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14th June 2023

The Sudan conflict: a Sudanese perspective

The University of Manchester’s Sudanese society outlines how you can lend your support to the citizens of a country in conflict.
The Sudan conflict: a Sudanese perspective
Photo: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid @ Flickr

This article was written by Salma Omer from UoM Sudanese Society.

I would like to preface this article by providing the reader with two disclaimers:

Firstly, this article will not serve as a deep dive into the politics governing the current violence in Sudan. Whilst a foundational level of understanding will be provided for context, that is all that will be said regarding the two forces driving the current destruction of Sudan.

On the contrary, this article will aim to highlight what should be the main concern when you consider the conflict. The continuation of this violence serves only to rid Sudan of its greatest treasure, asset, and essence – the people of Sudan. The ongoing power struggle will leave no one victorious if the people of Sudan are the ones at a true substantial loss, whatever victory might be sought after will be a victory for one at the risk of the lives of many.

Secondly and most importantly, the ultimate aim of this article is to not only voice this muted calamity, but also, primarily, to shed light on the different ways you can support the people of Sudan. Ways to donate are highlighted at the end of the article.

The breakdown in an alliance between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful paramilitary, has led to the eruption of a violent and horrific war in Sudan. The relationship between General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the leader of the SAF and General Mohamed Dagalo, the leader of the RSF, turned sour over disagreement regarding the integration of the RSF into the SAF. With neither side intending on relinquishing any power, this tension spiraled into a full-blown terror for the people of Sudan.

At the root of this war is two individuals vying over complete authority and control over Sudan. The Sudanese population play no role in this war. They are participants in no sense other than being inhabitants of their own home: homes which have been transformed into battlefields. Since April 15, the people of Sudan have been subject to a continued threat of death, terror and mass displacement. The morning of April 15 and the days to come were like no other. Both sides of this horrific power struggle unleashed an insurmountable level of firepower including, but not limited to, fighter jets, tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and similar heavy artillery. The continued bombing and gunshots showered the densely populated residential neighbourhoods of Khartoum with absolutely no concern for civilian livelihood.

Khartoum is a city with a population calculated to range between 8 to 10 million individuals. The sheer amount of innocent civilian lives being caught in the crossfire might be difficult to comprehend, but is nevertheless the current tragic reality.

To make matters worse, hospitals within the capital are not exempt from the intense shelling and explosions. According to the World Health Organisation, only 16% of the healthcare facilities within Khartoum are still functioning at full capacity. With so many hospitals out of service, even the few with infrastructure still intact are struggling due to shortages in clean water, food and electricity.

The violence throughout the streets of Khartoum already makes it virtually impossible for the injured to arrive at hospitals but if they do, they are more likely to be turned away than treated. Not only does this affect those directly wounded by the ongoing clashes, it makes anyone requiring medical attention a victim of this war. To paint you a clearer picture, this means pregnant women are forced to go through the process of labour in homes shaking from bomb exposure with an absence of medical care.

Within two weeks of the conflict, around 600 lives have already been lost and over 5000 people have been injured. It is important to note that this number is not an exact figure, there are many bodies scattered around the streets of Khartoum that cannot be reached due to the ongoing clashes. The number of corpses mounted piling up the streets was described by the Sudanese Doctors Union as an ‘environmental catastrophe’. Because of this, the death toll is estimated to be much higher.

To help contextualise this, throughout the entirety of the ongoing Ukranian war, a war that has lasted 14 months so far, an unfortunate 8,490 civilian lives have been lost. At the current rate, Sudan will reach the total civilian death toll in Ukraine in only 6 months, less than half as long. I draw this comparison not to diminish the tragedy that is the Ukranian war, but only to magnify the devastation currently ongoing within Sudan and the gross disregard to Sudanese livelihood.

This magnification is crucial as the burden faced by the people of Sudan is twofold. Not only must they face the misery of this war, they are additionally subjected to the implicit bias and racism of outside forces, forces that are horrendously failing to help. This implicit bias works to paint the notion that the people of Sudan are accustomed to this violence, that this is inevitable and something that is regular. Not only is this notion extremely false, it is just as equally damaging. This bias works only to push people away from meaningful interaction with the crisis and thus further away from aiding the people of Sudan. The desensitisation to the loss of Sudanese lives (or, quite frankly, Black lives) works directly in allowing the continued suffering of the people of Sudan.

Despite the risk, people are making the excruciating decision to leave all they have known behind and flee their homes to find safety. Within only 20 days, over 100,000 citizens have fled the country and around 400,000 have been displaced internally within Sudan. The consequential mass exodus and displacement will result in an inconceivable impact on the global refugee population.

Sudan already hosts a refugee population of 1.13 million, the second largest refugee population within Africa, and the fifth largest refugee population in the entire world. Where will those who have twice been displaced go?

It is also important to acknowledge that transportation costs to flee the capital are unaffordable for most. Those fleeing Khartoum are amongst the lucky few whilst millions remain trapped for reasons ranging from lack of funds to immobility. Even the displaced who have been successful in attaining a way out still to brave extremely long, agonnising, and dangerous journeys spanning several days with a lack of food, water and shelter on the way. Unsurprisingly but tragically, many have died trying to evacuate merely out of exhaustion.

With international aid only beginning to arrive in Sudan 3 weeks into the war, we find ourselves witnessing wide scale humanitarian failure. Amidst this crisis, the only effective safeguard in protecting Sudanese citizens has been the benevolence of other Sudanese citizens. We must recognise how the people of Sudan were left to fend for themselves. Sudanese people within and outside of the capital were made to use online platforms to help facilitate safe passage outside of Khartoum.

They were made to risk their lives sharing what little medication they have.

They were made to volunteer at hospitals amidst intense fighting.

They were made to search through dead bodies piling up the streets to help others identify family members.

The survival of the people of Sudan was no doubt a shared effort, but it was shared only by the people of Sudan themselves, by the communities holding Sudan together. Above all else, we must recognise how international communities felt comfortable disregarding the most vulnerable amongst us and we must question why Sudanese life is so easily deemed as disposable.

Those outside of Sudan are watching these atrocities unfold through social media, feeling helpless and scared for the lives of their families and friends back home. This fear is only exasperated because of how difficult it is to reach those within the capital due to phone services being regularly cut throughout the crisis. This leaves so many at the mercy of their own imagination attempting to fight off thoughts of their friends and families being amongst the statistics they hear of.

I implore you not to turn a blind eye towards the massacre of my people, a people that have taught me everything there is to know about kindness, generosity and love. I implore you not to turn a blind eye to the destruction of my home, a home that I refuse to accept never seeing again. The cries of the Sudanese population have so often fallen on deaf ears, please, for once, allow this cycle to be broken and participate in alleviating the suffering of my people.

Other than increasing international awareness on this conflict, the most effective way in supporting the people of Sudan is through donations. The University of Manchester’s Sudanese Society has banded together with numerous Sudanese Societies across UK universities to send direct medical aid towards the injured in Sudan. All proceeds you donate go directly towards the Sudanese Doctors Trade Union and the International Hospital in Bahri, Khartoum.

Our final, and most important, plea is that you keep Sudan and its people in your thoughts and prayers.

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