A fragile ceasefire in fighting between factions in Sudan’s military is being used by western nations and aid agencies to evacuate citizens, diplomats and some aid workers.
RAF planes sent from Cyprus have picked up the first of an estimated 4-thousand British passport holders who have been stranded after heavy fighting broke out between two sides in the east African country.
The ceasefire has allowed British forces to be deployed to secure an airfield close to the capital Khartoum, from where the RAF have commenced evacuations. “The situation is one of grave, grave hazard. We have a very uneasy truce”, Caroline Duffield, a writer on African affairs with Open Doors told Premier. “So that's a sort of 72-hour window for Western governments to scramble to get people out”, she added.
“We're hearing agonising stories of families sitting in the dark, eking out bottles of water; horrible stories of families discussing whether ‘should we take my sister to the hospital? Can we chance going into the street, she needs insulin for diabetes, we have to get to hospital,’" she continued.
“But families are having to make terrible decisions, as they try to figure out whether to go onto the streets. There's many people who are simply families on holiday, aid workers, small businesses, missionaries, all kinds of people. And the Sudanese themselves just living in this hazardous and terrifying environment just waiting for the next deafening crash or the next shell to land close by. So it's really a very desperate situation”, she said.
Several Western countries have evacuated nationals by air, while some have gone via Port Sudan on the Red Sea, about 500 miles by road from Khartoum, which was a route used by some mission agencies last weekend.
An Italian-led military effort used planes flying from Djibouti to evacuate 83 Italians and 13 others on Tuesday, including children and the Italian ambassador. But not every aid body or Christian agency is choosing to pack-up shop and leave Sudan.
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said some Italian NGO workers and missionaries had decided to remain, while 19 others had been taken to Egypt two days ago.
“We are concerned by the ongoing conflict in Sudan and the effect this is having on the civil population”, commented Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive of Bond, which represents 400 global bodies fighting poverty. “We have heard from some of our members on the ground that humanitarian workers are sheltering and will attempt to resume their work only when it is safe for them to do so”, she added.
Bond told Premier Christian News that some of their associate agencies in Sudan are remaining and some are leaving depending on their work, such as the International Medical Corps, which is sheltering and intending to stay and work when it is safe to do so.
Stephanie Draper told Premier: “The safety and security of the civil population and humanitarian workers remains our foremost concern. We urge the UK government to deploy all the humanitarian and diplomatic levers at their disposal to support all the Sudanese people who are in need, when it is safe to do so.”
The decision on whether to stay or go is a matter for prayer and also for hope, commented Caroline Duffield, a former international radio correspondent in Africa.
“It's just looking very, very difficult”, she told Premier Radio. “People we've been in contact with have asked us that we pray that Christians remain hopeful”, she explained.
“Christians had high hopes in 2019 at the ousting of the Al-Bashir government that this was a kind of golden opportunity, where there was talk of an open pluralistic society, with greater freedom”, she said. “But that scene has not materialised.”
“What we're hearing is voices coming out from the old government saying ‘actually the only protection for people is to return to the government of the past’”, she explained.
“So Christians have asked us would we pray for people to keep their hope that they don't give up on the possibility of a peaceful future for Sudan”, she added.