Sudan: Clashes shatter Eid festivities

Around midday on Friday, air strikes again rocked central Khartoum, not far from the army headquarters, witnesses said. The sound of gunfire has been incessant since nightfall, as it has been daily since the fighting began on 15 April, which has left 413 people dead and 3,551 injured, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

More hospitals were heavily damaged in Khartoum, and four establishments were affected in al-Obeid, 350 km south of the capital, the doctors’ union said. In total, “70% of hospitals in the combat zone are out of order”, it added.

The fighting has been going on for six days between the regular army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, the de facto leader of Sudan since the 2021 coup, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, mainly in Khartoum and Darfur (west). Long latent and confined to political negotiations, the conflict between the two sides has turned into an armed struggle.

In Darfur, one of the poorest regions of Sudan, “the situation is catastrophic”, says a doctor from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“Patients on the floor”

“There are so many patients that they are treated on the floor in the corridors because there are simply not enough beds,” he said from this region where the Janjaweed militia, the bulk of the RSF troops, committed atrocious abuses during the war unleashed in 2003 by the dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed in 2019.

The air force, which targets the RSF scattered in residential areas, does not hesitate to drop bombs. In this chaos, “70% of the 74 hospitals in Khartoum and the areas affected by the fighting have been put out of action”, reports the doctors’ union.

Diplomatic consultations are intensifying: the British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, cut short a tour of Asia-Pacific “because of the situation in Sudan”.

On Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a ceasefire for “at least” the three days of Eid.

Abdewahid Othmane, a 53-year-old Khartoum resident, said the two rival generals were “fighting for power but they are not interested in the poor people who have no water or electricity and struggle to feed themselves.

General Daglo had been General Burhane’s number two since the October 2021 putsch. The latter appeared on state television on Thursday for the first time since the start of hostilities.

“He said: “For Eid, our country is bleeding: destruction, desolation and the sound of bullets have taken precedence over joy. Until now, like his rival, General Daglo, he had only spoken to the media and not directly to the 45 million Sudanese people.

Dead bodies on the road

The United States, for its part, has announced that it is sending military personnel to the region to facilitate the possible evacuation of its embassies and nationals; South Korea and Japan will send planes, while the airport has been closed since Saturday.

Mostly women and children are rushing on the roads to flee, between checkpoints and dead bodies.

The guns started talking when the two generals failed to agree on the conditions for integrating the RSF into the regular troops, to finalise the political agreement on the return of civilians to power.

Since then, 10,000 to 20,000 people, mostly women and children, have crossed into neighbouring Chad, according to the UN.