Haroun vows to punish SPLM’s Al-Hilu as South Kordofan conflagration continues

10 June, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

The governor of Sudan’s north-south border state of South Kordofan, Ahmad Haroun, has branded his deputy Abdul Aziz Adam al-Hilu a “renegade” deserving of “severe punishment” as continuous air and ground attacks cause mass displacement in the oil-producing region.

Meanwhile, the UN said it had received “extremely worrying” reports on civilian casualties in the state, estimating that as many as 40,000 people have been displaced by the fighting which broke out over the weekend between north Sudan’s army and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the military wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls the soon-to-be independent region of South Sudan.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in an e-mailed statement that large-scale looting of properties, including the compounds of UN and humanitarian agencies, continued in Kadugli, the state capital.

Eye-witnesses told Sudan Tribune that aerial bombardments and attacks carried out by northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) continued as late as Friday morning in various parts surrounding Kadugli.

Sudan’s central state of South Kordofan, which lies on the fault line between north and south Sudan, descended into chaos after clashes erupted on Sunday, 5 June, between northern Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the SPLA in and around Kadugli. The fighting comes less than a month after north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) incumbent Haroun was declared winner of the state’s gubernatorial election by 6,500 votes over his deputy, the SPLM candidate Al-Hilu.

Al-Hilu refused to recognize the result, alleging that the vote was rigged in favor of Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) along with Sudan’s president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir for atrocities committed in the country’s western region of Darfur.

The eruption of the clashes came one week after SAF warned the SPLA in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, two northern states abutting South Sudan, to withdraw southwards by June 1 or face action. The SPLM rejected the ultimatum, saying that SPLA fighters in these border areas are actually Northerners.

As fighting intensified on Wednesday, Al-Hilu called for the toppling of Al-Bashir’s Khartoum government in north Sudan, telling the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that he was in Kadugli leading "the battle for dignity to accomplish the fundamental change in the center."

Al-Hilu further called on the Sudanese people to join the battle to overthrow Al-Bashir’s government in order to obliterate all forms of political, economical, social, religious or cultural marginalization.

Speaking in a radio interview broadcast by state-run radio on Friday, Haroun accused his deputy of leading “a rebellion against the state” saying that Al-Hilu and the secretary-general of the SPLM’s sector in north Sudan, Yasir Arman, bore responsibility for the violent events in the state.

Haroun said that Al-Hilu would be “severely punished” for causing the death of civilians during Kadugli confrontations, saying that such behavior reflects the extent to which he takes the lives of civilians lightly.

According to Haroun, Yasir Arman played a part in re-igniting war in South Kordofan by persuading Al-Hilu to side with what he called as the “SPLM’s leftists and sons of Abyei.” Abyei is another flashpoint region in Sudan, hotly contested by south and north Sudan whose army recently seized the oil-producing region in retaliation for an attack carried on its troops by the SPLA.

Haroun told his interviewer that 80 percent of the state did not get affected by the fighting, saying that the SPLM only controls “limited parts” including Um Dorin, 100 km east of Kadugli.

He further added that the Al-Hilu had dealt a fatal blow to the partnership between the SPLM and the NCP in South Kordofan and derailed the wheel of development in the state.

“I don’t see a room for dialogue with Al-Hilu now, but we are committed to it [dialogue] as a mean to salvage the crisis,” Haroun was quoted as saying.

In the meantime, the situation in South Kordonan sparked an outcry from London-based Amnesty International, which warned that a humanitarian emergency is unfolding in region.

The global human rights watchdog condemned reports it had received from residents of the besieged towns of Kadugli and Dilling that the SAF, as well as Sudanese security forces in plain clothes, had been searching streets and houses, arresting and killing people suspected of supporting the SPLA.

Sudan’s President Al-Bashir on Thursday announced that his army is flushing out rebels from the state.

"The situation in South Kordofan is under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces which are now clearing the state of the remaining rebels," Bashir was quoted as saying by the Sudan official news agency (SUNA) today during a cabinet meeting.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the fighting was ongoing and had spread across the state.

"There is still fighting today in Kadugli and it has spread to other locations, including Kauda and Talodi," said Kouider Zerrouk, a spokesman for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), referring to towns in the eastern part of the state.

Antonov bombers and low-flying MIG fighter jets were observed combing the hills around Kadugli, according to UN sources, where SAF has also been shelling SPLA positions since Tuesday.

A witness in Kadugli, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday that while the fighting had abated in the town, the security and humanitarian situation was deteriorating.

On Wednesday, police fired tear gas at a group of more than 100 Christians to force them out of a church compound where they were gathered according to the witness. They told AFP that the Popular Defence Forces, a militia now part of the Sudanese army, were seen conducting house-to-house searches for SPLA troops.

There were also clashes on Thursday in Deleng, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Kadugli, a witness there said.


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