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UN chief calls for Sudan ceasefire as death toll hits 185

UN chief calls for Sudan ceasefire as death toll hits 185
This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies taken on April 17, 2023 shows destroyed airplanes at the Khartoum International Airport | Credit | AFP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Sudan’s warring parties to immediately cease hostilities Monday as his envoy to Khartoum said at least 185 people had been killed by the fighting.

The violence, which erupted Saturday, raged for a third day through Monday, with the death toll increasing to at least 185 people, Volker Perthes, the United Nations’s special representative to Sudan, told reporters.

The fighting broke out after weeks of power struggles between the two generals who seized power in a 2021 coup: Sudan’s army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

“I am in constant contact with leaders of both sides,” Perthes told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, via video-link from the Sudanese capital.

The UN has suspended much of its operations in the country, said Guterres’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, who stressed the UN was “not going to ask staff to go to work when clearly their safety is not being guaranteed.”

“This renewed fighting only aggravates what was already a fragile situation, forcing UN agencies and our humanitarian partners to temporarily shutter many of our more than 250 programmes across Sudan,” the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said in a statement.

“The impacts of this suspension will be felt immediately, especially in the areas of food security and nutritional support, in a country where some 4 million children and pregnant and lactating women are severely malnourished,” he added.

The three African members of the 15-member Council — Ghana, Gabon and Mozambique — released a joint statement following the meeting, calling for an “immediate ceasefire.”

The countries called on the Sudanese military and the RSF “to swiftly embrace in the spirit of the Ramadan season, a peaceful solution and inclusive dialogue to resolve their differences,” they said.

Guterres said earlier that he had spoken over the weekend “with the two Sudanese leaders and I am actively engaging with the AU (African Union), the Arab League and leaders across the region.”

He added that the “humanitarian situation in Sudan was already precarious and is now catastrophic.”

“I urge all those with influence over the situation to use it in the cause of peace; to support efforts to end the violence, restore order, and return to the path of transition,” Guterres pleaded.