Sudan war at 100 days: 'Hundreds of civilians killed' amid rising death toll

Heavy fighting and displacement aggravate humanitarian crisis with no end to conflict in sight

Black smoke and flames rise from a market in Omdurman, Sudan. Reuters
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The war that broke out in mid-April between Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has devastated the capital Khartoum, caused a sharp increase in ethnic violence in Darfur and displaced more than three million people.

As the fighting enters its 100th day, war monitors and aid agencies say civilians are increasingly in the firing line.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), a group that tracks wars around the world, on Sunday said out of 320 "political-violence events" in Sudan, almost 80 targeted civilians, resulting in more than 220 deaths.

From mid-June to mid-July, more than 880 deaths were recorded, the organisation said.

This would put the overall death toll of the conflict at nearly 3,000, although the actual figure is likely to be far higher as fighting escalates in remote areas with thin reporting and almost non-existent health coverage.

The targeting of civilians has worsened an exodus to surrounding countries and displacement within Sudan, with the UN saying in the space of one week, 200,000 people were displaced by fighting, citing data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, says nearly 800,000 people have fled to neighbouring nations.

There is now a focus on allocating aid to Sudan’s neighbours, which include countries themselves recovering from decades of war and poverty. On Friday, EU aid allocations to Sudan passed €17 million ($18.9 million).

To address the crisis, international donors have promised almost $1.5 billion, although humanitarian agencies say the amount needed to stabilise the situation could be double that.

The donations were pledged last month following a UN-organised aid summit held jointly by Egypt, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the African Union in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Sudan's 'descent into destruction'

“The scale and speed of Sudan’s descent into death and destruction is unprecedented,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said during the event.

Fighting began in Sudan on April 15 after weeks of tensions building over a plan to hand power to civilians, with the first heavy clashes occurring in Khartoum and its nearby sister city of Omdurman.

RSF forces loyal to Gen Mohamed Dagalo stormed the residence of army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, in an attempt to seize strategic sites in the heart of the capital.

The UN World Food Programme immediately suspended operations in the country, one of its biggest campaigns, after three of its staff were among aid workers killed in early fighting. It resumed work the following month but said failures to arrange ceasefires and aid corridors could put three million at risk of hunger.

The impact on aid operations continues to this day. On Saturday, French aid agency Doctors Without Borders said 18 of its health workers were beaten by an unidentified armed group in Khartoum as they were travelling to work in one of the city’s beleaguered hospitals.

Violence against civilians has also intensified as simmering ethnic conflicts in the fractured country reignite.

Sixteen civilians were killed on Saturday as rockets fell on their homes in West Darfur, a lawyers' union said.

The vast region, the scene of conflict in the early 2000s, has suffered some of the worst of the violence since the current war began.

On July 14, the US-based Sudan Conflict Observatory reported the RSF and aligned forces were suspected of the targeted destruction of at least 26 communities in Darfur. A day earlier, the International Criminal Court said it was investigating violence in Darfur. The RSF says hostilities there are tribal.

With no end in sight, the war has led to intensified regional efforts to draw the warring generals into peace talks.

Last month, Egypt began a new mediation attempt between the rival factions at a summit for Sudan's neighbours in Cairo. Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the push should be co-ordinated with an existing initiative led by East African regional bloc IGAD, amid concerns about competing and ineffective diplomatic efforts.

Updated: July 23, 2023, 9:45 AM