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Human Rights Groups Urge Ceasefire as Dozens Killed in Sudan

Fighting between the Sudanese military and a paramilitary group left dozens dead and hundreds injured over the weekend.

Smoke billows above residential buildings in east Khartoum, Sudan, as fighting rages for a second day in battles between rival generals on April 16, 2023.

World leaders are advocating for a cease-fire in Sudan, where fighting between the African nation’s military and a paramilitary group throughout the weekend — much of it in the capital, Khartoum — has left dozens of people dead and hundreds more injured.

“The battles have not stopped,” Tahani Abass, a prominent rights advocate who lives near the military headquarters, told The Associated Press. “They are shooting against each other in the streets. It’s an all-out war in residential areas.”

Explaining how her family spent Saturday night huddled on the ground floor of their home, Abass added that “no one was able to sleep and the kids were crying and screaming with every explosion.”

Over 50 civilians have been killed and nearly 600 people have been injured, the AP reported, citing the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate.

Sudan’s current crisis began with massive street protests in 2018, which led to a military coup d’état the following year that ousted Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for three decades after leading the 1989 overthrow of a democratically elected government. In October 2021, two top generals came together to seize control of the country.

The fighting that began Saturday is part of a power struggle between the formerly allied generals: Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council and the Sudanese Armed Forces, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, or “Hemedti,” the council’s deputy and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Saturday that he “strongly condemns the outbreak of fighting” and “calls on the leaders of the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces to immediately cease hostilities, restore calm, and initiate a dialogue to resolve the current crisis.”

“Any further escalation in the fighting will have a devastating impact on civilians and further aggravate the already precarious humanitarian situation in the country,” the spokesperson warned, adding that the U.N. chief also “calls on member states in the region to support efforts to restore order and return to the path of transition.”

The League of Arab States held an emergency meeting Sunday at the request of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Al Arabiya English reported that the group called for a cease-fire and peaceful negotiations to “establish a new phase that fulfills the ambitions of the brotherly Sudanese people and contributes to reinforce political and economic security and stability in this important country.”

According to the news outlet:

During a televised speech, Sudan’s representative to the Arab League, Alsadik Omar Abdullah, appealed for Arab support to help calm the situation, while emphasizing that external interference in local affairs should be avoided.

“The Sudanese government has declared it a rebel force to be treated as such,” he said, adding that efforts to mediate the integration of RSF into the Army have failed.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that he spoke with the Saudi and Emirati foreign ministers about the fighting, “which threatens the security and safety of Sudanese civilians and undermines efforts to restore Sudan’s democratic transition,” and they all “agreed it was essential for the parties to immediately end hostilities without precondition.”

Blinken urged al-Burhan and Dagalo “to take active measures to reduce tensions and ensure the safety of all civilians,” stressing that “the only way forward is to return to negotiations that support the Sudanese people’s democratic aspirations.”

Along with the United States, Reuters noted, “China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the U.N. Security Council, European Union, and African Union have appealed for a quick end to the hostilities that threaten to worsen instability in an already volatile wider region.”

As The New York Times detailed:

There were signs that fighting was spreading across the sprawling western region of Darfur, where Mr. al-Bashir’s government oversaw a campaign of genocidal violence beginning in 2003. Reports of clashes in the region’s major cities and several other towns are especially worrisome because Darfur is home to several heavily armed rebel groups that analysts fear could get sucked into the fight.

Adam Regal, a spokesperson for the aid agency General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, told the Times that a dozen people were killed and wounded Saturday in a camp for displaced people in the North Darfur region.

“The security situation, in my estimation, is difficult and dangerous,” Regal said in a text message, referencing clashes in the cities of El Fasher in North Darfur, Zalingei in Central Darfur, Nyala in South Darfur.

Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Program, which is part of the United Nations, said Sunday that “I am appalled and heartbroken by the tragic deaths of three WFP employees on Saturday… in Kabkabiya, North Darfur while carrying out their lifesaving duties on the frontlines of the global hunger crisis. Two WFP employees were also injured in the same incident.”

After noting that a U.N. aircraft was “significantly damaged” in Khartoum Saturday, “seriously impacting WFP’s ability to move humanitarian workers and aid within the country,” McCain announced that “while we review the evolving security situation, we are forced to temporarily halt all operations in Sudan. WFP is committed to assisting the Sudanese people facing dire food insecurity, but we cannot do our lifesaving work if the safety and security of our teams and partners is not guaranteed.”

The U.N. chief “remains deeply concerned about the continued clashes” and “strongly condemns the deaths and injuries of civilians,” including the WFP staff, his spokesperson said Sunday, declaring that “those responsible should be brought to justice without delay.”

“The secretary-general reminds the parties of the need to respect international law, including the obligation to ensure the safety and security of all United Nations and associated personnel, their premises, and their assets,” the spokesperson continued, adding that Guterres “reiterates his call for the immediate halt to the fighting and for a return to dialogue.”

Volker Perthes, the U.N. envoy for Sudan, confirmed Sunday that al-Burhan and Dagalo had committed to “a temporary pause in fighting on humanitarian grounds” for three hours in the evening. However, the AP reported that in Khartoum, “as night fell, residents reported heavy explosions and continued gunfire.”

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