While the United Nations and its members remain unable or unwilling to take action to stop the conflict unfolding in South Kordofan, a recently leaked UN report, titled “United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS) Report on the Human Rights Situation During the Violence in Southern Kordofan,” makes clear that UN officials are well aware that a bloody and ethnically targeted slaughter is under way.
The report, which has not been officially released, comes after claims by both UN and U.S. officials that there is currently no concrete and confirmable evidence that crimes are being committed by the Sudanese government. The regime’s offensive, which Khartoum claims is meant to root out a stubborn rebel resistance, began in early June. While reports accusing government forces of targeting civilians have surfaced from the start, the leaked UNMIS report, based on eyewitness descriptions by civilians and UN staff, gives the most detailed, horrific, and credible account issued so far.
Confirming the worst fears of some observers, the report gives concrete evidence that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), during their unrelenting assault, have targeted civilians of specific ethnicity as well as other noncombatants thought to be sympathetic to the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)—hundreds are reported dead and thousands wounded as aircraft, artillery, and troops have targeted villages. Confirming earlier reports by the Satellite Sentinel Project, witnesses who spoke to UNMIS staff also claim that “they saw fresh mass graves” around the South Kordofan capital of Kadugli. Two UN military observers sent to verify this were arrested, stripped, and beaten, then released and told to avoid the area.
The report also details systematic efforts by government forces to cut off humanitarian aid to the area by bombing airstrips, erecting roadblocks, and raiding compounds where aid material is stored. It also contains allegations that Sudanese forces have harassed UNMIS staff. Aside from using force or the threat of force to keep UN staff from investigating rumors of war crimes, the SAF have arrested, interrogated, shot at, and, in one confirmed instance, executed UNMIS staff.
The UN has been not only been unable to put a halt to this quickly degrading crisis, but it has failed to provide protection to civilians. Thousands who flocked to the UNMIS compound were forced to leave by government agents. According to the report, “National Security agents, donning Sudan Red Crescent vests, came to the UNMIS Protective Perimeter and requested all the IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] to relocate to the Kadugli Stadium . . . where they would be provided basic services including shelter in schools.” UNMIS staff claim many of these people were arrested shortly after leaving the area. Further accounts by eyewitnesses claim that SAF soldiers entered the protective perimeter and executed alleged SPLM members while UN peacekeepers stood nearby.
Columnist Eric Reeves has compared the situation in South Kordofan to the Srebrenica massacre. All of the countries capable of successfully intervening have indicated that they will not. The UN is likely to be hamstrung by conflict of interests, and China would very likely wield its veto in the Security Council to protect the government it does business with in Khartoum. According to Reeves, in this situation “real hope . . . seems entirely unwarranted.”