Populations at Risk Current Crisis


Populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue to face mass atrocity crimes perpetrated by the Sudanese Armed Forces and affiliated armed groups. Populations in Darfur are also at risk of mass atrocities due to ongoing inter-communal violence and attacks by government forces.
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. On 13 January the SAF claimed to have recaptured Alqineziah and Angarto, both in South Kordofan, from the SPLM-N. The SAF also deliberately targeted and destroyed one of the few remaining Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals in South Kordofan in a bombing raid on 20 January and reportedly fired artillery on Um Serdiba village on 3 February. Heavy fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM-N was reported near Habila town, South Kordofan, on 29 March. Major clashes have also taken place near Bok, Yabous and Shali in Blue Nile.

Since June 2011 the SAF has conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in South Kordofan against the SPLM-N. These forces have also been fighting in neighboring Blue Nile since the conflict expanded during September 2011. The ongoing conflict has led to the internal displacement of over 1.2 million civilians, 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. SAF forces have engaged in "scorched earth" tactics, including the systematic targeting of food sources and deliberate destruction of civilian structures. The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian populated areas, the alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel.

Sudan has consistently failed to honor 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. On 25 December the government ordered the expulsion of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Development Programme Country Director. The government has rejected calls from the UN Secretary-General to reverse its decision.

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. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted on 17 March that the upsurge in violence in Darfur was "largely attributable to the ongoing Government of Sudan and the RSF military offensive." 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. On 26 November the UN Secretary-General released his latest report on Darfur, which noted 55 attacks against civilians with 23 allegedly perpetrated by the SAF between 22 July and 15 November. During the same period over 700 civilians were killed as a result of inter-communal violence, with significant fighting reported between the Rizeigat and the Ma'alia in East Darfurthe Beni Hussein and the Northern Rizeigat in North Darfur and the Fallatta and the Habbaniya in South 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 4 November UNAMID entered Tabit, after initially being refused access by the SAF, to investigate allegations of the mass rape of local women and girls. The SAF has subsequently prohibited UNAMID from conducting further investigations despite the UNSC and Secretary-General calling for the government to allow unhindered access. Human Rights Watch published a report on 11 February providing evidence that the mass rape of at least 211 women took place between 30 October and 1 November.

A joint working group composed of the Sudanese government, UNAMID and AU officials met on 17 March to start discussions on an exit strategy for UNAMID.

The main opposition groups announced they would boycott presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to place between 13 and 16 April.

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 more than three 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 by the SAF of rebel-held areas 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 intercommunal 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 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. The ICC also issued a warrant for President Bashir in 2010 for perpetrating genocide in Darfur. On 11 September the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Darfur 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 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.

NECESSARY ACTION: After 10 years and almost 60 UNSC resolutions it is time for the UNSC to review its entire approach to addressing endemic conflict and the perpetration of atrocities in Sudan. The government and SPLM-N, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2046, must immediately 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 UNSC's impending review of UNAMID should emphasize civilian protection as a key strategic priority. The government must stop obstructing UNAMID and allow them to uphold their mandate including conducting investigations into gross human rights violations. Mediation efforts should be facilitated between the government and armed groups operating in Darfur.

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 and do more to help bring ICC indictees to justice.

Last Updated: 15 April 2015