Air strikes against Nuba people denied during Frontline Club debate on Sudan

A Sudanese official who denied there had been air strikes against the people in the Nuba mountains was challenged by Channel 4 News’ Lindsey Hilsum who said she had spoken to people who had fled the attacks.

Mohamed Abdalla Ali Eltom, deputy head of mission at the Republic of Sudan’s London embassy was speaking just days before details of a UN report emerged  detailing  attacks carried out by Sudanese army and allied forces on Nuba civilians in South Kordofan that could amount to war crimes.

But Lindsey Hilsum, international editor for Channel 4 News, who has recently returned from Sudan, insisted she had seen evidence that the bombing was being carried out.

"I’ve spoken to refugees who were under your bombs. About 10 days ago I spoke to five refugees who had been bombed by your forces in the Nuba mountains who had fled across the border, so yes you are." 

Asked to explain his government’s actions in the region, the deputy head of mission said: "We are fighting the rebels in the mountains, we are not bombing the Nubas."

Mohamed Abdalla Ali Eltom blamed the rebels for being unwilling to accept defeat in elections in South Kordofan, where the Nuba mountains are located:

"As soon as the results of the elections were announced and they discovered they didn’t win, they immediately started to attack government troops. Of course, as a responsible government, if you are attacked you have to respond. This is quite natural."

The event, which marked the creation of the new nation of South Sudan began with two reports from the region by Lindsey Hilsum for Channel 4 News.

I wanted to give a sense of what the place is like at this moment," said Hilsum, adding that she found it "this strange mixture of depressing and uplifting at the same time."

Chaired by Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, the discussion that followed focused largely on the problems both North and South Sudan, including that of corruption, dismantling the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, oil and how citizenship of South Sudan was determined.  

Watch the video or listen to the podcast for in-depth coverage of the situation in North and South Sudan from Dr Ahmed Al-Shahi, research fellow and co-founder of the Sudan Programme at St Antony’s College, Oxford University and Natznet Tesfay, head of Africa forecasting at Exclusive Analysis.