March 19, 2012 (JUBA) - A senior member of the Sudanese rebels operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile on Monday accused Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of mobilising 45,000 fighters, mainly from their paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) to launch attacks against civilian population in areas under their control.
- A flatbed truck with a mounted machine gun used by rebels of the SPLM North, in Yida market (Source: Martin Plaut/BBC)
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) is the leading member of a coalition with Darfur’s three largest rebel groups, fighting to overthrow Khartoum’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
Khartoum accuses South Sudan’s ruling SPLM of backing their former comrades in arms and denies attacking civilian populations in the conflict, which began last year over the failure to implement a 2005 peace deal, a disputed election in South Kordofan and the SPLM-N’s refusal to disarm after South Sudan seceded in July.
Yassir Saed Arman said Khartoum is preparing to launch an offensive led by the PDF despite signing of an agreement allowing humanitarian aid to reach conflict affected areas. Khartoum has been weary to allow the creation of displaced camps within Sudan, which could become unwieldy political entities as they have in the nine year Darfur conflict.
On February 9th the African Union, League of Arab States and United Nations signed a Joint Proposal for Access to Provide and Deliver Humanitarian Assistance to War-affected Civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.
With a food crisis expected in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile the United States has suggested, much to ire of the NCP, that it may deliver humanitarian assistance unilaterally if Khartoum remains intransigent.
Many people are hiding in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains to avoid the government’s bombing campaigns and fighting between the SPLM-N and SAF. More than 78,000 people have fled into South Sudan and Ethiopia to seek shelter from the violence.
- Rebels of the SPLM North, in Yida market (Source: Martin Plaut/BBC)
Camps to receive the refugees have been set up in Unity and Upper Nile states in South Sudan, which Khartoum claims have become bases for the SPLM-N. Juba denies assisting the rebels but the BBC’s Africa Editor Martin Plaut said at an event in London last week that the Yida refugee was "heavily militarised" and took photos apparently showing the presence of the SPLM-N.
On Monday Arman said that on March 9 and 10 the SPLM-N met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with the US envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Princeton Lyman and the United Nations Special Envoy to Sudan, Haile Menkerios and expressed their readiness to cease hostilities to allow humanitarian organisations to deliver aids to rebel held areas in South Kordofan and in Blue Nile States.
“This is what we were expecting. We were actually expecting the international community to exert enough pressure on the Sudanese government to respect terms of the agreement by allowing the humanitarian organisations to deliver humanitarian assistances but it appears that National Congress [Party] government in Khartoum is buying time”, Arman said in a press release.
He accused Khartoum of having no shame in giving excuses and making empty promises full of diplomatic rhetoric coined to fool international community that they will sign the agreement and allow humanitarian access.
Humanitarian relief in Sudan has long been highly politicised, with the NCP convinced that providing assistance in rebel controlled areas will support the rebels and prolong the conflict.
Arman said that instead of implementing the humanitarian agreement Khartoum was "systematically engaging in mass starvation and scorched earth policies, denying food and mobilizing forces."
Khartoum has allowed small fact finding missions into South Kordofan but does not want to allow in major international non-governmental organisations after the experience of Darfur and wants instead to distribute aid through local groups, which it selects.
There has been a joint initiative unveiled last month by the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and the Arab League (AL) calls for the three organizations to assess the needs and humanitarian situation throughout the conflict area, and then to deliver assistance to the needy.
While SPLM-N agreed to it, Sudan has yet to make a decision.
On 14 March Martin Plaut was speaking a an event at the Overseas Development Institute in London: Juba calling: what next for South Sudan?
You can listen to his comments from his recent visit to South Sudan here: Questions and discussion - Juba calling: What next for South Sudan? (MPEG Standard Definition - MP4, 265mb)