The current humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan has prompted UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos to issue an urgent statement (PDF; external link) highlighting growing concerns for the safety and wellbeing of citizens in the region. The area, which spans parts of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, has seen intermittent violence between Sudanese government forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, a rebel group comprised of soldiers who had previously fought against the Sudanese government in the North-South civil war.
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The last few weeks have brought more evidence of the power of individuals—whether movie stars like George Clooney in Sudan or the little known creators of the Kony 2012 viral video—to shine a light on the world’s worst crimes. This kind of attention is usually for the good, forcing government leaders to confront dire situations that do not typically get the kind of policy focus they deserve.
New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, on his latest reporting mission to Sudan this week, presents a stark reminder of an overlooked conflict where thousands of lives have already been lost and hundreds of thousands more remain at risk.
Disturbing news emerged from South Sudan this past week as reports surfaced of some of the worst inter-ethnic violence there in months. While the battle among tribes over scarce water and grazing resources is not new in South Sudan, the scale and brutality of the violence and what it portends for broader national unity is cause for alarm. Perhaps of even greater concern is the UN's inability to prevent the violence.
The world’s newest nation—the Republic of South Sudan—was born July 9 amidst parades, speeches, and banquets attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the Crown Prince of Norway, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, 29 other heads of state, and some 200,000 to 300,000 South Sudanese. I had the privilege of attending the ceremonies as a guest of the South Sudanese government. As I sat in the reviewing stand with others in the 95-degree heat, listening to 13 speeches of congratulations and the reading of the new nation’s Declaration of Independence, I had time to reflect on the extraordinary cost of creating this new republic. Four million Southern Sudanese lost their lives in two civil wars spread out over 49 years, with some of the most horrific atrocities—committed by the North against the South—in recent human rights history.
On one of our first days after arriving in Juba last fall, former US Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios, photojournalist Lucian Perkins and myself sat down with Acuil Malith Banggol, a former political officer with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the rebel force in southern Sudan. He explained why southern Sudanese no longer wished to be part of Sudan, about how the Dinka, Nuer and other peoples of the south had been marginalized and persecuted by the authorities in Khartoum for three decades.
The above map is an excerpt from a larger map produced by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) detailing displacement in Kordofan. More information about OCHA's work in Sudan can be found here.
The Nuba Mountains is an area about 30,000 square miles, situated in the southern part of the state of Kordofan, and home to Christians, Muslims, and traditional believers. The Nuba people were decimated when the Sudanese government conducted systematic assaults against them, a policy that reached a destructive peak in 1992-1993, but continued for years thereafter.
"On the night of 21 May 2011, SAF attacked and took control of Abyei, amidst artillery shelling, armored tank firing, mortar shelling, and machine gun fire. There was heavy fighting, especially around UNMIS compound, presumably between the SAF and South Sudan Police Services (SSPS) and possibly armed Ngok youths."
As the eve of South Sudan’s independence rapidly approaches, incidents of new violence have occurred along the north/south border and new information about violence in South Sudan has emerged.