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News :: Human Rights
UN warns of ethnic cleansing in Sudan
04 Jun 2011
A confidential United Nations report warns that the invasion by Sudan's military of the contested north-south region of Abyei could lead to "ethnic cleansing" if the tens of thousands of residents who fled are not able to return.

The U.N. human rights report — dated May 29 and marked "Not For Public Citation or Distribution" — said the north's Khartoum government may have carried out a premeditated military plan to invade Abyei when Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, troops moved in May 21.

"The SAF attack and occupation of Abyei and the resultant displacement of over 30,000 Ngok Dinkas from Abyei could lead to ethnic cleansing, if conditions for the return of the displaced Ngok Dinka residents are not created," according to the report, which was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

Expressing its "grave concern" about the escalating violence, the U.N. Security Council later Friday condemned Khartoum for seizing control of Abyei, "and the resulting displacement of tens of thousands of residents."

It also called on the Sudanese Armed Forces to "ensure an immediate halt to all looting, burning, and illegal resettlement" in Abyei and asked both the north and the south to withdraw their military forces from the area.

The Ngok Dinka is a black tribe that associates itself with Sudan's south. The Ngok Dinka fled Abyei when northern troops and ethnic Misseriya — Arab cattle herders aligned with the north — moved in and looted homes. The U.N. report estimated that between 15 percent and 20 percent of the homes in Abyei were burned in what it called "deliberate destruction" and a violation of international humanitarian law.

"By destroying their homes, looting their properties and inspiring fear and terror, over 30,000 Ngok Dinkas have been forcefully displaced from their ancestral homes, leaving the Abyei area now more or less homogeneously occupied by the Misseriya," it said.

Ethnic cleansing, the report said, is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.

The report said that the likelihood that all the Ngok Dinka residents can return to Abyei "is limited," given the massive destruction of civilian property and the occupation of Abyei by northern forces.

President Barack Obama's Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, held meetings in Sudan's capital of Khartoum this week to discuss deteriorating security conditions around Abyei. Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, was in the southern capital of Juba on Friday and told AP it was not realistic to have the Ngok Dinka move back into Abyei while it is occupied.

"People who fled out of fear will not be comfortable coming back," Lyman said. "The key is for the SAF to withdraw with appropriate security arrangements from the U.N. Then we know people will be able to safely go back."

North and south Sudan fought a more than two-decade civil war that ended with a 2005 peace agreement that also gave the south the right to vote for independence. That vote passed overwhelmingly, and Southern Sudan is poised to become the world's newest nation in July.

But tensions over Abyei — a fertile land near major oil fields — has raised fears of conflict only weeks before the south secedes.
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Ethnic cleansing in the Sudan
04 Jun 2011
An international monitoring group says there are indications of state-sponsored "ethnic cleansing" in Sudan's contested Abyei region.

North Sudanese forces occupied the region a little more than a week ago, prompting southern troops to withdraw and thousands of residents to flee southward.

The Satellite Sentinel Project says northern troops and militia have now destroyed about one-third of all civilian structures in Abyei's main town.

The group, which monitors Sudan through satellite imagery, also confirms the reported destruction of a major bridge south of town and the ransacking of a World Food Program storage facility.

It says the north's actions may add up to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

North Sudanese officials have not responded to the group's accusations.

Representatives from the north and the soon-to-be-independent south met in both Khartoum and Addis Ababa Saturday to discuss the Abyei situation.

Southern officials say 80,000 people have been displaced from the region, and the United Nations says tens of thousands are living out in the open, with little food or fuel.

Oil-rich Abyei has long been a point of contention between the north and south. The sides fought fiercely over the region during a 21-year civil war that ended in 2005.

South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum, and is due to declare independence on July 9.

But the north and south have been unable to agree on who should control Abyei, which sits along the north-south border.

Abyei was scheduled to hold its own referendum on whether to join the north or south. But the vote was cancelled when the sides could not agree on who was eligible to vote.

The United Nations, United States, and south Sudan have all called on the north to withdraw its forces from Abyei.
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