July 27, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – South Kordofan Governor Ahmad Haroun has charged his former deputy Abdul Aziz Al-Hilu with attempting a localized coup in coordination with rebel groups from the western region of Darfur.
- National Congress Party candidate for governor, Ahmed Haroun, speaks to the press after voting at the polling centre in Kadogli in the South Kordofan state, May 2, 2011 (REUTERS PICTURES)
Sudan’s oil-producing state of South Kordofan, which borders the newly independent state of South Sudan and the war-battered region of Darfur, descended into violence since 6 June when Sudan army known as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) clashed with forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by Abdul Aziz al-Hilu.
The conflict in South Kordofan, which escalated into heavy artillery and aerial bombardment, is believed to have been erupted after SAF attempted to disarm SPLM fighters. The violence also followed contentious gubernatorial elections in which Haroun, the incumbent governor of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), was declared winner over his deputy Al-Hilu who disputed the result saying the vote was rigged.
Addressing a press conference in Khartoum on Tuesday, Haroun said that Al-Hilu had planned to launch a coup on 6 June and assassinate 110 political figures in the state.
He further said that documents obtained by the army at Al-Hilu’s residence revealed a plan by AL-Hilu forces to wrestle control of South Kordofan’s state capital Kadugli with three divisions of the SPLM’s military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), at 6 pm on 6 June.
Haroun, who faces an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the course of the government’s notorious counterinsurgency in Darfur region, said that Al-Hilu had also planned to coordinate with Darfur rebel groups to advance towards Khartoum once control of Kadugli is secured.
The ICC indictee further claimed that Al-Hilu was receiving assistance from Bentiu town in the Unity State of South Sudan.
South Sudan declared full independence from Sudan on 9 July. The region, which is ruled by the SPLM, says it no longer maintain ties with forces in South Kordofan.
Haroun said they were still willing to engage in dialogue with Al-Hilu, however, he added that such dialogue must occur within the framework of effective security arrangements and without preconditions.
Khartoum government withdrew commitment to an agreement it signed on 28 June with the SPLM in Addis Ababa on South Kordofan situation.
The deal, which stipulated the recognition of the SPLM’s as a legal political party in north Sudan and provides for the integration of SPLA forces into SAF, was declared null and void by President Al-Bashir who ordered SAF to sustain military operations in South Kordofan.
Separately, Haroun has strongly denied reports on the identification of mass graves in South Kordofan.
Citing satellite imagery and eye-witness reports, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), which monitors Sudan, said last week it had found evidence of mass graves in Kadugli town.
A leaked report produced by the UN Mission in Sudan concluded that “especially egregious” acts by SAF during the conflict could be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity, recommending a probe by the ICC into the situation.
In an interview with Saudi owned Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper on 24 July, al-Hilu echoed accusations that the Sudanese government has been pursuing ethnic cleansing policy in South Kordofan.
Haroun, for his part, said that the Sudanese Red Crescent Society handled burial of all victims in accordance with the criminal procedures law.
The NCP official dismissed the possibility of re-holding the elections in South Kordofan. “Re-holding elections in South Kordofan is a medicine that it unavailable in our pharmacies,” he added.
Haroun said that the doors for dialogue would remain open but their swords would remain unsheathed.
In a related development, Haroun stressed that there is no intention to setup refugee camps in South Kordofan, claiming that 80 percent of the internally displaced people have returned to their homes.
More than 72,000 people have been displaced since South Kordofan violence erupted, according to UN estimates.