UN chief says 'we failed' to stop Sudan war as clashes break truce
The UN chief on Wednesday said "we failed" to stop war from erupting in Sudan, where persistent fighting between rival generals undermined efforts to firm up a truce.
"The UN was taken by surprise" by the conflict, because the world body and others were hopeful that negotiations would be successful, Antonio Guterres told reporters in Nairobi, "to the extent that we and many others were not expecting this to happen, we can say we failed to avoid it to happen," the secretary general said.
"A country like Sudan, that has suffered so much... cannot afford a struggle for power between two people."
The UN also called on Wednesday for security guarantees at "the highest level" to ensure desperately needed aid deliveries in conflict-hit Sudan, after six trucks carrying food aid to the Darfur region were looted.
Top UN humanitarian official Martin Griffiths insisted on the need "to be sure that we have the commitments publicly, clearly given by militaries, to protect humanitarian systems to deliver".
"We will need to have agreement at the highest level and very publicly," he told journalists via video link from Sudan.
Sudan's warring military factions agreed to a new and longer seven-day ceasefire from Thursday, neighbour and mediator South Sudan said, even as more air strikes and shooting in the Khartoum region undercut their latest supposed truce.
Both sides agreed to a week-long truce from Thursday to May 11 and to name envoys for peace talks. The current ceasefire was due to expire on Wednesday.
The warring sides have announced multiple truces but none has effectively taken hold. The current truce was extended on Sunday by a further 72 hours and is due to expire on Wednesday at 2200 GMT.
Agencies contributed to this story.
UN chief fears Sudan conflict could harm wider region
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday it was "absolutely essential" that the crisis in Sudan not spread beyond its borders and threaten democratic transitions and peace processes in neighbouring countries.
"The present situation is totally unacceptable. A lasting ceasefire needs to take place," Guterres told reporters in Nairobi.
He was "very concerned" about the conflict spilling into neighbouring countries undergoing their own political and post-conflict troubles, particularly Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
"It is absolutely essential to massively support Chad in the present situation. On the other hand, we have other countries in the region in their own peace processes. Ethiopia is in a peace process. It is absolutely essential to avoid any spillover from Sudan to Ethiopia," he said.
"South Sudan is in a slow and difficult process to implement the agreements that were made. Any disturbance in relation to South Sudan would be extremely dangerous."
He said the UN was "taken by surprise" when Sudan exploded into violence because it was hoped that negotiations underway between the two generals would bear fruit.
"We were not expecting this to happen," he said.
UN aid chief asks for 'guarantees' to protect aid
U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Wednesday he was working on obtaining commitments by the warring parties in Sudan to protecting humanitarian assistance to ensure it can be delivered to those in need.
"We will still require agreements and arrangements to allow for movement of staff and supplies," he told reporters via video link from Port Sudan. "We will need to have agreement at the highest level and very publicly and we will need to deliver those commitments into local arrangements that can be depended on."
Just arrived in Port #Sudan to reaffirm the @UN's commitment to the Sudanese people.— Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief) May 3, 2023
In awe of the unwavering dedication of the humanitarian community & local volunteers doing their best to help. pic.twitter.com/18iLP2Ivm0
Griffiths said he had been told by the World Food Programme that six of their trucks travelling to Darfur were looted en route despite insurances of safety and security.
There was no immediate comment from WFP.
"It's a volatile environment, so we need those commitments," Griffiths said.
"It's not as if we're asking for the moon. We're asking for the movement of humanitarian supplies, of people. We do this in every other country, even without ceasefires. It's a traditional humanitarian enterprise to go where others don't."
Meanwhile, the UN said six trucks carrying food aid to Sudan's Darfur were looted.
Last UK evacuation flights out of Sudan to leave Wednesday: minister
British nationals who want to leave Sudan should go to Port Sudan where final evacuation flights will depart on Wednesday, the British government said.
Foreign minister James Cleverly urged Britons to continue to follow the government's travel advice for Sudan, where military factions are in their third week of fighting each other.
"After the successful evacuation of 2341 people on 28 flights, the last UK flight is expected to leave Port Sudan tomorrow," Cleverly said on Twitter.
A government statement said British nationals should go to the Coral Hotel in Port Sudan by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Sudan's warring military factions agreed to a new and longer seven-day ceasefire from Thursday even as more air strikes and shooting in the Khartoum capital region undercut their latest supposed truce.
Air strikes, gunfire heard in Sudan's capital
Despite the truce efforts, witnesses reported warplanes over north Khartoum on Wednesday and fierce clashes near the state broadcaster's headquarters in the capital's twin city of Omdurman.
"We heard again loud gunfire and anti-aircraft firing at a fighter jet this morning," a resident of south Khartoum said.
Multiple hospitals have been hit, humanitarian facilities looted and foreign aid groups forced to suspend most of their operations.
Saudi Arabia said the premises of its cultural centre in Khartoum were attacked on Tuesday "by an armed group which damaged equipment, cameras and seized some of the mission's property."
The kingdom condemned the raid, calling for de-escalation and an end to the violence.
Top UN humanitarian official says arrived in Sudan
Top UN humanitarian official Martin Griffiths said he arrived in Sudan Wednesday to discuss ways to bring relief to millions of civilians trapped by fighting between rival generals.
"Just arrived in Port Sudan to reaffirm the UN's commitment to the Sudanese people," Griffiths said on Twitter. "In awe of the unwavering dedication of the humanitarian community & local volunteers doing their best to help."
His spokesperson said improving humanitarian access through guarantees of safe passage would be a priority.