Sudan's Recurring Nightmare
Hopes for a political solution are fleeting.
Sudan is a kind of diabolical Groundhog Day. In the film by that name, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) re-lives the same day over and over again until he learns the lessons needed to change his life and save the lives of others. In Sudan today, people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State are re-living the horrific nightmare from which they thought they had finally awakened after the signing of Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But in this case, it is the United States government that has failed to learn the lessons needed to change conditions and save the lives of others.
Along with the citizens of what is now the new nation of the Republic of South Sudan, the people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State were for decades mercilessly persecuted and slaughtered by their own government. Starvation and enslavement were used as weapons of war along with ground combat and aerial bombardment. The hallmark of Khartoum’s multiple declarations of jihad against its own people is the deliberate targeting of civilians and particularly of Christians. In the case of Blue Nile State, one Sudanese military commander, Taib Musba, was responsible for the killing of 15,000 Uduk Christians in the mid 1980’s. Some he killed personally by driving three-inch-long nails into the tops of their heads. Others were crushed by a 50 ton Soviet-made tank.
Deliberate targeting of civilians is also the hallmark of Khartoum’s current offensive against the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State. Since June 5, 2011, the Islamist regime’s forces, aided by militias, have been conducting an ethnically-based extermination campaign in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State while attempting to crush the resistance movement of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM/N). And in September they began attacking Blue Nile State, as well.
In June Islamist militias first conducted a door to door search looking for Nuba with orders from ICC-indicted war criminal President Omer al-Bashir to “sweep out the trash,” and whenever they find a Nuba to “clean it up.” The horrific “cleaning” has been verified by the Satellite Sentinel Project. This invaluable effort, started by actor George Clooney, has provided evidence of mass graves believed to be of some 7000 people that were rounded up at the UN compound in the capital city of Kadugli by Sudanese government collaborators and massacred. Since June, regular aerial bombardment has killed many and sent hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in caves and beyond in South Sudan.
To add to the nightmare, Khartoum began attacking Blue Nile State in September. Unknown numbers of men, women, and children have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced, even as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA/N), the resistance movement’s forces, fight to protect the people and maintain territory. The people of Blue Nile and the Nuba now face starvation in government-orchestrated famine. Khartoum has banned all humanitarian assistance from the regions. Now Sudan’s rainy season has ended and Khartoum is resuming land attacks, moving mechanized infantry columns into place, in addition to aerial bombardment.
On November 3, Khartoum announced the capture of Kurmuk, the capital of Southern Blue Nile State, by Government of Sudan (GOS) forces. These forces include both the regular Sudanese army and Mujahedeen and Janjaweed transferred from slaughtering civilians in Darfur civilians to slaughtering civilians in Blue Nile State. According to Blue Nile Association North America, “before entering Kurmuk the GOS forces used aerial bombardment, heavy artillery and helicopter gunships targeting the city of Kurmuk and the surrounding areas, destroying water storage tanks, churches, schools and civilians’ homes.” Tens of thousands of indigenous people were displaced, injured, and killed. Khartoum may also have employed chemical weapons. Many of the injured SPLA/N soldiers “had strange bleeding from their ears and noses.”
Reports on the ground confirmed that all of the villages and towns in the 100 or so miles between Damazin city and Kurmuk as far as the Ethiopian border were completely looted, burned and destroyed by the invading forces. The Blue Nile Association stated that ICC-indicted war criminal president Omer al-Bashir had declared following the secession of South Sudan that there was “no room for any talk about diversity.” He announced that Sudan was now a “pure Arab Islamic State.” “It seems that after this campaign and the campaign in South Kordofan President Basher [sic] is following his words to eradicate and cleanse the indigenous people in Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains of South Kurdufan,” the Blue Nile Association declared.
Not content to bomb men, women, and children in their own home regions, Sudanese Russian-built Antonovs recently crossed international borders and dropped bombs in the new nation of South Sudan where many people from the north had fled. On Thursday, November 10, Sudanese bombers attacked South Sudan’s Unity State’s Yida refugee camp, run by the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. And the day before, the Sudanese had bombed Upper Nile State, also in South Sudan.
At least 20,000 people had sought refuge at Yida, just over the border from Sudan. The refugee camp was hit by four bombs, three of which detonated, causing extensive property damage. Thankfully, no persons were injured. The one bomb that did not detonate could have been the source of greatest tragedy. It landed wedged into the side of one of the huts used as a school building, filled with some 200 children. But the commissioner of Pariang County, Unity State, reported 12 people killed and 20 wounded in the area. The aerial attack on Upper Nile State was reported to have killed 7 people in the area of Guffa. Church sources there said that the bombing was “serious and deliberate.”
With the kind of nerve for which it has long been infamous, the Sudanese regime denied the entire episode. “This information is completely false. We didn’t bomb any camps or any areas inside the borders of South Sudan,” Sudan Armed Forces spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told the AFP news agency. “What is going on in South Sudan belongs to the southerners. We don’t have any links to this,” he declared. The Sudanese Ambassador to the UN, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, similarly denied the charges, saying that the reports were “fabrications” and “there was no aerial bombardment.”
Meanwhile, the response of the Obama administration has been more of the same moral equivalency that has enabled Khartoum to continue on toward its final solution, an ethnically-cleansed Arab Islamist state, for years. On November 9, after the aerial attack on Upper Nile State, the State Department issued a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the aerial bombardment by the Sudan Armed Forces that occurred near the international border between Sudan and South Sudan.”
After saying that “indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets always is unacceptable and unjustified” the State Department states the obvious: “This attack only further emphasizes the need for an immediate halt to indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas by the Sudan Armed Forces…” The statement warns that this also further emphasizes the need for “resolution to the conflict through a resumption of political talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Northern Sector.” It concludes by urging “both sides to fully commit” to African Union talks “facilitated by Thabo Mbeki.”
Apart from the doubt that many Sudanese have expressed concerning the former president of South Africa’s neutrality (since he himself owns a business in Khartoum), the idea proposed by the State Department that there can be a political solution to the conflict is absurd when the conflict is jihad. The oft-stated goal of Khartoum’s jihad is a pure Arab Islamist state. The majority of the Sudanese people do not want this Islamic utopia. They want freedom, democracy, and separation of church/mosque and state, and they have fought harder and sacrificed more for more years for it than any denizen of “Arab Spring.”
“We know very well the plans of the Khartoum regime, which is working on a strategy of demographic change and replacement of indigenous people with foreigners from Somalia and Niger,” said SPLM/N spokesman Arno Ngutulu in a November 11 press release. “We are more determined than ever to continue the struggle until the toppling of the regime and eliminate it from the roots completely,” the statement concluded. In this recurring nightmare in which those who want freedom and democracy in Sudan have to struggle against not only the Islamist regime in Khartoum, but must fight an uphill battle with the United Nations and even with the U.S. government, that “toppling” will not come easy.
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