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EDITORIAL | Clashes in Sudan: All Possible Efforts Needed to Evacuate Japanese Citizens

The two groups in Sudan have been in conflict over the transfer of power to a civilian government. Meanwhile, 16 million Sudanese need humanitarian aid.



An Air Self-Defense Force C130 transport plane leaves Komaki Air Base in Aichi Prefecture to evacuate Japanese residents from Sudan on April 21. (©Kyodo)

On April 21, Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) transport planes were dispatched to the nation of Sudan in northeast Africa. They were sent to evacuate resident Japanese nationals caught up in the intensifying fighting between regular army and militia groups there. 

On April 20 Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the aircraft to proceed to Djibouti, which is close to Sudan. It is also home to a Self-Defense Forces base. 

The Japanese government must do everything in its power to rescue the sixty-three Japanese believed to be in Sudan at present.

Japan's Rescue Plans

On the weekend of April 22-23, the transport planes are expected to depart for Africa. However, airport runways at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, have been closed down due to the intensifying armed clashes. As a result Germany and others have been forced to cancel plans to evacuate their own citizens. That means that the evacuation of the Japanese citizens will likely not prove easy. 

Japan must work closely with the United Nations and other countries to accurately grasp the situation in Sudan. To the extent possible, we should extend a helping hand to not only Japanese but to all foreigners seeking to leave the country. 

Buildings were on fire in Sudan's capital Khartoum, where fighting continued on April 20 (© Getty/Kyodo)

Time is of the Essence

In this instance, the government announced the dispatch of the ASDF aircraft four days after the fighting began in earnest. That reflects the bitter lesson learned from when the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2021. At that time, Japan's dispatch of the SDF rescue aircraft came much later than those by Western countries and other parties. 

After reflecting on this earlier blunder, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet made the right call by resolving early on to dispatch transport aircraft to Sudan. 

In April 2019, the government of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the military in a coup. The heads of the military and the paramilitary Readiness Support Force (RSF) were appointed respectively as chairman and vice chairman of the governing council. They then became the new decision-making body. 

However, the two groups increasingly came into conflict during talks on the transfer of power to a new civilian government.

Smoke rises from fighting in Sudan's capital Khartoum on April 21 (© Getty/Kyodo)

Lawlessness Prevails

Much of Sudan has already become a lawless zone. According to a March 18 announcement issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), 270 people have been killed and more than 2,600 wounded in the fighting. In addition, UN workers who became caught up in the fighting were killed and the ambassador to the European Union was assaulted in his home in Khartoum. 

Fourteen countries, including Japan, the United States, and South Korea, as well as the EU diplomatic mission in Sudan, have issued a joint statement. They are calling for a ceasefire and protection of civilians, diplomats and humanitarian aid workers. The UN and the African Union should immediately undertake mediation activities.

Even before the fighting began, about 16 million Sudanese needed humanitarian assistance following years of conflict and coups d'état. 

That crisis has only been exacerbated by the current state of affairs. Sudan's efforts to rebuild the state are in peril.

Both parties must agree to an immediate ceasefire and engage in dialogue to resolve the situation.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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