BACKGROUND: Almost three years since the UNSC adopted Resolution 2046, calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the government and armed rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) continue to engage in hostilities and directly threaten vulnerable civilians. The government continues to prohibit access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile and is systematically preventing aid from reaching populations at risk of starvation.
Since December there has been an increase in indiscriminate aerial bombardments and renewed ground offensives in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Between February and March 2015 the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) reportedly dropped cluster munitions on civilian areas in South Kordofan, in breach of international law. A ground assault by the SAF near Kurngo village on 4 April resulted in the displacement of approximately 3,000 people.
In presidential and parliamentary elections held between 13 and 16 April, President Omar al-Bashir was reelected with 94 percent of the vote, although the main opposition groups boycotted the elections. In an effort to disrupt voting, the SPLM-N launched attacks across South Kordofan, including near Dilling, El Abbasiya and Habila towns on 13 April. Major clashes have also taken place near Bok, Yabous and Shali in Blue Nile.
Since June 2011 the conflict has led to the internal displacement of over 1.2 million people, while more than 246,500 have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia. Over 3,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile have arrived in Yida camp, South Sudan, since 23 December 2014.
The SAF has committed war crimes, including extrajudicial killing, forced displacement and widespread sexual violence against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and has engaged in "scorched earth" tactics, systematically targeting food sources and deliberately destroying civilian structures. The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian populated areas, alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel.
Sudan has consistently failed to honor African Union (AU)-brokered agreements and UNSC resolutions calling for a cessation of hostilities. This includes the failure to end aerial bombardments, disarm pro-government militias and allow humanitarian access to civilians in conflict areas. The most recent round of talks between the government and the SPLM-N were held between 12 and 17 November under the auspices of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan. On 15 November both parties endorsed an AUHIP-proposed draft framework agreement to resolve the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, fighting resumed shortly after.
The situation in Darfur also remains dire as civilians face ongoing inter-communal violence as well as attacks by the SAF and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a pro-government militia with aerial and ground support from the SAF. On 11 May the UN expressed concern regarding an escalation in hostilities between the Rezeigat and Maaliya communities in East Darfur. Meanwhile fighting between the SAF and rebel groups contributed to the displacement of more than 450,000 people during 2014 and an additional 43,000 so far this year. A total of 2.5 million people are now displaced in Darfur.
The AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) has criticized the government for restricting its ability to uphold its civilian protection mandate. On 27 April the Secretary-General expressed concern about the increase in attacks on UNAMID personnel. He also called upon the government to respect the status-of-forces agreement when a peacekeeper died on 26 April from injuries sustained during an attack in West Darfur after being denied a request for medical evacuation.
ANALYSIS: The government has a history of perpetrating atrocities in Darfur and during its civil war with the south. It has consistently defied external pressure to halt mass atrocity crimes. Such crimes are currently being committed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where patterns of violence targeting civilians for their perceived support of the SPLM-N have been witnessed for almost four years.
Both the government and SPLM-N have continued attacks against populated areas despite negotiations. The UNSC and AU have failed to push the government and SPLM-N to honor past agreements on the cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas by the SAF demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish between combatants and civilians, actions that violate IHL and may amount to crimes against humanity. The SAF has systematically targeted hospitals and clinics, depriving the local population of life saving care. The government also continues to block UN agencies from access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Despite the presence of UNAMID, civilians have not been afforded adequate protection in Darfur. Ongoing inter- communal violence and SAF operations contribute to the risk of further mass atrocity crimes.
Not only is the government of Sudan manifestly failing to uphold its Responsibility to Protect, it is directly responsible for perpetrating mass atrocity crimes in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: The UNSC has adopted 59 resolutions on Sudan since 2004, most of which have not been fully implemented. Acting on behalf of the AUHIP, former South African President Thabo Mbeki has facilitated regular talks between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N since 2011. [See also, GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.]
Members of the current government, including President Bashir, the Defence Minister, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and the current governor of North Kordofan, Ahmad Haroun, were indicted by the ICC in 2007 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. The ICC also issued a warrant for President Bashir in 2010 for perpetrating genocide in Darfur. The ICC issued an arrest warrant in September 2014 against rebel leader Abdallah Banda for war crimes charges resulting from his alleged role in an attack on AU peacekeepers during September 2007 in northern Darfur.
On 12 December the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC suspended its Darfur investigation due to the failure of the UNSC to meaningfully assist in the arrest of indicted suspects. On 18 December the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) extended the AUHIP's mandate until 31 December 2015.
On 12 February the UNSC adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts monitoring the sanctions regime in Darfur until 12 March 2016.
On 8 May the United States issued a statement condemning ongoing fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They urged all parties, including rebel groups operating in the two areas, to protect civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access.
NECESSARY ACTION: After more than 10 years and almost 60 resolutions it is time for the UNSC to review its entire approach to endemic conflict and the ongoing perpetration of atrocities in Sudan. The government and SPLM-N, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2046, must cease armed hostilities and address the underlying causes of the conflict. The UNSC should expand the arms embargo on Darfur to include South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The UNSC and AU must ensure the government and SPLM-N facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as stipulated in the 2011 Framework Agreement and 2012 cooperation agreements.
States with major investments in Sudan, including China, Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia, should press the government to fulfill its commitments.
The government must stop obstructing UNAMID and allow them to uphold their mandate, including investigating gross human rights violations. Mediation efforts should be facilitated between the government and armed groups operating in Darfur.
The UNSC should mandate the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry for South Kordofan and Blue Nile and actively support efforts to bring ICC indictees to justice.
Last Updated: 15 May 2015