"They Bombed Everything that Moved"
Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan and South Sudan,
1999 – 2012 (substantial report and data updates, as of June 5, 2012)
This is the fourth update to my original May 6, 2011 report and data spreadsheet; collectively, the reports and data attempt to render as completely as possible all confirmed aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians working in what is now Sudan and South Sudan. The attacks recorded here are all the responsibility of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum, which this month marks its 23rd year in power following the June 30, 1989 military coup.
The motivation for this schematic history and archival project continues to be the intolerable singularity of Khartoum’s sustained, deliberate, and unconstrained aerial attacks on Sudanese civilians and relief workers over many years—this along with the conviction that the profound anonymity of nearly all victims of these attacks is morally unacceptable: they deserve some reckoning, some accounting, some identifiable part in this unspeakably grim history of incidents that together constitute crimes against humanity.
As I argue, and believe the facts amply demonstrate, such a strategy—obscenely destructive in its consequences—has no historical precedent anywhere in the world.
I remain convinced as well that it would be presumptuous to dedicate such a document to so many tens of thousands of victims; it must simply stand in memoriam.
Notes and Acknowledgements
I have generally put in bold the most important proper names, dates, numbers, and geographical locations on first appearance in a given section within this report. The data spreadsheet to which the update refers includes all confirmed aerial attacks from the original report and its four subsequent updates; all can be found here. Research to date indicates that there have been 1,797 confirmed aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians by military forces of the current regime. These are, of course, only a small percentage of attacks that have actually occurred, but represent all that the data and available sources will permit by way of confirmation.
For the present update I am deeply indebted to my superbly meticulous and intelligent research assistant and editor, Madeline Zehnder of Smith College. Her review and mastery of the data and analysis have saved me from any number of errors. All that remain are, of course, my responsibility.
"They Bombed Everything that Moved"
Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan and South Sudan,
1999 – 2012
(substantial report and data updates as of June 5, 2012)
I. Aerial attacks continue undiminished
Since the initial release of this report and data spreadsheet over a year ago (May 6, 2011), the Sudan Armed Forces have continued their aerial onslaught against civilians in Darfur and various border regions of northern Sudan at the direction of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. These brutal atrocity crimes have now spread from South Kordofan and Blue Nile to aerial attacks against the independent Republic of South Sudan; there they extend from Upper Nile State in the east to Western Bahr el-Ghazal in the far west. In Unity State SAF attacks have included repeated bombing of the major town of Bentiu, the state capital, as well as numerous other towns, villages, and refugee camps. There have been significant civilian casualties, an inevitable consequence of using inaccurate Antonov "bombers" (crudely retrofitted Russian cargo planes) to carry out the vast majority of these attacks.
The most notorious and well reported of recent attacks on South Sudan was the November 10, 2011 bombing of Yida refugee camp (Unity State), home at the time to approximately 23,000 civilians who had fled the Nuba Mountains. One bomb landed just outside a rudimentary schooling area where shortly before the attack about 200 children had been present. Two days earlier, in Upper Nile, the remote area of Guffa (north of Bunj in the Mabaan region) was bombed; the only medical aid organization in the region evacuated its personnel from nearby Doro. The November 8 bombing of Guffa reportedly killed 7 people and wounded many others. John Ashworth, a long-time and deeply informed Sudan observer, with numerous contacts in the Sudanese church community, reported that one source in the area described the bombing of Guffa as "serious and deliberate," and also reports that, "many Southern Sudanese have been wounded as a result of the bombing" (email received November 10, 2011).
The regime in Khartoum refuses to acknowledge responsibility for any of these attacks, and has gone so far as to issue denials through its permanent representative at the United Nations. Not only were the Yida and Guffa attacks confirmed by humanitarian workers and the UN, but journalists for both the BBC and Reuters were actually present at the time of the attack on Yida. Khartoum’s mindlessly automatic denials simply have no credibility.
In Darfur the ethnically non-Arab populations have endured for almost a decade a similarly relentless air campaign. Although the campaign waxes and wanes in intensity as military and other circumstances dictate, a number of recent attacks in all three Darfur states are recorded in this update—every one of them a violation of international law and the various iterations of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005; see below).
In aggregate, Khartoum’s 1,797 confirmed, deliberate aerial attacks on its own civilians and international aid workers—recorded in detail by many sources over more than a decade—constitute crimes against humanity. The regime’s systematic, deliberate assaults on its own people are unrivaled, Syria and Libya notwithstanding. This is an historically unprecedented campaign of human destruction by means of military aircraft, comprising astonishingly cruel and indiscriminate acts of killing, maiming, and displacing Sudanese (and now South Sudanese) citizens. Equally astonishing, at least morally, is that these attacks occur without meaningful rebuke or threat from the international community.
No clear explanation of this failure to respond has been offered by those who support an "international responsibility to protect" such endangered civilians—nothing beyond the claim that political action at the United Nations Security Council is impracticable. But of course as these various proponents of "R2P" surely knew in September 2005 when the doctrine was unanimously approved by the UN General Assembly—and later by the Security Council itself—it offered no means of surmounting the political obstacles clearly represented by Permanent Members of the Security Council Russia and China. These obstacles are again conspicuously on display in their response to Syria’s bloodbath and to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
As this and previous reports on aerial attacks against civilians and humanitarians make clear, the consequences of unconstrained assaults on vulnerable populations—typically targeted on the basis of ethnicity—are immense. Those fleeing the bombing attacks in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are now arriving in Upper Nile and Unity State at a rate of 4,000 per day, according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (BBC, June 2, 2012). Tens of thousands of others are on their way, often badly weakened, malnourished, exhausted, and traumatized. The BBC reports that "Fighting is vicious [in Blue Nile], with refugees describing how they were bombed from the air, with markets being a particular target." Many are too weak or too young or too badly injured to make the arduous trek, and they will die. The refugee flow from the Nuba Mountains is not as great as from Blue Nile, but it is also rapidly increasing. The population of Yida refugee camp has grown to more than 40,000 and new arrivals are ceaseless, as increasingly desperate people flee aerial bombardment and starvation.
II. Continuing denial of access to international humanitarian organizations
Starvation looms for many hundreds of thousands of human beings because there is no international relief access to Blue Nile or South Kordofan. Khartoum has for almost a year denied all such access, fearing "another Darfur," in the words of one senior NIF/NCP official. Beyond this denial of relief assistance, on June 1, 2012 Khartoum expelled a number of international relief organizations from eastern Sudan, one of the most food insecure and least visible regions in Sudan (as the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (UK) reported on June 7, 2011, the number of international organizations was in fact seven*):
"Sudan is expelling four* foreign aid groups from its restive eastern region, government and aid officials said on Friday, the latest restrictions on aid agencies in the violence-marred African country. A senior official in Khartoum said the four groups had been asked to stop all projects in the underdeveloped east, one of Sudan’s poorest regions .... ’They didn’t implement the projects we asked them to do,’ the official with the Humanitarian Affairs Commission told Reuters, declining to elaborate. He said the four included aid groups Goal of Ireland and the Swedish chapter of Save the Children." (Reuters [Khartoum], June 1, 2012)
Sudan Tribune reports that the Beja Congress, the oldest political party in eastern Sudan, "has warned that the government’s decision to suspend activities of seven* foreign aid groups is rendering the already impoverished region on ’the verge of famine’" (June 3, 2012) (all emphases in quotations have been added).
The assault on humanitarian relief throughout Sudan and South Sudan has continued, including in Darfur; on May 22, 2012 MSF announced:
"As a result of increasing restrictions imposed by Sudanese authorities, the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been forced to suspend most of its medical activities in the conflict area of Jebel Si, in Sudan’s North Darfur State. MSF is the sole health provider in the region. ’With the reduction of our activities in Jebel Si, more than 100,000 people in the region are left entirely without healthcare,’ says Alberto Cristina, MSF’s operational manager for Sudan."
In March 2009 Khartoum expelled from Darfur thirteen of the world’s finest humantarian organizations, including two MSF national sections, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam/UK, and Save the Children/US, along with eight others. In 2011 Khartoum expelled Médecins du Monde, the only medical relief organization providing assistance in the populous and deeply endangered Jebel Marra region of central Darfur. Many other organizations have faced intolerable abuse, obstruction, harassment, and violence at the hands of the regime and have withdrawn as a consequence.
The widespread, systematic denial of humanitarian access to Darfur on an ethnic basis was first reported by the UN in 2003; in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains similar crimes began over a decade earlier. And yet this denial of humanitarian access, which has defined the counter-insurgency strategy of the current Khartoum regime since it seized power in 1989, shows no signs of ending. Nor is there any sign that such continuing atrocity crimes will be confronted with meaningful action by international actors, who know full well the deadly consequences of their own acquiescence.
This acquiescence currently takes various forms, including the UN’s selective release of reports comfirming bombing attacks on the territory of South Sudan; this decision to release only some of the confirming reports is a political one, apparently not made by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), but by UN/New York. Because only a fraction of the confirmations are made public, and because many reported aerial attacks go uninvestigated, this has the effect of increasing Khartoum’s sense of impunity. The UN also insists it has no mandate to investigate aerial attacks that occur along the border but inside northern Sudan. Additionally, the UN has highly restrictive security protocols that often prevent investigation.
Certainly the regime at this point is inured to the perfunctory international condemnations of its bombing attacks, which have been continuous for nearly ten years in Darfur and for a year in South Kordofan (in Blue Nile the aerial campaign began on September 1, 2011). There seems to be no willingness to accept the argument, developed in the original version of this report (see pp. 17 – 18), that continuous, widespread, and deliberate aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians constitute crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute that serves as the basis for the International Criminal Court.
III. Health and security continue to deteriorate as bombing is unrelenting
In South Kordofan intense bombing continues in the Nuba Mountains, and the region is rapidly approaching famine. Because aerial assaults prevented the planting and tending of crops last year, the harvest this past fall was exceptionally poor. And as the rainy season begins again, the continuation of such aerial attacks threatens to destroy yet another agricultural cycle: it now seems extremely unlikely that there will be any significant harvest this coming fall. Many people, desperately hungry, have already eaten the seeds they had saved for spring planting.
This is the context in which Khartoum adamantly refuses all humanitarian access to people of the Nuba and Blue Nile; as a direct result, more than 200,000 civilians have fled as refugees to Ethiopia, Upper Nile, and Unity State. MSF recently reported that an additional 30,000 refugees have fled from Blue Nile to Upper Nile. Tens of thousands more appear to be moving toward the border. And those who remain now suffer from exceedingly high rates of malnutrition. Measurements of both Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) among refugees, especially children under five, indicate that many have already succumbed to the effects of malnutrition, including a wide range of diseases that typically prove fatal in the weakened bodies of starving people.
One highly credible report from Yida camp puts the SAM rate for newly arriving children under five at approximately five percent (Amnesty International estimates the number of new arrivals in Unity State at 550 refugees per day). Such extreme malnutrition has a very high mortality rate; in turn, these children are our best indicator of conditions among those in the Nuba who have been internally displaced or remain trapped without access to their homes and lands. In the Nuba and Blue Nile together, this represents perhaps as many as 1 million civilians.
We have numerous first-hand reports on conditions in the Nuba—from various journalists, from human rights groups (including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch), from humanitarians, and even the intrepid U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf. All report widespread and severe malnutrition, massive numbers of people displaced from their homes and living in caves or in ravines, villages burned along with foodstocks—and relentless aerial bombardment that ensures agricultural life remains paralyzed.
It is no longer a matter of reasonable dispute: Khartoum is deliberately starving the people of the Nuba in an effort to destroy them and the rebellion by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). This is a reprise of the genocidal campaign in the Nuba that the regime mounted in the 1990s. And a key instrument in this campaign of starvation is the terror of aerial attacks. Various international actors—including the UN, the U.S., and the European Union—have demanded an end to such attacks and demanded also that Khartoum grant humanitarian access, most recently in UN Security Council Resolution 2046 (May 2, 2012). But the international community seems also to have decided not to punish Khartoum for its continuing aerial assaults on civilians, or to press for nonconsensual humanitarian corridors, even to save the lives of people at such acute risk. Rather than risk the ire of Khartoum, the international community is prepared to watch as hundreds of thousands of human beings move closer to starvation. As a consequence, this will be one of the greatest killing seasons in Sudan’s tortured history.
IV. Aerial attacks on sovereign territory of the Republic of South Sudan
I believe it is imperative that we bear in mind the history and character of the attacks that have been documented in detail, by a very wide range of reporting sources, over the past thirteen years. If we are to understand the cruelty of the aerial attacks that are largely invisible to us, we should recall those bombings for which there were many witnesses, as was the case in Rier (in what was then Western Upper Nile) on May 22, 2002.
"People were sleeping and therefore taken unawares. The Antonov dropped sixteen bombs in total—eight in one location and eight nearby. Eleven people were killed on the spot and 35 seriously wounded. The situation is described as carnage, with bodies lying everywhere—legs and arms blown off. Most of those wounded were young boys aged 10 and 11 years. The number of those killed is rising—reported now to be 15 killed. NPA [Norwegian People’s Aid] was there eleven hours after the attack to treat and evacuate the wounded. 24 people were evacuated yesterday. More wounded (79) have been evacuated today. The most serious cases have been taken to NPA in Equatoria. The extent of the carnage has made it difficult to cope. Even the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] hospital in Lokichoggio [Kenya] has been overwhelmed by the number of casualties."
"Independent witnesses around the spot to verify the accuracy of the report are two journalists; one French photographer and an East African reporter were there after the attack. A senior U.S. aid official witnessed the evacuation and has seen for the first time the extent of the damage. It is important to note that these attacks were behind the frontlines and also the timings were particularly brutal, catching people (unawares) while they were sleeping. NPA staff on ground described (the bombing) as brutal with bodies littered everywhere. Staff and journalists were totally shocked at what they saw. Reports and pictures will follow." (Report by Norwegian People’s Aid, May 23, 2002)
Such attacks have not ended in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, or in South Sudan. Indeed, although this report and its various updates have specifically chronicled aerial assaults on South Sudan since November 2010, these attacks—including attacks on civilians—have increased dramatically in 2012, with immense political and military implications. The most dramatic increase in aerial attacks began with the decision by the Government of South Sudan in Juba to shut down oil production this past January; the decision was made in light of Khartoum’s unwillingness to negotiate in good faith on the issue of oil transport fees (i.e., the fees Juba would pay to Khartoum for exporting oil from Southern oil reserves to Port Sudan on the Red Sea).
Among these more recent attacks are many that have killed Southern civilians: in late April the United Nations confirmed that at least 16 civilians in South Sudan had been killed and 34 injured in bombings by Sudanese aircraft bombings in Unity State near the border with Sudan. This number significantly understates the total number of casualties. For example, Agence France-Presse reported that the bombing attacks of April 14, 2012 alone ...
"... killed 10 civilians in South Sudan’s Unity border state, said the area’s information minister, Gideon Gatpan. Bombs were dropped near the oil-producing state’s capital Bentiu, as well as in the village of Mayom, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) to the west, he said. ’In Mayom... it killed seven civilians and wounded 14, two bombs fell inside the UN camp in Mayom and destroyed a generator and a radio,’ Gatpan said, adding that three people were also killed in villages around Bentiu. UN peacekeeping mission spokesman Kouider Zerrouk confirmed the attack ...."
On April 23 the city of Bentiu was again struck by indiscriminate bombing attacks, this time photographed by Reuters and reported by the Wall Street Journal:
"[In] an airstrike near Bentiu, South Sudan, Monday [April 23, 2012], Sudanese aircraft bombed an area near a major town in South Sudan Monday, increasing the threat that a full-scale war could break out between the two nations. A boy was killed and at least two people were wounded. A body lay covered with sheets in a market in Rubkona after the airstrike. A South Sudan official described Rubkona as a major population area."
UN IRIN reported (April 30) on the same attack:
"Teresa Nyakuoth, a 24-year-old mother of two, recalls how she was shopping in the market next to her home in Rubkhona, a district of the South Sudanese town of Bentiu, when a Sudanese bomb fell on 23 April. The blast killed one teenage boy instantly, and another died later that day in hospital, where he had been admitted with severe burns and head wounds."
Again, despite photographic evidence and countless witnesses—including journalists—Khartoum baldly denied it had any role in the bombing attack.
One of the most brutal recent assaults against civilians, and humanitarians, occurred on January 24, 2012 (Reuters/Geneva):
"Aircraft bombed a South Sudan camp containing 5,000 refugees near the border with Sudan on Monday, injuring one boy and leaving 14 missing, the United Nations refugee agency said. Several bombs were dropped on El Foj, a transit site less than 10 kilometers from the border in Upper Nile state, UN spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said."
Khartoum’s frequent bombing of refugee camps, in both Unity and Upper Nile, should have provoked the most forceful condemnations and harshest sanctions. Instead, nothing of consequence has been said or done—and the aerial attacks will continue, with no end in sight.
Confirmed bombing attacks occurred in all the South Sudan states that border Sudan: Western Bahr el-Ghazal, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, Warrap, Unity, and Upper Nile.
V. Aerial attacks on the Nuba Mountains
There are too many reports of aerial attacks against the Nuba Mountains to establish a comprehensive census or to eliminate all redundant reporting. Many reports over the past year, however, speak of daily bombing attacks, even multiple attacks on a given day. There have certainly been many hundreds of aerial attacks on civilians and indigenous humanitarians. At the very least we may gain from confirmed reports a sense of relentlessness, geographic dispersion, and the clearly deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian agriculture. We certainly do not lack witnesses and investigators on the ground, even as Khartoum seeks to kill any and all who report from this war zone. For their part, the people of the Nuba are trying to convey just how continuous the violence is:
"The mayor of Mendi, in Nuba Mountains, has lamented the continuous air raids by Sudanese planes spreading death and destruction. Gamar Guruwa Ali Kaser said on Thursday alone an Antonov dropped 14 bombs over the area claiming lives and burning down buildings. He added that Mendi people live in acute poverty and do not have any health facility in the area." (Sudan Catholic Radio Network, 26 March 2012)
Eight months earlier The Independent had reported from the Nuba on very similar attacks:
"[Hussein al-Amin, the chief of a village in the Tonguli mountains] says that refugees from the bombing campaign have come from all over the northern Nuba Mountains and more are arriving every day. Residents from two towns and at least seven villages are living among the rocks…. ’Everything has been destroyed, you can’t find a school, a shop, a house, anything,’ Ismail, who is a farmer, says. ’They sent Antonovs [bombers] during the day while the fighting was going on. They just threw bombs everywhere, hitting everything, everyone.’ The 54-year-old fled into the bush after seeing a friend sliced in half by shrapnel." (The Independent [the Nuba Mountains], July 15, 2011)
There are countless such reports from Nuba themselves and from dozens of journalists who have made their way into the Nuba Mountains. Despite Khartoum’s best efforts to make access too dangerous, numerous high-profile figures have borne witness to the character and extent of the human destruction and suffering. Moreover, two Americans who have worked in the Nuba since the beginning of conflict in June of last year have regularly reported to me and others, via email, their painfully dispiriting accounts.
Dr. Tom Catena works as a surgeon, with no end in sight to his grim task of caring for the victims of terrible, often fatal, bombing shrapnel wounds. Dr. Catena is the source of many confirmed aerial attacks recorded in the present aggregated data spreadsheet, which now incorporates all data for all such attacks from 1999 to the present—more than 1,800 deliberate, targeted, finally systematic aerial assaults on civilians. Humanitarian aid worker Ryan Boyette, who is married to a Nuba woman, has also worked energetically and courageously to provide a running account of what is occurring on the ground in the Nuba. He, too, is the source of many confirmed bombing reports that appear in the current spreadsheet.
From what Boyette and arms specialists have been able to determine, Khartoum is now using much more sophisticated weaponry; despite this military sophistication, however, the weapons continue to be used in highly indiscriminate fashion. Indeed, the evidence makes clear that these new weapons are also instruments of civilian destruction and terror. Most recently Human Rights Watch has confirmed that a bomb that landed but did not detonate near the Nuba village of Angolo is a cluster bomb of Russian manufacture. (Human Rights Watch also reported evidence from February 2012 indicating SAF use of cluster munitions in Trogi, South Kordofan, site of fierce military fighting.)
The Independent reported on the unprecedented use of this ghastly weapon from the village of Angolo in the Nuba (May 24, 2012):
"For over a month, the Russian-made cluster bomb has sat in the centre of this quiet farming village in Sudan’s restive Nuba Mountains, its clutch of unexploded submunitions spilling from its belly into the red African soil. A makeshift attempt at cordoning off the scattered bomblets with a low circle of stones had little visible effect, with cattle and barefoot children moving unhindered through the long grass."
"The Angolo bomb is a Soviet-made RBK-500 cluster weapon, filled with dozens of spherical A0-2.5RTM submunitions, designed to burst in half on impact and scatter shards of shrapnel and ball-bearings over a wide area. Each hemisphere of the bomblet is designed to achieve a ’kill radius’ of 20 metres ...."
"Most of the village’s straw-roofed huts seemed empty, with only a few women and children watching their men folk at the bombsite from the safety of their mud-daubed compounds. The terror effect of aerial bombing on South Kordofan’s civilians has a brutal military logic ...."
The "brutal military logic" referred to here entails destroying civilians in order to deny rebel soldiers all sources of material support. It is the cruelest method of waging war, and relies heavily on indiscriminate aerial attacks, which violate international human rights and humanitarian law on any number of counts. The UN and the international community have done nothing to convince Khartoum that it will be held legally accountable.
Khartoum also introduced another significant aerial weapon into its arsenal this year: on February 17 and 18, 2012, advanced, long-range Chinese WeiShi rockets hit the villages of Um Serdeba and Tabanya in the Nuba. A father was killed, along with his three daughters and a son; his wife and another child were badly wounded. Enough fragments survived from these attacks to be identified by a weapons expert working for Amnesty International:
"The [WeiShi] rockets fired from more than 25 miles away, travel at 3,000 miles per hour and pack a 330-pound warhead often loaded with steel ball bearings to increase lethality, experts say. Where they land is random, witnesses say, and they often slam into villages instead of legitimate military targets. ’They arrive without any warning,’ said Helen Hughes, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International. ’And they are being used indiscriminately, which is violation of international humanitarian law.’" (New York Times [Nairobi], March 13, 2012)
In it recently released report ("’We can run away from bombs, but not from hunger’: Sudan’s Refugees in South Sudan," June 2012, page 11), Amnesty International also reports on rocket attacks in 2011:
"China has also been one of the main suppliers of conventional arms to the SAF. Amnesty International has identified the use of Chinese-manufactured 302mm Weishi multiple-launch rockets in ground bombardments in the area of Kauda in late 2011 and early 2012, which have been used indiscriminately in civilian areas."
Indeed, "indiscriminate" is the hallmark of Khartoum’s aerial assault on the civilians of the border regions, South Sudan, and Darfur. This was the emphasis of a recent report by Human Rights Watch (May 4, 2012):
"Since early June 2011, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has continuously carried out indiscriminate airstrikes on civilian areas in the Nuba Mountains, killing scores of civilians and wounding many more, Human Rights Watch said… in El Buram, Um Durein, and Heiban localities. Witness accounts and physical evidence seen by Human Rights Watch, including bomb fragments, unexploded ordnance, and craters, indicate that the government forces have dropped bombs from Antonov planes, fired missiles from fighter jets, shelled, and launched rockets into civilian areas. People have been killed or wounded in their own homes, while trying to keep safe in mountain caves, and while grazing cattle. All civilians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had a friend, neighbor, or family member who had died as a result of bombing, or had been injured themselves."
Such uniform interview responses suggest an extremely high level of injury and mortality.
The brutality of indiscriminate aerial attacks is widely in evidence, and there can be little doubt that Khartoum is targeting—to the extent inaccurate Antonovs permit—churches, schools, clinics, markets, and agricultural fields:
"Most recently, on 6 February, four bombs were reportedly dropped on and around a health clinic in Kurchi, Southern Kordofan, damaging the clinic and the few medical supplies that were left. The clinic is near Kurchi market, which was bombed on 26 June 2011, killing 13 civilians and injuring more than 20 others – mostly women and children. The next day, three bombs were reportedly dropped on Alabo in Southern Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains, where civilians had fled to caves and rough terrain in search of shelter from previous airstrikes." (Amnesty International, February 16, 2012)
"Officials [from the Nuba] say that Sudan’s military has bombed a Bible school built by a U.S. Christian aid group [Samaritan’s Purse], prompting students and teachers at the school to run for their lives in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan state." (Associated Press [Nairobi], February 3, 2012)
The following is a catalog of locations in South Kordofan where aerial attacks have been confirmed, suggesting how geographically dispersed Khartoum’s efforts of civilian destruction and displacement have been; most locations have been subject to multiple attacks. Some, such as Kauda, have been attacked dozens of times.
[Locality designations, which sometimes conflict, are from the original source]
Abu Leila, Kadugli
Al Hamra, Kadugli
Alabo, Nuba Mountains
El Taice, Buram
Farandalla [ ]
Igiri [ ]
Kanjar, Um Dorain
Kao, Abu Gabeha
Naro, Abu Gabeha
Seraf Jamus, Talodi
Shat Dammam, Kadugli
Shat Saffie, Kadugli
Um Dorain, Um Dorain
Um Serdeba, Um Dorain
VI. Aerial attacks on Blue Nile
Violence throughout Blue Nile continues, with great numbers of refugees reporting that "fighting is vicious; [refugees also reported] how they were bombed from the air, with markets being a particular target" (BBC June 2, 2012). That Khartoum has chosen to bomb even these fleeing civilians is a mark of unsurpassed barbarism. Although the November 2011 attack on Yida in Unity was more fully reported, the bombing of El Foj refugee camp in Upper Nile, to which Blue Nile civilians had fled, speaks directly to the nature of Khartoum’s campaign:
"’This is the place where the bomb landed. There were four of them, and they were clearly aimed at the refugees.’ Ahmed Shukri works for a non-governmental organisation in El Foj, and shows us the bomb craters that are a result of an aerial bombardment late January. ’The bombs were dropped by Antonov cargo planes from North Sudan.’" (Radio Netherlands Worldwide, February 17, 2012)
Though the bombing of Blue Nile has received less attention than attacks in the Nuba, or along the North/South border, it has been just as consequential in its destruction and displacement (Human Rights Watch provided an excellent overview in April). Malik Agar, the elected governor of Blue Nile, estimated early in the conflict that half of Blue Nile’s 1.2 million people were on the move. This was during harvest season and those forced from their lands by aerial military violence were extremely vulnerable, and remain so. Lacking food and humanitarian assistance, and facing increasing violence, civilians from Blue Nile began to pour into neighboring Ethiopia and Upper Nile; and the flood of refugees continues to grow rapidly with the onset of the rains and the last chance for many to walk from Blue Nile to safety. Again, MSF estimates that some 4,000 people a day are fleeing Blue Nile and South Kordofan for South Sudan.
This increase in the flow of refugees is related both to dramatically growing food insecurity and to an increase in bombing attacks. In its most recent report on the broader border crisis, Amnesty International finds that "from the end of April to May 2012 [SAF] bombings intensified" ("’We can run away from bombs, but not from hunger’: Sudan’s Refugees in South Sudan," June 2012, page 10). Amnesty also found that "the majority of refugees interviewed from Blue Nile [said] they had fled because of daily aerial bombings in their areas" (page 11).
A flurry of news reporting from late 2011 conveyed some of the horror of what was being experienced in Blue Nile; but these horrors continue to the present, as aerial assaults are reported without pause. Given Khartoum’s record of bombing hospitals (see pp. 14 – 15, 23 – 24 of original report), it is not surprising that UN IRIN reported early on from Kurmuk (October 12, 2011): "The priority is to move patients from the hospital as quickly as possible, either back home or across the border to Ethiopia where other aid agencies can care for them. ’The fear that an Antonov might bomb [the hospital] is terrible,’ [Dr. Evan] Atar said."
What does it say of the international community that relief workers must plan their actions of the basis of whether or not the Khartoum regime decides to bomb the hospital in Kurmuk?
Dr. Evan Atar continued: "’In the [civil] war [1983 – 2005], there was peace in the villages; now they [the Antonovs] bomb even the villages—that’s the problem; and the increasing accuracy of the bombing is leading to rising patient numbers as the weeks go by.’" Although Antonovs are still not sufficiently accurate to be militarily effective, there have been repeated reports of the planes increasing their accuracy through crude bomb-sighting mechanisms, and their destructiveness by using bombs with greater explosive power.
The experience of civilians bombed and shelled in Blue Nile is captured in an important dispatch from Agence France-Presse (also with a Kurmuk dateline, October 10):
"Anima’s eyes flicker and weep as the doctor sews up the stump of his left arm, before he rolls back on the hospital bed, one of the latest victims in Sudan’s relentless bombing campaign in Blue Nile state. Dr Evan Atar says he has done seven amputations since war broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and fighters loyal to the SPLM-North in Blue Nile state last month. He has treated more than 600 others for shrapnel wounds. ’We are really now running out of supplies. We have been running here and there and crying…. But now where to get it [supplies] from is really an issue,’ he said. President Omar al-Bashir has blocked foreign aid agencies from entering Blue Nile and nearby South Kordofan state, where a separate conflict between the army and SPLM-North rebels has raged since June."
"Kurmuk’s is the only hospital between neighbouring Ethiopia and Damazin … and Dr Atar is the only doctor. He says the hospital will run out of vital supplies such as saline solution, cotton and gauze this week if no aid arrives, after using up six months’ supplies in one [month]. In another hospital bed, 65-year-old Altom Osman is recovering from a deep shrapnel wound in his back and one in his arm after a bomb hit the village of Sali an hour north of Kurmuk. ’I was taking some sorghum flour to my wife. We were passing our farm and then the Antonov came immediately and bombed,’ Osman whispered."
"’When I hear the Antonov coming I’m really scared. I look for my children and I run inside,’ said 21-year-old Huwa Gundi as she sits on a sheet next to a makeshift tent. She fled from the village of Sali after it was bombed, and says the family has for weeks been living off sorghum porridge, which they found in abandoned farmhouses. [Malik] Agar called on the UN to pressure Bashir into ’stopping the bombing of the civilians’ and opening humanitarian corridors in the war-affected areas, while urging the government to return to mediated negotiations. But Bashir himself said last month that Sudan would never again negotiate ’under UN supervision,’ and vowed to crush the rebellion."
This was in October 2011. Kurmuk, in the south of Blue Nile, fell militarily to Khartoum on November 2, 2011, and the regime’s military commanders promptly began to upgrade the airstrip outside the town in order to make it capable of accommodating large military aircraft. A number of combat helicopter helipads were also constructed. Both actions had the effect of significantly expanding the SAF’s "radius of operation."
Reports of aerial attacks do continue to arrive with refugees fleeing the violence in Blue Nile; here again Amnesty International interviewers found grim evidence:
"Similar patterns of aerial attacks [to those in South Kordofan] have taken place in Blue Nile State, with equally destructive consequences for civilians. The majority of refugees interviewed from Blue Nile told Amnesty International that they had fled because of daily aerial bombings in their areas. Amnesty International interviewed civilians who fled to Doro refugee camp in South Sudan in November and December 2011, who had been injured or had family members killed during air strikes in Bellatuma village in Blue Nile on 10 November—the weekly market day when people from surrounding villages came to buy food and other supplies. According to survivors, nine civilians including five women, two men and two children were killed during the attack.
"Ayub Dan, whose wife Marta, aged 27 and a mother of seven, was killed during the attack, said: ’I was in the market with my wife but was in a different part of the market when the market was bombed. We threw ourselves on the ground when we heard the Antonov above. It was panic. When I found my wife, she was lying on the ground face down and was dead; a large piece of shrapnel had gone through from her back to her chest. The plane dropped several bombs; I counted 12, three each time it flew over four times-back and forward twice."
"Ayub Dan’s two daughters, Manasia, aged six and Barshiba, aged 14 were also injured. They were at their home in the nearby town of Yabus when they heard the Antonov aircraft circling. Manasia sustained serious injuries to her left armpit and chest while Barshiba had part of her right buttock sliced off. Both required extensive medical care."
Yet the greatest impact of Khartoum’s military operations has been in the disruption of agricultural production. For its part, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) knew full well the effects of Khartoum’s two military campaigns on food supplies as well as the effects of relentless bombing directed against civilians and land under cultivation:
"The fighting has disrupted the major crop season in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan—two of Sudan’s main sorghum producing areas, according to the Rome-based agency [FAO]. In South Kordofan, people fled at the start of the planting season and were unable to sow seeds, while in Blue Nile, fighting erupted later in the season so seeds were planted but people were forced to abandon their crops. ’The latest fighting coupled with erratic rainfall means next month’s harvest is expected to generally fail,’ it stated. The shortage of food stocks has already led to a doubling of prices, which are expected to continue to rise steeply." (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Kurmuk], October 10, 2011)
By early December 2011 the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (NEWSNet) was warning that without international humanitarian assistance, the people of Blue Nile and the Nuba would experience "near-famine conditions." All evidence currently available suggests that the FEWSNet forecast has proved grimly accurate in predicting what nutrition reports are now revealing of conditions in both states, chiefly among those arriving in refugee camps in Upper Nile and Unity.
VII. Bombings attacks in Darfur
There were relatively fewer bombing attacks against civilians confirmed in Darfur for this most recent reporting period. Khartoum may have begun to divert some of it aerial military assets to positions from which they may more easily attack South Kordofan and Blue Nile (e.g., the airstrip in Kadugli was seized early on in the South Kordofan conflict)—or along the border regions with South Sudan. On the other hand, Radio Dabanga—our most reliable source of news from Darfur—reported in mid-May 2012 a sharp uptick in Antonov flights from the main military airbase at el-Fasher, North Darfur.
Whatever their number, these attacks can be extremely deadly. In one three-day period in May 2011, dozens of civilians were killed and injured. On May 15 Khartoum’s warplanes bombed the town of Labado and the village of Esheraya in South Darfur, killing 13 and wounding many more (some critically). Reuters reports that on May 17 the village of Sukamir was bombed, casualties unknown. Bloomberg News reports that the targets of the May 18 bombing included the civilian villages of Umm Rai and Hashaba in North Darfur; Sudan Tribune reports that ten civilians were killed (Baashim village was also attacked).
The powerless UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), disastrously led by Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari, was prevented by Khartoum from investigating these atrocity crimes—as it has been so many times. The most comprehensive information about such aerial attacks continues to come from Radio Dabanga, which was able to provide not only details of these bombings, but the names of many victims as well. Radio Dabanga estimates, on the basis of UN figures and its own, more than 140,000 people have been newly displaced by aerial and other military violence since mid-December 2010.
In a grim irony, 140,000 is the number of "returns" that the UN and UNAMID triumphantly, if implausibly, claim for the past year. But so long as aerial attacks continue, there will be new and massive displacement, and the evidence suggests that after a lull the attacks have resumed with a familiar ferocity. On May 15, 2012 Radio Dabanga reported with characteristic detail on the consequences of heavy air strikes south of Tawila (North Darfur):
"A man was killed and eight others wounded in air strikes south of Tawila, North Darfur. A resident described the ongoing aerial bombardment by the Sudanese air force in Numeira, Kouto, Dali, Crowla and Masalit areas of Tawila last Friday to Sunday. He said Muhammed Ab Bakr Muhammed was killed and Fatima Abdullah, Hawa’ Abbaker Yagoub, Maymuna Yahya Abbaker, Mariam Hassan Juma, Abdul Qader Saleh and two children Nur Eldaim Saleh and Ibrahim Musa Saleh, Haroun, Adam Saleh Issa were injured in the attacks. The witness added that 12 cows were also killed along with the destruction of seven houses."
In March Radio Dabanga reported that further Antonov attacks on civilians in Darfur were accompanied by ground assaults:
"Heavy shelling [bombing] across five villages in North Darfur, forcing residents to flee from their homes. Witnesses said an Antonov plane bombed the villages of Dika, Bain, Keda, Jok and Senagarai over the past three days and is still circling the area. They said planes dropped more than 40 bombs as ground troops in six tanks and 150 vehicles moved in to the villages beating male residents, looting and burning houses. The soldiers also reportedly raped more than 30 women and girls and arrested ten of the men." (March 15, 2012)
Again it was Radio Dabanga that reported (May 3) on the bombing of Gereida (South Darfur), detailing the names of the casualties:
"Citizens in Gereida told Radio Dabanga that air strikes killed four people, Ali Adam El Zain, Adam Hamid, Jumaa Haroun Bashrin and Khaed Beja on Wednesday. Ibrahim Muhammed Hadi Obeid and Khalif Allah Bashir were also injured and are now in hospital."
On May 13 Radio Dabanga reported:
"A child was killed and seven others wounded when the Sudanese air force bombed Venda village of Dallanji, in South Kordofan on Thursday. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that Farah Abdullah Faraj aged nine was killed, along with the destruction of a house belonging to Hassan Musa Hamed."
Again, it should be borne in mind that UN Security Council Resolution 1591 banned all offensive military flights in Darfur; it also created a UN Panel of Experts on Darfur to monitor this ban, as well as the arms embargo on weapons to Darfur. Yet Khartoum has simply ignored the Security Council demand concerning military flights (which was made with Chapter 7 authority), and hamstrung the UN Panel of Experts. In this latter effort, Khartoum has been generously accommodated by expedient UN political officials, who have allowed a meaningful Panel of Experts on Darfur to be completely compromised by the inclusion of pliable political hacks. Moreover, the regime regularly prevents UNAMID from investigating reported aerial attacks by declaring that the areas of concern are "insecure." This denial of access is a gross violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by UNAMID and Khartoum in early 2008.
VIII. Quantifying the effects of bombing attacks on civilians (current data are presented in the accompanying spreadsheet):
There were 144 confirmed aerial attacks directed against or indiscriminately endangering civilians from January 12, 2012 through June 5, 2012; there were approximately the same number of confirmed attacks in South Sudan as in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (for a lengthy discussion of confirmation criteria and sources, see pp. 41 – 45 in original report). Altogether, there were 62 confirmed civilian attacks in South Sudan, including in this figure attacks on disputed border areas. confirmation is of course much more practicable). For Blue Nile, despite the overwhelming evidence of near constant bombing since last September, we have relatively few specifically confirmed aerial attacks.
The complete absence of humanitarian workers who might serve as a reporting presence for atrocity crimes is of course a key reason that Khartoum refuses to grant humanitarian access to Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and greatly restricts access in Darfur and eastern Sudan. They wish to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide—without witnesses. It was the humanitarian presence in the South during the civil war that prompted initial record-keeping of bombing attacks, an effort led by MSF-Switzerland (Médecins Sans Frontières, Living under aerial bombardments: Report of an investigation in the Province of Equatoria, Southern Sudan, February 20, 2000).
There have been a great many casualties from aerial attacks over the past four and a half months, and altogether many hundreds—more likely thousands—of innocent civilians have died as a direct result of bombing attacks over the past year. As has been the case for many years, the number of casualties for the vast majority of attacks must simply be recorded as "unknown." It must also be emphasized that the figures for confirmed attacks vastly understate the number of actual attacks, as can be readily inferred from numerous, more global assessments coming from a wide range of authoritative reporting sources. These reports consistently echo the confidential UN human rights report from early July 2011, compiled from observations on the ground in South Kordofan in June 2011 during the first month of the assault on the Nuba:
"Since the eruption of the conflict, the SAF has carried out daily aerial bombardments into the Nuba Mountains and in several towns and villages populated by Nubans. The consequences of these bombardments on the Nuban people and in particular civilians, including women and children, are devastating. They have resulted in significant loss of life, destruction of properties, and massive displacement." (§39 "UNMIS Report on the Human Rights Situation During the Violence in Southern Kordofan")
There have been scores of confirming accounts from journalists on the ground in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile, from human rights organizations, from UN agencies, and of course from Sudanese themselves. Many of these reports have been noted in previous updates, such as Amnesty International’s Sudan: Horror unfolding in Southern Kordofan (August 30, 2011): "Researchers from both organisations [Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International], during a week-long mission to the area in late-August, investigated 13 air strikes in Kauda, Delami and Kurchi areas. Those air strikes killed at least 26 civilians and injured more than 45 others since mid-June. The researchers also witnessed government planes circling over civilian areas and dropping bombs, forcing civilians to seek shelter in mountains and caves." These and other reports record the immense number of aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians over the past year, as well as the intensity of aerial firepower directed against the Nuba people (and subsequently the people of Blue Nile).
There is, however, a danger that our pereceptions of the brutal realities on the ground will become too abstract, too purely statistical. Only by taking note of some of the more detailed accounts that have come to us can we grasp the outrageously cruel implications of aerial assaults on civilians. And sometimes this imaginative leap from the abstract to the particular occurs most forcefully when the victims and survivors are all from the same family. "Nuba Reports" (Citizen Journalism by Eyes and Ears of Nuba) reported (May 29) an attack on Irigi, South Kordofan:
"Idris lost his wife and two of his four children when a bomb from an Antonov plane exploded near his home. ’Shrapnel came and ate them,’ Idris told our reporters." [The dispatch includes a one-minute interview with Idris, who notes that his other two children were wounded in the attack; a videographic survey of destruction caused by the bombing is available at the URL for the dispatch.]
Every such attack—here presented with compelling oral and vieographic evidence—is a war crime under the Rome Statute, and in aggregate these attacks constitute crimes against humanity.
IX. Aircraft and munitions in use
Aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarians—whether in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile or South Sudan—continue to take three primary forms. Antonov "bombers" are the mainstay: retrofitted Russian cargo planes flying at very high altitudes without true bomb-sighting mechanisms, from which crude barrel bombs are simply rolled out the back cargo bay. As I have noted previously, they are notoriously inaccurate, and useless for true military purposes, even with some improved targeting ability. Their purpose is civilian terror and for this they are superbly effective. There have also long been reports of SAF Antonovs being painted "UN white" in Darfur, and including the UN logo—a violation of international law forcefully condemned by previous UN Panels of Experts on Darfur. Such efforts at disguise put humanitarian aircraft of the same type at extraordinary risk from rebel groundfire.
Recently there have been several reports from Juba that an Anotonov aircraft has been seen flying over the Southern capital city, which lies far to the south along the White Nile. Khartoum is demonstrating that its bombing attacks can reach far into South Sudan, and indeed the Equatorian states were attacked extensively during the earlier years surveyed in this report.
There is also photographic evidence of some very large craters in the Nuba Mountains that suggests much greater explosive power is now available to Antonovs. Moreover, the Satellite Sentinel Project reported on July 6, 2011 that an Ilyushin Il-76—a very large Russian-built cargo plane used to transport heavy equipment—was sighted at the airport in Kadugli, which was commandeered by the SAF in early June 2011. A plane of this description was seen flying over the Nuba Mountains at the time and dropping great quantities of bombs.
Because Antonov "bombers" are so inaccurate, their use in any area with a civilian presence is ipso facto "indiscriminate," and has been recorded as confirmed in the data spreadsheet on this basis.
Helicopter gunships are infamous in Darfur, but have been deployed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well. They, too, are fearsome weapons of civilian destruction and terror (Khartoum deploys primarily Russian-built Mi-17 and Mi-32 gunships). Early in the campaign in South Kordofan, a Sudanese church source reported that Nuba people were being hunted "like animal" by helicopter gunships. These military aircraft are likely to be much more heavily utilized in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as the seasonal rains make travel by road difficult if not impossible in many areas.
Military jets, especially Russian Sukhoi-25s and MiG-29s, as well as Chinese A-5 Fantans, have all been reported frequently in the aerial attacks on Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and South Sudan.
As noted above, Khartoum has added to its aerial arsenal by using advanced, long-range Chinese Wei-Shi missiles as well as indiscriminate cluster munitions.
X. The future
Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has grown steadily in intensity, and reports from the ground indicate a significant uptick in military activity. Of greatest concern are offensive maneuvering by the SAF and heavy recruitment of militia allies, including the brutal Popular Defense Forces (PDF). There is still a slim chance for a reasonable and just negotiated settlement, but Khartoum’s negotiating strategy in the current (May/June 2012) talks in Addis Ababa seems one of obduracy and mendacity. The June 7 break-off of the talks in Addis brings Juba and Khartoum closer than ever to all-out conflict. The regime seems determined to use the occasion as a means of having the international community increase pressure on Juba to bring an end to armed rebellion in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
In both states, but especially South Kordofan, the SPLA-N of Abdel Aziz el-Hilu has badly mauled the SAF and its militia allies; Khartoum has been more successful in Blue Nile, but still faces formidable military opposition to its tyranny. Khartoum also seeks to create international pressure to define the North/South border on its own tendentious terms. Certainly it is clear that only the regime benefits from the current substantial ambiguity in border delineation and the absence of demarcation. Absent a robust international response and better diplomatic leadership—nowhere in evidence—the most likely course of events will be a continuation of the present pattern of civilian bombings in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and South Sudan, with ground fighting increasing in frequency and intensity insofar as the rains permit.
For the rainy season has begun again in this part of Sudan and humanitarian access, even if it were secured from Khartoum, would no longer provide enough transport routes and airstrips to accommodate the necessary deliveries of food, medicine, and clean water resources. Nor are there adequate contingency plans or pre-positioned supplies in place were access achieved. Malnutrition and disease, with increasingly high levels of mortality, are now inevitable. The condition of those streaming into South Sudan will tell us all too much about the condition of those left behind—without food or humanitarian assistance of any kind. Moreover, once inside South Sudan these refugees become part of a vast national food security crisis; across the Southern border regions humanitarian resources at present are far too few for the current number of refugees, let alone those expected.
The greatest threat is that international inaction and failure to confront Khartoum over its military ambitions in the contested border regions will lead to all-out war. Fighting around Tishwin and Heglig (Panthou for Southerners) in late March and most of April was a grim preview of what will occur if Khartoum’s aggression cotinues unchecked. Journalists, sources on the ground (including the SPLA), and UNMISS were able to ascertain that both attacks on Tishwin (Unity State) were initiated by Khartoum’s SAF. The second attack resulted in a vigorous counter-attack by the SPLA, which reached to the contested Heglig/Panthou area; this in turn occasioned a bizarrely hypocritical chorus of international condemnation. Dismayingly, the condemnation was based on serious errors in geographical understanding of the border area and the implications of the 2009 ruling on neighboring Abyei by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The hypocrisy and one-sideness of the international response to the Heglig/Panthou crisis left Juba shaken and unsure of the extent to which it would receive fair treatment from the world community in negotiating with the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. Such distrust on Juba’s part only increases the danger of war, especially since Khartoum continues to bomb sovereign Southern territory with impunity. The root of the problem is international failure to pressure Khartoum to negotiate delineation of the January 1, 1956 North/South border (a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement). Following directly upon even partial delineation there must be a robust, internationally protected demarcation effort. If this is not done, Juba will be convinced that the international community is willing to allow Khartoum to use border indeterminancy for military purposes, with the ever-ready justification of "self-defense" if challenged.
What is urgently required, per the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2046, is a separation of forces—something that is sustainable only if there is a clearly marked North/South border, and a resolution of the ongoing Abyei crisis. Until Khartoum gives clear evidence that it is willing to negotiate border delineation and demarcation in good faith, we must assume the regime will instead try to extract military benefit from the current ambiguity.
Last year there was much talk among Sudan experts about how war was "too expensive for either side"; but the South has already shut down oil production, depriving itself of virtually all revenue. The increasingly precarious situation along the border could now easily tip into a rapidly expanding war. Many of Khartoum’s actions seem designed to create a factitious casus belli, as was the case a year ago in Abyei. Khartoum’s continued aerial bombardment of the South, together with the relentless effort to undermine the Southern economy as well as international efforts to respond to the new nation’s massive food crisis, make war increasingly likely—and the margin of error for front-line military commanders that much smaller. In addition, given their intertwined fates during the civil war, Juba regards the destruction of civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile with growing alarm. As Salva Kiir, President of the Republic of South Sudan, declared on independence day, July 9, 2011:
"I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all."
Will this be merely the "peace of the dead"? Confronted with such a prospect, the South will face steadily mounting pressure to join their former comrades-in-arms against a common foe. As I have stressed in the two most recent updates to this report, the bellicose rhetoric and belligerent actions on the part of the SAF derive in large measure from a "creeping military coup" that began within the regime early last spring. By the time of the invasion of Abyei (May 20, 2011), unprecedented power had been seized by the senior generals in the army, including three senior army generals with ministry positions:
•Major General El Hadi Abdallah Mohammed el Awad, Minister of Cabinet Affairs
•Major General Bakri Hassan Salih, Minister of Presidential Affairs
•Major General Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein, Minister of Defense
The latter two men appear on multiple "confidential" lists of those to be investigated for atrocity crimes in Darfur; indeed, Hussein—formerly Minister of the Interior during the worst years of the Darfur genocide—has now been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and it is only a matter of time before the other men are indicted as well. These men have no compunction about using aerial military assets to destroy what they perceive as a civilian base of support for the SPLA-N in both Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
As Julie Flint reported almost a year ago, there has been a major power shift in Khartoum: It is "the hour of the soldiers" in Khartoum, she was told by a source close to the regime, someone evidently despairing of the consequence of such military ascendancy. Too much has subsequently confirmed Flint’s account.
Previous report updates (the current data spreadsheet aggregates all reported attacks to date):
• July 15, 2011 (update to report)
• October 15, 2011 (update to report)
• January 12, 2012 (update to report)
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Nuba Reports. Bombs Dropped Around Home of Eyes and Ears Nuba Founder. 21 May 2012.
Nuba Reports. Aerial Bomb kills Woman and two Children in Igiri. 29 May 2012.
Nuba Reports. Breaking News: June 2. 4 June 2012.
Nuba Reports. Breaking News: June 3. 4 June 2012.
Nuba Reports. Breaking News: May 30. 4 June 2012.
Nuba Reports. Breaking News: June 5. 5 June 2012.
OCHA. Sudan: Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 9-15 January 2012. 15 January 2012.
OCHA. Sudan: Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 16-22 January. 22 January 2012.
OCHA. Sudan: Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 23-29 January. 29 January 2012.
OCHA. Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin: Sudan, 30 April – 6 May 2012. 6 May 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Air Strikes in South Kordofan. 2 January 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Air strikes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state. 7 February 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Bomb explodes in North Darfur. 16 February 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Heavy shelling forces villagers out of homes in North Darfur. 15 March 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Shelling in Jebel Marra enters a third day. 29 March 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Government bombs Mukjar in Central Darfur. 18 April 2012.
Radio Dabanga. 18 women and 9 children killed in air strike in Jebel Marra, Darfur. 28 April 2012.
Radio Dabanga. SLM-AW accuses Sudanese army of bombing two villages. 30 April 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Sudanese army kills three in air strikes. 30 April 2012.
Radio Dabanga. SRF withdraws from Gereida. 9 May 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Two injured in air strikes in South Darfur. 10 May 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Child killed in bombing in South Kordofan. 13 May 2012.
Radio Dabanga. Man killed in SAF strikes in Tawila. 15 May 2012.
Reuters. Aircraft bomb South Sudan refugee camp. 24 January 2012.
Reuters. South Sudan blames Khartoum for bombing refugee camp. 24 January 2012.
Reuters. U.N. reports air strike in Sudan’s Darfur region. 3 April 2012.
Reuters. Sudan bombs disputed oil town, South Sudan says. 14 April 2012.
Reuters. South Sudan says troops bombed during flashpoint pullout. 21 April 2012.
Reuters. Sudan market bombing a “declaration of war”: South. 23 April 2012.
Reuters. In South Sudan border lands oil brings bombs, not blessings. 27 April 2012.
Reuters. S. Sudan says Khartoum bombed two oil wells. 1 March 2012.
Reuters. S. Sudan says Sudan bombs oil fields in border region. 27 March 2012.
Ryan Boyette, email message to author. 13 January 2012.
Ryan Boyette, email message to author. 19 February 2012.
Ryan Boyette, email message to author. 29 April 2012.
Ryan Boyette, email message to author. 22 May 2012.
SAPA. Sudan bombs South Sudan state capital. 14 April 2012.
Satellite Sentinel Project. Impact: Indiscriminate Bombardment by an SAF
Antonov, South Kordofan, Sudan. 15 March 2012.
Sudan Catholic Radio Network. Mendi Mayor Laments Nonstop Airstrikes. 26 March 2012.
Sudan Tribune. Sudan’s air forces reportedly kill civilians in South Kordofan. 14 January 2012.
Sudan Tribune. Sudan’s air forces bomb oilfields in Unity State. 26 March 2012.
Tom Catena, email message to author. 15 January 2012.
Tom Catena, email message to author. 28 January 2012.
Tom Catena, email message to author. 20 May 2012.
Tom Catena, email message to author. 22 May 2012.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice. 16 April 2012.
Wall Street Journal. Sudan Fighting Spreads to New Fronts, Claims Lives. 18 April 2012.
Wall Street Journal. On the Front Lines in Sudan. 20 April 2012.
Wall Street Journal. Fighting Flares Anew in Sudanese Oil Patch. 23 April 2012.
Wall Street Journal. China Presses Oil-Rich Sudans to Cooperate. 24 April 2012.
A note on place names and county/locality designations:
This report discusses four large, remote, and geographically and linguistically diverse areas in "greater Sudan." There are, inevitably, different spellings and transliterations—and simply different names—for many of the locations in these regions. I have tried to regularize the spelling for clarity’s sake. In the case of counties or localities that are differently or more variously differentiated, I have chosen to preserve the locality/county names of the source if it is public (e.g., Human Rights Watch uses Buram, UN OCHA Kadugli, for the south-central region of South Kordofan).
In a very few cases, it has not been possible to designate more than a local and state name for the site of a given aerial attack. This means the names are not to be found in either the August 24, 2009 "Sudan GAZETTEER" (2133 pages) or the three-volume Darfur Field Atlas published by the UN’s Humanitarian Information Center for Darfur (2005). Disputed territories along the January 1, 1956 border are indicated in the data spreadsheet in bold.
Errors in an enterprise such as this—with multiple names, spellings, transliterations, geographic uncertainties, and corruption through transmission—are inevitable. Everything has been done to secure the most accurate data and geographical information possible, but given the ongoing nature of the archive, the author would be grateful to receive corrections or suggestions.