Sudan: Fierce fighting in Darfur but mediators see progress

Fighting between troops and paramilitaries fighting for power in Sudan raged in Darfur on Friday, the fourth day of a “better respected” ceasefire, according to US and Saudi mediators.

From the first minutes of the ceasefire, after more than five weeks of fighting, more than 1,800 dead and more than a million displaced and refugees, residents told AFP of fighting, airstrikes and shelling.

Perhaps the most violent day was Wednesday, when paramilitary forces reported shooting down an army aircraft, which responded by saying it had hit armor.

On that day, there was a “serious breach of agreement” between the army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the paramilitary forces of General Mohammed Hamdan Dagallo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Saudi and US mediators noted on Friday.

Washington has promised “sanctions”, and the ceasefire agreement provides a “monitoring mechanism”, but so far no announcements have been made against one side or the other.

– warnings –

Sudan: More than 1,800 killed in fighting, attacks and violence against civilians

Mediators say they “warned the parties against further violations” and “urged them to better respect (Thursday’s), which they did”. But he still found “the same fires and overflights of fighters in Khartoum”.

In this still-tense context, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced that it will help “seven hospitals” begin the “distribution of anesthetics, antibiotics, medicines, dressings and infusions to treat hundreds of weapon-wounded”. is capable. in Khartoum”.

“Maintenance crews have also been able to begin work to restore telecommunications in Khartoum and elsewhere,” the mediators say.

But these advances are minimal given the shortfall: For more than 40 days, entire neighborhoods of Khartoum, the capital of more than 5 million residents, have been deprived of water, electricity and communications networks.

Smoke rises from a building in central Khartoum on May 25, 2023 (AFP - -)
Smoke rises from a building in central Khartoum on May 25, 2023 (AFP – -)

As for the hospitals in Khartoum and Darfur (West), the two regions most affected by the war, they are almost all out of use. Those that haven’t been bombed don’t have much stock or are occupied by belligerents.

On Friday, in al-Fasher, the capital of northern Darfur, “fighting with all kinds of weapons” took place, according to residents.

The situation is particularly dire in Darfur, Chad’s western border region, already ravaged by a particularly deadly war in the 2000s.

– “A Question of Life or Death” –

According to the NGO ACLED, more than 1,800 people were killed in the fighting that began on 15 April.

It has forced more than a million Sudanese inside the East African country, one of the world’s poorest, and at least 300,000 residents have taken refuge in neighboring countries. are themselves in crisis, according to the United Nations.

More than half of Sudan’s population – 25 million out of a total of 45 million – now need humanitarian aid to survive, according to the United Nations.

Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary forces drive an armored vehicle in southern Khartoum on 25 May 2023 (AFP - -)
Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary forces drive an armored vehicle in southern Khartoum on 25 May 2023 (AFP – -)

But after a four-day ceasefire, no humanitarian corridors could be secured, as well as blocking civilians who want to leave.

While soldiers and paramilitaries accuse each other of violating the ceasefire, the ICRC calls for the guns to remain silent as “it is a matter of life or death”.

“With only 20% of medical structures still operational in Khartoum, we are facing a real collapse of the health system when the population needs it most,” recalls Alfonso Verdu Perez, his boss in Sudan.

“Hospitals also urgently need water and electricity, as well as minimum safety conditions for their patients and their teams,” he says.

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