Bombs and Rain will kill thousands in Sudan and South Sudan unless the international community intervenesApril 16, 2012
A humanitarian catastrophe is inflicted by Khartoum
Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) returned yesterday from visiting people displaced from Blue Nile State, the Nuba Mountains and Abyei.
Khartoum’s policies of ethnic cleansing are inflicting suffering and death:
1. Aerial bombardment, day and night, by Khartoum’s Antonovs, MiGs and helicopter gunships, and long range missiles, have killed and injured countless civilians, and displaced more than half a million from Abyei, Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile. Khartoum has also bombed targets across the international border in South Sudan (five bombs were dropped on Bentui, Unity State, the day after we left), terrorizing South Sudanese civilians and refugees.
2. Refugees from bombardment: 100,000 from Abyei; 140,000 from Blue Nile State; and 20,000 from Nuba Mountains are living in camps in South Sudan. Conditions in the camps are dire and will become catastrophic with the imminent rainy season, when road access will be impossible, the land becomes a quagmire, or as feared in Jamam Camp, underwater, and incidence of disease will multiply to epidemic proportions.
3. At least 300,000 civilians and Nuba Mountains, and 100,000 in Blue Nile, displaced by aerial bombardment and ground offensives, are hiding in caves or forests, with no effective shelter or access to essential supplies including food and water. Khartoum has continued to deny access to aid organisations, and once the rains begin, they will be unreachable.
4. ‘Returnees’: Al-Bashir’s policy of denying citizenship to those with family connections in South Sudan, and widely reported messages that “that the Government doesn’t want any black people in Khartoum” (on television), and the threat of enforced expulsion have caused tens of thousands of citizens living in the north to emigrate to South Sudan, often being denied opportunity to bring belongings with them. Many have never lived in South Sudan and their integration will be logistically challenging, even apart from the humanitarian crisis confronting them. Many of those we met in the camps near Renk, especially those newly arrived, have only flimsy makeshift shelter, which will provide no protection in the rainy season.
The controversial attack by the SPLA on Heglig: HART is fully aware of the criticisms and response by the SPLM/A who claim that this was a defensive action to prevent Government of Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) from continuing its alleged advance from Heglig onto South Sudan’s territory, and using Heglig as a base for shelling targets inside South SUdna. A Presidential Statement specified: “The Republic of South Sudan is prepared to withdraw its forces from Heiglig if a clear mechanism and guarantee can be provided that Heglig will not be used to launch another attack against South Sudan.”
We also note with concern that Government of Sudan forces still occupy Abyei, preventing the return of many displaced people to their homes in the town and surrounding villages.
We would urge the international not to allow the issues concerning military offensives by either side to district from the immediate and urgent need to provide humanitarian assistance to those who will be affected by the imminent rainy season both in South Sudan and, by whatever mean, the Republic of Sudan.
As one refugee in Yida Camp, from the Nuba Mountains said “The children need a better life than this one. Are the white people on the same side as Khartoum? Why have they not done anything?
A full report of HART’s findings follows:Please contact HART on +44 (0) 208 204 7336 for more information or interviews. Photographs may be used with acknowledgement of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART).
Bombs and Imminent Rain
HART visit to South Sudan’s devastated land and to destitute victims of
Khartoum’s continuing aggression. April 2012“The Antonovs and tanks are attacking us
There is no help from any other country
The Khartoum government gets its help from Iran
All we can do is dig holes so we can hide ourselves from the north”
Sung by refugees from Blue Nile in Doro Camp
The Republic of South Sudan, devastated by decades of war in which 2 million died and 4 million were displaced, is now facing imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Khartoum’s constant aerial bombardment by Antonovs, MiGs and helicopter gunships, and deployment of long range missiles, on its own people in Abyei, South Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile, have caused over a quarter of a million to flee into South Sudan. Additionally, Khartoum’s threatened expulsion of all citizens it defines as ‘Southerners’ means thousands more may pour into South Sudan.
Another 400,000 civilians have been driven from their homes and villages in Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile by aerial bombardment and ground offensives, hiding in caves and forests in situations which will become even more dire and dangerous in the rainy season.
From 8-14 April, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) visited four locations: Agok, to obtain information on the continuing effects of Khartoum’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) forces refusing to withdraw from Abyei; Yida, to meet refugees from the Nuba Mountains; Renk, to meet those expelled from the Republic of Sudan; and Doro to meet refugees who have fled from Blue Nile into Upper Nile. In each location we obtained evidence of the suffering which had caused their displacement and to witness the conditions in which they are now forced to live.
Refugees from Nuba Mountains in Yida Camp
Waiting for water, Doro camp
The Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan
• Refugees: There are 18,000 refugees from Southern Kordofan in a camp at Yida in Unity State; and, of those who have fled from Blue Nile, 80,000 are in Jamam camp and 60,000 in Doro (another 65,000 have fled from Blue Nile to Ethiopia).
• ‘Returnees’: In 4 camps around Renk, there are unattributed figures of 20,000 people, with over 1,000 arriving in the last 2 weeks. If the Government of Sudan (GoS) implements its threat to expel all whom it defines as ‘Southerners’, the number forced to ‘return’ to the South could escalate to 500,000.
• Conditions in the camps for refugees and returnees are cause for great concern. Many organisations are providing humanitarian assistance – but there are still severe shortages of essential supplies, including water (especially in Jamam); food (especially in Yida) and shelter (especially for new ‘returnees’ in camps around Renk).
• The imminent advent of the rainy season is causing grave concern that the problems could reach catastrophic proportions. Delivery of aid will become increasingly difficult or impossible. Half of the camp at Jamam will be flooded. Newcomers who have not yet been able to build adequate shelters or obtain tarpaulins will be without protection.
• Reports that Khartoum has stopped transport of supplies by air and water are also causing concern. There are pleas for the international community to help with the provision of more barges.
The Humanitarian Situation in the Republic of Sudan in the ‘Marginalised Areas’ of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile
• In Southern Kordofan, 300,000 civilians are displaced in Nuba Mountains. They have had to flee from their homes because of constant aerial bombardment by Government of Sudan Antonovs, MIGs and helicopter gunships. In the Nuba Mountains, many people are hiding in caves, despite lethal snakes, to shelter from the serial bombardment, without adequate access to food, water or health care;
• In Blue Nile an unknown number of displaced people they are hiding in the forest, sheltering from aerial bombardment without adequate food, water, shelter or access to essential services such as health care.
• In both regions, aerial bombardment has prevented many civilians from planting or harvesting the crops on which they depend for food.
• Khartoum has consistently denied access by humanitarian organisations to people in need of aid.
• With the imminent advent of the rainy season, the existing humanitarian crises may become catastrophes without urgent intervention from the international community.
• Many of the civilians displaced from Abyei have been living in harsh conditions in improvised camps in Bahr-El-Ghazal (see HART visit report September 2011). Some have returned but others are too fearful to do so. Many (unknown numbers) have died from hunger and hunger-related diseases.
Political and Military Issues.
• Military offensives by the Government of Sudan continue in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
• Bombing of civilian targets by Antonovs, MIGs and helicopter gunships has been consistently reported in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Numerous reports testify to deliberate targeting of places where people gather, such as markets. In some areas, it is reported that anything which is seen moving – people, animals, vehicles – are targeted.
• Khartoum has also bombed targets in South Sudan, including the camp at Yida in October 2011 and most recently dropping 5 bombs near the river in the town of Bentui on 19 April 2012.
• Government of Sudan military Antonovs have also been violating international airspace, flying over South Sudan. We heard one of these in Juba on the evening of 13 April 2012.
• Ground offensives in May 2011 in Abyei by SAF led to the capture of the town by the Khartoum Government. There are numerous reports of atrocities perpetrated by SAF and Popular Defence Forces (PDF), including murder, looting, burning of homes and other property. Despite a UN Security Council Agreement, SAF forces have not withdrawn from Abyei town, and have continued terrorising civilians and preventing many of them from returning to their homes and villages.
1. The international community should pressure Khartoum to provide urgent humanitarian access to Blue Nile and South Kordofan The international community should unite in support of the Tripartite Proposal (UN, African Union and Arab League of States) and pressure Khartoum to begin negotiations on humanitarian access to all those affected. This should include both humanitarian aid and seeds and tools to help the Nuba and Blue Nile peoples to meet their own basic needs.. Such negotiated access must be supported and monitored by international institutions and should be applied under recognised humanitarian principles, with aid accessing all affected areas. Deadlines for Khartoum’s agreement to negotiate and allow access should be specified immediately.
2. In the absence of negotiated humanitarian access into Blue Nile and South Kordofan, the international community should explore all alternative options for access.
3. Recognising that this is likely to be a protracted crisis (the previous war in the Nuba Mountains lasted 16 years), the international community must consider and plan for its engagement in the long term. There is likely to be another failed harvest this year.
1. An international independent committee of enquiry to be sent by the UN Security Council to the three areas to investigate and report on human rights violations and abuses, and crimes against humanity, along with a referral to the International Criminal Court as a follow up to OHCHR’s report. The violations of the 1997 Ottawa treaty on antipersonnel landmines also merit investigation.
2. The British Government should seriously consider implementing targeted sanctions to prevent Khartoum from continuing to perpetrate atrocities and war with impunity – including denial of diplomatic status and visas for senior members of the NCP and freezing of financial assets held abroad.
3. The British Government should consider downgrading diplomatic relations with the Government of Sudan from full ambassador level.
4. Khartoum’s capacity to wage war on its own citizens must be degraded by stopping official arms transfers and acting against companies that sell military equipment to it. Wide but smart financial and economic sanctions should also be seriously considered.
5. The international community should develop a single comprehensive approach to responding to all issues faced in Sudan. The UN, African Union, Arab League and East African Community must speak with one voice through a common process that connects across the different theatres of conflict. A credible joint envoy and better direction of the fragmented UN/African Union missions in Sudan is needed to overcome Khartoum’s ‘divide and rule’.
6. A plan should be formulated for the implementation of unresolved aspects of the CPA, including the right to self-determination in Abyei, border demarcation, and oil sharing.
Refugees from Blue Nile State in Doro camp
Meeting Sudan and South Sudan’s refugees and returnees
The report that follows is taken from interviews with community leaders, NGOs and displaced civilians in Agok, Yida, Doro and Renk in April 2012, as well as meetings with other representatives of communities from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. HART also met with Rt .Hon. James Wani Igga, Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly; Sudan Tribune journalists; and Jok Maduk Jok, Ministry of Culture.
Agok, April 10th 2012.
Community leaders in Agok: Mario Kuol Manyoul, Acting Chief of Administration; Kon Manyiel Majok Minister for Infrastructure; Chol Agok Ngor, Assembly Senator; Achol Nyual Majut, Assembly Senator; Joseph Dat Faguat Director, Local Government and Human Resources; Ring Maknac Adul, Chief; Nyoul Fagnat Deng, Chief; Kuol Deng Majok, Chief; and interviews with individuals displaced from Abyei.
Yida, April 11th 2012
Chairman and members of the Humanitarian Committee; Ryan Boyette; staff at Samaritans Purse; interviews with individuals recently displaced from Nuba Mountains.
Renk, April 12th 2012
Humanitarian co-ordinators and staff from MedAir; interviews with individuals recently returned from Khartoum.
Doro, April 13th 2012
From Jamam Camp: Alsalous Ousman Younons, Blue Nile Humanitarian Assistance General Coordinator for water; Awad Abab Omnar, Blue Nile Information; Youssif Alhadi. Head Commissioner for Blue Nile Humanitarian Assistance; Bashir Siva, Local Administration; Saad Alla Aggar, Head Commissioner of Altadamon County.
From Doro Camp: The County Commissioner; Committee of tribal chiefs from all 19 areas of Blue Nile State; Humanitarian Affairs Committee; interviews with individuals recently displaced from Blue Nile State.
Seeking refuge from Blue Nile and South Kordofan
Military offensives and Human Rights violations against civilians in Blue Nile.
Meetings were held with the Commissioner, Humanitarian Committee and Tribal Chiefs were held in Doro Camp, Upper Nile
Issues discussed included:
The democratically elected Governor, Malik Agar, was dismissed by Al Bashir and replaced by Major General Alhadi Bushera, with a track record of military offensives against civilians.
There has been continuous fighting in Blue Nile State since 1st September 2011. Ground offensives between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army–North (SPLM-N), continue with indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilians by SAF.
Since conflict broke, many civilians have been killed, imprisoned, and tortured in cities and towns including Damazine and Kurmuk. For example, there are at least 170 known civilians held as prisoners in Blue Nile; last September, 9 SPLM-N officers were slaughtered by being cut to pieces with knives in Silak, Bau County. The Commissioner for Roseires County lost 2 brothers who were killed by NCP.
The NCP has particularly targeted the Ingessana tribal people: HART was told that whenever SAF found them, they killed or imprisoned them. They attacked the villages in the Ingessana Hills, killing the people and burning homes.
Aerial bombardment of Blue Nile State has been relentless: Antonovs, MIGs, and helicopter gunships have destroyed towns and villages, and attacked civilians – “anything which moved: people, cattle, vehicles”. On the second day of the war, every city was bombed, including Damazine, Kirmuk, Yabus. Villages attacked include Mayas, where 7 civilians sitting under a tree were killed by a direct hit from an Antonov; and Benetuma, where 47 people were killed in the market. An eye-witness account:
‘I was in the market when we heard the Antonov above, which began dropping bombs directly on the market. 47 people died, mostly women and children. 22 were wounded and had to go to hospital in Bunj and Malakal.’
In January, the refugee camp in the town of El Foj in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, was bombed by an Antonov.
Those remaining in conflict affected parts of Blue Nile are unable to live in their villages. They are hiding in the forests, mountains and streams. They cannot grow crops or reap any harvest and they are already suffering from lack of food, water, and shelter. An estimated number of approx. 4,800 people, trapped in the Ingessana Hills, are in dire need of food, health care and shelter, but Khartoum has not allowed any aid organisations to reach them.
From Blue Nile, 80,000 have fled to Jamam camp and 60,000 to Doro (another 65,000 have fled from Blue Nile to Ethiopia). Approximately 100-200 new refugees cross the border every day.
‘When Al-Bashir went to Kirmuk he said he did not want to see a black plastic sheet in Blue Nile State [i.e. he did not want to see a single African person’].
What he is doing here is identical to the ethnic cleansing he is carrying out in the Nuba Mountains.’
The Nuba Mountains
Meetings were held with camp leaders, NGOs and refugees in Yida Camp, Unity State.
The issues discussed included:
Fighting began in South Kordofan between SAF and SPLM-N on 5 June 2011. Since the collapse of the 28 July Two Areas Framework Agreement, and despite a statement by the UN Security Council causing for a cessation of hostilities, there have been no substantive negotiations between SPLM-N and the Government of Sudan (GoS).
Ground offensives occurring between SAF and SPLM-N continue, particularly in Buram county and east of Kadugli.
Aerial bombardment is still occurring on a daily basis, both day and night – with bombs dropped from Antonovs, MiGs, and helicopter gunships. The bombing is indiscriminate – targeting civilians as well as their goats, cows, and homes.
Over 1000 bombs have been dropped on civilian areas in the Nuba Mountains. The areas most badly affected are Buram, Dalami and Heiban.
Antonov bombing has killed and wounded many more civilians than soldiers. It is very difficult to number those killed or injured by the bombings, which are taking place all over the state every day. Some of those wounded are unable to reach the only hospital in Nuba.
There is also evidence that SAF has used illegal anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, burnt villages, and destroyed schools and churches.
We were told that 302mm Chinese Rockets that have the ability to travel 100km have been identified in Nuba. They are packed with ball bearings, designed for hitting soft targets. It is estimated that 70 have been used already, none of which have hit military targets. While these rockets have only killed approximately 12 people and wounded 10 people they have inflicted terror on the civilian population. These large Rockets cannot be heard as they approach the impact site and there is no time for people to take cover: people are afraid even to leave their hiding places to collect firewood or water.
There is one hospital in the Nuba Mountains, which has treated over 700 people injured in the fighting. The hospital is an 8-9 hour drive from many of the worst affected areas.
There are continuous waves of displacement within the Nuba Mountains. Evidence suggests that over 300,000 people have been displaced since June. Only approximately 20,000 have fled to the main refugee camp in Yida. The remainder are within the Nuba Mountains, often hiding in caves in the mountains.
Some people have tried to cultivate land in the Nuba Mountains but the fighting and aerial bombardment has amde this almost impossible for those who have been displaced.
Many communities hiding in caves are already suffering from food shortages – people are surviving by boiling leaves and digging up roots. The severity of food shortages vary across regions, with some counties able to harvest more than others. The areas most seriously affected are Buram, Delami, Umm Dorain and Heiban. Food shortages in Buram County will be particularly severe.
The culture of Nuba is a very hospitable and food has been shared between neighbours. Many communities living near the caves where people have taken shelter have been sharing their already depleted food supplies. Those we met highlighted that when food runs out, it will run out everywhere, at the same time.
“As a 13 year old boy, I walked alone to Ethiopia because of the fighting in Nuba Mountains. Now the same is happening to my children” Refugee in Yida Camp.
Preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains
The Government of Sudan has not yet permitted any humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains and SAF controlled areas are entirely inaccessible. There has been no access for international humanitarian assistance in any non-government held areas for over 9 months.
At present, Khartoum is using starvation as a weapon of war.
It has been over two months since the tripartite (UN, African Union and League of Arab States) proposal to support negotiations over humanitarian access to conflict affected areas was presented, and Khartoum has yet to respond. By contrast, SPLM-N agreed to the proposal on 18 February 2012.
The governor in Southern Kordofan, already wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, has prevented the setting up of camps for those who have been displaced
There are at least 132,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile States in South Sudan and Ethiopia, yet this represents a small proportion of those who are trapped in conflict affected areas of Sudan.
Food shortages are already becoming critical as the rainy season approaches in May. Estimates suggest 60-70% of those displaced inside of the Nuba Mountains have already run out of food.
The food that is available lacks the necessary nutrients and vitamins and malnutrition is already becoming rife.
Food security in South Kordofan is expected to reach a Phase 4 level (emergency), and Phase 3 in conflict areas of Blue Nile, during April. The vast majority of IDPs have been unable to harvest anything. Sorghum is particularly scarce: One malwa costing 10-15 SDG in Heiban and 7-10 SDG in Dalami, compared to 2-3 SDG in previous years. Buram and Umm Dorain localities will be worst affected by food insecurity.
There is widespread fear among international NGOs of a dangerous level of food insecurity from April onwards with a diminishing opportunity to deliver humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable. There will be very little, if any, access to affected areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States from June onwards as the rains become heavier.
The rainy season will bring with it malaria, intestinal worms and other diseases. These diseases, in addition to high levels of malnutrition, and very little access to medical care, will mean the loss of life for many people. As in the previous war, there is a high risk of outbreaks of measles and meningitis, with no mechanisms for controlling any epidemics.
Many families will not have enough food to get them through the rainy season. There is genuine concern that aid will arrive too late.
There are also concerns that if aid is only provided along the border, huge populations from South Kordofan and Blue Nile States will be forced to cross into South Sudan.
It is important to note that if aerial bombardment was to stop, the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile would be able to plant and supply themselves with enough food for the future. Planting starts in June, with the harvest arriving in November or December.
The Government of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) assessment of South Kordofan in February, which claimed the situation was ‘stable’, excluded 8 districts, including those most affected by the conflict and all areas held by the SPLM-N, and did not involve full international participation.
Humanitarian access is urgent and vital. HART was told “Nothing is too little – it will all help to save lives.”
Meetings were held with the Abyei Administration, tribal leaders and refugees were held in Agok Camp, Unity State.
Since 25 May 2011, more than 100,000 people have been displaced from Abyei. Their suffering has been increased by Khartoum blocking access to international NGOs, claiming that Abyei is part of the Republic of Sudan, and therefore requiring visas from Khartoum.
The Abyei Administration previously had 7 members: 3 National Congress Party (NCP); 4 Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). When President of Sudan, Al-Bashir, unilaterally dissolved the Commission, without SPLM agreement, a new Assembly was established with 5 Commissioners for 5 Counties & 12 members of the legislature. After Al-Bashir raided and destroyed Abyei, the Assembly moved to Agok. They say that their Government buildings in Abyei have been destroyed and there is nothing left.
A United Nations (UN) Resolution publically condemned the Sudanese takeover and required the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) to evacuate from Abyei – but they have not done so.
“We have not seen real pressure on SAF to leave Abyei town.” Wol Deng
The mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Abyei was extended for 5 months on 22 December 2011 but remains unresolved.
The occupying forces include SAF soldiers and Popular Defence Force (PDF) militias, who have been killing, raping and torturing civilians as well as looting and destroying property – stealing roofing and windows, then burning buildings to the ground.
SAF forces shelled people as they tried to flee.
Many of the individuals HART interviewed had been imprisoned and beaten following the occupation of Abyei.
The local leadership believe that there are still people in SAF controlled area of Abyei town, with reports of serious human rights abuses by SAF, PDF and militia groups.
a) Security: Improved stability with United Nations Mission to Sudan (UNMIS). But there are ongoing problems with nomads who have traditionally come south in the dry season for water, especially for their cattle grazing. There have not previously been any problems: local people have accepted them and traded with them. But now some are armed by Khartoum and act as local militias, terrorising the people who want to return to their villages. They also live in fear of the PDF militias who are moving around north of the Kiir river.
b) Shelter: Approximately 6-7,000 people have now returned to their villages. Many find their homes looted and burnt and they have no construction materials to rebuild, with the rainy season imminent.
c) Food and water shortages: with the insecurity, only a few people managed to cultivate their land and their crops were destroyed by floods last September. SAF forces have destroyed water tanks and pumps – for example, riddling them with bullets.
d) Political: the Ngok Dinka people believe Abyei is a disputed territory and should be open to access from the South as well as the North – but, they argue, ‘the UN believed Khartoum’. They urge the international community to recognise that Abyei does not come under rule from the North; that Khartoum has no right to deny access by aid organisations. The people are losing confidence in the international community as it continues to allow the NCP to carry out its violations of human rights with impunity.
e) Ideological motivation: the Dinka argue that the NCP is pursuing a sectarian, religiously motivated and racist agenda. For example, they have destroyed many churches and are targeting people because of their African identity.
f) Forced emigration and immigration to achieve demographic change: Khartoum is bringing Arabs into the area to settle in other people’s land and property. This is preventing the original owners from returning to their own land and changing the racial and religious composition of the area.
g) There is widespread support for a Referendum for Abyei – but concern that Al-Bashir is manipulating the demographic structure of the population to skew votes in his favour, away from support for Independence.
h) The people of Abyei feel marginalised and vulnerable. Visits such as the HART delegation’s visit give much-needed and greatly-valued moral support.
South Sudan’s Returnees and recent developments
During HART’s visit to South Sudan, tensions escalated severely over oil, border demarcation and other post succession issues that remain unresolved.
Fighting has once again spilt into South Sudan, including SAF bombings in Unity State, despite a non-aggression treaty signed on 10 February in Addis Ababa. Five bombs were dropped on the town of Bentui, which HART had visited the previous day, and an Antonov was heard circling Juba. The indiscriminate bombing of civilians by SAF in Unity State, and on refugee camps, is of particular concern.
Over the past 18 months there has been an influx of returnees into South Sudan. At present, in 4 camps around Renk, there are unattributed figures of 20,000 people, with over 1,000 arriving in the last 2 weeks.
If the Government of Sudan implements its threat to expel all whom it defines as ‘Southerners’, the number forced to ‘return’ to the South could escalate to 500,000.
Home for a family of returnees in Renk with no protection when the rainy season arrives in three weeks.
Those returning to South Sudan widely reported messages that “that the Government doesn’t want any black people in Khartoum”. The threat of enforced expulsion has caused tens of thousands of citizens living in the north to emigrate to South Sudan, often being denied opportunity to bring belongings with them. Many have never lived in South Sudan and their integration will be logistically challenging, even apart from the humanitarian crisis confronting them. Many of those we met in the camps near Renk, especially those newly arrived, have only flimsy makeshift shelter, which will provide no protection in the rainy season.
The internationally controversial SPLA attack on Heiglig was triggered by its use by SAF to shell territory in South Sudan and to launch ground offensives into South Sudanese territory. There are disputes about the boundary definition: in 1956, Heiglig (Panthou) was located in South Sudan; under Numeri’s rule, with the discovery of oil, it was relocated in the North in 1978 and renamed Heiglig. In 2009, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague determined that Heiglig was not part of Abyei. Khartoum interpreted the ruling as locating Heiglig in the North.
The SPLA has offered to withdraw from Heiglig on the condition that talks are initiated to determine the location and status of the borders; that SAF withdraws from Abyei and a UN peacekeeping force is stationed on location. A Presidential Statement specified: “The Republic of South Sudan is prepared to withdraw its forces from Heiglig if a clear mechanism and guarantee can be provided that Heglig will not be used to launch another attack against South Sudan.”
Humanitarian Needs in the refugee camps
Most people come to the camps because of food and water shortages. Most people have walked for many days to reach the camps, often travelling only at night due to the threat of Antonovs, and often with very little food.
Refugees arriving in the camps are often suffering health problems having walked for days without food or water and vulnerable to continuing aerial bombardments. Shortages of food across South Sudan have created difficulties in stockpiling for refugees fleeing South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
There are many NGOs in camps along the border providing vital and valued assistance. But there are still many unmet needs.
Doro and Jamam Refugee Camps.
There are serious shortages of water in Jamam camp – with the 80,000 refugees receiving only 1 litre of water per day. As a result, fighting at water sources is very common. Other problems include shortages of food, and little access to education.
The problems in the camps will become increasingly severe with the rainy season. In Jamam camp, half the terrain will become submerged under water. International agencies, including UNHCR, have been urged to arrange relocation but to date nothing has happened and the rains will start in the next 2-3 weeks.
Yida Refugee Camp
The camp was established on 21 July 2011 with 271 refugees, and on 31st March 2012 had grown to 18,723, 70% of whom are children. There are on average of 200 new arrivals every day, with up to 420 on some days. Another 10-20,000 are expected before the rainy season makes roads impassable.
Yida has been classified a transit camp by UNHCR, owing to its proximity to the Sudan border (currently not demarked) – having been bombed once already – and accused of being Militarised. UNHCR have tried to move people to Nyel camp, 50 or 60km South West of Yida. We were told that Nyel is not appropriate as a camp – it is ‘swampy’ with no possibility of the Nuba there planting crops, without trees or other building materials, difficult for digging latrines, and prone to malaria as a ‘Mosquito headquarters’. The camp committee also expressed concerns about Nuer militias and the current fighting in Heiglig, not far from Nyel.
“An Antonov could come and bomb Yida and kill ten people. But if we go there, an epidemic could kill two or three thousand”
There have been some problems with registration – It is a long process and, as food is now distributed every 30 days, and only to those with UNHCR registration, new arrivals have waited up to 32 days for food. On 9 March, approximately 3,500 had not received food. There have been cases of people who did not receive food for some time returning to the Nuba Mountains where they are subjected to further bombing.
The UNHCR definition of Yida as a ‘transit camp’ has created difficulties in access to humanitarian assistance, in particular: shortages of rooms for schools and school materials; seeds for planting (the refugees from Nuba have cleared 2000 hectares of land around Yida for planting).
There is also a shortage of water and latrines with occasional fights breaking out at bore holes.
With the rainy season arriving in May it is imperative that seeds are made available, reducing long term food shortages and allowing the Nuba people the dignity of reduced dependency. The rainy season will also create problems for emergency transfer of patients from clinics in Yida to the hospital in Bentui when surrounding roads become impassable.
The camp is still awaiting plastic sheeting and blankets, which will be imperative in the rainy season beginning in May.
A Nuba lady living in Yida refugee camp
Appendix: A selection of interviews with Displaced Civilians.
“Sometimes we feel that we are not human beings. We are speaking, but our voices are not being heard.” Refugee in Yida Camp
A. Interviews at Agok
Khol Deng Riak, a 46-year old man from Abyei.
He was walking with his blind brother in Abyei when the fighting erupted. They ran into the bush, where they hid for 2 days. On the third day, he went home to fetch water but was captured by SAF soldiers (with faces covered to conceal their identities). He was beaten and taken to Abyei Garrison, being forced to pull a cart like a donkey. The cart was piled high with looted property. The walk from his village to Abyei was 8-9 km.
In the Garrison, he was beaten again for 2 days. He was constantly asked if he thought Abyei was his homeland. After these 2 days of continued beating, he was taken on foot to Meyram. He was instructed to farm for the militia, to look after the cattle they had looted. They left him for a short while and he managed o escape. Finding some other Dinka, they looked after him and helped him to flee back to Abyei.
He discovered that the soldiers had killed his blind brother.
He is now living in Agok. He is reluctant to go back to his home because SAF soldiers are there.
Habin Arop, a 38-year-old man from a district in West Abyei town.
‘I was captured in my home on May 21st and taken to Todac (about 12 km north of Abyei where there was a base for mixed force of SAF and militias.
I was then taken back to Abyei Garrison where I was kept for 9 days. They kept beating me and asking “Why are you still here? Is this your home? Why do you stay here?”
I was blindfolded so I couldn’t recognise them.
I saw them beating many people – injuring and killing them.
I’m now staying in Agok. If SAF pull out, I would return home today, but I can’t go while they are still there’.
B. Interviews at Yida
Fadela Suliman, a 43 year old lady, Deloka
‘I am from the Deloka tribe in the Nuba Mountains, near to Kidugli [about 8km]. I have seen SAF capture and beat women and adults. There were daily attacks on my village of Delloka by Antonovs, bombing people at the waterhole whenever they saw them. I witnessed a child bombed so that only his leg was left.
When our village was burnt to the ground by the SAF we decided to come to Yida. We came in October. On the road there was no food and because of hunger it took us 8 days to walk here. There was some food when we arrived here, but not enough.
I have come here with my children. I had to leave my Mother behind and she has been shot by SAF. The SAF ask the villagers “where are your leaders and where are the guns stored?” If you can not answer, they will shoot you. Our village has now been burnt down.
There is no one left in our village and no one can reach the bore hole. Some people have been to the village bore hole recently, but they were shot by SAF. My stepbrother had been hiding in the mountain caves with his mother. A bomb was dropped on her by and Antonov and she lost her arm. Then my stepbrother went to the bore hole at night to get water. SAF went and killed him. We are having the funeral in the camp this afternoon.
I have heard the SAF have taken our chairs and our cows and looted them by lorry.’
Awadia Hamat, from Obuhshim
‘I am from the Obuhashim tribe in Umm Dorain County, about 35km east of Kadugli. War reached our village in July, and until September we were bombed by Antonovs. In July, SAF came to our village and destroyed everything. They started shooting and everyone ran.
I witnessed my uncle and another man being slaughtered with a knife. My younger brother was also killed. We returned to our village the next day to bury them.
When the Antonovs came, we started running with our children into the forest. On day a MiG came and bombed in front and behind of our group so we lay down on the ground. The MiG killed an 11 year old child from the village.
We walked to Yida with 6 families, everyone travelling together. On the first day Antonov bombardment killed an entire family except for one child. On the next day an Antonov bomb killed the mother and father of another family. One daughter is injured and is in Yida, another girl had to have her leg amputated and later died.
The journey should have taken 4 days but SAF were on the same road so we had to take a longer route. After the Antonov attacks on the first two days we walked only at night. We walked for 7 days.
We arrived in Yida on 31st September. Shortly after arriving in Yida the Antonov bombed here too, including the school. Only one bomb exploded.
We need peace; we want to go back to our homeland so that we can get on living our lives. Now we are living in this camp where there is not enough food, we sleep on wooden planks and the shelter is not good.’
Atoma Brema Rinji, a 22 year-old woman from Kadugli
‘I was selling tea in Kadugli when the war broke out in January 2011. I fled because I was married to an SPLA soldier and I knew the SAF soldiers kill women, even young women. I saw many. When I went home from the teashop, I saw my uncle arrested by SAF soldiers and taken to their Garrison. My grandmother couldn’t flee because of her age but she told us to run, because it was too dangerous to stay. I had a brother in police in Khartoum and he was told to go and bring a gun – or else they would kill my uncle. I saw 4 men brought to the Garrison and killed in front of me, slaughtered with long knives.
I then went to my village of Tilo near Kadugli to collect some items to take with me. But I found the entire village burnt or flattened by tanks. My house was crushed and everything in it. So I had to leave with just the clothes I was wearing.
My brother was arrested and they said he must either be a conscript or they would kill him. By luck, one SAF soldier knew me and asked the others not to kill him. So we left together. I had brought him up, as our mother was shot by a soldier in the last war when I was 12 years old. We had to walk for 7 days and it was very tough – from Kadugli to Omdulu to Raka where we stayed for 2 months. But there was no food, so we came here.’
C. Interviews at Doro
Chreke Kwaja, a 29 year old women from Belatwma, southern Blue Nile
‘On November 9th, after we had drunk our coffee, we went to the market. We were taking pig meat to be boiled and to sell. We started cooking the meat – our meet was on the fire and we were under the tree. Suddenly, we heard the sound of a bomb. We did not see the plane coming but when we heard the sound we lay down under the tree. Suddenly, the bomb hit the ground about 3 meters away and I was wounded on my left leg. I was 8 months pregnant.
9 people died the same day and 11 were wounded. One lady who died left 4 children.
The people with me took me to a small clinic nearby, then I was transferred to Manina but the wound was too big to treat so I was transferred to Doro then to the hospital. In the morning I was taken to Malakal. I don’t know if I was in pain because I was not conscious.
The doctor tried to treat my leg because I did not want it cut. I stayed for 2 weeks but then the doctor had to amputate it. They sent me to Doro and I delivered. They baby was ok, she is 3 months old, she is called ‘Bush Girl.’
Life is difficult now because I have no leg to collect firewood so that I can sell it in the market to buy sugar or salt. Life is very difficult, even carrying food or collecting water. ‘
‘I was escaping Blue Nile with my children and we reached Wadaga. We had been travelling by foot and then on a tractor. It was a very difficult journey. In Wadaga we slept under the trees.
We were not carrying much because we had to carry the children. We all carried just a small bit of food, a bucket for water, a sheet to sleep on and a mosquito net.
A man came when I was cooking and said “The Antonov is coming”. We lay down on the ground and then it hit and killed my second son who was 6 years old. When the Antonov was bombing everything became black like smoke.
We buried my child; there was no Imam so we just had to dig a grave. Then we carried on our journey because the Antonovs were still coming. The Antonov flew towards Yabus and then back again all day. It was happening three times every day between September and December. ‘
Aeisha Hashim, from Surgum village
‘We left our home because the Antonov was coming every day. Then they started hitting our village with long range missiles from Seale and Doridor. On one day six missiles hit our village and killed 3 people.
We escaped with our tractor from Surgum to Wadagk with my husband, his other wife and our 4 children (4 to 8 years old).
When we reached Wadagk we spent the night. At 9 in the morning we were cooking breakfast for the children. We were using the grinding machine so we did not hear the Antonov. The Antonov bombed us and then people came to me and said my husband had been killed. We went to find him and only his legs were left.
The bomb also killed three other people.’
D. Interviews at Renk
Elizabeth Umjuma, from Omdurman
‘I worked at a sugar plantation in Omdurman. The Government said we had to go to South Sudan. A neighbour told me that the Government didn’t want any black people in Khartoum. They said we must go to a specific place with a bag of our belongings.
We got in government buses that took us to Khartoum then Heiglig. There were lorries for our luggage. My older daughter became lost, in the end we found her in Kosti. Then they brought us to Renk.
We have left most of our belongings and furniture in Omdurman, we came only with a suitcase of clothes.
We will take our two daughters (age 5 and 2) to our relatives in Wau.‘
Angelena Atem, from Khartoum
‘We were among the first people to arrive at this new camp [a fortnight ago].
I was born in Khartoum because my father had been working there. My father came to Warrap State a few years ago but I stayed with my husband. My husband was working for the government but when there started to be problems with South Sudan they made him stop his job, and I could no longer afford to live in Khartoum. My husband is still in Khartoum today.
When we were coming from Khartoum we reached a place near Heiglig and Bentui. We were stopped by Misseriya, they made each person pay money before they would allow the vehicle to pass. Each person had to contribute something; I don’t know how much they wanted in total.
I am happy to have reached South Sudan but I want to be in Bahr El Ghazel, I do not want to be here.’
Baroness Cox, HART CEO
Dr Lydia Tanner, HART Advocacy and Communications Manager
During a visit to Northern Iraq a few months ago...