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With the breakaway of South Sudan on July 9, 2011, Sudan faces economic difficulties due to loss of oil revenue and turmoil in its “new south” – the states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. Fighting broke out in Southern Kordofan in June 2011 following state elections, the results of which were disputed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). In retaliation, Khartoum began an indiscriminate bombing campaign and sent ground forces to crush the SPLM-N. Over 20,000 Sudanese fled to South Sudan, but hundreds of thousands remain trapped in conflict areas with dwindling food supplies and no access to humanitarian assistance. Fighting broke out in neighboring Blue Nile State in September; since then the conflict has caused internal displacement and created massive refugee outflows to Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Sudanese troops also remain in Abyei (which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan), awaiting the full deployment of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei and the re-establishment of a civilian administration there.
In Darfur, another peace agreement has been signed in Doha, Qatar. However, because the agreement was only signed with one of the many rebel groups in the region, fighting is expected to continue. Meanwhile Khartoum has decided that an internal Darfur political process will replace peace talks, but RI questions if and how the nearly three million Darfuri internally-displaced people (IDPs) and refugees would be included in such a process.
The fate of Southern Sudanese living in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan remains uncertain. While many have opted to move to South Sudan, others’ rights to remain in Sudan are under threat.
Current Humanitarian Situation in Darfur
Civilian protection in Darfur remains a serious concern. More than 2.6 million IDPs are in Darfur and over 250,000 Darfuris are living in refugee camps in Chad. Insecurity continues and many displaced people are still unable to return home, despite increasing pressure for people to do so. The United Nations has been working with a variety of humanitarian groups to promote development while strengthening the rule of law, which the UN believes is the key to a lasting peace. However, the joint AU/UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, lacks adequate resources and humanitarian workers are unable to access the most vulnerable people due to insecurity and government impediments. Refugees International is particularly concerned about sexual violence against women in Darfur and the difficulties faced by civil society organizations who try to assist survivors.
When violent conflict breaks out, the United States and other United Nations member states often call for the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces to create stability and protect people from harm. The UN Security Council has explicitly instructed peacekeepers to protect civilians under “imminent threat of violence” in most UN peacekeeping mandates since 1999. But there is no clarity as to what “protection” means in practice. Which circumstances require action and what level of force should be used? This has resulted in a lack of proper training, guidance and resources for peacekeepers to accomplish protection activities.