One year on: Failure of leadership in Sudan and South Sudan has led to human rights crisis

It is a year since South Sudan gained its independence from neighbour Sudan, but anybody hoping for a smooth separation will now be feeling sorely disappointed.Despite what was deemed a relatively free and fair vote, the break has been far from clean, and a series of unresolved issues around secession have unleashed what has become a human rights and humanitarian crisis. Poor leadership in Juba and Khartoum meant a series of key issues were left unresolved – border demarcation including the status of the disputed border district of Abyei, sharing oil revenues, citizenship, and the marginalization of communities in their countries. These outstanding issues led to increased tension and conflict between both countries.  Sudanese refugees continue to flee south to escape ongoing fighting between Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army North (SPLA-N).Relentless and indiscriminate aerial bombardments by the Sudanese government have caused tens of thousands of people from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan to flee to remote areas of South Sudan.But those fleeing have found other kinds of insecurity rather than safety across the border.  They are forced to subsist with limited access to food, water and shelter, and are exposed to further risk of human rights abuses, as the result of inadequate protection in the camps. When Amnesty International visited the refugee camps in South Sudan as part of an Amnesty International mission in March and April, it was worrying to see the limited resources that were available. Humanitarian organizations were already expressing concerns about the upcoming rainy season, which was set to start in May.They knew that there would be a large influx of refugees before heavy downpours made the roads impassable but also that the lack of accessibility would hinder efforts by aid organizations to provide significant assistance. The refugee population in Yida, Unity State, has since more than doubled to an excess of 60,000 people in one camp.In Upper Nile an average of 1,000 people are arriving every day, bringing the total refugee population in both states to more than 169,000. The conflict meanwhile continues and negotiations about the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance to people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile have reached an impasse. The UN Security Council in May 2012 gave its backing to a proposal put forward by the African Union, League of Arab States and United Nations to give access to independently delivered aid. The government of Sudan in late June formally accepted this proposal, but with restrictive conditions that do not allow for independent assistance, rendering the acceptance meaningless.The Security Council should demand that the  Sudan government allows humanitarian organizations immediate and unhindered access to both states. It should also mandate a full and independent investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties, and expand the current arms embargo on Darfur to cover the whole of Sudan.Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people from Abyei remain displaced in South Sudan, and deem it unsafe to return home.Sudan and South Sudan have yet to reach an agreement on the status of the disputed border area.UN peacekeepers have been deployed there since July 2011 but no proper human rights monitoring has yet been put in place and no investigation has been conducted into the events that led to the destruction and desolation of Abyei in May 2011. South Sudan also faces several of its own internal dilemmas. After decades of conflict it is awash with small arms. There is also the destabilizing presence of multiple armed opposition groups, including some allegedly backed by Sudan. Inter-communal violence in South Sudan has led to the displacement of thousands of people and hundreds of civilian casualties.When the new country came into being, we proposed a Human Rights Agenda for the new government, flagging important issues that would have to be addressed if the government was to have any kind of credibility.  Sadly, one year on these have yet to be addressed.      The world’s newest country has a long way to go to meet its human rights obligations but until the both countries agree to resolve their outstanding issues, the people in Sudan and South Sudan will continue to suffer the ongoing consequences of a volatile and violent border.