Clashes continue to be reported in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan despite calls by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top United Nations officials for an end to the hostilities that have displaced tens of thousands of civilians since it began earlier this month.
There are unconfirmed estimates of more than 53,000 people displaced due to the fighting in Southern Kordofan between the northern army known as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of Southern Sudan, according to the UN humanitarian wing.
Fighting, including bombardments and artillery shelling, has been reported in 11 of 19 localities in Southern Kordofan state, and fighting has been reported in Unity state in Southern Sudan, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.
Some of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN staff, have taken refuge outside the compound of the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) on the outskirts of the Southern Kordofan capital of Kadugli.
The mission has been assisting the displaced, including feeding about 4,000 of them in Kadugli itself, but its efforts have been hampered by restrictions on movement imposed by the SAF. It has also reinforced its strength in the area by bringing in troops from other parts of the country.
Hua Jiang, the head of public information for UNMIS, said the mission is doing its best, but as the number of the IDPs continues to grow by the day, its military strength is “stretching to its limit.”
UNMIS has also relocated some non-essential staff from Kadugli to El Obeid, in Northern Kordofan state. Ms. Jiang said a convoy carrying about 31 staff members made it to El Obeid today after two previous attempts failed because the SAF, which is controlling Kadugli and surrounding areas, would not let the convoy go through.
UN aid agencies have been working to assist the IDPs, including providing food assistance to thousands at the UNMIS compound. OCHA said access to water is inadequate as the compound remains cut off from supply lines, and that displaced families are collecting water two to three kilometres away from the compound, despite the insecure situation.
OCHA stressed the urgency of carrying out a needs assessment as soon as security conditions allow. Humanitarian partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have started preparations to dispatch pre-positioned food and non-food items as soon as possible.
The latest violence comes as the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan prepares to become an independent State on 9 July, following a referendum held at the start of this year in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war.
Speaking at an event in New York on promoting durable peace in Sudan and South Sudan, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) stressed the importance of basic security for both countries to flourish.
“It is well recognized that economic and social development can only occur if basic security is provided,” said Lazarous Kapambwe. “At the same time, a successful and rapid implementation of economic and social programmes could help to stabilize the fragile security situation.”
He added that once independence has become a reality, both nations will be faced with numerous socio-economic challenges in consolidating on the gains of the CPA. Southern Sudan in particular will be faced with a number of “daunting development deficits,” he said, noting estimates that 90 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, 92 per cent of women cannot read or write, few children go to school, and 80 per cent of the population lacks access to health care.