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Nigerian Students Escaping Sudan Stranded In The Desert

Buses taking Nigerian students away from conflict-torn Sudan have stopped short of the Sudanese border and the drivers are demanding more money from Nigerian authorities, students stuck in the capital say.

Nigerian students trying to escape from Sudan are stranded in the desert a few hours drive out of the capital Khartoum, as an agreed ceasefire slips away. 

Five buses filled with Nigerians studying at Sudanese universities left a muster point Wednesday afternoon, but the buses halted before they reached the Egyptian border, the students said.

The Sudanese logistics company that owns the buses is demanding more money from the Nigerian government and is threatening to leave the students where they are. 

“The drivers that parked said they won’t move an inch if they are not paid. Their company told them not to move further. It’s a directive from their company,” a student said.

The number of stranded students could be as many as 250, each of the buses has a reported capacity of 50 passengers.

In a voice note forwarded to HumAngle, a stranded evacuee said: “From the way they talk, it is obvious that we are not far from the border. We don’t know if they will dump us there or take us back to Khartoum.”

“We are stranded in the desert in five buses. No internet, nothing.” 

It is almost 1,000 km to the border from the capital. The stranded students are in a desert area that has poor mobile phone coverage, so contact with them has been difficult. HumAngle received information about the stranded students via friends who are still in the capital.   

There are thought to be around 2-3,000 students remaining in the International University of Africa campus where the buses departed.

Airplanes circling

The students are trying to flee Sudan after days of fighting between two military factions over control of the government.

A Nigerian at the IUA campus told HumAngle how they are living in perpetual fear as the three-day ceasefire comes to an end, at midnight Thursday April 27. 

They said the proximity of the university to one of the military bases has been a source of great concern for them, airplanes have been circling since Thursday morning. 

In a short, emotional, audio clip sent to HumAngle by one of the students in Khartoum, a clearly distressed student accused the Nigerian authorities of “dishonesty”. 

“They brought a few buses yesterday that couldn’t carry us,” the student, who HumAngle is not naming, said. 

“The people that left are now stranded in the desert close to the border. There is no house around, no food and no water. They are even saying they are bringing them back. So, what do you do?!” 

“We have not seen any bus today because there’s a grapevine that they have not been paid. And, we have seen an alert that shows the funds have been disbursed. 

“We don’t have electricity, food and water. We don’t have a place to sleep. The hostel we are now planning to chase us away. Do you want us to die for God’s sake?”

A shaky 72 hour ceasefire is due to expire at midnight, but there have reportedly been outbreaks of shooting during the period. 

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Mahdi Garba

Mahdi Garba covers development, security, conflict, climate & disinformation at HumAngle. He heads the Humanitarian Desk at HumAngle. He tweets regularly @MahdiGarba.

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