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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 110

(Question No. 1080)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1994:

  (1) Is the Australian Government concerned about the apparent determined push by the Khartoum regime to de-populate certain strategic areas including Nuba Mountains, Ingesseni Hills and southern Sudan?

  (2) Please provide any statistics of the number of people who have disappeared or been killed or have been pushed from their homes and forced into labour.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) The Australian Government has been concerned for some time about the displacement of civilians as a result of the long-running civil war in Sudan.

  Since 1983 the Nuba Mountains region has been subject to conflict between Government forces and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, resulting in insecurity, destruction of ethnic identity and forced re-location of peoples. Human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings, summary executions and suppression of religious freedom are now commonplace. There is evidence that, since 1992, a Jihad or holy war has been declared against non-Muslims, especially Christians, in the Nuba Mountains, and has since become part of daily life in zones of armed conflict there.

  There can be no doubt that a mass displacement of people has occurred in the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan state. According to the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Gaspar Biro, serious human rights violations have occurred on a particularly large scale in the Nuba Mountains, where the Sudanese Government tolerates the policy pursued by local authorities of depopulating the area in their efforts to quell the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.

  The Government of Sudan is also pursuing a widespread process of Islamicisation in the Ingessini Hills, in the southern Blue Nile province, involving compulsory military service in the Popular Defence Force, an arm of the Sudanese Government.

  The destructive effects of civil war in southern Sudan have led to dislocation on a massive scale. Hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished civilians have been forced into continuing dependence on emergency assistance.

  The Australian Government is particularly concerned at the continuing military offensive in southern Sudan by the Sudanese Government, which began in December 1993. This offensive includes indiscriminate high altitude bombing raids by the Sudanese Government against civilian targets along Sudan's borders with Uganda and Kenya. These have now forced up to two hundred thousand civilians in the provinces of Eastern and Western Equatoria to flee to Uganda and Kenya. The Australian Government is particularly appalled that some of the bombing has been directed near camps for the displaced, including the "triple-A" camps of Aswa, Atepe and Ame.

  In response to the renewed fighting, the Australian Ambassador in Cairo, who is accredited to Sudan, has been instructed to make high level representations in Khartoum urging the Government of Sudan to end the military offensive in the south, and to commit itself to participate in the peace process brokered by neighbouring states.

  (2) Access by international non-governmental organisations or independent observers to many areas of the Nuba Mountains has been severely or completely restricted for many years, which means that accurate assessment of the numbers of deaths and the numbers of displaced is correspondingly difficult. Some examples, from the interim report of the UN special rapporteur, however, illustrate the trend. In southern Kordofan, in the districts of Dilling, Kadugli, Salam and Rashad, there were up to 91 displaced persons camps ("peace villages"), with a total population of 167,265 by late 1993. The nearby Wali tribe of 29,000 has now been completely displaced, some 9,000 being in resettlement camps, the rest being dispersed throughout the state.

  A US State Department paper of 14 February 1994 stated that over 1 million people had died in the civil war in Sudan, and that at least another million had been displaced.

  US officials stated on 26 February 1994 that 2 million people in southern Sudan were now at risk of famine as a result of the recent bombing.

  According to a recent World Food Program Report on Food Emergencies, an estimated total of 3,700,000 people in Sudan were in need of food and cash assistance as of late February 1994.