A MONTH ago exactly, 30-year-old Mohamed and his wife woke up to the sound of artillery fire.

“We thought it might have been a gas station explosion or something. But as the sound repeated, we were sure it was what we had been anticipating”, he told The National. 

It was April 15 2023 and fighting had just erupted in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, as insurgents from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) started a series of assaults that has since plunged the country into chaos.

The country’s military, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), responded with aerial bombardments in the days that followed.

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Mohamed’s family had got used to the gunshots by that point but these aerial strikes shook the building he shared with his five-month-old son, as well as his mother and aunt.

They all took shelter in a safer part of the house, laid down on a mattress and were petrified of even going to the bathroom.

It was then that Mohamed decided to leave Khartoum.

He was also very aware that his job – which we can’t name here for safety reasons – made him a target, putting him and his family in potential danger.

He took only the most vulnerable – his wife, son, mother, grandmother, his aunt’s children and his uncle, who has multiple sclerosis.

The little petrol he could buy off someone he found on Facebook was ten times more expensive than usual. War profiteers were already exploiting locals keen on fleeing to relative safety in neighbouring states.

Departing Khartoum was “really scary”, Mohamed explained.

He had to drive as slowly as he could to conserve petrol. His car didn’t have AC and was filled to the brim with passengers.

Most worryingly, there were also the numerous checkpoints controlled by the RSF along the way.

He said: “They were harassing everyone. They don't care if you're old or young. They just harass you by asking questions, conducting luggage searches, pointing their guns at you and trying to find out if you work for an entity that pays well.”

Luckily, they never asked Mohamed that question directly, perhaps because of all the people he had with him. He was prepared to lie and say he worked as a university lecturer.

Mohamed said: “You have to be very lucky to get past the RSF as they are not regulated. They are not trained.

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“Some of them are murderers, some will rob you. That was my main worry.”

Mohamed and his family eventually managed to find a comparatively safe place to live in Port Sudan, a city and port on the Red Sea in eastern Sudan.

But he still constantly worries about the family he had to leave behind. He said: “They're still in Khartoum. They had no electricity for four straight days. There isn’t a single shop open to buy groceries. There is no cash, and the network is terrible.

“You feel helpless sometimes.”

The violence in Sudan has so far killed more than 600 people, including civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Dozens of independent experts working with the UN rights office also issued a joint statement recently, citing reports that “civilians of all ages are experiencing various human rights abuses”, including sexual assault, gender-based violence, looting, and shortages of food, water and healthcare.

Representatives of the warring parties are currently holding talks in Saudi Arabia.

Mohamed said: “We still have hope the two conflicting parties will negotiate a ceasefire, but all the reports that are coming in are saying the direct opposite.

“The civil war in Syria - which has lasted over 10 years now – is also on our minds. We are very afraid the same will happen here.”