July 10: Khartoum’s minister of information Ibrahim Ghandour declares that “the accusation Sudan Armed Forces deploying in Blue Nile is baseless,” further declaring that such redeployments as are occurring are a “natural activity” (Sudan Media Center). Seven weeks later Khartoum launches a well-planned military assault on Blue Nile.
July 10: Malik Agar warns that any attempt to disarm the SPLA-N within his state will result in a return to war. Little heed is paid to this prescient warning.
July 11: Khartoum’s seasoned political secretary, Gutbi al-Mahdi, threatens humanitarian organizations operating in Darfur and South Kordofan with penalties—or expulsion. The justification is that these organizations are providing logistical support to rebel groups (Sudan Tribune). As preposterous as this assertion may be, the warning should be taken very seriously. For the real message is that any non-consensual action taken by the international community in assisting South Kordofan or Blue Nile (where all humanitarian organizations are denied access) will result in the expulsion of humanitarian operations in Darfur. A highly informed UN official has conveyed to me his strong conviction that—following promulgation of the “New Strategy for Sudan” (August/September 2010)—relief organizations were allowed to continue primarily as a means of creating a threat in the event Khartoum felt itself pushed too hard, in Darfur or elsewhere.
July 12: The UN Security Council passes a resolution declaring that countries and groups that attacks schools and hospitals will “be named and shamed by the United Nations” and could be subject to sanctions. No mention is made of Khartoum’s relentless campaign of aerial bombardment that over the past two decades has repeatedly and deliberately attacked hospitals and schools. On November 10, the refugee camp at Yida (Unity State in South Sudan) is bombed; one of four bombs does not detonate as it lands immediately outside a school where some 200 students had been in attendance. To date, Khartoum has paid no price for this extraordinarily dangerous attack, and continues to deny the bombing, even as the attack has been confirmed by the UN and reporters on the ground for Reuters and the BBC (see below).
July 19: Amnesty International reports that a Sudanese employee of the UN-authorized peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID)—Idris Yousef Abdelrahman—has been detained since April and is now charged with capital crimes. The arrest violates the Status of Forces Agreement to which Khartoum committed itself—yet another broken agreement.
August 21: The International Crisis Group reports on efforts by Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi to defuse the increasingly unstable situation: “Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi met with Malik Agar and Al-Hilu in Addis Ababa on 21 August, and on the same day, he took Malik to Khartoum to negotiate a way out of the danger. However, President Bashir responded by saying his government was unwilling to engage in further external negotiations and would not commit to the rejected framework. The door for direct SPLM-National Congress Party talks was closed” (ICG, “Conflict Risk Alert: Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War,” September 26, 2011).
Ten days after this foregone opportunity, Khartoum will launch its massive military assault on Blue Nile—clearly well planned, as were the assaults on Abyei and South Kordofan.
Sept 1: Fighting begins in Blue Nile, with Governor Malik Agar’s house among the first targets. There is a massive movement of arms, tanks, and soldiers. Sudan analysts asking why Khartoum would choose to open yet another military front tend to agree that Khartoum is trying to forestall the “mobilizing of the new South of the North of Sudan,” i.e., to prevent a replication of the enemy the regime faced in South Sudan, only this time within the borders of what is now north Sudan.
September 1 – 4: Even as aerial attacks rapidly escalate in Blue Nile, they continue relentlessly in the Nuba Mountains, according to numerous regional sources.
September 5: Khartoum announces that State authorities will handle relief efforts in Blue Nile, and refuses access to all international humanitarian organizations. Khartoum also re-affirms that it will not negotiate with Malik Agar.
September 5: Khartoum accuses South Sudan of “stirring up tensions in the region and violating security arrangements.” (Sudan Vision)
September 3 – 6: A series of “wikileaked” U.S. diplomatic cables provide some revealing views and telling developments:
•Meles Zenawi tells the U.S. that toppling the Khartoum regime is the best option for dealing with Sudan’s crises (cable date: January 30, 2009)
•the U.S. has intelligence indicating that Khartoum was seeking to acquire advanced missiles systems in 2008, in violation of UN sanctions imposed in 2006; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Khartoum against such acquisitions, noting that the systems discussed were “Category 1 missiles” because of the range and payload, and are “inherently capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.”
•also in 2009, according to the Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, Sudan purchased from China an unknown number of WS-2 multi-launch rockets systems. The WS-2, which had not previously been sold in Africa, is the most powerful long-range attack system on the continent at present.
•in February 2009 Thabo Mbeki excoriated the UN/AU mediator for Darfur, Djbril Bassolé, venting his anger at his diplomatic rival in a meeting with newly appointed U.S. special envoy Scott Gration. Gration consistently sides with Mbeki, including in the celebration of the deeply threatening “New Strategy for Darfur” promulgated by Khartoum in August/September 2010.
•yet another cable reveals that a top Sudanese businessman, Osama Daoud Abdel-Latif, declared of the regime in January 2008 that “without change there is no hope.”
September 6: Very heavy fighting is reported in Blue Nile.
September 6: Hundreds of people demonstrate in Khartoum, protesting worsening economic conditions. This is the largest to date of a number of demonstrations in the capital.
September 6: The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies reports on mass arrests of perceived SPLM-North supporters. The report provides names and copious details on the arrests.
September 7: The Khartoum regime again rejects negotiations with the SPLA/M-North in Blue Nile, promising instead to crush the rebellion.
September 7: Two senior UN human rights officials call for the immediate end to Khartoum’s air attacks on civilians in South Kordofan (UN News Center). There is no response from Khartoum.
September 7: In another example of the perverse “moral equivalence” that guides U.S. Sudan policy, the Obama administration “urged Sudan and armed opposition groups to end fighting in the Blue Nile border state” (Reuters). This suggests that the two parties are equally responsible, when Khartoum’s SAF is clearly the aggressor, clearly the only party targeting civilians, and the only party that refuses to participate in negotiations to end the fighting. This “even-handedness” is finally disingenuousness, and inevitably works to Khartoum’s advantage and encourages the regime in its belief that it will not be held appropriately responsible and accountable.
September 8: In an extension of the Obama administration’s refusal to assign responsibility appropriately for violence in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, special envoy Lyman declares in terms at once blandly obvious and unsurpassably vague:
“‘People have to act very quickly to keep it [the violence] from spinning out of control,’ said Mr Lyman. He said at the heart of the conflict was Khartoum’s and the SPLM’s failure to reach an agreement on the future of the two areas during talks that led to South Sudan’s independence. ‘If people can’t get back to the fundamental issues, they won’t be able to solve the conflict,’ he said” (BBC). No mention is made of Khartoum’s adamant refusal to negotiate or even recognize the SPLA/M-North. Indeed, it is not clear that Lyman recognizes the SPLM and the SPLM-North as distinct entities—or perhaps simply conflates them for purposes of diplomatic expediency.
September 8: Khartoum again agrees to withdraw its forces from Abyei by the end of September, and Ban Ki-moon celebrates the agreement in his typically feckless fashion. The agreement of course means nothing, and the SAF presence remains undiminished.
September 8: The SPLM/A-North and SPLM/A of South Sudan officially split, making clear that there is a new “south Sudan” problem for Khartoum.
September 11: More than 50 civilians killed in fighting in the Nuba (Bloomberg).
September 12: In an interview with Radio Dabanga, special envoy Lyman acknowledges that Khartoum continues to bomb civilian villages—in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. In a revealing moment, Lyman declares: “See, the purposeful bombing of civilians which is going on is a violation of the human rights and we have told the government over and over again that they should cease the bombing.” But the U.S., he continues, is powerless to do anything but “facilitate negotiations.” (Radio Dabanga)
September 13: Khartoum again targets the “hidden agendas” of humanitarian organizations: “Western circles always seek to trade on humanitarian catastrophes by mounting pressure on government to achieve certain agenda.” “The importance of humanitarian stability is no less than national security and political stability. The danger of humanitarian instability lies in being a pretext for international intervention in favor of achieving vested neo-colonialist agenda through so called humanitarian aid agencies that serve nothing but super powers’ intelligence organizations to rob poor nations of their riches.” (Sudan Vision)
In explaining his thinking about aid organizations, Ahmed Haroun declares, “Foreign aid organizations are involved in negative activities that fuel the war, that is why we stopped them from entering South Kordofan State.” Haroun goes on to note “the improvement of humanitarian situation [in South Kordofan],” adding that “there is no need for aid and relief from such organizations …. ”
September 13: Heavy bombing attacks are reported in several locations in the Nuba Mountains.
September 15: The Khartoum regime orders newspapers not report on rebel groups in the country. (Sudan Tribune)
September 16: Sudan’s justice minister tells the UN Human Rights Council that the Khartoum regime is the victim not the perpetrator of human rights abuses violations. (Reuters in Geneva)
September 19, 21: Several bombings are reported in the Nuba Mountains.
September 22: Heavy fighting is reported in various locations in South Kordofan.
September 22: Reuters reports from Khartoum: “Sudanese police used teargas to disperse a protest by hundreds of tribesmen in east Sudan on [September 22] after two people died during clashes with police, residents said. Anger has been simmering in the east with tribes complaining their region is underdeveloped despite its importance to the economy.”
September 23: The UN’s World Food Program again requests humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile “so that it can provide assistance to thousands of people affected by fighting. Clashes between the Sudanese armed forces and rebels over the past few months in both states displaced tens of thousands of people. Earlier this month, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported that relief agencies were unable to reach those in need due to movement restrictions imposed by the Government [in Khartoum].” (UN News Center)
Khartoum again ignores the request, and access remains denied at the end of December 2011.
September 25: The SPLM-North claims that aerial bombardment carried out by the SAF in Blue Nile has displaced half of the population in the state. “According to the humanitarian relief secretary of the SPLM-N, Hashim Orta, the air forces of the ‘ruling National Congress Party’ were conducting more than six airstrikes on daily basis in the Blue Nile. Orta said that half of the state’s population had fled due to aerial bombardments” (Sudan Tribune). The population of Blue Nile is estimated to be 1.2 million people.
September 27: The UN High Commission for Refugees reports (from Assosa, Ethiopia) that “a fresh wave of air strikes since [September 21] has sent increasing numbers of refugees fleeing into Ethiopia, with some 1,500 pouring through the Kurmuk border crossing on [September 23] alone.
September 27: UN agencies warn that “that newly independent South Sudan will face chronic food shortages next year due to internal and border insecurity, erratic rains and a huge influx of returnees from the North. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization said a Rapid Crop Assessment carried out in August showed South Sudan was likely to produce 420,000 – 500,000MT of food this year–half the required amount.” (IRIN)
Replacing this amount of required food is made exceptionally difficult by logistical challenges and security risks, especially those posed by Khartoum-backed renegade militia forces. The militia forces have been repeatedly and authoritatively reported as laying vehicle-destroying mines.
September 29: Khartoum’s foreign minister Ali Karti declares that humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile will be granted only when the SPLA-North stops fighting—in other words, surrenders unconditionally to the aggressor in all three border conflicts: Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. This is to demand the inconceivable, but provides the best excuse Khartoum can muster for the continued denial of humanitarian aid to many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian victims of the conflicts. (Sudan Tribune)
September 29: The same day that Ali Karti lays down conditions for humanitarian access, President al-Bashir vows not to negotiate with the SPLA/M-North. In a speech in eastern Sudan, al-Bashir declares, “The rebellion will be put down and the country’s outlaws defeated …. Sudan will not repeat the experience of being obliged to negotiate and sign protocols under UN supervision.” (AFP)
September 30: In a rare moment of honesty, Ali Karti declares that the northern Sudanese economy faces collapse and desperately needs international help, particularly with its crushing burden of external debt. With truly extraordinary presumption, Ali Karti declares that the “the world could not simply stand back and watch the economy collapse, describing the economy’s woes as ‘really serious.’ Karti’s grim economic warning marks a departure from his peers in the government who sought to downplay the magnitude of Sudan’s troubled finances” (Sudan Tribune).
That the representative of a genocidal and militarily profligate regime can speak of international obligations to its own domestic economy, even as it strikes brutally at its own citizens, is almost incomprehensible—the more so since regime mismanagement of the economy, and its vast military expenditures, are what produced the present crisis.
October 2011: In a November 2011 “Issue Brief” the Small Arms Survey reaches a number of important conclusions about renegade rebel groups in South Sudan as of October 2011:
•”As of late October 2011 the major insurgents in Greater Upper Nile have not made significant headway in achieving their purported political objectives. Commanders formerly loyal to Peter Gadet, as well as two Shilluk commanders, continue to pose active military threats.
•”With the arguable exception of the Shilluk groups, the main insurgencies are not authentic expressions of discontent in marginalized communities. Instead, the commanders have manipulated legitimate local grievances, mobilizing supporters–particularly idle young men—to fight on their behalf for their own objectives.
•”Despite claims by rebel leaders, the insurgencies have remained almost completely operationally independent of one another, and the self-interested motivations of the commanders make a future unified rebellion unlikely.
•”There is strong circumstantial evidence that the forces of Peter Gadet and George Athor have received logistical and materiel support, including small arms and ammunition, from Khartoum and other external sources.”
October 1: Al-Bashir rejects foreign mediation in talks related to conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. (Reuters
October 3: AFP reports that Khartoum’s “inaction will lead to famine in eastern Sudan in the coming days because of water shortages, poor crops and spiraling food prices, regional party the Beja Congress said on Tuesday. ‘If the government does not do anything to solve the problem in the coming days, there will be a famine in eastern Sudan,’ party spokesman Salah Barkawin told AFP. He said people in the region were poor and could not afford to buy sorghum, a Sudanese staple that has more than doubled in price.”
Despite the desperate food needs of much of Sudan’s population, the Khartoum regime continues to make extravagant military purchases and to conduct costly civil wars that serve only to maintain the regime’s grip on political power. It is hardly surprising that the Beja Congress has jointed the broadly based Sudan Revolutionary Front in working for regime change.
October 5: Khartoum’s SAF bombs the town of Jau in Unity State, killing three people and wounding 14, according to the Unity State deputy governor.
October 6: A report from Julud in the Nuba Mountains (AlertNet) offers yet another grim assessment of the food outlook for these people:
“Most worrying of all, the food situation is getting precarious. The valleys in South Kordofan are fertile and five months of good rains normally produce a bumper harvest. The start of the conflict coincided though with the planting season. Farmers sowed less because they fear venturing into their fields because of the bombing by Antonov aircraft. The food being consumed now is last year’s yield. The next harvest will come from the fields in November and it will not be enough. Many people already reduced from two to one meal a day. A survey of a local NGO, the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development organization (NRRDO), shows that 220,000 people live in the western part of the mountains.”
October 6: The new head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, calls on “Sudan and South Sudan to comply with redeployment agreements and to immediately withdraw their forces from the disputed and oil-rich Abyei region,” and declares that he has not received reports of “any significant progress on the withdrawal of armed forces from the area.” In fact, this is a deeply disingenuous statement: as Ladsous himself acknowledges, the SPLA is south of the River Kiir, in South Sudan; it is the SAF and its militia forces that remain in Abyei, in violation of multiple agreements negotiated in the past. This refusal to speak honestly about the positions of the two parties is yet again disingenuousness masquerading as even-handedness.
October 7: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declares that “Blue Nile and South Kordofan are two of Sudan’s main sorghum-producing areas. The latest fighting coupled with erratic rainfall means next month’s harvest is expected to generally fail” (emphasis added) (Reuters). The primary reason for this devastating failure is the violence that has so disrupted agricultural life in these regions: few farmers can harvest their lands (in the Nuba Mountains the problem is compounded by earlier relentless aerial bombardment turning the spring/early summer planting season). Despite the massive and conspicuous food shortage, Khartoum continues to deny all humanitarian access to Blue Nile and virtually all access to South Kordofan.
October 10: 20 civilians are killed and five seriously injured by a land mine explosion in the Mankien payam (district) of Mayom county in the west of Unity State. The renegade militia force known as the “South Sudan Liberation Army” (SSLA) is almost certainly responsible.
October 12: “The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has corroborated multiple eyewitness accounts and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) reports alleging that the Government of Sudan’s Central Reserve Police [also known as “Abu Tira”] unit engaged in the unlawful abduction, detention, and extrajudicial killing of civilians in Kadugli, South Kordofan, Sudan.”
October 13: Reuters reports from Khartoum that al-Bashir has promised: “Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law …. His comments will add to uncertainty for more than a million southerners who still live in the north and are now treated legally as foreigners. Khartoum has given them until spring to leave or obtain the legal right to stay, a complicated process. ‘Ninety eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source (of the constitution).'”
October 13: Compass News Direct reports: “Local authorities have threatened to demolish three church buildings in Omdurman as part of a long-standing bid to rid Sudan of Christianity, Christian sources told Compass. Officials from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities-Khartoum State appeared at the three church sites in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, the afternoon of September 11, threatening to demolish the structures if the churches continued to conduct worship services, church leaders said.”
October 13: Speaking of UN Security Resolution 2003, authorizing UNAMID to continue operating in Darfur, al-Bashir declares, “‘They can shove the new resolutions,’ reiterating his threats to expel whoever is tempted to implement Resolution 2003.” (Sudan Tribune)
October 13: Al-Bashir declares that, “‘there will be no negotiating with the SPLM-North because it was the one that started the war …. ‘ ‘There are no more negotiations or protocols, this is our position.'” (Sudan Tribune)
Here it may be useful to recall the statement of U.S. special envoy Lyman in September: the “U.S. can only facilitate negotiations” between Khartoum and the SPLM-North. It is surely difficult to “facilitate” negotiations if one party bluntly and unambiguously refuses to negotiate.
October 14: Khartoum declares that its army will not pull out of Abyei until the September 8 agreement is fulfilled by the SPLA/M (South Sudan); there is no substantial evidence that the SPLM/A is in violation of the September 8 agreement, while Khartoum’s military presence in Abyei is a flagrant violation of the agreement.
October 21: Voice of America reports: “Ryan Boyette, an aid worker who has been based in Southern Kordofan for nine years, is predicting a large scale food crisis. He blames Khartoum’s blockade on humanitarian access into rebel areas by Khartoum. ‘The amount of food is extremely low …. They are picking grass and leaves from certain trees that they can eat. But now the rainy season is over, so it’s going to become a very drastic problem very soon,’ he said.”
These warnings have been issued for over three months at this point, and humanitarian access is still denied by Khartoum.
October 22: In an act of diplomatic “place-holding,” U.S. special envoy Lyman “urged Khartoum to allow ‘credible’ international organizations to reach the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in order to assess the humanitarian situation” (Sudan Tribune). Lyman gives no indication of how this “urging” advances the calls of several months for such access, or what the consequences will be if Khartoum continues to deny access while many hundreds of thousands of people face starvation. Indeed, at this point people are already dying of malnutrition and diseases related to malnutrition.
October 24: Khartoum effectively condemns “more than 300 Eritreans asylum seekers to ‘certain detention and abuse’ by deporting them to one of the ‘most brutal countries in the world,'” Human Right Watch declares. “Sudan is forcibly returning men, women, and children to certain detention and abuse in one of the world’s most brutal places, said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch.” (AFP)
Khartoum has every interest in securing favor from the brutal Eritrean regime, not least because a successful rebellion in eastern Sudan is unlikely as long as Eritrea remains an ally of Khartoum.
October 26: Ibrahim Ghandour, secretary for political affairs of the NIF/NCP regime, said his party “has documentary evidence that proves that the oil-rich but disputed Abyei region is part of the north” (VOA). This evidence is, of course, never produced, but such a claim is yet another signal that Khartoum has no intention of ever leaving Abyei.
October 28: The UN High Commission for Refugees reports that “aerial bombings in Sudan’s Blue Nile State are driving a new wave of refugees into Ethiopia,” 2,000 in the past four days. UNHCR reports Antonov bombing attacks in areas including Bau, Sali, and Dinduro.
October 30: Khartoum rejects an SPLM offer to negotiate a swap of Abyei for concessions by the SPLM on oil revenue-sharing. Khartoum responds through its spokesman Ibrahim Ghandour: “We will not compromise on Abyei and we will not allow the existence of two armies in our country,” apparently fixing Abyei yet again as permanently in north Sudan. (Sudan Tribune)
One may be forgiven for wondering why the calls for “compromise” over Abyei that came so forcefully from the Obama administration in October 2010 are not presently to be heard. Certainly the diplomatic blowback from Senator John Kerry’s characterization of Abyei as an inconsequential “few hundred square miles” (October 25, 2010) is fully in evidence.
November 1: The U.S. renews economic sanctions against Khartoum; by contrast, major EU countries have refused to do so, and continue major commercial investments in Sudan, untroubled by the fact that these investments directly benefit the regime. Japan, Brazil, India and other consequential economic powers also refuse to consider sanctions.
November 1: The ENOUGH Project (U.S.) reports on the basis of on-the-ground interviews that SAF “soldiers chased down civilians in the town of Um Darfa and in the words of one refugee, ‘slaughtered’ them. Another refugee said pro-government militias captured and raped some women in the town. The refugees said they believed they were targeted because of their black skin.”
November 1: A senior official from South Sudan’s military intelligence openly accuses the Khartoum-based Sudan Airways of backing rebel groups in the South. (Sudan Tribune)
November 2: The Khartoum regime rejects a new U.S. proposal on South Kordofan. The Sudan Tribune reports: “Washington proposed dividing South Kordofan which would result in creation of a new state of West Kordofan which ceased to exist following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Haroun would then be installed as governor of West Kordofan while [Abdel Aziz] al-Hilu would be made the governor of South Kordofan until elections there can be held again.” Khartoum refuses to accept any negotiation that gives renewed political standing to al-Hilu.
November 3: Villages near Um Doreen in South Kordofan are reported to be heavily bombed with large numbers of civilians casualties: “citizens from east, central and west Um Doreen said that their villages had been exposed to air strikes on Thursday morning. Karkarrai, Tangil, Lobu, Tubola, Alhat Mur, Dal Dako were the villages that came under attack. A citizen told Radio Dabanga that these areas were bombed by the government aircraft at five in the morning.” (Radio Dabanga)
November 3: The strategic town of Kurmuk, in southern Blue Nile, falls to the SAF; yet again, there is massive civilian displacement.
November 3: “Humanitarian partners are concerned that the number of people arriving to Unity might double before the end of the year if fighting continues in Southern Kordufan. In anticipation of a continued influx, other locations are being assessed as potential alternative sites as well.’ [UN OCHA] said” (PANA). Humanitarian capacity is already overwhelmed in Yida refugee camp in northern Unity State. Anticipated food needs continue to rocket upwards.
November 4: A confidential humanitarian report indicates that Global Acute Malnutrition rates among children under five in the Dellami area of the Nuba Mountain are in the range of 15 percent; Severe Acute Malnutrition rates are in the range of 5 percent. There are also very high rates of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and respiratory infections.
November 8: The villages of Yafta and Guffa (variously spelled) in northern Upper Nile State (South Sudan) are deliberately bombed, with numerous casualties; these are in the remote Mabaan region north of Boing. A number of medical personnel are withdrawn from the nearby Doro clinic.
November 10: Khartoum deliberately bombs the refugee camp at Yida, northern Unity State (South Sudan). Four bombs are dropped, one of which lands immediately next to a school where 200 students had been present.
Although the Yida bombing elicits some international outcry, Khartoum is content to have its UN ambassador simply deny the attack altogether, even as the UN itself confirms the attack (it had been earlier confirmed by the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse and reporters for the BBC and Reuters, all of whom were present during the bombing).
The bombing attacks are significant not only because they are deliberately directed against civilians, but because they occur on the territory of South Sudan, thus violating what is now an international border—and recognized as such by the UN. Moreover, some humanitarian personnel withdraw in the wake of the bombing, even as many of the refugees are severely malnourished. There is also great concern that these refugees from South Kordofan at Yida are vulnerable to further air attacks, or ground attacks from the nearby Jau region (also northern Unity State), where the SAF and SPLA would soon engage directly in heavy fighting (see below).
November 11: in an absurd moment of posturing, the Obama White House declares that “those responsible [for the Yida, Guffa, Yafta bombings] must be held accountable.” What could it possibly mean to suggest that “those responsible” are any but the military leaders of the SAF? Why not name them? They have the only military aircraft in the conflict. And how does the U.S. intend to hold them “accountable”? Such vacuous statements do nothing to deter Khartoum, and reveal the U.S. as powerless.
November 11: the Satellite Sentinel Project reports that the airbase near Kurmuk (captured on November 3) has been upgraded for military purposes and that helipads for military helicopters have also been constructed. This significantly increases the radius for air operations, particularly into South Sudan.
November 12: Amnesty International reports that more than 100 opposition activists in and around Khartoum have been arrested in recent weeks, many of them subjected to torture by Khartoum’s security services.
November 12: Formal announcement is made of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), comprising the SPLA/M-North, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army-Abdel Wahid the SLM/A-Minni Minawi, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)—all three from Darfur—and the Beja Congress in the east (this last joins on November 16). The explicitly announced goal of the SRF is regime change.
November 13: The Sudan Tribune reports that renegade militia elements attacked the SPLA at Kuek (Upper Nile) on November 10 (Kuek is near the border with White Nile State in the north). In the wake of these attacks, the large and important humanitarian organization Oxfam announces that it is withdrawing. On November 11 the renegade militia group SSLA called on civilians, humanitarians, and UN agencies to withdraw from Renk, Maluth, and Malakal within a week, threatening them with military action.
November 16: China pledges to boost military cooperation with the Khartoum regime.
November 16: The UN belatedly confirms the bombing of Yida, already reported by Reuters and BBC. Khartoum responds by declaring that Yida is in northern Sudan and that there are no camps in South Sudan for refugees from South Kordofan.
November 16: The SPLA reports that Sudanese Antonov “bombers” have attacked deep in South Sudan, at Kino in Raja County, Western Bahr el Ghazal. There is ample precedent in the previous year for the bombing of Raja County. The SPLA urges the UN to investigate the bombing site.
November 17: Reuters reports that South Sudan has also accused Khartoum of cross-border artillery shelling in support of renegade militia forces in oil-rich Upper Nile State.
November 17: AFP reports from Yida on conditions one week after Khartoum’s military aircraft bomb the refugee camp in this remote part of Unity State:
“A week after bombs fell near the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, shortages of supplies are taking their toll on the more than 20,000 people sheltering there. There is growing hunger and illness after many aid agencies pulled out because of fears of more attacks blamed on neighbor Sudan. At Yida’s only clinic, local staff are working, around the clock, to try to treat the growing number of refugees needing medical attention. The staff’s international colleagues have not returned since the November 10 bombing.”
“The clinic staff also say severe food shortages have caused a spike in anaemia and malnutrition—especially in children.” And yet still some 300 new refugees arrive daily at a camp that Khartoum insists does not exist.
November 18: The UN High Commission for Refugees reports that some 1,200 people are arriving daily in Upper Nile from Blue Nile.
November 18: The UN High Commission for Refugees reports that landmines—lain by renegade militia groups, particularly the SSLA—are thwarting efforts to relocate refugees flooding into South Sudan to escape fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. IRIN also reports (November 24) on mining activities. The dangers posed to civilians and humanitarian personnel and vehicles by mines are a constant in reports on conditions in South Sudan. These weapons are viciously indiscriminate.
November 21: The U.S warns South Sudan not to provide support to the SPLM/A-North, without offering a shred of evidence that such support is being provided. This seems a peculiar U.S. priority, given the overwhelming evidence that Khartoum is supporting the SSLA, George Athor’s militia, and other renegade militia groups operating in the South.
November 23: In a bid to resolve the bitter dispute over oil revenue-sharing, the IMF and African Union agree on a figure of $5.4 billion as appropriate compensation of Khartoum by the South. Khartoum proposes a preposterous $15 billion—a figure that is not serious and meant only to produce deadlock in the negotiations. (Bloomberg)
November 25: John Ashworth, a highly informed and experienced Sudan analyst and advisor, conveys reports that Antonov military aircraft have repeatedly flown over Malakal, the most important town in Upper Nile State, South Sudan. This is an extremely provocative military action, and much more deserving of international attention than putative assistance from Juba to the northern rebel organizations.
November 28: the UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that there are 37,700 refugees from Blue Nile in Ethiopia.
November 28: Fighting is reported at the Um Dolwich agricultural project in Renk County, Upper Nile. The Sudan Tribune, citing southern foreign affairs minister Nhial Deng, declares that four SPLA soldiers were killed in the SAF attack. (Sudan Tribune)
December 2011: Amnesty International releases the most comprehensive assessment of the assault on Abyei provided by any reporting organization. Among the highlights of its findings:
“When Amnesty International delegates visited Abyei at the end of November 2011, the first visit by an international NGO since the May clashes, they found Abyei town and surrounding villages literally razed to the ground and emptied of their inhabitants. Tukuls, the traditional thatch-roofed mud houses (huts) had been burned down and the few brick buildings had been completely gutted—their roofs, doors, windows and any other fittings removed. Compounds of international humanitarian organizations had been similarly looted and vandalized.”
As will become increasingly clear in the days and weeks ahead, Khartoum has no intention of allowing the Dinka Ngok to return to their homes and lands.
“During and immediately after the clashes, Misseriya militias, acting alongside Popular Defense Forces and with the support and complicity of SAF, systematically looted and burned down the inhabitants’ homes and properties in Abyei town, the region’s capital, and in surrounding villages. The looting and burning continued for days, while SAF was in full control of the area, and in the presence of UN peacekeepers.” (emphasis added)
“SAF looted the World Food Programme warehouse, bringing in heavy trucks to remove two UN Development Programme generators and the food. UNMIS asked for the food to be returned but the SAF commander said he had instructions to distribute the food to Misseriya leaders.”
Amnesty International offers numerous examples such as the following:
“Regina Nyanut, a 29-year-old woman from Mulmul in Abyei, told Amnesty International: ‘I saw soldiers and saw helicopters from different sides. Soldiers in green uniforms came by different means of transport—some by foot, motorbike and car. I was at home with my children on Saturday [May 21] because we had heard the sounds of bombs in the area for three days. We didn’t expect SAF to come to Abyei town. Men on motorbikes in military uniform shot my neighbours Dau Aguek, who was 29 and sold sugar in the market, and Maluak Agok, who sold oil, and his five-year-old son. They were shot when they tried to run from their house and were lying on the ground dead. I ran carrying my baby and my other baby was carried by my older son. We ran from Abyei towards River Kiir to cross to the other side.'”
The current situation?
“More than six months after the May 2011 clashes the displaced Abyei residents are still living in dire conditions in hastily set-up camps or crowding in with relatives in host communities who have little or nothing to share. They are dependent on international humanitarian organizations for shelter, food, water and health care.”
December 1: Citing a report from the SPA/M in Blue Nile, Radio Dabanga reports that 43,000 civilians fleeing from Blue Nile have been halted near the border by a severe lack of food, medicine and continuing aerial bombardment.
December 2: Sudan Catholic Radio (Malakal, Upper Nile) reports that fighting has occurred between SAF and the SPLA near Dandar village, in Upper Nile.
December 2: The ICC prosecutor’s office requests an arrest warrant for Khartoum’s defense minister, General Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, on charges of atrocity crimes in Darfur.
December 3: Valerie Amos, the UN’s top humanitarian official, is denied entry into Sudan by the Khartoum regime. A UN spokeswoman indicates the Amos was at the international airport in Istanbul, en route to Sudan, when she was informed that “there was no appropriate official available to meet her and the she should not come.” (Foreign Policy on-line, December 6)
December 3 – 4: Fighting begins in Yau (also Yaw) in Unity State, some 20 kilometers from the now massive Yida refugee camp. The fighting brings forces of the SAF and SPLA into direct conflict and involves Khartoum’s use of bombers and fighter jets, as well as long-range artillery. This is the most serious military confrontation of the year, and brings Khartoum and Juba closer than ever to resumed war (IPS in Yida). Jau sits on a contested border, but has traditionally been home to the Southern Dinka Panaruu.
Civilians fleeing from South Kordofan report being bombed as they approach Jau. UN officials fear that the fighting will endanger the large refugee population at Yida, making re-location even more urgent.
December 6: “Hundreds of residents from the region of Abu Zubd in South Kordofan went out on protests near the county building to protest against the government’s decision to confiscate the region’s main water resources to sell it to the Chinese companies operating in the area.” (Radio Dabanga)
December 6: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports on conditions in Doro refugee camp, to which many thousands of civilians have fled from Blue Nile:
“Many of the patients that we see in our clinic have respiratory diseases. This is because most of the refugees are sleeping outside without anything to cover themselves. And there are many patients with diarrheal diseases because for the past weeks there were no latrines and there is not enough water. Today we had four cases of bloody diarrhea and many more cases of watery diarrhea. We are also seeing malnourished children, some with moderate and some with severe malnutrition.”
December 6: The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (UK) reports Global Acute malnutrition rates of 20 – 27 percent of children in Heiban (South Kordofan); the figure is approximately the same for child refugees arriving in Yida, HART reports. Highly dangerous Severe Acute Malnutrition rate is reported to be 2 – 9 percent. These figures portend very high infant and child morality.
December 7: Two long-range Iranian missiles are reported to have struck Kauda in the Nuba Mountains.
December 7: Amnesty International publishes an important two-part account of bombings in the territory of South Sudan, based on reporting by Amnesty researchers on the ground near Blue Nile. Key findings include:
“The closest we could get to Blue Nile State was New Guffa, a village in South Sudan, near the Sudanese border. Air strikes by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) around the village have displaced hundreds of residents. On the outskirts of New Guffa, we found the small hamlet of Yafta completely deserted.”
“[Elia Omar] showed us the location of an air strike near his home—one of several cross-border strikes launched by the SAF into South Sudan between late September and mid-November this year. Twenty minutes’ walk towards the border we saw the locations of other air strikes. At each site we saw a large hole, pieces of shrapnel, and trees all around lacerated by shrapnel. We saw fresh graves nearby. We were told that several people had been killed in recent strikes. Some were residents of the village, others were refugees, and some were SPLM-N fighters who had come across the border with the refugees.”
December 7: Food inflation increasingly imperils live in the border regions of Sudan. Reuters reports: “Prices have soared in South Sudan’s volatile northern border regions this year, fuelled by East African drought, rebel fighting and what some analysts describe as a politically-motivated trade blockade, stinging average South Sudanese.” Khartoum’s role in this dangerous inflation is part of a year of increasingly intense economic warfare against the South.
December 7: The Government of South Sudan pushes for urgent demarcation of the border in the Jau area.
December 8: The UN’s IRIN reports that an official working for the UN Development Program in Kassala (eastern Sudan) has said in an interview that “the east [of Sudan]” is “a volcano waiting to erupt”; the same UNDP source “predict[s] that conflict on the scale now taking place in South Kordofan and Blue Nile could erupt in Kassala State within a few months.” The same IRIN report gives a sense of why there is such acute anger and unhappiness in the east:
“According to a recent report by Japan’s International Cooperation Agency, ’91 percent of households [in Kassala state] do not have enough food, only 39 percent have access to safe water and the maternal mortality rate has risen to 1,414 per 100,000 births compared with 500 pre-war.'”
In response to such outspokenness, Khartoum declares ominously on December 18 (via the regime’s propaganda organ, Sudan Vision) that, “the government has threatened to take decisive measure against some humanitarian agencies operating in eastern Sudan if proved not to be committed to their humanitarian mandates.”
December 8: Economic warfare against South Sudan escalates with a highly provocative move by Khartoum, reported by Bloomberg:
“Sudan’s parliament approved an amendment to a law to give the Finance Ministry the right to take over a percentage of South Sudan’s oil or any other company that refuses to pay transportation fees, SUNA reported. ‘We will take our share from July until now,’ [SUNA said] and citing Ahmed Ibrahim al-Taher, head of Sudan’s National Assembly. The law will apply to South Sudan and any other country that wants to ‘abuse Sudan’s infrastructure.'”
December 9: South Sudan minister of foreign affairs Nhial Deng, speaking of the SAF military offensive against Jau, declares that the invasion of the town has brought Khartoum and Juba to the “brink of war.”
December 11: The UN’s IRIN reports that 1,000 refugees a day are arriving in Upper Nile from Blue Nile.
December 12, 2011: the Small Arms Survey offers the most insightful summary conclusion about the fate of Abyei in 2011:
“Despite having twice agreed to withdraw the army, the Government of Sudan is making a withdrawal increasingly contingent on negotiations with the Government of South Sudan, while at the same time effectively blocking such negotiations, thus ensuring that the occupation continues. Stretching out the occupation will serve to strengthen Sudan’s hand at the negotiating table and appease an army angered by the South’s secession. As relations between South Sudan and Sudan grow more difficult, the advantages to the latter of the continued occupation of Abyei are growing.”
December 13: Khartoum’s air force bombs Jau payam and Sheeling in Kurajjit in Unity State (South Sudan).
Earlier reports from the Sudan Armed Survey in October and November 2011 provide powerful circumstantial evidence that Khartoum is providing weapons and ammunition to renegade rebel groups in South Sudan. Analyses of weapons captured from the SSLA of Peter Gadet (March 2011) and George Athor (February and March 2011) show them to be of factory-new and of Chinese manufacture—and consistent with one another as well as with weapons captured from the SAF in South Kordofan (November 2011). This extends even to sequential serial numbers in some cases, and highly distinctive weapons in other cases.
December 13: The UN offers its grimmest overview to date of the humanitarian crises along the North/South border:
“The United Nations said on [December 13] a quarter of a million people have been severely affected by the conflict in Sudan’s southern border states to which the government continues to deny the world body access. ‘We consider there are over one million people who are quite badly affected by the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan,’ Mark Cutts, the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA)’s head of office in Sudan, told reporters in Khartoum. ‘We also consider that there are about a quarter of a million people who have been severely affected …. Our main concern is for populations that are completely cut off from any relief supplies coming in from outside.'” (emphasis added) (AFP)
The UN estimates that more than 400,000 people have been displaced within Blue Nile and South Kordofan (Reuters). This is almost certainly a conservative figure, given the rate at which refugees are daily pouring into Ethiopia and South Sudan, as well as on the move toward international boundaries. The figure does not include the more than 100,000 who remain displaced by Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei on May 5.
Here we should recall June 28 remarks by U.S. special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman: “I don’t think the North [Khartoum’s SAF] is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis from the Nuba Mountains.” Such absurd pronouncements continue to pass as U.S. “analysis” of the crises in Sudan.
December 15: In a gesture that is meaningless without cooperation from Khartoum, which is nowhere evident, the UN Security Council expands the mandate of the Interim Peacekeeping Force in Abyei.
December 16: Mireille Girard, UNHCR’s representative in South Sudan, speaking in Yida, Unity State—where refugees continue to pour in—declares: “We expect that arrivals will continue for months and months to come.” Hundreds of children in Yida are reported to be severely malnourished. The UN World Food Program warns that “around 2.7 million people in South Sudan will require food aid from 2012 with crop failures and violence hitting Africa’s newest country hard” and that “a gathering storm of hunger is approaching South Sudan” (Reuters). This is part of Khartoum’s war strategy.
December 16 – 21: Multiple reports from news organizations and highly reliable regional sources, including John Ashworth, report widespread forced conscription of young Southern men. They are given a short training course, and then sent to the South. The BBC reports from Khartoum:
“Young South Sudanese men living in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, are being forcibly conscripted by militia groups, numerous sources have told the BBC. It is alleged they are forced to fight for rebels in South Sudan, which split from the north in July. South Sudan’s information minister believes Khartoum is directing the rebel groups and the kidnappings.”
December 17: Reports from multiple reliable sources indicate that large numbers SAF forces and equipment are massing north of Kiir Adem, which lies south of the River Kiir in South Sudan. The SPLA is responding in kind. The river is still too high for the SAF to cross easily but will be low enough by mid-January. This potential flash-point has gone almost completely unreported, despite the immense dangers represented.
December 18: Samaritan’s Purse, the humanitarian organization with the longest and most substantial presence in Yida refugee camp, reports:
“Within the Yida refugee population, assessments show General Acute Malnutrition rates at 16.26%. Many children are suffering from diarrhea (32%), vomiting (17%), fever (23%), and respiratory infections (30%). We believe these statistics among the population in Yida closely reflect the nutritional and health situation among the general population in South Kordofan.” This malnutrition level is above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.
December 18: In response to a UN statement about Khartoum’s continuing occupation of Abyei, the regime declares that it rejects “any suggestions of being occupiers of Abyei. ‘The army is present north of the 1956 borders which are the dividing borders between the north and south that were endorsed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,’ Sudanese foreign minister spokesperson al-Obaid Marwih said. ‘The presence of the army in Abyei region is natural thing and any other foreign forces should be described as occupation,’ he said. He stressed that Abyei belongs to the north according to the realities of history and geography urging the UN chief to seek accuracy before making public statements.” (Sudan Tribune)
December 19: Radio Dabanga reports: “Witnesses reported that Sudanese armed forces bombed Al Mabaan county in Upper Nile state, South Sudan last week. Al Mabaan county lies 110 km from Blue Nile state which is located on the north side of the border. Three people were killed and many more wounded in the attack. One person was seriously injured [and] later died in hospital.”
December 20: In an indication of how little is known about the total refugee population, the UN reports that “‘in Upper Nile state, we know at least 40,000 refugees have arrived since September. Most of these are in Mabaan county. We are also looking at reports of around 27,000 refugees scattered across the Guffa area county, which is further to the north'” (emphasis added) (VOA). Hashim Orta, humanitarian relief secretary of the SPLM-N, cites even high figures.
December 22: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières announces it is scaling up to confront a full-scale humanitarian emergency along the border regions of South Sudan: “MSF has scaled up into full emergency mode in Upper Nile State to respond to the sudden influx of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Sudan. And around the town of Agok [south of Abyei town], in Northern Bahr al Ghazal State, our teams are facing the spectre of a food shortage and has launched a preventive supplementary feeding programme for children who risk becoming malnourished in the months ahead.”
December 22: in yet another pointless gesture, the UN Security Council passes a resolution demanding that Khartoum withdraw its forces from Abyei: “In today’s resolution, the Council demanded that both governments withdraw all remaining military and police personnel from the Abyei area immediately and without preconditions, and urgently finalize the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service, as agreed on 20 June” (UN News Center). To date neither the UN nor the U.S. nor the Khartoum regime itself has offered any evidence that substantial numbers of SPLA forces are north of the River Kiir.
December 22: Continuing intensive bombing is reported from South Kordofan, particularly the areas of Silara, Karko, Senda, Kudjooria and Shifr. (Radio Dabanga)
December 22: A diplomatic source speaking to Reuters is grimly pessimistic about negotiations over transit fees for oil from South Sudan to Port Sudan for export: “‘There is no breakthrough at all in sight. Both are worlds apart.'” Here it should be recalled that whereas the IMF and African Union recommended a settlement amount for lost oil revenues of $5.4 billion (from South Sudan), Khartoum asked for $15 billion. These are not negotiations that the regime is conducting, but a form of extortion and blackmail.
December 28: SUNA reports that the senior official of the Palestinian organization Hamas, Ismail Haniya, is in Sudan on an official visit. SUNA also reported that Haniya plans to take part in a forum on the future of Jerusalem. SUNA said “Haniya was greeted [on December 27] at an airport in Khartoum by Ibrahim Ahmed Umar, an advisor to President Omar al-Bashir.” Hamas remains listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S.
December 28: MSF offers an update on the situation in Upper Nile: “‘The influx is not stopping. Every day, we see people arriving on camels, by foot, on donkey carts, by trucks. Whatever they have. They arrive every day, with some peaks up to more than 1,000 per day,’ said Jean Pierre Amigo, MSF field coordinator in Mabaan County, who spoke by satellite phone about the situation.” (emphasis added)
December 28: Radio Dabanga, with increasingly reliable sources throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile, reports: “On December 27, air strikes and heavy artillery were reported in Bao locality, Blue Nile state, killing 84 residents including 24 children, said Hashim Orta, humanitarian relief secretary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for Blue Nile.”
December 28: The British government intends to forgive more than $1 billion in debt owed by Sudan over the next few years, according to a report by the Financial Times …. The UK Department for International Development defended its debt cancellation policy. “‘By cancelling debts, we are freeing up money that can then be spent tackling poverty and providing essential services such as schools and hospitals to their people’ it argued.”
The money freed up by debt relief will only strengthen the grip of the regime as well as its ability to purchase advanced weapons systems and wage war on its own people.
December 29: The SPLA reports that 17 people are killed by bombings attacks in Western Bahr el Ghazal (BBC). If the UN peacekeeping force wished, it could easily confirm this report.
For lengthy analyses of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur over the past year and more, see:
November 24, 2011, “Darfur: The Genocide the World Got Tired Of”
August 30, 2011,”Darfur: No Way Forward from a Dangerous and Unsustainable Situation,”
July 27, 2011: “Darfur Pushed Further Into the Shadows: In Two Parts” (Part 1)
Contrived and Disingenuous Optimism by African Union and UN Officials
July 27, 2011: “Darfur Pushed Further Into the Shadows: In Two Parts” (Part 2)
Contrived and Disingenuous Optimism by African Union and UN Officials
January 23, 2011: “Darfur Humanitarian Overview”
August 31, 2010: “Darfur Humanitarian Update”