(Khartoum) Evacuations of foreigners continue Monday in Sudan where nine days of fighting for power between army and paramilitaries have left hundreds dead, with no end in sight.
Explosions, air raids and gunfire continued in Khartoum and other cities, but foreign capitals managed to negotiate passages with the two belligerents: the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto leader of the Sudan, and his deputy turned rival, General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, who commands the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
It was necessary “to take advantage of a small window of opportunity”, explains a spokesperson for the British government.
According to him, “with intense fighting in Khartoum and the closure of the main airport”, the scene of fighting from the first day of hostilities, April 15, “a wider temporary evacuation was impossible”.
In fact, on Monday afternoon, the doctors’ union launched an urgent appeal on Facebook: “several districts of Khartoum are bombed, there are civilian deaths and around fifty seriously injured, all nearby doctors must go there at faster “.
More than 1,000 EU nationals have nevertheless been evacuated, said the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.
“A first group” of Chinese, several dozen South Africans and hundreds of nationals of Arab countries also left, by road, sea or air.
A Lebanese, ready to embark for Saudi Arabia in Port-Sudan, 850 km east of Khartoum, told AFP that he left with “a T-shirt and pajamas”. “That’s all I have left after 17 years” in Sudan, he laments.
In Khartoum, “we were under siege, like in a thriller”, he confides, while running water and electricity have been cut for several days, the telephone network badly deteriorated and food shortages settle down.
“We were afraid of getting sick or being injured in the strikes,” he continues in the middle of a group of evacuated families, carrying suitcases and backpacks of children.
“War fell upon us without warning”, and now “everything is destroyed”.
The violence, mainly in Khartoum and Darfur, in the West, left more than 420 dead and 3,700 injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most of the evacuated foreigners are diplomatic staff. Many nationals are still waiting for a place in the long convoys of white cars or buses that leave continuously from Khartoum.
Upon arrival in Djibouti, where many foreign troops are stationed, haggard families disembark in the midst of soldiers who organize the incessant ballet of evacuations.
If many foreigners have left, what will become of the Sudanese, ask experts and humanitarians.
“I fear for their future,” Norwegian Ambassador Endre Stiansen admitted on Twitter.
The five million inhabitants of Khartoum, on the other hand, have only one idea in mind: to leave the city in the grip of chaos.
Clashes erupted near several banks, which were immediately emptied.
In a country where inflation is already in three figures in normal times, the kilo of rice or the liter of gasoline are now exchanged at gold prices.
But fuel is the key to escape: it takes a lot to reach neighboring Egypt — 1,000 km to the north — to which thousands of Sudanese hope to turn. Or to reach Port-Sudan and hope to get on a boat, as the first evacuees from the country, the Saudis, did.
“As foreigners who can flee, the impact of the violence on an already critical humanitarian situation is worsening,” the UN warns.
Under the crossfire, its agencies and many humanitarian organizations have suspended their activities. Five aid workers have been killed and, according to the doctors’ union, nearly three-quarters of hospitals are out of service.
Sudanese have already fled to Egypt and South Sudan, which has 800,000 refugees in Sudan. Among them, women and children are now crossing in the other direction, according to the UN.
At least 20,000 Sudanese have taken refuge in Chad, which borders Darfur.
This western region, the poorest in the country, was ravaged in the 2000s by a war ordered by the dictator Omar al-Bashir, ousted in 2019, and led in particular by the Janjawid militiamen, the bulk of the troops of the general Daglo.
Today inaccessible, it is once again prey to looting, attacks and abuses.
The World Food Program (WFP) reports that “10 vehicles and six food trucks were stolen”, amounting to “4000 m3 of food” which will not go to the 45 million Sudanese, more than one in three of whom suffered from hunger before confit.
This degenerated into a war on Saturday. But it had actually been brewing for weeks between the two generals.
Allies for the 2021 putsch, they failed to agree on the integration of the FSR into the regular troops.
With both sides engaged in an information war, it is impossible to know who controls the country’s institutions or the airports and what state the infrastructure is in.