Canada Halts Sudan Evacuation Flights Amidst Chaotic Security Landscape

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Smoke rises in Khartoum, Sudan, April 29, 2023, as gunfire and heavy artillery fire continued despite the extension of a ceasefire between the country's two top generals. The battle for power between the country's army and its rival paramilitary has killed hundreds and sent thousands fleeing for their lives. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
Smoke rises in Khartoum, Sudan, April 29, 2023, as gunfire and heavy artillery fire continued despite the extension of a ceasefire between the country's two top generals. The battle for power between the country's army and its rival paramilitary has killed hundreds and sent thousands fleeing for their lives. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

The Canadian government has ceased offering evacuation flights from Sudan, citing the country’s “deteriorating security situation.” In the latest travel advisory, Canadians are urged to avoid Wadi Seidna Air Base, north of Khartoum, where nations including Canada have been organizing flights for citizens and others.

According to a federal government travel notice issued Saturday night, Canadians looking to leave Sudan might find commercial options via Port Sudan along the Red Sea, about 800 kilometres from Khartoum.

Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed on Sunday that Canada led two more evacuation flights out of Sudan on Saturday. The Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 aircraft carried approximately 205 passengers, including 60 Canadians.

Philip Lupul, Canada’s ambassador to Sudan, commended the latest evacuation efforts on Twitter, praising the air and ground crew attending the Hercs. The Department of National Defence reported that around 400 Canadian citizens and permanent residents have been evacuated from Sudan on national and allied flights. The Canadian Armed Forces have conducted six flights from Wadi Seidna Air Base, carrying nearly 550 people, including 140 U.S. citizens.

Sunday morning, Anand revealed that about 230 Canadians in Sudan are still seeking assistance through Global Affairs Canada.

U.S. Spearheads Multinational Convoys Amidst Violent Turmoil

Fighting between rival generals leading Sudan’s military and the powerful paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, has claimed 425 civilian lives and injured 2,091 as of Sunday, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate. The Sudanese Health Ministry reported the overall death toll, including fighters, at 528, with 4,500 wounded.

Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the Rapid Support Forces, were previously allies in an October 2021 military coup that halted Sudan’s attempted transition to democracy but have since become adversaries.

Thousands of people have fled to neighbouring countries, such as Chad and Egypt, while nations have airlifted thousands of foreigners by air and land.

Anand said on Saturday that flights would continue as long as possible but warned, “The window for opportunity at the airfield is closing.” Despite a ceasefire agreement in place, Anand said the fighting has persisted in Sudan, including near the air base.

The U.S. is leading a series of multinational convoys from Khartoum to Port Sudan, where Canadians have various departure options, including commercial ships and potentially air. Global Affairs Canada offers seats on the convoy and advises those who remain in the shelter.

Port Sudan: A Challenging Escape Route

As the Canadian government recommends leaving through Port Sudan, CTV military analyst David Fraser, a retired major-general, points out the inherent difficulties: “If there’s fighting going on in Khartoum, there’s going to be fighting at the port itself,” he said. “So the same problems that we had with Khartoum and the airport just outside of it is what we’re going to face again at the port, and everybody is going to be trying to get on any ship to get out of this country.”

The Department of National Defence advises Canadians to await updates from Global Affairs Canada on departure options via Port Sudan.

The U.K. government also ended its evacuation flights from Wadi Seidna Air Base, with the last plane leaving Saturday night. However, the U.K. confirmed an extra flight from Port Sudan on Monday for a few U.K. nationals.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has travelled to Kenya to explore different Canadian responses to Sudan. The Canadian embassy in Khartoum