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Ahmed Harun, governor of the Sudanese state of South Kordofan, has been caught on film giving orders to the Sudanese army that may be interpreted as encouraging troops to commit war crimes against rebels.

In the video, published by Al Jazeera yesterday, Harun, who has already been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur, instructs his soldiers to “take no prisoners” in a speech delivered just before his soldiers enter rebel territory.

Says Harun: “You must hand over the place clean. Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them.”

According to United to End Genocide, civilians in South Kordofan are not only in immediate danger of suffering direct, undifferentiated violence simply by virtue of living there, but are also in danger of starvation due to the ongoing conflict’s interference with adequate farming and the delivery of food aid.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Harun’s arrest, saying: “A commander has a responsibility to ensure that his troops are not violating the law. He cannot encourage them to commit crimes. ‘Take no prisoners’ means a crime against humanity or a war crime, because if the prisoner was a combatant it is a war crime and if the prisoner was a civilian it’s a crime against humanity.”

Advocate Eric Reeves, who has written extensively about Khartoum’s aerial military attacks on civilians throughout Sudan, recently wrote an article for the Sudan Tribune calling for pressure on Khartoum to accept the multilateral humanitarian access proposal put forth jointly by the African Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations.

On March 29, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to, among other regions, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The resolution also encourages the two Sudans to cease hostilities, return to negotiations, and allow any peaceful civilians in the area to voluntarily leave and take refuge somewhere safer.

Photo: ch16.org

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Sudan: Southern Independence, Northern Aggression

The Republic of Southern Sudan officially became the world’s newest nation on July 9. An overwhelming majority of voters supported independence from the North in a January referendum. The event was marked by huge celebrations across the new country. The New York Times reported that by dawn thousands had poured into the streets of the capital, Juba. Dignitaries from all over the world arrived there as well to partake in the festivities.

Officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, and China were among those who spoke at a ceremony hosted by the government of the new state. They offered encouragement and support, promising to open embassies in the capital as soon as possible.

After his swearing in, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir spoke to the thousands gathered. “We were bombed, maimed, enslaved, treated worse than a refugee in our own country,” he told the crowd, “but we have to forgive, although we will not forget.”

South Sudan’s independence comes after two decades of civil war and mass atrocities at the hands of the government led by President Omar al-Bashir. Military operations into areas considered friendly to southern rebels often resulted in the murder and arrest of civilians. Forced displacement was used to clear out huge tracts of land. For these actions and others, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in 2010 for genocide.

Bashir also delivered a speech at the independence day ceremony. But the world’s newest nation has little time to celebrate as it faces the resurgence of some very old problems.

A new frontline is beginning to appear on the North–South border, as unsettled territorial claims escalate into violent confrontation. The oil-rich regions of South Kordofan, specifically the town of Abyei, have been the epicenters of this resurgence of violence. Northern forces entered Abyei in May, amid government claims of attacks by southern militias. Fighting spread further into the Nuba mountains region, and there are now reports of ethnic cleansing against the people there. Deadly bombardments, house-to-house arrests, executions, and a blockade against humanitarian aid have left hundreds of Nuba dead and tens of thousands displaced. Many of the Nuba have fled their homes to the safety of caves to avoid the the deadly government offensive.

While Bashir claims the North is responding to rebel aggression, others believe he has more sinister intentions. According to columnist Eric Reeves, Khartoum plans to “seize Abyei as far south as possible, then negotiate final status of the region from a position of military strength.”

Many agree with this analysis based on one very important fact: The border regions are oil-rich, and North Sudan stands to lose billions of dollars of revenue now that the South has seceded. The already debt-laden government is trying to ensure that it has a heavy presence in an area that could be vital to the regime’s survival—and by all appearances, it is willing to restart war to do so.

Photo: David Azia/Associated Press

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