BACKGROUND: More than three years since the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2046, calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) 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 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.
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, including at least 26 health facilities since 2011. The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian populated areas, alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel.
Ahead of the onset of the rainy season in June, the SAF intensified its offensive against the SPLM-N in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This included the reported shelling and aerial bombardment of civilian areas at least 56 times during May. The SAF has reportedly dropped illegal cluster munitions on civilian areas in Kauda, South Kordofan. During May there was also an upsurge in ground attacks causing widespread damage to civilian infrastructure as well as the displacement of approximately 7,000 people. Also during May civilians were targeted in attacks on Kululu, Damam and Hadara. Clashes between the SAF and SPLM-N were reported near Torda, Blue Nile, on 9 August.
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 conflict areas. The most recent talks between the government and the SPLM-N were held between 12 and 17 November 2014 under the auspices of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan. Despite both parties endorsing an AUHIP-proposed draft framework agreement to resolve the conflict, 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, a pro-government militia with aerial and ground support from the SAF. Between 26 February and 15 May, UNAMID recorded 11 episodes of inter-communal violence, mainly between ethnic Rezeigat and Habaniya, resulting in 278 people killed. Meanwhile fighting between the SAF and rebel groups contributed to the displacement of more than 450,000 people during 2014 and an additional 78,000 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. The UN Secretary-General has condemned the increase in attacks on UNAMID personnel and called upon the government to respect the status-of-forces agreement. UNAMID came under attack 60 times between 26 February and 15 May.
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 over 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. Attacks on UN peacekeepers also constitute a war crime.
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 60 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 Omar al-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. President Bashir was also indicted in 2010 for perpetrating genocide in Darfur. The International Criminal Count (ICC) issued an additional arrest warrant during September 2014 against rebel leader Abdallah Banda for war crimes 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 the Court's Darfur investigation due to the failure of the UNSC to meaningfully assist in the arrest of indicted suspects. In her briefing to the UNSC on 29 June, the Chief Prosecutor noted that "innocent civilians continue to bear the brunt of insecurity and instability, in particular as a result of what appears to be an ongoing government campaign to target them." She called upon the UNSC to ensure that Sudan cooperates with the ICC.
On 29 June the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2228 which extended UNAMID's mandate until 30 June 2016. The resolution emphasized that those responsible for violations of IHL and abuses of human rights "must be held accountable and that the Government of Sudan bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, including protection from crimes against humanity and war crimes."
NECESSARY ACTION: After more than 10 years and 60 resolutions it is time for the UNSC to review its entire approach to endemic conflict and ongoing atrocities in Sudan. 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. 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.
States with major investments in Sudan, including China, Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia, should press the government to fulfill its commitments.
The government and SPLM-N, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2046, must cease armed hostilities and address the underlying causes of the conflict. 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.
Last Updated: 15 August 2015