For the first time since the war started in 2011, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North repatriated 127 people captured in fighting back to Khartoum on Sunday.
With logistical help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and political assistance from the Government of Uganda and South Sudan, the detainees returned home to a welcoming reception in Khartoum.
Those released included 109 government soldiers and 18 civilians, according to a statement by Sudan’s army spokesman, Brigadier Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami, who recognised this gesture as a positive step for achieving peace.
Prior to their departure from rebel-controlled South Kordofan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) released a press statement marking the transfer as a “Goodwill Operation” that affirms the rebel movement’s humanitarian ideals and respect for all Sudanese citizenry. The same statement wished the detainees and the families a secure and peaceful future.
The SPLM-N Secretary-General Yasir Arman called on Sudanese authorities to release SPLM-N members and soldiers as well as fighters from other armed Darfuri groups during a reception for the released detainees in Kampala. Sudan’s spokesperson Ahmed Balal also praised the “good gesture” by the SPLM-N and said the government would respond by a similar move, without providing further details.
The government does not, however, hold a positive track record in terms of releasing or treating prisoners of war.* The SPLM-N “Goodwill Operation” was issued in commemoration of SPLM-N Brigadier Ahmed Bahar Hajana –a prisoner of war allegedly killed by Sudan’s security personnel while in government custody, the SPLM-N statement said. In 2012, Nuba Reports interviewed an escaped detainee accused of being a soldier for the SPLA-N, Abdu Rahman, who claimed roughly 68 fellow detainees had died of hunger, illness or torture.
An attempt by the SPLM-N to transfer 22 prisoners of war failed for unclear reasons in June last year.