Signs point to northern Sudan's targeting of civilians in border region
Firsthand accounts and the ethnic makeup of people displaced by violence in Sudan's border region indicate civilians may have been the target of attacks by northern forces.
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With South Sudan’s independence from the north just weeks away, the northern government led by President Omar al-Bashir, notorious for its targeting of civilians based on ethnicity and use of local militias to flame local tensions, seems set on destabilizing the border area in a last-ditch effort to back the southern government into a wall. Diplomats have been clear that the recent violence won’t derail the South’s secession, but much is still at stake in negotiations between the two sides over arrangements on combustible issues such as oil, citizenship, debt, and boundaries, including the status of Abyei.Skip to next paragraph
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Reports mount daily of atrocities carried out against civilians from the Nuba Mountains, northerners who sided with the South during the civil war. In addition to aerial bombardments – often with rudimentary explosives made of oil drums pushed out the back of Antonovs – government-aligned militias are reportedly going door-to-door abducting or executing people sympathetic to the South’s ruling party. In one particularly harrowing account, a UN security report described smuggling out Sudanese staff in commercial vehicles because the northern army wasn’t allowing them to be evacuated.
Analysts, including those at Enough, have long warned that Abyei and the tensions in Sudan’s border states could reignite war between the North and South. But until recently, it looked as though the rival governments had concluded that a return to war was not in their interest. Now, the ferocity of the violence and the targeting of civilians in Abyei and Southern Kordofan force a re-evaluation of that assumption.
As the purely rhetorical international response to Abyei proved, public shaming of Bashir’s government accomplishes nothing. But contrary to the belief voiced quietly in diplomatic circles that the Obama administration has used up what influence it had in Sudan, there is more the United States could do to demonstrate to Bashir’s government that there are consequences for targeting its own civilians.
A statement by the Enough Project and partners at Sudan Now issued today outlines some of the specific actions the U.S. should take to pressure the Sudanese government to step back from a full-out war.
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