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: More than two 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 that directly threaten civilians. The government has prohibited access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile and is systematically preventing aid from reaching populations at risk of starvation.

Since June 2011 the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in South Kordofan against the 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 ongoing conflict has led to the internal displacement of over 1.2 million civilians, while more than 243,500 have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, approximately 240,000 people in Blue Nile urgently require humanitarian assistance.

The SAF has committed war crimes, including extrajudicial killing, forced displacement and sexual violence against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The SAF has engaged in the 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 including indiscriminate attacks on civilian populated areas as well as the reported recruitment of children.

Following the end of the May-November rainy season, there has been a surge in indiscriminate aerial bombardment and a renewed ground offensive in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Heavy fighting between the SAF and SPLM-N was reported in the Alahimar area, South Kordofan, on 1 December. The SPLM-N also attacked SAF positions near the villages of Bilinja and Al-Atmur the following day. Major clashes also took place near Bok, Yabous and Shali in Blue Nile.

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. The most recent round of talks between the government and the SPLM-N were held on 12 November under the auspices of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan. On 15 November both parties endorsed a AUHIP-proposed draft framework agreement to resolve the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, fighting resumed shortly after talks adjourned on 17 November.

The situation in Darfur also remains dire as civilians face ongoing inter-communal violence as well as SAF ground and air attacks. Fighting between the SAF and rebel groups has contributed to the displacement of more than 430,000 people during 2014. In the UN Secretary-General's most recent report on Darfur he noted 55 recorded attacks against civilians with 23 allegedly perpetrated by the SAF.

The AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) has criticized the government for restricting its ability to uphold its civilian protection mandate. On 16 October three UNAMID soldiers were killed in a militia ambush in Korma, North Darfur. Following allegations that UNAMID sought to cover up attacks against civilians and peacekeepers, the UN Secretary-General initiated an internal review of the mission.

On 4 November UNAMID entered Tabit, after initially being refused access by the SAF, to investigate allegations of the mass rape of approximately 200 women and girls. While none of the alleged victims confirmed that any incident of rape took place, the UN noted that the heavy presence of military and police in Tabit "made a conclusive investigation difficult." The SAF has subsequently denied UNAMID access to conduct further investigations despite demands from the UNSC and the UN Secretary-General.

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 the SPLM-N have continued attacks against civilian areas despite negotiations. The UNSC and AU have also failed to push the government and the SPLM-N to honor agreements on the cessation of hostilities and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Indiscriminate bombings 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 government also continues to block UN agencies and independent media from access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The intensification of bombing during the planting season, combined with the refusal to allow humanitarian access, may demonstrate a deliberate strategy of denying food supplies to vulnerable civilian populations.

Despite the presence of UNAMID, civilians have not been afforded adequate protection in Darfur. Ongoing inter-communal violence and the expanded operations of the SAF 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: 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, who faces war crimes charges for his alleged role in an attack on AU peacekeepers during September 2007 in northern Darfur.

The UNSC has adopted 56 resolutions on Sudan since 2004. 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. [For responses prior to November 2014, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.]

On 12 December, the ICC Chief Prosecutor suspended the Court's investigation of mass atrocities in Darfur due to the failure of the UNSC to assist in the arrest of indicted suspects, including President Bashir.

NECESSARY ACTION: The government and the SPLM-N, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2046, 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 the government and the 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 and Saudi Arabia, should press the government to fulfill its commitments.

The UNSC's ongoing review of UNAMID should emphasize civilian protection as a key strategic priority. The government must stop obstructing UNAMID, particularly from conducting investigations into gross human rights violations. Mediation efforts should be renewed 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.

Last Updated: 15 December 2014