A Christian clergyman from Sudan has called on the United Nations to send peacekeepers to his region to protect civilians.
Andulu Adam Elnail, the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, warned at a news conference that “something crucial is going on in the Nuba mountains that the world needs to observe and address.”
The Kadugli and Nuba Mountain region of South Kordofan in Sudan are outside the new country of South Sudan but the Nuba people of the region have typically been allied with the forces that achieved independence for South Sudan.
Bishop Andulu said the events surrounding South Sudan’s independence and admission to the United Nations have overshadowed continued violence in other parts of the country.
A leaked UN report from June on the security situation in South Kordofan alleges Sudanese Armed Forces could be implicated in serious human rights violations including forced disappearances, targeting of UN staff and summary executions. The UN maintains it has yet to officially finalize the report, but expects it will be released shortly.
The Bishop and representatives from human rights groups were in New York Friday to meet informally with members of the Security Council, ahead of the council’s consultation on Sudan August 11th. Their news conference was organized by the US Mission to the UN.
Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, (CPA)had provisions for Public Consultations on the future of the Nuba people in South Kordofan. That consultation has yet to take place and talks broke down after contested provincial elections this spring.
Northern government officials in Khartoum declined to renew the UNMIS (United Nation Mission in Sudan) mandate which expired July 9th, leaving the world body unable to even monitor or investigate reported civilian deaths and rights violations.
Human Rights Watch Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks says she hopes a Council member like South Africa can take the lead to help the UN or some combination of the African Union and the Arab League deploy a peacekeeping force in the area.
Hicks says the that although many of the reports of rights abuses and war crimes still can’t be verified, there are enough alarming indicators to warrant concrete Security Council action.
“We know that as many as 200 000 people have been displaced” she told reporters. “There is also no denying that the bombing is ongoing. The UN in its bases can hear that, and we have all sorts confirmed accounts of the bombing and shelling that has occurred. We don’t know the full extent of it,but we do have strong evidence to suggest that both indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are going on that are leading to a significant amount of civilian loss of life.”
Bishop Andulu also voiced concern over the nationality of any potential monitoring force. He says Egyptian peacekeepers stationed in Southern Kordofan failed to prevent attacks against civilians, and he pointed out Egypt’s close ties to the government in Khartoum and similar cultural and religious backgrounds.
“We need troops that will be neutral, to be able to see all the sides.” he said, adding that he would be open to the same type of peacekeeping force agreed upon for Abyei.
In July, Khartoum and Juba agreed to allow an Ethiopian led UN -African Union peacekeeping force UNISFA(United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei) to deploy to the disputed Abyei region.
A resource rich region that straddles the border between North and South, Abyei was also scheduled to hold its own referendum this year, but officials from both countries have been unable to reach an agreement on who should be eligible to vote.
Sudanese Armed Forces carried out strikes and took control of towns in the region in May, after Southern rebel groups apparently attacked UN escorted Northern troops. Government forces were subsequently accused of looting and burning down villages, forcing of tens of thousands of civilians from their homes.
Earlier this week, four UNISFA peacekeepers were killed after their vehicle struck a landmine in Abyei. The Sudanese government reportedly delayed their medical evacuation by air for three hours, a move condemned in statements by both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.