(Khartoum) Militaries and paramilitaries engaged in intense street fighting in Khartoum on Friday, witnesses say, as the belligerents ignored multiple calls for a ceasefire on the occasion of the Eid holiday el-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The Sudanese capital has been rocked by gunfire and airstrikes in the night and morning, as has been the case daily since the start of the fighting on April 15, which left “413 dead and 3,551 injured”, according to a new report of the World Health Organization (WHO).
New hospitals were heavily damaged in Khartoum, and four establishments were affected in al-Obeid, 350 km south of the capital, the doctors’ union said. The fighting opposes the regular army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto leader of Sudan since the putsch of 2021, and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo.
On the diplomatic level, consultations are intensifying: the British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, indicated on Friday that he would shorten his trip by several days to the Asia-Pacific region “because of the situation in Sudan”.
A day earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had both separately called for a ceasefire of “at least” three days to mark Eid. . The fighting is concentrated mainly in Khartoum and Darfur (west).
The FSR announced “a 72-hour truce” at 12:00 a.m. EST, but the announcement was not acted upon as on previous days. Created in 2013, the FSR brings together thousands of former Janjaweed, Arab militiamen recruited by the former dictator Omar el-Bashir, ousted in 2019, to fight ethnic minorities in Darfur.
In Khartoum, Abdewahid Othmane, a 53-year-old resident, criticizes those “who love power too much. They fight for power but they don’t care about the poor people who have no water or electricity and struggle to feed themselves.”
General Daglo had been General Burhane’s number two since the putsch of October 2021. The latter appeared Thursday for the first time since the start of hostilities on state television and addressed the nation for Eid, never mentioning a truce.
“For Eid, our country is bleeding: destruction, desolation and the sound of bullets have taken precedence over joy,” General Burhane said. So far, like his rival General Daglo, he had only spoken to the media and not directly addressed the 45 million Sudanese.
For their part, the United States will dispatch soldiers to the region to facilitate a possible evacuation of their embassy, while the airport has been closed since Saturday and the chancelleries are calling on their nationals to report while avoiding any travel.
The telephone network only works intermittently. Mostly women and children crowd the roads to flee, between checkpoints and corpses.
The power struggle between the two generals intensified when signing the conditions for the integration of General Daglo’s men into General Burhane’s regular troops, to finalize the political agreement on the return of civilians to power. The conflict latent for weeks then turned into a pitched battle, leading to the flight of many civilians abroad: 10,000 to 20,000 people, especially women and children, crossed into neighboring Chad, according to the UN. .
The two sides multiply the announcements of victory and accuse each other, assertions impossible to verify on the ground as the danger is permanent.
The air force, which targets the FSRs scattered in residential areas, does not hesitate to drop bombs, sometimes above hospitals, doctors testified.
“70% of the 74 hospitals in Khartoum and areas affected by the fighting have been put out of use,” according to their union.
Aid workers were mostly forced to suspend aid after three World Food Program (WFP) staff were killed.
“Neither Burhane nor Daglo seem to want to give in, the situation could get even worse”, already warns the International Crisis Group (ICG) research center.
“A long-lasting conflict would be the ruin of Sudan,” Africa’s third-largest gold producer and yet one of the world’s poorest countries where more than a third of the population goes hungry, adds the ICG.
At the other end of the country, on the coast, dozens of protesters marched in Port Sudan against what a banner described as “the presence of the UAE ambassador in eastern Sudan”. “No to foreign interference,” it still read.