This blog entry by South Sudanese musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal was originally posted on The Guardian's Poverty Matters blog under the title We must act to stop South Kordofan becoming the next Darfur.
Last month the newest country in the world, the Republic of South Sudan, celebrated independence. But across the border in South Kordofan state people are living on the frontline, trapped in a war zone and deprived of their rights to basic humanitarian aid. As war planes bomb civilian areas and intense fighting continues, many innocent people are living in fear of attack.
I have firsthand experience of the brutality of war, torn from my family as a child and forced to fight during the civil war between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Southern Kordofan state was one of the hardest hit regions in a war that lasted more than 20 years and claimed more than 2 million lives, including my mother's.
We cannot turn a blind eye and let history repeat itself. UN human rights officials have already warned that acts committed in South Kordofan may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although exact numbers of people killed and injured remain unconfirmed – as access has been nearly impossible because of insecurity and government restrictions – it is estimated that a total of 1.4 million people have been affected by the conflict. More than 200,000 people have fled their homes, unable to cultivate their land as planting season begins. This puts them doubly at risk, with no means of earning a living or growing their own food. As a result, an estimated 4 million people in Sudan are likely to face high levels of food insecurity over the next few months, during an especially precarious time for large parts of Africa.
Unexploded weapons have been found on the grounds of three schools and land mines are hindering attempts to deliver life-saving aid. Aerial bombings, shooting and shelling continues in what increasingly appears to be a targeted campaign against the Nuba people
. Despite their affiliation with the southern rebels during the civil war, the Nuba's homeland was excluded from the referendum on independence, so it remained in Sudan when the new southern country was formed. South Kordofan was only granted a so-called "popular consultation", which would allow citizens to make their own choices, but even this has failed to happen.
Marginalising, oppressing and attacking borders has been the approach of the government in Khartoum for decades, and has been a chief reason for the conflicts in Darfur, the south and the east. As the international community continues to search in vain for a solution to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, the same pattern of violence and deprivation is now playing out in Southern Kordofan, with fears that it could become an escalating conflict and even spread to Blue Nile state.
But it is not too late for the international community to stop a humanitarian crisis from happening. Representatives from the governments of Sudan and South Sudan met last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to restart negotiations. They must act now by agreeing on a ceasefire and by allowing aid to reach those who desperately need it.
The international community, through the UN security council, should authorise a robust UN peacekeeping mission with a mandate to protect civilians from further violence. Anything less would be to abandon the Nuba people, and indeed all communities in Southern Kordofan, in their hour of need. The people of Southern Kordofan – and the international community – will have to live with the consequences for years, if not decades, to come.
August 16, 2011
| Tagged as: Africa, South Sudan, Sudan