GALLABAT, Sudan (AP) — An endless line of minibuses along the road that connects Sudan’s southeastern city of Gedaref to the Ethiopian border, gradually bringing people fleeing Sudan’s war closer to safety.
Families have been “sleeping on the ground out in the open,” according to Oktay Oglu, a Turkish engineer who worked in a factory in Khartoum before fleeing with his family. This trek has been made by both locals and foreigners escaping more than two weeks of severe combat between forces loyal to competing generals, with people trapped in the crossfire.
The minibuses move at a crawl. Sudanese and Ethiopian flags float in the sky at the end of the drive to the border, separated by only 10 meters.
But there’s another long wait ahead.
After waiting days for a relative lull in combat, Oglu made the grueling journey from Khartoum to Gedaref with his wife and three children.
They initially arrived in Wad Madani, 200 kilometers south of the capital, where witnesses claim life seems largely normal. They stayed there for the night before traveling another 250 kilometers east to Gedaref.
Finally, the journey brought them to the Ethiopian border and the small community of Gallabat, with its bare-bones houses built of wood and dried grass.
They had arrived to the crossing after it had closed at 5 p.m. and would have to wait until it reopened at 8 a.m. the next morning.
They found nationals from all over the world gathering at the bridge, all hoping to get to the other side as quickly as possible.
According to a crossing officer, approximately “9,000 people crossed the border, the majority of whom were foreigners, including many Turkish.”
As of Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration reported that over 3,500 persons of 35 different countries have sought safety in Ethiopia.
More over 40% are Turkish, while 14% are Ethiopians who lived in Sudan and are going home.