Sudan’s war: One year on | WORLD
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Sudan’s war: One year on

Refugees pour into neighboring countries

Sudanese refugees arrive at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk on February 13. Getty Images/Photo by Luis Tato/AFP

Sudan’s war: One year on

More than 1,800 refugees a day are still coming into South Sudan from Sudan nearly one year since war broke out between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary force.

The majority of them have made it to transit centers for processing in the South Sudanese border town of Renk for processing. But more than 10,000 people are still residing at the temporary site, Pornpun Jib Rabiltossaporn, country director of Save the Children in South Sudan, said during a news conference. Rabiltossaporn added that the overwhelming arrivals are only part of the problem.

“They’re still waiting for their relatives and families,” she explained. “A lot of them still don’t know where their family members are, if they’re alive, or already dead.”

Tens of thousands of refugees from Sudan are also arriving in Chad, Ethiopia, and other neighboring countries, while those left in Sudan face acute hunger. Advocacy groups are calling for renewed attention to the conflict that has displaced millions of people with no clear solution in sight.

On April 15, 2023, fighting began in the capital city of Khartoum between military Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan’s forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. After the 2019 ouster of Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, the two generals jointly led a coup in 2021, derailing plans for a transition to civilian government. But the generals disagreed over the details of the merging of their troops and who would wield control.

Troops on both sides have traded airstrikes and gunfire, both facing accusations of targeting civilians. Thousands of people have died over the past year, and 8.5 million people have left their homes. Nearly two million of them have crossed the border into other countries.

The conflict has been particularly deadly in the conflict-plagued Darfur region, where as many as 15,000 people died in a town targeted by the RSF and its allied Arab militias. The attacks there have drawn memories of the genocide accusations in Darfur back in 2003, when paramilitary forces and other Arab militias targeted mostly non-Arab ethnic Masalit people.

The violence has continued. At least 100 people died last week across several villages in another Sudanese state after attacks by militias allied with RSF. More than 10 million children have been in an active warzone, according to a Wednesday report by Save the Children.

The warring troops have also continued to battle for control of the state of El Gezira, Sudan’s breadbasket. “The farmers in those areas have not been able to attend to their crops,” said Dr. Arif Noor, Save the Children’s country director in Sudan.

Last week, the World Food Program said it launched food distributions in parts of Darfur, the first to enter the region in months.

“Hunger in Sudan will only increase as the lean season starts in just a few weeks,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP’s Sudan country director. “I fear that we will see unprecedented levels of starvation and malnutrition sweep across Sudan this lean season.”

The United States and Saudi Arabia have facilitated several cease-fires between the warring sides during talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but they failed to yield any results. The warring sides did not heed a cease-fire call during the Islamic holy Ramadan month that ended this week.

Tom Perriello, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, is still pushing for talks to resume by April 18, just days after a donor conference for Sudan in Paris.

Joseph Siegle is the director of research at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. He said that, while there are few tangible prospects of a solid cease-fire agreement, the warring sides are beginning to see that a military solution is unlikely.

“Given the broad devastation and economic costs, there may be more receptivity to a negotiated settlement,” Siegle said. “However, this would need to address the underlying political drivers of the conflict, namely who would run the government.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.


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