United Nations special envoy to Sudan to step down

U.N. Special Representative in Sudan Volker Perthes speaks during a news conference in Khartoum

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations special envoy to Sudan is stepping down, more than three months after Sudan declared him unwelcome after disagreements between rival factions erupted into war.

"I am grateful to the Secretary-General for that opportunity and for his confidence in me, but I have asked him to relieve me of this duty," envoy Volker Perthes told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, 2 -1/2 years after taking the job.

Sudan's army (SAF) - led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan - and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began fighting each other in April, sparking a humanitarian crisis. More than one million people have since fled ethnic and sexual violence to neighboring countries.

"What started as a conflict between two military formations could be morphing into a full-blown civil war," Perthes warned on Wednesday.

Perthes told the 15-member Security Council that there was "little doubt who is responsible for what" in the conflict.

"Often indiscriminate aerial bombing is conducted by those who have an airforce, which is the SAF. Most of the sexual violence, lootings and killings happen in areas controlled by the RSF and are conducted or tolerated by the RSF and their allies," he said during his last council briefing.

He also said that both sides were arbitrarily arresting, detaining, and "even torturing civilians" and there were reports of extrajudicial killings.

The war in Sudan began four years after a popular uprising ousted President Omar al-Bashir. Tensions between the army and RSF, which jointly staged a coup in 2021, erupted into fighting over a plan to integrate their forces as part of a transition to civilian rule. While several countries have tried to mediate, none has succeeded in bringing a halt to the fighting.

Burhan had previously expressed his disapproval of Perthes, and before the outbreak of war supporters of Bashir had protested in front of Perthes' mission.

Sudan declared Perthes persona non grata in June. Perthes had been working from outside Sudan since then. The United Nations said at the time that U.N. personnel cannot be made persona non grata.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)