In a rare reversal of policy, the United States announced last week it had begun to evacuate Americans from Sudan’s war-sieged capital of Khartoum as fighting intensified in the country, according to ABC News.
At least two government-sponsored convoys carrying hundreds of American citizens, embassy staff, and allied nationals departed Khartoum and arrived safely at Port Sudan more than 500 miles away. From there, U.S. citizens and other eligible travelers flew or traveled by ship to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Roughly 2,000 people were evacuated by the American government, however this reflects only a fraction of the thousands of Americans, mostly dual-citizens, that remain in the country, according to The National. Reportedly, few have requested governmental support in leaving and roughly 1,000 Americans have left by other means.
The week before, roughly 70 American diplomatic officials were evacuated by helicopter in a night operation, according to Al Jazeera. The government has warned that, as the situation evolves, further evacuations may only be possible by dangerous land routes. It is atypical for the U.S. to evacuate private citizens when an embassy is closed, as doing so requires intense diplomatic negotiations with regional actors and Department of Defense support.
The news comes as Sudan enters its third week of infighting. The current conflict stems from a military rivalry between Sudan’s de facto leader and army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his former second-in-command, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. Al-Burhan commands the Sudanese Armed Forces, and Daglo commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a brutal organization involved in the Darfur genocide. The two warring leaders came to power during a joint military coup in 2021, however their relationship has since soured, which has led to armed conflict, according to The New York Times. France 24 adds that while numerous ceasefires providing ways for citizens to safely leave the region have been negotiated by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the African Union, and the UN, they have been repeatedly broken.
Since fighting broke out on April 15, officials have stated at least 500 people have been killed and more than 5,000 injured, France 24 continues. The actual number is likely much higher. Fighting, which has been fierce, has largely been localized to Khartoum, the central capital city with a population of five million, and neighboring Omdurman. Tens of thousands of people have become displaced and fled into the neighboring nations of Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan.
The crisis threatens ongoing humanitarian operations running in the country, where roughly a third of the population faces acute food shortage. France 24 continues that the World Food Program warned that outbreaks of violence could bring more famine and instability to Sudan, which has struggled to thrive amidst economic stagnation. More than one million polio vaccines have allegedly been destroyed in the fighting, and healthcare facilities have been attacked, The National adds. As a result, the United Nations has pulled personnel out of the country, and it is expected that more organizations will follow.
Just weeks ago, American diplomats and officials believed they were on the verge of a democratic breakthrough, with Sudan a promising example of transitions to democracy in Africa. Now, Sudan has found itself at the verge of yet another devastating war.
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