So how’s the world’s newest nation doing? Against daunting odds Southern Sudan is fighting hard to establish itself as a vibrant independent nation – Africa’s fifty fourth country.
But it doesn’t help when a British parliamentary report gloomily announce that “We assess the risk that the new country of Southern Sudan will fail as a state as high”.
There is a danger in making statements of this kind – not least because they can become self fulfilling prophesies. I also disliked the statement because it’s what Khartoum – capital of Northern Sudan – has always insisted will happen, and is doing its best to make happen.
We all know what consitutes a State which fails but what name do you give to a State whose bombing campaign against its own people (in the south) led to the deaths of 2 million souls; and whose 1983 decision to forcibly impose Sharia law in this religiously diverse nation preciptated the civil war?
What do you call a State which declared war on its own people in Darfur – seeking the forced Arabisation of African peoples and lands, their enslavement, and the imposition of its extremist form of Islam, leading to the deaths of around 400,000 people and the displacement of 2 million others?
What do you call a State whose leaders commit endless atrocities?
The International Criminal Court has given it a name – it’s called an indicted State.
In July 2008 Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, indicted President Omar al-Bashir and in 2009 the ICC judges in The Hague issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes against humanity —the first against a sitting Head of State.
Northern Sudan has become a pariah State, and fails against every test of how a civilized or humane government should behave.
Even as the independence celebrations were taking place last July – a chain of political and military developments, initiated by Khartoum, once again placed the region on the brink of outright civil war.
Although the post-independence violence came as no surprise, the ferocity of the attacks in Southern Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile, areas located along the new international border, has been truly shocking. Simultaneously, Khartoum has made good its promises to enact an even stricter form of Sharia law in the north.
They also appear to be the quartermasters of the Lord’s Resistance Army who operate along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Raids by the LRA have terrorized rural villagers, are all part of an attempt to destabilise the South, and aim to make good the predictions that South Sudan will be a failed state.
The heightened levels of conflict with Khartoum, and their proxies in the LRA, mean that much of South
Sudan’s development agenda, including providing education and health care to some of the world’s poorest people, has been sidelined while its government directs its resources to defending itself and its people. What democratic institution has a hope of flourishing in the midst of war? And Khartoum continues to pour vast resources into its war machine.
According to a recent document published by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, up to 70% of Sudan’s income is being used for military expenditure. Reports from agencies such as Waging Peace and HART point to the scale of the conflict.
In South Kordofan heavy fighting continues between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (North) and Sudan Armed Forces. Aid agencies suggest at least 305,523 people are displaced from South Kordofan because of the conflict. Khartoum continues to deny access to humanitarian organisations to reach the victims of the conflict. Aerial bombardment by SAF is an almost daily occurrence, with a reported 160 bombs dropped on civilians between 13 September and 13 October. In addition to those civilians killed, many others will die from injuries because of lack of access to medical care.
In Blue Nile reports from numerous sources consistently describe offensives and atrocities perpetrated by the Government of Sudan similar to those reported in Southern Kordofan. These include aerial bombardment resulting in civilian deaths and injuries, denial of access for humanitarian aid, extrajudicial killings, detentions and torture of civilians, and looting of civilian properties. It is estimated that up to 400,000 have been displaced from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, many of whom have fled into Ethiopia.
In Abyei over 120,000 of the indigenous Ngok Dinka Population have fled to South Sudan. Many aid organisations, including Oxfam, have pulled out of the region.
The UN Security Council and the International Community must urgently respond to the following issues:
1. The Government of Sudan’s continuing military offensives, including aerial bombardment of civilians by Antonovs, MiGs and helicopter gunships. We need a no fly zone.
2. The Government of Sudan’s refusal to allow access by humanitarian aid organisations to civilians, wherever they are in need. At present, Khartoum is using starvation as a weapon of war. We must insist on humanitarian access to all areas.
On November 9th Ministers told me “we continue to work closely with United Nations and international partners to seek urgent access to those most affected by the conflict.” But what results have those urgent endeavours achieved?
On June 21st Ministers, answering another of my questions said: “Reports of such atrocities will have to be investigated and, if they prove to be true, those responsible will need to be brought to account.” More than five months have now elapsed. What results have the investigations yielded and who has been held to account?
In August I asked them about the bombing of a hospital: “We are deeply concerned by reports of this attack on the hospital north of Kauda Valley and other attacks…We will, if necessary, consider action to refer the situation in Southern Kordofan to the International Criminal Court.”
Ministers also assured me that that they found the UNMIS report “The Human Rights Situation during the Recent Violence in Southern Kordofan Sudan” “deeply concerning.”
Once again they said “We will, if necessary, consider action to refer the situation in Southern Kordofan to the International Criminal Court.”
Why haven’t we done this?
If we genuinely don’t want South Sudan to become the failed State they predict then the UK must lead by example. Start with immediate targeted sanctions to halt Khartoum’s continuing aggression. These could include a UK trade embargo and travel sanctions on senior politicians responsible for the humanitarian crisis and human rights offences. On November 10th Ministers said “We judge that further targeted travel sanctions would not help at this stage in achieving our objectives, but will keep this under review…”
For South Sudan’s sake we need to now end the procrastination and the weasel words, set aside the reviews, and start to get real