Evacuations ongoing amid ceasefire in Sudan and French unions plan May Day rallies
Sudan: Temporary ceasefire enables evacuation of foreign nationals
A 72-hour ceasefire between Sudan’s warring factions has enabled the evacuation of thousands of foreign nationals despite reports of intermittent gunfire and explosions in and around the capital of Khartoum, particularly across the Nile in Omdurman. The ceasefire between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is due to expire on April 27 at 2359 local, has allowed several nations to evacuate their citizens by air, sea, and land. While most airports in Sudan remain closed, some foreign militaries have conducted evacuations utilizing Port Sudan New International Airport (PZU) and the military airstrip at Wadi Saeedna Air Base located approximately 23 km (approximately 14 miles) north-northwest of Khartoum. The German military took control of the Wadi Saeedna airstrip on April 25 to evacuate 500 people from more than 30 countries. As of April 26, the UK military has control of the airstrip and has used several Royal Air Force flights to evacuate its citizens. While the US military covertly airlifted its diplomatic staff from Khartoum on April 22 – with the UK military doing the same on April 23 – aerial evacuations of civilians from the capital remain unlikely in the near term given the volatility of the security situation. Meanwhile, Port Sudan has been the focal point for naval evacuations. A UN-led convoy of nearly 1,200 people arrived in the city from Khartoum on April 25. Some nations such as France have retrieved their citizens from Port Sudan aboard naval vessels; other boats and aircraft have evacuated more than 2,000 foreigners from the port city to Saudi Arabia as of April 26. Overland movements of foreign nationals into neighboring countries are occurring but comprise a much smaller portion of the total evacuation effort. Tens of thousands of Sudanese and refugees who had been living in Sudan have also fled to neighboring countries since fighting broke out on April 15. Official reports indicate that more than 420 people have been killed (including 264 civilians) and at least 3,700 have been injured as of April 26. Utilities such as electricity, internet, and water have been severely disrupted amidst infrastructure damage and heavy fighting in urban areas. Many of those sheltering in place are experiencing shortages of essential supplies such as food, medicine, and fuel, and there are widespread reports of looting in Khartoum as the situation grows more desperate. Three previous ceasefires were attempted on April 16, 17, and 21, though all collapsed within hours. In addition to these failed ceasefires, the unwillingness of SAF and RSF leadership to enter into peace negotiations suggests that both are seeking a decisive military victory in order to secure primacy over Sudan’s military apparatus. This indicates a likely resumption of intense conflict following the expiry of the current ceasefire, resulting in an increased threat of collateral injury or damage to assets in impacted areas and severe degradation of the security and operational environment nationwide.
France: Nationwide pension reform protests planned for May Day
Sustained popular opposition to recently enacted pension reform measures is set to fuel large, disruptive demonstrations planned for May Day weekend across France. A coalition representing France’s eight major trade unions has announced more than 100 demonstrations coinciding with May Day (“la Fete du travail”). Rallies and marches will take place in cities and towns nationwide, including a march through central Paris on the afternoon of May 1. The national mobilization will be the first since President Emmanuel Macron signed controversial pension reforms – which raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 – into law on April 17. Twelve previous union-led days of protest have been organized since January. Events in Paris have repeatedly drawn tens of thousands of participants and occasionally resulted in property destruction, clashes between participants and police, use of crowd control measures such as tear gas, and many arrests. Rather than discouraging opponents of the reform, its passage appears to have reinforced their commitment to protest; in a recent poll conducted by a national French news outlet, 65% percent of respondents believe that the anti-reform protest movement should continue – including 45% who believe it should intensify. In recent weeks, days of action have also been marked by small, local “wildcat” actions such as activists briefly blocking the boarding terminal at the Biarritz airport or walking on the train tracks at Paris’ Gare de Lyon railway station in attempts to interrupt travel. Such demonstrations are usually limited in geographical scope and duration. No major labor strikes are planned for the holiday weekend, though transportation disruptions (i.e., traffic congestion, crowding on public transportation, as well as road and transit station closures) are likely in urban centers hosting May Day rallies. Furthermore, the symbolic importance of the holiday for French workers, combined with the overwhelming unpopularity of pension reforms, points to likely high turnout during this year’s May Day events and an elevated threat of renewed clashes.