While the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rigths Navi Pillay both have condemned Bashir’s government attacks on South Sudan, another war on civilians continues nearby within Sudan.
The bombing campaign of Sudan’s Khartoum government has killed, maimed, and injured untold numbers of civilians since September 2011 and destroyed civilian property including markets, homes, schools, farms, and aid group offices, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) researchers and other reporters. As in neighboring Southern Kordofan, civilians in Blue Nile State continue to endure Sudan’s bombing of civilian areas and other abuses, while a new conflict between Sudan and South Sudan enflames the border zone.
Refugees in South Sudan as well as internally displaced civilians inside Sudan have testified about undergoing aerial bombing since September in their residential areas forced them to flee their homes. Most had abandoned their villages and farms between September and November 2011, and continued moving about inside Blue Nile State with little access to food or water. Some international sources have raised the specter of widespread famine among the displaced population. According to a new report from HRW, some 100,000 remain displaced in Blue Nile, including groups of potentially several thousand who are stranded in remote areas. Other sources estimate the number to be as high as 450,000. Meanwhile, a similar number of refugees have crossed into South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Refugees crossing into South Sudan have been hit by indiscriminate bombing at Guffa and Alfuj border crossings. On March 26, Sudanese forced dropped eight bombs on Alfuj, where several hundred refugees had gathered to cross into refugee camps in South Sudan. The bombs injured four civilians and killed livestock.
The Khartoum government has largely isolated Blue Nile from the outside world. Information about events in Blue Nile has been hard to come by, as Sudan has refused to permit journalists, independent monitors, or aid groups access to Blue Nile state or neighboring Southern Kordofan, where conflict erupted last June. Since the United Nations mandate for a peacekeeping operation in the region expired in July 2011, no UN monitors remain on the ground to document the initial impact of the fighting on civilians in Blue Nile. Testimonies collected by HRW indicate that Sudan government forces may have committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
According to HRW’s Africa director Daniel Bekele, “The fighting in Blue Nile has turned its people into refugees, forcing them to abandon their homes and livelihoods. The horrific accounts of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and mass looting and destruction of property need to be investigated, and those responsible held to account.”
Read new HRW report
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