The UK shares longstanding historical ties with Sudan, and has been a committed advocate of its democratic transition since the 2019 revolution. Regrettably, the fragile security situation across Sudan has been compounded by a series of political crises. Since the military coup in 2021, the UK has encouraged all Sudanese political actors to engage in talks to restore a civilian-led government; a message our Ambassador to Sudan reiterated in a tweet on 21 October. After signing a political agreement in December 2022, negotiations had been making good process with a final agreement due to be signed on 6 April and a civilian government to be put in place on 11 April.
However, 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, originating from an outburst between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum on 14 April. Alongside HM Government (HMG), I strongly condemn this outburst of violence, which has become unpredictable and varied, spreading beyond the capital, damaging homes and infrastructure.
Innocent civilians have already lost their lives with more than 528 people already losing their lives in this deadly conflict to date and I am appalled that this includes Relief International personnel and three World Food Programme staff members. I send my condolences to those families and friends who have been impacted, and to Relief International and the entire World Food Programme community. Aid workers must never be a target and it remains imperative that their agencies are able to deliver life-saving assistance safely to those in desperate need. Continued fighting will only cost further civilian lies and worsen the existing humanitarian crisis.
On 23 April, HMG took the difficult decision to evacuate British diplomatic staff to fulfil its duty in protecting them as their employer. This was a highly complex operation with 1200 personnel involved from the 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines, and the Royal Air Force. I commend the brilliant work of my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and the bravery of our service men and women for completing this operation successfully amidst extremely dangerous circumstances.
Alongside HMG, I recognise the immensely difficult situation those in, and with family members, in Sudan find themselves in. The safety of all British nationals in Sudan continues to be HMG's utmost priority. The FCDO Crisis Centre is fully operational, with over 200 officials working 24/7 seamlessly across Government to coordinate HMG's response. British nationals are advised to register their presence with the FCDO to receive daily updates from now on. An online portal to facilitate this process can be accessed here: https://www.register.service.csd.fcdo.gov.uk/sudan-20230422/register-your-presence-in-sudan-with-fcdo
HMG has decided to no longer run evacuation flights from Wadi Saeedna airfield because of a decline in demand by British nationals. I commend the exceptional work of my colleagues in the FCDO and the Ministry of Defence and the bravery of our service men and women for completing this operation successfully amidst extremely dangerous circumstances. This was a successful evacuation operation, with 2122 people being evacuated safely on 23 flights.
HMG's rescue efforts continue from Port Sudan with ongoing departure options, extending the longest and largest evacuation effort of any Western country from Sudan. Further information regarding departure options from Port Sudan can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sudan
Travel within Sudan is conducted at the individual's risk and HMG asks British nationals to exercise their own judgement about their circumstances, including whether to relocate at your own risk. I know the FCDO is keeping this approach under constant review and will update those necessary as the situation develops.
A peaceful political transition to democracy and civilian governance is still possible in Sudan. However, to achieve this, both sides of this conflict must end the violence and de-escalate tensions imminently. To this end, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have chaired over eight Civil Contingencies Committee (COBR) meetings to continuously review options. I am assured that my ministerial colleagues at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) are pursuing all diplomatic avenues to de-escalate tensions and welcome a renewed 72-hour ceasefire between the two parties, which is due to end at midnight Sudan time on 3 May.
The humanitarian situation in Sudan was already bleak before the current outbreak of violence, with over 15.8 million people in need of assistance. The escalation risks driving Sudan further into a humanitarian crisis, especially following the suspension of operations across Sudan by a number of humanitarian organisations, including the World Food Programme.
The UK has been a consistent support to Sudan and UK aid particularly welcomed in light of the concerning food insecurity situation, which is being driven by the country's political and economic crisis and exacerbated by world events. In 2022, the UK provided £10.8 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan in 2022, helping more than 300,000 Sudanese people with life-saving support, including food, nutrition, and safe drinking water. Specifically, £3 million in UK emergency humanitarian funding to the World Food Programme is helping reach approximately 120,000 vulnerable people with food assistance, and during initial violence in Blue Nile State in July 2022, the UK provided around £550,000 humanitarian support to those affected in the region through our partners, including the multi-donor Sudan Humanitarian Fund.
The UK is leading the international community's calls for an end to hostilities and return to negotiations to agree an immediate return to civilian government, for the sake of the people, as outlined in the UK-led UN Security Council statement on 18 April. I know the Prime Minister and the FCDO ministerial team have also been speaking to their counterparts across Government, as well as working closely with 15 of our international partners, including the US, France, Egypt and the African Union.
The coup on 25 October 2021, in which the military suspended state institutions, declared a state of emergency, and detained Prime Minister Hamdok and other members of the civilian Government, was a betrayal of the Sudanese people and their journey to democracy, as the former Minister for Africa made clear when she condemned the coup in the House on the same day. I also sincerely condemn the loss of life, violence and human rights abuses that have followed the events of 25 October. My thoughts are with all those affected, especially the family and friends of those killed. All deaths and injuries must be investigated thoroughly and transparently, with those responsible held to account. HMG underscored the importance of this at the UNSC on 27 April 2022 and helped to secure a UNSC statement condemning the violence on 29 April 2022.
I am aware of the challenging situation UK work permit holders face in Sudan. As I understand it, the evacuation criteria has been extended to non-British nationals in Sudan working "as clinicians within the NHS, and their dependents who have leave to enter the UK". For further information regarding this criteria, please click here - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/extra-evacuation-flight-from-port-sudan-announced
I know the FCDO continue to monitor the situation carefully.