Sudan: Former PM warns of devastating civil war as fragile truce holds

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People fleeing war-torn Sudan queue to board a boat from Port Sudan on April 28, 2023 (AFP)

Ex-premier Abdalla Hamdok says a drawn-out conflict would be ‘nightmare for the world’, while breached ceasefire receives three-day extensionSudan‘s former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok has warned that the ongoing conflict in the country could deteriorate into full-blown civil war, citing wars in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. 

“God forbid if Sudan is to reach a point of civil war proper… Syria, Yemen, Libya will be a small play,” Hamdok said during an event in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday. 

“This is a huge country, very diverse… I think it will be a nightmare for the world,” he added.

“This is not a war between an army and [a] small rebellion. It is almost like two armies – well trained and well armed.”

The conflict broke out two weeks ago between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), sparked by disagreements over plans to integrate the RSF into the armed forces.

At least 528 people have been killed and over 4,600 wounded, the health ministry said on Saturday. 

On Sunday evening, the Sudanese army said that it had agreed to extend a truce with the paramilitary RSF for a period of 72 hours, starting from the end of the current ceasefire arrangement, which was due to formally expire at midnight. 

Earlier on Sunday, the army said that it had destroyed RSF convoys moving towards Khartoum from the west of the country, and conducted operations against the paramilitary north of the city centre. 

Army drones targeted RSF positions near a major oil refinery in the capital, eyewitnesses told Reuters.

In addition, the army announced that it had begun deploying the Central Reserve Police in southern Khartoum. 

The heavily armed division of the police force was sanctioned by the US last year for its use of excessive force during a crackdown on anti-government protests following a 2021 military coup.

There were also reports of violent confrontations near the army headquarters in central Khartoum on Sunday, as well as army air strikes in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman. 

‘Traitor’ and ‘rebel’

Before Sunday’s extension, the three-day ceasefire between the warring parties was due to formally expire at midnight, with both sides accusing each other of having breached the agreement.

RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, initially told the BBC on Saturday that he would not enter negotiations with army chief and Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan until hostilities were ceased, describing him as a “traitor”.

Meanwhile, Burhan had said he would never sit down with Hemeti, whom he labelled a “rebel”.

Just 18 months ago, Hemeti lent his support to Burhan as the latter carried out a military coup against the then transitional military-civilian government led by Hamdok. 

Following the overthrow of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, Hamdok was premier between August 2019 and October 2021, until he was removed and detained in Burhan’s coup. He was later briefly reinstated before resigning in January 2022. 

Around 75,000 people have been displaced by the recent violence in Khartoum, Darfur and the states of Blue Nile and North Kordofan, the UN said.

MEE reported on Friday that Sudanese caught between the country’s warring factions were struggling to find affordable food and vital supplies as prices soared, shops were looted and key infrastructure was destroyed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on Sunday that it had delivered eight tonnes of medical aid, the first international shipment of humanitarian relief since the conflict broke out. 

“Health-care workers in Sudan have been doing the impossible, caring for the wounded without water, electricity, and basic medical supplies,” said Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s regional director for Africa.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians have made their way to neighbouring Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Saudi Arabia to seek sanctuary.

Some 1,900 evacuees arrived at the Saudi naval base in Jeddah on Saturday after boarding a ferry from Port Sudan across the Red Sea. The kingdom’s foreign ministry said 4,880 people have been evacuated to Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has also led to a mass exodus of foreign nationals out of the country. 

On Sunday, hundreds of Indonesians in Sudan were evacuated to Jakarta, while the UK announced it had now removed 1,888 people on 21 flights since its evacuation operations began on Tuesday. 

A convoy organised by the US government arrived at Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast on Saturday to evacuate more US citizens by ship to Jeddah. 

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Disclaimer: Sudan: Former PM warns of devastating civil war as fragile truce holds - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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