The oil-rich region of South Kordofan straddles the border between Sudan and the newly independent nation of South Sudan. The province is home to many South Sudan supporters. As a result, its perilous geographic position has become more dangerous in recent months, as intense aerial bombings of civilian areas by the northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) wreaked havoc. Many civilians have been reported dead, and those who are left have fled by the tens of thousands to shelter in the caves of the Nuba Mountains.
Sudanese and international officials recently called on the United Nations to take a stand against the atrocities being committed in the South Kordofan region of Sudan. Reverend Andudu Adam Elnail, Anglican Bishop of Kadguli provided testimony to the UN Security Council on the current situation.
“If you are not dead with the bombs, next year you’ll die from the famine because the Government of Sudan is not allowing the humanitarian to go and give aid food and medicine to the people on the ground,” said the bishop. “There is a lot of killing going on and we consider this as ethnic cleansing.”
Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail added that he could not return to Sudan because his life was in danger. “And that’s why we are calling on the UN Security Council to consider what is going on in Sudan,” he concluded.
The government of Sudan, meanwhile, has denied accusations of violence. This is a cause of great concern for international human rights groups, which have had little or no access to the South Kordofan population.
“It’s as if a fox was blocking access to the hen house and everyone said we have no choice but to accept the fox’s word that everything is fine inside and the hens are doing just very well,” said Peggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. “If the Security Council members want more information, it’s their responsibility to make sure there are monitors who have access to southern Kordofan in order to gather it.”
International leaders urgently requested a UN statement and potential presence in the troubled southern state of Sudan. As a Human Rights Watch representative, Hicks asked for an immediate mandate for an assessment mission in Sudan, and for the UN to demand access to that Sudanese region.
“And that means not just put that on paper but for members of the Security Council to get behind that and push Khartoum to allow it to happen and that’s one step,” she said. “And we believe that of course alone won’t be sufficient and that there does need to be an international presence on the ground of some sort.”
Despite the lack of official information from the Sudanese government, the atrocities are well documented. “The Government of Sudan is killing its own people through a campaign of artillery shelling, aerial bombardment and house to house killings,” declared Jonathan Hutson, Director of Communications for the Enough Project. “There is evidence from eye-witnesses, satellite imagery, UN remarks and a leaked UN draft report of mass killings and even mass graves.”
Hutson highlighted the northern Sudan Armed Forces’ clear violations of its citizens’ human rights. “So this is not a war of Muslim versus Christian, this is not a war of Arab versus black, it’s not a war of Sudan versus South Sudan,” he said. “This is a state-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign.”
The UN testimony was given with the hopes of galvanizing an international response to the human rights violations occurring in South Kordofan. A history of marginalization and exclusion of the southern Sudanese population has amplified tensions between the southern Kordofan region and the Sudanese government, and the situation remains unpredictable.