The news from Addis Ababa on June 28, 2011, was the signing of a “Framework Agreement” between the National Congress Party (NCP) Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on political partnership, and political and security arrangements in Blue Nile and South Kordofan (the Arab name for the Nuba Mountains) States. Blue Nile and South Kordofan, along with the region of Abyei, have been known by the vague label “the three areas.” Khartoum wants the land and the natural resources in these three north/south border areas, but not the people – the black, African indigenous people groups. The regime is working diligently to replace the Africans with Arab nomads and create their ideal Arab Islamic state in sub-Saharan Africa.
Perhaps the reason for the Sudan Special Envoy for President Obama, Ambassador Princeton Lyman’s appalling moral equivalencies and denials of reality in a recent PBS News Hour interview was that this agreement was in the offing. The Obama Administration is also keen to have the credit for the official separation of the Republic of South Sudan, slated for July 9, as a feather in its foreign policy cap. This is supposed to be a happy occasion! So they are willing to delay any investigation into who killed who in the Nuba Mountains. In reality, though, the Islamist regime has already launched several attacks into South Sudan and into Abyei, as well as committing an ongoing campaign of extermination of the black African Nuba people of the Nuba Mountains.
The Government of Sudan has never kept an agreement before. As far back as 1972, the Honorable Abel Alier – who was slated to become the President of South Sudan if Khartoum had abided by the Addis Ababa Agreement of that time – wrote of Khartoum’s many betrayals of the African people groups of Sudan in South Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonored. If the Islamist regime in Khartoum adheres to this most recent agreement, it will set a precedent. But, call us cynical; advocates for the Nuba remember too many times when the signing of an agreement by Khartoum was the prelude to fresh slaughter.
Beginning on June 5, 2011, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of the NCP and the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), an Islamic militia comprised of Misseriya Arabs known as the “Al Qaeda of Sudan,” launched a war of extermination in the Nuba Mountains. In his testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on June 16, 2011, Ambassador Roger Winter, former State Department Special Representative on Sudan, told members of Congress that “Throughout South Kordofan reports of gratuitous violence by SAF and their allies are now the norm.” Winter, who should know, having had over thirty years of experience in Sudan, warned that once again, “Nuba are positioned for liquidation by Khartoum forces.”
During the north/south war Nuba men joined forces with Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to defend their people against Khartoum. In their open letter to the U.N. Security Council, President Obama, and other world leaders, the Nuba Mountain Advocacy Group explains:
Most of the world is unaware that Khartoum’s war against the South also included the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Eastern Sudan. Khartoum’s atrocities against these regions have not been fully acknowledged among Sudan’s human rights violations. But these regions experienced the same vicious and war crimes at the hands of Khartoum, on the same scale as our brothers and sisters in the South. And these regions were the actual battle grounds for most of the fights between North and South.
The Nuba Mountains was certainly a battleground then…and the targets were civilians, particularly women and children. Khartoum waged a vicious jihad against the Nuba that was made official by a fatwa issued in April 1992, by imams loyal to the regime that said, “An insurgent who was previously a Muslim is now an apostate; and a non-Muslim is a nonbeliever standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam, and Islam has granted the freedom of killing both of them.” Some of the many weapons of the jihad included slave raids by Arab muharaleen; aerial bombardment of towns, churches, schools, marketplaces, and gatherings of people for food aid; rounding up the Nuba and sending them to “peace camps” where receiving food was contingent upon conversion to Islam; and using a scorched earth policy and other methods to starve the Nuba.
And the Nuba Mountains are a battleground again. Even as the Government of Sudan was negotiating the agreement in Addis Ababa, they were hammering Kurchi, another town of the Nuba Mountains, by aerial bombardment.
A church leader from the area sent both word and unforgettable photographs of what took place on what he calls “Sunday of Bleeding.” He reports that among the dead were two sisters killed by the jet fighters and the Antonovs. One was decapitated, the other died of her wounds after being taken to a clinic. One young man, who in the photos has no body from the waist down, was a young husband and father of two children. Another man’s upper body was destroyed. Half a torso and legs lay on a stretcher. Two small children are barely recognizable in their death. And the church leader saves for the last, photographs of his youngest brother and the brother’s wife, both killed, and leaving behind three children.
If you could see these photographs, and trust me, you do not want to see these photographs, you would understand how offensive is the attitude of the U.S. government towards this obvious campaign of extermination by Khartoum. The U.S. government leads a NATO campaign against Kaddafi to support God-knows-who, but won’t even admit that what is taking place in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan is ethnic cleansing.
When asked about the issue by Margaret Warner of PBS News Hour, Sudan Special Envoy Lyman responds, “I don’t think the North is capable of dislodging large numbers of people on an ethnic basis from the Nuba Mountains. That’s the reality on the ground.” (They don’t need to “dislodge” them if they kill them.) “Second, I’m not sure that’s the objective of the government though local commanders may have a different point of view.” Not only the “local commanders,” but the Nuba people and their advocates also have a different point of view, particularly since the PDF revealed that they were given weapons and ammunition, along with instructions by Khartoum to “sweep away the rubbish” and if they saw a Nuba to “just clean it up.”
The activists of the Nuba Mountain Advocacy Group fear that the U.S. government will be taken in by Khartoum’s new agreement and not understand that once again this is a delaying tactic of the regime’s. They seem to not understand the late Dr. John Garang’s assessment of the NCP that it is “too deformed to reform,” and the words of the late Nuba schoolteacher-turned-SPLA Commander/Hero, Yousif Kuwa, that under the Islamic regime Sudan is “sick” and can only be healed by death. While the international community watches to see what will happen after the signing of this agreement, the NCP will have time to finish off the Nuba and begin clearing away the African populations of Blue Nile and Abyei.
Fortunately, there are some members of Congress, long-time defenders of the people of Sudan, who know the truth about Khartoum. Up until now, all that they have offered for this current crisis are words. But at least the words they have expressed convey the reality of what is happening in the Nuba Mountains. For the sake of the survival of the Nuba, it is past time to offer more than words.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).