Sudan: Continued fighting leaves latest ceasefire effort in tatters
Gunfire and explosions gripped Khartoum for a 20th straight day Thursday leaving the latest ceasefire effort in tatters, a day after UN chief Antonio Guterres acknowledged the international community had "failed" Sudan.
As the latest ceasefire expired at midnight Wednesday, the regular army said it was ready to abide by a new seven-day truce agreed with South Sudanese mediators, but there was no word from its foes in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
In Khartoum, witnesses reported loud explosions and exchanges of fire on the streets around dawn.
Deadly urban combat broke out on April 15 between Sudan's de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who commands the regular army, and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who heads the RSF.
At least 550 people have been killed and 4,926 wounded, according to the latest health ministry figures, which are likely incomplete.
"The UN was taken by surprise" by the conflict, because the world body and others were hopeful that negotiations towards a civilian transition would be successful, the UN chief told reporters in Nairobi Wednesday.
"To the extent that we and many others were not expecting this to happen, we can say we failed to avoid it to happen," Guterres said.
"A country like Sudan, that has suffered so much... cannot afford a struggle for power between two people."
On the day that fighting broke out, the two generals had been due to meet with international mediators to discuss the RSF's integration into the regular army -- a key condition for the transition to democratic rule.
Instead, Khartoum awoke to the sound of gunfire ringing through the streets.
"Every minute of war, more people die or are thrown into the streets, society disintegrates and the state weakens and decomposes a little more," said Khalid Omar Youssef, a civilian minister in the government overthrown by the rival generals in a 2021 coup.
The UN's top humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, made a lightning visit to Sudan Tuesday to try to negotiate safe passage for aid and aid workers after six trucks laden with food supplies from the World Food Programme were looted on their way to the war-torn western region of Darfur.
He was due to fly on to Nairobi Thursday after a brief stop in Saudi Arabia, his spokeswoman said.
Darfur is still scarred by a war that erupted in 2003 when then president Omar al-Bashir unleashed the Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, against ethnic minority rebels.
The UN said Darfur civilians were again being armed in the latest fighting.
No evidence of a ceasefire in Sudan's capital as millions remain trapped in a prison of urban warfare. Those who have stayed behind - for lack of funds or mobility - are counting on the army to win this war.— Yousra Elbagir (@YousraElbagir) May 3, 2023
Our harrowing report from Omdurman, Khartoum:https://t.co/kX4TW6ulek
The Norwegian Refugee Council said violence in the West Darfur state capital, El Geneina, has "resulted in the loss of at least 191 lives".
"Dozens of settlements have been burnt and destroyed, and thousands have been displaced," the rights group said.
Both Griffiths and the UN's Sudan envoy, Volker Perthes, spoke to Burhan and Daglo over the phone about the necessity for aid to reach people, Griffiths tweeted.
UN rights commissioner Volker Turk described the situation as "heartbreaking" and "catastrophic".
He pointed to an air strike by the regular army near a hospital and the RSF using civilian buildings as bases.
Biden says Sudan conflict 'must end,' threatens sanctions
US President Joe Biden on Thursday said weeks of urban fighting in Sudan "must end" and authorized potential new sanctions against those responsible for the bloodshed.
"The violence taking place in Sudan is a tragedy - and it is a betrayal of the Sudanese people's clear demand for civilian government and a transition to democracy," he said in a statement. "It must end."
Biden said the bloodshed, "which has already stolen the lives of hundreds of civilians and began during the holy month of Ramadan, is unconscionable."
Statement from President Biden on the conflict in Sudan:— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) May 4, 2023
Interesting that even after everything that's happened, he doesn't refer to the October 2021 military takeover of the Sudanese government as a "coup" pic.twitter.com/dZDC0LVsWQ
The United States joins "the peace-loving people of Sudan and leaders around the world in calling for a durable ceasefire between the belligerent parties."
Biden also signed an executive order on Wednesday that broadens authority to impose sanctions on those responsible, although it does not name potential targets.
In his statement, Biden said those facing the sanctions are "individuals responsible for threatening the peace, security, and stability of Sudan; undermining Sudan's democratic transition; using violence against civilians; or committing serious human rights abuses."
UN requires $445 million to help the 860,000 people who could flee Sudan till October
The UN refugee agency said in a statement that it had presented its appeal to donor countries earlier in the day, and the funds would go to people fleeing into Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.
More than 100,000 people have already fled Sudan since deadly urban combat broke out on April 15 between Sudan's de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who commands the regular army, and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Without peace in Sudan, more people will be forced to flee for safety and basic assistance. Together with 134 partners, we need US$445 million to protect and assist refugees and refugee returnees, and others.— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) May 4, 2023
Latest news: https://t.co/WiTIckqmC7 pic.twitter.com/KXPbg3SGF4
'No winner' in Sudan war: exiled Darfur rebel leader
Sudanese exiled rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nur - a veteran of decades of fighting in the troubled Darfur region - says there can be "no winner" in the war now raging between two rival generals.
"The Sudanese people want neither of them," Nur, now based in neighbouring South Sudan, told AFP. "They want a civilian government."
Battles have flared for weeks between Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
"What's happening in Sudan is a disaster," Nur, 55, said in an interview in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where he lives after spending years in Paris.
"There is no winner in this war," said the leader of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) whose members, he said, have not joined the fighting.
The battles have turned Khartoum into a war zone and also killed scores in Darfur, which Nur said once more suffers "war crimes and crimes against humanity".
Nur was a leader of the Darfur rebellion from 2003 when African minority groups rose up against Arab elites they accused of monopolising Sudan's political power and wealth.
The Islamist-backed strongman then in power, Omar al-Bashir, unleashed the notorious Janjaweed militias, the forerunners of the RSF, whose atrocities shocked the world.
The unrest killed at least 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN. The bloodshed led to international charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Bashir and others.
Sudan conflict deals new blow to stagnant economy
The conflict shaking Sudan has dealt a crippling blow to the heart of the country's economy in the capital Khartoum, as well as disrupting internal trade routes, threatening imports and triggering a cash crunch.
Across swathes of the capital factories, banks, shops and markets have been looted or damaged, power and water supplies have been failing, and residents have reported steep price rises and shortages of basic goods.
Even before the fighting between military factions broke out on April 15 Sudan's economy had been in deep stagnation following a crisis stretching back to the last years of Omar al-Bashir's rule and turmoil after his overthrow in 2019.
Tens of thousands have now fled the violence in Khartoum and its sister cities of Bahri and Omdurman, while millions more have sheltered at home as shelling and air strikes rattle across neighbourhoods.
Sudan, already an important exporter of gum arabic, sesame, peanuts, and livestock, has the potential to be a major agricultural and livestock exporter and logistics hub.
But the economy has been held back by decades of sanctions and international isolation, as well as deep corruption. Most Sudanese have struggled with years of rampant inflation, sharp currency devaluations and sliding living standards. About a third of the 46 million population depends on humanitarian aid.
Popular Sudanese actress killed in Khartoum
The death of popular actress Asia Abdelmajid has shocked residents of Khartoum as fighting continues to across Sudan's capital, according to the BBC.
Abdelmajid, who turned 80 last year, was famous for her theatre performances and first came to prominence in the 1965 production of the play Pamseeka. A trailblazer, Abdelmajid was Sudan's first professional stage actress. She later retired to become a teacher.
Reports indicate that she was shot and killed on Wednesday morning in Khartoum's northern suburb of Bahri. Her family claims that she was buried in the grounds of a nearby kindergarten where he had recently been working, as it was too dangerous to transport her body to a cemetery.
The identity of her killers in unknown, as violence continues to escalate between Sudan's armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Arab League to meet on Sunday to discuss Sudan, Syria
Foreign ministers of the Arab League block are to hold emergency meetings Sunday to discuss the ongoing conflict in Sudan that has killed hundreds of people, according to a diplomat.
#BREAKING via @AFP: #Arab League foreign ministers are to hold emergency meetings Sunday on the conflict in #Sudan and #Syria's readmission to the bloc, according to a diplomat. pic.twitter.com/GWXOmz2gM4— Hashem Osseiran (هاشم) (@HashemOsseiran) May 4, 2023
The ministers will also discuss the re-admission of Syria into the Arab League, , the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The meetings come ahead of an Arab summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah on 19 May.
Welcome to The New Arab's live coverage of the violence in Sudan.
Here's what we know so far:
- Fighting continues in Sudan as the latest ceasefire effort, which was announced by South Sudan earlier this week, appears to have failed.
- UN chief Antonio Guterres said yesterday that the international community had "failed" Sudan
- UN aid chief Martin Griffiths urged the warring sides - the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces - to protect humanitarian assistance to ensure it can be delivered to those in need.