Satellites Show Government of Sudan Paving Way for Final Assault on Nuba People of South Kordofan

WASHINGTON -- In apparent preparation for a final assault against the Nuba people who live in Sudan’s southern state of South Kordofan, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has cut off the main evacuation routes for refugees fleeing areas already bombarded, has encircled the remaining local civilian population in the last rebel strongholds of the Nuba Mountains, and is building roads and lengthening the closest airstrip within striking range, according to new imagery released by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP).

Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast stated:

“With only two months left until the expected start of the rainy season, the Sudan army has a limited window to launch a full-scale assault on the Kauda Valley and the surrounding region where the majority of the remaining Nuba people live. As they did with the Ngok Dinka in Abyei and with the Fur and Zaghawa in Darfur, the Khartoum regime is driving the Nuba people out of their homelands in order to remove the support base for the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North.

“For years, there has been talk and debate about the efficacy of a no-fly-zone or some other kind of deterrent to the Khartoum regime’s use of air power to attack civilian targets. Now would be the time for the United Nations Security Council or interested member states to create that deterrent, and combine it with a cross-border humanitarian aid operation to break the blockade the regime has created with its denial of access for emergency assistance. If left to their own devices, thousands of Nuba civilians will die.”

The evidence in SSP’s new report shows a pattern almost identical to the Government of Sudan’s road building activity and disposition of forces revealed by satellites in March of last year, before SAF’s May bombardment, invasion and displacement of the indigenous population of 110,000 Ngok Dinka who lived in the oil-producing border area of Abyei.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, analyzed for SSP by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), documents newly elevated roads pointing into the Nuba Mountains from SAF-controlled areas and the buildup of forces in positions where they can easily deploy along those roads with heavy armor, artillery and close air support, including helicopter gunships.  

Sudanese road crews are, in one area, within 10 kilometers of completing the roads required to deploy heavy armor into the Kauda Valley, an area controlled by SPLA-North rebels. South Kordofan Governor Ahmed Haroun, indicted in 2008 for crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, stated in October 2011, “These [road construction] projects will be the weapon for defeating the enemies.”

Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw stated:

“The United States, together with the international community, must act swiftly to fulfill its responsibility to protect the Nuba people who are being bombarded, and starved, by their own government. Sudan appears to be several weeks away from being able to launch a full-scale, final assault on the Kauda Valley and the surrounding area, where most of the 200,000 Nuba people who remain in South Kordofan, according to UN estimates, are sheltering in caves, cut off from humanitarian aid.”

SAF appears to control choke points along the routes civilians have taken over the past eight months to flee South Kordofan into South Sudan. In addition, SSP has observed SAF efforts to lengthen and level the airstrip at Talodi, which is approximately 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Kauda Valley. The improvements to the airstrip, indicated by the presence of construction machinery, increased the length of the strip to 1,800 meters from its initial length of 1,100 meters. The Talodi airstrip is therefore now capable of accommodating Antonov planes used for bombing and other attack planes for high-tempo operations.

Recent imagery shows four SAF helicopters, including three gunships, at the Kadugli airbase. Also, main battle tanks, apparent mechanized infantry units, and occupied artillery positions are clearly visible at SAF’s 14th Division headquarters in Kadugli. These units are all capable of rapid deployment to the Kauda Valley.

SSP analysis has further determined that between 21 May and approximately 1 November 2011 the civilian population in a section of Buram likely fled. The Government of Sudan has identified Buram as a rebel-controlled area.

Harvard Carr Center Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD, stated:

“The disturbing pattern, indicated by satellite imagery analyzed by SSP, has been seen before. In the case of Abyei, the international community did not heed the warnings we issued six weeks in advance. The community of nations must not again fail to act while some 200,000 Nuba civilian lives are in danger.”

Read the Satellite Sentinel Project report, “Siege: Evidence of SAF Encirclement of the Kauda Valley.”

View or download DigitalGlobe satellite imagery:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157629007624319/