Explained | Conflict in Sudan’s El Fasher

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution that called for the paramilitary Rapid Security Forces (RSF) in Sudan to halt their siege on El Fasher. Photo: AFP

• The war that erupted in April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has triggered political instability, a severe humanitarian emergency and widespread human rights violations.

• The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution that called for the paramilitary Rapid Security Forces (RSF) in Sudan to halt their siege on El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state. 

• The resolution, put forward by the United Kingdom, received 14 votes in favour, none against, with Russia abstaining.

• It expressed deep concern over the outbreak of fighting in the city, and the risk of further escalation. 

• The resolution further demanded that the rival militaries ensure the protection of civilians, which includes allowing people to move within and out of El Fasher if they want to. 

What is the situation in Sudan?

• The country’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are battling in a power struggle that exploded in April 2023.

• With a population of 46 million, Sudan is the third most populous country in Africa.

• The fighting has displaced Sudanese citizens and also South Sudan refugees and third country nationals living in the country. 

• Over 15,500 fatalities have been reported in some 1,400 violent incidents targeting civilians and there are now almost 9.5 million forcibly displaced in Sudan – 7.3 million internally (IDPs) and 1.9 million in neighbouring countries.

• Furthermore, around 18 million people are acutely food insecure and five million are facing starvation. Pregnant women are most at risk and 7,000 new mothers could die in the next few months if they do not get access to food and healthcare.

• The situation is particularly worrying in and around El Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur. The now-besieged city had a pre-war population of about 1.5 million, as well as sheltering a further 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

• It is now under relentless bombardment and aerial attacks and atrocities against civilians are being committed along ethnic lines.

• Civilians are in the line of fire. Nowhere is safe for them, UN agencies reported. 

• A ceasefire in El Fasher is needed now to prevent further atrocities, protect critical infrastructure, and alleviate civilian suffering.

• Escalation in fighting in other parts of Sudan, including Greater Khartoum, the Kordofan regions and Gezira state, where RSF members reportedly killed 100 civilians in an attack on a village.

• Without swift action, Sudan risks becoming engulfed in more ethnic violence and fragmentation even further.

• The risk of a conflict spillover remains high.

• Despite repeated appeals by the international community, the fighting persists. The human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan cannot improve without an immediate ceasefire. 

• Though there have been some improvements in relief efforts over the last few weeks in access, such as approvals of visas and travel permits by authorities, aid operations continue to face serious challenges, including attacks against personnel.

• In addition, the $2.7 billion UN-led humanitarian appeal is woefully underfunded. So far, only $441 million – 16 per cent – has been received.

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