Part 2: A Timeline for Khartoum’s abrogation of agreements in 2011
May 7, 2012
§ January 2011: Abyei is not permitted to hold the self-determination referendum agreed to in the CPA. By means of a series of delays, political obstruction, and unreasonable demands about the “residency” of migratory Misseriya Arabs in Abyei, Khartoum subverts any possibility for the referendum. Four months later, in a move of overwhelming and long conspicuous military force, the regime simply seizes Abyei, declaring that the region “has always been part of the north.” A time-line for the seizure of Abyei and its aftermath would include:
§ May 20-21: Khartoum’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Arab militia allies seize Abyei.
§ May 25: Khartoum declares that it militarily seized Abyei “in implementation of the CPA.” (SUNA)
§ May 25: UN field accounts of “ethnic cleansing” by the SAF and its militia allies are widely reported; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will later expediently declare that these reports are “premature”—on the basis of no countervailing evidence.
§ May 26 and 28: Using satellite photography, corroborated by reports from the ground, the Satellite Sentinel Project reports (May 26 and May 28) that the SAF is aiding in the “organized looting” of Abyei town. “The evidence of alleged looting by apparent uniformed SAF forces and armed, northern-aligned militias represents a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and can constitute a war crime.”
June 1: More than 110,000 Dinka Ngok, the indigenous population of Abyei, have been forced to flee their homeland for South Sudan. A year later, many of these people still live in extremely dire conditions; very few contemplate returning without a fundamental change in the security situation.
§ June 20: An agreement on military withdrawal from Abyei is signed by Khartoum and Juba in Addis (“Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Region”). As of May 2012 there has still been no withdrawal by Khartoum’s forces or its militia allies. Conspicuously violating both the letter and spirit of the agreement, Khartoum later insists it will not withdraw until a UN-authorized peacekeeping force (an armored brigade of Ethiopian troops) has fully deployed. As deployment proceeds, Khartoum again adds conditions to withdrawal.
§ June 27: The UN deputy chief for human rights reports that she has witnessed “utter devastation” during a visit to Abyei. “The utter devastation I saw in Abyei was a chilling warning of what might become of the border area” (AFP). Such prescience on the part of UN officials is rare and almost always ignored.
July 9: South Sudan celebrates its independence as the world’s newest nation. President Salva Kiir uses the occasion to declare: “I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all.” The international community as a whole has failed badly in understanding the historical meaning of Abyei for the South.
July 9: UN Resolution 1996 creates the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with a mandate, inter alia, to “deter violence including through proactive deployment and patrols in areas at high risk of conflict, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, protecting civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, in particular when the Government of the Republic of South Sudan is not providing such security …. ” Despite massive violent civilian destruction, the force has yet to prove its willingness to accept this mandate.
July 11: Al-Bashir warns that Abyei could become a source of conflict, even renewed war with South Sudan “if agreements are not respected” (BBC). In short, Khartoum is demanding that Juba accept Khartoum’s military annexation of Abyei as a fait accompli.
A senior UN official, commenting on Southern concern about Abyei, about Khartoum’s support for renegade militias, and about potential aspiration to seize the oil regions of Upper Nile or Unity State, declares (July 7): “The SPLA is paid to be paranoid” (Bloomberg).
Ten months later, this assessment seems remarkably uncomprehending, and in its glib cynicism the perfect emblem of the international response to Southern grievances. Certainly this account does nothing to anticipate the September 1 military assault on Blue Nile, or the growing encroachment on Southern territory through bombing and cross-border operations such as the one at Jau (Unity State) reported in December 2011. Or indeed to anticipate most of what has occurred over the past ten months.
§ July 22: Khartoum announces that it will not withdraw its forces from Abyei until there is full deployment of the UN-authorized peacekeeping force from Ethiopia. This violates both the letter and spirit of the June 20 Addis agreement.
§ June 5, 2011: Khartoum’s regular military and militia forces begin a major offensive in South Kordofan; ethnically based seizures and extra-judicial executions are widespread, targeting the Nuba people; aerial attacks against the people of the Nuba Mountains become daily occurrences, continuing to the present.
Aerial attacks at the height of the planting season ensure that there will be no significant harvest in the Nuba areas, even as Khartoum denies humanitarian access, including to UN agencies such as the World Food Program. Throughout June atrocities are reported by eyewitnesses in and around Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan; many Nuba from the region escape to the South to tell their stories. Journalists reach Kauda, deep in the Nuba Mountains, beginning in late June, and report horrific accounts of aerial bombardment. This bombardment violates a wide range of international human rights and humanitarian law.
The Satellite Sentinel Project regularly reports on developments in South Kordofan, including the discovery of numerous mass gravesites—potentially holding thousands of bodies. The reported pre-positioning of body bags and tarps, and the photographing of bodies wrapped in white bags and tarps, offer compelling evidence of mass graves, indirectly confirmed by Khartoum officials much later as necessary “for reasons of public health.” (see SSP reports for June and July)
§ June 20: Some 7,000 Nuba who had sought protection at the UNMIS compound in Kadugli are forcibly removed, including by security forces disguised as Red Crescent humanitarian workers, egregious violation of international humanitarian law. The fate of these people remains unknown to the present day.
June 28: Princeton Lyman, U.S. special envoy for Sudan, declares in an interview, “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. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government …” (PBS NewsHour). As of May 2012 many hundreds of thousands of people have been deliberately displaced in South Kordofan, including the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile.
Many from the Nuba are streaming into South Sudan. Khartoum continues to deny access to international humanitarian organizations, compelling yet further displacement as people become increasingly desperate for food. On December 13 the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declares that “we consider there are over one million people who are quite badly affected by the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.” (AFP)
June 28: Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, a senior regime official, signs in Addis a “Framework Agreement” with the SPLA/M-North, covering both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The agreement recognizes the SPLM-North politically and diplomatically and commits both sides to work toward a cease-fire.
§ July: Throughout July reports of bombings continue to stream out of the Nuba Mountains through various means of communication, including the reporting and photography of journalists. On many days there are multiple bombings, and fields are completely abandoned in wide areas of the Nuba. The aircraft implicated in the bombings are identified in a June 29 report from the SSP.
§ July 1: Al-Bashir, clearly at the behest of the newly empowered senior SAF generals, renounces the “Framework Agreement” and declares that he has ordered the military campaign to continue until all rebels have been “cleansed” from South Kordofan. Yasir Arman of the SPLM/A-North warns (July 2) “There are voices in Khartoum against this framework agreement, those voices are playing with fire,” warning that the only alternative “is a war that runs from Blue Nile to Darfur.” (Sudan Tribune)
§ July 1: Humanitarian organizations are finally permitted by Khartoum to return to Kadugli, only to find their facilities severely damaged or destroyed.
July 4: Khartoum again declares that it expects UNMIS to leave South Kordofan immediately after July 9. Belatedly, the U.S. declares (July 7) that it is “extremely concerned” by this demand. No UN resolution of consequence is introduced, despite that concern.
July 4: The Toronto Star reports from Khartoum on the consequences of the decision to strip all Southerners of the their citizenship in the north—even those who have lived all their lives in the North and speak no languages of the South. The regime’s information minister had been blunt about the implications for Southerners in an interview of fall 2010: “They will not enjoy citizenship rights, jobs or benefits. We will not even give them a needle in the hospital.”
This hostility is increasingly turning towards Christian Sudanese, whose churches are being confiscated, worshippers harassed, and a general hostility has become increasingly palpable, particularly following al-Bashir’s declaration that northern Sudan will have an Islamic constitution and be governed by shari’a law—and that this is permissible because “98 percent” of the northern population is Muslim.
§ July 6: A previously confidential UN report on human rights abuses in South Kordofan is leaked (and remains available); it includes the following findings, all indicating extreme violations of international humanitarian and human rights law:
• “On 10 June, UNMIS [U.N. Mission in Sudan] Human Rights interviewed residents from Murta village, outside of Kadugli Town [the capital of South Kordofan], who stated that they saw fresh mass graves located in a valley southeast of the Murta bus station near the Kadugli police training centre.”
• “[Two men interviewed by UNMIS] reported that, following their release from SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] custody, they saw fresh mass graves between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market. On 16 June, UN military observers, while on their way between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market in an attempt to verify the existence of these mass graves, were arrested, stripped of their clothes, and believed that they were about to be executed when a senior SAF officer intervened.”
• “On 22 June, an UNMIS independent contractor reported witnessing SAF elements fill a mass grave in Al Gardut Locality in Tillo with dead bodies. She reported that SAF elements transported the bodies to the site, dumped them in the grave and using a bulldozer to cover the grave.”
There are a great many more appalling abuses and atrocities reported in this searing 19-page indictment.
July 7: Al-Bashir quits talks in Addis to end the conflict in South Kordofan, declaring “there will be no more negotiations outside Sudan.” (Bloomberg)
July 7: Khartoum shuts down six newspapers in a continuing crackdown on what are already exceedingly limited media freedoms. Reporters Without Borders ranks Sudan 172nd out of 178 nations in press freedom.
§ July 8: In an extraordinary account of UN failure in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan, The Independent (UK) reports that eyewitnesses “described how they saw peacekeepers [part of UNMIS] standing by while unarmed civilians were shot dead outside the gates of a UN base before being dragged away ‘like slaughtered sheep.'” A spokesman for UNMIS in Khartoum denies these eyewitness accounts.
For its part, The Independent reports: “UNMIS officials are also accused of selectively preventing civilians with links to opposition groups from sheltering there. Najda Romeo-Peter, a civil servant at the governor’s office, said she saw UN officials standing with government agents and soldiers at the camp gate when they refused to allow in known activists from the opposition SPLM party: ‘They were told the camp was full and they were turned away. They [the activists] knew they would be killed so they refused to leave but the peacekeepers forced them away.'”
“The names of two local Nuban UNMIS staff, Nimeri Philip and Juma Bahar, were also given to The Independent—both men were killed by government forces, according to witnesses, while trying to assist civilians near the base …. The witness testimony was backed by the Bishop of Kadugli, the Rt Rev Andudu Adam Elnail, whose church was burned down and who has sought refuge in the US. ‘When the SAF [government] troops came, the UN handed the civilians to SAF and they were killed,’ he said.”
§ July 8: The UN Development Program reports on some of the daily conditions in northern Sudan: 46.5 percent of the population lives on less than $1/day; 31.8 percent of children under five are malnourished. Indicators are particularly bad in eastern Sudan, which—as represented by the Eastern Front—signed a peace agreement with Khartoum in 2006. To date there are no significant benefits that have accrued to the people of the east from this agreement.
§ July 12: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports “heavy aerial bombardment in South Kordofan state in recent days”—near Kadugli and the town of Delami (AP). Reports from a range of Nuba sources continue to reach outside South Kordofan; John Ashworth provides the most complete summary of these reports, but they come from many other sources and are simply too numerous to collate accurately.
§ July 13: The Satellite Sentinel Project reports that it has satellite photography showing mass gravesites, supporting claims that the SAF and allied militias have “engaged in a campaign of systematic mass killing in Kadugli,” which may represent “crimes against humanity.” Subsequent reports (August 17 and August 23) confirm further the existence of mass gravesites potentially holding thousands of bodies. SSP’s finding are fully consistent with eyewitness ground reports they have received and which have been reported by the UN human rights team in Kadugli.
July 14: The Doha Peace Agreement (DPA) is signed in Qatar by the Khartoum regime and one small, factitious rebel group, the “Liberation and Justice Movement.” The LJM is a meaningless organization, without military or political power. It has been cobbled together out of two groups of even smaller splinter groups—by U.S. envoy Scott Gration and former Libyan strongman Muamar Gaddafi. The agreement is, as one informed observer put the matter, “Abuja replayed as farce.” By May 2012, the farce is conspicuous to all Darfuris: the DPA is regarded with nothing but contempt throughout all Darfur states.
July 15: Valerie Amos, senior UN humanitarian official, declares: “We do not know whether there is any truth to the grave allegations of extra-judicial killings, mass graves and other grave violations in South Kordofan.” Skepticism on the part of UN and U.S. officials about realities on the ground in South Kordofan has become thoroughly untenable (see my overview of the evidence, July 17).
July 20: In a Washington Post interview (“US Government Cannot Confirm Mass Graves in Sudan”), special envoy Lyman declares his general skepticism about the findings of the Satellite Sentinel Project and its report of July 13 that there is compelling evidence of mass graves. Specifically, Lyman declares, “What they (SSP) identify as body bags, we see those same items in those same places before the fighting started.” In turn, SSP replied (August 23): “The US government has released no eye witness report or imagery in support of [Princeton Lyman’s] assertion. SSP has determined, though, that these same items [white objects identified as body bags and tarps] were not present in those same places on 7 June or 17 June or 20 July.”
§ July 21: The Christian Science Monitor reports from Juba that 200 – 300 Nuba are now present in the Southern capital. Many were in Kadugli when fighting broke out on June 5. A number of them are interviewed and report seeing: helicopter gunships attacking civilians attempting to flee Kadugli when fighting began; summary executions; aerial bombardment of civilian targets; roadblocks targeting Nuba civilians, whether affiliated with the SPLA/M-North or not.
§ July 24: UN’s OCHA warns of “grave consequences” if dwindling foodstocks in South Kordofan are not soon replaced. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are particularly at risk. Ten months after this warning the UN’s World Food Program still has no significant access to South Kordofan, and Khartoum continues to deny that there is a food shortage.
§ July 26: Governor Ahmed Haroun claims that he and Khartoum are “fully cooperating with the different humanitarian agencies operating in South Kordofan.” In a bald lie, he specifies WFP, UNICEF, and WHO.
July 27: Khartoum acknowledges that “authorities in South Kordofan collected dead bodies on trucks for burial during the course of fighting.” Can there be any doubt that these dead bodies ended up in mass graves of the sort photographed by the Satellite Sentinel Project and reported by numerous eyewitnesses? Princeton Lyman has declined to comment on Khartoum’s statement.
July 27: Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights demand monitors in South Kordofan and that the international community “take action now.” This is over nine months ago.
August 4: UN reporter Colum Lynch writes in Foreign Policy that the UN’s top human rights agency—in a confidential briefing of the Security Council—“down-played evidence of Sudanese attacks on civilians and UN personnel in South Kordofan.” On the basis of a confidential copy of briefing notes for Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lynch continues: “the restrained briefing contrasted sharply with the UN’s own grim reporting on the ground in South Kordofan.” In a closed-door briefing of the Security Council on July 28, Pillay will say only that “while there is much disturbing information coming from the region, we are regrettably not in a position to verify it.” But of course this simply is not true: indeed, Pillay seems to be saying that the report from the ground by UN investigators is not verifiable: how could it not be? Are these investigators presumed to be lying in their report? Lynch notes as well that Pillay omits “a series of first-hand accounts of abuses of UN personnel by Sudanese forces that could constitute violations of international law.”
§ August 4: Khartoum’s SAF threatens to shoot down a UN helicopter trying to evacuate Ethiopian peacekeepers fatally wounded in a landmine explosion in Abyei. This is the embodiment of the regime that Pillay is seeking to mollify with her expedient report to the UN Security Council. It is also a consequence of Khartoum’s refusal to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Ethiopian mission.
§ August 4: In testimony before the subcommittee on Africa in U.S. House of Representatives, Andudu Adam Elnail, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Kadugli, offers this extraordinary narrative:
“A member of my congregation told me that on June 8, less than one kilometer south of the Tilo School in Kadugli, he saw an earth mover digging two pits. That evening, he said, he saw trucks driving to the freshly excavated pits. In the trucks were soldiers from the SAF, along with northern militia members, men dressed like Sudan Red Crescent Society workers, wearing white aprons with red crescents, and other men dressed like prisoners from a local prison, He saw 100 or more dead bodies buried in the pits on the evening of June 8. Some of the bodies, he said, appeared to be wrapped in white body bags or white, plastic tarps. I believe him.”
August 8: Following a meeting of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu of the SPLA/M-North and leaders of the Darfuri rebel groups, these forces announce a new alliance with a common objective: to change the regime in Khartoum by the use of force and popular uprising. The Beja Congress, the main force in the Eastern Front, will soon join the alliance, to be named the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).
§ August 17: The Satellite Sentinel Project reports evidence of three more mass graves in and near Kadugli.
§ August 23: Al-Bashir declares a “cease-fire” in South Kordofan; yet bombing and fighting is reported within hours, and the non-existence of a “cease-fire” is confirmed the following week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
Bombing attacks have been reported on a virtually daily basis since fighting began in South Kordofan on June 5. On December 6 Amnesty International publishes a two-part report that contains searing testimonies of those from Blue Nile who have been targeted mercilessly and indiscriminately.
§ August 23: Satellite photography analyzed by the Satellite Sentinel Project reveals additional compelling evidence of a large “cluster of white bundles in Kadugli consistent with white plastic tarps or body bags.” This evidence directly challenges claims made by U.S. special envoy Lyman that these were not tarps or body bags, and that the “white objects” had been in these locations in Kadugli prior to the photographs published by SSP. They had not, and SSP provides definitive satellite photographic evidence that they were not; this is further confirmed by new eyewitness reports.
The insistent, finally tendentious skepticism of Lyman in the face of such compelling evidence of atrocity crimes is deeply disturbing. There are no morally acceptable explanations.
§ August 26: The U.S. urges the SPLA/M-North to join in the cease-fire that Khartoum that has declared and then immediately violated. With such peculiarly timed urging, the Obama administration looks increasingly out of touch with realities on the ground in the border regions of Sudan.
§ August 30: One weeks after al-Bashir’s announcement of a “ceasefire,” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issue a joint statement on the bombing attacks in South Kordofan:
“The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are indiscriminately bombing civilian areas in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan and preventing aid from reaching desperate displaced people, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.”
“Researchers from both groups, during a week-long mission to the area in late August, investigated 13 air strikes in Kauda, Delami, and Kurchi areas. Those air strikes killed at least 26 civilians and injured more than 45 others since mid-June. The researchers also witnessed government planes circling over civilian areas and dropping bombs, forcing civilians to seek shelter in mountains and caves.”
“‘The relentless bombing campaign is killing and maiming civilian men, women, and children, displacing tens of thousands, putting them in desperate need of aid, and preventing entire communities from planting crops and feeding their children,’ said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.”
“‘Local organizations on the ground said that despite the ceasefire, the government continued to bomb civilian areas. Al-Bashir also said that neither the United Nations nor international aid agencies will be allowed to assist the displaced.'”
August 30: OCHA head Valerie Amos appears finally to have come to terms with realities on the ground: “[M]ore than 200,000 people affected by the fighting in South Kordofan faced ‘potentially catastrophic levels of malnutrition and mortality’ because of Khartoum denying access to aid agencies” (AFP). Eight months later no humanitarian access has been secured for UN agencies or international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations.
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)
§ July 12: The UN Security Council passes a resolution declaring that countries and groups that attack 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 indeed continues to deny the bombing, even as the attack has been confirmed by the UN and reporters for Reuters and the BBC, who were in Yida as the bombing occurred.
§ 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.
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 northern Sudan.
§ 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 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. It culminates most dangerously in the response to Khartoum-instigated fighting in the Tishwin/Heglig (Panthou) border region in May 2012.
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 unctuous fashion. The agreement of course means nothing, and the SAF presence remains undiminished. Khartoum notes only that there are no consequences for yet another abrogated agreement.
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). Bombing of civilian targets has only accelerated in the months since Lyman’s interview.
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 …. ” This remains the regime’s line eight months later.
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 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 as of May 2012.
§ 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 a 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 what both the SPLA/M and the people of the region find unacceptable, 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)
§ 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: “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 joins 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.”
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, with only small residual elements in scattered locations in Abyei; 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” (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).
§ 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 Council 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 evidence that the SPLM/A is in significant violation of the September 8 agreement, while Khartoum’s substantial 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.”
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). Half a year later, Lyman no longer makes this “urging” with any conviction, even as 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)
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)
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 (Blue Nile) 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.” This is a description of genocide.
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).
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.
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 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, supported by Khartoum, 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 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 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 in any significant quantities. This seems a peculiar U.S. priority, given the overwhelming evidence that Khartoum is supporting the SSLA, George Athor’s militia, “Commander” Olonyi’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, as is Khartoum’s proposed transit fee of $36/barrel. (Bloomberg) (For a full account of the contentious negotiations over oil transit fees, see my January 24, 2012 analysis)
§ 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. The purpose of this and very recently reported flights to the far east of Jonglei State (April 2012) is likely to re-supply renegade militia forces.
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)
[ November 29: “How War Reignited In Sudan While No One Was Looking,” The New Republic (on-line) ]
§ 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 the past five months have revealed all too clearly, 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.”
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.
December 6: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports on conditions in Doro refugee camp (Upper Nile), 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: 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.”
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. There is no international response.
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.”
The French journalist who reported on the situation is subsequently expelled from Sudan by the regime.
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.” (AFP)
In early May 2012, conditions have deteriorated significantly and the number of conflict-affected civilians has increased dramatically.
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 (see December 1 and 11 above and December 20 below). The figure does not include the more than 100,000 who remain displaced by Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei on May 20-21, 2011.
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 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 in Khartoum. 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 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'” (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 el-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. Khartoum’s military forces remain fully deployed in Abyei.
§ December 22: Continuing intensive bombing is reported from South Kordofan, particularly the areas of Silara, Karko, Senda, Kudjooria and Shifr. (Radio Dabanga)
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.”
§ 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.”
As the disingenuous British government well knows, 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.