After six days of fighting, total confusion reigns in Sudan

Explosions and gunfire continued to tear through Khartoum on Thursday, the sixth day of fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitaries, led by two rival generals, who know no respite as the festivities marking the end of Ramadan approach.

“The smell of death and corpses reigns in certain districts of the center”, testifies a resident of the capital on his way to a quieter district, while the World Health Organization (WHO) counts “nearly 330 dead and 3200 wounded”.

In the city of more than five million people, families crowd the roads to flee air raids and street fighting.

“At 4:30 a.m., we were awakened by the sounds of air raids. We have closed all the doors and windows because we are afraid that a stray bullet will pass,” another resident of Khartoum, Nazek Abdallah, 38, told AFP.

A few tens of kilometers away, life is going on and the houses are opening up to welcome the displaced. Traumatized, they drove or walked for hours, because now a liter of gasoline is traded at 10 dollars in one of the poorest countries in the world.

To get to the shelter, they had to undergo the questions or the searches of the men posted at the checkpoints of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR), the paramilitaries of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as Hemedti, and the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto leader of Sudan since the putsch led by the two men in 2021.

Above all, they had to progress in the middle of the corpses which litter the edges of the road, the armored vehicles and the charred vans, and avoid the most dangerous zones, identifiable by the columns of black smoke which escape from them.

Truces never held

Since the power struggle, latent for weeks between the two generals, turned into a pitched battle on Saturday, the confusion has been total for the 45 million Sudanese and the truces announced by the two camps have never been held.

As in Khartoum, fighting is raging in Darfur, western Sudan, and explosions sounded Thursday in the town of El-Obeid, 350 kilometers south of the capital.

Bosses of the UN, African Union, Arab League and other regional organizations are due to meet on Thursday to press for a ceasefire once again, as Muslims across the world prepare to celebrate Eid-el-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, Friday or Saturday.

In Khartoum, in the streets strewn with debris, it is impossible to know who holds the main institutions of the country.

From both sides, announcements of victory and mutual accusations rain down, impossible to verify on the ground as the danger is permanent.

The air force, which targets the bases and positions of the FSR scattered in inhabited areas, does not hesitate to drop bombs, sometimes above hospitals, doctors testified.

In five days, “70% of the 74 hospitals in Khartoum and areas affected by the fighting have been put out of use”, according to their union: bombed, they no longer have any stock to operate or fighters have taken it control, chasing doctors and wounded.

Humanitarian organizations have for the most part been forced to suspend their aid, which is crucial in a country where more than one in three inhabitants suffers from hunger in normal times.

Sexual violence, looting

Three World Food Program (WFP) staff were killed in Darfur at the start of the fighting. The UN no longer counts “looting and attacks” on its stocks and personnel, and denounces “sexual violence against humanitarian workers”.

In Khartoum, many families have exhausted their last food and must now choose between two evils: to remain in a city where electricity and running water have disappeared, at the mercy of stray bullets. Or walk away in the crossfire and imagine their home looted.

Because the Sudanese have not forgotten the atrocities that earned dictator Omar al-Bashir, ousted in 2019, two arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “war crimes”, “crimes against humanity and “genocide” in Darfur.

During the Darfur war that broke out in 2003, he had delegated the scorched earth policy to General Daglo, and General Burhane was one of his army commanders.

The FSR, created in 2013, brings together thousands of former Janjawids, Arab militiamen recruited by Omar al-Bashir to wage this war against ethnic minorities.

Amid the general chaos, Egypt managed to evacuate most of the “177 soldiers captured by the RSF while participating in training with the Sudanese army” at a military base in northern Sudan, according to the two countries. .

Only “27 of them” remain, according to the FSR, handed over by the paramilitaries and now at the embassy in Khartoum, according to the Egyptian army.

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