Independence Arrives in South Sudan, Systems Sustaining Mass Atrocities Still Remain

Washington, D.C.As South Sudan marks its independence tomorrow, the United States and other international actors should not lose sight of the challenges underlying the day’s historic occasion: Widespread violence against civilians continues in several regions in Sudan, threatening to undermine a fragile peace. Thousands are displaced. And the infrastructure for renewed bloodshed—the flow of arms, supplies, and money from third parties—remains uninterrupted. “Policy makers should craft a policy that balances the short-term security and humanitarian needs in critical areas such as South Kordofan and Darfur with long-range efforts to dismantle the systems that have sustained mass violence against civilians in Sudan for decades,” said Human Rights First’s Julia Fromholz. To better ensure lasting peace and safety in Sudan in the wake of today’s historic independence, the U.S. government and other international actors should:

  • Pressure Russia and China, as well as other third-party enablers, to stop providing the means for the Government of Sudan to wage attacks against civilians.
  • Continue to focus on stopping violence in South Kordofan and Abyei, even as the wave of attention regarding the secession of South Sudan fades.
  • Ensure that South Sudan has the capabilities to function as a new government, including the ability to build infrastructure and provide the public with utilities and services.
  • Refrain from rewarding the Khartoum government for ceasing new violence unless it also makes progress on resolving long-standing problems. That is, the Obama Administration should not consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, as discussed before the January referendum, unless the Government of Sudan takes the steps outlined at that time – in addition to ceasing the attacks on civilians that have started since January 9.

South Sudan becomes an independent country—and will soon join the United Nations—after decades of North-South civil war in Sudan. The secession follows the terms of a 2005 peace deal and a January 2011 referendum in which South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence. However, the U.S. government and other international parties, including the United Nations, must remain focused on quelling violence in South Kordofan, Abyei, and Darfur if the two nations are to coexist as peaceful neighbors. “In particular, the Government of Sudan’s aerial bombing of civilians in the Nuba Mountains is exacting a terrible cost,” added Fromholz. Weeks of bombing have reportedly claimed hundreds of civilian lives, including those of children, and the New York Times reports the region is verging on war. Some 73,000 have been displaced. Human Rights First urges policy makers to pay particular attention to third-party enablers of mass violence against civilians in Sudan, including commercial entities and countries that provide arms, financial support, and other resources to the regime of Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum. Two major enablers are Russia and China. Specifically, the Government of Sudan recently has used Russian-made Antonov bombers to shell civilians and rebel fighters hiding in the Nuba Mountains, a particularly vulnerable region following the division of North and South. The use of Russian-made aircraft is not new: The United Nations Security Council has reported the use of Antonov jets by the Government of Sudan in Darfur every year since 1996, according to annual reports, in connection with attacks against civilians. “China has supplied small arms and fighter jets to Sudan for decades, as well as becoming the leading purchaser of Sudanese oil. Chinese President Hu Jintao welcomed al-Bashir—an indicted war criminal—to Beijing last month for an official state visit. China even financed a new presidential palace for Bashir. As these gestures indicate, China has paid lip service to Sudan’s dismal record on human rights while propping up the al-Bashir regime in Khartoum,” concluded Fromholz. For more information on stopping third-party enablers of mass atrocities, read Human Rights First’s new briefing paper.


Published on July 8, 2011


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