For six years the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have been engaged in hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are as many as 700,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) spread across government and SPLM-N controlled territory in the two states, while more than 253,000 people have fled to South Sudan and 41,600 to Ethiopia. The government of Sudan prohibits access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile and continues to systematically obstruct aid from reaching vulnerable civilians.
The SAF has committed war crimes, including extrajudicial killings, forced displacement and widespread sexual violence, against civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. It has also engaged in "scorched earth" tactics, systematically targeting food sources and deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure, including health facilities. Amnesty International has also reported evidence that the SAF perpetrated at least 30 suspected chemical weapons attacks against civilians in Darfur between January and September 2016. Conflict Armament Research reported during April that the government may have also violated the UN arms embargo by buying weapons from Iran.
The SPLM-N has also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian-populated areas, alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel. A growing political divide within the leadership of the SPLM-N has led to violent clashes along ethnic lines between forces within the armed wing of the SPLM-N, the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, in parts of Blue Nile State during May and June.
During 2016 the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan proposed a Roadmap agreement to help end the conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Despite the Sudanese government and a number of rebel groups, including the SPLM-N, signing the Roadmap, the parties failed to agree on a permanent cessation of hostilities. On 2 July President Omar al-Bashir extended a unilateral ceasefire for Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan until 31 October 2017. On 31 July the SPLM-N declared a unilateral ceasefire through 21 January 2108.
Civilians in Darfur continue to face 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 RSF was accused of carrying out a scorched-earth campaign against non-Arab groups in Darfur. Heavy clashes in Jebel Marra, North Darfur, between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid led to the displacement of over 140,000 civilians during 2016. As of December, a total of 2.7 million people were displaced in Darfur. On 3 May 2017 the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement extended their unilateral ceasefire for an additional six months.
During May the AU and UN reported that the overall security situation in parts of Darfur remains precarious due to activities of militia groups and the proliferation of arms. At least 8,200 people have been newly displaced since the beginning of 2017. On 18 May the chairman of the AU Peace and Security Council said that small clashes between government forces and rebel groups continue and security challenges in Jebel Marra prevent the return of IDPs. Renewed fighting erupted at the end of May in Eastern and Northern Darfur between the Sudanese army, with support from the RSF, and the SLA-MM and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Transitional Council.
The government has systematically obstructed the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), tasked with a civilian protection mandate, from carrying out human rights monitoring. Since 2008 more than 70 UNAMID peacekeepers have been killed.
The government has a history of perpetrating atrocities in Darfur and during its 1983-2005 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 six years.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) and AU have failed to ensure that the government and SPLM-N honor past agreements on the cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance. Indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by the SAF and SPLM-N demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish between combatants and civilians, actions that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Since its deployment in Darfur in 2008, UNAMID has been unable to provide adequate protection to civilians and has been obstructed by the government. Ongoing inter-communal violence and SAF operations contribute to the risk of further mass atrocity crimes. The alleged use of chemical weapons and attacks on UN peacekeepers constitute possible war crimes, while restrictions on UNAMID's freedom of movement contravene the Status of Forces Agreement between the UN, AU and Sudan. While fighting in some parts of Darfur has decreased in recent years, several areas, especially Jebel Marra, still require a robust peacekeeping presence.
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.
The UNSC has adopted at least 57 resolutions on Sudan since 2004, most of which have not been fully implemented. The response of the international community to mass atrocities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been grossly inadequate.
Following a UNSC referral, in June 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into the situation in Darfur. Between 2007 and 2014 the ICC issued arrest warrants for three Sudanese government officials, including multiple warrants for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The ICC also issued arrest warrants for one pro-government and two anti-government militia leaders. None of the indictees have been surrendered to the Court and the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC has repeatedly criticized the UNSC for failing to meaningfully assist in their arrest.
During 2005 the UNSC established a Sanctions Committee for Sudan pursuant to Resolution 1591. On 8 February the UNSC extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of sanctions, recalling that the government "bears the primary responsibility for protecting all populations within its territory."
On 29 June the UNSC adopted Resolution 2363, which extended UNAMID's mandate until 30 June 2018. The resolution emphasized that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations 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." The Council mandated a reduction of the military component of UNAMID by 44 percent and the police component by 30 percent over the next twelve months.
After 13 years and 57 resolutions it is time for the UNSC and other UN member states to review their entire approach to endemic conflict and ongoing atrocities in Sudan. The UNSC should immediately expand the arms embargo on Darfur to include South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Following the reconfiguration of UNAMID, the UNSC should closely monitor the precarious security situation in Darfur.
The government, SPLM-N and other parties must abide by the AUHIP Roadmap and cease all armed hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The UNSC and AU should ensure the government and SPLM-N facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as stipulated in the Roadmap, 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.
States parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC should deny President Bashir entry to their country or should comply with ICC warrants and arrest him.
Last Updated: 15 August 2017