The African Union is appealing for urgent humanitarian support for Sudan, even as conflict continued on Friday through the announced ceasefire.
On Thursday, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat also called on urged Sudan’s neighbours and regional and global agencies to “facilitate the transit and safety of civilians crossing their borders without impediment,” signalling the extent of safety fears after reports emerged some were being asked for visas while others had left for safety without travel papers.
The country’s 13-day conflict has already left at least 500 dead and more than 4,000 people injured, according to the Sudan Medical Syndicate, a local lobby of the medical community in Khartoum.
But figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicate that Sudan has at least 1.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance from 2022, the highest number in 11 years.
“Prior to the current conflict, humanitarian organisations aimed to reach 12.5 million of the most vulnerable nationwide with some form of humanitarian assistance,” UNOCHA said in a bulletin on Wednesday. UN agencies say Sudan will need at least $1.70 billion to meet humanitarian needs of those already rendered helpless from past conflicts. That means it needs more today yet just a quarter of the money has been collected from donors.
Warring parties agreed on a third 72-hour ceasefire on Thursday but on Friday, they accused each other of violating the ceasefire.
Following a power struggle between military leadership, new conflict broke out in Khartoum on April 15, just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the Darfur conflict in which more than 300,000 people were killed and about 2.5 million displaced, earning then Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir an indictment at the International Criminal Court.
Reports indicate that thousands have fled the country in the last two weeks even as some states and global agencies worked frantically to evacuate their citizens. South Sudan reported receiving 10,000 refugees by this week while Chad and Ethiopia too were receiving refugees.
Many people fleeing the country have sought refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan, while others fled to Saudi Arabia mainly through the sea. Other nationals were evacuated by their countries by air, with others, including those from African countries, fleeing by road and using Khartoum’s neighbouring countries for transit. This week, Tanzanians and Kenyans were among evacuees who transited through these borders and onwards to their countries.
And even as it called for humanitarian assistance, the African Union assured the world that it “continues to monitor with growing grave concern the plight of civilians caught up in the deadly conflict in Sudan.”
And despite the rival forces—the Sudan Armed Forces led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo alias Hemedti—agreeing to extend a truce meant to quell the violence, fighting raged on on Friday.
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Mr Faki urged rival parties to agree on a “permanent ceasefire” and also allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Mr Faki about a US-AU collaboration to help end the fighting in Sudan.
“Secretary Blinken and Chairperson Faki agreed that the AU’s continued leadership remains essential in pressing the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to immediately cease military operations and allow unhindered humanitarian access,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller.
On Tuesday, during a Security Council meeting on Sudan, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also called for the immediate cessation of violence, adding that the world needs to unite for “an all-out effort for peace” in Khartoum.
He added that the conflict could worsen the already dire humanitarian situation.
Burhan and Hemedti had longstanding relations; cooperating to oust Sudan’s former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. At the time, Hemedti was Burhan’s deputy and together they formed the sovereign council. Later in the same year, the military and civilian groups agreed on a power sharing deal that would have a mix of military and civilian leaders forming a transitional government that would later see a transition to civilian leadership. However, this was not accomplished following another coup in 2021 against the then civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, returning the country to being led fully by the junta.
Removal of the PM then triggered a new wave of pro-democracy rallies in the country. Hamdok later returned to his post but quit after two months, citing frustrations in establishing a new cabinet.
Later, Burhan and Hemedti fell out over various plans, most recently over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.
In December 2022, Sudan’s military and civilian leaders signed a framework agreement to create a new two-year civilian transitional authority, with the new conflict coming at a time when many expected to have the December agreement implemented.