Home | News    Saturday 18 June 2011

Over 2,000 displaced by North Sudan’s bombing of Unity State - officials

By Bonifacio Taban Kuich

June 17, 2011 (BENTIU) - The bombardment of northern Unity State in South Sudan by North Sudan’s military has displaced over 2,000 civilians according to local officials just three weeks before the South separates from the North.

Around 152 of those displaced from Jaw district on the ill-defined North-South border, had recently been forced to leave their homes in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan due to fighting between the northern army and armed groups who were aligned to South Sudan during the civil war.

The Nuba displaced entered northern Unity State on Wednesday looking for refuge from fighting that began on June 5 in and around Kadugli the main town in South Kordofan, local officials say.

Of the over 60,000 displaced people around 35,000 have fled north to towards the town of El Obeid in North Kordofan, while others are taking refuge in the area’s hills or attempting to move into South Sudan.

Sudan’s south is due to become independent on July 9 leaving South Kordofan, and another northern border state Blue Nile, in North Sudan governed by Khartoum despite many groups from the areas fighting with the South against various Sudanese governments during the country’s second civil war.

Mohamed Abadhalgader, from Awhda in South Kordofan told Sudan Tribune he fled the fighting in South Kordofan to Aliab, in Parieng County of Unity state. After reaching Jaw, a district on the ill-defined North-South border but moved on again after the area was bombed by the northern army.

South Sudan claims the north bombed the area twice in the last week killing five people.

Abadhalgader said that, after after seeing Khartoum’s Antonov bombers fly over them, the group he was with decided to continue heading south on foot.

"On our way a truck from SPLA soldiers came and assisted" them, helping to carry their property. The SPLA became the official army of South Sudan after the 2005 peace deal that allowed the region January’s vote on independence.

Three years into the SPLA’s 21 year conflict with Khartoum, uprisings also began in South Kordofan. The armed groups from the area fought under the umberella of the SPLA whose stated raison d’etre at the time was to change the regime in Khartoum, not independence for South Sudan.

However, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 the ambition of overthrowing the National Congress Party from Khartoum had to be sidelined. South Sudan was granted a referendum on indepenence, which the SPLA had officially opposed until the death of its leader John Garang shortly after the deal was signed.

As part of the compromises in the peace deal South Kordofan and Blue Nile were granted Popular Consultations to discuss whether the CPA addressed their demands. Huge delays and debate over the definition and reach of the excercise, coupled with the recent fighting mean it is likely that the consultations will have to take place, if they still go ahead, after South Sudan’s independence in July.

Before fighting erupted the North had demanded that all SPLA in South Kordofan must disarm or relocate into South Sudan, despite the soldiers being native to area.

The bombing of Jaw by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) is thought to be a spill over from the fighting across the border. SAF claim that their air strikes are only on SPLA barracks, but those who have fled the area say many of the bombs are purposely targeting civilians.

Jaw hosts a SPLA base on the border between South Kordofan and Unity State. The base used to hold many SPLA fighters from the Nuba Mountains but local sources say most of the soldiers left the base and crossed into South Kordofan since fighting started. However, eyewitnesses say that a civilian village nearby is also getting hit with the air attacks.

Sadig Aziz, who was displaced from the area told Sudan Tribune that (SAF) is targeting them rather than the SPLA.

He said that since their arrival in Jaw over 45 bombs been dropped on the area forcing civilians to flee without food and clothes.

"Many more 40 women have gone into bush, we don’t know whether most of these populations are alive or dead", said Aziz.

The United Nation’s World Food Program and other aid organisations are assisting both the displaced from South Kordofan and Jaw payam with food distributions.

On Thursday it was announced that the warring parties in South Kordofan had agreed a ceasefire and would enter negotiations.