Sudan ‘collapses’, war enters third week

Sudan ‘collapses’, war enters third week

2023-04-30 02:10:24

Air raids and heavy gunfire in Khartoum, tens of thousands of people fleeing the war: the fierce and deadly fighting between the army and the paramilitaries entered its third week on Saturday, in violation of a new truce.

The country has been plunged into chaos since the outbreak on April 15 of a bloody power struggle between the head of the army, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and his number two, Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, at the head of the dreaded Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The fighting left at least 528 dead and 4,599 injured, according to the Ministry of Health, a toll still very underestimated as the bodies littering the streets are inaccessible and therefore impossible to identify.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese but also foreigners or refugees settled in Sudan have fled to Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad or South Sudan, while several foreign capitals continue to evacuate hundreds of their nationals .

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented via Al-Arabiya channel that “the war for power continues as the country is collapsing”.

Each camp accuses itself of violating the truce extended, under international mediation, until Sunday midnight (22:00 GMT).

Civilians try to flee or survive barricaded without electricity, water or food.

“There are clashes with heavy weapons and machine guns,” a resident of Khartoum told AFP, while another witness reports “explosions and shooting” elsewhere in the capital.

About 70% of hospitals in combat zones are out of service, according to the doctors’ union.

– “Unimaginable” –
On Friday, the generals at war were torn apart by the media.

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On the Al-Hurra channel, Burhane described the FSR as a “militia seeking to destroy Sudan” with the help of “mercenaries from Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger”.

“Hemedti” spoke to him on the BBC of his rival as a “traitor” who is “untrustworthy”.

The two generals had however joined forces during the 2021 putsch to oust the civilians with whom they had shared power since the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir two years earlier. But differences then appeared and, for lack of agreement on the integration of the FSR into the army, degenerated into open war on 15 April.

For the UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, while the tensions were palpable, there was “no sign” that fighting would break out on April 15 because, he told Al-Jazeera, the two rival generals were to meet to discuss that day.

If the weapons have not been silent since then, Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan – historic mediator in Sudan – called on the two generals on Saturday for “a constructive and concrete face-to-face dialogue”.

He also urged them “not to try to strengthen positions” when many observers believe that no truce has held because the two belligerents do not want to give the other a chance to advance or to provide reinforcements.

According to the UN, 75,000 people have been displaced by fighting, particularly violent in Darfur, a region torn by war in the 2000s.

If the truce does not stop the fighting, it allows the evacuation corridors to remain open. A convoy organized by the United States thus enabled the evacuation of American nationals and other countries to Port-Sudan (east). From there, a new boat carrying around 1,900 evacuees arrived in Saudi Arabia, which has so far received nearly 5,000 Saudi and foreign nationals.

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Among them, Merhdad Malekzadh, who was one of the first Iranians evacuated on Saturday, described to AFP daily bombardments and explosions in Khartoum. “We would never have imagined that the situation would become so tense”.

– “Terrible” –
The United Kingdom has already warned that its last evacuation flight will take place on Saturday evening after removing more than 1,500 people from Sudan.

“The window of opportunity is closing,” regretted Canada, saying it continued “to evaluate different options, including by land and sea”.

The UN estimates that millions more people could sink into hunger when a third of the 45 million Sudanese already suffered from it, in the country, one of the poorest in the world.

Looting, destruction and fires are increasing in West Darfur, including in camps for the displaced, reports Médecins sans frontières (MSF). The NGO had to “stop almost all of (its) activities there”.

In recent days, a hundred people have been killed in fighting that ravaged its capital El-Geneina, according to the UN.

“Society is collapsing, we see tribes that are now trying to arm themselves,” lamented Antonio Guterres.

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