Sudan’s conflict enters second month with no end in sight

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The Sudanese army carried out air strikes on Monday along the River Nile in the north of the capital Khartoum as it fought to push back its paramilitary rivals after a month of warfare, witnesses said.

Intense battles in Khartoum and its sister cities of Bahri and Omdurman have raged despite Saudi and US-brokered talks between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Red Sea city of Jeddah aimed at securing humanitarian access and an effective ceasefire.

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The fighting has spread to the western region of Darfur, already scarred by a long-running conflict, but has been concentrated in the capital, where RSF fighters have taken up positions across neighborhoods and the army has used air strikes and heavy artillery fire to target them.

“We’re under heavy bombardment now in Sharq el-Nil and Rapid Support are responding with anti-aircraft guns,” said 55-year-old Awatef Saleh, referring to the area she lives along the Nile in Bahri. “All this is happening near our homes, we’re in a state of terror and fear.”

RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, dismissed rumors that he had been killed or injured in the battles.

“I am moving freely around my forces, I am present in Bahri, I am present in Omdurman, I am present in Khartoum, I am present in Sharq al-Nil,” Hemedti said in a voice message released by the RSF.

“They are spreading rumors that Mohamed Hamdan has been killed, and these are all lies that show that they are being defeated ... I am thank God present with the troops,” he said.

Army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Hemedti held the top positions on Sudan’s ruling council following the 2019 overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, and staged a coup two years later as a deadline to hand power to civilians approached.

The war broke out after disputes over plans for the RSF to be absorbed into the army and the chain of command in a new political transition.

It has caused about 200,000 to flee into neighboring countries and more than 700,000 have been displaced inside Sudan, triggering a humanitarian crisis that threatens to destabilize the region.

Lawlessness

Those who have remained in Khartoum have been struggling to survive amid the fighting as health services have collapsed, power and water supplies have been cut, and food stocks have dwindled.

Residents have reported a steady rise in looting and lawlessness after police vanished from the streets at the outset of the conflict.

The unrest has killed at least 676 people and injured 5,576, according to official figures, though with many reports of people missing and bodies left unburied, the real toll is expected to be much higher.

Last week the two sides agreed in Jeddah to a “declaration of principles” to protect civilians and secure humanitarian access, but enforcement mechanisms and a ceasefire are still being discussed.

Fighting has reportedly intensified over the past few days in Geneina, capital of West Darfur, where at least 100 people were reported killed in violence at the end of last week and hundreds died in unrest last month.

The conflict erupted as Sudan was already facing deep humanitarian challenges, with about one-third of its 46 million population in need of assistance.

The UN World Food Programme said on Monday that it was starting its first ever food distributions in Gezira State, an agricultural region south of Khartoum where many people from the capital have fled.

The conflict has also enveloped the economy and trade. On Sunday army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan issued a decree freezing the bank accounts of the RSF and affiliated firms, and replaced the central bank governor.

Burhan on Monday sacked acting interior minister Anan Hamed Mohammed Omar, who is also the general director for the police.

He appointed Khalid Hassan Mouheiddine as the new general director for the police.

Read more:

Sudan’s capital under bombardment despite ongoing negotiations between rivals

Sudanese airspace to remain closed to all traffic until May 31

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