|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail on Situation in South Kordofan
With more than 200,000 people having fled the Sudanese army’s operations in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, along with the decimation of crops and evidence of mass graves, a cleric from the province and representatives of international civil society called this afternoon on the Security Council to act.
“We consider this as ethnic cleansing,” Andudu Adam Elnail, the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, South Kordofan’s capital, said at a Headquarters press conference sponsored by the United States Mission. The briefing followed his testimony before an emergency hearing of a Congressional Committee and during a day in which he was meeting with key Security Council members to motivate the 15-member body to effect a ceasefire, ensure humanitarian access, and authorize an effective form of international presence and an investigation of alleged human rights violations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Joining Bishop Andudu at the press conference were Peggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, Jonathan Hutson, Director of Communications of the Satellite Sentinel Project and the Enough Project, and Nicola Reindorp, Adviser to Avaaz, a global campaign mobilizing organization.
In the Nuba Mountains, Bishop Andudu said, planes were bombing people everywhere and many had died. The destruction of crops at a time when they were supposed to be cultivated meant starvation for many people this year and next. Added to that situation, the Government was not allowing humanitarian aid.
He said that if not for the fact that he had left in early May to come to the United States for medical treatment, he would have himself been a target of Government operations. Before he had left, troops were already moving in and Ahmad Haroun, already wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, had been installed as Governor.
After the 5 June start of operations by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), he said, his offices had been burned along with many churches, his house had been shot at and people were hunted from house to house. His church was occupied by soldiers. He received eyewitness information by phone calls, photos and e-mails everyday. He called on the Security Council to stop the bombing and to put pressure on the Government to allow humanitarian access for the hungry, sick and wounded.
The United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) was leaving following the independence of South Sudan, so another United Nations presence on the ground was needed, he said, adding his hope for a more neutral and effective presence than the current force. Negotiations for peace were also needed. He called on the African Union, the Arab League and the rest of the international community to use pressure to stop the violence as well.
Ms. Hicks stressed that the lack of information should not be allowed to stop international action. The bombing could be heard from UNMIS locations and the displacements were evident. The Sudanese Government was blocking access, and if the Council wanted more information, it should take action to get it. Yet more atrocities provoked by the Sudanese Government should not cause “Sudan fatigue”. On the contrary, it should spur the world into firmer action, she said.
Mr. Hutson called for the world to listen urgently to the cries of Bishop Andudu, as this was a State-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign. He said that a leaked United Nations draft report spoke of the mass graves, the existence of which was corroborated by eyewitnesses and satellite images. “The evidence is here, it’s real, it’s irrefutable, it’s urgent, it’s time. Let’s act,” he said.
Ms. Reindorp said she represented the 448,000 people who had signed the petition calling on Security Council members to take action against such brutal ethnic cleansing. She added that Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir was using the same tactics he had used for decades in South Kordofan and Darfur, and no action had been taken against him to date, even though he had been indicted by the International Criminal Court. More pressure was needed on Khartoum, and not less, to uphold the responsibility to protect. The call of the petition drive was “enough is enough”.
Asked if UNMIS peacekeepers had tried to stop the violence, Bishop Andudu said that they did not do enough; they sat in their compound and people were killed in front of them. Now there were only three UNMIS staff left. Neutral peacekeepers were needed. The Egyptians were suspect, as their country was allied with the Sudanese Government, he added. A video showed them in their compound, waiting for orders from Khartoum.
The model of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) would be acceptable, he said. He added that troops from Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom, brought in at the beginning of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, were more effective than UNMIS. He was happy for South Sudan’s independence, but the Agreement would not be fully implemented without settling his province’s problems.
To other questions, the panel said that the Russian Federation and South Africa both wanted more information. The hope was that South Africa would take a leadership role in pushing for Security Council action. Asked to detail the reports of mass graves, they said that three eyewitnesses described to Bishop Andudu that earthmovers had been digging pits on 8 June, followed in the evening by trucks from which bodies had been thrown into them, with the operators wearing uniforms that looked like those of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Red Crescent and a prison. The location described lined up with satellite images captured later.
After a contractor to UNMIS reported similar information, the Mission sent United Nations military observers to investigate, but they had been arrested, stripped naked, subjected to a mock execution and told if they returned to try to verify reports of mass graves, they would be killed.
No one had undermined any of that evidence, panel members stressed in conclusion. Bishop Andudu stressed that a ceasefire, humanitarian access and negotiations were of primary importance to bring peace to the people of Nuba.
* *** *For information media • not an official record