Sudan war hampers evacuation of at least 4,000 EAC nationals
At least 4,000 nationals from East African Community (EAC) countries have raised distress calls from Sudan where a war between security forces there has prevented rescue missions using the local international airport.
Data collated by The EastAfrican indicate that each of the EAC countries is rushing to pool an accurate count of their nationals stuck in Sudan, owing to the fact that some of the people either worked for international organisation or didn’t report their presence to their home embassies in Khartoum.
Kenya issues help contacts
Kenya said its estimated 3,000 nationals live in Sudan working for international agencies or as students. Nairobi indicated it had opened communication channels via its embassy in Khartoum to register Kenyans and determine if they need evacuation.
“The government of Kenya continues to closely monitor events in the Sudan. We stand for peaceful resolution to the unfolding crisis,” Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Dr Alfred Mutua said.
“The welfare of our people in the Sudan is of utmost importance to the government. If you are a Kenyan in Sudan urgently register on these numbers (+249900194854 and +25411475002). The registration will enable easier contact in the event of an evacuation.”
Kenya has in the past evacuated nationals from South Sudan when war broke out in 2013 and from Yemen in 2015 following a clash of government forces and rebels there. This time, even South Sudanese are trapped. According to the South Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, there are about 23,000 South Sudanese in Khartoum, making it the largest population from among the EAC countries.
Read: Kenya considers evacuating citizens from Sudan
Evacuation efforts by foreign governments has been hampered by the fighting near the airport and in residential areas in Khartoum. It is pitying the Sudan Armed Forces led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo ‘Hemedti’, technically Burhan’s deputy in the ruling Sovereign Council but leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Igad talked to the generals
On Wednesday, leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), AU and UN announced they had spoken to both generals calling for a 24-hour ceasefire. The ceasefire did not take effect as warring parties blamed each other for the violations.
On Thursday afternoon, Igad Executive Secretary, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, announced he will have a special meeting with UN and AU officials on Sudan.
“The EAC stands in solidarity with the people of Sudan in the quest for peace, noting that the conflict will not only cause insecurity and instability in the country but will have a ripple effect in the region and the continent at large,” said a statement from the bloc’s headquarters in Arusha.
“We appreciate efforts that have been made so by Igad, the AU and the UN to resolve the conflict,” Gebeyehu added.
Sudan is not a member of the EAC but shares borders with countries that are also members of Igad as it is.
Read: Confusion amid push for Sudan ceasefire
Tanzania’s Foreign Ministry speaks
Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Stergomena Tax said 210 of its nationals live in Sudan, 170 of whom are students and the rest work as government officials at the embassy or for other organisations.
“We are making every means possible to ensure that their safety is intact and if they will be required to leave, to be able to do so,” she told MPs in Dodoma on Wednesday.
However, Tanzanian Ambassador to Sudan Silima Kombo Haji allayed fears over the safety of Tanzanians, saying they were unharmed. Much of the fighting has also destroyed homes and medical centres and cut off major utility services such as power and water.
Uganda said over 300 nationals remain holed up in different parts of Sudan as the war continues to ravage the country, Kampala has announced. Of these, 120 are workers, 103 are students, 14 are patients on treatment and 19 had made a stopover in Khartoum on their way for a pilgrimage to Mecca.
However, the Ugandan government noted that it had not received any reports of its nationals killed in the fighting, although the Muslims on pilgrimage were threatened when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighting the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) nearly surrounded the hotel where they were but were rescued to safety.
Uganda’s Ambassador to Sudan, Dr Rashid Yahya Ssemuddu, on Wednesday said that heavy fighting between rival government military forces made it very difficult to safely evacuate Ugandans trapped there.
The embassy of Uganda in Sudan on Monday issued a notice telling Ugandans to continue staying in their homes, schools, hotels or wherever the war found them, and provided a list of seven contact persons who can be reached through telephone numbers in case of emergency.
“We are coordinating with authorities back home and key agencies to facilitate evacuation plans,” Ssemuddu said.
He said the 19 Ugandan Muslim pilgrims who were on transit to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, have been relocated from the bombed-out Al Kabri Alasham airport hotel.
Read: Explainer: What caused Sudan military clashes
“The pilgrims are now sheltered in the relatively safer Al- Ebdaa Hotel Apartments in Omdurman on Al-Fatihab Street, South Siraj Station, Khartoum,” he said.
Mr Muhamad Shaawal, the director of Al-shwaal Hajj and Umrah Ltd, which arranged the pilgrims’ travel confirmed Dr Semuddu’s statement.
“We thank the Ugandan government, our embassy in Sudan and the Sudanese government which provided security for our brothers and sisters,” he said.
Uganda’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Mr John Mulimba, said that the government’s hands were tied on the issue of evacuation, but it was engaged in efforts to see that Sudan is pacified.
“The government, working with other regional and international partners, continues to monitor the situation and urges the actors to stop fighting and return to constructive dialogue and to re-commit to the principles of the transitional process as the only way that will lead to national reconciliation and peace,” he said, reading from a prepared text, in parliament on Tuesday.
Mr Ratib Bayiga, the leader of an association of those working in Sudan said they are ready for any rescue mission.
“The embassy told us to be ready. We are just waiting,” he said, adding that communication is through the internet, which is also not stable.
Yusufu Mukholi, who is leading the over 120 students trapped in Khartoum at the Mandan Street-based International University of Africa, also said that Ugandan embassy officials recorded their particulars with hopes of evacuating them.
“We are currently indoors at the university,” he said.
In a statement following the outbreak of the violence, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, under the auspices of Igad, appealed to the warring sides to cease fighting and return to the negotiating table.
“I condemn the misuse of force in a situation that undermines all progress made through dialogue over the last many months. We cannot keep papering over mistakes of unprincipled politics year after year,” Museveni said.
In a statement to all diplomatic missions, Khartoum’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed fears that some diplomatic missions and residences of diplomats had been subjected to storming, infringement, and intimidation against the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations.
“Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns these criminal and immoral actions which are prohibited by international charters, treaties, and diplomatic norms. The ministry urges embassies, diplomatic missions, and international and regional organisations to exercise caution and report any such events immediately,” the statement said.
The war further threatens trade between Sudan and Uganda as exporters hold onto consignments.
Over the years, Sudan has been Uganda’s second biggest market for coffee after the European Union.
Reporting by Aggrey Mutambo, Jonathan Kamoga, Emmanuel Onyango and Mohamed Issa