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June 24, 2011

Observations- aid worker - south Kordofan

"Making Haroun, an indicted war criminal wanted for genocide, the governor was a clear message to the people of South Kordofan.

" in the first week of June, Bashir's forces started an operation to "remove" any local people who had sided with the opposition during the recent elections. There was an enormous build-up of troops, artillery, tanks, and machine gun carriers. And now they've started ground attacks with strong air support. All access is cut off, official statements that any United Nations planes will be shot down, no commodities, going in or out, no humanitarian access, roads mined, large numbers of militias armed.

"With the invasion of troops in Kadugli, people began to run. Before Nuba became completely cut off we, were bombed by Antonovs and strafed by MiGs. Heavy shelling was never far away. It seems that there is an overt operation to completely "neutralise" (either by killing or by terrifying) any likelihood of opposition. There are very brutal and aggressive attacks with new weapons. We heard stories (we are not sure) of what sounded like phosphorous bombs that cause fires that never go out and horrible burning. People are terrified. There are many civilian casualties already and I fear it is going to get much worse.

"What can only be called ethnic cleansing, when an ethnic group is targeted for extermination, started in Kadugli and Dilling while we were there. Door to door executions of completely innocent and defenseless civilians, often by throat cutting, by special internal security forces. We don't know how many yet; hundreds seems for sure, but could be much worse. Terrible accounts of civilians - friends - attempting to find safety in the UNMIS (United Nations Missions of Sudan) compound being pulled out of vehicles and executed immediately. And now we hear that all the displaced who had been seeking some form of security alongside the perimeter fence of UNMIS are being forced to move by the government authorities. What will happen to them? Probably over 100,000 already displaced and more coming.

"But of course, as always, the real heroes are all the Nuba civilians trying to respond to the terrible humanitarian crisis and the targeted attacks. They are risking their lives in doing so.

"All phone networks there have been switched off by Khartoum (the day before it all started), so communication was very limited. And at the same time the spirit and bravery of the Nuba just continue to soar above the horror of it all and makes me start crying again as I write.

"So you know, this is not a war about south versus north, nor Christian against Muslim, or black against Arab. There are as many Muslim Nuba as Christian (and a healthy percentage of traditional spirituality), they see their future in the north, they are intermarried and have been living along side Arab nomadic groups and northern communities for centuries. There are nomadic Arab communities in southern Kordofan who also voted for the SPLM (Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement) and many of the Misseriya and Hawazma groups remain as marginalised as the Nuba, and as vulnerable to the policies of the center. The Nuba SPLM are not the same as the southern SPLM/A. They are fighting to resist a regime that refuses them basic rights and a voice - access to justice and even basic social and economic rights. This is so important because the Nuba offer a vision for Sudan that builds on religious tolerance and a local understanding of democracy - relevant for so many areas of the world right now.

"The UN "peace-keeping" forces are not only totally ineffective (summary executions going in front of blue berets in Kadugli) but may even add to the problem.

" The diplomatic efforts are too often driven by ill-informed strategies or self-serving policies more related to economic gain for us rather than any sense of humanity or justice. This return of a horrific war needn't have happened if only there had been much stronger international support for the planned political process. There was never enough international pressure to promote a genuine chance for a just peace.

"How can you help? Not sure at this stage. Any effort to demand of your government representatives a much greater attention to what is happening in South Kordofan would help. Not peace at any price, the Nuba despite their horror at the return to war can see no future unless there is a change of regime in Khartoum now.

" The key in the end is probably Arabic speaking media to help inform and activate all the very good Sudanese who live in the North and would be horrified by what their Government is doing but have no idea at what is actually happening. Anything that can raise the profile of what is happening can only help. Any of you who have contacts who are good at using internet to put out information (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) could also help. And pray to whatever goddesses and gods you're in touch with to sow a seed of doubt and hesitation and change the minds of those in power in the government who are responsible for all this, and to help the Nuba and others there in South.___________________________________

The Sudanese Army's move into Southern Kordofan comes just weeks after it seized control of Abyei, a border region that, unlike Southern Kordofan, is disputed territory between north and south. Khartoum says its actions were provoked by an ambush on its forces by the south, a claim southern officials deny.

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