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Robust response to genocide needed in Sudan, says British peer

01 April 2016


Safety underground: a woman and her grandchild live in caves to shelter from Antonov bombers in Tobo County, South Kordofan

Safety underground: a woman and her grandchild live in caves to shelter from Antonov bombers in Tobo County, South Kordofan

“DE FACTO” genocide is being perpetrated by the Sudanese army in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas of Sudan, and must be met with a more robust response by the British government, Baroness Cox said last week.

A “near relentless campaign of aerial bombardment and ground offensives targeting civilian infrastructure” is documented by Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), the charity founded by Lady Cox, in a report on its latest visit to the region, in January.

“It [Khartoum] is deliberately targeting civilians in markets, schools, clinics, and places of worship,” Lady Cox said. “And I hope the British Government and international community would do something to stop the impunity with which the regime is carrying out this terrible bombardment.”

An insurgency against Khartoum, led by former civil-war fighters, has been waged in the Two Areas — Blue Nile state and the South Kordofan province — since the secession of South Sudan in 2011. A national dialogue begun in January 2014 has made little headway.

A 2015 Amnesty International report on South Kordofan concluded that attacks targeting civilians and blocks on humanitarian aid amounted to war crimes. Médecins Sans Frontières, whose hospital in the province was attacked twice, has accused the government of “a deliberate and targeted bombing on a civilian hospital structure, and part of a strategy to terrorise the community”.

HART also believes that the Sudanese army is attacking food stores and crops. “They [people in the Two Areas] have not been able effectively to harvest their crops because they target people working in the fields, and so there is now a very serious and critical shortage of food, and people are dying from hunger and hunger-related illness,” Lady Cox said.

HART is calling on the international community to enable the delivery of cross-border aid — something opposed by the Sudanese government, which cites concerns about the transport of weaponry, and denies attacks on civilians. HART, which funds food, health care, and education, is able to operate through local partners. Education is the clear priority of internally displaced persons, its report says.

Lady Cox believes that the difficulties of securing access to the regions also prevent the media’s exposing what is occurring. During its visit in January, HART’s team met displaced people in Tobo County, South Kordofan, who had taken shelter in caves.

“We live here with the insects and snakes,” one woman told them. “It is not safe for children, but less dangerous than Antonovs [Sudanese aircraft].”

“The government of Khartoum is not killing us secretly: they attack in broad daylight,” the county’s commissioner said. “They are killing us loudly, but no one is listening. We have no food; we have no shelter; our children have no education or immunisation. So we are going to keep speaking the truth — we will not be silent.”

The report speaks of “relative calm” in South Kordofan in the last four months of 2015, but says that “deep concern” is expressed by interviewees in the Nuba Mountains about the build-up of troops from the Sudan Armed Forces. On Tuesday AFP reported that Sudanese troops had clashed with rebels in South Kordofan "after months of calm in the state".

The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 for allegedly directing the mass killing of civilians in Darfur. Lady Cox said that displaced people feared that the same weaponry deployed in Darfur would be used in the Two Areas.

“He has said he wants to turn it into a unified, Arabic, Islamic nation; therefore, part of his agenda is the deliberate Arabisation and Islamisation of these areas,” she said. “But it is very important to note that, in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, Christians and Muslims had lived together peacefully, and have done since time immemorial and still do.” Many of those who opposed the President were themselves Muslim, she said.

HART is calling for an immediate end to all attacks on civilians, an urgent independent inquiry into human rights violations, a UN arms embargo, and support for local aid organisations.


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