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Sudan's Blue Nile Five Years On: A Crisis Normalised

(Kampala, 6 September 2016) Five years after the start of the conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile State, attacks against civilians continue unabated according to a report released today by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) and the National Human Rights Monitors Organisation (NHRMO).

A Crisis Normalised: Civilian perspectives on the conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile State explores the views of civilians displaced from or living within Blue Nile on the causes and consequences of the conflict between the Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army - North (SPLM/A-N). The report is based on interviews carried out in April and May 2016 in SPLM/A-N held areas in Blue Nile as well as in Juba and refugee camps in Maban, South Sudan.

“The conflict in Blue Nile State has commonly been referred to as a ‘forgotten conflict’ but this term only reflects the lack of attention the international community give it. For the civilians of Blue Nile, who have to face the war on a daily basis, it is not possible to forget,” said Montasir Waren, Executive Director, NHRMO.

Both parties to the conflict have been responsible for attacks against civilians, although the government of Sudan has been responsible for the majority of violations monitored. Just this May, monitors from NHRMO documented six incidents of aerial bombing in Kurmuk County and 39 bombs were dropped in civilian areas. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has regularly carried out indiscriminate aerial bombardments, and, at times, appears to have deliberately targeted civilian areas. One interviewee shared the following account:

”This war started at night. When the shooting started we all ran away to the hills, but the planes came there as well and we left...Everybody ran randomly to different directions, sick people and old people were left behind. SAF put everything on fire so we lost some dear ones. I left my in-law in the house and the next morning I found her dead, burned. They have also looted the houses. Old people were put on fire, and they raped and kidnapped women and girls."

The research found that despite the remarkable resilience with which civilians have adapted to living with constant bombardment, the resulting physical and psychological impacts as well as the ongoing displacement and increasing food insecurity are increasingly taking their toll: “There is instability in the community. This is creating a climate of fear. People cannot carry on with their normal activities.” In addition, people's ability to continue to live under conditions where health and educational services were already extremely limited cannot be underestimated.

While a number of interviewees referred to the failed implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the proximate cause of the conflict, there was a strong awareness that multiple other issues and concerns pre-date the start of this conflict. As one interviewee said: “The government wants the resources of the marginalised people but not the people. For example, the dam, the agriculture, the fields and the minerals. The whole country is dependent on these resources but the government is not interested in the people.” For others, the different interpretations and notions of Sudanese identity were key: “[i]f they recognise that I am Sudanese as well, and I have a freedom to choose my religion and my leaders, this war will end.” “The international community needs to play a role in bringing the conflict to an end and ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Blue Nile” said Andie Lambe, Executive Director, IRRI “We urge the international community to promote the establishment of a commission of inquiry – under the African Union or United Nations - to investigate the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that may have been committed in Blue Nile.”

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Available for comment:

· UK: Lucy Hovil- +44 7860 349 578

· US: Olivia Bueno - +1 646 301 8 938

· Uganda: Kafia Omar - +256 758 59 55 54

Notes for Editors:

· Our Sudanese colleagues are available for comment, if you would like to speak with them please contact IRRI on info@refugee-rights.org or + 256 758 59 55 54 · NHRMO and the Sudan Consortium have been producing monthly reports on the ongoing attacks in both Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states since 2013. These reports can be found at http://www.sudanconsortium.org/darfur_crisis/SKBNUpdates.html

· To date, the bombings have resulted in the killing of numerous innocent civilians and the destruction of civilian property. This situation has been further exacerbated by the failure of the two parties to agree on the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

· 172,000 people – nearly 20% of Blue Nile's population – have sought refuge in Ethiopia and South Sudan, and estimates of internal displacement are reportedly greater. These numbers put the internal and external displacement at over 50% of the total population.

· Health and education services are also extremely limited inside the SPLM-N areas. The massive displacement in and from Blue Nile State has resulted in a lack of staff capable of maintaining clinics or schools. With no humanitarian assistance, they also lack the necessary equipment. Since 2012, there have been only five primary schools and no secondary schools operating in SPLM-N held Blue Nile; and children in these areas have not had access to routine vaccinations since the beginning of the conflict.