Fleeing civilians hunted ‘like animals’ by helicopter gunships

JPIC Office USG/UISG

Sr. Pat Murray, executive director of the South Sudan Project, asked the JPIC Office to circulate this information on the deteriorating situation in South Sudan.

South Kordofan: reports of mass atrocities

Friday June 10 2011.  Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan state is a major humanitarian catastrophe in the making, with an estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to escape fighting.  The United Nations estimates that up to 40,000 people have fled fighting between Sudanese government troops, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s oil-producing border state of South Kordofan. Shelling was heard in the town of Kauda this morning and Antonov planes have been seen carrying out aerial bombardment in areas with a significant civilian population, in the Heiban and Um Dorain areas among others. Furthermore, low-flying MIG fighter planes have been used to terrify the displaced people seeking shelter around the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) compound just north of Kadugli.

For the last five days, people have locked themselves in their homes without food or water, for fear of being killed. Others have fled to the Nuba mountains, where they are being hunted down like animals by helicopter gunships, says the Sudan Council of Churches, an umbrella organisation representing all Sudanese churches.  Humanitarian efforts in and around Kadugli have been severely hampered by the fighting and the presence of large number of Sudan Armed Forces troops. Several eye-witness accounts indicate that SAF troops are carrying out “house-to-house” searches in the towns, pulling out suspected opposition sympathisers and in some cases killing them on the spot. Meanwhile, the SPLA has been accused of committing atrocities and failing to protect civilians.

A peace network of Christian churches that has worked in Sudan for nearly two decades, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, says the international community should pressurise both warring parties to fulfil their obligation to protect civilians. SEF co-chair Eberhard Hitzler says that unless an immediate no-fly zone over the state is created, emergency workers are allowed to deliver relief, and the United Nations Mission in Sudan protects civilians, killing will continue on an unprecedented scale. Both the SPLA and the government forces have a responsibility to protect civilians.  Since 1994, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum has played a major role in raising awareness in the international arena about conflicts in Sudan and contributed to peace-building, with the voice of the Sudanese churches at the centre.

SEF co-chair Eberhard Hitzler says urgent action is needed. “A humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale is unfolding in South Kordofan state. We appeal to the world leaders and governments to pay attention to this situation and urgently protect~people.” The SEF has already received many reports by independent witnesses claiming violence and atrocities against civilians. Two eyewitnesses saw people, perceived to be SPLA sympathisers, dragged out of the UNMIS compound in Kadugli and executed in front of UNMIS personnel, who did not intervene.  Meanwhile, UNMIS in Kauda – which was besieged by shelling earlier today – has apparently lost credibility with locals. This is affecting the quality of UN information, as many people are unwilling to speak to UN staff.  The eyewitness claims have been backed up by evidence from individual churches in the region, which have contacted SEF pleading for urgent assistance in bringing the world’s attention to the killings.

In addition to killings, looting, the burning of property and threats that have caused tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, the violence is a serious threat to stability between northern and southern Sudan and could affect the whole region, says Hitzler.“The international community, led by the UN Security Council, with the explicit and unwavering support from particularly China, USA, the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union, must urgently take all measures to stop hostilities, protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to all parts of South Kordofan, as a first step to re-engaging the opposing political and military parties in the search for a negotiated solution”.     Only such urgent international efforts can halt what is threatening to become a repeat of the mass atrocities, war crimes and protracted humanitarian crisis the world witnessed in neighbouring Darfur over the past decade, in Abyei in recent weeks and during the previous war in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990s.  The Sudan Council of Churches is calling on~the UN mission in the country to rescue survivors and on the international community to prevent a return to war in Sudan.

For more information please contact:

Eberhard Hitzler

Co-chair Sudan Ecumenical Forum

+41 22 791 6436 (direct)

+41 79 203 60 69 (mobile)

Ramadan Chan Liol

General Secretary, the Sudan Council of Churches

Tel: +249-915-672-358 (Sudan)

Tel: +254-723-700-557 (Kenya)

Ramadan.chan@gmail.com

Marina Peters

Sudan Ecumenical Forum

+(49)175 1647 413

Sudan.fpe@real-net.de

Also from South Sudan:

From Fr. Callistus Joseph, Director of SSS Projects Subject: Fwd: Kadugli has been the center of violent fighting

Dear Pat,

I just heard that two Sudan aid personnel were brutally killed by the SAF. The situation is becoming more alarming and it is not sporadic as people think. It is systematic. A few minutes ago John Ashworth came into our office and I asked him if we should ask religious in other parts of the world to start lobbying for an urgent look at this situation by calling their members of Parliament or their representative. He said it would be good to do that so that these incidents will not be treated as isolated incidents but as a systematic method of ethnic cleansing that North had use for many years and had a respite during CPA.

The spread of violence to Nuba and then to the border of Unity state puts Malakal in between the two and perhaps could be the next source of conflict. Please start alerting the congregations and request them to call their representative in respective countries to bring this issue to the fore. Attention towards so many uprisings in many Arab countries may help prevent the North from getting away with these brutal inhumane attacks on civilians. Please also ask for prayers for Peace in Sudan and for a peaceful transition for this newest nation.

From: John Ashworth <ashworth.john@gmail.com>

To: Group <sudan-john-ashworth@googlegroups.com>

Sent: Sat, June 11, 2011 10:23:35 AM

Subject: [sudan-john-ashworth] Fwd: International church statements on South Kordofan

1. South Kordofan: reports of mass atrocities. Fleeing civilians hunted ‘like animals’ by helicopter gunships

Friday June 10 2011.  Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan state is a major humanitarian catastrophe in the making, with an estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to escape fighting. The United Nations estimates that up to 40,000 people have fled fighting between Sudanese government troops, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s

Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s oil-producing border state of South Kordofan. Shelling was heard in the town of Kauda this morning and Antonov planes have been seen carrying out aerial bombardment in areas with a significant civilian population, in the Heiban and Um Dorain areas among others. Furthermore, low-flying MIG fighter planes have been used to terrify the displaced people seeking shelter around the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) compound just north of Kadugli.

For the last five days, people have locked themselves in their homes without food or water, for fear of being killed. Others have fled to the Nuba mountains, where they are being hunted down like animals by helicopter gunships, says the Sudan Council of Churches, an umbrella organisation representing all Sudanese churches. Humanitarian efforts in and around Kadugli have been severely hampered by the fighting and the presence of large number of Sudan Armed Forces troops. Several eye-witness accounts indicate that SAF troops are

carrying out “house-to-house” searches in the towns, pulling out suspected opposition sympathisers and in some cases killing them on the spot. Meanwhile, the SPLA has been accused of committing atrocities and failing to protect civilians. A peace network of Christian churches that has worked in Sudan for nearly two decades, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, says the international community should pressurise both warring parties to fulfil their obligation to protect civilians. SEF co-chair Eberhard Hitzler says that unless an immediate no-fly zone over the state is created,

emergency workers are allowed to deliver relief, and the United Nations Mission in Sudan protects civilians, killing will continue on an unprecedented scale. Both the SPLA and the government forces have a responsibility to protect civilians. Since 1994, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum has played a major role in raising awareness in the international arena about conflicts in Sudan and contributed to peace-building, with the voice of the Sudanese churches at the centre.

SEF co-chair Eberhard Hitzler says urgent action is needed. “A humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale is unfolding in South Kordofan state. We appeal to the world leaders and governments to pay attention to this situation and urgently protect people.” The SEF has already received many reports by independent witnesses claiming violence and atrocities against civilians. Two eyewitnesses saw people, perceived to be SPLA sympathisers, dragged out of the UNMIS compound in Kadugli and executed in front of UNMIS personnel, who did not intervene.

Meanwhile, UNMIS in Kauda – which was besieged by shelling earlier today – has apparently lost credibility with locals. This is affecting the quality of UN information, as many people are unwilling to speak to UN staff. The eyewitness claims have been backed up by evidence from individual churches in the region, which have contacted SEF pleading for urgent assistance in bringing the world’s attention to the killings. In addition to killings, looting, the burning of property and threats that have caused tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, the violence is a serious threat to stability between northern and southern Sudan and could affect the whole region, says Hitzler.

“The international community, led by the UN Security Council, with the explicit and unwavering support from particularly China, USA, the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union, must urgently take all measures to stop hostilities, protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to all parts of South Kordofan, as a first step to re-engaging the opposing political and military parties in the search for a negotiated solution”.

Only such urgent international efforts can halt what is threatening to become a repeat of the mass atrocities, war crimes and protracted humanitarian crisis the world witnessed in neighbouring Darfur over the past decade, in Abyei in recent weeks and during the previous war in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990s. The Sudan Council of Churches is calling on the UN mission in the country to rescue survivors and on the international community to prevent a return to war in Sudan.

For more information please contact:

Eberhard Hitzler

Co-chair Sudan Ecumenical Forum

+41 22 791 6436 (direct)

+41 79 203 60 69 (mobile)

Ramadan Chan Liol

General Secretary, the Sudan Council of Churches

Tel: +249-915-672-358 (Sudan)

Tel: +254-723-700-557 (Kenya)

Ramadan.chan@gmail.com

Marina Peters

Sudan Ecumenical Forum

+(49)175 1647 413

Sudan.fpe@real-net.de

END1

2. Current violence in Sudan threatens independent South Sudan

WCC – For immediate release: 10 June 2011

Contact: +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org

Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s disputed South Kordofan State is leading to major humanitarian catastrophe with an estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to escape fighting, according to a number of aid agencies and witnesses in the region.

Up to 40,000 people have fled recent fighting between Sudanese government troops and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s oil-producing state of South Kordofan, the United Nations has said. “The violence and displacement of people now taking place is a potential threat to the peaceful transition and independence of South Sudan,” WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said Friday. “We call on those involved to end the violence immediately and for those countries involved in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which led to the January referendum to place pressure on both sides to resolve this situation.”

In the 9 January referendum nearly 99 percent of voters in southern Sudan – which is predominantly Christian and animist – chose to secede from the rest of Sudan. In doing so they created the world’s newest nation which on 9 July will formally declare and celebrate their independence. The remainder of Sudan has a Muslim majority and leadership. “The people of Sudan as well as the churches in Sudan have committed too much of their lives in the past decades to work for peace to see the region slip into violence again,” Tveit said. “The ecumenical community worldwide calls upon the participants to now move forward into a future of peace for all. The will and desire of the people of Sudan is for peace and justice and we must all help to make this dream a reality.” The United States, China, African Union, European Union and Arab. League all played a crucial role in brokering the Comprehensive Peace

Agreement (CPA) and their involvement, along with civil society efforts that include the Sudan Council of Churches and the Sudan Ecumenical Forum (SEF), led to the peaceful referendum process. Longstanding ecumenical engagement. Since 1994, the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, which has been supported by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), has played a major role in raising awareness in the international arena about conflicts in Sudan, with the voice of the Sudanese churches at the centre. The Rev. Eberhard Hitzler, co-chair of the SEF, said on Friday that urgent action is needed. “A humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale is unfolding in South Kordofan State. We appeal to world leaders and governments to pay attention to this situation and urgently protect people.” Former South African president Thabo Mbeki met on Thursday with Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum.  Mbeki was scheduled to fly to Juba today, Friday, to confer with southern leaders.

Already, SEF has received reports by independent witnesses claiming violence and atrocities against civilians. Witnesses report seeing people perceived to be SPLA sympathizers dragged out of the United Nations Missions in Sudan (UNMIS) compound in Kadugli and executed in front of UNMIS personnel who did not intervene. These claims from witnesses have been backed up by evidence of churches in the region which have contacted SEF pleading for urgent assistance and to bring the killings to the world’s attention. According to a report from the Reuters news agency on Friday, the south is bracing for aerial bombardment. In addition to killings, looting, burning of property and tens of

thousands of people on the run, the violence is a serious threat to stability between northern and southern Sudan and could affect the whole region, Hitzler says. The Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) is also calling on the humanitarian community and the UN mission to rescue survivors and on the international community to prevent a return to war in Sudan. For the last five days, survivors have locked themselves into their homes, without food or water, for fear of being killed. Others have fled to the mountains where they are being pursued by helicopter gunships, the SCC says.

END2

3. Ecumenical News International

Daily News Service

10 June 2011

Renewed Sudan fighting causing humanitarian crisis

ENI-11-0302

By Fredrick Nzwili

Nairobi, Kenya, 10 June (ENInews)–Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s disputed South Kordofan State is leading to a major humanitarian catastrophe with an estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to escape fighting, according to a number of aid agencies and witnesses in the region. Up to 40,000 people have fled recent fighting between Sudanese government troops and members of the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s oil-producing state of South Kordofan, according to a U.N.

report quoted by the World Council of Churches (WCC). “The violence and displacement of people now taking place is a potential threat to the peaceful transition and independence of South Sudan,” WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said on 10 June. “We call on those involved to end the violence immediately and for those countries involved in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which led to the January referendum to place pressure on both sides to resolve this situation.”

Churches have been caught in the fighting, with some destroyed and their property looted, Sudanese clergy said. “Some of the churches have burnt down completely. Others have been destroyed with their windows being shattered by heavy artillery. The fighters looted everything before setting them ablaze,” the Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, the general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches told ENInews on 10 June in a telephone interview. Chan said church leaders believed the burning and destruction was instigated. “We have heard the government say in the past the northern region will ruled through sharia (Islamic) law when the south breaks away. We believe the Sudanese army and Islamic militias carried out the burning.” The fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLA, the former

rebel army, started in villages in the Nuba Mountains region on 5. June, according to Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church diocese of Kadugli. “The Church of Christ in Kadugli (town) was burnt down. My staff were scattered. We are still trying to find them,” he said in brief report received by ENInews in an e-mail

on 10 June.  A church source quoted an eyewitness saying that tear gas was used on 9 June to force out of a church compound a priest, sisters and more than 100 Christians. The Sudanese clergy had warned in May that any fighting in the country could derail South Sudan independence which is expected to be inaugurated on 9 July. A peace agreement in 2005, which ended a 21-year civil war, mandated a referendum on 9 January, in which the south Sudanese voted for secession.

The pact, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) does not give South Kordofan the right to join South Sudan in its independence, and South Kordofan is now under the control of the central government. Elections for the state’s governor in May turned controversial after the candidate from the National Congress Party won. The Sudan People. Liberation Movement candidate rejected the results saying they were

fraudulent. This is cited as one cause of the fighting.  “The churches and pastors were directly targeted (on 5 May) in the guest house in Kadugli where my staff lives. Militias and SAF broke into the house taking all properties … they were looking for pastorsand the bishop,” said Elnail. “We need the UN to arrest the situation

… and stop the bloodshed. We need prayers and support,” he said.  Sudanese church leaders say the situation is deteriorating fast and fear there is “ethnic cleansing” unfolding in the Nuba Mountains. “More and more voices on the ground are now describing this as “ethnic cleansing” and comparing it to the genocide which took place in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990s. Clearly it needs an urgent international response,” said John Ashworth, who advises the Sudan

Ecumenical Forum on Sudan issues.

The United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

said on 8 June that some 7,000 people displaced in the fighting had

sought refuge in the United Nations Mission in the Sudan compound.

— With files from the World Council of Churches.

Ecumenical News International

PO Box 2100

CH – 1211 Geneva 2

Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088 – 6111

Fax: (41-22) 788 7244

Email: eni@eni.ch

END3

______________________

John Ashworth

Sudan Advisor

Sudan Ecumenical Forum

ashworth.john@gmail.com

+254 725 926 297 (Kenya mobile)

+249 919 695 362 (Sudan mobile)

+27 82 853 3556 (South Africa mobile)

+44 750 304 1790 (UK/international)

+88 216 4334 0735 (Thuraya satphone)

PO Box 52002 – 00200, Nairobi, Kenya

This is a personal e-mail address and the contents do not necessarily  reflect the views of any organisation.  The content of this message does not necessarily reflect John Ashworth’s views. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, John Ashworth is not the author of the content and the source is always cited.