Sudanese fear worse to come as foreigners head out

By Khalid Abdelaziz and El Tayeb Siddig

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – As foreign governments scramble to evacuate their nationals from Sudan, those with nowhere to go say they feel forsaken, and fear the exodus of expatriates could mean worse bloodshed to come.

More than a week of deadly fighting between rival wings of the Sudanese military has prompted many governments to evacuate expatriates by air, sea and land.

But as embassies close and diplomats and U.N. staff leave on special flights and buses, many Sudanese say they are being left to fend for themselves.

“Why is the world abandoning us at a time of war?” said Sumaya Yassin, 27. She accused foreign powers of only being “concerned with their interests” as she spoke by phone in Khartoum, even after U.S. mediation helped broker a 72-hour ceasefire announced on Monday.

The power struggle between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces has killed hundreds since April 15, and turned residential areas into war zones.

Germany and France said on Tuesday they had each evacuated more than 500 foreigners as Britain began a large-scale evacuation of its citizens.

In Khartoum, a man who gave his name as Ahmed said civilians might pay a heavy price in a country of 46 million people with a history of long and bloody civil wars.

“Sudanese people are afraid that there might be unethical practices in the war against civilians and using civilians as human shields,” he said on Monday, as behind him people boarded a bus leaving Khartoum.

“These are our fears after the evacuation of expatriates.”

Foreigners have themselves been caught in the violence. Embassies have been attacked, a U.S. diplomatic convoy came under fire, a French commando was wounded during an evacuation mission, and an Egyptian attaché was killed driving to his embassy.


Tens of thousands have spilled into Egypt, Chad and South Sudan. But for ordinary people, the cost of getting out is spiralling.

A bus fare to Egypt has risen nearly six-fold to the equivalent of some $340, said a man in Khartoum who gave his name as Karam, wearing a backpack as he waited near a bus stop: “And every day there’s a change, an increase.”

The United Nations has reported acute shortages of food, clean water, medicines and fuel. Most hospitals have been damaged or closed by the fighting, which has trapped people in their homes and led to looting.

Community groups, websites and apps have sprung up to mobilise medical help and find basic supplies.

At least five aid workers have been killed since fighting began and the two U.N. agencies who lost staff, the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme, have suspended activities, a blow to the third of the population who depended on aid before the fighting began.

On Monday, hundreds of diplomats and aid workers arrived in Port Sudan on the Red Sea after a 35-hour road journey from Khartoum.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he had authorised the temporary relocation of some U.N. personnel.

“But let me be clear: The U.N. is not leaving,” he tweeted. “We will continue to carry out our work inside & outside the country.”

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and El Tayeb Siddig in Khartoum; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)