(Khartoum) Heavy fighting shakes Khartoum on Monday, despite the announcement of a truce between the army and the paramilitaries, whose clashes have brought Sudan to the brink of a “catastrophe” and could incite “more than 800,000 people to flee the country, according to the UN.
In Khartoum, the capital of five million people, a witness told AFP he heard “eight strikes from military aircraft” as gunshots and explosions still echoed through various neighborhoods.
According to a still very underestimated report, more than 500 people have been killed and 5,000 injured since April 15, when two generals, having taken control of the country after a putsch in 2021, began to fight a fierce battle. .
These clashes between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as Hemedti, could lead to the flight of “more than 800,000 people”, warns the UN .
Already 75,000 people are internally displaced in this country of 45 million people. At least 20,000 have fled to Chad and tens of thousands more have reached Egypt, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
And the new three-day truce decreed in the night by the two belligerents does not change anything, assure the experts: like all the previous ones, it actually means that the secure corridors for the evacuation of foreigners are maintained and that the negotiations, which are held abroad, continue.
The conflict took the inhabitants of the country, one of the poorest in the world, by surprise, but also the international community.
“The scale and speed at which events are unfolding in Sudan (are) unprecedented,” said the UN on Sunday, which dispatched the head of the UN humanitarian agency Martin Griffiths to Nairobi.
For the latter, the “humanitarian situation is reaching a breaking point”: the massive looting has “depleted most of the stocks” of the humanitarian organizations on the spot, in a country where a third of the inhabitants were already suffering from hunger before the war.
The health situation in the country has been a “catastrophe” for decades, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Today, WHO Regional Director Ahmed Al-Mandhari told AFP, “only 16% of hospitals in Khartoum are operating at full capacity”, the rest have been bombed, occupied by belligerents, or no longer have staff and inventory.
The first encouraging sign in more than two weeks of uninterrupted fighting: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) managed to deliver eight tonnes of aid on Sunday. But this will only cure, according to him, “1,500 wounded”.
For its part, the World Food Program said Monday to resume “immediately its activities”, suspended after the death of three of its employees.
In Khartoum, the trap closes on the inhabitants: when they do not flee, they remain barricaded, trying to survive despite shortages of food, water and electricity, or even stray bullets piercing walls and windows.
After prison breaks, bank robberies and fights even in homes, the state of Khartoum has given officials “furlough until further notice”. The police have deployed in the capital, contrasting with their absence in recent weeks.
The UN is particularly concerned about the situation in West Darfur, where around 100 people have been killed in fighting in which it says civilians are involved.
This region was marked by the bloody civil war started in 2003 between the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir and ethnic minorities.
In neighboring Chad, arriving on donkeys, on horseback, on carts or on foot, refugees say they were targeted by General Daglo’s FSR.
“They attacked our village and when some of us wanted to come out of our house, they killed them,” says Bousseyna Mohamed Arabi, 37.
On the diplomatic level, efforts continue: Riyadh wants to convene the Organization of Islamic Cooperation after having received an emissary from General Burhane. The Arab League – deeply divided over Sudan – for its part postponed further discussions until Tuesday while the United Arab Emirates, allies of General Daglo, announced that it had called the army chief.
Several countries continue evacuations. An American ship evacuated more than 300 people to Saudi Arabia on Monday.
This “exodus reflects a very dark reality”, regrets Alex de Waal, specialist in Sudan. “The United States like other powers making only ‘timid and belated efforts to stop the fighting and help the Sudanese. “
According to him, the states most involved – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – never “wanted to see a democratic revolution in the Arab world”.
The putsch of October 2021 had closed the parenthesis of the democratic transition begun with the fall in 2019 of dictator Omar al-Bashir.