people near wreckage

‘You don’t know if you’re ever coming back’: Stories from a bus ride out of Khartoum

Fighting continued on Wednesday on the outskirts of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. A short-term ceasefire is in place, but the United Nations says it is only partially successful. Over the last 12 days, hundreds of people have been killed. Sudanese residents from the capital region are making tough decisions about leaving. 

The World

The clock is ticking on a 72-hour ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, which have been locked in a bitter fight that has left hundreds of people dead over the past 12 days.

The UN special envoy to Sudan has said neither of the generals behind the groups seemed ready to negotiate, and Khartoum residents said fighting continued despite the ceasefire.

Over the last week and a half, hundreds of people have been killed in the conflict, leaving Sudanese residents from the capital region to try and flee. But most routes out of Khartoum come with their own risks and challenges, and many Sudanese are struggling to enter neighboring countries due to visa requirements and understaffed border points.

“Trying to figure out how to get from Khartoum to a location where we could have an ease of migrating was extremely difficult,” said Mohamed el-Mobarak Kibeida, who was staying in the greater Khartoum area and recorded his journey via voice notes, which he sent to The World.

Kibeida said that as he and his family debated their options, bus drivers kept raising their prices.

“They should be labeled as war profiteers, because they’ve been doing the worst they can do,” he said.

His family pooled together their resources, and on Tuesday, they agreed to take a route headed north with the hopes of crossing the border into neighboring Egypt.

The family was able to reach a crowded bus station in the Sudanese city of Omdurman, where they managed to get a bus to the north.

As he sat on the hourslong bus ride, Kibeida said his mind was with those whom they had left behind — like his cousin, whom he said insisted on staying in Khartoum, despite the family begging for him to join them.

He said his cousin called them as they were traveling.

“He let us know bombardment has commenced” in Khartoum, Kibeida said. “And everybody is wondering why does the ceasefire only happen on TV? And it doesn’t happen for the people?”

On the bus, Kibeida spoke with other people who were also fleeing Khartoum and recorded their thoughts on his phone.

One woman, who didn’t give her name, said she’s still processing the past 12 days of conflict: “Living all the time in fear and stress and constant tensions, between the sounds of heavy artillery, having to be constantly worried about losing a family member, a friend, the person you love,” she said.

“I know this is for our safety, but it’s not easy to just leave your home and go away. And what makes it even worse is you don’t even know if you’re ever going to come back,” she added.

Mohanned Waleid was on the same bus. He said that he and his brother had made three prior attempts to escape the fighting in Khartoum over the past 12 days.

But he said he was hopeful about the conflict coming to an end.

“Seeing our country coming back to normal and living in peace again — that’s our hope,” he said.

Will you support The World with a monthly donation?

We rely on support from listeners and readers like you to keep our stories free and accessible to all. Monthly gifts are especially meaningful as they help us plan ahead and concentrate on the stories that matter. Will you consider donating $10/month, to help sustain The World? Thanks for your support!