Khartoum, Sudan – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on the leaders of Sudan’s two warring factions and urged them to agree to a ceasefire as the death toll nears 200.
The US State Department issued a statement late Monday saying Blinken had spoken separately with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the country’s armed forces, and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces. He urged them to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict and to end the fighting to allow Sudanese families to reunite.
The statement said Blinken urged Burhan and Dagalo to allow the international community into Khartoum “to ensure that their presence is safe,” and to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians, diplomatic personnel and humanitarian workers. Emphasized the responsibility of the two generals. ,
Secretary Blinken’s call for the two Sudanese rivals was one of many in the international community urging peace in the North African country. Tuesday’s communique from G-7 foreign ministers meeting in Karuizawa, Japan, condemned the fighting, which they said “threatens the safety and security of Sudan’s citizens and undermines efforts to restore Sudan’s democratic transition”. weakens.”
“We urge the parties to immediately cease hostilities without preconditions. We call on all actors to abjure violence, return to dialogue and take proactive steps to de-escalate tensions and ensure the safety of all civilians, including diplomatic and humanitarian personnel.” invokes.” The conversation continued.
Both military factions fighting for control in Sudan claimed gains on Monday as the death toll from the violence climbed past 180 amid calls for an immediate ceasefire from Washington, several international bodies and capitals around the world. .
Residents in Khartoum heard the sounds of fighter jets and anti-aircraft fire after Monday night as violence between Sudan’s army and paramilitary forces continued for a third straight day.
At least 185 people have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded since the fighting began on Saturday, Volker Perthes, the UN special representative to Sudan, told reporters via video link from Khartoum on Monday.
Casualties from the fighting are likely to rise, as many of the wounded are unable to reach hospitals for treatment. A group of Sudanese doctors said the fighting had caused “huge damage” to several hospitals around the capital.
Large parts of the capital were without electricity and water. The violence also affected Khartoum’s nearby sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri, with bridges connecting the cities blocked by armored vehicles.
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Monday again condemned the outbreak of fighting and urged leaders of Sudan’s army and the RSF paramilitary group to “immediately cease hostilities, restore peace and start negotiations to resolve the crisis”. Did.
“I urge all those who influence the situation to use it for peace,” he said, adding, “The humanitarian situation in Sudan was already precarious and is now catastrophic.”
Two military factions fighting for control of Sudan shared power during a volatile political transition. The clashes are part of a power struggle between General Burhan, who heads the Transitional Council, and General Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, deputy head of the Transitional Council.
John Kirby, coordinator of strategic communications at the National Security Council, told reporters Monday that US officials were “in direct contact” with the two generals to “urge them to cease hostilities immediately.” He said US officials were working closely with the African Union, the Arab League and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African bloc.
“We call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces,” he said. “As Secretary Blinken noted this morning, the fighting is killing civilians and threatening the Sudanese nation as well as stability in the region.”
But when asked by VOA what specific advantages the US has to influence the warring sides, Kirby said, “I’m not going to talk about specific diplomatic leverage.”
He said all US personnel in the North African country have been traced and are taking refuge in various places. He said that at the moment there is no plan to evacuate them.
The RSF claimed on Monday that it had captured an airport and military bases. The army claimed it had regained control of the main television station and said it was in control of its headquarters after brief fighting.
The ongoing fighting in Khartoum has forced most people to stay inside. Offices, schools and gas stations are closed.
In the Al-Kalakala neighborhood south of Khartoum, the situation seemed relatively calm, as people ventured out to obtain basic supplies.
Vishal Mohammed, a mother of three, told VOA that this is the first time in three days that she has come out to get food for her children. She said she did not have electricity or water and would not be able to travel if there was an emergency.
Al Muizz Hassan, a grocer in the Abu Adam neighborhood south of Khartoum, told VOA he is worried about being robbed and has only partially opened his shop as a precaution.
“The fighting has affected all the shops, not just mine,” he said.
Khartoum residents said there was no police presence on the city’s streets since the start of the military conflict.
The European Union said its envoy to Sudan was attacked at his home on Monday, but gave no further details.
Blinken confirmed that a US diplomatic convoy came under fire on Monday, and said preliminary reports indicated the attack was carried out by forces attached to the Rapid Support Force.
There have been calls for an end to the fighting from around the world and from within Africa, including the African Union, the Arab League and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The IGAD said Kenyan President William Ruto, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Djibouti President Omar Guelleh would travel to Khartoum for an immediate ceasefire.
Noor Mohammad Sheikh, spokesman for the IGAD’s executive secretary, said, “President Salva Kiir is already in contact with both General Burhan and General Hemedti to convey the message of the summit. … Now, preparations are underway to launch this mission.” is going.” , told VOA.
However, Sudan’s two top generals have so far expressed no willingness to negotiate and each has demanded the other’s surrender.
Dagalo said on Twitter on Monday that he was defending democracy in Sudan and called Burhan a “radical Islamist”. Dagalo’s forces grew out of the infamous Janjaweed militia in Sudan’s Darfur region and have been accused of committing atrocities in the region.
The two generals are former allies who together orchestrated the October 2021 military coup that marked a transition to civilian rule following the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
Tensions are rising among generals over disagreements about how the RSF should be integrated into the military and who should oversee that process. The reorganization of the army was part of an effort to restore civilian rule in the country and end the political crisis triggered by the 2021 military coup.
Jeffrey Feltman, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and former special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said, “This is another example of how generals feel threatened by a transition that has undermined their powers, the monopoly they control.” has been reduced.” US State Department.
Feltman told VOA, “Now we have a fight for power. It’s a lust for power – who will win between these two generals.”
Pro-democracy activists have accused both generals of engaging in human rights abuses.
In addition to fighting around Khartoum, violence has also flared up in Sudan’s western Darfur region, threatening a resurgence of the decades-old conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) announced on Monday that it has suspended most of its operations in Sudan because of the fighting.
“The conflict has hampered humanitarian action where more than a third of the population, an estimated 15 million people, including refugees, are facing acute food insecurity,” Kurt Josem, IRC regional vice president, said in a statement. Humanitarian actors have limited ability to enter and operate in areas of ongoing war.”
The World Food Program also suspended its operations in the country following the death of three of its staff members.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council held an emergency meeting in Nairobi on Sunday to discuss the situation in Sudan. Participants appealed to the Sudanese military and RSF leaders to de-escalate the conflict and restore stability.
Carole van Dam Falk, Mariama Diallo, Margaret Beshir, Antea Powell and Nike Ching contributed to this report. Some information for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.