Japan, Germany and other nations are struggling to evacuate their citizens from Sudan as fighting between the army and a paramilitary group continues and water, healthcare and other services become increasingly hard to access.
The conflict between the military and the Rapid Support Forces that erupted last weekend has engulfed the capital, Khartoum, and several other towns, and rendered parts of the country a no-fly zone. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 270 people have died and at least 2,600 have been injured, tallies that are set to rise as fighting continued for a sixth day on Thursday.
International efforts to broker a cease-fire have stalled, with mediators unable to access the North African country. United Nations staff within Sudan have been attacked and their homes and offices have been looted, internal UN reports seen by Bloomberg show.
While the Sudanese Armed Forces said 177 Egyptian Air Force members had been repatriated from the Dongola airport in four Egyptian military transport planes, other nations are still evaluating how best to access their citizens. Japan’s government said it plans to dispatch aircraft from its Air Self-Defense Force this weekend to Djibouti to evacuate about 60 of its nationals who are in Sudan, but didn’t specify when that will happen.
A Sudanese doctors’ association said on Thursday that 52 of the 74 hospitals in the capital and conflict-affected states were no longer able to admit patients or administer treatment. Nine of the hospitals had been bombed and 19 had to evacuate their staff, the group said.
The UN said in an internal report that further attacks on its agencies’ staff had been reported and that RSF troops were terrorizing innocent civilians, foreign diplomats and aid workers.
In one instance, RSF members entered the house of a World Food Program employee in Khartoum’s Amarat district on April 18, stole his belongings and left him lying injured on the street. When the WFP sent personnel to extract the man, RSF forces fired at them and stole their mobile phones, it said.
“Threats to our teams make it impossible to operate safely and effectively in the country and carry out WFP’s critical work,” said Leni Kinzli, the WFP’s spokesperson.
The UN report also noted that a female UN staff member “came under intense fire and heavy shelling early Wednesday before escaping in a car to a hotel. The Bank of Khartoum in the city of el-Fasher and the premises of several UN agencies were also looted, it said.
While an RSF spokesperson didn’t reply to questions, the group issued a statement in which it denied targeting civilians and humanitarian workers and insisted that it respects international humanitarian law.
Led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the RSF was born out of the notorious janjaweed Arab militia army that former dictator Omar al-Bashir used in the 2000s to violently quell discontent in western and central Sudan. Formally established as paramilitary force in 2013, it continued to counter opposition to the government, and its members gunned down more than 100 protesters in Khartoum’s streets in 2019.
The fighting, the culmination of a long-simmering power struggle between the army and the RSF, has upended plans for a power-sharing government that was supposed to lead Sudan to democratic elections after 2021 coup.