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UN: Sudan Fighting Could Force 800,000 to Flee


People gather to get fuel at a station, as clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army continue, in south Khartoum locality, Sudan, April 30, 2023.
People gather to get fuel at a station, as clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army continue, in south Khartoum locality, Sudan, April 30, 2023.

Fighting in Sudan between two military factions could force more than 800,000 people to flee the country, the United Nations warned Monday, as the two sides continued to clash despite another three-day extension to a shaky cease-fire.

The deputy head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Raouf Mazou, said Monday that the refugee agency was planning for 815,000 people to flee Sudan into seven neighboring countries. He said that included 580,000 Sudanese along with foreign refugees now living in Sudan.

Around 73,000 people have already left Sudan, he said.

UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in a tweet Monday that the agency hopes its planning figures turn out to be too high, but said “if violence doesn’t stop, we will see more people forced to flee Sudan seeking safety.”

Residents in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and its neighboring cities, reported hearing airstrikes and artillery fire Monday despite the extension Sunday of a cease-fire agreement for another 72 hours.

A string of temporary truces has been widely ignored by both sides. The cease-fires were established by the two warring factions to allow people safe passage and to open a means for the country to receive humanitarian aid. However, while fighting has abated in some parts of the capital, heavy fighting has continued elsewhere. Each side has blamed the other for the infractions.

The top U.N. official in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told The Associated Press Monday that Sudan's warring generals have agreed to send representatives — potentially to Saudi Arabia — for negotiations.

The Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Abdalla Idris, told VOA he hopes the cease-fire will eventually lead to meaningful long-term peace talks.

He said, “a cease-fire, truce, is a two-way traffic,” and said peace can only be realized if all parties respect the terms of any deal.

More than 500 people have been reported killed since fighting erupted April 15 between Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The two generals were once allies in Sudan’s transitional government after a 2021 coup.

The fighting has led the United Nations and other aid organizations to cut services to Sudan. However, the World Food Program said Monday that it was resuming operations to some areas of the country after a pause of more than two weeks prompted by the killing of three staff members.

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The WFP said in a statement that distribution of food is expected to commence in the states of Gedaref, Gezira, Kassala and White Nile in the coming days to provide life-saving assistance.

The agency said, “We will take utmost care to ensure the safety of all our staff and partners as we rush to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres dispatched U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to Sudan to assess the situation there.

Writing on Twitter from Nairobi Monday, Griffiths described the situation in Sudan as “catastrophic.”

He said the warring parties must, “protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Ensure safe passage for civilians fleeing areas of hostilities. Respect humanitarian workers and assets. Facilitate relief operations. Respect medical personnel, transport and facilities.”

The fighting in Sudan has forced foreign governments to pull its citizens from the country.

Hundreds of Americans reached the eastern city of Port Sudan this weekend, watched over by U.S. military drones. Saudi officials said Monday that a U.S. Navy ship took more than 300 evacuees from Port Sudan to the Saudi port of Jeddah.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that three U.S. convoys evacuated over 700 people since Friday and said a total of over 1,000 U.S. citizens have been evacuated since the violence started in Sudan last month.

Britain’s government announced Sunday that it was offering an additional evacuation flight for its nationals in war-torn Sudan.

A late Saturday flight out of Wadi Seidna Airport had been set to be the last flight out of the African country for British nationals. However, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office announced Sunday that another flight was leaving Monday from the airport in Port Sudan.

Michael Atit contributed to this report from Khartoum, Margaret Besheer from the United Nations, Anthony LaBruto; John Tanza and Nike Ching from Washington. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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