"Sudan and South Sudan: threat of full-scale war places populations at risk of human rights abuses", ICRtoP
Reignited violence on the Sudan-South Sudan border threatens populations
Tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have escalated significantly, resulting in renewed violence and the risk of war, threatening the populations of both nations, and disrupting steps taken to address outstanding issues, including oil, citizenship and border demarcation, that have remained since South Sudan’s July 2011 independence. Aerial bombing by Sudanese forces in civilian areas of South Sudan’s Unity State, having increased in intensity since initial clashes over the disputed Heglig oil field, resulted in at least eight dead and twenty-two injured since 14 April. The attacks prompted United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to condemn on 17 April the “indiscriminate” attacks, calling on both sides “to avoid escalation of armed confrontation, bearing in mind the dire human rights and humanitarian consequences for civilians.”
Air and land clashes in the disputed regions of the Unity State began in late March, causing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to suspend his participation in a summit in South Sudan’s capital of Juba to be held on 3 April to resolve issues of oil production and border disputes. Renewed violence between Sudan and South Sudan surged in the Heglig oil field, a contested border region, which has been periodically claimed by both states since the independence of South Sudan. On 10 April, the army spokesperson for South Sudan claimed that Sudanese warplanes and artillery attacked a n oil pipeline in Heglig and that the South had been able to divert an attack in the border town of Teshwin. Following these allegations, Sudan withdrew on 11 April from ongoing AU mediated talks, which had been established to engage both countries in peaceful negotiations for the resolution of outstanding issues.
The clashes prompted the African Union (AU
) and the UN Secretary-General to express their grave concern on 11 April, calling on all parties to exercise restraint and respect for the territorial integrity of both states. As reported on 12 April, the AU Peace and Security Council condemned South Sudan’s initial seizure of Heglig as “illegal,” and urged both countries to avert a “disastrous” war. In a 12 April Presidential Statement, th e UNSC demanded a “complete, immediate and unconditional” end to violence, the establishment of a Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, the withdrawal of troops from Heglig, and the return to peaceful dialogue. The UN and AU reminded the countries of their obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding and Non-Aggression and Cooperation Agreement, a pact in which both states agreed in February 2012 to hold talks to discuss the remaining issues and tensions.
Following calls to halt further violence, South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin stated on 12 April that troops would only withdraw from Heglig if certain conditions were met; including a cease of air and ground attacks by Sudan, the withdrawal of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) from Abyei and a guarantee that Heglig “will not be used for another attack against territory.” The following day, South Sudan called for UN action, stating that it would only withdraw troops if neutral UN monitoring forces were deployed to the region. Although South Sudanese President Salva Kiir had openly stated he did not want war and urged the international community and the UN to pressure Sudan into peace talks, President Omar al-Bashir accused South Sudan of “choosing a path of war” and branded the country as an “enemy state” on 16 April.
As the threat to populations escalated, the Secretariat of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region issued a statement on 16 April, followed by an AU statement on 17 April, calling on both countries to end the conflict. The AU stressed the importance of ensuring “that armed forces adhere scrupulously to relevant provisions of human rights law and international humanitarian law, with respect to the protection of civilians.” The UN Security Council (UNSC) reportedly began a discussion on 16 April considering the imposition of sanctions on both governments if the clashes do not stop. AU Mediator Thabo Mbeki briefed the UNSC on 17 April, warning that the two sides were locked in “the logic of war”. The League of Arab States also announced on 19 April that it would hold an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis. On the same day in a press briefing, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to exercise restraint and begin peaceful negotiations again.
By 18 April tensions between the two states had risen and President al-Bashir referred to South Sudan as an “insect…trying to destroy Sudan” with his “main target from today…to eliminate this insect completely”. Sudan followed these calls on 19 April with renewed air strikes on Heglig, resulting in President Kiir’s announcement the following day that South Sudanese forces would withdraw from the oil field. Such action may not end the conflict, however, as Sudanese government spokesperson Rabie Abdelaty declared that “it is too l ate for them to withdraw…they should just surrender.”
Civil society responses to the escalating conflict
The International Federation for Human Rights urged Sudan and South Sudan on 14 April to comply with the Memorandum of Understanding in order to reach a peaceful settlement, warning that “the current fighting could escalate into widespread violence accompanied by increased violations of the rights of the civilian population.” The International Crisis Group issued a crisis alert on 18 April calling on the international and regional communities to implement measures to prevent “full-scale war” and pressure Sudan to adopt a national reform agenda that would bring an end to impunity in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and support efforts of UNAMID and UNISFA to protect civil ians. For additional background information, see the Global Centre for R2P’s updated timeline.
Failing to meet the 8 April deadline, issue of citizenship remains unresolved
Meanwhile, the issues that remain since South Sudan’s independence continue to go unaddressed, including the subject of citizenship for northerners in the south and southerners in the north. Both countries had agreed ahead of the formation of South Sudan to a nine-month transitional period to resolve remaining matters. The government of Sudan had previously stated that Southerners would have until 8 April to return to South Sudan or be “treated as foreigners.” On 9 April, Sudan began registering South Sudanese as “foreigners” and stripped many of their identity cards and documents. Floods of people flocked to the airport in Khartoum only to be left stranded and denied permission to board flights due to their disputed legal status.
1. Preventing Full-Scale War between Sudan and South Sudan
International Crisis Group
18 April 2012
Sudan and South Sudan are teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit. Increasingly angry rhetoric, support for each other’s rebels, poor command and control, and brinkmanship, risk escalating limited and contained conflict into a full-scale confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA). Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted on both governments by the region and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as such partners as the U.S., China and key Gulf states. The immediate priority needs to be a ceasefire and security deal between North and South, as well as in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But equally important, for the longer-term, are solutions to unresolved post-referendum issues, unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (that ended the civil war in 2005), and domestic reforms in both countrie s. (…)
A game of “chicken” appears to be underway, in which both sides embark on risky strategies in the hope that the other will blink first. If neither does, the outcome will be disastrous for both. (…)
Khartoum and Juba need to exercise restraint and consider carefully the consequences of their actions. The decision to abandon negotiations and resort to increasingly bellicose posturing can only hurt both. (…) Stability is necessary in both the North and the South for either to develop and prosper and, in turn, enjoy long-term stability. (…)
(…) Fundamentally, the current conflict is rooted in the CPA's unimplemented provisions, such as the status of Abyei, the cancelled popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and disputed borders, as well as unresolved issues stemming from separation. While they have acknowledged their interdependence, the two countries must still reach detailed agreements on many divisive issues, such as the joint exploitation of oil, transitional financial arrangements, citizenship, security and trade. The time for posturing and brinkmanship is past; they must return to the table promptly and sustain the focus and commitment necessary to hammer out and implement deals. Otherwise, if these critical issues are allowed to fester, they will undermine any ceasefire or limited peace deal. (…)
With developments increasingly appearing to be spiraling out of control, a new strategy is needed to avert an even bigger crisis. (…) The international community must focus not only on North-South issues or the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, but also require the NCP to agree to an immediate, inclusive, national reform process. The first priority needs to be for a security deal that stops both the fighting between the North and the South, as well as Khartoum and the SRF, but for this to hold it must also be clearly linked to binding commitments to discuss and implement political reforms.
The UN – the Security Council – should exert pressure on the two presidents to meet and negotiate an immediate ceasefire. This should be based on the 29 June 2011 Agreement on Border Security and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, as well as the 10 February 2012 Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation. They also need to reach common ground on a security deal for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile based on the 24 June 2011 Framework Agreement, to be monitored by an enhanced JBVMM.
To encourage reforms in Khartoum, a united international community, particularly the African Union (AU), Arab League and UN, should put pressure on the NCP to accept a free and unhindered national dialogue aimed at creating a national stabilisation program that includes defined principles for establishing an inclusive constitutional arrangement accepted by all. (…)
If the NCP commits seriously to such a national reform agenda, regional actors and the wider international community should offer assistance. Major players like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the Arab League, China, the U.S., EU and AU must recognise that reform is necessary for stability and requires their support. (…) Meanwhile, North-South relations may also be improved by greater domestic stability in South Sudan. Building institutions, extending service delivery, bolstering economic growth, and calming inter-communal tensions are among the priorities, and will be served in part by advancing promised political reforms. This includes an opening of political space inside and outside the SPLM, and an inclusive constitution-making process, that should be supported by partners and donors.
2. Active fighting between Sudan and South Sudan must stop to allow for a negotiated settlement of the conflict
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
14 April 2012
FIDH and its member organisation, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACPJS), urge the Sudanese and South Sudanese authorities to comply with the Memorandum of Understanding on Non-aggression and Cooperation signed by both parties on February 10th 2012. (…)
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have been engaged in clashes around the disputed region around Heglig in South Kordofan (Sudan) and in Unity State (South Sudan) since March 26, 2012, with each side claiming to be acting in response to attacks from the other. Inflammatory statements from both sides have accompanied these confrontations including mutual general mobilizations of the Sudanese and South Sudanese populations to respond to the aggression from each side.
(…) In its fight against the SPLA-N, the Sudanese authorities continue to commit serious human rights violations that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity including indiscriminate bombings, looting and burning down villages, sexual violence, and extra-judicial executions. Mr. Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of South Kordofan who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his alleged responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur, recently issued ominous instructions to members of the SAF clearly suggesting that they should not bring back any prisoners. (…)
(…) If both parties fail to agree on critical issues such as the demarcation of the international border between their two countries, the status of the contested region of Abyei, questions of citizenship and repatriation, and oil transit fees, the current fighting could escalate into widespread violence accompanied by increased violations of the rights of the civilian population.
Our organisations call upon the international community - notably the AU the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACPHR) - to put pressure on both parties to immediately end hostilities and resume negotiations with the goal of reaching concrete and rapid results. (…)