July 17, 2023

Fierce battles are taking place in three areas of South Kordofan State, pitting the Sudanese army against the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N) under the leadership of Abdelaziz al-Hilu, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on a separate front. The SPLA-N have now seized control of 10 army camps and may gradually assume control over the state’s capital Kadugli and the second largest city, Dilling, security analysts told Ayin.

The multiple attacks have led to a deteriorating humanitarian condition on the ground amidst a new wave of displacement within the state.

SPLM-N Leader Abdelaziz al-Hilu speaks to his troops – archive (Nuba Reports)

Since Saturday, the SPLA-N took control of five army camps located southwest and north of the state’s capital city, Kadugli, according to several sources in the capital. According to these same sources – the SPLA-N are besieging the cities of Kadugli and Dilling from multiple directions.

Fighting between the SPLA-N and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) took place on Saturday in the army’s Belgna Camp, west of Kadugli. The SAF camp represents the army’s main line of defense for the capital city of West Kordofan State, Lagawa, just adjacent to Kadugli from the western side. The mutual shelling in the Belgna area resulted in the injury of a citizen inside the city of Kadugli, who later had his hand amputated, according to an eyewitness within the state capital.

Since May the SPLA-N have been whittling away at SAF garrisons across South Kordofan. Prior to this report, Al-Hiu’s forces took control of three SAF bases in Servaya, El Tagola, and Un Heitan along with major agricultural projects, local sources said. On 9 July, the SPLA-N also commandeered SAF garrisons in Jubeiha and Rashad in the eastern part of the state and closed the road linking Kadugli to the town of Karkal.

A military source told Ayin that the SPLA-N have managed to take control of an area that links the road from Kadugli to Dilling, effectively cutting off army supply lines from the northern side. The same source believes the rebel SPLM-N will soon take control of both cities and may end up confronting the RSF in the northern areas of the state.

Meanwhile, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are also fighting the paramilitary RSF in the northern part of the state in Al-Farshaya and Thebese, which includes two large army camps that link to the state’s northern town of Dibebad. The RSF ambushed the army near Al-Farshaya on Saturday, after which a backup force moved from Dilling and was able to repel the RSF and seize four vehicles.

Conflict displaced in South Kordofan – archive (Nuba Reports)

Caught in the middle

With a major road completely cordoned off by the SPLM-N, life became challenging for many civilians in Kadugli, says resident Mustafa Suleiman.* By Saturday, however, the SPLA-N re-opened the road for civilians, including vehicles transporting goods and foodstuffs, Suleiman told Ayin. “We are facing a deterioration in various services –everything from health, communications, intermittent electricity for three months—all this amidst a complete absence of government authorities,” Suleiman said. “Since their appointment to office, we have not seen the governor or his deputy present in their offices, with clearly no consideration for the people.”

A medical source told Ayin that nearly all governmental hospitals, including the large referral hospital and emergency departments in Kadugli, are suspended. Only the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital is functioning, along with some commercial health centers that provide services at prohibitively expensive prices. A major power outage linked to the interruption of fuel supplies and severe gaps in medical personnel and medicine has all contributed to the dilapidation of the health sector, the same source said. Now, the source added, people in Kadugli are dying from preventable conditions due to the overall lack of medical services.

Fearing further violence, a steady stream of civilians has left Kadugli. “Many residents left the city towards El-Obeid and other areas, despite the rugged road, which was closed earlier and re-opened,” said Rehab Mohamed in the state capital. “The living situation has become unbearable,” she added, “The prices of commodities have increased dramatically since we lack food and other products. Residents here live in fear of possibly future attacks and have started to leave the city.”

Dilling, the second largest city in the state of South Kordofan, is not fairing any better, local residents told Ayin. According to these sources, residents live in fear of impending conflict — all the while contending with long-term power outages and escalating food prices.