Thousands Of Nigerian Students Trapped In Sudan By Conflict

Nigerian students trapped in Sudan say they have heard nothing from their government since the outbreak of fighting that has resulted in the death of at least 180 people and over 1,800 injured.

Thousands of Nigerian students are trapped by the conflict that has broken out in Sudan. 

The fighting that has gone on for nearly a week in Khartoum is said to be spreading to residential areas in the capital, a development that may increase the fatalities among civilians. 

The students said they had heard nothing from the Nigerian embassy, since the fighting started. 

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been fighting for control of the government since February 15. At least 180 people have been killed. 

Nigeria and Sudan have had a close relationship since 1960. There are about 10,000 Nigerian students studying in the country, according to student organisations. 

It is thought that around 6,000 of these had returned home before the crisis began for the spring holiday. There are thousands more Nigerians in Sudan engaged in businesses.

Jamil Sawwa-sawwa, a postgraduate law student at the University of Africa in Khartoum said this was not the first crisis he had been through in the northeastern African country.

“I have been in Sudan the last seven years and I have witnessed a series of crises; from the AlBashir’s coup, to the Coronavirus pandemic, but this is the worst,” he told HumAngle on phone.

State of Panic

He and other students were “living in a state of tension”, he said.

He was on the phone to friends elsewhere in the university when down the line he heard shooting. 

“They told me that some armed men, they didn’t know if they were men of the armed forces or the paramilitary, came into their school. I could hear the sounds of gunshots as we spoke. They had to lay down on the floor to stay safe. That news also left me in a state of panic,” he added. 

A Nigerian student called Ziauddeen Ibrahim told HumAngle how he saw spent rounds around where he lives, as he took a risky walk around his neighbourhood after the shooting subsided. 

When we woke up from sleep on the first day the fighting broke out, he thought it was an accident or a fire going on, but his roommate told him it was a crisis. 

“The sound of fighting was much because our house is close to the bases of the military and the paramilitary,” he said. 

“And when the planes came shooting, when they shoot you could hear how our homes vibrated.” 

‘Umma, worry not’

Another student, Khadija Mustapha Hussain, a Nigerian studying at the International University of Africa, said there is electricity where she is, but it is out in areas around her as a result of the fighting. The electricity may go in her area any time. 

“We always find something to eat. It is just that you cannot eat what you crave, you only eat what you are served or given,” Hussain said. The university and some students have been gathering together to organise Iftar since the crisis started, she added. 

“All one seeks and prays for is to survive the crisis, to be able to see the next moment alive. That’s all that matters,” Hussain told HumAngle in a phone interview.

As banks, shops, markets and offices closed, food prices have skyrocketed since the beginning of the crisis. 

People are running out of food and water and health facilities are shutting down it is being reported. Sudan’s health ministry said certain hospitals have been forced to close, others had been bombed. 

When asked about how supportive Nigeria’s embassy in Sudan has been since the beginning of the crisis, Hussain said, “Support you say from the embassy? You are talking as if you forget the country we belong to. There’s not even words of sympathy to us, not to talk about rendering help.

“If I could get the chance that is the first thing I wish for I want to meet my mother who always cry for the situation, I want to wipe her tears and tell her Umma worry not again, I survive, I want to hug my dad once more tell him to worry not, for I’m a survivor. Meet siblings who are heartbroken because of me, tell them that all is well. That’s all I prayed for, I’m praying for and I shall continue praying for it,” she concluded. 

Abubakar Babangida, a leader of National Association of Nigerian Students in Sudan said as yet there had been no reported Nigerian casualties.  

Efforts to hear from Nigeria’s foreign ministry have proved to be abortive as calls to Minister Geofrey Onyeama have not been going through. There has been no reply to text messages sent to him or a spokesman.

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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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