First US government-organized convoy evacuates private American citizens from Sudan conflict


This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising over Khartoum, Sudan. AFPTV/Getty Images

Jennifer Hansler, CNN

CNN — The first US-led effort to evacuate private American citizens from the conflict in Sudan was completed Saturday, with a convoy organized by the US government reaching Port Sudan after a long journey from Khartoum.

“A U.S. government-organized convoy carrying U.S citizens, locally employed staff, and nationals from allied and partner countries arrived at Port Sudan on April 29,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. “From there, we are assisting U.S. citizens and others who are eligible with onward travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where additional U.S. personnel are positioned to assist with consular and emergency services.”

The effort came amid mounting anger from Americans in Sudan who felt abandoned by the US government and were left to navigate the complicated and dangerous situation on their own.

The deadly violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group that broke out earlier month has left hundreds dead, including two Americans, and thousands wounded. The country remains at risk of humanitarian disaster, as those still trapped in their homes face shortages of food, water, medicine and electricity.

Despite a number of nations evacuating their citizens, the US government had maintained for more than a week that the conditions were not conducive to a civilian evacuation. All US government personnel were evacuated in a military operation last weekend.

Miller said in the statement Saturday that the US-led convoy “builds on the work the U.S. government has done this week to facilitate the departure of our diplomats by military assisted departure, and hundreds of other U.S. citizens by land convoys, flights on partner air craft, and sea.”

“Intensive negotiations by the United States with the support of our regional and international partners enabled the security conditions that have allowed the departure of thousands of foreign and U.S. citizens, including through today’s operation,” he said.

On Thursday, American citizens who had registered with the State Department for assistance received an email advising them that “the US government is planning to assist US nationals and immediate family members with a valid US travel document to depart Khartoum for Port Sudan in the coming days, possibly as early as tomorrow, via an overland convoy.”

On Friday, they were advised to meet between certain hours at a golf course and to bring “food, water, and travel essentials … limited to only one travel bag,” according to an email reviewed by CNN.

Miller’s statement said that “the US government has taken extensive efforts to contact U.S. citizens in Sudan and enable the departure of those who wished to leave.”

“We messaged every U.S. citizen in Sudan who communicated with us during the crisis and provided specific instructions about joining this convoy to those who were interested in departing via the land route,” he said. “We encourage U.S. citizens who want to leave Sudan but chose not to participate in this convoy to contact the Department of State using the crisis intake form on our website.”

On Friday, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that “fewer than 5,000 US citizens have requested additional information from us” since the start of the crisis in Sudan.

“Of those, only a fraction have actively sought our assistance to depart Sudan,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional information.