U.S warns of Sudan’s South Kordofan contagion

August 10, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

The United States on Wednesday expressed alarm over a potential spillover from the ongoing turmoil in Sudan’s border state of South Kordofan into the newly independent state of South Sudan.

South Sudan, which declared independence from the north last month, has already been affected by the fighting in South Kordofan after thousands of refugees traversed the borders into the south’s northern frontier of Unity State.

Fighting in the volatile state of South Kordofan erupted in early January between Sudan army and rebels affiliated with the indigenous Nuba population which largely sided with the south during Sudan’s north-south second civil war from 1983-2005.

Princeton Lyman, US special envoy to Sudan, warned in a news conference on the internet on Wednesday that South Kordofan fighting could spread to engulf South Sudan.

"I think that the danger in the fighting in South Kordofan is that it could indeed spread to other parts of the Nuba mountains or of the Blue Nile," he said, warning that it "could involve the south because there are links from the civil war between elements in the south and the people fighting in South Kordofan."

South Kordofan is part of north Sudan but the region was promised - under the 2005’s deal that ended Sudan’s north-south war - to hold popular consultation to gauge the level of local satisfaction with the deal’s implementation and how governance relationship with Khartoum should be reorganized.

Sudan on Tuesday said that Washington and Paris had failed to rally members of the UN Security Council holding a meeting on South Kordofan to issue a statement calling for ceasefire in the area.

However, the US diplomat said he was “sure” the issue would be opened for discussion again.

Lyman went on to castigate the Sudanese government’s conduct of South Kordofan war, saying “it violates the standards of war in the 21st century."

He cited the "bombing of civilian targets, taking people out of their homes, possible extrajudicial killings."

Sudan alleges that the South is providing logistical support to its erstwhile allied rebels in the Nuba Mountains, a charge the south denies.

Similarly, the European Union expressed concern over continued fighting and reports of abuses in South Kordofan.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said that the continental body remains “gravely concerned about continued fighting in Southern Kordofan state and disturbing reports of further widespread human rights violations.”

Activists liken Khartoum’s heavy-handed approach to South Kordofan’s insurgency to that of its approach to the early stages of the rebellion in the western region of Darfur.

In response to the outbreak of rebellion in Darfur in 2003, Khartoum orchestrated an abusive counterinsurgency campaign blamed for killing and creating dire humanitarian conditions responsible for the death of 300,000 people and displacement of 2.7 million, according to UN figures.

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