Sudan Evacuation

Gift of the Givers helping South Africans stuck in Sudan

This has been a huge roller coaster of fear, anxiety, terror, uncertainty, panic and sadness for South Africans, foreign nationals and local inhabitants caught up in the Sudan civil war. Gift of the Givers working with DIRCO, Intelligence Services, SSA personnel and South Africans on the ground managed to secure two buses on which 38 South Africans (including all the diplomatic staff) and 7 Angolans departed from Khartoum to Egypt at 12h10 yesterday. The buses were paid for by the SA Government. There were only two checkpoints outside Khartoum, the rest of the journey was uneventful. They stopped late in the evening for meals and drinks and around midnight parked off not far from the Egypt border to rest. At 05h00 they made their way to the border. People had mixed emotions leaving their homes, place of work, friends and colleagues as they watched how a country rapidly self-destructs. Two pet Scottish terriers didn't make the trip and the sadness was evident in their eyes when they saw the luggage but were not included on the trip. This was very emotional for the owner. Just after midnight on Sunday the network collapsed completely and by the time the buses were en route to Cairo it was discovered that 4 South Africans did not make it to the pick up point. Thus far we are aware of six South Africans who made it to Port Sudan, three to Djibouti, two who have opted not to leave, one near a mine somewhere still deciding what to do and we think some are in South Sudan.

Gift of the Givers has arranged a third bus for the four South Africans left behind, it will depart also around 12 noon today. The two dogs will be included. It was only by the Grace of the Almighty that the bus was confirmed without a cash payment upfront. On the word of our Middle East representative who lives in Turkey but spent many years in Sudan, the owner of Good Transporter, agreed to send the bus and till now has not sent bank details for payment. No transaction can be done without cash payment as the entire financial system has collapsed and there is no functional government.

At some point on Sunday, Gift of the Givers received a call from the Tanzanian Government for assistance with buses but eventually they got sorted out. Yesterday was a flurry of activity, with the Brazilian Ambassador to SA requesting assistance to evacuate nine of his citizens, six are in Khartoum, we can take them, three are in Atbara, en route to Cairo. We looking at the option of them meeting us at a common point in the north. Four Filipinos, two US citizens, possibly a Palestinian family and who knows who else will be part of the evacuation today. There has been intense behind the scenes diplomatic engagements with various governments, including with the US Consul General late last night for citizens to enter various countries unhindered as many don't have passports or entry visas.

The challenges on the ground were numerous including inaccessibility, collapsing networks, no airtime, electricity cut off, fuel shortage, no money, lack of food and water and then the emotional and psychological trauma of all out war as South Africans tried to move across barriers and front lines to "safer" zones, some witnessing over 70 bodies in the street, destroyed buildings and infrastructure, watching young people being shot and simply calling it Amargeddon. We pray for the safety of all civilians.

It has been a long night talking to South Africans on the two buses, very traumatised South Africans in the south, anxious Brazilians and Filipinos who want to make the trip, and the dog owner. We are optimistic that everyone will cross the border safely. Please remember them in your prayer. This has been a great exercise of government and civil society working side by side in the interest of South Africans outside the country. We need to apply that model inside the country.

Imtiaz Sooliman

Sudan Evacuation

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