United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned the outbreak of violence in Sudan and called on the leaders of the warring sides to immediately cease hostilities and engage in dialogue.
Guterres made the comments on Monday, the third day of fighting between the Sudanese army and the powerful Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.
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About 100 civilians have so far been killed, according to doctors, but there are fears the death toll is higher. Both sides have claimed advances in strategic areas, but there was no information on the number of combatants killed.
The fighting between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo has forced residents to stay in their homes as they suffer electricity outages and water shortages. Hospitals have been struck by shelling, and incidents of looting have been reported.
In his opening remarks at the Forum on Financing for Development on Monday in New York, Guterres said he had spoken with the two rival leaders and urged them to restore calm – even as both al-Burhan and Dagalo have expressed no desire to hold talks.
“The situation has already led to horrendous loss of life, including many civilians,” the UN secretary general said. “Any further escalation could be devastating for the country and the region.”
“I urge all those with influence over the situation to use it in the cause of peace, to support efforts to end the violence, restore order and return to the path of transition,” Guterres said.
The violence has once again interrupted Sudan’s fragile transition towards democracy in the wake of the 2019 removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.
“The humanitarian situation in Sudan was already precarious and is now catastrophic,” Guterres said, as he reaffirmed the UN’s “full support” for the efforts of people in the country “to restore the democratic transition and build a peaceful, secure future”.
The UN Security Council was due to hold a closed-doors meeting to discuss the situation in Sudan later on Monday.
Meanwhile, Alyona Synenko of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the fighting was overwhelming hospitals and the situation for civilians was getting “worse and worse”.
“The priority right now is to get access for healthcare workers, such as first responders, to be able to provide urgent care for those who are wounded,” Synenko told Al Jazeera.
She added that fighting was taking place near heavily populated civilian neighbourhoods and infrastructure.
“If this essential infrastructure gets damaged, the consequences for this urban population are going to be very high,” Synenko said.