WFP suspends operations as fighting between rival factions in Sudan continues unabated

Smoke billowing from buildings in Khartoum
Smoke billowing from buildings in Khartoum Copyright Marwan Ali/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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The UN’s World Food Programme has temporarily halted its humanitarian work in Sudan after three of its staff members were killed

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The UN’s World Food Programme has temporarily suspended its humanitarian work in Sudan after three of its staff members were killed.

At least 56 civilians have been died and 400 others have been injured in what is one of the country’s worst escalations of violence.

The Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary group battled for control of the chaos-stricken nation for a second day Sunday, signalling they were unwilling to end hostilities despite mounting diplomatic pressure to cease fire.

Heavy fighting involving armoured vehicles, truck-mounted machine guns and warplanes raged Sunday in the capital of Khartoum, the adjoining city of Omdurman and in flashpoints across the country. The rival forces are believed to have tens of thousands of fighters each in the capital alone.

The clashes are part of a power struggle between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the armed forces, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces group. 

The two generals are former allies who jointly orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that derailed Sudan's short-lived transition to democracy.

In recent months, internationally backed negotiations revived hopes for an orderly transition to democracy. However, growing tensions between Burhan and Dagalo eventually delayed a deal with political parties.

International diplomatic pressure

Top diplomats, including the US Secretary of State, the UN secretary-general, the EU foreign policy chief, the head of the Arab League and the head of the African Union Commission urged the sides to stop fighting. 

Members of the UN Security Council, at odds over other crises around the world, called for an immediate end of the hostilities and a return to dialogue. 

Arab states with stakes in Sudan — Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — made similar appeals.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

“We agreed it was essential for the parties to immediately end hostilities without pre-condition,” he said in a statement early Sunday.

Sudan, a country at the crossroads of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, is known for its history of military coups and civil conflicts since it gained independence in the 1950s.

The country has borders with six African nations and a strategic coastline on the Red Sea. A decade-old civil conflict resulted in the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

The clashes will increase hardship in Sudan, where the UN says some 16 million people — or one-third of the population — already depend on humanitarian assistance.

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