— Human Rights Watch
says the conflict in Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has displaced or severely affected an estimated 900,000 people and caused widespread hunger, malnutrition, and associated illness. With Sudan's army increasing aerial attacks since the end of the rainy season, the situation in the region is rapidly deteriorating. Key humanitarian figures are calling on the African Union to take action at their summit later this month.
Last July, the Khartoum government agreed to a tripartite proposal to allow humanitarian access into the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where rebels have been fighting Sudan's government since mid-2011. To date, however, all aid has been blocked.
Sustained aerial attacks by Sudan's armed forces have prevented people from planting or harvesting crops, finding suitable shelter, and accessing health care.
Representing the Christian Episcopal Church of Sudan, Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail recently returned from a month-long trip to the Nuba Mountains area, located in Southern Kordofan. He says that the agreements have made no impact on the ground and in fact, this year is worse than last in terms of bombings.
He prays the AU will soon take action.
“Next week, if the AU can send humanitarian aid, and implement and consider the cease-fire in the region, and send a delegation to the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile, and all these conflicted areas, that will be very helpful,” Andudu said.
According to Dr. Mukesh Kapila, a special representative for the Aegis Trust and the former U.N. Development Program representative for Sudan, the government in Khartoum is perpetrating crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide. He says that Khartoum is using more sophisticated tactics here than it did ten years ago in Darfur.
“In Darfur, and I was there in 2003, 2004, we had relatively primitive weaponry - Antonovs without much deliberate targeting, Janjaweed - men on camels and horseback, a few bombs being dropped randomly, targeting African tribes, but it was crude warfare," said Kapila. "What I’ve seen in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile is all that I’ve seen in Darfur, plus the addition of modern technology. Ten years after, we have precision guided missiles, land mines which I don’t remember seeing in Darfur, anti-personnel bombs, cluster bombs which I did not see in Darfur, we see MiG fighters which I don’t remember seeing in Darfur, and we have a much more precision-guided approach with distance over the horizon artillery. So this is not just another Darfur; quite possibly, it is worse than Darfur.”
Kapila says that no meaningful results will occur unless the AU takes a broad approach to the many issues facing Sudan and South Sudan.
“There can be no peace in Sudan or across the border in South Sudan for that matter, without these fundamental problems being resolved. So the AU must be concerned about regional peace and security and it needs to realize that the problems of Nuba, Blue Nile, Abyei, Darfur, are interconnected and it needs to take a comprehensive approach to solving all of them at the same time," he said. "If it takes a piecemeal approach, then it’ll continue to trade off one against the other. And this is not going to go anywhere at all.”
The African Union will meet from January 21 to 28 in Addis Ababa to discuss issues facing the continent.