Drawing upon the voices of cultural leaders to protect and assist the vulnerable, marginalized and displaced.
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WASHINGTON -- The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released new satellite imagery confirming the intentional burning of Um Bartumbu village in Sudan’s conflict-torn border region of South Kordofan. SSP’s latest report, which also includes new eyewitness reports and photos embedded with GPS codes, solves the mystery of an undated cell phone video, which appeared to show a unit of Sudanese forces called the Match Battalion razing an unnamed village.
AGOK, South Sudan -- “I ran because I saw many militias and SAF,” said Malak Miyen, an elderly Ngok Dinka man. “I survived because of God.” Malak was in Abyei town when Sudan government forces and allied militias violently took over the Abyei territory in May 2011, in response to alleged South Sudan army provocation. For over a year, he has been displaced in a town 37 kilometers south of Abyei town called Agok. This was the second time in his life Malak has been forced to flee from his home. The first time was in 2008, when Abyei town was similarly ravaged by fighting.
Few have ever heard of the Nuba Mountains village of Um Bartumbu, and fewer still have been there. It is located in the conflict-torn state of South Kordofan, Sudan, where troops fighting for the government of Sudan, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North, or SPLM/A-N, have been fighting since June 2011. Um Bartumbu Village does not appear on most maps, but it hosts a clinic, a mosque, Sudanese Church of Christ, several storerooms, a communal grinding mill, and copses of desert date trees. But for new eyewitness reports obtained by citizen journalists, the recent discovery and release of a cellphone video, and new confirmation from DigitalGlobe and Landsat satellite imagery, the world would never know of the razing of the village and the forced flight of its inhabitants.
With the 23rd anniversary of President Omar al-Bashir’s oppressive rule fast approaching, protests have swept through Sudan’s capital and neighboring cities. Yet this series of demonstrations “feels different” than previous anti-regime protests, report activists on the ground. Recent austerity measures and price increases have mobilized hundreds of Sudanese to take to the streets shouting, “The people want to bring down the regime!”—a chant that had resonated throughout the Arab world last spring.
JUBA, South Sudan -- Humanitarian aid groups working in South Sudan report that, in the last three weeks, over 35,000 refugees from the Sudanese state of Blue Nile have entered transit centers and over-stretched refugee camps in Upper Nile state. The first week of June alone saw an average of 4,000 people a day streaming across the North-South border into Upper Nile. This influx brings the total number of refugees in the South Sudanese state of Upper Nile to 105,000, a staggering number that exceeds the capacity of the state’s two existing refugee camps, Jammam and Doro.
While many Sudan observers are looking ahead to South Sudan’s first birthday in July, there is another, less auspicious, anniversary to commemorate. Today, June 5, marks one year since the beginning of hostilities in South Kordofan state. The Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, have been engaged in combat over the last year; however, a hallmark of the violence has been the SAF’s relentless targeting of civilians, use of indiscriminate bombing, and continued denial of humanitarian aid to devastated and food insecure communities.
The Sudanese government has banned at least four foreign humanitarian agencies from working in the eastern region of the country. The decision last week by the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Commission, or HAC, to suspend projects in the deeply impoverished East is yet another example of Khartoum’s continued pattern of obstruction and neglect of peripheral areas. In addition to the recent developments in the East, humanitarian access remains severely hampered in Darfur and has been completed blocked in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.