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Sudan declares UN envoy persona non grata

The Sudanese government has declared United Nations envoy Volker Perthes (C) "persona non grata". (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's government has declared the UN envoy Volker Perthes "persona non grata" two weeks after the army chief accused him of fueling the country's internal conflicts and called for his removal.

"The Government of the Republic of Sudan has notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it has declared Mr. Volker Perthes ... persona non grata as of today," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Since late last year, Perthes and the UN mission he heads in Sudan have been the target of military protests denouncing foreign intervention.

In a letter to the United Nations last month, Sudan's de facto leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, accused the envoy of escalating the conflict between his army and the militia's Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly defended Perthes, who has been angered after criticizing both of Sudan's warring party leaders as the two-month-old conflict eludes efforts to broker a humanitarian ceasefire.

Perthes was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday for a series of diplomatic talks, according to the UN mission's Twitter account.

Last week, the UN's precarious situation in Sudan was highlighted when the Security Council voted to extend the United Nations Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) for just six months.

Unitams, created in June 2020 to support Sudan's democratic transition after the fall of Omar al-Bashir a year earlier, had previously been extended annually for a year.

Sudan's stuttering path to civilian rule was disrupted in 2021 when Burhan and Daglo together seized power in a coup before collapsing.

Since April, fighting between the army and the RSF has engulfed Khartoum and the West Darfur region, challenging a series of ceasefires.

More than 1,800 people have been killed, and 1.2 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations and a further 476,800 have fled to neighboring countries, according to estimates from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Those unable to leave have been forced to hunker down in their camps for weeks as food and other vital supplies have run out.

Entire districts of Khartoum no longer have piped water. Electricity is available only a few hours a week, and three-quarters of hospitals in war zones are not functioning.

The latest cease-fire was agreed to allow much-needed humanitarian aid into the devastated areas of Sudan, but as in all previous cases, the agreement was routinely violated by both sides.

The United Nations estimates that some 25 million people - more than half of Sudan's population - are now in need of aid and support in what was one of the world's poorest countries before the war.

Perthes, a former academic who has headed the Sudan mission since 2021, staunchly defended the United Nations against accusations of fueling the conflict, saying "the two generals at war" were to blame.

In his letter to Guterres, Burhan accused Perthes of bigotry and lack of respect for "national sovereignty".

He said that Perthes presented a misleading picture of "consensus" in his reports to the United Nations and that "without these signs of encouragement, the rebel leader Daglo would not have launched his military operations".

It can never be ascertained who fired the first shots of the war.

Daglo, an ambitious militia leader initially armed by Bashir to suppress rebels in Darfur, was Burhan's second-in-command before the two men clashed.

Pro-Bashir  TV channels now accuse Burhan of giving Daglo too much freedom, while pro-democracy voices accuse Burhan of being a Trojan horse for the Islamists of Bashir's regime.

Since the coup, several high-ranking officials of the Bashir era have played a role in the Burhan government.

Last month, Burhan officially removed Daglo from his post in the ruling council and replaced him with former rebel leader Malik Agar.

As the war escalates, the military is now also looking to bolster its ranks, asking army pensioners and reservists to move into command units.

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