Sudan government bombing hospitals and schools, US says
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, condemned “in the strongest possible terms” bombardments of civilians that she claimed were being carried out by the Sudanese government and its rapid support forces.
“Since April, not only have ground attacks on, and the shelling of, civilian populations increased, but the government of Sudan has intensified its air campaign, dropping hundreds of barrel bombs and other ordnance on Sudanese towns and villages, deliberately targeting hospitals and schools,” Power said.
Forces loyal to president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the international criminal court on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, have been fighting ethnic-minority rebels for three years in a conflict said by the UN to have affected more than a million people. The government has denied aid access to the embattled states of South Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile.
Power said the US was disturbed by reports of air strikes against civilian aid workers which, if proven, would seriously violate international law. Aid groups working in Sudan have accused the military of looting and destroying food and water supplies in areas recaptured by rebels, she added.
“The uptick in violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has displaced or severely affected approximately 1.2 million people; it has increased the population’s vulnerability to disease and malnutrition; and it has disrupted planting cycles, which will only compound food insecurity in the regions.”
The ambassador compared the government’s tactics with those used in the western region of Darfur, where she said more than 300,000 people had been displaced so far this year alone.
Power’s intervention came after a coalition of 46 organisations[http://www.sudanconsortium.org] providing humanitarian aid or supporting peace efforts in Sudan wrote to the UN security council, African Union and Arab League demanding an end to attacks on civilians.
Recent bombings, especially in South Kordofan, had reached an unprecedented intensity, the letter said.
“These unprecedented attacks represent the largest sustained bombardment of civilian targets in the three-year history of the conflict. They have spread terror and sent families into hiding in caves and foxholes, too afraid to plant their crops.”
Bashir came to power in a coup 25 years ago this month. Unrest has been fuelled by grievances among non-Arab groups over neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, government forces are waging war on the SPLM-North, a rebel group backed by South Sudan. Last month the UN said fighting intensified in April and May as the government pressed ahead with its “decisive summer” military campaign to end armed rebellions.
Sudan accused America of double standards. Khalid Mustafa, a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in the UK, said: “There is fighting in South Kordofan. When the rebels attacked Kadugli, forced UN offices to relocate and killed civilians, there was no US condemnation.
“Moreover, how can Dr Power be so sure that civilians are targeted? The US, with the best technology in the history of humanity, lost five soldiers two days ago as a result of friendly fire.
“There is contradiction in US policy towards the Sudan. We need US technology and admire US rule of law and democratic institutions but the sanctions stop cooperation with US companies. The companies lose when we look east. The policy of using the South to undermine our country is counterproductive.”