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Signs Point to Ever Worsening Conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan

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Signs Point to Ever Worsening Conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan

Posted by Amanda Hsiao on June 20, 2011

Signs Point to Ever Worsening Conflict in Sudan's South Kordofan

Aerial bombardments, restrictions on humanitarian access, and the targeting of civilians continue to take place in the Sudanese border state of South Kordofan, amid continued fighting between the Sudanese army and elements of the SPLA. Churches, aid workers, and NGOs have described the Sudanese government’s actions as ethnic cleansing. Now, the latest satellite images analyzed by Satellite Sentinel Project and confidential U.N. reports reported in the news indicate that a major ground offensive by the Sudan Armed Forces may be in the works, suggesting that the violence may be far from over.

Military vehicles and hardware “capable of imminent forward movement” have visibly amassed in the state capital of Kadugli, according to the latest satellite images. Internal U.N. reports seen by McClatchy stated that the situation in South Kordofan “is likely to deteriorate further” because preparations for a major SAF offensive were “becoming clearer.”

Satellite images also confirmed that the Sudanese army is in control of Kadugli town and that thousands of civilians have been displaced from the fighting.

A "humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions is unfolding" said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in her statement before the U.N. Security Council today, decrying the lack of humanitarian access granted to U.N. personnel and international NGOs by the Sudanese army. The ambassador also stated that reports of summary executions and detainment of civilians based on their political sympathies, and the placement of mines around Kadugli, among other reported acts, could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity that should be fully investigated by the U.N.

In the latest readout from OCHA, the U.N. agency described the security situation around the capital as “unpredictable” and reported that the Kadugli airport remain closed, despite a plea to the Sudanese government and other authorities by the U.N. refugee agency last week to allow air and road access for humanitarian agencies. “Heavy fighting” was reported in towns outside of Kadugli. The number of people displaced by violence is likely higher than the 60,000 count previously reported, OCHA also noted

The ability of the SAF to bring in reinforcements is not the only reason why the situation in South Kordofan may well become a protracted conflict. In a piece in The Guardian, Sudan expert Julie Flint warned that fighting in South Kordofan may exceed the intensity of Sudan’s other conflicts, because of the organization and determination of the Nuba, the ethnic group that fills the ranks of the SPLA in South Kordofan:

The war in the Nuba mountains is already being seen through the lens of earlier wars: the north-south war; the Darfur war; the jihad. It is different. The sheer number of armed men under organised command on both sides has never before been matched in Sudan— including more than 60,000 on the government side. In focusing so heavily on the north-south conflict, the international community has underestimated the determination of the Nuba: their fighters are more numerous and much better led than the Darfur rebels, with formidable organisational skills, command capabilities and discipline.

So far, diplomatic efforts by the Thabo Mbeki-led African Union High-Implementation Panel have not produced an agreement to end hostilities. In a briefing before the U.N. Security Council this morning, the former president reported that negotiations involving the SPLM leadership from South Kordofan and Blue Nile and representatives from the national government will begin tomorrow in Addis Ababa.

Photo: Displaced Kadugli residents (UN Photo)