Plans for prisoners of war* from the government side to be repatriated back home have been delayed for unclear reasons.
For the first time since the conflict started in 2011, 22 prisoners of war are to be repatriated from the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) controlled areas to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are facilitating the repatriation from the rebel-controlled towns of Kauda and Yabus to Asosa, western Ethiopia, and finally Khartoum. But the operation, originally scheduled for June 23 and 24, is delayed since final authorization to depart was not granted and the operation remains postponed, ICRC Spokesman Jason Straziuso said.
“We were supposed to be in Khartoum, our minds and conversations were already in Khartoum,” said detainee soldier Shihab Mohammed while waiting for the plane at the rebel-controlled airstrip in Kauda. “Then suddenly there was an announcement that the plane isn’t coming.” The rebels are accusing the government of Sudan for blocking the transfer.
“Last week we received confirmation from the ICRC that we could go ahead with the transfer,” SPLM-N Spokesman Arnu Ngutulu said. “People are on the ground, they cleared the runways in Kauda and Yabus expecting the planes would come –but at the last minute there is no green light.” The SPLM-N had offered to release the prisoners and 21 staff from a mining company who got caught up in fighting in Blue Nile over a year ago but the government refused, he added. In April last year, a government military aircraft bombed the SPLA-N military prison in South Kordofan killing two imprisoned soldiers from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Ahmed Gibril and Hussein Koja, according to another SAF soldier injured in the attack, Mohamed Hessein. The prison holds several dozen SAF detainees.
But the government flatly denies the current allegation. “How can we refuse to deliver the detainees to their families?” questioned Sudan’s State
Minister at the Presidency and Head of Darfur peace negotiations, Amin Hassan Omer. The minister told Nuba Reports they are willing to receive those detained from the Red Cross.
“Where is the disruption from? I don’t think we know,” said detained soldier Shuayb Ibrahim. “But we ask of the government, since they are our leaders. Just like their sons are among them, we too have mothers and fathers.”
The unprecedented transfer of prisons was designed as a goodwill gesture following Sudanese President Omar Bashir’s ceasefire announcement for June 18, said SPLM-N representative Mubarak Ardol, who is coordinating the transfer. The government of Sudan has fought a protracted war with SPLA-N rebels in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State, displacing hundreds of thousands since 2011.