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Posts Tagged ‘South Kordofan’

Humanitarian assistance for over a million people

Posted by African Press International on November 19, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – People are suffering the effects of intercommunal violence over natural resources and land in Darfur, and of occasional fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups. So far this year, the ICRC has helped over a million people.

“We’ve scaled up our emergency response because of rising violence in Darfur, where people face increased hardship,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. “We’ve brought vital assistance to violence-affected areas.”

The ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society have been working hard to deliver relief rapidly. Intercommunal clashes in Jebel Amer, North Darfur state, caused thousands to flee in January and February. The two organizations jointly distributed 1,600 tonnes of food, blankets, jerrycans, tarpaulins, sleeping mats, clothes, buckets, soap and kitchen utensils to over 124,000 people, both the displaced and their host communities. As people wounded in Jebel Amer reached hospitals in Al Sireaf, Saraf Omra, Al Junaina and Al Fashir, the ICRC provided the hospitals with medical supplies. It also facilitated the evacuation by helicopter of 33 casualties from Al Sireaf to Al Fashir for treatment in the Ministry of Health hospital.

The ICRC worked with the Sudanese Red Crescent to help people in the flood-stricken Nile Valley, where thousands were left homeless in August. The two organizations distributed household and shelter items to over 30,000 people in Khartoum and Blue Nile states, in the Dongola region, and in Mereo and Wadi Halfa in Northern state. An emergency water system for 5,800 people was set up in Al Gezera state, and 10 hand pumps were installed to supply drinking water for the population of Jebel Awliya, south of Khartoum.

Darfur has seen not only increased violence but also a surge in crime. In August, unknown armed men seized eight ICRC staff in central Darfur. While they were all released within two weeks, their two trucks have still not been recovered. “Incidents like this have an effect on the humanitarian work we do for people who are suffering,” said Mr Sandoz. “We are grateful to the government authorities, and the tribal and community leaders who helped bring about the release of our colleagues.”

While Darfur remained the focus of the ICRC’s action, access to conflict-stricken areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states remains pending. “We have offered to carry out an impartial assessment of the needs in these areas, and to provide relief to the people most severely affected,” said Mr Sandoz. “So far, however, we have not been granted access there”.

Despite the challenges, the ICRC has spared no effort to help people in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan. Highlighted below is some of the work we did between January and September.

Emergency aid for people suffering the effects of violence

The ICRC:

•    supplied household and shelter items for over 129,000 people displaced by violence, including 111,000 from Jebel Amer;

•    delivered enough medical supplies to 19 hospitals in Darfur, South Kordofan and Khartoum for them to perform 5,100 operations and treat 1,350 casualties;

•    provided essential drugs, medical supplies and furniture for the health centre in Garra Za Wia, Jebel Amer, which serves a population of 8,000;

•    repaired 38 hand pumps, upgraded a water point and installed six water tanks for the use of over 24,000 people in areas where displaced people from Jebel Amer had gathered;

•    trained 80 Red Crescent volunteers in first aid.

Helping people fend for themselves

•    With the onset of rains in July, around 460,000 people (mainly in and around the Jebel Marra area) received farming tools, plus groundnut, sorghum and vegetable seed. Another 16,575 families received farming tools only.

•    Over 15,600 families received donkey ploughs.

•    The ICRC distributed over 4,000 tonnes of food to help people cope with a food shortage and enable them to set aside seed for planting.

Improving access to water

The ICRC:

•    repaired 327 hand pumps, 33 water points and four wells, maintaining a reliable water supply for over 473,000 people;

•    trained 92 technicians in hand-pump maintenance, ensuring that communities would continue to have water.

Providing health care

The ICRC supports seven health centres that serve 138,000 people in Central and South Darfur states.

Between January and September:

•    health-centre staff saw over 49,300 patients, including 7,450 expectant mothers, and performed 26,400 childhood vaccinations;

•    the ICRC provided logistical support for Ministry of Health immunization campaigns that resulted in the vaccination of over 101,300 people, including children under five;

•    when September’s protests against the withdrawal of fuel subsidies resulted in numerous casualties, the ICRC provided hospitals in Khartoum with enough intravenous fluids, bandages and other medical supplies to treat over 150 people;

•    the ICRC sponsored the training of 44 midwifery students from villages in Darfur, to reduce deaths among mothers and children.

Supporting physical rehabilitation services

Almost 5,000 people received prosthetic or orthotic devices, crutches or physiotherapy from six ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centres, a mobile workshop run by the National Authority for Prosthetics and Orthotics, and the Khartoum Cheshire Home centre for the rehabilitation of disabled children.

Vaccinating animals

•    The ICRC and the State Ministries of Animal Resources and Fisheries vaccinated over 860,000 animals belonging to more than 17,000 (mainly nomadic) families in Darfur.

•    A hundred animal-health workers received training in such skills as disease reporting and animal vaccination. Their services are expected to benefit more than 14,600 families.

•    Facilitating the release of detainees

The ICRC is often called upon to serve as a neutral intermediary when government or armed opposition groups release soldiers or civilians.

Between January and September:

•    five South Sudanese prisoners of war were repatriated following their release by the Sudanese authorities;

•    a total of 35 civilians and 27 Sudanese armed forces personnel held by armed opposition groups in Darfur were transferred home;

•    ICRC staff visited detainees held in Jebel Marra by the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdel Wahid faction.

Restoring contact between family members

Between January and September, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent:

collected and delivered nearly 8,400 Red Cross messages and organized over 800 telephone calls between members of dispersed families;

clarified the whereabouts of dozens of people reported by their families as missing or captured in connection with conflict, and received 437 new tracing requests. In addition, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent reunited a child found in South Sudan with his family in Sudan.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003, it extended its operations to Darfur, where we are helping people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.

 

SOURCE

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

 

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Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON, – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON,  – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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“Sudan’s Third Civil War: In Medias Res,” Dissent Magazine, July 10, 2013

Posted by African Press International on July 10, 2013

      By Eric Reeves

In December 2011 I wrote for Dissent about “the early history of Sudan’s third civil war.” Some judged my comments gratuitously pessimistic, others shared my concerns (if more privately), and still others worried about self-fulfilling prophecies. But in fact the war had already begun, battle lines were taking shape, and on at least two subsequent occasions Sudan and newly independent South Sudan came perilously close to renewed all-out war. An incident in April 2012 in the highly volatile oil region along the border between Unity State (South Sudan) and South Kordofan (Sudan) led to major fighting between the Khartoum regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). For over a month violence flared, including Khartoum’s repeated, indiscriminate aerial attacks on Bentiu, capital city of Unity (the South has no meaningful military air force).

But the actors in this third civil war are not simply on two sides, except insofar as all armed movements in greater Sudan have the Khartoum regime, as well as its SAF and security services, as their target. This has resulted in a loose and probably untenable alignment of forces known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF); it includes the increasingly potent Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N, based primarily in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan); it also includes several Darfuri rebel movements, most notably the well-armed Justice and Equality Movement and factions of the Sudan Liberation Army. The geography of conflict has greatly expanded, and the SRF attacked a major town (Umm Rawaba) in North Kordofan this past April, a northern state that had heretofore seen no fighting. A rebel force in eastern Sudan has also made cause with the SRF.

Heightening military tensions is Khartoum’s decision to halt the flow of oil from land-locked South Sudan to Port Sudan in the north, denying both economies desperately needed foreign exchange currency. Hyperinflation is poised to strike, although its consequences for the more developed, import-dependent, and integrated northern economy may well be greater than in the south. A range of other agreements between Khartoum and Juba, the capital of South Sudan, have come to nothing, including the most recent agreement (made in March) to resume oil transit.

It is difficult to find evidence of progress anywhere in greater Sudan since South Sudan became independent in July 2011; African Union (AU) mediators dutifully present various “agreements” that Khartoum refuses to sign, or signs and then violates; there is no effective international support for negotiations. An agreement to permit critical humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile—proposed in February 2012 by not only the AU but the UN and the Arab League—has gone nowhere: the SPLM/A-N signed on almost immediately, but Khartoum has dithered, reneged, and finally declared the agreement “superseded.” Meanwhile, more than 1 million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are in increasingly desperate condition; hundreds of thousands have suffered acute malnutrition for almost two years, and more than two hundred thousand have fled to refugee camps in South Sudan, often in locations that are poorly situated for water and sanitation. Tens of thousands of civilians from Blue Nile have fled to Ethiopia.

                                                            ***

The situation in Darfur—until very recently almost totally absent from news coverage of the region—is especially shameful, given the appalling conditions that have prevailed so long within the displaced persons camps, the steep rise in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and the escalating violence and insecurity. Relief organizations are withdrawing expatriate workers and suspending many operations. UN and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly restricted by both Khartoum’s Military Intelligence and expanding violence. The UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has failed abysmally. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations—already vastly overstretched and funding three separate peacekeeping forces in greater Sudan—is looking to draw down UNAMID, but rather than speak honestly about its failure, the UN has made the disingenuous claim that “circumstances on the ground” permit such a withdrawal of forces. This at least was the judgment of Hervé Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping—a judgment he now refuses to defend publicly.

International journalists have been almost completely excluded from Darfur for many years, as have independent human rights investigators. According to humanitarians on the ground, Khartoum has made of Darfur a “black box genocide.” There has been only one significant dateline from rural Darfur in several years, a story by the New York Times in February 2012; it declared on the basis of a single, tightly controlled visit to a “Potemkin Village” in West Darfur that “peace had settled on the region.” So-called “returns” of refugees and IDPs were a “sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.” In fact, every available indicator of human security and well-being was, in aggregate, deteriorating, and the level of violence in various regions accelerated sharply. “Returns”—nominally safe and voluntary—have mostly been neither.

Violence has ebbed and flowed in Darfur for more than ten years now. A dramatic surge began following the December 2010 defection from Khartoum by Minni Minawi, the only Darfuri signatory to the ill-fated 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement; the authoritative Small Arms Survey (Geneva), on the basis of courageous and detailed ground-based research, reported an escalation of violence against the (non-Arab) Zaghawa, the tribal group from which Minawi came. In the latter half of 2012, violence exploded in North Darfur, particularly near the Jebel Amir region, which has significant gold mines. The regime, desperate for a source of foreign exchange to buy parts and supplies from abroad, gave free rein to the Aballa tribal groups from which the Janjaweed, infamous for carrying out attacks in Darfur in the first decade of the twenty-first century, had been so heavily drawn. This meant attacking the Beni Hussein, the Arab group within whose administrative area Jebel Amir lies. The fighting killed hundreds, perhaps thousands—including a number of UN peacekeepers traveling to Hashaba town, site of reported mass killings by Khartoum’s forces. Peacekeepers themselves were clearly targeted by Khartoum in order to forestall such an investigation.

Militias have became increasingly aggressive, especially the notorious Abu Tira—nominally the “Central Reserve Police,” but now little more than a semi-autonomous fighting force that has attacked and extorted IDP camps and sexually assaulted countless women and girls. An even greater problem is seizure of the lands of African farmers by Arab militias and armed groups—some clearly from Chad, Niger, and Central African Republic. Farmers attempting to return are violently warned off or simply killed; women working their former lands have been raped and killed. The “returnees” that the UN celebrates are constantly being forced to return to IDP camps.

Moreover, figures for new displacement in Darfur dwarf even the most optimistic UN/UNAMID estimates for returnees. UN data, supplemented by that of NGOs, provide strong evidence that more than 1.5 million people have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, when UNAMID officially took up its mandate. The head of UN humanitarian operations was recently obliged to report that 300,000 Darfuris had been newly displaced between January and mid-May of this year alone. The refugee surge into Chad is again growing: the figure had remained at approximately 280,000 for a number of years, but in the past half year 50,000 more people have fled to Chad, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières—nearly all in desperate condition.

Human Rights Watch reported on June 18 satellite photographic confirmation of Janjaweed attacks on villages in South Darfur—attacks led by Ali Kushayb, the Janjaweed “colonel of colonels” indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity:

Satellite images confirm the wholesale destruction of villages in Central [formerly South] Darfur in an attack in April 2013 by a militia leader sought by the International Criminal Court….The images show the town of Abu Jeradil and surrounding villages in Central Darfur state almost completely burned down….Villagers who fled the area told Human Rights Watch in May that Sudanese government forces, including the militia leader Ali Kosheib, had attacked the area. More than 42 villagers are believed to have been killed and 2,800 buildings destroyed.

Darfur teeters on the edge of a complete humanitarian collapse and uncontrollable violence. Rebel fighters have recently gained the upper hand in many areas of fighting, and the callous leaders in Khartoum seem willing to let Darfur sink into destructive chaos, so long as gold from Jebel Amir continues to make its way to the capital.

                                                                ***

Satellite photography has also revealed a great deal about Khartoum’s conduct of war in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the latter the most inaccessible of the three contested areas between north and south (including Abyei). According to an important report recently released by Amnesty International,

New satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas in Sudan’s Blue Nile State show that Sudanese military forces have resorted to brutal scorched earth tactics to drive out the civilian population….“We had no time to bury them”: War crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State documents how bombings and ground attacks by Sudanese military forces have destroyed entire villages, left many dead and injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee—with many now facing starvation, disease and exhaustion.

None of this should be surprising, given Khartoum’s May 2011 military seizure of Abyei, now the most dangerous flash-point for renewed war along the entire north/south border. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) provided detailed satellite photography showing a steady build-up by the SAF and its Misseriya Arab allies over several months in early 2011. The scale of destruction in Abyei town was also made clear by follow-up satellite images.

Subsequent photography indicated that South Kordofan would be the next site of major violence, and on June 5, 2011 the SAF struck again. The nature of this assault was immediately apparent, and clear patterns emerged in early reports. Human Rights Watch confirmed that Khartoum’s regular military and militia were undertaking a campaign of house-to-house roundups of Nuba (African) civilians in the capital city of Kadugli. Many of these people were hauled away in cattle trucks or summarily executed; dead bodies littered the streets of Kadugli. Nuba were also stopped at checkpoints grimly similar to those in Rwanda; those suspected of SPLM/N or “southern” political sympathies were arrested or shot. One aid worker who escaped from South Kordofan in the first weeks reported on militia forces patrolling further from Kadugli: “Those [Nuba] coming in are saying, ‘Whenever they see you are a black person, they kill you.’” Another Nuba aid worker reports that an Arab militia leader’s orders were “to just clear.”

Charges of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” were coming ever more insistently from Nuba civilians, observers on the ground, and church groups with strong ties to the region. News reports confirmed that some 7,000 Nuba had been moved forcibly by Khartoum’s security services (disguised as Red Crescent workers) from the UN security perimeter in Kadugli to a soccer stadium; they were never heard from again. Mass graves were later confirmed both by UN human rights reporters who had observed events from the ground in June 2011 and by satellite photography from SSP.

At the same time, Khartoum renewed its blockade of humanitarian assistance to the people of the Nuba, hundreds of thousands of whom had already fled into the mountainsides. Two years later the blockade continues in the Nuba Mountains and rebel-controlled areas of Blue Nile. In Darfur and these two areas, Khartoum is denying adequate food, water, and medical care to more than 3 million people. Moreover, bombing of civilians and civilian agriculture has largely destroyed the last two harvests in both the Nuba and Blue Nile; malnutrition indicators long ago reached the emergency level; children and the elderly have begun to die, and many more will die soon. The trip to precarious safety in South Sudan is too arduous for many, and many more will not leave family members to starve alone.

                                                             ***

As these events unfolded, the Obama administration has been engaged primarily in diplomatic damage control. Policy has focused on the realization of southern independence at the expense of other issues, including critical and unresolved implementation disputes arising from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The administration has essentially abandoned Darfur—“de-coupled” was the word chosen by a senior administration official. It has remained largely mute on the military takeover of Abyei, and initially refused to credit reports of genocide in the Nuba Mountains.

On PBS’s NewsHour in 2011, Obama’s special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman scoffed at the idea that the Nuba Mountains might become “another Darfur”: “Nuba Mountain people are fighting back and I don’t think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis….That’s the reality on the ground. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government….” Two years later, we know that Khartoum is not only destroying the civilian base of support for the SPLM/A-N, but doing so deliberately. The same is true in Blue Nile. The SPLM/A-N have no weapons that can defend against high-flying Antonov cargo planes, which need aim only at sorghum fields to be effective (they have no militarily useful bombing precision).

A second comment by Lyman has proved more dangerous. When asked in a December 2011 interview with the important pan-Arab news outlet, Asharq al-Awsat, about whether the United States would welcome the Arab Spring in Sudan, Lyman declared, “This is not part of our agenda in Sudan. Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the regime, or regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.”

But all true democratic forces—in Sudan and in exile—are committed to regime change, including those who insist that the change must be effected by nonviolent means. Lyman made clear that this broad-based democratic ambition is not consistent with U.S. goals and policy. Did he really believe that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime could preside over the “democratic” transformation of Sudan via “constitutional measures”? After twenty-four years of ruthless and comprehensive tyranny, the idea is preposterous.

Sudanese overwhelmingly want regime change, while a repressive security apparatus keeps the current cabal in power. But its survival also depends upon acquiescing before the decisions of key hardline generals—concerning the seizure of Abyei, the refusal to negotiate with the SPLM-N or allow for humanitarian access in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, the abandonment of Darfur to chaos and increasing destruction, and—in an act of economic self-destruction—halting the transit of oil from the south to Port Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir has survived by siding with the most ruthless and militaristic elements in the regime (see my 2011 Dissent post “Creeping Coup in Khartoum”).

No real or just peace can emerge from negotiations with such a regime, as evidenced by the feckless efforts of the AU and the absence of unified international commitment. In the case of the Obama administration, the reasons for keeping the regime intact are all too clear: Khartoum’s putative provision of counterterrorism intelligence. The U.S intelligence community clearly puts tremendous value on the new embassy in Khartoum as a listening post (it was completed in 2010). Although we have no ambassador to Sudan, we do have a $175 million embassy, with nine buildings and more than 200 staff—and that’s before “top-shelf” spying equipment and personnel had been moved in.

Former Senator Russ Feingold, while chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was ideally positioned to assess the price we were paying for intelligence from Khartoum. In May 2009, he said:

I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan.

For those wondering why U.S. policy toward Sudan has been so ineffective during the Obama years, why special envoys have been so inept and disingenuous, why so little has been said about ongoing atrocity crimes and genocide, and why Khartoum feels no need to abide by agreements it has signed, Senator Feingold’s comment provides the most authoritative glimpse at what is done—and ignored—in the name of “national security.”

Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide and Compromising with Evil:  An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007—2012.

 

End

 

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Lives being destroyed inBlue Nile State, Sudan – AU and the UN expected lead by example

Posted by African Press International on June 13, 2013

Lives destroyed (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The UN and the African Union must step forward and take decisive action to stop Sudan from committing war crimes against civilians in Blue Nile State, says a new Amnesty International report, dismissed as “false” by Khartoum.

“There has been no acknowledgement by the [UN] Security Council of the fact that Sudan is carrying out indiscriminate aerial bombardment. They need to press Sudan to stop,” Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, told IRIN.

He said the international community had a responsibility to press Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has indicted President Omar al Bashir and six others over crimes committed in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Impunity

“Much of what we are seeing in Blue Nile and South Kordofan follows a similar pattern to the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s decades-long conflict with South Sudan. The people responsible for government policy in those conflicts – President Bashir, Defence Minister Abdel Rahman Hussein and Ahmad Harun, who is now [the] Southern Kordofan governor – are still in charge, and unless the ICC’s arrest warrants are implemented, there is little deterrence for present crimes,” he said.

The conflict in Blue Nile State is closely linked to – and started soon after – the 2011 conflict in South Kordofan between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government. The SPLM-N objects to the marginalization of the region’s people and delays in “popular consultations” to determine the future of the two states; these consultations had been agreed to in 2005 under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(CPA).

More than 200,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled into South Sudan and Ethiopia, according to the UN. The fighting has displaced or severely affected some 275,000 people in government-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and another 420,000 in rebel-held areas, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Amnesty’s new report – “We had no time to bury them”: War Crimes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State – contains new satellite imagery and eyewitness testimonies from rebel-held areas of the state that allegedly prove that the Sudanese Armed Forces has used scorched-earth tactics to expel the civilian population.

Scorched earth tactics

“The Ingessana Hills, the birthplace of rebel leader Malik Agar, have been particularly hard hit. During the first half of 2012, the Sudanese government carried out a deliberate scorched earth campaign of shelling, bombing and burning down civilian villages in the area, and forcibly displacing many thousands of people. Some civilians who were unable to escape were burned alive in their homes; others were reportedly shot dead,” the report states, adding that “now, the only signs of life in these villages are Sudanese military positions”.

Amnesty urged the Sudanese government to “immediately cease indiscriminate aerial bombings and deliberate ground attacks on civilian areas” and “initiate prompt, effective and impartial investigations into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

In a statement to the government-run Sudan News Agency, SAF spokesperson Col Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said Amnesty’s allegations were “false and lacking evidence”.

The statement said the “reality of the situation on the ground” contradicted Amnesty’s report, which it said was geographically inaccurate, out of date and lacking in “scene of the crime” evidence.

This was because “there was no scene of the alleged crime” the statement cited Saad as saying, adding that the Sudanese military had in fact provided security to citizens and farmers in Blue Nile to protect their harvests.

Rebel-held areas are cut off from humanitarians (file photo)

Media reports indicated that on 11 June, Sudan’s oil ministry ordered oil companies to block the export flow of South Sudanese oil on orders from al-Bashir over South Sudan’s alleged support of the SPLM-N. The government of South Sudan denies any support to the rebels.

Matthew Leriche, a Sudan expert who visited Blue Nile in December 2012 and says he found civilians there “living in constant fear”.

“The most apparent [crime] is the use of what is essentially a terror campaign to freeze the population and render them unable to take care of the basics of daily life. This terror campaign is causing persistent hunger and suffering and has been the direct cause of displacement of populations and prevented people from returning to their homes,” he told IRIN in an email. “This massive displacement appears to be a clear tactic, that is to clear any peoples in any way connected to opposition groups from Sudan.”

He added: “The rudimentary nature of these aerial bombers – basically rolling makeshift explosive devices out the back – means the targeting must be of a general nature. That is to say, they are dropping them on populated areas and any areas with any buildings; this means schools, markets, and such. This kind of indiscriminate attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty’s Gallopin said they had noted some violations by SPLM-N, especially the use of refugee camps to forcibly recruit men into their ranks and to divert food aid, but “the scale of the crimes committed by the Sudanese government can be considered war crimes and might be crimes against humanity”.

In May, Valerie Amos, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, said she hoped direct talks between the government and the SPLM-N would “resume soon and that they will lead to a resolution of the conflict so that people can return to their homes and start to rebuild their lives”.

Demanding peace, access

Leriche says the AU and UN should demand that Khartoum abide by its existing obligations under the CPA. “There was a clear agreement that has been consistently flouted by the government in Khartoum. As key guarantors of the CPA, the UN and AU need to press Khartoum to stop accosting and terrorizing its own people,” he said.

“A transformation of the state, as the CPA should have brought about, is what is needed for there to be real peace. The various opposition political parties and groups have to be allowed to be a part of the power structure in Khartoum, and people need to be allowed to live without consistent attack and harassment,” he added. “As a minimum starting point, the government should allow humanitarian access not just to areas it controls but to the entire state.”

As the conflict continues, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain without access to humanitarian support. An August 2012 Memorandum of Understanding among the Khartoum government, the SPLM-N, and a tripartite mediation group of the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States and the UN failed to secure safe passage of relief supplies to areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the rebels.

The Amnesty report noted that in the interim, and as a matter of urgency, UN agencies and international agencies needed to be allowed access to civilian populations in need in all areas of Blue Nile “to facilitate the provision of all necessary assistance to civilians affected by the conflict, including food, shelter and medical care”.

kr/aei/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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