The UK Minister for International Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, updated the House of Parliament on the situation in Sudan.

The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP

With your permission, I will make a statement to the House on the situation in Sudan.

The Foreign Secretary is in Japan at the G7 Summit. He led a call this morning with the United States and the United Arab Emirates to coordinate our response.

I know the House will join me in strongly condemning the violence taking place in Khartoum and across Sudan.

The violence broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum on Saturday morning.

This is a tragic turn of events after months of constructive dialogue and progress towards a civilian-led transitional government following the military coup in 2021.

It is unclear which side was responsible for initiating the violence, but it comes after rising tensions between the SAF and RSF over leadership arrangements for a unified force under a civilian government.

The humanitarian and security situation has deteriorated since October 2021, when General Burhan launched the coup, taking control of Sudan from the civilian transitional government.

Last July, the military committed to step back from politics and allow civilian groups to form a government.

After signing a political agreement in December, negotiations had been making good progress. A final agreement was due to be signed on 6 April, with a civilian government to be put in place on 11 April.

This progress stalled in recent weeks due to failures within the military to agree on a unified command structure for a single military under the transitional government. Despite diplomatic efforts from the international community, these tensions have now led to violent conflict.

The escalating violence is incredibly worrying, with heavy artillery and air bombardment being used in civilian and urban areas. The airport, in the centre of the city, came under heavy gunfire on Saturday and is closed.

The violence is also spreading, with reports of armed clashes involving heavy weaponry in cities across the country.

Innocent civilians have already lost their lives, and I am appalled that this includes Relief International personnel and three World Food Programme staff members.

The whole House will join me in sending our condolences to their families and friends, and to Relief International and the entire World Food Programme community.

Continued fighting will only cost further civilian lives and worsen the existing humanitarian crisis.

Aid workers and civilians must never be a target. Aid agencies must be allowed to deliver life-saving assistance safely to those in desperate need.

It is a disgusting turn of events – though sadly not unique – that humanitarians are targeted in this way.

I turn now to the British government’s response.

We are advising against all travel to Sudan. Our Global Response Centre is taking calls and supporting British Nationals and their relatives. We are advising civilians caught up in the violence, including our own staff, to shelter in place as heavy fighting continues.

Our priority is to protect British nationals trapped by the violence, and we will continue to issue updates as the situation develops.

We are pursuing all diplomatic avenues to end the violence and de-escalate tensions. The Foreign Secretary and I are working with international partners to engage all parties. The UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan, the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and the British Embassy Khartoum are fully mobilised to support these efforts.

We are calling on both sides to break the cycle of violence and return to negotiations to agree an immediate return to civilian government, for the sake of the people of Sudan and the region.

Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development convened an extra-ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Governments to discuss ways to restore calm – we will support any mediation efforts they undertake. The UN Security Council will discuss the situation later today.

A peaceful political transition to democracy and civilian governance is still possible in Sudan. I ask the House to join me in calling on the leaders of both sides of this conflict to end the violence and de-escalate tensions.

They must uphold their responsibility to protect civilians, ensure humanitarian assistance can continue to be delivered safely and allow the transition to civilian leadership immediately.

The UK stands in solidarity with the people of Sudan in their demands for a peaceful and democratic future. This violence must end before more innocent civilians lose their lives.

I commend this statement to the House.

Published 18 April 2023