More than four million Sudanese displaced by ‘senseless’ war, UN warns

Millions ‘one step away’ from famine in four-month conflict between warring generals, says refugee agency

More than four million people have fled fighting in Sudan for neighbouring states or internally across the country due to a “disastrous, senseless” war that is putting millions on the verge of famine, the UN has said.

The spark of the exodus has been a conflict pitting forces led by Sudan’s de facto president and army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti.

Fighting started in the capital Khartoum in April and spread to other parts of the country, notably Darfur. Despite attempts at ceasefires, analysts say there is no end in sight to the conflict.

“For four gruesome months, the people of Sudan have been engulfed in a war that is destroying their lives and their homeland, and violating their basic human rights,” UN agencies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.


“Time is running out for farmers to plant the crops that will feed them and their neighbours. Medical supplies are scarce. The situation is spiralling out of control,” the UN added, as more than six million people in Sudan were “one step away” from famine. Food insecurity has nearly doubled since May and now affects more than 20 million people.

Almost one million people have been forced to flee to Sudan’s neighbours, particularly Chad and Egypt, while the number of displaced within the country has topped 3.2 million, according to UN data. Many of them are living in dire conditions. More than 14 million children are in need of humanitarian aid.

Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said this week that the “disastrous, senseless” war in Sudan was “borne out of a wanton drive for power” and “has resulted in thousands of deaths, the destruction of family homes, schools, hospitals and other essential services, massive displacement, as well as sexual violence, in acts which may amount to war crimes”.

Mr Türk’s office said it was difficult to establish an exact number of casualties “due to the intensity of the fighting and the fact that the remains of many of those killed have not been collected, identified or buried”. But the agency said tentative figures indicated more than 4,000 people had been killed, including “hundreds” of civilians. It also warned that the actual number of casualties could be “much higher”.

In a television appearance this week, Gen Burhan accused Hemeti of “committing war crimes”. Amnesty International this month accused both sides of war crimes, including deliberate killings of civilians and the use of sexual violence.

The army and Rapid Support Forces have claimed adherence to international law and accused each other of violations, Amnesty said, while the latter denied allegations of sexual violence. Hemeti this week said his forces had established a relief agency to address the “dire humanitarian circumstances and disasters that have arisen due to the ongoing war imposed” by the army.

Yet “thousands of decomposing bodies lay in the streets” of Khartoum, which has been turned into an urban battlefield, said Save the Children. The charity added that at least 2,435 children had been killed or injured since the conflict started.

Mr Türk called on both sides to “immediately stop the fighting” and “resume political talks” taking place in Saudi Arabia.

Malik Agar, deputy head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, said this week: “At the end of the day, this war will end at a negotiating table.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023