Thousands flee Nuba Mountains

18 January, 2001 (IRIN)

Thousands of people have fled rebel-held areas in Sudan's Nuba mountains and sought sanctuary in government controlled territory, a Sudanese government official said on 17 January. State-run Sudanese television showed on Tuesday night thousands of civilians, mostly women, naked children and elderly people, in the Nuba Mountains town of Kadugli, about 900 km southwest of the capital Khartoum, Associated Press (AP) said.

The television report said about 30,000 such people had fled to Kadugli and its surrounding areas after the army defeated a rebel force in the Nuba Mountain area. Mohamed Haroon Kafi, a former member of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), told AP that more people were expected to follow after the government victory: "These people have been under check by the rebel movement, not allowing them to move outside and ... not provided with any services." Kafi is now a state minister in the Khartoum government.

A statement by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), received by IRIN 18 January, denied that government forces had scored recent victories, including in the Nuba Mountains. It said the government had started a dry season offensive before the end of December when civilian targets were bombed at Kawuda and neighbouring villages: "The few ground attacks that were staged by the GOS army and the People's Defence Force (PDF) have been repulsed with heavy casualties." The SPLA said "claims by GOS that its forces have "liberated" 30,000 Nuba civilians from rebels are... ludicrous".

Humanitarian sources told IRIN that humanitarian access to Nuba Mountains "had always been a problem" and that any assistance would have to be requested by the government, separate from the established UN Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) agreement.