The crisis in Sudan

Smoke over the city of Khartoum, Sudan

Ongoing fires in Khartoum, © Ahmed Satti / Anadolu Agency

24.04.2023 - Article

Since 15 April Khartoum and other regions of the Sudan have seen serious fighting. Read here what this means for Germans in the country and what the German Government is undertaking in a political context and in the area of humanitarian assistance.

Saturday, 15 April was a dark day in the history of the Sudan. That morning, fighting broke out between the regular Sudanese army and its former ally the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. The conflict centres on details of an arrangement under which the militia were to be integrated into the army. And on who holds power in the country. A brutal conflict, waged at the population’s expense. Over the following days, the fighting claimed the lives of hundreds of people and injured thousands throughout the country, while many more were internally displaced.

When the hostilities erupted, several hundred German nationals were also living in the country in the Horn of Africa, working for the United Nations, as experts with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, with other aid organisations, etc. Seconded colleagues were also working at the German Embassy.

The top priority is to bring German nationals and EU citizens to safety

Arrival of the airplane from Sudan
Arrival of the airplane from Sudan© Felix Zahn/photothek.net

The German Government’s crisis unit at the Federal Foreign Office convened for the first time on Saturday directly following the first outbreak of hostilities. Since then it has been meeting on a daily basis, often chaired by Ministers Baerbock and Pistorius.

The goal of the ongoing evacuation operation is to bring German nationals to safety. To this end, the Crisis Response Centre team is coordinating closely with other allied states in the area of assistance measures and is maintaining contact with the Germans in the crisis region. With the help of the ELEFAND register for emergency contact it is acquiring an overview of where the Germans in the country are located and is actively maintaining contact with them via SMS, phone and special electronic newsletters for German nationals abroad.

Window of opportunity during the Eid ul-Fitr public holidays

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius at the Crisis Reaction Centre in the Federal Foreign Office
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius at the Crisis Reaction Centre in the Federal Foreign Office© PHOTOTHEK

Last Sunday, one week after the fighting erupted, it was finally possible to take advantage of the admittedly fragile ceasefire. A team comprising Bundeswehr soldiers, Federal Foreign Office crisis assistants and the Federal Police commenced the process of evacuating German citizens from the Sudan. By Monday, several Bundeswehr aircraft had brought more than 300 people to safety. After a stopover in Jordan, the first Luftwaffe Airbus with evacuees arrived safely in Berlin on the morning of 24 April with 101 people on board: German citizens and their families as well as members of more than 20 partner countries, including Belgians, Austrians and Netherlanders. And the evacuation mission will continue as long as the security situation allows.

Evacuation – international teamwork

The successful evacuation of more than 300 people from the Sudan already is not only down to the teamwork within the German Government but also a result of the reliable coordination at international level, particularly with France but also with the United States and the United Kingdom. Jordan’s support with establishing a transit hub was also essential for the evacuation efforts.

The Sudan: a country in transition

The country has been in the throes of a political transformation process for several years. The long-ruling dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019 jointly by the military and the RSF – Burhan and Hemedti – following protests within the population. He has been accused of serious human rights violations during the Darfur conflict by the International Criminal Court. A transitional government collapsed in October 2021. Since then, General Burhan has been the de-facto ruler of the country. Until the fighting flared up, he had frequently expressed a desire to transfer the power to the hands of a civilian government.

Diplomatic efforts

The extent of the clashes throughout the country shows the depth of distrust between the army and the militias. Despite the vast human suffering, both parties to the conflict are evidently pursuing the goal of a victory by military means. That is devastating for the country and particularly for the people.

Since the outbreak of the hostilities, the German Government has been working with the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union, the countries in the region and other partners to bring about a sustainable ceasefire and a return to dialogue.

Our support for the people in the Sudan continues

The situation of the people in the Sudan is dramatic. The United Nations now estimates that more than 400 individuals have been killed and over 3500 injured.

For more than a week now, many have been unable to leave their houses or apartments to obtain food or medical care due to the ongoing violence. Increasing numbers of people are fleeing the cities. The number of internally displaced persons is growing. Even before the escalation of the crisis, around one third of the Sudanese population was dependent on humanitarian assistance. The fear is that the fighting and destruction will further exacerbate the suffering.

Humanitarian assistance

Germany is a major and a reliable donor of humanitarian assistance in the Sudan. Despite the escalation of the crisis, the aim must now be to provide help wherever the security situation allows. However, since the fighting broke out in mid-April, the situation for those providing assistance has deteriorated dramatically; they often have to work under life-threatening conditions. The Federal Foreign Office is supporting a broad network of local and international aid agencies. Assistance focuses on food aid and protection, also for refugees and internally displaced persons. We are also exploring ways of supporting aid organisations in neighbouring countries that are temporarily taking in people from the Sudan.


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