Violence against civilians in Sudan sparks fears of return to war
Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s disputed South Kordofan state is leading to a major humanitarian catastrophe and threatens to return war to Sudan just weeks before the independence of South Sudan.
Several eye-witness accounts indicate that government troops are carrying out “house-to-house” searches in the towns, pulling out suspected opposition sympathisers and in some cases killing them on the spot.
Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, has received numerous reports from project partners in Sudan that survivors have locked themselves into their homes, without food or water, for fear of being killed. Others have fled to the Nuba Mountains where they are being pursued by helicopter gunships.
More than 60,000 people have fled recent fighting between Sudanese government troops and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, according to the United Nations.
Act for Peace’s project partner, the Sudan Council of Churches, reports of violence and mass atrocities against civilians by both government troops and the SPLA, including bombing of villages, killings, looting and burning of property.
The Sudan Ecumenical Forum, a peace network of Christian churches that has worked in Sudan for nearly two decades, says the international community must pressure both warring parties to fulfil their obligation to protect civilians.
“A humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale is unfolding in South Kordofan state. We appeal to world leaders and governments to pay attention to this situation and urgently protect people,” said its co-chair Eberhard Hitzler.
Food and fuel are increasingly scarce and humanitarian assistance is urgently needed, but efforts in and around Kadugli to bring aid to those affected are being severely hampered by the fighting and the presence of troops.
Act for Peace Executive Director, Alistair Gee, said, “The international community must act urgently, calling for an immediate ceasefire, declaring South Kordofan a no-fly zone and enabling emergency workers to deliver relief.”
Act for Peace has supported its project partners in impressive conflict reduction and peace building work in South Sudan. One Act for Peace partner has been clearing remnants of war including landmines and small arms ammunition since 2004.
In the lead-up to the January 2011 referendum on self-determination of South Sudan, the Sudan Council of Churches conducted peace assessments and delivered training and civic education to ensure elections were peaceful and fair.
“This violence, just weeks before South Sudan gains its hard-won independence on July 9, threatens to unravel the whole peace process to which so many people have dedicated themselves,” said Alistair Gee.
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