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Despite appearance at the U.N., Sudan's conflict threatens to engulf parts of Africa

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Sudan's army chief is at the United Nations trying to burnish his image as a leader of the country while his forces battle a rival paramilitary group. The conflict between two generals has uprooted millions and threatened to engulf a large part of Africa, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took the podium at the U.N. General Assembly to accuse his rival, the leader of the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out atrocities and starting the 5-month-old conflict.

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ABDEL FATTAH AL-BURHAN: (Non-English language spoken).

KELEMEN: "They brought mercenaries from different corners of the globe committing some of the most horrendous crimes against the Sudanese people," Burhan says, accusing the RSF of looting, raping and killing civilians. Ditching his military uniform for a suit and tie, he painted himself as a statesman who's ready to restore power to civilians, eventually. His rival, known as Hemedti, made a competing address that he posted online. The U.S. has been trying to get both men to agree to a cease-fire. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recently visited with Sudanese refugees to highlight their plight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Both sides have instigated unrelenting violence that has caused death, destruction and carnage across Sudan, in Darfur, in Khartoum and in many other areas.

KELEMEN: The U.S. is urging the backers of the two warring sides not to fuel the conflict further. Martin Griffiths, who's the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, calls this a crisis of epic proportions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTIN GRIFFITHS: What the people of Sudan need now, of course, is more than the presence in high-level meetings in New York. It's more than promises, indeed, or pledges. It's for us to turn all this into action.

KELEMEN: He's short of funds, though. And the U.N. recently lost its diplomatic envoy for Sudan. Burhan refused to deal with that U.N. official.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.