Cairo (AP) — The United Nations secretary-general was “shocked” by a letter from Sudan’s army chief demanding the removal of the U.N. envoy to the country, Sudanese and U.N. officials said Saturday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received the letter Friday from Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s top military official and head of the ruling Sovereign Council, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“The Secretary-General is shocked by the letter he received this (Friday) morning,” Dujarric said. “The Secretary-General is proud of the work done by Volker Perthes and reaffirms his full confidence in his Special Representative.”
The development comes amid fighting between the military and a paramilitary force that began in mid-April. The two sides had agreed to observe a weeklong cease-fire, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. However, the truce, which is scheduled to expire Monday night, did not stop the fighting in parts of Khartoum and elsewhere in the county.
Dujarric didn’t reveal the contents of the letter. However, a senior military official said Burhan’s letter asked Guterres to replace his envoy to the northeastern African country, who was appointed in 2021.
According to the official, Burhan accused Perthes of “being partisan,” and that his approach in pre-war talks between the generals and the pro-democracy movement helped inflame the conflict.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
Perthes, who was appointed in 2021 as U.N. envoy in Sudan, declined to comment on the letter.
Last year, Burhan accused Perthes of “exceeding the U.N. mission’s mandate and blatant interference in Sudanese affairs.” He threatened to expel him from the country.
Fighting in Sudan broke out in mid-April between the military, headed by Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The fighting centered in the capital of Khartoum, which was turned into a battleground along with its sister city of Omdurman. The clashes also spread elsewhere in the country, including the war-wracked Darfur region.
The conflict has killed hundreds of people, and wounded thousands of others. It also pushed more than 1.3 million out of their homes to safer areas inside Sudan, or to neighboring nations.
Burhan’s letter came after the U.N. envoy accused the warring parties of disregarding the laws of war by attacking homes, shops, places of worship and water and electricity installations.
In his briefing to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week, Perthes blamed the leaders of the military and the RSF for the war, saying that they have chosen to “settle their unresolved conflict on the battlefield rather than at the table.”
The fighting capped months of worsening tensions between rival generals, who jointly removed the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in a coup in Oct. 2021.
The power struggle between the military and the RSF has derailed internationally backed efforts to restore Sudan’s transition to democracy.