(Khartoum) Airstrikes and heavy gunfire in Khartoum, tens of thousands fleeing war: Sudan ‘collapses’, UN chief warns as fighting enters third week .
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 crumbles”.
Each side accuses each other of violating the truce extended, under international mediation, until Sunday midnight (6 p.m. EST).
Civilians try to flee or survive barricaded without electricity, water or food.
“There are clashes with heavy weapons and machine guns,” a Khartoum resident told AFP, while another witness reported “explosions and shooting” elsewhere in the capital.
About 70% of hospitals in combat zones are out of service, according to the doctors’ union.
On Friday, the generals at war were torn apart by the media.
On Al-Hurra TV, Burhane called the RSF “a militia seeking to destroy Sudan” with the help of “mercenaries from Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger”.
“Hemedti” called him on the BBC about 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 April 15.
For the UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, while 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.
While the guns have not been silenced since then, Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan — historic mediator in Sudan — on Saturday called on the two generals for “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.
“God forbid if Sudan were to reach the stage of full civil war…it would be a nightmare for the world,” former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok warned in Nairobi on Saturday.
According to the UN, 75,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, which was 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.
Among them, Merhdad Malekzadh, who was among the first Iranians evacuated on Saturday, described to AFP daily bombardments and explosions in Khartoum. “We never imagined that the situation would become so tense.”
The United Kingdom said on Saturday it had evacuated nearly 1,900 people from Sudan since Tuesday. All those who could benefit from an evacuation had until Saturday morning to reach an air base in order to board the last flights.
“The window of opportunity is closing,” said Canada, saying it continues “to evaluate different options, including by land and sea”.
The UN estimates that millions more people could sink into hunger after a third of the 45 million Sudanese already suffer 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 now trying to arm themselves,” Guterres said.