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A Look at Sudan’s Border-State Clashes

As July 9, the first anniversary of South Sudan’s hard-fought independence approaches, there is cause for celebration, but also for somber reflection. Since independence, a number of issues have not yet been confronted by the Sudans, including the demarcation of the border, the status of each other’s citizens in the other’s country, and the sharing of oil revenues.

In northern Sudan, civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states—states that aligned with the south during the civil war—are once again being targeted by the central government in Khartoum. As has been the norm with the regime, opposition leaders have been arbitrarily detained, beaten, and, in some circumstances, killed. Bombings have left towns and villages destroyed, further disempowering populations with little access to basic resources.

South Kordofan, the home of the Nuba Mountains, was the site of genocidal assaults by the Khartoum government in the 1990s. Now, again, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are asserting control over the oil in the state. Clashes have broken out between the SAF and the Southern People’s Liberation Army in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. Human Rights Watch reports house-to-house searches and set up checkpoints, where civilians have been killed while trying to flee violence. Humanitarian assistance has been blocked, and the Kauda airstrip—whose only value is the transport of medical supplies and food rations—has been bombed relentlessly by Khartoum. As the New York Times reported last week, Sudan is experiencing a new wave of ‘Lost Boys’—and girls—orphaned and displaced from bombing and fighting.

Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan and Ethiopia, has also been the target of Khartoum’s bombs and troops. Khartoum has blocked journalists, peacekeeping, and humanitarian organizations from the region, although refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia have been interviewed. 100,000 people are reported internally displaced, and 100,000 more have fled the country.

It should also be noted that the government of South Sudan is also far from innocent. Recently, President Salva Kiir admitted that the country’s political leadership has stolen $4 billion in funds that should have been used for infrastructure. For more on South Sudan’s leadership issues, see Howard French’s recent article and Human Rights Watch’s assessment.

Right now, the world is watching as Sudan revolts. The events in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and the civilian protection crisis that they have engendered, must also not be ignored.

By Mac Hamilton (

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