Sudan’s army called on Friday for reservists and retired soldiers to re-enlist amid a deadly conflict with a rival paramilitary and asked the United Nations to change its envoy to the country.
The call for ex-soldiers to present themselves at their nearest military base is aimed at bolstering the army in its battle with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), but could add fuel to days of conflict to in a ceasefire.
Fighting continued throughout the week, although the ceasefire was monitored by Saudi Arabia and the United States earlier on Friday that compliance was improving, but the army’s movements may indicate that it is preparing for another long conflict.
An army spokesman said enlistment was voluntary. The current law of the armed forces of Sudan states, however, that it is retired soldiers remain reservists, eligible for conscription re-enlistment. That does not include those who only make Sudan mandatory two-year military service.
Army leader Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday asking him to replace his envoy Volker Perthes, sources in the Sudanese presidency said.
The sources did not provide details but Perthes, appointed in 2021, is pushing for a political shift to civilian rule that some in the army oppose.
“The Secretary-General is shocked by the letter,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday. “The Secretary-General is proud of the work done by Volker Perthes and reaffirms his full confidence in his Special Representative.”
Army sources said the military also intercepted weapons smuggled in a Red Sea province of Sudan to a foreign country, without giving details.
The army and RSF began a seven-day truce on Monday intended to allow access to aid and services after clashes since mid-April have killed hundreds and created a refugee crisis.
Despite the reduction in fighting, there were still reports throughout the week of clashes, artillery fire and air strikes.
Saudi and US representatives “warned the parties against further violations and implored them to improve respect for the ceasefire on May 25, which they did,” it added.
Residents of Khartoum who remain in the city are suffering from the breakdown of electricity, water, health and communication services.
Many houses, especially in good areas, were looted, along with food stores, flour mills and other important facilities.
“It’s all about chaos in this war,” Taysir said Abdelrahim, who learned from abroad that his house had been robbed. “Even if we’re in Sudan there’s nothing you can do about it.”
An organization that helps children with cancer says a guesthouse it operates has been raided, including the safe and patients’ rooms. The children have been transferred before.
Delays in assistance
The RSF denied the theft, blaming people who stole its uniforms. Its fighters are mostly bunkered in the neighborhoods of Khartoum, while the army relies on air power.
It is unclear whether either side gained an advantage.
About 1.3 million people have fled their homes, either across borders or within the wider country.
The Health Ministry says at least 730 people have died, although the real number is likely to be much higher.
With half of Sudan’s roughly 49 million people in need of aid, the US Agency for International Development says grain to feed 2 million a month is being shipped in.
However, it is unclear how that and other aid will reach the Sudanese without security guarantees and bureaucratic approval.
“We are in a race against time to get aid to millions of people before the rainy season arrives in June,” said Islamic Relief program manager Eltahir Imam.
The Saudi-US statement said some aid had been provided to Khartoum on Friday, without giving details. The Red Cross said it had given supplies to seven hospitals.
Fighting has erupted in several major cities in western Sudan in recent days, according to human rights monitors living in the area, most recently overnight in El Fashir, capital of North Darfur state.