Sudan’s fighting sides agree to protect civilians but conflict continues

Civilians trapped in Khartoum, as well as hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes, face serious food and water shortages, Red Cross warns

After nearly one week of negotiations in Saudi Arabia, Sudan’s fighting sides have signed an agreement related to the protection of civilians in war, but they have not pledged to stop fighting.

The conflict, which will mark its one-month anniversary on Monday, broke out on April 15th between the Sudanese army (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). It was the eruption of tensions between two generals who led a coup together in October 2021: Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads Sudan’s army, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, or Hemedti, who leads the RSF.

In a statement on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said civilians trapped in Khartoum, as well as hundreds of thousands who had fled their homes, were facing serious food and water shortages. “Many people don’t know what happened to their loved ones. The few functioning hospitals are running critically low on essential supplies, and many dead bodies are yet to be collected and identified,” the international aid organisation said.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 164,000 people have fled Sudan, entering Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan. Many others have faced major problems crossing borders, including soaring prices of transport; visa restrictions; or issues identifying safe routes.


The UN’s International Organisation for Migration says about 736,000 people have been internally displaced inside the country. Almost 3.8 million were already internally displaced before the conflict began.

Unicef says about 450,000 children are among the newly displaced. It also said a factory in Khartoum, which produces 60 per cent of the therapeutic food needed for malnourished children in Sudan, had been burned down and 14,500 cartons of food were destroyed.

This week, the World Food Programme warned that the cost of food across Sudan was soaring. As many as 2.5 million additional people are expected to “slip into hunger” in the coming months, with the situation particularly bad in the West Darfur, West Kordofan, Blue Nile, Red Sea and North Darfur states.

The conflict has dealt a bitter blow to Sudan’s pro-democracy movement, which has been working towards and hoping for a transition to civilian rule in the North African country since before the ousting of former dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Solidarity marches and protests have been taking place around the world. In London last Tuesday evening, a march began outside the EU Delegation to the UK, before moving towards the UK’s Home Office.

“[The] gaping ache and crushing despair that grows every day cannot be reduced to the official figures published by NGOs,” said one of the speakers, Zeena Elhassan. “These figures cannot capture the sounds of a loved one’s struggling voice on the phone, or the fear that it will be the last time you hear it. They cannot capture the sight of entire cities you love just burning, transformed overnight into rubble and ash, or the entirety of communities scattered all over the world... without the knowledge of when or if they can ever embrace one another again.”

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

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