(17 June 2015) Since April 2015, three villages in Blue Nile, primarily comprised of members of the Ingessana ethnic group, have been burned to the ground by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in an apparent attempt to forcibly displace communities perceived to support the rebel Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-N). The armed forces have also ordered residents of four villages to relocate from their homes, threatening that those who stay behind will be presumed to be members of the SPLM-N. The attacks have displaced thousands of civilians and destroyed agriculture. On 8 April 2015, the village of Mediam Al Jabal was burnt to the ground, displacing approximately 3,700 civilians. Two further attacks, on Khor Mungra on 10 May and Bau locality on 11 May, displaced approximately 6,018 residents. On 13 May the SAF ordered residents of four nearby villages – Khor Mganza, Daim Masaleet, Alshaheed Afandi and Raieh Balak – to relocate, threatening that anyone remaining behind would be a presumed member of the SPLM – N. Humanitarian access to the area has been severely limited by Sudanese authorities, with only the Sudanese Red Crescent allowed to access displaced communities.
The attacks and forced displacements took place following the re-invigoration of the Government of Sudan’s “Decisive Summer” campaign in December 2014. The Ingessana Hills are currently under the control of the SAF, but have traditionally been a SPLM – N stronghold. Areas in Wau locality have been captured by the SPLM – N, including Jebel Kalgo. The Ingessana Hills are also the birthplace of Malik Agar, chairperson of the SPLM – N. The pattern of arrests and interrogations of members of the group indicate that the Sudanese authorities presume all members of the Ingessana ethnic group to be supportive of the rebel SPLM – N.
Since the burning of Khor Mungra and Bau locality, the SAF’s Military Intelligence has subjected a number of individuals from Al Damazein and elsewhere in the Ingessana Hills region, including the forcibly displaced village of Alshaheed Afendy, to arbitrary detention and accused them of spying for the SPLM – N. The SAF’s Military Intelligence Unit is tasked with investigating rebel activities and coordinating offensives in Sudan’s conflict zones of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. At least two people are detained in unknown locations, and at least three people are being detained by Military Intelligence at the SAF’s Fourth Infantry Division of Al Damazein without access to their families or a lawyer.
The Sudanese Armed Forces sets Khor Mungra and Bau locality on fire; orders forced relocation of other villages
On 10 May 2015, the Commander of the Fourth Infantry in Blue Nile state Sid Ahmed ordered that Khor Mungra village be set on fire and burnt down. Khor Mungra village includes Kamarik, Sein, Babak, Alhajarat Alkhamsa, Taga, and Gabaniet neighborhoods.
The following day, a group of SAF officers in two pickup trucks drove from Al Damazein to Bau locality. They ordered the residents of the village to leave their homes, before burning the village to the ground.
Approximately 6,018 civilians were forcibly displaced from Khor Mungra and Bau locality to an open area where they stayed for two days without access to food supplies, before settling in temporary structures along the main road to Al Damazein.
On 13 May 2015 the SAF ordered residents of the nearby villages of Alshaheed Afandi, Raieh Balak, Khor Mganza and Daim Masaleet to forcibly relocate. The villages are mainly populated by the Ingessana and the Maasalit ethnic group.
Members of the SAF threatened residents, telling them that if they remained in the villages they would be presumed to be members of the SPLM – N.
An unknown number of residents of the four villages hired trucks and lorries and fled to Rosairis, and Shanta, west of Rosairis. Others were displaced to Gaisan and Salha neighbourhoods in Rosairis.
Arbitrary Arrest and Incommunicado Detention by Military Intelligence
The Military Intelligence of the SAF has also subjected at least ten individuals from the Ingessana ethnic group to arbitrary arrest and detention, accusing individuals of spying or fighting for the SPLM – N. Five individuals have since been released. Three detainees are currently being held incommunicado without charge at the SAF headquarters of the Fourth Infantry Division of Al Damazein. They have not been allowed access to their families or lawyers. Two detainees are currently held incommunicado at unknown locations.
- On 13 May the Military Intelligence arrested Hassan Mustafa, (m), 30 years of age. Mustafa works as a merchant in Al Damazein. He is currently detained at the SAF headquarters of the Fourth Infantry Division of Al Damazein. Mr. Mustafa was reportedly arrested on suspicion that he had been wounded in fighting between the SPLM – N and SAF, owing to a reported long term injury to his left leg.
- On 21 May 2015 the Military Intelligence arrested Mohamed Albur, (m), 27 years of age and a driver, and Aboud Al Alnour, (m), 19 years of age, and a Quran teacher at the local Quranic school at Alshaheed Afendy, 7km south of Al Damazein. They are currently being detained incommunicado in an unknown place.
- On 2 June the Military Intelligence arrested two pastoralists whilst they were herding their cattle. Both men are accused of spying for the SPLM – N, and are detained incommunicado at the Fourth Infantry Division. Their names are below.
- Abass Jok, (m), 39 years of age. Mr. Jok was arrested from Abu Groon area.
- Aleed Younis, (m), 23 years of age. Mr. Younis was arrested near Mediam.
Following the evictions of Alshaheed Afandi, Raieh Balak, Khor Mganza and Daim Masaleet on 13 May 2015, the Military Intelligence arrested four men from Alshaheed Afandi. The four men, whose names remain unknown, were assumed to be SPLM – N members after they did not produce their identity documents. They were taken to the Fourth Infantry Division of the SAF in El Damazein, accused of being members of the SPLM – N, and of entering the government controlled area of Blue Nile. They were later released without charges on 18 May 2015.
People have also reported suspicions that the Military Intelligence of the SAF is intercepting private correspondence of people with family members living in SPLM – N controlled areas. On 15 May 2015 SAF intelligence arrested Inam Ali, (f), a tea seller from Al Damazein market, near the Forest Administration building. She was interrogated regarding phone calls she had received from a relative living in an SPLM – N controlled area. She was released the same evening.
ACJPS unequivocally condemns all attacks on civilians and civilian properties. The burning of villages in Khor Mungra and Bau locality appear to have been aimed solely at punishing members of the Ingessana ethnic group, or other ethnic groups presumed to support the SPLM – N, such as the Maasalit. Civilians and civilian property was directly targeted with no military presence or legitimate military targets evident in either village. International law strictly prohibits the targeting of civilians and civilian property. The principle of distinction between civilians and people taking an active part in hostilities under customary international law applies in all circumstances.
The Sudanese authorities should stop targeting civilians and immediately investigate the circumstances surrounding all attacks on civilians in the region. Full humanitarian access must be granted to enable the provision of emergency support to civilians affected by the attacks.
ACJPS also calls on the GoS to immediately guarantee the safety of the detainees held by the Military Intelligence, disclose their whereabouts and grant access to their family members, lawyers and any medical assistance they may require. Their immediate release should be ensured in the absence of valid legal charges, or if charges consistent with international standards do exist, they should be promptly brought before a judge and guaranteed procedural rights at all times.
In 2015, there have been rising hostilities, mass displacement, and a deepening food crisis in Sudan’s conflict areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. There are currently 1.7 million internally displaced persons in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and 2.5 internally displaced in Darfur. The conflicts have been characterized by direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets, killings, sexual violence, destruction of property, and loss of livelihoods.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s 2015 Humanitarian Needs Overview, Bau locality is home to 32,160 people and 25,636 IDPs.
In March 2015 a SAF garrison in Bau locality was seized by the SPLM – N, forcing the SAF to evacuate to Al Damazein. The SAF has been unable to regain their weapons and control of the garrison. Tensions have also risen in Blue Nile state after the SPLM – N launched a campaign to halt the national elections taking place there in April 2015. Jebel Kalgo, a strategic region in the Ingessana Hills, has been controlled by the SPLM – N since April 2015.
Blue Nile state has also been subjected to aerial bombardment. On 16 March 2015, 17 bombs were dropped on Soda, with two of the bombs detonating at altitude, possibly indicating the use of cluster bombs. On 25 March, four bombs were dropped in Mofu, two in Mayak, and two in Chali area.
In early April, ACJPS documented a chain of targeted attacks on civilians around the capital of Blue Nile state by the SPLM-N and SAF. On 7 April the SPLM-N attacked a private truck carrying four uniformed SAF officers and two civilians heading north to Al Damazien from Al Madina village. The four SAF officers and a pregnant woman were killed. In apparent retaliation the next day, the SAF attacked the village of Mediam al Jabal, around 70km south of Al Damazein. The SAF, arriving in land-cruisers, reportedly ordered residents to leave their homes, and then set fire to the village. Residents were displaced to a nearby roadside. Three days later, on 12 April, the SPLM-N launched a counter-attack on the village of Almadina 10, around 10 kilometers south of El Damazein, populated mostly by members of the Hausa ethnic group. Seven civilians were killed and seven others severely injured when the SPLM-N shelled the town.
The Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) also documented the burning of Maganza and Bagis villages on 11 and 12 May. SDFG reported that the displaced were without shelter for three days, before they were taken by security officials operating trucks to Azaza, Algari, Wadafodi, Shanisha Baidha, Hamda and Umbarid in Rosairis. The South Kordofan and Blue Nile Coordination Unit reported that “in the first half of May 2015, approximately 12,000 civilians were forcibly evicted by the government from their villages, namely Khor Maganza, Samansur and Maidum villages, which were subsequently burnt down”.
A report released by the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan in January 2015 expressed concern about an apparent government policy of “collective punishment” to counter the insurgency in Darfur, a policy that has seen villages and communities perceived to be supportive of armed opposition groups targeted. A similar trend of targeting of communities based on their ethnic identities – and presumed political affiliations – has been followed by government forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
In the past, ACJPS has documented the death of detainees in the SAF’s Military Intelligence custodies. In April and May 2014 ACJPS documented the deaths of four detainees in Military Intelligence custody in two separate incidents in Darfur and Blue Nile. ACJPS has also documented the incommunicado detentions in South Kordofan. At least one civilian, Salah Yousif Ibrahim, (m), 22 years of age, and a pastoralist, is currently detained incommunicado and in an unknown location in South Kordofan state. Mr. Ibrahim was reportedly arrested in Aljibailat area while on his way home from Abasia market, South Kordofan. He has no known political activity or political affiliation.
Katherine Perks, Programme Director, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, firstname.lastname@example.org, +256 775072136
Mohamed Badawi, Monitoring Programme Coordinator, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, email@example.com, +256 783 693 689.
This post is also available in: Arabic