November 18, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Two children were killed and another injured following a bomb attack by the Sudanese army (SAF) on South Kordofan’s Buram county in the Nuba Mountains on Sunday.
The attack comes as negotiations between Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) over the terms of a planned polio vaccination campaign for children in rebel-held areas remains deadlocked.
The SPLM-N, which is leading an insurgency against the Khartoum regime, said the latest attack showed children were at more immediate risk of bomb attacks than the threat of polio.
The attack was captured on video and shows a Mig-24 aircraft approaching the village prior to the attack. In disturbing footage of the aftermath villagers are shown weeping inconsolably on the ground, while their homes burn around them.
At one point villagers lift a pink cloth from a stretcher to reveal the bloodied bodies of the children lying side by side.
The video also includes footage of a huge crater where the bomb landed.
The SPLM-N said the incident was further testament that the military is systematically targeting civilian populations.
“The bombs destroyed farms and caused terror to civilians. [The] SPLM/A-N and other SRF (Sudan Revolutionary Forces) forces will not keep quiet while the NCP is continuing its atrocities against the civilians, specially the children. Our response will be strong and severe against the genocidal and ethnic-cleansing regime”, said SPLM/A-N spokesperson Arnu Ngutulu Lodi.
The two victims have been named as 10-year-old Alnur Tromba al-Tijani and seven-year-old Tia Nihaya.
Lodi said the bombs had also destroyed homes and food stocks for a number of families.
In a statement issued on Monday, SPLM-N secretary-general Yasir Arman said Sudan has denied access of humanitarian assistance for civilian populations inside rebel-held areas for two years, where aerial bombardments have displaced thousands of people.
He accused the international community of continuing to turn a “blind eye” to the humanitarian situation on the ground, saying its complacency was providing Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir with a “blank check” to kill Sudanese people.
“This is a fact that many in Africa and in international community circles are deliberately ignoring [the situation] because admitting it would require them to provide civilian protection as per international humanitarian law, and for them, it is better to keep a blind eye”, he said.
“The silence of some circles in the international community is providing the environment for General Bashir to continue killing and targeting the civilian populations in the rural and urban areas of Sudan without being questioned by anyone, even by some of those who indicted him [for alleged war crimes in Darfur]”, he adds.
He called for unhindered access for humanitarian assistance in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur, as well as a humanitarian cessation of hostilities that addresses the civilian humanitarian needs, and is not pre-conditioned by a political agenda.
“Civilian populations should not be punished for political purposes or gain. The right for humanitarian aid and protection is guaranteed by international humanitarian law”, said Arman.
South Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile state has been the scene of violent conflict between the SPLM-N and SAF since 2011.
The Sudanese government has consistently accused South Sudan of backing the rebels – which fought alongside the South during its struggle for independence from the north – although Juba denies the claims.
Last month, aid agencies said more than 2,600 Sudanese refugees fled rebel-held areas in South Kordofan amid ongoing conflict and worsening food shortages in the region, with most crossing into South Sudan.
UN humanitarian agencies are hoping to reach some 165,000 children under the age of five in rebel-held areas in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states as part of a national vaccination campaign launched on 5 November.
However, the UN says it has been unable to proceed with the vaccination campaign due to the failure of the two parties to reach a deal on technical issues. Both sides have accused the other of hindering the campaign’s implementation.
Earlier this month, the Sudanese government announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities following discussions with members of the tripartite initiative, but refused to meet with rebels to discuss the implementation of the operation.
The SPLM-N has insisted that the NCP engage in direct negotiations, saying that only the African Union was mandated to negotiate a truce deal.
Last week, Khartoum changed its stance, saying it was ready to hold discussions with the SPLM-N in order to facilitate the vaccination campaign.
However, Sudan’s chief negotiator, Ibrahim Gandour, said his government was not invited to a 4 November meeting in Addis Ababa organised by the AU mediation team for the two parties to discuss the technical issues
Sudan’s apparent change of heart followed calls by UN emergency coordinator John Ging for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to intervene to ensure the vaccination campaign goes ahead.