United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk urged countries with influence in Africa to encourage Sudan’s warring sides to end the fighting that began last month.
Addressing an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Turk said the conflict has pushed “this much-suffering country into catastrophe.”
“I condemn the use of violence by individuals who have no regard for the lives and fundamental rights of millions of their own compatriots,” Turk said.
Fighting in Sudan’s capital worsened Wednesday, with witnesses reporting airstrikes, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire in several neighborhoods.
The Sudanese army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, struck targets in Khartoum and its two sister cities, Omdurman and Bahri. The army is trying to dislodge the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, which have dug into the residential areas they have held since fighting began in mid-April.
According to the World Health Organization, the conflict has left more than 600 people dead and more than 5,000 others injured.
Delegations from the army and the RSF have been meeting in Saudi Arabia for almost a week. A Western diplomat familiar with the talks told Reuters that mediators were focusing on an agreement on a cease-fire and humanitarian access.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland has said U.S. negotiators were “cautiously optimistic” on both points.
The two generals are former allies who together orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that derailed a transition to civilian rule following the 2019 ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.
Tensions between the generals have been growing over disagreements about how the RSF should be integrated in the army and who should oversee that process. The restructuring of the military was part of an effort to restore the country to civilian rule and end the political crisis sparked by the 2021 military coup.
Repeated cease-fire agreements have failed to end the conflict or even do much to reduce the violence.
The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday more than 700,000 Sudanese have fled their homes since the violence broke out last month — a figure that is more than double the 334,000 the agency reported to be internally displaced last week.
The International Organization for Migration said an additional 100,000 Sudanese have fled the country.
Most aid operations have been suspended or severely scaled back due to the lack of security. Several aid workers have been killed in the fighting.
Looting also has hampered aid operations. The World Food Program said nearly 17,000 tons of food worth between $13 million and $14 million have been stolen from its warehouses across Sudan.
The WFP said Wednesday that up to 2.5 million additional people in Sudan are “expected to slip into hunger” in the near future due to the violence. The U.N. agency said this would take acute food insecurity in Sudan to record levels.
More than 19 million people, or two-fifths of Sudan’s population, are currently affected, according to the WFP.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.