February 17, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese army resumed air and ground attacks in Blue Nile state forcing over 8,000 civilians to flee their villages, Yasir Arman, the secretary general of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said on Sunday.
According to Arman, the attacks took place on Sunday morning in Muffa village and surrounding areas, 21 kilometres south-west of Kurmuk near the Ethiopian border. He underlined that the military operation had begun on 14 February.
He further said that around 8,000 people were forced to move to the Ethiopian and South Sudanese border, adding that some other civilians reached the Gouz village in south-west Blue Nile on Sunday morning.
The Sudanese army did not issue a statement about the attacks or possible raids on the positions of SPLM-N fighters in Blue Nile state.
The SPLM-N secretary-general pointed out that such attacks “resulted in the displacement of more than 70% of the inhabitants of the rural Blue Nile, and as of now, nearly 200,000 from the civilian populations are refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan”.
Arman, who is currently in the United States to meet congressmen and civil society groups, further called on the African Union (AU) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) “to discharge their responsibility to protect civilians and to open access for humanitarian assistance”.
The AU mediation team has called on the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N to meet in Addis Ababa on 15 March to hold direct political talks to end the conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The two parties failed to implement a humanitarian agreement they reached last August following a proposal made by the UN agencies, AU and Arab League to provide food in the rebel-controlled areas.
Arman said the latest attacks come in line with the “scorched earth policy” already implemented by the government in Darfur. He also blamed the international community for not taking a tougher stance with Khartoum on humanitarian access to affected civilians.
“If we do not call that a war crime, what do we call it in international humanitarian law?” he asked.
Khartoum says it wants to control the humanitarian operations in the region and accuses the SPLM-N of intending to benefit from food aid to feed its troops. However, the tripartite initiative provides that food distribution will be controlled by African and Arab monitors.