Professor Mukesh Kapila, public health and international development expert, addresses the 5th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy remotely via a video message– see below for full prepared remarks.
James Kirchik: Mukesh Kapila, who is a professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester in the UK, couldn’t join us today unfortunately but he did produce a video that we’re going to watch. He has extensive experience in the policy and practice of international development, humanitarian affairs, and diplomacy. He’s also a special representative of the Aegis Trust for the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity. He was the former Under-Secretary-General at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. He has served as the Special Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, and then Special advisor at the UN mission in Afghanistan. He’s been involved in much NGO work, in the Chair of the Council of Minority Rights International. There’s a video I believe we will be seeing momentarily.
In July 2011, the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ gave birth to South Sudan…Yet ethnic war raged on in Darfur, and had already begun in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Sudan’s forgotten war zones. In January 2013, the Aegis Trust visited these regions.
Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan State, Sudan
Mukesh Kapila: Here we are, just 30 minutes away from the government base in Kadugli. This is how they live: the little children, their mothers hiding in a cave which is no more than a meter in depth, month after month now for two years. What a way of living.
Sudanese woman in video: They (the Sudanese government) are bombing us.
Mukesh Kapila: It is disgraceful that civilians like this, women and children- 90% of the people you’ve seen here are women and children- should be bombed from the skies, missiled, their fields burnt, their home destroyed, their food stocks completely gone, and unable to grow their crops season after season after season.These are crimes against humanity. These are war crimes. And I don’t know why the world isn’t doing more about it.
Maj. Gen. Jagoud Makwar Marada, in video: Their (Khartoum’s) intention is to terrorize the civilian population and scare them off the land.
Mukesh Kapila: We’re in Tabanya going to see a bombed area where the houses were destroyed and the people killed. I hope we can talk to some survivors there.
Conversation with a Sudanese man:
Man: This is shrapnel from the bomb the plane dropped.
Mukesh Kapila: So, you have seen the bombing take place?
Man: When they bombed, I was inside my house. When they bombed, my house was burning. I’ve seen them bombing five times.
Mukesh Kapila: Al-Bashir, the President, the Defense Minister and the Governor of Southern Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, have already been indicted by the International Criminal Court for what they did in that war. And here they are doing exactly the same things, if not worse, here in the Nuba Mountains, and you can see that handcraft.
CMMB hospital at Gidel, near Kauda
Sudanese man: He was just playing with his brother, and then he got injured.
Dr. Tom Catena: A lot of wounds from the Antonov bombardments. The vast majority of these are civilians. These Antonov wounds tend to be very severe: loss of limb, of course loss of life, very deep penetrating wounds, this type. In addition to the traumatic wounds caused by outright fighting, there’s been a large increase in cases of malnutrition. For sure, a lot of the problems, certainly problems with hunger, the problems with supplies, will be lessened if they allowed these cross-border operations to take place; just humanitarian aid across the border. Personally, I’m puzzled why this is not taking place. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We have hungry people, we see hungry people here. Let’s do the right thing to provide food to the hungry people. And don’t worry about what the Khartoum government says. The Khartoum government will renege on any agreement that is made with them.
Mukesh Kapila: To deny lifesaving, humanitarian aid, and medical assistance to non-combatants – wounded, which by definition of therefore non-combatants – isn’t that a violation of International Humanitarian Law and a crime against humanity?
Dr. Tom Catena: Yes, it is. So the international community has been complicit in the Khartoum government’s program to annihilate the people here.
Yida refugee camp
Mukesh Kapila: This thin blue is a disputed boundary between Sudan. Behind me, that is the Nuba mountains, and in front of me is the Republic of South Sudan. This thin blue line here is where the rhetoric meets reality. And I would like to invite all the people to come and visit and see for themselves what the human cost is of not only their inattention and inaction, but also their misconceived policies, which actually make the suffering worse. So the international community, the African Union, the United Nations, that has invested so much in the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan, must realize that all their efforts are in vain if they continue to neglect the people of the Nuba mountains.
Doro refugee camp: Blue Nile State, Sudan
Sudanese woman: They’re raping women. This started in Sudan. Where is Sharia (Law) talking about that? No Sharia like that.
YaBus, Blue Nile State, Sudan
Mukesh Kapila: This is YaBus, in Blue Nile State in Sudan. At the new year, as Sudan celebrated its Independence Day, and President Al-Bashir himself celebrated in the state capital, he sent his Antonovs to raize this neighborhood to the ground. This was an important market town; markets happened here, there’s schools, there’s clinics, there’s little businesses. And all that was destroyed at the turn of the new year. A happy new year gift from the President of Sudan to his people.
Sudanese woman: The Antonovs always come on Thursdays. They come on Thursdays, because that is market day.
Mukesh Kapila: This is a mass grave of about a dozen people. On a clear sunny day, February the 20th, 2012, there was a marketplace here, and the people going about their business could not hear the Antonov that came rumbling in.
Sudanese man: We tried to figure out why they were bombing us. But we have no idea. We’re poor people. We thought the government could do good things for us, but they just keep bombing us. I’m an ordinary person, I don’t know why they keep bombing me.
Kiir Adem, Northern Bahr Ghazal
Mukesh Kapila: So we are in the vastness of the Northern Bahr Ghazal state of South Sudan. The conflict between Sudan and South Sudan has led to a highly militarized border just a few kilometers North of us. There can be no peace and stability across these two countries, unless some of those border and other issues are resolved.
Kiir Adem, Northern Bahr Ghazal
Mukesh Kapila: So here we have another crater, and bomb sent by Antonovs of the Sudan Air Force. And you can see behind me this civilian village, which is so close. It’s a miracle that only five people died here. But this is one of many such bomb attacks in this neighborhood.
So this is the last day of our 10 day pilgrimage through the borderlands of Sudan. We’ve been to the Nuba mountains. We’ve been up Blue Nile State, and we have traveled to the very border of Darfur. All these areas have one thing in common: Bashir’s tactics are brilliantly simple. First, he attacks his citizens, the civilians, drives them off the land. Once they’ve fled, then his own people, the Arab tribes, come in and claim the empty land as their own. And what the international community aid efforts [are] doing is actually bolstering this strategy by not allowing people to remain where they are.
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