NAIROBI (AlertNet) – More than 60 genocide scholars have called on the U.S. government to immediately airlift aid into two rebel-held border states in Sudan where humanitarian groups say civilians are facing an impending famine.
The government of Sudan has restricted aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile fearing that it will bolster rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) who are fighting to overthrow it.
“Some 200,000 to 300,000 people are currently seeking sanctuary in caves and on ridges of the Nuba Mountains where food is virtually nonexistent and the people have resorted to eating insects, tree leaves, plants, and roots,” the scholars said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bombing campaigns have pushed people to flee their farms for rocky shelters in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains, a stronghold of the SPLM-North.
The scholars said that the Sudanese government is “committing a second genocide by attrition against the people of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan”, a reference to the scorched earth campaign carried out by the government against the Nuba in the 1990s.
“We strongly urge you to act now to stave off the starvation of an entire people,” the scholars said in an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and Advisor to the President and Director of the Atrocities Prevention Board Samantha Power.
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
Some 170,000 refugees have fled across the border to South Sudan. Death rates in the camps are at emergency levels, with large numbers of malnourished children dying of diarrhoea and severe infections.
“Although we welcome your efforts to aid the refugees who have found their way to camps in South Sudan, we must point out that as world leaders you have the moral authority granted by the U.N.’s unanimous 2005 declaration of the Responsibility to Protect to demand delivery of aid to those inside Sudan,” the letter states.
Mukesh Kapila, who was one of the first in the United Nations to raise the alarm about Darfur in 2004 and is now a rights activist with the Aegis Trust, has also accused Khartoum of committing genocide against the Nuba.
The conflict in the border states is rooted in decades of north-south civil war in Sudan.
The civil war ended with a 2005 peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan to declare independence last year. But the partition of the country left tens of thousands of SPLM-North fighters, who had battled against Khartoum, on the Sudanese side of the border.
Clashes resumed in South Kordofan in June 2011 and spread to Blue Nile in September, with both sides blaming the other for provoking them.
On Aug. 5, the African Union brokered a deal between Sudan and the SPLM-North to allow aid into rebel-controlled areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
“The regime will continue to kill their own people if once again the United States declines to use the economic and diplomatic leverage at its disposal to enforce the delivery of aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states under internationally acceptable terms,” the scholars said.
Observers argue that the U.S. government is unlikely to respond to the scholars’ call for action as neighbouring states would be reluctant to strain relations with Sudan by allowing cross-border aid deliveries from their territory.
The West’s arming of rebels in Libya to overthrow former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has also created suspicion about its misuse of the responsibility to protect as a pretext for regime change.