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UN chief and officials condemn fighting between Sudanese forces

The senior officials were responding to the outbreak of armed clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in many parts of the capital Khartoum and other areas outside the capital, on Saturday morning.

According to media reports, the RSF claimed that it had taken control of Khartoum international airport, Merowe airport, al-Obeid airport and the presidential palace.

The RSF, an independent Sudanese military force, grew out of the Janjaweed militia, formerly active in the Darfur region of the country. The organization has been involved in talks aimed at a transition from the military rule in place since the 2021 military coup, to a civilian government.

‘Immediately cease hostilities’

A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General noted the UN chief’s call for the leaders of the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces to “immediately cease hostilities, restore calm and initiate a dialogue to resolve the current crisis,” and for Member States in the region to support efforts to restore order and return to the path of transition to civilian rule. 

In a Tweet posted later in the day, the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson wrote that Mr. Guterres had spoken to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the President of the African Union, on how to de-escalate the situation.

The Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General also spoke to the leaders of the two opposing military sides – Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan of the Sudanese Army, and Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the RSF – calling for an immediate stop to the violence and a return to dialogue, and offering his good offices, in close co-ordination with ongoing efforts to restore security and conclude the ongoing political process.

The integration of the RSF into the armed forces has been one of the issues under discussion, as part of a UN-backed political agreement reached in February, following months of negotiations.

However, in a Security Council briefing on 20 March, Volker Perthes, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), warned that tensions between the Sudanese Army and the RSF have risen in recent weeks, and called for de-escalation.

In his statement on the current fighting, Mr. Perthes reached out to both parties asking them for an immediate cessation of fighting, to ensure the safety of the Sudanese people, and spare the country from further violence.

‘More violence will only make things worse’

Mr. Guterres also raised concerns over the “devastating” impact that any further escalation in the fighting would have on civilians, further aggravating the already precarious humanitarian situation in the country. 

Similar fears were expressed on Saturday by Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. In a Tweet, Mr. Griffiths said that more violence would only makes things worse for the nearly 16 million people, around a third of the population, in need of humanitarian aid.

An update on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, released on 13 April by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that humanitarian needs across Sudan are at an all-time high, with conflict one of the four most significant risks, alongside natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and economic deterioration.

Volker Türk, the UN rights chief, expressing alarm at the unfolding situation, Tweeting on Saturday that the people of Sudan “deserve better.” Mr. Türk wrote that a “voice of reason” is urgently needed, in order to stop violence and “revert to earlier promising path towards peace and civilian transition.”

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