Do the Nuba of Sudan Have a Prayer?

Are UN officers aiding the Islamist government's civilian slaughter?

"Once again we are facing the nightmare of genocide of our people in a final attempt to erase our culture and society from the face of the earth. It is not a war between armies that is being fought in our land, but the utter destruction of our way of life and our history, as demonstrated by the genocide of our neighbors and relatives in Darfur. This is a war of domination and eradication, at its core it is a war of terror by the government of Sudan against their people."

These are the words of the Rt. Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, Bishop of Kadugli and the Nuba Mountains, in a June 18 plea for churches around the world to pray and fast for the people of central Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. The Nuba are trying to survive renewed attacks by the National Congress Party (NCP), which began on June 5 and continue unabated.

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are bombing the region daily with Antonovs and MiGs. For example, on June 20, the little town of Al Hamra, with a population of less than 3,000, was hammered for a full day by five Antovs and MiGs from the NCP stronghold of Khartoum. This action cleared the way for the Arab militia called the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) – just another version of the infamous Janjaweed, the killers of Darfur – to carry out massacres against the Moro tribe of the Nuba people (95% Christian), who constitute the backbone of the troops in the northern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA-North).

Another glimpse into the extent of the extermination taking place in the Nuba Mountains came in a June 23 Associated Press story. “Sudanese intelligence agents posed as Red Crescent workers and ordered refugees to leave a UN-protected camp in a region where Sudan’s Arab military has been targeting a black ethnic minority,” said an internal UN report obtained by the AP.

Sudanese National Security Service agents put on Red Crescent aprons at the refugee camp in Kadugli and told refugees to go to a stadium where they would receive humanitarian aid and hear an address by the new governor, the ICC-indicted, falsely-elected, war criminal Ahmed Haroun. The refugees were threatened with forced removal from the camp if they did not go to the stadium.

The UN report, marked “For Internal Use Only,” was dated June 22. It did not say what happened to the refugees who went to the stadium or how many were forced to go. But another AP story, five days later, reported that “the United Nations said Tuesday it was concerned about the fate of 7,000 Sudanese civilians last seen being forced by authorities to leave the protection of a UN compound in the tense border region between the North and South” (emphasis added). Sudan expert Eric Reeves says of the incident, “Despite this public report there was no direct response from any international actor of consequence, including the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos.  Small wonder that Khartoum believes it may do what it wants with impunity.”

On Monday, June 27, dozens of Nuba and their supporters demonstrated in front of the United Nations in New York. At the end of the day, they delivered a statement to the UN Security Council entitled “The Genocide Continues in Nuba Mountains and the International Community Sits By.” The statement urges the UN to act, rather than awaiting some result from the Addis Ababa negotiations.

One top Nuba activist explains what by now should be obvious to anyone that has followed events in Sudan for even the last two or three years. Khartoum is misleading the international community into believing that it will negotiate in good faith. The regime is avoiding any tough resolution by the UN Security Council by buying time through the Addis Ababa negotiations. At the same time that they are negotiating, NCP military operations are continuing everywhere in the Nuba Mountains. They are killing Nuba and demolishing and destroying their homes, businesses, and churches, in order to wipe them out and replace them with Islamic Arabs.

In addition, on Tuesday, June 28, a group of refugee women and children held a demonstration in front of the UNMIS refugee camp in Kauda in the Nuba Mountains. They were protesting the continued presence of Egyptian UNMIS forces because of their cooperation with the NCP in its war against the Nuba. The demonstrators delivered a statement to the mission head in Kauda declaring that the Egyptian UN peacemakers had failed to provide protection to civilians in South Kordofan. They stated that the Egyptian forces “are not neutral” and that they have been “cooperating with the security, SAF and militia forces of the NCP.”

The women and children’s statement reveals that the collaboration of the Egyptian forces with the NCP started before the war when the forces submitted inaccurate and misleading reports to the international community about the SAF's movement in the region, and that the Egyptians had covered up the movement and the deployment of SAF troops. They also leveled serious accusations about the actions of the Egyptian forces since the war began on June 5, including:

  • transporting Sudanese forces and militia in their own armored personnel carriers and allowing them to use UNMIS facilities in North Kadugli;
  • allowing the Sudanese forces, security, and militia to enter the UNMIS camp to arrest and execute SPLM supporters and other civilians from Nuba;
  • "conniving with the Air Forces in bombing villages, civilians, and institutions that provide humanitarian aid” leading to the death of 280 children, 213 women, and 67 men, as well as the displacement of 425,933;
  • collaborating with the SAF in an attack against the SPLA and with security organs of the NCP in detaining UN Nuba staff at Kadugli airport;
  • preventing the landing of UN flights delivering humanitarian aid, using the airport for military purposes, allowing government takeover of World Food Program (WFP) food stores, depriving the refugees of food, and failing to provide other basic services – food, water, healthcare, shelter – to those who took refuge at the UNMIS compound; and,
  • sexually harassing and raping girls and women and allowing militia and other security agents of the NCP to rape them, too.

It may be that only Divine intervention can stop the genocide of the Nuba. Neither the United Nations nor the Obama administration has shown the moral will to protect them from extermination by the NCP government. But many advocates for the Nuba Mountains follow the advice of St. Augustine: pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you. And so, along with prayer, there will be continued pressure on the yet-unmoved U.S. government and United Nations, along with the international media and the world community, to stop this genocide.

So far, all the U.S. government has offered the suffering Nuba are words. And frequently, not even the right words. A June 22 press statement from President Obama reads, “[B]oth parties have a responsibility to end the current violence and allow immediate humanitarian access to desperate people who have been driven from their homes and are now cut off from outside help” (emphasis added). But as Bishop Andudu said, this is not a war between armies; it is a war of terror by the government of Sudan against its own people. It is both erroneous and offensive to cast the government of Sudan and the SPLA-North as morally equivalent.

Obama’s statement also says that the “situation in Southern Kordofan is dire, with deeply disturbing reports of attacks based on ethnicity.” If ever there was an opportunity to use the “race card” legitimately, this is it. But no government has been forthright enough to name this campaign of extermination as the most overt and violent demonstration of racism of our time, with the PDF Arab African-killers having been given the chilling instructions to “sweep away the rubbish,” and if they see a Nuba, to just “clean it up.”

There has been no pressure to oust President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his Islamist regime as there was with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. There has been no military action against the regime by NATO forces as in Libya. Yet the people of the Nuba Mountains and the other marginalized areas of Sudan, who would benefit from the removal of the ICC-indicted war criminal al-Bashir and his cohorts, are far better allies in the fight against global jihad and terrorist activity than Egypt’s current leaders and Libya’s shadowy “freedom fighters.” There are members of Congress, long-time advocates for the people of Sudan, who want to stop the genocide of the Nuba. If your member is not one of them, you may be able to persuade him/her. So say a prayer for the Nuba, and then get off your knees and call your member of Congress.

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).