UK ambassador in Sudan was on HOLIDAY as chaos unfolded across the country

Smoke rises over apartment blocks in Khartoum

Smoke billows over Khartoum airport

GB News Reporter

By GB News Reporter

Published: 24/04/2023

- 16:07

Britain’s preparedness and process of evacuation in Sudan has come under fire, as it emerges ambassador Giles Lever, previously deputy head of mission in Kabul, was on holiday when violence broke out

UK ambassador to Sudan Giles Lever was on holiday as the chaos in Sudan broke out, it has been revealed.

The Foreign Office is thought to have been caught off-guard when violence erupted ten days ago, having expected the run-up to Eid, the Muslim festival celebrating the end of the fasting period of Ramadan, to induce an unspoken truce.

Instead, more than 400 people have died so far in the conflict between the Sudanese Army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and a paramilitary group commanded by his rival General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, more commonly known as Hemeti.

The situation draws unwelcome comparison to the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan in 2021, when both foreign secretary Dominic Raab and permanent under secretary Philip Barton refused to cut short holidays for the crisis.

\u200bGiles Lever, UK ambassador to Sudan

Giles Lever, UK ambassador to Sudan

This comes following Sunday’s special forces daring airlift of 24 British diplomats and their families out of Khartoum under the cover of darkness, while around 4,000 British nationals are estimated to remain stranded in Sudan.

US authorities said they had airlifted fewer than 100 people in a “fast and clean” operation before closing its embassy and announcing in a tweet that it is not safe enough to evacuate private US citizens.

Josep Borrell, EU foreign minister, has announced that its top diplomat, Ireland’s Aidan O’Hara, has remained in Sudan: “The captain is the last one leaving the ship.

“He is in Sudan but no longer in Khartoum.”

News of Lever's absence as the violence unfolded was first reported by The Times newspaper.

A former official has told the publication: “The Foreign Office trains people for these worst-possible evacuations.

“You are trained to be the last person out of country. You are trained to be shot at.”

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, Alicia Kearns, has called on the Government to improve communications with worried British nationals, who are resorting to extreme measures as they prepare for evacuation.

Kearns said that "no lessons have been learned" since Afghanistan in 2021 and that some stranded British nationals have felt compelled to "kill pets" rather than let them starve as they prepare for evacuation.

Smoke rises over Khartoum airport

A scramble to evacuate from Khartoum airport


Kearns added: “If there was to be no evacuation because it’s too dangerous… then we have a moral obligation to tell British nationals as soon as possible that that is the judgement that has been made because they need to be able to make their own decisions.”

Asked whether the UK ambassador's absence had been a mistake, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: "There was senior leadership still at the British embassy in Khartoum.

"Actually having an ambassador in the UK being able to provide direct experience and knowledge to our crisis response centre here in London has proven to be invaluable."

Cleverly warned that aid and rescue prospects to the thousands still stranded will remain “severely limited” until a ceasefire is reached.

You may like