When South Sudan gained independence after a two-decade civil war, two divisions of its army were left on the Sudanese side of the border. The divisions added “North” to their revolutionary moniker, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, and declared themselves a political party separate from their former comrades in the South. The SPLM-N took part in elections, but it wasn’t long before tensions with the government undermined the uneasy peace. The SPLM-N took up arms in Southern Kordofan state, and the rebellion soon spread to neighbouring Blue Nile where government forces deposed the elected SPLM-N governor who returned to the bush to lead a guerrilla army.
The government’s strategy included an aerial bombing campaign that drove about 200,000 people over the border. Many fled to Ethiopia, but the vast majority ended up in South Sudan, creating a humanitarian crisis that overwhelmed aid agencies. In the camps, refugees told terrible stories of atrocities and hunger. During two visits to Blue Nile, I saw the destruction firsthand, as well as experiencing one of the bombing raids that spread terror amongst the population. I was also provided with information about plans by the United States’ administration of Barak Obama to move humanitarian aid into the conflict zone in defiance of Sudan’s government.