food Programme were looted on their way to the war-torn western region of Darfur.

Darfur is still scarred by a war that erupted in 2003 when then president Omar al-Bashir unleashed the Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, against ethnic minority rebels.

The UN said Darfur civilians were again being armed in the latest fighting.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said violence in the West Darfur state capital, El Geneina, has “resulted in the loss of at least 191 lives”.

“Dozens of settlements have been burnt and destroyed, and thousands have been displaced,” it said.

– ‘African solutions’ –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged Wednesday the international community had “failed” Sudan.

“A country like Sudan, that has suffered so much… cannot afford a struggle for power between two people,” said the UN chief.

Mediation efforts have multiplied since the conflict began, but the army said Wednesday it favoured those of the East African regional bloc IGAD, because it wanted “African solutions to the continent’s issues”.

It said it was also considering a Saudi-US bid to halt the fighting.

Arab League foreign ministers are to meet on Sunday to discuss the conflict ahead of a summit in Saudi Arabia later this month, a diplomat told AFP.

Nearly 450,000 civilians have fled their homes since fighting began, the International Organization for Migration said, including the more than 115,000 who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Since Bashir’s ouster in a 2019 coup, international mediators have sought to bring civilians and the military to the negotiating table.

But in the process, analysts believe, they gave too much credit to Burhan and Daglo, who worked together in the coup that derailed the transition to elective civilian rule before falling out in a power struggle.

Exiled rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nur — a veteran of decades of fighting in Darfur — said “the Sudanese people want neither of them”.

“They want a civilian government,” he told AFP, adding there can be “no winner” in the current conflict.


Originally published as Fears 860,000 could flee as Sudan fighting leaves truce in tatters


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