The U.N. secretary-general says Sudan is on the brink of a 'full-scale civil war'
CAIRO — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sudan is on the brink of a "full-scale civil war" as fierce clashes between rival generals continued unabated Sunday in the capital of Khartoum.
Guterres warned late Saturday that the war between the Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary force is likely to destabilize the entire region, according to Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. chief.
Sudan descended into chaos after months of tension between military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and his rival, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, exploded into open fighting in mid-April.
Health Minister Haitham Mohammed Ibrahim said last month that the clashes have killed over 3,000 people and wounded over 6,000 others. The death tally, however, is highly likely to be much higher, he said. More than 2.9 million people have fled their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossed into neighboring countries, according to U.N. figures.
The fighting began 18 months after the two generals led a military coup in October 2021 that toppled a Western-backed civilian transition government. The coup and ensuing conflict dashed Sudanese hopes of a peaceful shift to democracy after a popular uprising forced the military removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
The war has turned the capital Khartoum and other urban areas across the country into battlefields.
Residents in Khartoum said fierce fighting was underway early Sunday south of the capital. The warring factions were using heavy weapons in battles in the Kalaka neighborhood and the military's aircraft were seen hovering over the area, said resident Abdalla al-Fatih.
In his statement, Guterres also condemned an airstrike Saturday that health authorities said killed at least 22 people in Omdurman, a city just across the Nile from the Khartoum. The assault was one of the deadliest in the conflict so far.
The RSF blamed the military for the attack in Omdurman. The military denied the accusation, saying in a statement Sunday that its air force didn't carry out any airstrikes in the city Saturday.
Darfur has experienced some of the worst fighting in the conflict
The secretary-general also decried the large-scale violence and casualties in the western region of Darfur, which has experienced some of the worst fighting in the ongoing conflict, Haq said in a statement.
"There is an utter disregard for humanitarian and human rights law that is dangerous and disturbing," Guterres said.
U.N. officials have said the violence in the region has recently taken on an ethnic dimension, with the RSF and Arab militias reportedly targeting non-Arab tribes in Darfur, a sprawling region consisting of five provinces. Last month, the governor of Darfur, Mini Arko Minawi, said the region was sliding back to its past genocide, referring to the conflict that engulfed the region in the early 2000s.
Entire towns and villages in West Darfur province were overrun by the RSF and their allied militias, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee to neighboring Chad. Activists have reported many residents killed, women and girls raped, and properties looted and burned to the ground.
There were clashes between the military and the RSF elsewhere in Sudan on Sunday, including the province of North Kordofan, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Egypt, meanwhile, said it will host a meeting on Thursday for Sudan's neighboring countries. The gathering aims at establishing "effective mechanisms" to help find a peaceful settlement to the conflict in coordination with other international and regional efforts, Ahmed Fahmy, spokesman for Egypt's presidency, said in a statement.
Fahmy provided no further details on the gathering.
The efforts come as talks between warring factions in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah repeatedly failed to stop the fighting. The Jeddah talks were brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.