A Timeline for Catastrophe: Sudan’s Continuing Slide Toward WarPosted by: Eric Reeves on Friday, December 30, 2011 - 08:43 PM
Briefs & Advocacy: Post-Machakos '11
A Timeline for Catastrophe: Sudan’s Continuing Slide Toward War
Historical memory is often short when Sudan is the subject, and the events of even the past year often become blurred or inadequately related to one another. This is especially dangerous because of the likely form that renewed war in Sudan will take. As Baptiste Gallopin argued at the end of August—and thus prior to Khartoum’s military offensive in Blue Nile (“Sudan: Slippery Slope”)—war will not come in the form of “an abrupt descent into full-fledged violence, but rather through a graduated series of unilateral measures that set the stage for a de facto international conflict.” The timeline offered here represents an attempt to provide a sequential account of the events, developments, and statements that have brought greater Sudan relentlessly closer to renewed war over the past year. It necessarily focuses on the “unilateralism” that has emanated from Khartoum, and taken the form of brutal aggression against the people of Abyei, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and increasingly South Sudan itself.
December 30, 2011
Such a timeline as I offer here cannot be complete, and yet also risks omissions that are important to understanding the course of events since September 2010, the point at which this timeline becomes significantly more detailed. A critical omission is Darfur, where genocide by attrition continues with only the barest of reporting by the UN/African Union force (UNAMID) or UN humanitarian agencies. Human rights and news organizations, of course, have no access to Darfur. The result is that a region formerly of considerable concern in the international community has become a “black box” (see the Appendix).
But of course even to note Darfur’s fate is to catch a glimpse of what the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) is attempting in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and virtually all of Abyei: in these three areas as well, Khartoum is doing all it can to keep prying international eyes away, and as a consequence has denied virtually all humanitarian access, even for assessment purposes. We have broad estimates for the number of displaced, the number at extreme risk, the number who face food shortages, the number of refugees from Blue Nile and South Kordofan; but they are estimates that are strikingly without adequate data sets and may well be low.
If I have erred, it is on the side of detail, especially for the past twelve months. At the same time, I have not attempted to chronicle all incidents of aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarian targets: for a comprehensive analysis and data spreadsheet for such attacks, surveying all reports since 1999, see “They Bombed Everything That Moved,” May 6, 2011, updated July 15 and October 15, 2011 (www.sudanbombing.org). Moreover, I have not given even a synoptic account of all the academic and organizational reports on Sudan from the past year and more, but rather try to note those that seem to offer key information for the chronology I am attempting to establish, particularly with respect to Khartoum’s repeated reneging on agreements it has committed to.
Some redundant reporting of events has proved inevitable: in organizing and grouping developments that overlap in time—such as the military seizure of Abyei, offensives in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and assaults on the territory of South Sudan—I have felt it necessary to include some more broadly relevant events in two places on the timeline (all dates and time references, including those within synopses, are in bold). Moreover, I’ve taken as many words as has seemed necessary to make sense of particular developments in the larger sequence of events. Finally, many significant developments have no clear or definite terminus a quo: for these I have, partially arbitrarily, picked a particular month for dating purposes, or have included particular dates within accounts accompanying other, related dates. I believe the timeline has been kept as chronologically sequential as possible given my ambitions.
Sources are typically indicated briefly, often with an embedded link. For a complete version of this timeline—with all formatting and links preserved—please see (in two parts because of its length):
A Word document (.docx) version of the text is available from the author. I should say that I am particularly indebted to the work of Julie Flint, Douglas Johnson, the Small Arms Survey, Amnesty International, John Ashworth, and the Satellite Sentinel Project.
Timeline to Catastrophe: Sudan’s Continuing Slide Toward War
January 1, 1956: Sudan becomes independent of condominium rule by Great Britain and Egypt; it will be ruled for the next 55 years by three riverine Arab tribes (the Shaigiyya, Danagla, and Ja’alin).
1964: The Sudanese Muslim Brothers form a political party, the antecedent to the National Islamic Front.
1970: The Unregistered Land Act is passed in Khartoum: the Act provides a legal basis for large-scale land acquisitions, accelerating the encroachment of mechanized farming in traditional Nuba farmlands.
1972: The Nimeiri regime in Khartoum abrogates the Abyei referendum promised in the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement.
1970s: This is period in that sees the progressive annexation of Dinka Ngok lands by Misseriya Arabs.
Early 1980s: The Nuba people increasingly resist the aggressive Islamizing and Arabizing efforts of the regimes of Jaafer Nimeiri, Sadiq el-Mahdi, and finally the National Islamic Front (later renamed the National Congress Party, or NCP).
April 1985: Jafaar Nimeiri is overthrown.
June 30, 1989: The National Islamic Front seizes power in a military coup, deposing an elected government and deliberately aborting the most promising chance for a north/south peace since independence in 1956.
1990s: The National Islamic Front wages a genocidal campaign against the people of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan; jihad is declared in January 1992, later confirmed by fatwas from pro-regime imams in Khartoum (April 1992).
1995: The first in-depth reports of the genocidal war in the Nuba Mountains are published; a secret airlift is organized by a small group of aid organizations.
1999: The oil pipeline from Heglig to Port Sudan is completed; the first 600,000 barrels of oil are exported in a shipment at the end of August.
2000: Brutal, finally genocidal warfare continues in the oil regions of what was then Western Upper Nile.
November 2001: U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, former Senator John Danforth, declares that the Nuba Mountains are “at the top” of the U.S. government agenda.
January 22, 2002: A breakthrough ceasefire agreement for the Nuba Mountains is signed by Khartoum and the SPLA-Nuba in Bürgenstock, Switzerland; however, in violation of key terms of this agreement Khartoum immediately moves two brigades of SAF to the fighting that continues in the oil regions of South Sudan. A year later in an interview with this writer (Kauda, South Kordofan), the force commander of the monitoring mission dismisses such concerns out of hand.
July 2002: The National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) sign the Machakos Protocol, which guarantees South Sudan the right to a self-determination referendum and commits the parties to “addressing the root causes the conflict” in Sudan.
October 2002: The NIF/NCP regime and the SPLA/M sign a “Cessation of Offensive Hostilities Agreement.”
December 2002: The people of the Nuba mandate the SPLM to negotiate their “self-determination.”
January 2003: Despite mandating the SPLM to negotiate their future, there is deep foreboding among the Nuba.
April 2003: Khartoum’s counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur becomes genocidal following the successful Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) attack on el-Fasher air base; both regular military forces and Arab militia forces (the Janjaweed) attack non-Arab/African villages on a massive scale, displacing in the course of several years more than three million (internally as well as refugees in eastern Chad) and killing as many as 500,000 civilians.
May 2004: A protocol promising “popular consultations” for South Kordofan and Blue Nile states is signed by Khartoum and the SPLM.
May 2004: The Abyei Protocol is signed, guaranteeing the “residents” of Abyei a self-determination referendum; the Protocol stipulates the formation of an Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) to delineate Abyei’s borders.
January 9, 2005: The Khartoum regime and the SPLM sign the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” (CPA), including the protocols for Abyei, as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
July 14, 2005: The ABC, comprising distinguished students of Sudan—chosen by both sides—submits its report to President Omar al-Bashir; it is never seriously considered by the NIF/NCP leadership.
May 2006: The “Darfur Peace Agreement” is signed in Abuja, Nigeria by the Khartoum regime and one rebel faction; the agreement is a disastrous failure, and leads to the fragmenting of the rebel movement; Khartoum fails to adhere meaningfully to any terms of the agreement.
2007: The international community fails to provide an effective security force for Darfur, instead relying on an unprecedented and hopelessly compromised UN/African “hybrid” mission. Since the day on which the force (UNAMID) took up its mandate (January 1, 2008), more than 1 million Darfuris have been newly displaced and insecurity has steadily eroded for humanitarian organizations.
May 2008: Abyei town is destroyed by Khartoum’s regular military and militia allies, with large numbers of casualties, and displacement of Dinka Ngok to Agok in South Sudan; personnel of the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) do nothing to protect civilians as they are attacked.
July 2008: The AU Peace and Security Council calls for the formation of a “high-level panel” to examine the crisis in Darfur and formulate recommendations on accountability and reconciliation in the region. This panel is led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki; it accomplishes nothing.
November 2008: Khartoum begins heavily arming Arab militias in South Kordofan; the UNMIS commander in Kadugli (capital of South Kordofan), Karen Tchalian, is widely regarded as ineffective and strongly biased toward Khartoum.
March 4, 2009: Khartoum expels from Darfur thirteen of the world’s most distinguished humanitarian organizations, providing together approximately 50 percent of total capacity in Darfur. It is an unspeakably cruel action, justified on the preposterous pretext of “espionage.” Although many tie the expulsions to the International Criminal Court indictment of President al-Bashir for atrocity crimes, the fact is that Khartoum had long been looking for an occasion on which to expel these organizations.
July 22, 2009: The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague issues its “final and binding” award on Abyei; the finding is favorable to Khartoum in several respects, significantly reducing the territory of Abyei and moving two highly productive oil sites—Heglig and Bamboo—to South Kordofan. The SPLM accepts the ruling; yet it will be only a matter of months before Khartoum claims that the PCA ruling did not settle the Abyei issue.
2010: Throughout 2010 there is increasing military activity in South Kordofan, including the heavy arming of militia forces. The Small Arms Survey in particular details much of this military build-up, beginning in 2008. Julie Flint notes “significant unexplained movements of tanks and troops in recent months,” and the ominous appointment of “Major General Ahmad Khamis as commander of the 14th Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) infantry division in Kadugli. Head of Military Intelligence in the region during the civil war, Khamis has been consistently named as being responsible for detentions, torture, and executions.”
August 2010: The Obama administration signals that Darfur will be “de-emphasized” in U.S. Sudan policy, at the insistence of special envoy Scott Gration. At the same time, Khartoum begins to promulgate its “New Strategy for Darfur,” a blatant attempt to create the pretext for eliminating an international humanitarian presence in Darfur. “Development,” the regime argues, will replace humanitarian services, despite a vast population still in desperate need of food, clean water, shelter, and primary medical care. Thabo Mbeki, chair of the African Union High-Level Panel on Implementation, and U.S. envoy Gration “strongly support” the “New Strategy.”
August 8: Following a navigational error by a Russian pilot, South Sudan impounds a Khartoum-bound cargo helicopter carrying military men loyal to renegade rebel leader George Athor. The helicopter carries abundant evidence of the regime’s material support for Athor and his forces. (Sudan Tribune)
September 16: Senior members of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party in Khartoum officially ratify the “New Strategy for Darfur.”
October 25: Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee—and representing the Obama administration—declares of Abyei that “a few hundred square miles cannot be allowed to stand in the way of progress when the fate of millions of people is at stake.” Abyei, as defined by the PCA, is approximately 4,000 square miles, and of enormous historical significance, a fact that seems to escape Kerry entirely.
Kerry’s extraordinarily destructive diplomatic blunder will serve as background to claims about Abyei made by the Khartoum regime over the next year and more.
November 8: A U.S. State Department spokesman insists special envoy Scott Gration has offered no plan for Abyei, despite the specific proposal offered by Gration at Green Tree Estate (Long Island, New York) on September 24 – 25. The proposal brought by Gration and his office is detailed by the International Crisis Group in a November 23, 2011 Briefing (“Negotiating Sudan’s North-South Future,” page 4); this State Department denial is part of a growing pattern of disingenuousness.
November 8: The U.S. State Department officially announces that Darfur will be “de-coupled” as an issue in bilateral negotiations with Khartoum over the regime’s continuing presence on the State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. Khartoum sees the decision as an abandonment of Darfur in the interest of securing the Southern self-determination referendum, scheduled for January 9, 2011. This assessment is reflected in the statements of a number of senior regime officials.
October – November: Misseriya militia are massing around Diffra (Abyei), according to Africa Confidential (November 19, 2010). This continues a pattern of increasing militia military force that the Small Arms Survey (Geneva) has been tracing in South Kordofan since 2008.
October – November: Senior U.S. officials urge South Sudan to “compromise further” on Abyei, despite the terms of the Abyei Protocol and the “final and binding” ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Gration declares, “There’s no more time to waste …. The parties must be prepared to come to Addis [Ababa negotiations] with an attitude of compromise.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declares that “the parties must make the tough compromises necessary to settle the status of Abyei.” Ironically, by this time the U.S. has lost whatever control over negotiations it may have had. The AU’s Mbeki becomes the default mediator, and fails badly yet again. Africa Confidential (November 19, 2010) reports the view of Dinka Ngok civil society: “Mbeki was basically telling the Ngok that the Abyei Protocol and PCA boundaries must all be renegotiated because the Misseriya wouldn’t budge, [said one prominent member of Abyei civil society].”
Khartoum sees that the U.S. and AU are prepared to “de-couple” Abyei as well as Darfur; this guarantees that the Abyei self-determination referendum will not take place as scheduled, and prepares the way for the May 21 military seizure of Abyei by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and its Misseriya militia allies.
Of the October negotiations in Addis, Deng Alor (from Abyei and former foreign minister of the Government of South Sudan) recalls:
“Gration came last month [October 2010], I think in his attempt to arrive at any solution—not necessarily a just solution [to Abyei]. We were in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. That was the first time the issue of the division of the [Abyei] area into two came up. Gration was saying there would be not enough time now for us to set up a commission for Abyei. And maybe the best for us to do would be just to transfer the area back to the south, the way it was transferred to the north by the British, (who) used an administrative decree. [Gration] said President Bashir could use a presidential decree to do that.
“The National Congress said fine, you can do that, provided this area is divided into two—you give us the northern part. And I think he fell for that. When we came to the plenary and this issue was brought up [by the northern government], Gration immediately supported it. And this made the National Congress more difficult. They have become intransigent, because now they feel they have support from the United States.”
“We took it up with Gration and he insisted [on this approach]. He even tried to mobilize people for this, from the State Department and from the (Obama) administration. Senator (John) Kerry came, and he tried to convince us to accept the division of the area.” (from “The Road Back to Abyei,” Douglas Johnson, January 2011)
Various regional sources indicate that Gration’s pressure on the South to accede to a further division of Abyei was extreme, a counterproductive diplomatic effort incisively analyzed by Johnson in “The Road Back to Abyei.”
November 2010 – January 2011: Khartoum engages in a bombing campaign that targets various sites in South Sudan:
•November 11: fighter jets and Antonov bombers drop at least one bomb on Kiir Adem (Northern Bahr el Ghazal);
•November 12: aircraft return and bomb south of the River Kiir again, killing five civilians and wounding seven Southern troops; the attacks were confirmed by an AP reporter in Kiir Adem;
•November 24: military aircraft return and again target Kiir Adem, wounding four soldiers;
•December 6, 8, 10: military aircraft repeatedly attack Timsaha (Raja County), Western Bahr el Ghazal; the SPLA reports that the last attack included the dropping of eighteen bombs;
•December 13: UN investigators confirm the attacks in the Timsaha region of Western Bahr el Ghazal;
•January 10, 2011: Timsaha (Raja County) Western Bahr el Ghazal is bombed again, the day after the Southern self-determination referendum.
•December 14: With less than a months to the scheduled self-determination referendum, the Southern leadership claims that Abyei is being held hostage.
December 16: The head of UN peacekeeping warns that resumed war in Sudan could displace 2.8 million civilians. (Bloomberg)
December 16: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warns that Khartoum is “blocking aid workers from entering the country ahead of next month’s referendum on independence for the south.” Almost 1,000 aid workers are affected. Given the denial of humanitarian access that will begin in a matter of months, it is difficult not to see in this decision by Khartoum the first outlines of the future campaigns in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. (AP)
December 18: Shul Angok, press secretary for the Abyei administration, warns that the SAF “was continuing to increase its military presence in South Kordofan,” in areas from which the assault on Abyei will later be launched. (Sudan Tribune)
December 19: In speaking approvingly of the flogging of a woman charged with adultery, President al-Bashir finds it apropos to declare: “there would be no question of diversity when a knew constitution was drafted, if the South became independent.” In speaking of the widely publicized flogging of a Southern woman, al-Bashir declares Islamic “shari’a has always stipulated that one must whip, cut, or kill.” (BBC) (Reuters)
December 29: Senior NIF/NCP official Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e accuses the UN missions in Sudan of “being the main actor in sustaining internal conflicts,” and asserts that they play “the greatest role in fomenting conflicts in the country.” (Sudan Tribune)
2011: The northern Sudanese economy begins to tailspin, a process that continues to the present; the IMF projects negative real GDP growth for the northern economy: (-) 0.2% in 2011 and (-) 0.4% in 2012. The economy is burdened by the loss of oil revenue, lack of foreign currency reserves, inflation hovering at 20 percent, an immense (and unserviceable) external debt of $38 billion, and growing unhappiness among workers, as sugar and petrol subsidies are removed.
2011: Khartoum increases its arming and proxy use of Southern renegade militia forces. The clear purpose is to weaken South Sudan, and to tie down SPLA troops and resources. Civilian destruction is the primary ambition of the renegade militias, particularly those of George Athor and Peter Gadet (the latter leads the “South Sudan Liberation Movement” [SSLA] for much of 2011). The Small Arms Survey, inspecting weapons captured from these two militia groups, finds strong evidence that they have been provided by Khartoum. Details include the nature of the weapons, their distinctiveness, and even sequential serial numbers in some cases. They are predominantly of very recent Chinese manufacture, although some Iranian weapons have also been found. The first months of 2011 will see tremendous civilian destruction as a result of Athor’s military actions (see a series of reports from the Small Arms Survey).
Authoritative regional sources report that the SSLA is laying anti-tank mines (Chinese T-72 AT-mines) in large numbers in oil-rich Unity State. These indiscriminate weapons also come from Khartoum. Their primary effect is to greatly restrict the movement of humanitarian personnel and civilians.
January 6: According to Business Day (South Africa), Thabo Mbeki “has paid a glowing tribute to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ahead of the country’s secession referendum on Sunday. Mr Mbeki said at a function at the University of Khartoum yesterday Mr al-Bashir—who was indicted in the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur in 2009—had accepted the secession referendum in a graceful, generous and humane manner.” It is difficult to imagine a more obscene ignorance or disingenuous self-congratulation (Mbeki will later lash out at those who remain concerned about the prospects for peace in Sudan).
First week of January: Threats of a violent takeover of Abyei are announced in rallies in Muglad.
January 7 – 9: Repeated and well-coordinated attacks on the Abyei village of Maker (15 kilometers northwest of Abyei town) kill dozens and wound many more (Small Arms Survey, April 27, 2011).
January 8: The first of the rebel groups of the former Eastern Front merges with the Justice and Equality Movement of Darfur; eastern Sudan becomes increasingly explosive throughout the year.
January 9: The Southern self-determination referendum is held, peacefully and joyfully, as some 99 per cent of Southerners vote for independence.
January 13: The regime-controlled Parliament in Khartoum passes a law cancelling the Sudanese nationality of Southerners in the north; this response to the vote for Southern independence is enormously consequential for the 700,000 Southerners the UN claims remain in the north (Khartoum’s figure is 150,000, a telling discrepancy, revealing an ominous goal rather than a census count).
January 13: In the wake of the January 7 – 9 attacks on Maker, the first Kadugli Agreement is signed by leaders of the Misseriya and Dinka Ngok communities; it focuses on grazing rights and compensation for the killing of Ngok civilians in 2010. The agreement will fail completely.
January 14: In Khartoum U.S. special envoy Scott Gration—now despised by all parties to the conflicts except Khartoum, as well as by humanitarian personnel and Sudan advocates—promises the NIF/NCP leadership that the U.S. will remove Sudan from the list of terrorism-sponsoring nations by the end of the Interim Period (July 9, 2011) if “everything goes smoothly.” At this point, violence has already accelerated in Abyei, and the region has not held the self-determination referendum promised by the CPA. Evidently because the SPLM has not “compromised” further on Abyei, the issue has been “de-coupled” in U.S. policy as defined by Gration.
January 17: The second Kadugli Agreement is signed, and focuses on migratory routes, Southerners returning to Abyei, and security arrangements. It, too, will fail completely. (For an authoritative account of both agreements, see Small Arms Survey, April 2011)
January 30: The UN reports eight attacks by Arab militia forces on Southerners returning to the South in the three weeks since the self-determination referendum; the attacks occur north of Abyei, and many others will occur subsequently—most unreported. (AP)
Late January: SPLA and SAF “Joint Integrated Units” are deployed to Abyei per the Kadugli agreement on security.
February: Khartoum accelerates economic warfare against the South following the vote for independence, blocking many North/South trading routes. These tactics will escalate throughout the year, culminating in the November 2011 announcement that the regime will sequester a portion of oil produced in the South until exorbitant transit fees are paid. By June 13 IRIN is reporting serious food shortages as a result of this closure of trading routes.
February 15: The NIF/NCP regime declares that there will be no extension of the UN peacekeeping force (UNMIS) in north Sudan, including South Kordofan, where military activities and deployments are rapidly escalating.
February 17: In a pattern of violence that will stalk Jonglei state for all of 2011, AFP reports massive civilian destruction and displacement:
“Over 20,000 people fled clashes last week between rebels and the army in south Sudan’s troubled Jonglei state in which over 200 people died, a senior official said on Thursday. ‘People have run from the fighting, and 20,000 people have been displaced,’ said Stephen Kuol, Jonglei’s state education minister, releasing the findings of an assessment mission to the devastated Fangak region in which he took part.”
“The figures could not be independently verified, and the report of a United Nations team that visited the site of the clashes has not yet been released. Many of the victims—the majority of them civilians—reportedly drowned in a river as they tried to escape the two days of fighting. Kuol, who comes from the area and who helped to bury some of the victims in mass graves, said he witnessed ‘floating corpses’ following the violence last week, which he described as ‘mass butchery.’ Followers of the renegade southern general George Athor are accused of carrying out the attacks, which broke a ceasefire many had hoped would end the conflict.”
To be sure, the problems of insecurity in South Sudan, and lingering ethnic animosities, are complex and difficult issues confronting the new Government of South Sudan. And there is much to criticize in government performance to date. But the role of renegade militia forces such as that of George Athor, robustly supported by Khartoum to engage in precisely this sort of civilian destruction, must not be underestimated.
March 21 – 22: Four separate bombings attacks are reported in Raja County, Western Bahr el Ghazal (at Raja, Firka, Timsaha, and Upuranus).
February 27: Late February and March see the worst violence in Abyei since the May 2008 destruction of Abyei town; 154 are killed. On February 27 heavily armed Misseriya militias attacked police in the village of Todac, 15 kilometers north of Abyei town. Attacks continue over the next week, as police positions are overrun at Todac and Maker. The Small Arms Survey reports that the Misseriya militias were armed with heavy machine guns, 60mm mortars, RPGs, and small arms. There is strong evidence of SAF support for the attack, including eyewitness accounts of fighters in SAF uniforms, SAF helicopters ferrying the wounded out of the battle site, and SAF vehicles disguised with mud. The attacks have a strong similarity to militia attacks during the civil war. (Small Arms Survey, April 17, 2011)
March 5: Immediately following a high-level meeting between officials from Khartoum and Juba, the village of Tajelei is attacked and 300 tukuls are burned to the ground. The JIU stationed some 500 meters away does not respond to the attack, and many thousands of Dinka Ngok flee southward. (Small Arms Survey, April 17, 2011)
March 16: The Government of South Sudan warns the AU’s Mbeki of an impending invasion of Abyei; Mbeki, who has also pushed for a division of Abyei, is unresponsive.
March 22: In another report on ominous military movements by the SAF in and around Abyei, the Satellite Sentinel Project provides satellite photographic evidence of “the presence of fortified encampments inside Abyei near Bongo, Goli and Diffra.” Earlier reports have appeared on January 27, February 11, March 8, and March 10 (see all reports at SSP). The March 22 report is yet further evidence of Khartoum’s determination to seize Abyei militarily in the near future.
March 29: Various observers, including the Carter Center, warn that May elections in South Kordofan are threatened by low registration and confusing procedures. Various other electoral deficiencies are noted.
March 29: A senior UN humanitarian official warns that mines in various parts of the South have been laid by renegade rebel groups “in a pattern capable of taking out convoys of vehicles.” The mines are supplied by Khartoum (AFP). The threats posed by mines, to humanitarians and civilians, are a constant refrain in reports throughout 2011.
March 31: Al-Bashir declares that unless the migratory Misseriya, who spend only a few months in Abyei, are recognized as residents, there will be no self-determination referendum.
April 4: Speaking at an election rally in South Kordofan, senior regime official Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e warns that “his party will not offer any compromise over the issue of Abyei.”
April 7: The former governor of Sudan’s central bank warns that the economy is in its “weakest state” and needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. (Sudan Tribune)
April 9: The new U.S. special envoy for Sudan, Princeton Lyman, warns that conflict over Abyei could lead to “wholesale war.” Despite the evidence of severely asymmetric military deployment and strength, Lyman lays blame equally on Juba and Khartoum. This continues a pattern of “moral equivalence” that has hamstrung international Sudan policy for over a decade.
April 13: Arab militia forces loyal to Ahmed Haroun attack el-Feid (al-Rashad Locality), home of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu, who is running for governor of South Kordofan.
April 14: Khartoum and Juba agree in Kadugli to “withdraw all unauthorized forces” from Abyei. A Joint Technical Committee is formed, with a convening date of April 18 in Abyei. (Sudan Tribune)
April 18: The meeting of the Joint Technical Committee confirms “an agreement to withdraw all unauthorized forces from Abyei.” Khartoum continues to break this agreement.
April 22: Military actions by the renegade forces of Peter Gadet in Mayom County (Unity State) kill an estimated 85 civilians, and force thousands to flee.
April 26: Al-Bashir declares “Abyei is located in north Sudan and will remain in north Sudan.” (Reuters)
April 27: Al-Bashir declares, “I say it and repeat it a million times, Abyei is northern and will remain northern.” In this context, he also threatens war in South Kordofan if South Sudan “opts for confrontation there.” (Sudan Tribune)
April 28: Al-Bashir declares that “If they [the Government of South Sudan] put Abyei in the constitution of the new state of south Sudan, we will not recognize the new state.” He is echoed by al-Dierdiri Mohamed Ahmed, the NIF/NCP official with primary responsibility for the Abyei file.
May 5: An account of the momentous shift in the balance of political power in Khartoum, which occurs on May 5, has been provided by Julie Flint (August 2) and confirmed by other sources, including McClatchy News. In a November 2011 brief for the US Institute of Peace, “Return to War in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains,” Flint writes:
“Today the General Headquarters of SAF, not the National Congress Party (NCP), is calling the tune in Sudan. The NCP’s civilian leadership has been marginalized by the generals, who, having agreed to withdraw undefeated from the south, feel the political class risks a compromise too far. That includes tolerating endless, unproductive talks with Darfur’s fractious armed movements.
“On May 5, five days after 11 soldiers died in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, the heads of the army and military intelligence presented President Omar al-Bashir with a demand: ‘Authorize us to take any necessary action without prior consultation.’ Although the ultimatum was explicitly addressed to the international community, felt to be prevaricating over Abyei, it was also implicitly an ultimatum to the civilian leadership, including the president. Two weeks later, SAF moved into Abyei with a speed and effectiveness that indicate a pre-planned operation. Four days after that, the chief of general staff, Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al Zain, wrote to his counterpart in Juba informing him that all SPLA forces north of the north-south boundary would be relocated or disarmed by June 1“ (a time-frame that violates the terms of the CPA, which allows three months after the interim period for disarmament).
“When presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie, the most senior civilian hardliner in the regime, signed a framework agreement with the SPLM-N in Addis Ababa on June 28, he was overruled by the SAF Command. The implications of SAF’s de facto takeover, its power, confidence and autonomy, have yet to be fully acknowledged. But with the end of the rains, the generals are confident that SAF will be able to redress the military balance. Until then, they say privately, there will be no negotiation.” (Flint’s source: “personal communication with a member of the African Union mediation team”)
(See also “A Creeping Military Coup in Khartoum,” Dissent Magazine, August 10, 2011.)
May 7: Elections in South Kordofan conclude, and Ahmed Haroun is elected in a process that is clearly not credible. Notably, Haroun has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
May 18: The Carter Center (Atlanta), in a misguided and careless assessment, pronounces the elections to be “generally peaceful and credible.” This judgment will later be disowned by a senior member of the Carter Center team. The Rift Valley Institute will issue a scathing critique of the Carter Center assessment on August 23 (“Disputed Votes, Deficient Observation: South Kordofan election report from the Rift Valley Institute”):
“Based on detailed analysis of observer reports, the study identifies significant misinterpretations on the part both of domestic and international observers. Critical lessons from Sudan’s past electoral history were overlooked, argues Aly Verjee, the author of the RVI report, although these had been chronicled previously by the same election observation organisations. ‘The people of South Kordofan have paid a high price for the failure of the election,’ Verjee writes. ‘Negotiations to end the present conflict will need to acknowledge its problematic aspects if there is to be a chance of a resumption of the democratic process.’”
(See also my May 19 critique, written in the immediate wake of the Carter Center’s release of its report when glaring deficiencies were already evident.)
May 21: Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei
(for a detailed timeline of the events in Abyei through late May 2011, see: “An Abyei Timeline: The Long Road to Khartoum’s Military Invasion” http://www.sudanreeves.org/2011/05/27/an-abyei-timeline-the-long-road-to-khartoums-military-invasion/
May 25: Khartoum declares that it militarily seized Abyei “in implementation of the CPA.” (SUNA)
May 25: UN field reports of “ethnic cleansing” by the SAF and its militia allies are widely reported; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will later expediently declare that these reports “premature.”
May 26 and 28: Using satellite photography, corroborated by reports from the ground, the Satellite Sentinel Project reports (May 26 and May 28) that the SAF is aiding in the “organized looting” of Abyei town. “The evidence of alleged looting by apparent uniformed SAF forces and armed, northern-aligned militias represents a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and can constitute a war crime.”
May 26: SAF forces destroy the Banton Bridge across the River Kiir, effectively cutting road linkage between Abyei and Agok, South Sudan.
June 1: More than 110,000 Dinka Ngok, the indigenous population of Abyei, have been forced to flee their homeland for South Sudan. Seven months later, many of these people still live in extremely dire conditions; very few contemplate returning without a fundamental change in the security situation.
June 20: An agreement on military withdrawal from Abyei is signed by Khartoum and Juba in Addis (“Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Region”). As of December 30, 2011 there has still been no withdrawal by Khartoum’s forces or its militia allies. Conspicuously violating both the letter and spirit of the agreement, Khartoum later insists it will not withdraw until a UN-authorized peacekeeping force (an armored brigade of Ethiopian troops) has fully deployed. As deployment proceeds, Khartoum again adds conditions to withdrawal.
June 26: The UN reports that a train carrying southern Sudanese returning to the South (specifically Wau) is attacked by heavily armed Misseriya militia. (Reuters)
June 27: The UN deputy chief for human rights reports that she has witnessed “utter devastation” during a visit to Abyei. “The utter devastation I saw in Abyei was a chilling warning of what might become of the border area.” (AFP)
July 9: South Sudan celebrates its independence as the world’s newest nation. President Salva Kiir uses the occasion to declare: “I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all.”
July 9: UN Resolution 1996 creates the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with a mandate, inter alia, to “deter violence including through proactive deployment and patrols in areas at high risk of conflict, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, protecting civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, in particular when the Government of the Republic of South Sudan is not providing such security …. ”
There is considerable skepticism about the force’s willingness to take on this mandate, given the performance of UNMIS.
July 10: The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (originally convened to oversee “implementation” of an envisioned “roadmap” to peace in Darfur) submits its report on South Sudan and the requirements for peace. Chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Panel submits a six-page document, publishing it as a list of the agreements so far and what remains to be settled. Reuters describes the document as “remarkably short of dates and deadlines.” The document is witheringly self-indicting.
July 11: Al-Bashir warns that Abyei could become a source of conflict, even renewed war with South Sudan “if agreements are not respected.” (BBC) In short, Khartoum is demanding that Juba accept Khartoum’s military annexation of Abyei as a fait accompli. A senior UN official, commenting on Southern concern about Abyei, about Khartoum’s support for renegade militias, and about potential aspiration to seize the oil regions of Upper Nile or Unity State, declares (July 7), “The SPLA is paid to be paranoid” (emphasis added) (Bloomberg). This assessment seems remarkably uncomprehending, given the many bombing attacks on Southern territory, the seizure of Abyei, and the brutal campaign in South Kordofan. It surely does nothing to anticipate the September 1 military assault on Blue Nile, or the growing encroachment on Southern territory through bombing and cross border operations such as the one at Jau (Unity State) reported in December 2011.
July 22: Khartoum announces that it will not withdraw its forces from Abyei until there is full deployment of the UN-authorized peacekeeping force from Ethiopia. This violates both the letter and spirit of the June 20 Addis agreement.
April 13: Arab militia forces loyal to Ahmed Haroun attack el-Feid (al-Rashad Locality), home of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu, at the time deputy governor of South Kordofan. El-Hilu is now leader of the SPLA/M-North and an extremely strong military leader; there is extensive evidence that his forces have badly mauled SAF and militia forces since the beginning of hostilities on June 5.
May 7: South Kordofan elections are completed, and Haroun is narrowly elected in a badly flawed process—later judged “credible” by the Carter Center (see above).
June 5, 2011: Khartoum’s regular military and militia forces begin a major offensive in South Kordofan; ethnically based seizures and extra-judicial executions are widespread, targeting the Nuba people; aerial attacks against the people of the Nuba Mountains become daily occurrences, continuing to the present.
Aerial attacks at the height of the planting season ensure that there will be no significant harvest in the Nuba areas, even as Khartoum denies humanitarian access, including to UN agencies such as the World Food Program.
Throughout June atrocities are reported by eyewitnesses in and around Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan; many Nuba from the region escape to the South to tell their stories. Journalists reach Kauda, deep in the Nuba Mountains, beginning in late June, and report horrific accounts of aerial bombardment.
The Satellite Sentinel Project regularly reports on developments in South Kordofan, including the discovery of numerous mass gravesites—potentially holding thousands of bodies. The reported pre-positioning of body bags and tarps, and the photographing of bodies wrapped in white bags and tarps, offer compelling evidence of mass graves, indirectly confirmed by Khartoum officials much later as necessary “for reasons of public health.” (see SSP reports for June and July)
UN human rights reporters in Kadugli record numerous grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. They interview witnesses who confirm the existence of mass gravesites; so, too, does SSP. The UN human rights report is leaked in early July, after observers have been forced to leave Kadugli; it is a scathing indictment of UNMIS, and particularly the Egyptian contingent. It is clear UNMIS did nothing to halt the roadblocks and house-to-house arrests targeting perceived SPLM/A-North supporters, and in fact Nuba people in general. Even those within the protective custody of UNMIS are provided no security.
June 20: Some 7,000 Nuba who had sought protection at the UNMIS compound are forcibly removed, including by security forces disguised as Red Crescent humanitarian workers. The fate of these people remains unknown to the present day.
June 28: Princeton Lyman, U.S. special envoy for Sudan, declares in an interview, “I don’t think the North [Khartoum's SAF] is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis from the Nuba Mountains. Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government …” (PBS NewsHour). As of December 15 the UN estimates that more than 400,000 people have been displaced in South Kordofan, including the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile. Many from the Nuba are streaming into South Sudan. Khartoum continues to deny access to international humanitarian organizations, compelling yet further displacement as people become increasingly desperate for food. On December 13 the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declares that “we consider there are over one million people who are quite badly affected by the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.” (AFP)
June 28: Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, a senior regime official, signs in Addis a “Framework Agreement” with the SPLA/M-North, covering both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The agreement recognizes the SPLM-North politically and diplomatically and commits both sides to work toward a cease-fire.
July 1: Al-Bashir, clearly at the behest of the newly empowered senior SAF generals (see Abyei/May 5 above), renounces the “Framework Agreement” and declares that he has ordered the military campaign to continue until all rebels have been “cleansed” from South Kordofan. Yasir Arman of the SPLM/A-North warns (July 2) “There are voices in Khartoum against this framework agreement, those voices are playing with fire,” warning that the only alternative “is a war that runs from Blue Nile to Darfur.” (Sudan Tribune)
July 1: For the first time, the Satellite Sentinel Project identifies multiple rocket launchers (MRL) with a range of 20 kilometers and extremely destructive capabilities. The SSP report notes that “these rocket launchers can rain devastation on entire communities in a matter of minutes.”
July 1: Humanitarian organizations are finally permitted by Khartoum to return to Kadugli, only to find their facilities severely damaged or destroyed.
July: Throughout July reports of bombings continue to stream out of the Nuba Mountains through various means of communication, including the reporting and photography of journalists. On many days there are multiple bombings, and fields are completely abandoned in wide areas of the Nuba. The aircraft implicated in the bombings are identified in a June 29 report from the SSP.
July 4: Khartoum again declares that it expects UNMIS to leave South Kordofan immediately after July 9. Belatedly, the U.S. declares (July 7) that it is “extremely concerned” by this demand. No UN resolution of consequence is introduced, despite that concern.
July 4: The Toronto Star reports from Khartoum on the consequences of the decision to strip all Southerners of the their citizenship in the north—even those who have lived all their lives in the North and speak no languages of the South. The regime’s information minister had been blunt about the implications for Southerners in an interview of fall 2010: “They will not enjoy citizenship rights, jobs or benefits. We will not even give them a needle in the hospital.” This hostility is increasingly turning towards Christian Sudanese, whose churches are being confiscated, worshippers harassed, and a general hostility has become increasingly palpable, particularly following al-Bashir’s declaration that northern Sudan will have an Islamic constitution, be governed by shari’a law—and that this is permissible because “98 percent” of the northern population is Muslim.
July 6: The previously confidential UN report on human rights abuses in Kadugli and its environs is made public; however, the unedited version remains available, and includes the following findings:
•”On 10 June, UNMIS [U.N. Mission in Sudan] Human Rights interviewed residents from Murta village, outside of Kadugli Town [the capital of South Kordofan], who stated that they saw fresh mass graves located in a valley southeast of the Murta bus station near the Kadugli police training centre.”
•”[Two men interviewed by UNMIS] reported that, following their release from SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] custody, they saw fresh mass graves between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market. On 16 June, UN military observers, while on their way between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market in an attempt to verify the existence of these mass graves, were arrested, stripped of their clothes, and believed that they were about to be executed when a senior SAF officer intervened.”
•”On 22 June, an UNMIS independent contractor reported witnessing SAF elements fill a mass grave in Al Gardut Locality in Tillo with dead bodies. She reported that SAF elements transported the bodies to the site, dumped them in the grave and using a bulldozer to cover the grave.”
There are a great many more appalling abuses and atrocities reported in this 19-page indictment.
July 7: Al-Bashir quits talks in Addis to end the conflict in South Kordofan, declaring “there will be no more negotiations outside Sudan.” (Bloomberg)
July 7: Khartoum shuts down six newspapers in a continuing crackdown on what are already exceedingly limited media freedoms. Reporters Without Borders ranks Sudan 172nd out of 178 nations in press freedom.
July 8: In an extraordinary account of UN failure in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan, The Independent (UK) reports that eyewitnesses “described how they saw peacekeepers [part of UNMIS] standing by while unarmed civilians were shot dead outside the gates of a UN base before being dragged away ‘like slaughtered sheep.’” A spokesman for UNMIS in Khartoum denies these eyewitness accounts.
The role of the Egyptians, who predominate in the UNMIS contingent in Kadugli, is severely criticized by many observers with contacts on the ground in South Kordofan. John Ashworth tells The Independent that “this isn’t the first time we’re hearing about Egyptian peacekeepers” failing to fulfill their duties.
The Independent reports in particular: “UNMID officials are also accused of selectively preventing civilians with links to opposition groups from sheltering there. Najda Romeo-Peter, a civil servant at the governor’s office, said she saw UN officials standing with government agents and soldiers at the camp gate when they refused to allow in known activists from the opposition SPLM party: ‘They were told the camp was full and they were turned away. They [the activists] knew they would be killed so they refused to leave but the peacekeepers forced them away.’”
“The names of two local Nuban UNMIS staff, Nimeri Philip and Juma Bahar, were also given to The Independent—both men were killed by government forces, according to witnesses, while trying to assist civilians near the base …. The witness testimony was backed by the Bishop of Kadugli, the Rt Rev Andudu Adam Elnail, whose church was burned down and who has sought refuge in the US. ‘When the SAF [government] troops came, the UN handed the civilians to SAF and they were killed,’ he said.”
July 8: The UN Development Program reports on some of the daily conditions in northern Sudan: 46.5 percent of the population lives on less than $1/day; 31.8 percent of children under five are malnourished. Indicators are particularly bad in eastern Sudan, which—as represented by the Eastern Front—signed a peace agreement with Khartoum in 2006. To date there are no significant benefits that have accrued to the people of the east.
July 12: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports “heavy aerial bombardment in South Kordofan state in recent days”—near Kadugli and the town of Delami (AP). Reports from a range of Nuba sources continue to reach outside South Kordofan; John Ashworth provides the most complete summary of these reports, but they come from many other sources and are simply too numerous to collate accurately.
July 13: The Satellite Sentinel Project reports that it has satellite photography showing mass gravesites, supporting claims that the SAF and allied militias have “engaged in a campaign of systematic mass killing in Kadugli,” which may represent “crimes against humanity.” Subsequent reports (August 17 and August 23) confirm further the existence of mass gravesites potentially holding thousands of bodies. SSP’s finding are fully consistent with eyewitness ground reports they have received and which have been reported by the UN team in Kadugli.
July 14: The Doha Peace Agreement is signed in Qatar by the Khartoum regime and one small, factitious rebel group, the “Liberation and Justice Movement.” The LJM is a meaningless organization, without military or political power. It has been cobbled together out of two groups of even smaller splinter groups—by U.S. envoy Scott Gration and former Libyan strongman Muamar Gaddafi. The agreement is, as one informed observer put the matter, “Abuja replayed as farce.”
July 15: Valerie Amos, senior UN humanitarian official, declares: “We do not know whether there is any truth to the grave allegations of extra-judicial killings, mass graves and other grave violations in South Kordofan.” Skepticism on the part of UN and U.S. officials about realities on the ground in South Kordofan has become thoroughly untenable (see my overview of the evidence, July 17).
July 20: In a Washington Post interview (“US Government Cannot Confirm Mass Graves in Sudan”), special envoy Lyman declares his general skepticism about the findings of the Satellite Sentinel Project and its report of July 13 that there is compelling evidence of mass graves. Specifically, Lyman declares, “What they (SSP) identify as body bags, we see those same items in those same places before the fighting started.” In turn, SSP replied (August 23): “The US government has released no eye witness report or imagery in support of [Princeton Lyman's] assertion. SSP has determined, though, that these same items [white objects identified as body bags and tarps] were not present in those same places on 7 June or 17 June or 20 July.”
Lyman’s willingness to express such an untenable skepticism, his comments about ethnic targeting of Nuba and displacement in the Nuba Mountains, his apparent ignorance of the UN human rights report on events and accounts from Kadugli in June, and his tepid response to rapidly accumulating evidence of massive atrocity crimes strongly suggest that just as his predecessor had “de-coupled” Darfur from broader U.S. Sudan policy, so the current special envoy is willing to “de-couple” Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.
July 21: The Christian Science Monitor reports from Juba that 200 – 300 Nuba are now present in the Southern capital. Many were in Kadugli when fighting broke out on June 5. A number of them are interviewed and report seeing: helicopter gunships attacking civilians attempting to flee Kadugli when fighting began; summary executions; aerial bombardment of civilian targets; roadblocks targeting Nuba civilians, whether affiliated with the SPLA/M-North or not.
July 24: UN’s OCHA warns of “grave consequences” if dwindling foodstocks in South Kordofan are not soon replaced. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are particularly at risk. Five months after this warning the UN’s World Food Program still has no access to South Kordofan.
July 26: Governor Ahmed Haroun claims that he and Khartoum are “fully cooperating with the different humanitarian agencies operating in South Kordofan.” He specifies WFP, UNICEF, and WHO. This claim is patently untrue.
July 27: Khartoum acknowledges that “authorities in South Kordofan collected dead bodies on trucks for burial during the course of fighting.” Can there be any doubt that these dead bodies ended up in mass graves of the sort photographed by the Satellite Sentinel Project and reported by numerous eyewitnesses? Princeton Lyman has declined to comment on Khartoum’s statement.
July 27: Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights demand monitors in South Kordofan and that the international community “take action now.”
August 4: UN reporter Colum Lynch writes in Foreign Policy that the UN’s top human rights agency—in a confidential briefing of the Security Council—”down-played evidence of Sudanese attacks on civilians and UN personnel in South Kordofan.” On the basis of a confidential copy of briefing notes for Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lynch continues: “the restrained briefing contrasted sharply with the UN’s own grim reporting on the ground in South Kordofan.” In a closed-door briefing of the Security Council on July 28, Pillay will say only that “while there is much disturbing information coming from the region, we are regrettably not in a position to verify it.” But this simply is not true: indeed, Pillay seems to be saying that the report from the ground by UN investigators is not verifiable: how could it not be? Are these investigators presumed to be lying in their report? Lynch notes as well that Pillay omits “a series of first-hand accounts of abuses of UN personnel by Sudanese forces that could constitute violations of international law.”
From such diffidence and disingenuousness are human catastrophes fashioned.
August 4: Khartoum’s SAF threatens to shoot down a UN helicopter trying to evacuate Ethiopian peacekeepers fatally wounded in a landmine explosion in Abyei. This is the embodiment of the regime that Pillay is seeking to mollify with her expedient report to the UN Security Council.
August 4: In testimony before the subcommittee on Africa in U.S. House of Representatives, Andudu Adam Elnail, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Kadugli, offers this extraordinary narrative:
“A member of my congregation told me that on June 8, less than one kilometer south of the Tilo School in Kadugli, he saw an earth mover digging two pits. That evening, he said, he saw trucks driving to the freshly excavated pits. In the trucks were soldiers from the SAF, along with northern militia members, men dressed like Sudan Red Crescent Society workers, wearing white aprons with red crescents, and other men dressed like prisoners from a local prison, He saw 100 or more dead bodies buried in the pits on the evening of June 8. Some of the bodies, he said, appeared to be wrapped in white body bags or white, plastic tarps. I believe him.”
This testimony is, of course, fully corroborated by satellite photography from the Satellite Sentinel Project. This forces again questions about the tendentious skepticism of U.S. special envoy Lyman and UN officials.
August 8: Following a meeting of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu of the SPLA/M-North and leaders of the Darfuri rebel groups, they announce a new alliance with a common objective: to change the regime in Khartoum by the use of force and popular uprising. The Beja Congress, the main force in the Eastern Front, will soon join the alliance, to be named the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).
August 17: The Satellite Sentinel Project reports evidence of three more mass graves in and near Kadugli.
August 23: Al-Bashir declares a “cease-fire” in South Kordofan; yet bombing and fighting is reported within hours, and the non-existence of a “cease-fire” is confirmed the following week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Bombing attacks have been reported on a virtually daily basis since fighting began in South Kordofan on June 5. On December 6 Amnesty International publishes a two-part report that contains searing testimonies of those from Blue Nile who have been targeted mercilessly and indiscriminately.
August 23: Satellite photography analyzed by the Satellite Sentinel Project reveals additional compelling evidence of a large “cluster of white bundles in Kadugli consistent with white plastic tarps or body bags.” This evidence directly challenges claims made by U.S. special envoy Lyman that these were not tarps or body bags, and that the “white objects” had been in these locations in Kadugli prior to the photographs published by SSP. They had not, and SSP provides definitive satellite photographic evidence that they were not; this is further confirmed by new eyewitness reports.
The insistent, finally tendentious skepticism of Lyman in the face of such compelling evidence of atrocity crimes is deeply disturbing. There are no morally acceptable explanations.
August 26: The U.S. urges the SPLA/M-North to join in the cease-fire that Khartoum that has declared and then immediately violated. With such peculiarly timed urging, the Obama administration looks increasingly out of touch with realities on the ground in the border regions of Sudan.
August 30: One weeks after al-Bashir’s announcement of a “ceasefire,” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issue a joint statement on the bombing attacks in South Kordofan:
“The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are indiscriminately bombing civilian areas in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan and preventing aid from reaching desperate displaced people, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.
“Researchers from both groups, during a week-long mission to the area in late August, investigated 13 air strikes in Kauda, Delami, and Kurchi areas. Those air strikes killed at least 26 civilians and injured more than 45 others since mid-June. The researchers also witnessed government planes circling over civilian areas and dropping bombs, forcing civilians to seek shelter in mountains and caves. “‘The relentless bombing campaign is killing and maiming civilian men, women, and children, displacing tens of thousands, putting them in desperate need of aid, and preventing entire communities from planting crops and feeding their children,’ said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.”
“‘Local organizations on the ground said that despite the ceasefire, the government continued to bomb civilian areas. Al-Bashir also said that neither the United Nations nor international aid agencies will be allowed to assist the displaced.’”
August 30: OCHA head Valerie Amos appears finally to have come to terms with realities on the ground: “[M]ore than 200,000 people affected by the fighting in South Kordofan faced ‘potentially catastrophic levels of malnutrition and mortality’ because of Khartoum denying access to aid agencies.” (AFP)
All signs are that war in the Nuba Mountains will be long and immensely destructive of civilian lives and livelihoods.