More than 2.5 million people have been uprooted by Sudan’s conflict, the UN said Tuesday, but in the western Darfur region the bodies of those who couldn’t escape lie face down in the dirt.
A three-day ceasefire due to end Wednesday at dawn brought a brief respite to the capital Khartoum, gripped by the war that erupted on April 15 between two rival generals.
But as the relatively-respected 72-hour truce drew to a close, a huge fire erupted at the intelligence headquarters in Khartoum.
An army source, in comments to AFP, charged that the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had “bombarded the building and caused the fire”, while a paramilitary source countered that “an army drone bombed the building, where RSF fighters had gathered”.
Fighting has killed more than 2,000 people nationwide, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said.
The conflict sees the army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, battle the RSF commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
According to the US State Department, up to 1,100 have been killed in the city of El Geneina alone, the capital of West Darfur state in a region wracked by some of the bloodiest violence.
The UN has spoken of possible “crimes against humanity” in Darfur, where the conflict has “taken an ethnic dimension”, the world body said in a statement with the African Union and east African regional bloc IGAD.
Bodies have remained on the streets of El Geneina, where months of unrest have left shops either vacant or gutted by looters.
One lay covered on the asphalt, in front of an armoured vehicle. A dead man was partially curled up outside a house. Several others appeared to be lying face down together on a dirt road.
– ‘Atrocities’ –
Residents have fled the city en masse, grabbing whatever they could to escape to the border with Chad.
Some described being shot at by fighters and subject to searches during the perilous journey.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller has attributed the West Darfur “atrocities” primarily to the RSF, and the UN’s Sudan mission chief, Volker Perthes, referred to reports of attacks “allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men” in RSF uniform.
In an audio recording Tuesday, Daglo denounced “a tribal conflict” in El Geneina, claiming to have ordered his men “not to intervene” and accusing the army of “creating sedition by distributing weapons” to civilians.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity, which has said it is being overwhelmed by the wounded flowing over the border to Chad, on Monday reported “almost 900 wounded and 15,000 Sudanese refugees” from the El Geneina area had reached the Chadian town of Adre in the last four days.
At least 150,000 people have fled Darfur into Chad since the start of fighting, according to the UN.
The number uprooted from their homes by the conflict has topped 2.5 million, including about 550,000 who have fled abroad, according to the International Organization for Migration.
– ‘Lawlessness’ –
Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN’s refugee agency, on Tuesday said in an interview with AFP that there is “an element of insecurity that risks spreading,” but he appealed to neighbouring countries to “please keep your borders open because these people are really fleeing for their lives.”
Donors gathered Monday at a conference in Geneva where they pledged almost $1.5 billion — only half of the estimated needs to combat the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and help its neighbours host those fleeing the fighting.
More than half of Sudan’s population, 25 million, require aid, the UN says.
“The humanitarian needs have reached record levels in Sudan and there is still no sign of an end to the conflict,” said Eddie Rowe, the World Food Programme’s Sudan director.
Alexander Kjaerum of the Danish Refugee Council described as “absolutely shameful” the funding levels for the conflict, comparing it to the outpouring of support received at the start of the war in Ukraine.
The latest in a series of truces that have all been systematically violated began Sunday and is due to end at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) Wednesday.
Although it brought a relative respite, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday said it was “not respected”.
An operation it carried out to transfer wounded soldiers to a hospital “had to be aborted after gunshots sounded in the immediate proximity of our convoy”, the agency said.
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that “the scale and speed of Sudan’s descent into death and destruction is unprecedented”.
“Without strong international support, Sudan could quickly become a locus of lawlessness, radiating insecurity across the region,” he said.