September 28, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s president Omer al-Bashir has escalated warfare rhetoric, vowing that the country’s army will soon conquer the stronghold of the rebels Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Blue Nile State.
- Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir (FILE-EPA)
Battles between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM-N forces in Blue Nile erupted on 1 September as each side accused the other of starting the fighting.
The following day, Bashir called a state of emergency in Blue Nile, sacked the state’s governor Malik Aggar, who is also the SPLM-N’s chairman, and later shut down SPLM-N’s offices in the country.
While SAF gained control of the state’s capital al-Damazin, Malik Agar and SPLM-N forces firmly held control of their mainstay in Al-Kurmuk town near Sudan’s borders with Ethiopia.
Recently, there have been reports of fighting in and around the area of Dondoro south of Blue Nile. SAF said it captured Dondoro, stressing it now eliminated the last obstacle before the advance of its troops towards Al-Kurmuk.
The military situation on the ground remains difficult to verify independently due to lack of media access to the area.
Addressing a public rally in al-Butana locality in the eastern state of Al-Qadarif on Wednesday, al-Bashir said that SAF would soon pray in Al-Kurmuk and expel “the rebels and outlaws.”
He further pledged that those who “committed crimes against citizens” and “violated human rights” would be held accountable.
Blue Nile, which borders the newly independent state of South Sudan, is home to communities who largely sided with the south during Sudan’s north-south second civil war.
Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended more than two decades of war in 2005, Blue Nile was given a vote called “popular consultation” to gauge local satisfaction with the implementation of the agreement.
The plebiscite took place in January this year amid calls for autonomy to be given to the area, but the results are yet to be released.
In his address, the Sudanese president sought to refute claims of “marginalization” of Blue Nile, saying that the government had instituted Malik Agar as a governor but the latter rebuffed authority and returned to rebellion.
Al-Bashir also reiterated his rejection to the SPLM-N’s demands for negotiations through a third party, saying his government is done negotiating with “outlaws” abroad.
“There will be no more negotiations abroad…and we will not allow international organizations to intervene under the blanket of humanitarian assistance. Any force that wants to oppose [the government] and impose protocols of Khawajat [an Arabic word used to refer to Westerners] will not be allowed to do so” he told the crowd.
Earlier this week, Bashir said his government was still willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the strife with the SPLM-N but stressed that such recourse must overstep the provisions already existing in the CPA.