Much of the background and sources on this page were provided by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. Visit their website for more information.
“With the North-South referendum now clearly in sight, it is high time for world leaders to press Khartoum to secure a sustainable, enduring peace. It can do so by ending its long history of abuses, respecting the will of the voters, and fulfilling basic commitments to dignity and justice. Sudan’s long-term stability, in the North and South, as well as in Darfur and the troubled East, will depend on guaranteeing these fundamental rights.”
Jehanne Henry, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch
Under British rule, Sudan was divided on a North-South pattern, which remained at the heart of Sudan’s violent history, up until today’s political and military issues. After its independence in 1956, Africa’s largest country suffered two almost consecutive civil wars (1956-1972 and 1983-2003), which has resulted in considerable human loss for almost six decades. The deadliest war was the second civil war that pitted the Sudanese Government based in Khartoum against rebel groups, such as the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) based in the South. Since 1983, violence between the North and South has resulted in over 4 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Southern Sudan, a half million refugees and 1.5 million dead, mostly civilians.
Peace talks between North and South warring parties began in 2002 to put an end to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. On 9 January 2005, under the leadership of the African Union (AU), the US-UK-Norway Troika and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of President Omar al-Bashir and the SPLM finally signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA provided guidelines for a smooth democratic transition, made provisions for the April 2010 presidential elections, as well as protocols on wealth and power-sharing issues. It also contained peace settlements regarding Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states located along the border.
Most importantly, the CPA granted southern Sudanese the right to vote in two referenda on self-determination. The first referendum of January 9, 2011 was held to decide on the question of southern secession from the north, thus creating the newest African nation. The second referendum, which was supposed to decide whether Abyei is to remain in northern Sudan or become part of southern Sudan, was postponed indefinitely as a result of issues regarding voter eligibility.
Preliminary results of the January 9 referendum have shown that voters overwhelmingly supported the creation of an independent state, with 99.57% in favor of separation. The government in Khartoum announced its acceptance of the preliminary outcome and the final count was released in February 2011. Soon after on July 9th, 2011, South Sudan declared independence. Although the referendum process has been hailed as peaceful, there is still a great risk of violence and mass atrocities as numerous issues, including the situation of Abyei, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State, the division of the national debt and oil reserves have yet to be resolved with the North, and the existence of internal ethnic tensions threaten the stability of the South.
The situation in Sudan remains extremely unstable. The fragile equilibrium and feeble attempts at democratic transition could shift anytime, plunging the country into violence that could lead to heinous human rights violations including crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide.
The April 2010 elections showed numerous procedural flaws and rights violations as Human Rights Watch explained in a 29 June 2010 report. Those elections, it said, “raised the spectre of growing instability in such states as Central Equatorial, Jonglei, Unity and Western Bahr el Ghazal.” Also, as reported in the media and by civil society groups, the escalation of tension in Darfur since the beginning of 2010 and the increased militarization of both Northern and Southern Sudanese armies have contributed to a general feeling of instability and suspicion.
Populations of Central and Western Equatorial need enhanced protection as they are the target of the Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that continues to commit “massacres, abductions, rapes and mutilations” hence displacing thousands and killing many more. The disputed border areas of Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and Abyei remain unstable, counting hundreds of thousands of IDPs. They are particularly exposed populations located on the border, which is still not clearly defined by signatories of the CPA.
In addition, the chronically delayed preparations and the political disagreements around the referenda increased fears of social unrest and violence in Sudan, and caused waves of refugees to flee to neighboring countries.
Given that Khartoum made a legislative decision to deny citizenship rights to Southerners living in the North, the 2 million South Sudanese will face higher risk of atrocities in the North and many have already began to emigrate South. Indeed, these populations constitute large sections of vulnerable civilians likely to be targeted by governmental troops and rebel groups, especially in the aftermath of the referenda in the eventuality of massive cross-border population movements. As the African Centre for Justice and Peace shows in one of its Monitors (October-November Monitor), acts of violence perpetrated against Southerners in the North have reportedly occurred on a regular basis.
Vulnerable populations such as IDPs in Darfur and South Sudan are constantly attacked by rebel groups and sometimes harassed by the government. The conflict in Darfur has caused 2.7 million IDPs and killed up to 300, 000 civilians since 2003, and President Omar al-Bashir is now under international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Women have constantly been the victims of widespread sexual violence and torture, and as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted in addressing the UN Security Council on 16 November 2010, women must be more significantly protected, involved in peace processes, and those responsible for sexual violence must be held accountable for their crimes.
Other populations such as those of Central and Western Equatorial need enhanced protection as they are the target of the Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that continues to commit “massacres, abductions, rapes and mutilations” hence displacing thousands and killing many more. Moreover, the disputed border areas of Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and Abyei remain unstable, as fighting continues displacing hundreds of thousands of IDPs. They are particularly exposed populations located on the border, which is still not clearly defined by signatories of the CPA.
Outstanding political issues, wealth sharing (especially oil and minerals), national debt sharing and border demarcations, are still being debated. Much remains to be decided, even as talks between officials of both NCP and SPLM were held on 8 November 2010 resulting with an agreement entitled “Framework for Resolving Outstanding Issues Relating to the Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Future Relations of North and South Sudan”.
The UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED) actively and consistently tried to provide technical support such as handing out 3,000 registration kits in southern Sudan and training 11, 000 referendum center staff. Many logistical problems delayed voter identification and registration procedures, impeding proper preparation for timely, fair and transparent referenda. Despite notable progress for the voter registration process in South Sudan, no agreement has been reached regarding who would be eligible to vote in Abyei, resulting in the indefinite postponement of the referendum.
On a daily basis, humanitarian workers encounter restricted access to volatile areas especially in Darfur and southern Sudan. On 5 November 2010, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator deplored the poor security conditions of aid workers in southern Sudan, which have hampered the proper delivery of humanitarian assistance.
In terms of immediate civilian protection measures, UNMIS and UNAMID have had difficulties on the ground to properly implement their mandates. Both missions have been under constant threat of attacks while rebel groups and Sudanese governments keep restricting access to peacekeepers as well as humanitarian personnel. On the other hand UNAMID, despite having reached full capacity, still lacks logistical support such as surveillance units and helicopters. On 16 November 2010, the Security Council presidential statement emphasized the need to provide support to both missions and called on “all parties to protect civilians and maintain full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers to the population in need of assistance.”
Civilian populations of Western and Southern Darfur face great risks of mass atrocities in part because the international community seeks to facilitate solutions to one conflict at the exclusion of addressing the other, as exemplified by the CPA. The UN Security Council on 16 November 2010 stressed the urgent need to support the Doha Peace talks for Darfur. The situation clearly deteriorated since the beginning of 2010 and the peace negotiations have stalled while possible settlements lack broad-based commitments and political will. If the international community and warring parties do not demonstrate strong commitment and pressure to resolving the Darfur conflict, more civilians will die. On 9 December 2010, ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo briefed the UNSC and denounced “systematic attacks on civilians” in Darfur. He also emphasized that genocide in Darfur was still going on while Khartoum remained reluctant to cooperate with the Court. He concluded that “the implementation of the Court’s decisions and the execution of the arrest warrants are in the hands of the Security Council.”
With only weeks until the independence of South Sudan on 9 July 2011, the northern-based Sudanese army seized control of the disputed region of Abyei, with violence spilling over to the state of South Kordofan. The seizure of the region resulted in the displacement of approximately 60,000 people in Abyei as stated by OCHA on 30 May, and a further 100,000 in South Kordofan as reported by UNHCR on 8 June. As of 31 May UNHCR reported that Abyei was nearly emptied of its population and that over a third of local huts had been burnt down with many others destroyed and looted. The northern army dispatched tanks to Abyei on 21 May and government officials, such as Sudan’s UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Ehag Ali Osman, stated that the north will not withdraw until an agreement is signed regarding the security of the area. Satellite images, obtained and analyzed by the Satellite Sentinel Project on 25 May, show the razing of whole villages and the indiscriminate bombardment by northern military aircraft. The Enough Project declared that the images provide evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed
UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, condemned the attacks in Abyei on 24 May and urged all parties to reach an immediate solution to the crisis to avoid descending the region into further conflict.
In response to the escalation of violence in South Kordofan, the UN demanded the withdrawal of troops and called for the cessation of attacks. The Security Council responded to the increasing instability in Sudan with a 3 June presidential statement which called Sudan’s military operations in Abyei a “serious violation” of the 2005 peace accord and called for negotiated peace settlements between the north and south. The Council also urgedleaders of both sides to cooperate with African Union efforts to reach a security accord on Abyei under which both sides withdraw their troops
Parties representing the governments of North and South Sudan met in Addis Ababa on 30 May under the facilitation of the African Union and agreed to establish and jointly monitor a demilitarized Common Border Zone. Further action was agreed upon when on 14 June, after two days of AU talks in Ethiopia, both President Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir reportedly agreed to withdraw troops from the region. Despite measures to resolve the violence, renewed clashes between South Sudan’s army and northern troops were reported on 16 June, illustrating the weakness of the agreements to cease hostilities and sparking fears that the situation could deteriorate further.
According to the UN, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have continued aerial attacks on civilians in South Kordofan. The attacks, particularly in the Nuba mountains region, have resulted in civilian displacement levels estimated at 20,000. Reports as of September indicate that the violence has reached the Blue Nile state, causing massive civilian displacement to neighboring states and across the border into Ethiopia. On 30 August,Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called upon the UN Security Council to condemn recent attacks in South Kordofan. According to reports from both human rights groups, the types of munitions used and the “indiscriminate manner in which they were delivered violated international humanitarian law.” No military targets were reported in or around the areas attacked. AI and HRW have estimated that as of September, more than 150,000 people have been displaced, and the Sudanese government restrictions are preventing aid and other assistance from being delivered
In a 7 September press release, Special Advisers Francis Deng and Edward Luck of the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide expressed their grave concern over the continued attacks on civilian populations in Southern Kordofan. Deng and Luck have called for the immediate access of humanitarian agencies to Southern Kordofan, reminding Sudan of its “responsibility to protect its populations – irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation – from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” The Special Advisers have called for the immediate and unrestricted access of humanitarian agencies to South Kordofan
An 8 September Security Council meeting on the crisis in Southern Kordofan prompted a response from The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. In a media release, GCR2P voiced their disappointment that Member States failed to be sufficiently vocal in condemning the continued attacks on civilians. They said: “For 12 weeks the United States has been pushing for a UN Security Council Presidential Statement condemning the government of Sudan for its relentless attacks on civilians. Other Council members oppose the singling out of Bashir’s regime for condemnation. Thus, the Council remains silent.” They stressed that Sudan was “manifestly failing in its responsibility to protect its own people,” while “few situations that have had as much early warning of imminent mass atrocities as South Kordofan or such a glaring failure to heed these warnings.
- Rising Concern over unresolved political issues
• A September 2010 International Crisis Group (ICG) Policy Brief, entitled Sudan: Defining the North-South Border concentrates on border demarcation issues that have deeply divided both the Government of Sudan (GoS) and Government of South Sudan (GoSS). What is often referred to as “post-referendum” issues such as oil-revenue sharing, citizenship and border demarcations have been the subjects of protracted negotiations between the NCP and SPLM. ICG has issued a number of practical recommendations aimed at avoiding conflict and finding adequate solutions to create a “soft” border allowing citizens to cross it for economic purposes (grazing, trade etc).
• On 23 November, 2010 ICG issued an updated briefing on the situation of Sudan that highlighted lingering disagreements that have plagued negotiations on post-referendum issues such as “citizenship and nationality, natural resource management (oil and water), currency, assets and liabilities, security and international treaties”.
• Oxfam International also strongly encouraged political leaders to reach settlement on political disagreements over post-referendum issues to avoid renewed mass violence. The organization stressed that the protection of populations should be a priority on the agenda of the UN and the international community.
• In its policy brief Sudan: Fulfilling the Responsibility to Protect, the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect made recommendations for the international community including: coordinating efforts among the CPA guarantors to prevent mass atrocities, engaging in diplomatic support to facilitate negotiations between the GoS and GoSS on political issues such as oil-sharing, and border demarcation, both GoS and GoSS must adopt clear policy lines on citizenship, establishing an Abyei Referendum Commission.
• On behalf of a coalition of African advocates, Dismas Nkunda, co-chair of the Darfur Consortium, co-director of IRRI and ICRtoP Steering Committee member addressed a letter to the AU Peace and Security Council. It called on the AU to “ensure that UNAMID is given the tools and political support required to effectively implement its protection mandate”. The letter revealed numerous logistical inconsistencies preventing UNAMID from effectively implementing its mandate as well as a worrying deteriorating situation in Darfur. Also hampering UNAMID’s work is the lack of technical support, the slow deployment of remaining troops, flight restrictions over South Darfur and political stalemate. More specifically, the letter asked the African Union to help UNAMID enforce its February 2010 Darfur Protection Strategy.
• In addition, Refugees International issued a field report on Sudan that emphasized on the consequences that the referendum outcomes could have on the population. The report expressed concern over vulnerable populations such as IDPs in camps in the Khartoum area, Southerners living in the North as well as Northerners living in the South. These populations need to be included in the priorities of UN peacekeeping missions’ contingency plans while international actors such as the Troika and IGAD should work in coordination for the protections of targeted civilians prone to statelessness.