Sudan: Amnesty documents war crimes in South Kordofan

August 9, 2015

South Kordofan residents at a makeshift UN camp near Kadugli.

Amnesty International released a report on August 3 detailing horrific war crimes committed against the people of South Kordofan by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and its militias.

This region has long suffered under Khartoum’s repression, marginalisation and deprivation, leading many in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains to side with the south in the three-decade-long civil war that resulted in South Sudan’s independence. In the early 1990s, up to half a million Nuba were massacred during a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the regime.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the civil war in 2005, outlined specific measures for the “Three Areas” (South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile), including popular consultations on the region’s future and arrangements for power sharing. However, rather than abiding by any of these provisions, in 2011 the National Congress Party (NCP) regime launched a brutal military offensive to crush the population in the oil-rich area.

Resistance to the attacks has been led by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which controls several areas within South Kordofan, but has no aerial capability to challenge the SAF’s relentless bombing campaign.

Amnesty’s report, Don’t we matter? Four years of unrelenting attacks against Civilians of Sudan’s South Kordofan State, is primarily based on research and investigations conducted on the ground during May. The findings paint a grim picture of a terrorised population and an escalating humanitarian crisis.

Not only does the SAF use indiscriminate weapons, such as bombs rolled out the back of Antonov aircraft, but it deliberately targets civilians. In one example from May 2014, eyewitnesses described surveillance drones scanning an area outside of Kauda, containing a large school and the Mother of Mercy Hospital, shortly before the hospital was bombed.

Since 2011, 26 health facilities, including hospitals and clinics, have been attacked, including a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital that was bombed twice after MSF repeatedly advised the SAF of its precise coordinates. Amnesty found no evidence that any of these sites were near legitimate military targets. Schools, relief agencies, mills and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps have also been bombed.

The SAF employs weapons designed to cause maximum death and injury. Amnesty found extensive evidence of cluster munitions, including unexploded cluster bomblets.

The report tells the stories of some of those who lost their lives, including a child killed by shrapnel in Eral as he ran to hide in a foxhole; a woman in Andona who was eight months’ pregnant, killed as she tried to warn nearby children to run for cover; and six children hiding in a house in Heiban who died after a bomb hit the house.

Khartoum's refusal to allow the entry of humanitarian organisations to the region is having dire consequences for residents. Food, medicine and other essential goods are in desperately short supply.

Thirty primary schools have closed since the conflict began and those that remain open operate without the most basic educational resources.

An estimated one-third of the population — 1.4 million people — are internally displaced. Another 100,000 people have fled to war-torn South Sudan.

In one of the two remaining hospitals operating in the SPLM-N controlled areas, 1400 children were treated for measles between May 2014 and January and around 30 children died from the preventable disease. The UN has been unable to carry out its childhood vaccination program in South Kordofan since 2011.

The report highlighted how the entire population lives in a constant state of terror, always awaiting the next bomb to drop. Ahmed, a relief worker, told Amnesty: “I don’t think that there is anywhere that is safe, and I don’t think there is anyone who is safe.”

[The full report can be found here.]

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