Irish EU ambassador to Sudan in ‘good shape’ as fighting continues

Clashes continue despite ceasefire agreement with more than 140 civilians killed in total

Fighting continued on Tuesday after a 24-hour ceasefire was reportedly agreed between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have been battling since early on Saturday morning. The humanitarian ceasefire - to allow civilians to escape - was due to come into effect at 6pm on Tuesday, but fierce exchanges were reported at the international airport in Khartoum and around the capital itself.

While the army is led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the RSF is loyal to Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is commonly known as Hemedti. Earlier reports that both sides had agreed to temporary ceasefires were not seen through or fully respected.

The two Sudanese generals have derailed a long hoped-for shift to civilian rule, which has been planned in the North African country since the ousting of long-standing dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

After the fighting began, the EU ambassador to Sudan, Irish man Aidan O’Hara, was assaulted in his home, according to EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.


“This constitutes a gross violation of the Vienna Convention. Security of diplomatic premises and staff is a primary responsibility of Sudanese authorities and an obligation under international law,” tweeted Borrell.

A US diplomatic convoy was also attacked, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, though everyone inside was uninjured. “We have deep concerns, of course, about the overall security environment as it affects civilians, as it affects diplomats, as it affects aid workers,” Blinken said.

Satellite images of Khartoum show thick black smoke rising above the North African capital. At least five million people live in the city. Some of those who maintained internet access posted online saying that their electricity had been cut or sparse, and that some homes were taken over or looted, with vehicles, money and jewellery taken by fighters. Citizens also shared advice online about safe routes for those trying to reach medical care or be reunited with family members; offered shelter; and appealed for help for people in need.

On Tuesday morning, the Sudan Doctors’ Committee put the number of civilian deaths at 144, with the number of injuries for both civilians and military at 1,409. It said that the rates of deaths and injuries were increasing “at an exponential pace” and that there are likely many more dead that they have not seen or counted. It also said that many hospitals and medical centres are out of service due to being hit by missiles, as well as a lack of supplies and electricity, and called for the “opening of safe passages to treat the sick and injured, and to deliver food and medicine”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk joined the many voices calling for peace, releasing a statement saying: “Sudan has already endured so much pain and suffering. The fighting is born out of power games and personal interests that only serve to alienate the democratic aspirations of the population. Do those responsible not understand that the civilian population now only craves a peaceful life?”

The fighting has also disrupted or forced suspensions of aid agency operations. One third of Sudan’s population were experiencing acute food insecurity last year, according to World Food Programme figures. The agency listed political instability as one of the damaging factors that led to this.

Meanwhile, EU ambassador O’Hara is in “good shape” after being attacked in his residency, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said. A spokeswoman for the EU separately told news agency AFP that Mr O’Hara (58), who was previously Ireland’s ambassador to Ethiopia, was “okay” after the incident.

Mr Martin said the safety of Irish citizens in Sudan was “paramount” as he appealed for an end to the violence in the nation.

“Aidan is in good shape, thanks be to God,” Mr Martin told reporters in Belfast.

“We were very worried last evening when we heard of the robbery and the attack. The situation is very, very fraught in Sudan, we appeal to both sides to cease all hostilities and to implement the framework has been arrived at and I would ask the protagonists to heed the words of the UN secretary general in respect of ending the violence and engaging in talks.

“We do have a number of Irish citizens in Sudan, many working with international organisations, Aidan is a UN ambassador in Sudan. We’re keeping obviously a very close eye on their wellbeing. Obviously, it’s very difficult to leave the country right now [with] the situation at the airport in Khartoum.

“We’re hoping to keep the situation, with our colleagues within the European Union and with the United Kingdom, we’ll continue to monitor that and obviously from our perspective, the safety of our citizens is paramount.” – Additional reporting: PA

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa