South Sudanese Worldwide Urge the International Community to be Impartial, Look at the Facts, and Stop the Current Gross Human Rights Violations by the Sudan Government
April 21, 2012 (SSNA) — The South Sudanese communities around the world, united through a joint initiative known as the South Sudan Volunteer Initiative (SSVI), are deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis between South Sudan and [North] Sudan, instigated by a year-long bombardment of South Sudan’s territories by Sudan’s armed forces (SAF). This global-based initiative, directed at the international players, is calling on the world leaders, particularly the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council, to immediately stop the ongoing carnage being committed by Sudan, and facilitate an immediate return to the negotiation table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in order to tackle the outstanding issues, which are the root causes of the ongoing crisis.
While the Sudan government’s activities, particularly its continuous attacks on South Sudan since its independence in July last year, and its defiance of the international community’s plea to respect human rights, implement the remaining provisions of the CPA, withdraw from Abyei, and stop aerial bombardment of innocent civilians deep inside South Sudan’s territory, are not startling to us – for we are used to them (that is the reason we are here), we find it shocking to see the level in which it has been able to easily deceive the international community on the current crisis. The fraudulent account of Panthou (Heglig) – also known locally as Tharjiath Liey, Aliny, and Riik – among other names, gained an unprecedented acceptance among some international circles, essentially raising major concerns about the global community’s attention span. The Sudan government has never been honest in its dealing with anyone, let alone the international community, and for the international community to take its words for anything, much less at face value, is synonymous to allowing a child molester keeps your children under the pretext that he has recovered.
Although we categorically oppose military solution to our problems, and support the calls of the UN Security Council, the African Union, and the UN Secretary-General, amongst others, for an immediate end to all confrontations, we urge the international community to refrain from making premature judgment about Panthou’s status until the demarcation of the South-North border, which Sudan has been avoiding with the false hope that it will demarcate it using its military. Making these kinds of statements will be nothing short of a permission slip for the Sudan government to do as it pleases, which is already the case anyway. We also want to note that the Sudan government’s conviction of demarcating the borders by force is not hard to believe since it has successfully moved the border southward, resulting in the annexation of Panthou (Heglig) – which, as per the 1/1/1956 border, is part of South Sudan’s Unity state, and other areas where oil was discovered. This redrawing of the map in South Sudan by the regime in Khartoum as a result of oil discovery is clearly documented, and thus the reason of the continuous attack on South Sudan, an apparent campaign to annex South Sudan’s oil producing state of Unity, to the North. It goes without saying that the rude awakening SAF received from the SPLA came as a result of continuous provocations, which deserve enumeration, however brief, here for the benefit of our readers.
On Saturday April 14, 2012, at 1:30 PM local time, a SAF MiG 29 plane bombed Bentiu town in South Sudan’s Unity State, killing 5 civilians, and wounding 6 others. The aerial attack set ablaze the main Bentiu market, leaving the locals running for their dear lives. On the same day, SAF also released three bombs on Bentiu Bridge, with the intention to destroy the corridor between Bentiu and Rubkona. More SAF bombs were dropped on Panakuach – also in unity state, wounding 5 civilians. Two bombs were also dropped on Biemnhom, also in Unity State, on the same today. As if this wasn’t enough and despite the UN Security Council’s statement on April 12, two days earlier, calling for an immediate stoppage of the aerial bombardments, SAF Antonov plane dropped two bombs a day later on Ajakkuach in Warrap State of South Sudan while also conducting aerial bombardments of Majoknhom, also in Warrap State. This was in a very short order and does not include the previous air raids. There have been total of 60 bombs dropped inside South Sudan territory thus far!
From the above campaign, it is easy to see that South Sudan has been and continues to be the victim of Sudan’s sustained aggression. We also want to remind our readers that South Sudan has been a faithful partner at the negotiation table despite lackluster effort by the Sudanese delegation to accept any recommendation from the African Union’s High Implementation Panel (AUHIP). For instance, before talks broke down on April 4, 2012, the delegation of the Republic of South Sudan accepted the February 10, 2012 memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Non-aggression pact, the June 29 and July 30, 2012 agreements to create a safe Demilitarized Border Zones. However, the Sudan delegation rejected these proposals, again presumably counting on its perceived military might over South Sudan. On March 30, 2012, AUHIP leader, Thabo Mbeki, called a Second Extraordinary meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) at the level of the two respective defense ministers, but the Sudanese defense minister arrived in Addis Ababa three days late, apparently evading participation in the crucial deliberations.
Many international experts and South Sudanese alike expected this behavior from the Sudanese delegation because its refusal to either sign peace pacts or dishonor the ones it signed has been consistent over a long period of time. Eric Reeves, A renowned Sudanese expert from Smith College, put it eloquently when he said “Khartoum has consistently refused to negotiate these areas of the border either within the Technical Boundary Committee (TBC) or through high-level political engagement. Over more than seven years, it has repeatedly refused to convene or participate in good faith in the TBC, to accept the findings of the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) stipulated by the Abyei Protocol of the CPA, or to accept the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (July 2009)”.
To further illustrate South Sudan’s desire for peaceful coexistence between the two neighboring states, South Sudan leadership has been consistent in making it clear that it will only fight in self-defense. Despite the aerial bombardments listed above, South Sudan’s armed forces – the SPLA have never responded in kind; that is attacking SAF position inside Sudan. Since the talks broke down in Addis Ababa early April, as a result of Sudanese delegation’s refusal to sign deals, Sudan’s true motive, that is the invasion of unity state continued. The SPLA positions inside South Sudan continued to come under heavy attack from SAF in and around Panthou (Heglig). On March 26, 2012, SPLA repulsed an SAF attack and pursued them past Panthou (Heglig), resulting in temporary takeover of the town. They withdrew two days later to give the AU mediators a chance to find a solution. The last straw was on April 10, 2012 when another heavy attack was repulsed, and the SPLA decided to take over the town to deter further attacks from there, a move that is now receiving an unwarranted criticism, because Khartoum seems to have duped the global community.
It has now become clear that South Sudan’s reluctance and patience in pressing the issue of Panthou (Heglig) is misconstrued by many, particularly the international community, as an indication that this Southern town belongs to the North. It does not. It is obvious that the source of misunderstanding with regard to the status of the Panthou area stems from the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) award of July 2009, defining the boundaries of the Abyei Area, and placing Panthou outside of the Abyei Area. This has been misunderstood, however, to mean that Panthou is not part of South Sudan. Nevertheless, the PCA did not rule on the border between north and south Sudan – it ruled only on the boundaries of the Abyei Area! South Sudan accepted that ruling, and continues to accept the PCA ruling as it applies to the Abyei Area. However, both Sudan and South Sudan maintain that the North-South border is not yet fully agreed upon, but South Sudan knows that Panthou lies within its territory. For this reason, South Sudan has always contended that Panthou is one of the disputed areas (since the North also claims it), along with other areas such as Kafia Kingi, Hufar Nihas, and Maganis. It is South Sudan’s position that the 1/1/1956 border, which has been stipulated under the terms of the CPA, is and should be the basis for the North-South border, which in fact lies well to the north of Panthou. It is an open secret that the former Federal Affairs minister, Nafie Ali Nafie signed a document on June 14, 2004 informing the governor of Unity state that Heglig region did not belong to Unity State in the South but rather to Western Kordofan state in the North. This leads to the current bogus claim that this region belongs to the North. This announcement was then followed by a depopulation campaign spearhead by some rogue oil companies, some of whom where later ran out of the area by South Sudanese in Diaspora’s advocacy against their human displacement and presence in that area. Given these facts, and with this region having been part of South Sudan since time immemorial, the lingering question is how do you invade yourself?
Despite the current deadlock, South Sudan is committed to peace, and continues to call for immediate resumption of talks. This is best illustrated by South Sudan President, Salva Kiir Mayardit’s statement that South Sudan has no intention to remain in Heglig if certain conditions are met. It is prepared to “withdraw its forces from Heglig, as long as an internationally – monitored mechanism is put in place to guarantee that the area cannot be used to launch further attacks against South Sudan and the United Nations commits to deploy neutral forces to Heglig until the parties reach a final settlement of the disputed area.” This does not get any simpler, and we cannot say it any better.
Finally, we want to reiterate that we are for peace and will work for it, but we want to also caution the international community to carefully look at the facts presented herein and consider our call for an immediate third party involvement in resolving Panthou (Heglig) conflict. This cannot happen unless Sudan is pressured to the negotiation table and accepting the AUHIP recommendations for a positive way forward. Furthermore, we will be remiss if we did not remind the international community of the gross human rights violations that are currently taking place in Sudan and the two areas of Nuba Mountain and Southern Kordofan. While this is common knowledge that the Sudan government has been doing these things in the past with no particular reason, it now has a reason and one cannot imagine the magnitude of the atrocities. Examples of these mass killings and violations are plenty, and we only know a small number of them. On April 15, 2012, the Khartoum residence of South Sudan’s Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, was not only raided but looted, and 7 relatives of the VP were rounded up and taken to an unknown location. Moreover, the SAF bombed UN camp and burned to ashes South Sudanese internally displaced persons (IDPs)’s camp in Darfur. If no action is taken sooner, we are afraid it will be too late. We must act now.