December 12, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – US president Barack Obama has been urged to provide better protection for Sudanese women and children in the conflict-affected South Kordofan and Blue Nile states as part of his “legacy on Sudan.”
- A woman holds her child in a cave in Bram village in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan on 28 April 2012. (Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Long-time human rights activist Zeinab Blandia, who is from the Nuba Mountains region, made the plea in an open letter sent to the president to coincide with international Human Rights Day on Tuesday.
The letter comes as the Sudanese government steps up aerial bombardment in several regions in Sudan as part of attempts to eradicate insurgents by 2014.
It is the third in a series of letters, coordinated by US-based advocacy group Act for Sudan, sent to the president from Sudanese genocide survivors.
According to a statement issued by the group on Tuesdsay, the letters are intended to personally remind Obama of the deteriorating humanitarian situation facing Sudanese people in conflict areas, as well as what it claims are “government-sponsored crimes against humanity”.
South Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile state has been the scene of violent conflict between the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese army (SAF) since 2011.
Blandia writes in her letter, that the Sudanese government is responsible for an “active systematic genocide” against the people of the Nuba Mountains.
“Our whole country was and continues to be ravaged by this campaign of genocide, subjugation, and the enslavement of black people carried out by the current regime in Sudan,” writes Blandia.
She said women in Sudan are living with the double trauma of having their whole lives disrupted as a consequence of the war, while perpetrators of alleged human rights abuses in the region continue to act with apparent impunity.
“They see the perpetrators moving freely even after the [International Criminal Court] issued warrants for their arrest, while women, elders and children are dying from starvation and hunger, lack of health care, education, shelter, and lack of protection from increasing insecurity and continued violence”, she said.
“Please consider the protection of Sudanese women and children in war zones, which includes the [Internally Displaced Persons] and refugee camps due to insecurity, as part of your legacy on Sudan”, the letters adds.
Blandia, founded the Ru’ya Association in 2001, a national women’s organisation dedicated to supporting internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2009, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice named her the woman peacemaker of the year. She was forced to flee her home in the South Kordofan capital, Kadugli, in 2011 carrying her aunt who is more than 100 years old in a wheelbarrow.
Blandia is now based in the US, but her family remain scattered, and under threat of detention, arrest and torture.
On a visit to Yida refugee camp in 2012 to assess the situation of Nuba people, Bladia says survivors told her of how rape was being used as a weapon of war against women and girls and widespread human rights violations continue due to a lack of international NGOs.
Ru’ya was also forced to abandon its operations after its offices were raided by security forces and staff fled to neighbouring countries.
In 2007, Obama described the Sudanese genocide as “a stain on our souls”, promising not to “turn a blind eye to slaughter”.
NEW APPROACH NEEDED
However, Act for Sudan says the president has since overseen a “disastrous approach” to the conflict in Sudan, which has failed to stem ongoing civilian deaths, mass displacement and high levels of starvation.
The national alliance has called on the president to develop a new pro-democracy and civilian protection-oriented policy on Sudan.
Act for Sudan warned the US president would be remembered for his “stained legacy on genocide” unless he takes immediate action to protect innocent civilians in conflict zones.
The Bishop of Kadugli, Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, and Sudan analyst Eric Reeves have previously sent open letters to the US president as part of ongoing efforts to highlight the situation inside South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Advocacy groups have long accused the Sudanese government of applying a scorched earth policy in the region as a military strategy.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 197,000 Sudanese refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have sought shelter in camps in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states since the conflict began.
In the same period, an estimated 32,000 refugees, mainly from Blue Nile, have fled to the Assosa region of Ethiopia.
Imagery released in October by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney in 2010, shows unusually high levels of activity at SAF military installations in the region, which the group said could signal planned deployments toward several locations, including the contested Abyei area.
Sudanese defence minister Abdelrahim Hussein announced recently that SAF would launch a major offensive on the rebel positions in the country, echoing statements by Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who has vowed to eradicate the insurgents by 2014.