10 June 2014
All Members of the African Union Peace and Security Council
Re: Call to end targeting of civilians in Sudan’s conflict areas
As a coalition of civil society groups from Africa and the Middle East providing assistance to civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile or supporting peace in Sudan, we write to Your Excellencies to ask you to intensify your efforts to foster peace in Sudan. Specifically, we are calling on Your Excellencies to demand an end to the targeting of civilians in South Kordofan state. We are deeply concerned that in just four days in May, the town of Kauda and surrounding villages, far from the frontlines of the conflict, were hit by nearly 60 bombs that damaged the offices of the main local humanitarian organization in the region and landed next to two schools. Earlier in the same month, the region’s major hospital and two clinics were damaged in separate bomb attacks. These attacks represent the largest sustained bombardment of civilian targets in the three year history of the conflict. They have greatly increased the suffering of civilians who are too afraid to plant their crops and are hiding where they can in caves and foxholes.
As Your Excellencies are aware, these developments are part of an escalating military campaign across the Two Areas and Darfur in what the Sudanese Minister of Defense on 14 April 2014 called the onset of a ‘Decisive Summer Operation’ intended to “end the rebellion in South Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile’’. It is widely reported that government-sponsored militia in the form of Rapid Support Forces have been recruited and trained to end the rebellion.1 According to the UN, the conflict between the parties has internally displaced or ‘severely affected’ over 900,000 people in rebel-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.2
Your Excellencies, we are concerned that these actions are in violation of international law. We attach more detailed information, along with links to video and photographic evidence that shows the deliberate targeting of civilians by the Government of Sudan. The escalation also coincides with the planting season, which if missed, will result in grave threats of hunger for the local population. Your Excellencies, you will recall that 2014 has been declared by the Assembly of the African Union as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, in honour of the late President Nelson Mandela.
Your Excellencies, the undersigned organisations seek to support the ongoing efforts of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan and the African Union Peace and Security Council towards a peaceful, comprehensive and inclusive resolution of armed conflict in Sudan. We therefore respectfully urge Your Excellencies to:
Condemn the aerial bombings and the reported use of government-sponsored militia in the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to target civilians and civilian property in Darfur and South Kordofan. Such tactics are detrimental to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Recognise these recent attacks on civilians and their property as breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
2This is an estimate provided to UN OCHA by the humanitarian wing of SPLM-N. Source: 19 May 2014, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/South%20Kordofan%20and%20Blue%20Nile%20Popula
Support an independent commission of inquiry into the alleged breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Call upon the Government of Sudan and other armed groups in Sudan to immediately and unconditionally halt all attacks on civilians and civilian property.
Renew calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflicts in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur as an essential precondition to any meaningful national dialogue which must address root causes to conflicts.
Demand that all parties to the conflict permit humanitarian access to conflict-affected populations regardless of where they are located in the Two Areas and Darfur. All parties must ensure the safe, unhindered and immediate access of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment, so that they can assist affected populations as quickly as possible.
We urge Your Excellencies to prioritise addressing the current upsurge in violence and attacks on civilians. Without such continued leadership and timely action, civilians will continue to lose their lives and the prospects for any comprehensive peace in Sudan will remain elusive. We stand ready to provide any further support to your noble endeavours.
Please accept, Your Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration.
1. Action pour les Droits Humains et l’Amitié (ADHA)
2. African Centre For Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)
3. Algeria League for Defence of Human Rights
4. Arab Coalition for Sudan (ACS)
5. Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
6. Arab Institute for Democracy (Tunisia)
7. Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
8. Arab Organisation for Human Rights (Libya)
9. Arab Organisation for Human Rights (Mauritania)
10. Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (APHRA)
11. Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)
12. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO)
13. Conscience International (CI)
14. Darfur Bar Association
15. Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre
16. Governance Bureau - Sudan
17. Human Rights First Saudi Arabia
18. International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC)
19. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
20. Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE)
21. Kush Incorporated
22. Media Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (Shams Centre) - Palestine
23. New Sudan Council of Churches
24. Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NRRDO)
25. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO)
26. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
27. South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy
28. Sudan Consortium
29. Sudan Democracy First (SDFG)
30. Sudan Social Development Organisation UK (SUDO UK)
31. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA)
32. Union des Ressortissants Rwandais au Sénégal (URRS)
33. West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network (WARIPNET)
34. Zarga Organisation for Rural Development (ZORD) - Sudan
- H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson, African Union Commission
- H.E. Thabo Mbeki, Chairperson, AU High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan
- Haile Menkerios, UN Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and UN Ambassador to African Union