By Faith J. H. McDonnell
For twelve months the Nuba Mountain people of Sudan’s South Kordofan State have been under genocidal attack by Sudan’s National Congress Party (NCP) government, the Islamist regime of ICC-indicted war criminal, Omar al-Bashir. The year’s toll on the 50+ indigenous African people groups that comprise the Nuba has been just as the regime desired. Over half a million people are at imminent risk of death from disease, starvation, and thirst, orchestrated deliberately by Bashir. And in the face of this genocide, the Obama Administration has been silent in every significant sense, refusing to take decisive action, uttering meaningless statements of concern, and tainting even those useless expressions by treating as morally equivalent the genocidal regime in Khartoum and those who are fighting against it to defend their people.
On Sunday, June 5, 2011, sources on the ground first reported that war had begun in the Nuba Mountains. A rigged election gave South Kordofan governorship to ICC-indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun over the popular Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) war hero, Commander Abdelaziz Adam Al Hilu. Haroun demanded the disarming and expulsion of the SPLA from the region. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and militias began deploying troops with heavy weapons, tanks, and a military air base. The Nuba division of the SPLA, now known as the SPLA-North, began to fight back against the SAF. Only in the air did Khartoum have the advantage. “We need quick action from the USA and the international community before another genocide occurs in the Nuba Mountains,” Nuba watchers warned.
Since that time, the SAF has bombed continually Nuba Mountain farm villages, burning homes, schools, and churches. Khartoum’s bombers fly daily over the region and with random cruelty drop barrel bombs stuffed with ball bearings, nails, and other deadly projectiles. The regime’s Islamist militia, the “Popular Defense Force,” Murahaliin of the Arab Baggara tribe, waged the ground war against the civilians while the SPLA-North was occupied in battle with the SAF. The militia staged house by house purges of black, African Nuba, particularly targeting church leaders and members. Khartoum also began waging war against the disputed Blue Nile State in September 2011, sacking the freely and fairly elected governor, Malik Agar, and killing civilians. Over 30,000 Nuba have fled to South Sudanese and Kenyan refugee camps. But the bombers ignore sovereign borders and occasionally attack there as well.
As many as 500,000 Nuba are hiding in mountain caves from Khartoum’s bombers. Thanks to Khartoum’s scorched earth policies, this fiercely independent and self-sufficient people’s crops have been burned and their herds stolen or slaughtered. Now they have no food but leaves and insects and little access to drinking water. Aid that would save their lives is already available, over the border in the Republic of South Sudan, but the NCP regime forbids cross-border aid. And the United States government, the United Nations, and the rest of world are silently compliant with Khartoum’s ban.
Brad Phillips, the founder and president of The Persecution Project Foundation (PPF) that has worked in Sudan since 1997, declares that the only reason the Nuba have not already been exterminated by Khartoum is that the SPLA-North “has clearly taken the fight to the NCP. After 500,000 dead and years of broken promises, marginalization, and persecution, the Nuba people have had enough.” In his Congressional testimony, Phillips criticized the U.S. and other governments for their inaction as people were being slaughtered. If it were not for the SPLA-North resistance, “led by their inspirational leader, Abdelaziz Adam Al Hilu, we would be witnessing another Rwandan-style genocide,” he blazed.
The truth is that the SPLA-North continues to win all of the ground battles against Khartoum’s troops, controlling 90 percent of the countryside. The NCP’s Sudan Armed Forces “are there in the towns, in garrisons . . . dug in like rats inside their trenches,” declared SPLA-North commander, Abdelaziz Adam Al Hilu interviewed by journalist Tristan McConnell for the Global Post. “They are not free to move.” Al Hilu observed that the Sudan Army is very weak and that they seem to have little will to fight. So why, as Nicholas Kristof demanded recently in his New York Times column, has the Obama Administration “consistently tried to restrain the rebel force”? Kristof said that Al Hilu and his troops want to liberate Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan State from NCP regime control, but that Washington is discouraging them. Al Hilu, he said, “seemed mystified that American officials try to shield a genocidal government whose army is, he thinks, crumbling.”
Al Hilu is thought of as the George Washington of Sudan by many of Sudan’s marginalized people. He says that the SPLA-North is able to fight against the larger and better-equipped Sudan Armed Forces, “Thanks to Bashir [and] SAF! It is Bashir who is supplying us [with equipment abandoned by the army]. They bring everything and leave it for us!” He showed Tristan McConnell the weapons and equipment that the SPLA-North had taken from the Sudan Army: “cars mounted [with machine guns], heaps of ammunition, shells, rockets, different types of guns.” The commander confessed that when they run across a weapon that they have not seen before, they actually look for ex-SAF soldiers to come and train them.Since November 2011 the SPLA-North has been united with the opposition movements of Sudan’s other marginalized people groups in what is called the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Al Hilu is the Chief of the Joint Military Command of the SRF. Other leaders include former Blue Nile State Governor Malik Agar and a number of the leaders of the Darfurian rebel movements. There is also the hope for participation by the Beja Congress of eastern Sudan and the Nubians from the far north, two ancient, indigenous people groups.
Sudan’s marginalized peoples comprise 87 percent of Sudan’s population but Al Hilu explained to McConnell that the root cause of the conflict in the Nuba Mountains is that “Khartoum doesn’t want to recognize the diversity in the country.” He said that the NCP regime is “going for a monolithic type of state, based on only two parameters, that is Arabism and Islam.” Al Hilu believes in true religious freedom for all and a secular democracy based on the vision of the “New Sudan” of his late friend Dr. John Garang de Mabior. He said that Khartoum has “no place for anybody who is not a Muslim, who is not an Arab.” “Somebody like me, I am a Muslim but I am not an Arab,” he said. “They say I must accept, I must put on a jellaba and turban and dance the way Bashir is doing!”
It would seem to be the opportune time to support Sudanese that desire true democratic transformation of the country. The desperate, starving people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile will probably die unless Khartoum’s genocide is stopped. The military success of the SPLA-North and the coordination growing between all of Sudan’s marginalized people groups, including many Arab Sudanese in the north, has created a strong pro-democracy force in the country. The alternative is shamefully to continue to enable the regime of an ICC-indicted war criminal, responsible for the death of millions of his own people. Stating that the international community has a “problem with memory,” Al Hilu marveled that this is the same Bashir “who introduced Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to the world.”
One week – not one year – after demonstrations started in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, President Obama urged President Hosni Mubarak to step down. There was violence and repression in the Egyptian uprising, but nothing on the level of what is taking place in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Yet the brutality and genocide by President Omar al-Bashir have not caused Obama and the international community to demand that he step down.
The Arab uprising in Libya began February 17, 2011. By the 26th the UN Security Council had condemned Gadhafi’s crackdown on the rebels as a violation of international law. By March 17, the UN had created the kind of no-fly zone for which the Nuba people have been pleading for a year. Not long after, the U.S. was using Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Gadhafi regime. Unlike the SPLA-North that took on Khartoum by itself, the so-called Libyan freedom fighters needed the United States and other Western nations to come and fight their battles for them as if non-Muslim nations were their personal Mamluks. The double standard is breathtaking, and particularly now, when Egypt is in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and Libya is controlled by Al Qaeda/Osama Bin Laden affiliates such as Islamist terrorist Abdulhakim Belhadj, who received training in Sudan.
If the U.S. government and the international community are not going to support the SPLA-North and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, at least they should not stand in the way of their own courageous and sacrificial fight for freedom. Al Hilu reveals to the press what Sudan advocates have observed all along, “In this conflict between the Nuba and the center [Khartoum] we are not allowed to fight freely, there is intervention always … Always there is pressure on the South, on the Nuba, on the marginalized people, the poor people … They make us go to the table to talk but there is no action.”
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