United Nations: Sudan May Be on Brink of ‘Full-Scale Civil War’ After Weekend Airstrike Kills At Least 22

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
July 10, 2023World News
United Nations: Sudan May Be on Brink of ‘Full-Scale Civil War’ After Weekend Airstrike Kills At Least 22
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, on May 11, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/Reuters)

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that Sudan may be close to all-out-civil war after a weekend airstrike killed dozens in the city near the capital of Khartoum.

In a written statement, a U.N. spokesperson expressed the secretary general’s fear that the ongoing conflict between warring armed forces has “pushed Sudan to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilizing the entire region.”

“He is appalled by reports of large-scale violence and casualties across Darfur,” the statement further said. “He is also concerned about reports of renewed fighting in North Kordofan, South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.”

Sudan’s army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), is at war with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group. The power struggle pits Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the armed forces, against Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the RSF. The former allies jointly orchestrated a military coup in October 2021 that toppled a Western-backed civilian transitional government.

Since April 15, the two group have been battling for control of Khartoum after tensions over the integration of the RSF into the armed forces and the future chain of command. The RSF controls much of the city, as well as its neighboring cities on the Nile River of Omdurman and Bahri, and the SAF has been carrying out artillery and air attacks to dislodge the paramilitary fighters.

Hundreds of people have since been killed, and thousands left injured, but the July 8 strike in a residential area in Omdurman may have been the deadliest yet, killing at least 22 and injuring dozens.

In a post on Twitter, the RSF blamed the attack on the SAF, calling the army an “extremist terrorist militia.”

“This act represents a grave crime against humanity and a clear violation of our religious values, cultural norms, and international conventions,” the RSF said, who placed the death toll at 31.

“We urge all relevant parties, both domestically and internationally, to fulfill their responsibilities by actively monitoring and documenting the ongoing genocidal acts committed by the coup forces and remnants of the former regime against civilians, following their failed attempts to seize power.”

The SAF responded to the RSF’s accusations on Sunday.

“The armed forces would like to clarify that it did not carry out an air strike on Saturday on any enemy targets in Omdurman,” the Office of the Spokesperson of the Armed Forces said in a statement on Facebook, refuting the RSF’s claim. “We have clarified on many occasions that the militia resorts of shelling residential areas with artillery and rockets at the same that the planes of the armed forces are flying in an attempt to falsely accuse the armed forces of targeting civilians.”

The United States government has previously said it believes Russia’s Wagner Group at one point provided the RSF with surface-to-air missiles.

Residents who spoke with The Associated Press say that fighting has raged between the warring factions in Omdurman, and that they found it difficult to determine which side was responsible for the attack. Military aircraft have repeatedly targeted RSF troops in the area, while the paramilitary force has used drones and anti-aircraft weapons against the military.

“The area is like a hell … fighting around the clock and people are not able to leave,” Abdel-Rahman, one of the residents who asked to use only his first name out of concern for his safety, said.

According to data from the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration, the conflict has already displaced more than 2.2 million people (nearly 450,000 households) internally. In addition, nearly 700,000 people have fled the nation, many without passports, to various neighboring countries, primarily Egypt, Chad, and South Sudan.

At the moment, many areas hit by the conflict remain inaccessible to U.N. field teams.

Mr. Guterres deplored the “utter disregard for humanitarian and human rights law” now present in the troubled nation, before urging the two warring factions to commit to a “durable cessation” of hostilities—or at least to protect civilians and enable humanitarian initiatives to take place.

“The United Nations continues to push for the cohesion of international efforts under the auspices of the African Union coordination architecture and welcomes the strong engagement of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD),” the statement concluded.

Mr. Guterres offered his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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