Press Release from the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Organisation,
Juba, South Sudan
Sudan Government offensive drives 1.1 million civilians to brink of starvation
Juba, 8 July 2014. Attacked from the air and from the ground, women and children have been forced to cower in caves. Fields have been left untilled and cattle uncared for. A carefully conducted survey, carried out at great risk by workers in the field, has revealed the scale of the looming catastrophe, which is detailed in the 4th SRRA report on the humanitarian and human rights situation of the war-affected people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States of Sudan.
The dry season offensive – launched by the Sudanese Armed Forces in January this year – has driven civilians away from their homes and their farms. Now they are on the brink of catastrophe. The Sudanese authorities are well aware of the seasons for planting and harvesting and the intensification of bombardments reported in May, June and November, December and January, indicate that the Government is intentionally attempting to disrupt these critical periods in the agricultural year. It is a deliberate strategy designed to use of starvation as a weapon of warfare.
A looming catastrophe
The months of fighting have left already vulnerable populations in a terrible plight. In many locations food has been all but exhausted, water is scarce and essential medications are nowhere to be found.
Nearly one million civilians in South Kordofan and around 100,000 in Blue Nile states have fled from the areas of conflict. A further 400,000 people in South Kordofan are now internally displaced, hiding in the caves. This report provides a careful breakdown of where exactly these people have fled from and where they are now living. They face a critical shortage of food and other essentials.
War by ground and air
President Omar al-Bashir, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, launched an operation called “Decisive Summer” in January 2014. It was designed to break the forces of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) defending the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile – two provinces bordering on independent South Sudan. The Sudanese Armed Forces were reinforced by the Rapid Support Force, which included members of the notorious Janjaweed, who had inflicted such devastation in Darfur.
Despite using tanks, artillery and bombing by Antonov planes and fighter jets, the Sudanese advance has been thrown back and the dry season offensive has been defeated.
But the fighting has taken a terrible toll on the civilians. At least 79 civilians were killed and 91 injured during aerial bombardments from January to June 2014 – mostly women, children and elders. Schools and homes were destroyed. On 1 May the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel, in Southern Kordofan, was damaged after six bombs were dropped in the hospital compound from a Sukhoi-24 fighter. It is one of the few hospitals in the region and a vital resource, which is well known and clearly marked.
The African Union, led by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, has been attempting to mediate between the Sudanese Government and the SPLM/A–N. His efforts have been backed by the African Union, the United Nations and the wider international community. But the intransigence of the Government of President Omar al-Bashir has resulted in an impasse, despite the call of the UN Security Council in Resolution 2046.
The Sudanese government has also refused to allow President Mbeki to make a visit to South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, so that he can see for himself the scale of the devastation the Government military and their associated militia have inflicted on ordinary people.
Appeal to the international community
The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States require immediate attention and an immediate response: there are clear national and international legal obligations to act. The SRRA appeals to the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General, the Chairman of IGAD, the chair of the AUHIP, the AU and the international community at large to:
1. Declare the situation in the Two Areas a humanitarian emergency requiring the urgent response from all actors,
2. Demand that SAF immediately halts its indiscriminate aerial bombardment and air strikes against civilian targets in Southern Kordodan and Blue Nile states,
3. Ensure that the humanitarian situation in Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and Blue Nile is the priority agenda item for the upcoming direct talks between GoS and the SPLM-N, to be considered before any political and security arrangements,
4. Require GoS to lift restrictions on the delivery of food and other humanitarian items, and to permit UN agencies and independent international organizations immediate free and unhindered access to the needy civilians, to stave off mass starvation,
5. Press GoS to agree a cessation of hostilities – with regional and international monitoring mechanisms – to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance and polio vaccination to the populations and children in the war zones,
6. Deploy an appropriate international and/or regional mechanism to take care of the humanitarian situation of Sudanese’s refugees in the Republic of South Sudan without hindering the safety and confidence of the needy refugees,
7. Urge both parties to protect civilians under their respective control and provide safe corridors for the passage of civilians and humanitarian goods,
8. Consider the most effective means, including airdrops, to access civilians trapped by ground attacks and lack of roads,
9. Urge that relevant national and international authorities conduct independent investigations into allegations of summary executions, detentions and torture inflicted on the basis of the ethnic and political affiliations of individuals in the Two Areas.
For more information please contact the SRRA’s Director Neroun Philip at firstname.lastname@example.org and +211915335147.
Note: 1 Resolution 2046 stated: Decides that the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-North shall extend full cooperation to the AUHIP and the Chair of IGAD, to reach a negotiated settlement on the basis of the 28 June 2011 Framework Agreement on Political Partnership between NCP and SPLM-N and Political and Security Arrangements in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States.