The top United Nations humanitarian official in Sudan today called for an immediate halt to the fighting in the state of Southern Kordofan so that civilians affected by the recent violence can receive the help they need.
The outbreak of fighting in Kadugli, the state capital, and in some rural villages in Southern Kordofan has uprooted civilians from their homes, with an estimated 7,000 people having sought refuge near the base of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in Kadugli.
Georg Charpentier, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, voiced his concern about the impact of the worsening security situation on civilians and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, according to a statement issued in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
He also reiterated the responsibility of national authorities to protect civilian populations and urged all parties “to allow humanitarian organizations to assess the situation and provide necessary emergency relief to the affected population.”
Mr. Charpentier’s call comes just days after UNMIS urged the parties to exercise maximum restraint and resume dialogue to resolve their dispute. The latest violence in Southern Kordofan, as well as in the disputed region of Abyei, comes just weeks before Southern Sudan formally separates on 9 July from the rest of the country, following a referendum held in January.
The statement by the Humanitarian Coordinator noted that some of the emergency relief stocks pre-positioned in Kadugli, in particular food and shelter materials, have been secured and transferred to the UNMIS base for distribution to civilians concentrated near the camp.
“Humanitarian organizations present on the ground, with the support of UNMIS and state authorities, are trying to ascertain the exact number of affected population in Kadugli and elsewhere in the state, although ongoing fighting is hindering their ability to move freely,” it stated.
UNMIS is providing physical protection to the displaced persons who have sought refuge near its compound in Kadugli. “Already, the numbers have exceeded capacity, in keeping with established norms, and we have appealed for assistance from the other UN agencies,” said Mark Rutgers, the head of the UN office.
A compound used by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had been identified as another possible location for a protected area, Mr. Rutgers said, but this was reconsidered due to its proximity to Kadugli town, and reported advancement of fighting forces to its location.
“Already, the IDPs coming in a steady stream are spilling out of the area we had originally set up for them,” he stated.
In a related development, the independent UN expert dealing with the human rights situation in Sudan today voiced his concern at the destruction, massive displacement and attendant humanitarian crisis in Abyei in the wake of the recent violence there.
Violence and looting broke out in Abyei, a town contested by both north and south Sudan, after the troops from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) took control of the area last month, displacing nearly 100,000, according to estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Last week the Security Council called on the Sudanese Government to withdraw immediately from Abyei, stating that its military presence in the area constitutes “a serious violation” of previous agreements.
“I urge the Government in Khartoum to abide by the call of the UN Security Council for the SAF to withdraw its forces from Abyei, and to create the necessary conditions for the return of the residents to their ancestral homeland,” Special Rapporteur Mohammed Chande Othman told a news conference in Khartoum at the end of his third visit to the country.
Having received allegations of killings, rapes and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment during and subsequent to the attack, he urged the SAF and the Sudanese Government to grant “unqualified access” to UNMIS to enter into Abyei town to verify these allegations, and for the Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the events to bring those responsible to justice.
“The key to the resolution of the Abyei conflict and to the improvement of the human rights situation lies in political engagement between the parties,” said Mr. Othman.
He also voiced concern about the continued hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and rebel militia groups that have displaced more than 10,000 people in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states and led to a number of deaths among civilians.
“I appeal to the Government of South Sudan to fulfil its responsibility to protect all civilians and to take concrete measures to address widespread impunity and lack of accountability,” he stated.
Mr. Othman also highlighted the plight of civilians in the strife-torn Darfur region who he said continue to bear the brunt of fighting between armed movements and Sudanese Government forces.
He called on the Government and the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live in “very precarious conditions,” and urged the Government to create a safe and secure environment for the displaced communities.
Mr. Othman reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.