News ID: 114289
Publish Date : 24 April 2023 - 23:09

UN Chief: Sudan ‘on Edge of Abyss’

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Foreign nations pushed on Monday with evacuations of their citizens from chaos-torn Sudan which, the UN chief warned, is “on the edge of the abyss” after 10 days of brutal fighting between rival forces.
As army and paramilitary troops again clashed in Khartoum and across the country, terrified Sudanese have sheltered in their homes from roaming fighters and looters amid acute shortages of water, food, medicines and fuel as well as power and internet blackouts.
The United States and multiple European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian nations have launched emergency missions to bring to safety their embassy staff and Sudan-based citizens by road, air and sea.
At least 427 people have been killed and more than 3,700 wounded, according to UN agencies, which reported Sudanese civilians “fleeing areas affected by fighting, including to Chad, Egypt and South Sudan”.
“Morgues are full, corpses litter the streets” said Attiya Abdallah, head of the doctors’ union, which on Monday reported scores more casualties after sites in south Khartoum were “heavily shelled”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the violence in Sudan -- already one of the world’s poorest countries, with a history of military coups -- “could engulf the whole region and beyond”.
“We must all do everything within our power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss,” Guterres said, calling again for a ceasefire.
Britain has requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Sudan, which is expected to take place on Tuesday, according to a diplomat.
A UN convoy carrying 700 people completed an arduous 850 kilometer (530 mile) road trip from the capital, where gunfire and explosions have echoed through the streets, to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast.
The United Nations head of mission Volker Perthes and other key staff will, however, “remain in Sudan and will continue to work towards a resolution to the current crisis,” said a UN statement.
With Khartoum airport disabled after battles that left charred aircraft on the runways, many foreigners were airlifted out from smaller airstrips, to countries including Djibouti and Jordan.
U.S. special forces swooped in with Chinook helicopters Sunday to rescue diplomats and their dependents, while Britain launched a similar rescue mission.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said more than 1,000 EU citizens had been taken out during a “long and intense weekend” involving airlift missions by France, Germany and others.

China said Monday it had “safely evacuated” a first group of citizens and would “try every means to protect the lives, properties and safety of 1,500 plus Chinese compatriots in Sudan”.
The capital, a city of five million, has endured “more than a week of unspeakable destruction”, Norway’s ambassador Endre Stiansen, who was evacuated, wrote on Twitter.
He voiced “immense sadness” for colleagues and friends left behind. “I fear for their future, because at present weapons and narrow interests carry more weight than values and words.”
Looking ahead at what fate awaits Sudan, he said that “most scenarios appear bad”.
The International Crisis Group warned that the fighting threatens to “quickly plunge the country into a full-scale war embroiling countless armed groups”.
“The war fell upon us all without warning,” one evacuee, a Lebanese man, told AFPTV upon his arrival by bus in Port Sudan.
“The situation in Khartoum in very sad ... It’s destroyed. I left with this T-shirt and these pyjamas, all that I have with me after 17 years.”
Those Sudanese who can afford to are also fleeing Khartoum on crowded buses on the more than 900-kilometre drive north to Egypt.
Among the 800,000 South Sudanese refugees who previously fled civil war in their own country, some are choosing to return, with women and children crossing the border, said the UN refugee agency.
Across the capital city, roaming army and paramilitary troops have fought ferocious street battles, with the sky often blackened by smoke from shelled buildings and torched shops.
Life in war-torn Khartoum is filled with “anxiety and exhaustion,” said resident Tagreed Abdin, an architect. “There was a rocket strike in our neighborhood ... It is like nowhere is safe.”
The fighting pits forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against those of his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The military toppled Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests.
The two generals seized power in a 2021 coup, but later fell out in a bitter power struggle, most recently centered on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.
 In the fighting, five aid workers have been killed, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Amid the widespread carnage, most online services are down, researcher Hamid Khalafallah said on Twitter, warning that “losing internet in such circumstances is terrifying.”