Sudan conflict becoming increasingly ethnic, UN envoy warns

Crisis has displaced more than one million Sudanese

Volker Perthes, the UN envoy to Sudan. EPA
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The UN envoy to Sudan on Monday said a growing ethnic split threatens to worsen the conflict, as he warned of a broader regional impact if the warring parties fail to respect a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire.

The truce was due to take effect at 9.45pm local time but fighting continued in the hours before.

This is the latest in a series of ceasefires, all unsuccessful, declared since the fighting began on April 15.

Volker Perthes, the UN's special representative to Sudan, told the Security Council there were signs that fighting between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese military was threatening to split the country along ethnic and communal lines.

“The growing ethnicisation of the conflict risks engulfing the country in a prolonged conflict, with implications for the region,” Mr Perthes said.

“In West Darfur, clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces spiralled into ethnic violence on April 24.

“Tribal militias joined the fight and civilians took up arms to defend themselves.”

Such incidents have only grown in recent weeks, he warned.

“In parts of the country, fighting between the two armies or the two armed formations has sharpened into communal tensions, or triggered conflict between communities,” Mr Perthes continued.

“Warning signs of tribal mobilisation are also reported in other parts of the country, particularly in South Kordofan.”

The UN envoy concern that the warring parties have shown “no signs of slowing down” despite repeated ceasefires, leaving the conflict unresolved and inflicting a heavy toll on civilians.

According to the latest figures provided by the UN, more than 700 people have been killed, including 190 children, with another 6,000 injured.

Moreover, the crisis has displaced more than one million Sudanese, with more than 840,000 seeking shelter in rural areas and other states, and an additional 250,000 crossing borders in search of safety.

Despite several calls from the regional stakeholders and the broader international community for a ceasefire, fighting has entered its second month.

The UN envoy urged the warring factions to honour the latest ceasefire, signed two days ago, and allow “access for humanitarian relief, protect humanitarian workers and assets”.

The UAE's ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh underscored that the pursuit of a “political track” remained the sole viable approach for a lasting solution.

She noted that a “broad-based regional” approach, reinforced by an international backbone, holds the key to effectively resolving the complex challenges at hand.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 8:57 PM