(Khartoum) Khartoum is shaking on Tuesday under airstrikes and paramilitary gunfire on the fourth day of a struggle between ruling generals who are ignoring growing international calls to cease hostilities after nearly 200 deaths.
At the foot of inhabited buildings, paramilitaries from the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “ Hemedti”, perched on pickup trucks unload their heavy machine guns towards the sky, facing army planes trying to target their HQs scattered in all the districts.
These air raids have already hit four hospitals in Khartoum, doctors are alarmed. Across the country – one of the poorest in the world where health has been on its knees for decades – “16 hospitals are now out of service”.
But the calls of the foreign ministers of the G7, the UN and the United States “ to put an immediate end to the violence ” do nothing: men in fatigues, sometimes turbaned like the nomads of Darfur, continue to to reign terror in Khartoum, while air raids by the army hit densely populated areas.
On Tuesday, General Daglo announced that he had approved “ a 24-hour ceasefire ”, “ a declaration by the rebellion aimed at concealing its imminent defeat ”, immediately denounced the army, under the command of General Abdel Fattah al -Burhane who has ruled the country since the putsch of 2021.
The inhabitants, for the most part, are cloistered at home without electricity or running water and are seeing their food stocks melt away.
As the few grocery stores open warn that they won’t last much longer without restocking, clusters of women and men—huge bags of business in hand—start heading south. There, in the province bordering the capital, there is no fighting.
Under a sky barred by columns of thick black smoke above army and paramilitary headquarters, a few others venture outside in search of food or a generator still fueled with oil to recharge a telephone or a battery.
In Khartoum, “ we haven’t slept for four days”, Dallia Mohamed Abdelmoniem, 37, told AFP.
And above all, we stay “inside” for fear of bullets and rockets which have killed more than 185 people since Saturday according to the UN and prompted several NGOs and UN agencies to suspend all aid.
In a country where hunger affects more than one in three inhabitants, humanitarians and diplomats say they can no longer work. Three World Food Program (WFP) employees were killed and aid stocks looted in Darfur (West).
On Monday, an American diplomatic convoy came under fire and the European Union ambassador was “ attacked in his residence ” in Khartoum. Sudanese diplomacy, loyal to General Burhane, accused the FSR.
The UN lists 1,800 injured – and surely many as access is difficult, for patients and doctors alike.
In Darfur, stronghold of General Daglo and thousands of his men who carried out atrocities there during the war launched in this region in 2003, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) announces that it has received 183 wounded in three days in its last functional hospital. “ A majority of civilians, including many children ”, reports the NGO. “25 died” for lack of treatment.
Impossible to know which force controls what. The two camps say in press releases that they hold the airport, the presidential palace and the headquarters of the general staff. And, online, disinformation thrives: old videos of General Burhane – not appeared for four days – presented as recent, rumors of assassinations or false announcement of a truce fuel the confusion.
The two men now seem to no longer want to back down in this war that has become “existential” for their camps, according to experts.
The army never stops denouncing “ a coup ” by “rebels supported by foreigners ” when Hemedti declares to fight “ for freedom, justice and democracy ”.
This slogan of the “revolution” of 2019 was until recently still chanted in the street by pro-democracy activists wanting to end military power, almost a constant in Sudan since independence in 1956.
The conflict between Hemedti and General Burhane, latent for weeks, exploded when they were forced to announce their plan to integrate the RSF with regular troops. Unable to agree on a timetable and the conditions of recruitment, they let the guns speak.
For political scientist Amr Chobaki, “ the current situation is the result of the mistakes of the Bashir regime and the transition period which should have, after the fall of Bashir (in 2019), discussed the unification of the armed forces ”.
“The civilians wanted to dismantle the old regime, but what was dismantled were the political forces and the army,” he told AFP.
The big Egyptian neighbor is multiplying initiatives for “ a return to the negotiating table ”. He called the two generals and on Monday evening President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi convened an unusual Defense Council.