Fresh International Attention on Southern Kordofan, but Attacks Unabated

Posted by Juliana Stebbins

Regular readers of Enough Said are well aware of the Sudanese government’s ongoing targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure—like wells, health clinics, and airstrips for delivering humanitarian supplies—in the Nuba Mountains since last May. But the under acknowledged atrocities, and the practically non-existent international response they have provoked, got a boost of public attention last week when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported from the ground in the Nuban town of Tabanya. Here’s the video he filed:

Once again the Sudanese government is employing its tried and true approach to “counter-insurgency”—killing and maiming civilians, blocking aid, and targeting the survivors with a war of attrition—in its effort to rout rebels. To starve the rebels and the civilians living in the area, the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, is monitoring the area and surrounding roads in order to block any aid groups or foods assistance that may potentially fuel the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, or SPLA-N. And the blockage not only obstructs much-needed aid from reaching civilians the isolated area; it is preventing civilians from fleeing to relative safety in refugee camps in South Sudan. In addition to being trapped in precarious conditions of food insufficiency, civilians are subjected to the constant threat of aerial bombardment.

In an effort to maintain a public record of the regular bombardments, here are some notes on recent attacks, compiled from a variety of humanitarian and on-the-ground sources:

Kurchi, February 6: SAF dropped four bombs on and around a health clinic located in Kurchi, South Kordofan in proximity to the June bombing of the Kurchi market that left 13 civilians dead and 20 others injured. While no civilians were reportedly injured, the clinic and sparse remaining medical supplies inside were badly damaged.

Alabo, February 7: Following the Kurchi attack, SAF conducted another aerial bombardment targeting Alabo in South Kordofan, an area populated with civilians who previously inhabited its caves and rough terrain to seek of protection from early air attacks.

Jau, February 12: South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer reported that SAF bombed the Jau area over the border in South Sudan’s Unity state with Antonov aircraft and wounded four South Sudanese soldiers. Several bombs hit the oil-rich area located in the disputed border region just days after Khartoum and Juba signed a non-aggression pact in Ethiopia.

Tabanya, February 17: Three 300mm rockets launched by SAF exploded just east of the village of Tabanya. No injuries or deaths were reported but the persistence of aerial attacks has instilled a lingering state of fear and fleeing. The people of Tabanya have largely abandoned their homes for shelter in mountain caves as airstrikes have increased.

Angolo, February 17 and 18: In a two-day multi-faceted approach to take control of an SPLA-N positioning in Angolo, SAF bombed the village on the 17th and raided it by ground on the 18th.  The SPLM-N rebels fought off government troops, forcing them back to their base in Toroji, but many civilians were forced to flee the area. Although the SAF attack was ostensibly targeting SPLA-N rebels, the only reported casualties were civilians: Four women were severely injured from the airstrikes. These raids were preceded by the February 15th Sudanese army ambush of a minibus traveling on roads connecting Nuba to Yida refugee camps in Unity state in which all civilian passengers were killed.

UmSerdeba, February 18: Citizen journalist Ryan Boyette, on the ground in South Kordofan, reported that at 2 a.m., six 300mm rockets were fired at the village of UmSerdeba and one east of UmSerdeba. One of the rockets exploded near a family home, killing the father and three daughters and leaving the mother and another child badly injured. The local market was closed in the wake of the attack.

The United Nations Security Council recently called on the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N to cooperate fully with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies and organizations to ensure that humanitarian assistance is delivered to those suffering from the rising levels of malnutrition and food insecurity. But as Nenad Marinkovic and Jenn Christian pointed out in a blog post late last week, initial optimism over a joint proposal put forth by the U.N., African Union, and League of Arab States to deliver aid to civilians in the embattled region quickly faded when President Bashir fiercely rejected allowing “biased” international aid groups to operate in the area.

“There is a prevalent opinion among seasoned Sudan relief workers in Juba that [the requirement that aid groups operate according to government directives] assumes Khartoum would retain control to whom and where aid would be delivered,” Marinkovic and Christian wrote.