The groups began talks today in Addis Ababa in the hopes of reopening humanitarian corridors in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Representatives of the SPLM-North have repeatedly declared they would not discuss peace with Khartoum unless other members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front alliance – including Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement – were included. The talks being held in the Ethiopian capital are instead expected to focus on allowing aid to reach civilians living in the region.
In August of last year, Sudan and South Sudan signed separate memoranda with the African Union, the League of Arab States and the United Nations – known as the tripartite agreement – to allow aid into Sudan. The agreement established a roadmap for delivering humanitarian aid, but was never implemented.
The current talks have been organized by the African Union and are being led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki – who brokered the recent oil and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan. But as the two sides meet violence in South Kordofan appears to be on the rise.
FIGHTING ON THE GROUND
In the past week alone, Nuba Reports has recorded nearly 40 bombings in South Kordofan that have killed six civilians and injured three others. More bombings have been recorded in the past week than in the previous six weeks combined.
The SPLA-N has also launched attacks against Sudanese forces in the region. On April 12, SPLA-N forces shelled the South Kordofan capital, Kadugli. Nuba Reports was unable to determine if any civilians were hurt in the attack.
On April 15, SPLA-N forces launched an attack on Dandur, a SAF garrison town outside the capital. The initial battle lasted around 45 minutes. When SPLA-North forces entered the town Sudanese Antonovs and MiG jets dropped bombs on Dandur, killing one rebel soldier. According to SPLA-North commanders in the region, 17 SAF soldiers were killed in the attack. The rebel army said it also captured one SAF soldier
Medical staff at the Mother of Mercy hospital in Gidele said they received 2 wounded civilians from the battle in addition to 18 SPLA-North soldiers.
SPLA-North forces only held the town for a day before retreating ahead of a large counteroffensive by the Sudanese Armed Forces. According to SPLA-North commanders, several helicopter gunships, Antonovs and and MiG jets bombarded the town, pushing the rebel force out.
Dandur serves as a critical supply link for the Sudan Armed Forces in South Kordofan. “It provides roads to the other major areas,” and opens up new fronts for the SPLA-N around Kadugli, said SPLA-N Brigadier General Nimeiri Amarat after he had taken control of the town. The rebel force tried unsuccessfully to take control of Dandur several times during the first six months of the war.
But Dandur is also home to around 400 families, most of which were displaced by the fighting. A Nuba Reports journalist visited Dandur on April 16, while the SPLA-North held the town. Around 60 percent of the town was destroyed in the initial fight. Several houses were still on fire
Brigadier General Amarat said the displaced would be cared for by SPLM-North authorities in the region. “Many of the civilians that were in Dandur have families in Kauda and Heiban,” he said. “The ones that don’t will be taken to the refugee camps by the county commissioner of Um Dorain.” But Nuba Reports has not yet been able to verify whether the displaced have been provided with assistance and passage to Yida.
On April 22, SAF soldiers attacked a cattle camp near Tess, killing three – including a 10 year old boy – and wounding eight. Witnesses say the attack was launched in revenge
As talks in Addis begin, fighting on the ground has forced more civilians to flee their homes, and placed many more in need of humanitarian assistance. But there are no signs of a coming ceasefire on the ground. “Our work on the ground will not stop. We have not yet heard from anyone telling us to stop fighting so we will continue to do our work and [our negotiators] will continue to do theirs,” he said.