The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have forcibly relocated more than 25,000 Ingessana people from the Bao region in Blue Nile between April and July.
The relocations to other parts of the state are part of a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing designed to weaken opposition to the SAF’s armed offensive in the region. Blue Nile in Sudan’s south, along with neighbouring state South Kordofan, has been subjected to a concerted SAF aerial and ground assault since 2011.
An August 10 report by the Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) said the latest campaign of forced relocations began when soldiers stormed Medyam Eljebel village on April 10, chasing residents from their huts. Soldiers looted homes and burned the village to the ground.
The army then went from village to village, telling families to evacuate to areas where they have no links or support networks. Similar incidents took place throughout May and June.
On July 2, SAF and NISS units forced residents of Banat village onto trucks before dumping them in Abu Ramad, in Damazin locality.
Anyone who refuses to leave their village is deemed to be a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and faces arrest. SPLM-N chairperson Malik Agar originates from the Ingessana Hills and the entire Ingessana ethnic group are branded by the regime as rebel supporters.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies reported on June 17 that at least 10 Ingessana had been arbitrarily arrested and detained during the relocation campaign. Some are held incommunicado in unknown locations.
In 2011-12, the Ingessana community was subjected to a targeted campaign of bombing, scorched villages and large-scale arbitrary arrests. The SDFG says the new offensive is being rolled out in stages to avoid scrutiny. It says the offensive reflects Sudan’s institutionalised military practice of “meting out different forms of collective punishment upon particular ethnic groups”.
The government is seeking to deny the SPLM-N public support in areas where the rebels have made military gains. The Sudan People's Liberation Army-North(the armed wing of the SPLM-N) has made big advances into government-held territory. This brings it closer to key areas containing mineral wealth, hydroelectric power and large-scale agricultural projects.
The abundant resources in the region have long been a source of conflict. Khartoum controls the wealth generated by these resources while denying local investment in basic development and infrastructure.
The SDFG says the whole state is in darkness at night aside from a few urban areas, despite the Roseris dam hydro power plant in Blue Nile contributing 20% of Sudan’s national electricity grid.
The regime’s desperate need to maintain its grip on the resource-rich area amid deepening economic crisis was a key factor in launching its war on Blue Nile in 2011. The extension of the SPLA-N’s frontlines has brought the rebels close enough to cause economic disruption.
On August 3, presidential assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid told media that President Omal Al Bashir is keen to end the wars in Blue Nile and South Kordofan through negotiations and a ceasefire agreement. However, such claims have little credibility in the face of the SAF’s escalation.
The regime consistently uses drawn-out negotiations to provide cover for the crimes committed by the army and security forces against the people in the conflict zones.