Fighting starts up again in Sudan, but a UN official says that a ceasefire is mostly holding.
Even though the warring sides had called for a ceasefire, fighting broke out again late Tuesday in Khartum. A UN envoy said the truce was partly holding, but there was no sign that the two sides were ready for serious talks.
After talks led by the US and Saudi Arabia, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) decided on Tuesday to stop fighting for 72 hours.
A Reuters reporter said that after nightfall, gunfire and explosions could be heard in Omdurman, one of Khartoum’s sister towns on the Nile where the army used drones to target RSF positions.
The army also used drones to try to get fighters to leave a fuel plant in Bahri, the third city at the point where the Blue Nile and White Nile meet.
Volker Perthes, the UN’s special envoy for Sudan, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the calm “seems to be holding in some parts so far.”
But he said that neither side was ready to “seriously negotiate,” which showed that both sides thought it was possible to win a military victory over the other.
“This is a mistake,” Perthes said, adding that Khartoum’s airport was open but had damage to the runway.
Since April 15, when fighting between the army and the RSF stopped the shift to civilian democracy in Sudan, the paramilitaries have set up bases in neighborhoods, and the army has tried to shoot at them from the air.
Because of the fighting, places where people live have become battles. Airstrikes and gun fire have killed at least 459 people and hurt more than 4,000 others. They have also destroyed hospitals and made it harder to get food into a country where a third of the 46 million people need help getting food.
A hospital worker said that a projectile hit the Al-Roumi medical center in Omdurman on Tuesday and burst inside the building, hurting 13 people.
Prisoners were set free.
Former Sudanese Minister Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, said that he and other officials were let out of Kober jail. This is another sign that security is getting worse.
Haroun said that things at Kober had gotten very bad after news of a jail break in the past few days. In a taped statement put online on Sunday, a protester who had been locked up there said that prisoners had been let go after a week without water or food.
Haroun and the other officials who were freed worked for the former president, Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup in 1989 and was removed by the people in 2019. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has said that Haroun set up militias to attack people in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. This is called genocide. Not right away, it was not clear where Bashir was.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also said that one of the warring groups took control of a national health facility in Khartoum. They were worried that measles and cholera pathogens in vaccines stored there could pose a biological risk.
As embassies and aid workers leave Africa’s third-largest country, people worry that the citizens who still live there will be in more danger if the fragile three-day truce deal, which ends on Thursday, doesn’t hold.
A spokesperson for the White House said on Tuesday that US Vice President Joe Biden’s national security team is still talking to Sudan’s warring military leaders to stop the killing and help people in need.
Hospitals and other critical services have stopped working because of the fighting, and many people are stuck in their homes with less food and water.
Medecins sans Frontières (MSF), an international aid group, said it couldn’t get new goods or people into Sudan because there were dead bodies everywhere.
The UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said that shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel were becoming “extremely acute,” costs were going up, and operations had to be cut back for safety reasons.
The UN office for refugees said that hundreds of thousands of people might flee to countries nearby.
“Why is everyone leaving us?”
As other countries sent their citizens home, those who had nowhere to go said they felt abandoned.
“Why does the world leave us when we’re at war?” asked Sumaya Yassin, 27. She said that other countries were being selfish.
Since the battle started, tens of thousands of people have left for Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, which are all nearby countries.
People left Khartoum in cars and buses, so the streets of one of Africa’s biggest cities were mostly empty of people going about their daily lives. People who were still in the city hid in their homes as fighters moved around outside.
“There is no food or water left in the shops. People are going out with guns, axes, and sticks, a French photographer said by phone as she tried to cross the border into Egypt.