By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, April 26, 2023
The UN has not left Sudan despite the temporary relocation of hundreds of its staff members and their families from Khartoum, the UN Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric has said.
Dujarric said this while briefing journalists on Tuesday in New York on the situation of UN staff as the intense fighting between rival military factions continues into the second week.
“Mr Volker Perthes, the humanitarian leadership are now in Port Sudan where they will run the UN operations from there. Perthes continues to be highly engaged with the parties.
“I think delivering the same message that the international communities are delivering, which is to observe the ceasefire. We need a humanitarian pause.
“We need to stop in the fighting immediately to try to get the humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it. And obviously, some staff members are critical and stay behind, other staff can work remotely, so they will leave.
“But I think the most important thing is that we are remaining in Sudan at the highest level. And we’re continuing to engage with the parties and continuing to plead for a cessation of the hostilities,” he said.
Earlier, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, while addressing the Security Council meeting on maintenance of international peace said: “Let me be clear: the United Nations is not leaving Sudan.
“Our commitment is to the Sudanese people in support of their wishes for a peaceful and secure future. We stand with them, at this terrible time.”
In blunt terms, he said the violence must stop, now.
“It risks catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the whole region and beyond,” he said.
Guterres said the relocation exercise had been carried out “without incident”, adding that he appreciated the cooperation shown by Sudanese army personnel and paramilitaries from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), allowing safe passage to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea.
The UN scribe reiterated his call on the parties to immediately cease hostilities and allow all civilians to evacuate from areas affected by the fighting.
Guterres affirmed “the continued dedication” of the whole UN system, “to stand with, and work for, the Sudanese people, in support of their wishes for a peaceful, secure future and a return to the democratic transition.”
The warring factions had worked together since the ousting of long-term ruler Omar al-Bashir, four years ago, carrying out a military coup in a joint operation in 2021 which ended a military-civilian power sharing agreement.
In recent months as negotiations over a return to civilian rule advanced, the two factions failed to agree an integration plan on the road to the formation of a civilian government.
Also addressing ambassadors in the Security Council during a general debate on the importance of multilateralism, Guterres condemned the “indiscriminate” bombing of civilian areas and facilities, calling on members “to exert maximum leverage with the parties to end the violence, restore order, and return to the path of the democratic transition.”
He said he was in “constant contact” with military leaders in Khartoum and has called on them to return to the negotiating table.
“Civilians must be able to access food, water and other essential supplies and evacuate from combat zones,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the UN Assistance Mission for the transition to civilian rule, UNITAMS, Special Representative Volker Perthes said that the relocated staff had been evacuated from Sudan to neighbouring countries,
“There, they will work remotely as a measure to minimize risks to their safety while continuing to provide assistance to the Sudanese people,” he said.
About 700 UN, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), and embassy staff and their families had arrived in Port Sudan by road.
“Also, 43 internationally recruited UN staff and 29 INGO staff have already been evacuated from El Geneina (West Darfur) and Zalingei (Central Darfur) to Chad while other operations are ongoing or planned.
Perthes said he and a small number of other internationally recruited staff would remain in Sudan “and continue to work towards resolving the current crisis”.
He said the UN was “taking the necessary measures to protect Sudanese employees and their families and is looking into all possible ways to support them.”
“We are committed to staying in Sudan and supporting the Sudanese people in every way we can. We will do everything we can to save lives while protecting the safety of our people,” he said.
The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office (OCHA) reported that after nine days of fighting at least 427 people had been killed and more than 3,700 injured.
At least 11 health facilities have been attacked and many are no longer functioning at all in Khartoum and Darfur states.