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Toronto’s Sudanese community looks on with fear as country gripped by violence

Asaad Ali Hassan has been calling his parents every two to three hours since heavily armed clashes broke out in his home country of Sudan over the weekend. He is among thousands of people of Sudanese descent living in Toronto.

4,010 people of Sudanese descent live in Toronto, according to the 2021 census

A woman leans against her car and looks into the camera.

Asaad Ali Hassan has been calling his parents every two to three hours since heavily armed clashes broke out in his home country of Sudan on the weekend.

Hassan lives in Toronto, while his parents, sister and extended family live in Khartoum, the country's capital that's been rocked by machine gun fire in the streets and the screech of fighter jets in the skies since fighting between two military forces began on April 15.

More than 180 people have been killed and 1,800 injured during the fighting across the country, the United Nations said on Monday. Hassan has asked his family if they can get out of the country.

"They say, like, 'We can't leave the house. How [could] we leave the country and go to a safe place?'"

Akoi Malik's parents are also in Khartoum, and she hasn't been able to reach them for three days.

"There's no communication now and there is no electricity and there is no water, so we don't know what they're eating and how they're doing. It's really worrying," Malik said.

There are 4,010 people of Sudanese descent in Toronto, according to the 2021 census.

WATCH | What it's like on the ground in Khartoum:

Khartoum resident discusses 'new normal' amid clashes in Sudan

1 day ago

Duration 1:00

The clashes in Sudan mean some citizens don't have easy access to water and are uncertain of how the conflict will end. 'This is our new normal now,' said one Khartoum resident.

Violence a culmination of tensions

The violence is a culmination of months-long tension between the country's army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. Together, the army and RSF toppled a civilian-led government in a October 2021 coup.

As part of an internationally-backed plan to launch a new transition with civilian parties, which was to be signed in April, the military was supposed to give power over the country to civilian leaders, while the RSF was supposed to be integrated into the military. But friction rose over two issues: the timetable under which the RSF would be integrated into the regular armed forces and when the army would be formally placed under civilian oversight.

Both sides have blamed the other for provoking the violence.

"It's all about power," Malik said. "And the thing is, they forget about those people who are dying there."

The violence is palpable to those worrying thousands of kilometres away, according to Hassan, who said he can hear the gunfire and destruction when talking to family on the phone.

"I hear also my niece and the kids — I hear them scream and cry when they hear these sounds," he said.

Fears of a drawn out conflict

Hassan is worried about what will happen if the fighting continues for longer. He's concerned people will run out of food at home and be forced into the streets.

"This would be very, very dangerous for people," he said.

He sees potential for the conflict to become a civil war and wants Canada and its allies to push both sides to end the fighting.

Malik is frustrated with the international response so far.

"The war happening in Ukraine — people are talking about it, [the] government [is] helping, but I don't see any help there. I don't know what's the difference," she said.

Already, about a third of Sudan's population, some 16 million people, require humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations.

In 2022, Canada provided more than $40 million in humanitarian assistance to people in Sudan, according to Global Affairs Canada spokesperson James Emmanuel Wanki.

"We urge all parties to agree to a ceasefire and to engage in mediation efforts supported by African partners that promote peaceful dialogue," Wanki said in an email.

The priority for the Red Cross at the moment is calling on both sides to respect the international humanitarian law that's supposed to protect civilians and those providing them with aid.

"And unfortunately, right now, this is not happening," said Alyona Synenko, spokesperson for Africa with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Rahul Singh, executive director of Global Medic, a Etobicoke-based humanitarian charity, echoed Synenko's sentiments.

"Right now, because there's fighting in the street, it's impossible for aid agencies like ours and other agencies to do their work."


Lane Harrison


Lane Harrison is a web writer with CBC Toronto. He previously worked for CBC New Brunswick in Saint John. You can reach him at lane.harrison@cbc.ca

With files from Ryan Patrick Jones, Thomson Reuters and the Associated Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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