UN reports ‘extremely worrying’ attacks on civilians in Southern Kordofan

From the UN News Centre:

10 June 2011 –
The United Nations human rights office today said it had received “extremely worrying” reports of civilian casualties and massive displacement of people, amid deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan, where forces of the northern and southern governments are engaged in fighting.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to immediately stop the indiscriminate shelling, refrain from attacks on civilians and provide safe corridors for the safe passage of civilians, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The northern army known as the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) is reported to be engaged in fighting with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of Southern Sudan, the semi-autonomous region that is due to become an independent State next month. Clashes have taken place in the Southern Kordofan capital of Kadugli and surrounding areas.

Mr. Colville said OHCHR officers have been in touch with doctors and a priest in the region who confirmed a number of civilian injuries and deaths in Um Durein village and Talodi town, as well as house-to-house searches west of Kadugli.

Roadblocks have been erected preventing medical and humanitarian access, and a number of civilians have been killed while trying to retrieve food from their homes. The Kadugli Catholic Church, where a number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought refuge, has also come under attack.

“To give one example of the types of reports we have been receiving, a 25-year-old man from the Hagar Alnar neighbourhood told human rights officers that he and his eight siblings decided to revisit their home on Wednesday morning to retrieve food and other items, but they were confronted by police forces who shot and killed two of his brothers. The fate of the other six is unknown. Eyewitnesses confirmed the incident,” said Mr. Colville.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that between 30,000 and 40,000 people, out of an estimated 60,000 inhabitants of Kadugli, are believed to have fled the town. Dilling town and a number of villages in the areas around Kadugli are also reported to be deserted, according to the OCHA spokesperson in Geneva, Elisabeth Byrs.

Some civilians have arrived in El Obeid, in Northern Kordofan state, some 250 kilometres north of Kadugli, in vehicles, while others are reportedly moving further north. Others are headed southwards towards the Nuba Mountains on foot.

Some IDPs, as well as local and international non-governmental organisations and UN staff, have taken refuge outside the compound of the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) on the outskirts of Kadugli. The number of displaced people along the main road between the UNMIS compound and the airport is estimated at between 6,000 and 10,000 people, according to OCHA.

UNMIS has erected six tents with the capacity to accommodate 400 people and has distributed water to the IDPs around the compound. A delegation of UN officials, including Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier, visited Kadugli yesterday and met with the governor in a bid to persuade authorities to protect civilians and humanitarian assets.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) planned to begin food distributions tomorrow for up to 10,000 IDPs near the UNMIS compound in Kadugli, and about 7,000 others in villages around Kauda, according to spokesperson Emilia Casella.

The distributions will, however, depend on the security situation, she added. The agency was, until now, unable to distribute food due to insecurity and a lack of access to the warehouse in Kadugli.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that the Kadugli hospital was not functioning, but the medical officer in charge of the hospital was providing services to IDPs near the UNMIS compound.

The agency, in partnership with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, has also started providing medical services to the displaced population there, Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesperson told reporters in Geneva.

WHO will in the next two days ship an additional 30 basic health kits to Southern Kordofan, enough to cover the needs of 30,000 people for three months. Over the past three weeks essential drugs and medical supplies had been pre-positioned in seven primary health care centres in anticipation of a possible spill-over of the conflict in the disputed area of Abyei into Kadugli.

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