A U.S. monitoring group announced Wednesday that it has discovered an eighth mass grave in the South Kordofan region of Sudan and as violence continues, some worry that a second Darfur is in the making.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, backed by actor and Sudan activist George Clooney, has used satellite imagery to locate the sites of the graves. The group says that they are unable to estimate just how many bodies may be buried at the eighth grave site but their evaluation was confirmed by eyewitnesses.
Although there is no major U.N. presence in the region, U.N. authorities are acutely aware of the situation as evidenced by a recent report by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva. The report claims that Sudanese security forces carried out indiscriminate air attacks in South Kordofan in weeks before South Sudan became independent on July 9. The report mentioned that the attacks killed civilians and that forces killed prisoners accused of belonging to the South's Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement before burying them in mass graves.
"The evidence against the Sudanese government continues to compound and has now become impossible to dismiss. It is time for the international community to take serious action and execute its responsibility to protect innocent lives in Sudan," said John Prendergast, co-founder of the activist group the Enough Project.
However, as violence continues and the body count rises, it seems that the international community has thrown up its hands in defeat against the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government kicked out U.N. peacekeepers shortly before the independence of South Sudan was made official and has only recently allowed a few U.N. agencies back into the country; a move that many say is just for appearances.
"Sudan is not giving in any way to pressure from the international community" on Kordofan, one Western diplomat told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Khartoum is still banning free access to humanitarian aid. Khartoum is not allowing an independent inquiry into the accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity made against its troops," the diplomat added calling the measure "a smokescreen.
South Kordofan is on the border between Sudan and South Sudan and the split has caused a range of problems, leading to violence, in the days since the countries split apart. Issues between Sudan and South Sudan are few, but critical. Among them are the countries’ final boundaries, division of oil revenues and the status of citizens in the south who remain living in the north.
Khartoum's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said that a joint mission will be sent to South Kordofan "to assess the situation of human rights there and the humanitarian needs."
(Photo: REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/LANDOV)