Populations at Risk
Populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue to face mass atrocity crimes perpetrated by the Sudanese
Armed Forces and affiliated armed groups. Populations are also at risk in Darfur.
BACKGROUND: Since June 2011 the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in South Kordofan against the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group that fought alongside forces associated with the government of South Sudan during the 1983-2005 civil war. These forces have also been fighting in neighboring Blue Nile since the conflict expanded during September 2011.
The SAF and their allied paramilitaries, the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), have committed war crimes, including extra-judicial killing, forced displacement and sexual violence against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the SAF's widespread use of scorched earth tactics, including the systematic targeting of food sources and deliberate destruction of civilian structures. The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes. On 14 December 2013 the group shelled civilian areas of Kadugli, South Kordofan, in direct violation of IHL.
Heavy fighting between the SAF and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella organization consisting of the SPLM-N and other armed rebel groups has been reported since mid-November in South Kordofan. The SAF issued a statement on 21 December claiming to have recaptured 17 areas previously controlled by the SRF. The Satellite Sentinel Project has used satellite imagery to confirm large-scale aerial bombardment of civilian areas by the SAF in Buram and Dilling counties, South Kordofan. Clashes between the SRF and the SAF were also reported in Jebel Abu Domou on 1 December. Indiscriminate aerial bombardments in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile continued, including strikes on Yabus, Blue Nile, on 27 January and Korongo, South Kordofan, on 31 January.
The ongoing conflict has led to the internal displacement of over 1 million civilians while more than 230,000 civilians have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia. Recent violence in South Sudan has resulted in Sudanese and South Sudanese civilians fleeing into South Kordofan. The government continues to block UN agencies, international humanitarian organizations, monitors and independent media from access to rebel-held areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On 1 February the Sudanese government ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross to halt its operations in the country.
Sudan has consistently failed to honor AU-brokered agreements and UNSC resolutions calling for a cessation of hostilities. Direct negotiations between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N to reach a comprehensive solution to the conflict commenced on 13 February following an invitation from the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan on 23 January. The parties last held direct talks in April 2013 but failed to agree on an agenda for negotiations.
The security situation in Darfur also remains volatile as a result of inter-communal and state-sponsored violence, which displaced over 300,000 people during 2013. The government has been restricting the movement of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), limiting its ability to uphold its civilian protection mandate.
ANALYSIS: The government of Sudan 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 more than two years.
Indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish between combatants and civilians, actions which violate IHL and may amount to crimes against humanity. Both the government and the SPLM-N have continued attacks against civilian areas despite negotiations.
The UNSC and AU have failed to push the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N to uphold agreements to cease hostilities and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The failure to resolve the final status of Abyei also continues to endanger the lives of civilians living there. Heightened tensions between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities during the migration season have increased the risk of a recurrence of significant inter-communal violence.
Despite the presence of UNAMID, the security situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate. Recent inter-communal violence and the expanded operations of Darfuri rebel groups into North Kordofan and Abyei contributes 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 responsible for perpetrating mass atrocity crimes in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Members of the current government, including President Omar al-Bashir, the Defence Minister, Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and the current governor of North Kordofan, Ahmad Haroun, were indicted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. President Bashir was also indicted in 2010 for perpetrating genocide in Darfur. [For responses prior to September 2013, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.]
Acting on behalf of the AUHIP for Sudan former South African President Thabo Mbeki has facilitated regular talks between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N since 2011.
The UNSC issued a Press Statement on 14 February which welcomed the resumption of negotiations between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N. The statement also called upon both parties to cease hostilities and reach an agreement to end the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
NECESSARY ACTION: The government of Sudan and SPLM-N must cease 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 that the 2011 Framework Agreement and 2012 cooperation agreements are rigorously implemented. States with major investments in Sudan, including China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, should press the government to fulfill its commitments.
Crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur must be thoroughly investigated. The UNSC should mandate the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry for South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Sudan and South Sudan must continue to negotiate outstanding post-secession issues and resolve the status of Abyei. Both governments should end support for armed groups operating in the other's territory. During the volatile migration season the UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei (UNISFA) should continue to implement its conflict prevention and mediation strategy and increase the number of temporary operating bases in the region.
Last Updated: 18 February 2014