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Sudan: No signs of peace, one month since fighting broke out in civil war

Smoke billows in the distance in Khartoum amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals, on May 15, 2023.   -  
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Air strikes and explosions rocked Sudan again on Monday, after a month-long war for power between two rival generals that threatens to escalate further, risking destabilization of neighboring countries.

The fighting that broke out on April 15 between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, has left nearly a thousand people dead and about a million displaced and refugees.

On Sunday night, General Daglo posted an audio recording online in which he promised his opponent that he would be "tried quickly and hanged in public".

The army chief had ordered on Sunday evening the freezing of the accounts and assets of the RSF, known for their financial power.

In Khartoum, a city of five million people who are almost without water and electricity, and in Darfur, in the west, people are living in their homes, afraid to go out to buy food for fear of stray bullets.

The doctors' union on Monday put the death toll at 280 and the number of wounded at more than 160 on May 12 and 13 alone in clashes in El-Geneina, Darfur.

In the large suburb east of Khartoum, witnesses reported air strikes, the sound of explosions and clouds of smoke.

- Tension rising -

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the warring parties are negotiating a "humanitarian" truce to let civilians out and aid in. But they agreed only on the principle of respecting the rules of war, deferring the question of a cessation of hostilities to further "broader discussions.

"Nothing has changed since the beginning of the conflict, except that people are more and more tense every day", confided to AFP a resident of southern Khartoum.

"The violence on both sides is increasing day by day," said a resident of the north of the capital.

For the researcher Aly Verjee, "if the two sides do not change their way of thinking, it will be difficult to imagine a translation on the ground of the commitments on paper".

In this country of 45 million people, a third of the population that depended on international food aid is practically deprived of it: it has been looted or interrupted following the death of 18 humanitarian workers.

The World Food Programme (WFP) nevertheless announced on Monday that it was carrying out its "very first food distributions" in the state of Al-Jazira, south-east of the capital, for those newly displaced by the fighting in Khartoum.

The money is lacking because the banks, some of which have been looted, have been closed for a month, or because prices have soared: four times for food or 20 times for gasoline.

According to experts and diplomats, each of the two generals believes he can win militarily, thanks to his large numbers and foreign support. General Daglo is allied with the United Arab Emirates and, according to the U.S. Treasury, with Wagner's Russian mercenaries, while Egypt supports General Burhane.

The two men therefore seem more interested in a long conflict than in making concessions at the negotiating table.

- Administration relocated to Port Sudan -

In Darfur, "we have reports of snipers shooting at anyone who leaves their home," Mohamed Osman of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told AFP. Trapped, "people injured in fighting two weeks ago are dying in their homes.

In this region, the repression of ethnic minorities under the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir (1989-2019) by the military and paramilitaries, who are now enemies, caused 300,000 deaths in the 2000s.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) points out that in the camps for displaced persons in Darfur, "people have gone from having three meals a day to just one.

Thousands of refugees enter Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan every day. Egypt, which is going through the worst economic crisis in its history, is worried. The other neighboring countries fear a contagion.

In Khartoum, the airport is no longer functioning, commercial centers have been looted and the administrations are closed "until further notice".

What remains of the administration has retreated to Port Sudan, 850 kilometers east of Khartoum, spared from the violence and where a small UN team is trying to negotiate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"By destroying food factories and small industries, this war has caused a partial deindustrialization of Sudan," says Verjee. "The future Sudan will be even poorer for a long time.

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