12 July 2023

More than 3.1 million people displaced by Sudan conflict, says UN

12 July 2023

The raging conflict in Sudan has driven more than 3.1 million people from their homes, including some 700,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries, the United Nations said on Wednesday, amid growing concerns that the country is sliding into a “full-scale civil war”.

Sudan has been plunged into chaos since mid-April when months-long tensions between the military and its rival, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere across the north-eastern African nation.

The conflict derailed Sudanese hopes of restoring the country’s fragile transition to democracy, which had begun after a popular uprising forced the military’s removal of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

A coup, led by the military and RSF, disrupted the democratic transition in October 2021.

More than 2.4 million people have fled their homes to safer areas inside the country, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Around 738,000 others crossed into neighbouring counties, the agency said.

Egypt is hosting the largest number of those who fled – more than 255,500 people – followed by Chad, with over 238,000, and South Sudan with around 160,800, the IOM said.

More than 62,000 people fled to Ethiopia, more than 16,700 to the Central African Republic and around 3,000 to Libya, it added.

More than 72% of those displaced are from Khartoum and around 9% from West Darfur province, both places where the clashes have largely centred, the IOM said.

The IOM said 65% of those who fled into neighbouring countries are Sudanese nationals and the rest are foreigners and refugees who were forced to return to their home countries.

The conflict has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields.

Members of the paramilitary force have occupied people’s houses and other civilian properties since the conflict broke out, according to residents and activists.

There have also been reports of widespread destruction and looting across Khartoum and Omdurman.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in the clashes and some 6,000 others wounded, Health Minister Haitham Mohammed Ibrahim said in televised comments last month.

However, doctors and activists say the casualty tally is likely to be much higher.

International and regional efforts have so far failed to establish a negotiated ceasefire and allow humanitarian agencies to provide support to civilians still trapped in the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned over the weekend that the country is on the brink of a “full-scale civil war”.

Earlier this week, a regional meeting floated the idea of deploying troops to Sudan to protect civilians.

The Quartet Group, which met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday, called for a summit of the Eastern Africa Standby Force, a 10-member regional bloc, to consider the proposal.

The Quartet Group is a sub-committee of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-member East African bloc.

It is headed by Kenya’s President William Ruto, who called for an unconditional ceasefire in Sudan and the establishment of a humanitarian zone to help deliver humanitarian aid.

Sudan’s military delegate, who was in Addis Ababa, did not attend Monday’s meeting, accusing Mr Ruto of “impartiality”. The Sudanese government has accused the Kenyan government of siding with the paramilitary force in the conflict.

Sudan’s government, which is controlled by the military, denounced the proposal to deploy troops. It said in a statement on Tuesday that any foreign forces in Sudanese territory will be considered as “aggressors”.

The statement also decried comments by Ethiopia’s prime minister, who called for imposing a no-fly zone over Sudan.

Egypt, meanwhile, is hosting a meeting with Sudan’s neighbours on Thursday, aimed at establishing “effective mechanisms” to help find a peaceful settlement to the conflict, according to the Egyptian presidency.

The regional diplomacy comes as talks between warring factions in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah repeatedly failed to stop the fighting. The Jeddah talks were brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

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