The recently published House of Lords report, “The EU and Sudan: on the Brink of Change” is a timely report – not least because today (December 7th) it has been reported that Iranian made missiles have been launched against the civilian population of Southern Kordofan by the Northern Sudan security forces.
The Report has a great deal to say about the flow of oil revenue, about the role of China, governance, security and the rule of law – with a welcome reference to the pernicious activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army – corruption, pluralism, and the appalling proliferation of arms. There is a lot in the report about Europe but, disappointingly, only a cursory mention of the Commonwealth – surprising given South Sudan’s application to join the Commonwealth; surprising, too, that the Commonwealth was not invited to give evidence. I would also like to have seen evidence from the African Union – not least about the role of peacekeepers.
In their summary the authors of the Report say that “We assess the risk that the new country of Southern Sudan will fail as a state as high, even if the international community maintains the current levels of assistance and support.” 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 is what Khartoum has always insisted will happen. It is surprising that at this point in the Report’s summary no mention is made of the hostile role of Northern Sudan – whose behaviour is the principle reason why the South is battling against such daunting odds.
We know what constitutes a State which fails but what name do you give to a State such as north Sudan, now known as the Republic of Sudan whose bombing campaign against the south led to the deaths of 2 million people; and whose decision in 1983 to try and impose Sharia law in this religiously diverse nation led to the civil war which ensued?
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.During the civil war I went to Southern Sudan and saw the situation first hand. Four years later, in 2004 I took firsthand accounts from some of the Darfuri victims of the first genocide of the twenty first century.
In 2009 Colonel Samir Jaja, deserted from the Sudanese army and described how he had taken part in an attack on the villages of Korma, Ber Tawila and Sanj Koro in Southern Darfur in April 2003. They were ordered to,
“rape the women, kill the children, leave nothing”.Oumba Daoud Abdelrasoul, a refugee who fled to Chad, said:
“My younger brother and my two uncles had their throats slit in front of me. I had to watch as others were thrown alive into fires”.Since 9th July of this year the UN has reported new cases of displacement in both North and West Darfur, as a result of offensives between the government and rebels.
New arrivals have resulted in reported gaps in the health and water and sanitation sectors in some areas, due to the increased demand as well as the lack of humanitarian actors on the ground.
There have also been population movements in South Darfur due to ongoing military operations.
The needs of groups displaced prior to 9th July also continue to remain, in terms of water, food and health.
Many have had their livelihoods and coping mechanisms destroyed in the past few months and remain hard to reach due to restrictions which limit the transportation of fuel, vehicle spare parts, drugs and medicines to them.
What do you call a State whose leaders permit such atrocities to occur?
The International Criminal Court has given it a name – it is an indicted State.In July 2008 Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, to indicted 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; and last week their Defence Minister, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, was similarly indicted. Egregious crimes have been committed by the highest levels of government – and the killing continues while we speak.
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, have 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 are operating along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Raids by the Lord’s Resistance Army have terrorized rural villagers and are all part of an attempt to destabilise the South and make good the predictions that South Sudan will be a failed state.
The heightened levels of conflict with Khartoum, and the depredations of 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 is likely to flourish in the midst of war?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.
In South Kordofan heavy fighting continues between SPLA-North (Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). On 1 December SAF claimed to have taken the town of Taruje, a claim refuted by SPLM-N who said that fighting is ongoing.
• Earlier today I met with representatives of the SPLM (North) and they particularly raised with me the failure to investigate the apparent collaboration of peace keepers in the massacre of escaping refugees in Kadugli – an issue which I raised in the House earlier this year; they described the humanitarian situation as disastrous with 2 million people across the border region threatened with starvation.
• Aid agencies suggest at least 305,523 people are displaced in South Kordofan because of the conflict.• The government of 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.
• Constant aerial bombardment prevents farmers from cultivating their land, inevitably exacerbating the desperate situation with regard to food supplies. Reports from Buram locality show that only 23% of last year’s fields were cultivated.
• The humanitarian conditions for the displaced are deteriorating with many hiding in caves in the mountains at risk from lethal snakes. The charity, HART, which does such admirable work in Sudan, was told “We are more afraid of the bombs than we are of the snakes”. Hiding in the harsh mountain conditions, they cannot obtain adequate supplies of food, water and medicines. Incidence of diseases including pneumonia, diarrhoea, skin infections, malaria, and typhoid is rising.
• Deaths from malnutrition are already recorded; and growing numbers of children suffering from malnutrition – estimated 20-27% of children in Heiban and approximately the same figure for refugees arriving in Yida recorded on an index of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and 2-9% on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
• Reportedly over 23,000 refugees have fled into Unity State in the new Republic of South with another 300-500 arriving every day. Many are already suffering severe health problems having walked for days without food or water and vulnerable to continuing aerial bombardments.
• On 10 November, 4 bombs targeted Yida, a refugee camp in Unity State, South Sudan. • The governor in Southern Kordofan, already wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, has prevented the setting up of camps for those who have been displaced.
The SPLM (N) tell me that a further escalation of violence – and the danger of outright war between north and south – has been increased by the violation of South Sudan’s sovereign territory with troops from the north inside the South at Jao. This is a dangerous and incredibly serious situation.
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, 30-40,000 have fled into Ethiopia.
• The SPLM-N report that around 43,000 civilians who have fled Blue Nile are stuck at the border trying to entre South Sudan due to sever lack of food and continued aerial bombing by SAF.
• A new report by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysing images captured on 11 – 27 November indicates SAF destruction of civilian homes, heavy armour movement and aerial bombardment in Amara village.
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 plight of civilians displaced from Abyei continues to be cause for grave concern both for Sudan and South Sudan. During a visit to Bahr-El-Ghazel last month, HART met some of the many 100,000 who had fled the fighting in Abyei and are living in conditions of great hardship in improvised camps without adequate facilities or supplies.
• Abyei is mistakenly being defined as part of the Republic of Sudan.
There are also reliable reports that Khartoum has issued death sentences to 19 SPLM-N civilians. According to The Solidarity Committee for the Support of Political Prisoners and Detainees in Sudan:
“Almost all those held underwent unspeakable torture, degraded treatment and abuse for the period of their detention.”As a result, some have become physically disabled or disfigured from systematic ill treatment. Now finally, under the cover of a complete news blackout, they have been subjected to summary trials, which bear no relation to natural justice or impartial judicial processes- they were not granted, even the most basic of their legal rights.
The sentences are a most flagrant violation of all human rights norms. Now the nineteen condemned detainees await their fate in Kober prison, in Khartoum, among them the renowned writer and poet Mr. Abdel-Monim Rahma.These detainees, whose trials are due to take place in Sinja in the coming days, are
• Musa Jah-Alrasoul
• Hammad Ahmed Gadim
• Saddam Abbas Jol (a minor)
• Mohammed Abdel-Algani Digais
• Sheikh Ali Alnour Geri (local chief- Kalogi)
• Abdallah Altoum Salih
• Musa Balolah Kasina
• Alsir Amir Alzaki
• Jaroum Jah-Alrasoul
• Taha Someit Marhoum
• Abdallah Mohammed Al-Hassan
• Karoum Awad Bashoum
• Koji Malwal
• Alrashid Umada Khossi
• Abdallah Abdel-Rahman Abdallah
• 7 people from Darfur group JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) have also been sentenced to death after attacking a military convoy in Darfur. Three have been detained until they reach an age of “criminal responsibility”. Meanwhile, while these tragic events have been unfolding, the flow of oil from the south has been halted.
• On 28 November Sudan’s oil minister, Ali Ahmad Osman, announced that all South Sudanese oil exports running through Sudanese territory had been halted following a dispute over $727m of transfer fees unpaid by South Sudan. He stated that no further exports will be allowed until a written agreement has been signed by both countries, a move that has already affected a 600,000 barrel shipment to China.
According to IMF (International Monetary Fund) report on 25 October 2011 South Sudan relies on oil for 98% of its revenue and oil production makes up 2/3 of GDP.
I hope that the British Government will hold urgent talks with the Government of China, whose economic interests might encourage them to play a more decisive role – and to build on the recent visit of a high level Chinese envoy to Juba and Khartoum
The UN Security Council and the International Community must urgently respond to the following questions and issues:
1. The Government of Sudan’s continuing military offensives, including aerial bombardment of civilians by Antonovs, MiGs and helicopter gunships. We must revisit the issue of a no fly zone for Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. On August 11th the noble lord told me that “A no-fly zone in Darfur and Southern Kordofan would be a major logistical challenge” Are we seriously saying that if the political will was there the logistical challenges could not be overcome.
2. As the dry season approaches there is acute fear of an intensification of military activities with grave consequences for the civilian population.
3. We must raise 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.
4. Urgent provision of adequate humanitarian aid to displaced people who have fled from Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On November 9th Lord Howell told me “we continue to work closely with United Nations and international partners to seek urgent access to those most affected by the conflict.” What results have those urgent endeavours achieved?
We need to see an international independent committee of inquiry to be sent to the Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, to investigate and report on recent development.On June 21st the Foreign office Minister, Lord Howell of Guidford told me that “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?
On August 11th Lord Howell said “We are deeply concerned by reports of this attack on the hospital north of Kauda Valley and other attacks. We continue to urge for a ceasefire, and for access so that these claims can be fully investigated. We will, if necessary, consider action to refer the situation in Southern Kordofan to the International Criminal Court.”Have we now done this?
On August the 11th Lord Howell also told me that he found the UNMIS report “The Human Rights Situation during the Recent Violence in Southern Kordofan Sudan” “deeply concerning.” He went on to say “We will, if necessary, consider action to refer the situation in Southern Kordofan to the International Criminal Court.” Have we done this?
There are two things which the UK should do immediately:
1. The British Government should seriously consider implementing targeted sanctions to try to halt Khartoum’s continuing policies, which are inflicting widespread death and destruction.
2.These could include a UK trade embargo and diplomatic sanctions imposed on senior politicians in Khartoum’s ruling party responsible for the humanitarian crisis and human rights offences.
On November 10th Lord Howell told me “We judge that further targeted travel sanctions would not help at this stage in achieving our objectives, but will keep this under review in consultation with European Union and United Nations partners.” What has to happen for us to do this?The Sudanese bishop, Macram Max Gassis, one of the most courageous and wise men in Africa, once said:
“Peace without justice is like building a house without foundations; it is a pseudo-peace doomed to collapse at the very first storm”.If north and south Sudan are to have any kind of future the north will have to learn to co-exist with the south. Britain and China should work with one another to try and facilitate this.
The conditions for development and a future based on dignity are the peace and justice which Bishop Gassis points us towards. Today’s debate is a welcome chance to reiterate the importance of those objectives and the international community’s role in securing them.
Following Rwanda, we said we would never countenance another genocide. What is happening in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is worse than Gaddafi’s treatment of his people in Libya. Unless the international community takes significant action NOW – rather than just continuing to talk while Khartoum continues to kill – the Sudanese people will see Britain as condoning, and even being complicit with, Khartoum’s genocidal polices. Like Rwanda and Darfur it will be “never again” all over again.