The Death of an African People?

Sudan's Nuba tribes face annihilation -- and the first African-American president says nothing.

“The Government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day…Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences.”

- Presidential candidate Barack Obama

The sounds of genocide in Sudan are getting louder and louder, but the White House does not seem to hear them. Like his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, who criticised the Bush administration when a presidential candidate for its lack of “strong consequences” in regards to the Darfur genocide, may be about to experience his own “Rwanda moment.”

Reports continue to filter out of Sudan of attacks by the Arab Khartoum government against the Nuba tribes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan state. The Nuba are black African descendants of Sudan’s original peoples from the old Nubian kingdoms that used to reach to Egypt. The Nuba Mountains, an area about the size of Austria, became their refuge after their last kingdom collapsed in the early 1500s.

“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,” said the Right Rev. Andulu Adam Elnail, the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, South Kordorfan’s capital.

The reports of indiscriminate air and artillery attacks against Nuba civilians as well as house-to-house searches targeting sympathisers of the anti-Khartoum resistance, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), are now being backed up by satellite evidence of mass graves. The Satellite Sentinel Project, which was co-founded by actor George Clooney, has released images that show what look like “freshly dug sites” near Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan.

“The DigitalGlobe satellite images contain many of the details and hallmarks of the mass atrocities described by at least three eyewitnesses to the alleged killings,” said Nathaniel A. Raymond of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

The Nuba fought on the side of the southern Sudanese against the Arab North in a civil war that lasted from 1983 until 2005 and ended when President George Bush negotiated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The black African southern Sudanese and Nuba had risen up against the North’s attempt to Arabise and Islamise under sharia law the whole country. Jihad was declared against them in 1989.

In the savage, genocidal conflict that followed, two million mainly southern Sudanese African people, who are mostly Christian and animist, perished. Tens of thousands of Nuba and southern blacks were enslaved and sold in the Muslim North, while hundreds of their villages were destroyed.

The southern Sudanese were rewarded for their defiance, incredible suffering and heroic efforts in defeating the jihad when South Sudan was declared an independent country only days ago, becoming the world’s newest state. The Nuba, however, did not enjoy the fruits of victory. Possessing no contiguous border with South Sudan, they were left cut off inside of the North with nowhere to go. Even worse, the CPA did not grant them longed-for autonomy but only “consultations” regarding their status. The Khartoum government is currently showing the Nuba its idea of consultations in the form of bombs and artillery shells.

The North’s leader, Omar al-Bashir, is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide in Darfur, where tens of thousands of black African Muslims were massacred by government troops in another civil war that started in 2003 and is still continuing. The land where the Darfur Africans have been ethically cleansed is now often occupied by Arab settlers.

The governor of Darfur at the time of these crimes, Ahmed Haroun, is also under ICC indictment for genocide. In an insult to the international community, Haroun recently became governor of South Kordofan where he is most likely expected to put his unique, genocidal talents to use once again.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t disappointed his superiors in Khartoum in this respect. Haroun ethnically cleansed in May an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Dinka tribesmen from Abyei, an area of South Kordofan contiguous with South Sudan whose future was to be decided by referendum. Since Haroun has rid Abyei of most Dinka, the referendum can now go Khartoum’s way, and Abyei will become part of North Sudan. Despite the recent African Union-brokered decision to deploy 4,200 Ethiopian troops in Abyei to create a buffer zone between North and South, Bashir has stated “Abyei remains an ‘an integral part’ of the North Sudan.”

Haroun is also tightening the noose on the Nuba. Human Rights Watch reports that thousands of people are fleeing the area with “almost hourly reports from Nuba on the ground and in the diaspora that the number of women and children fleeing into the bush is growing rapidly.

“The World Council of Churches, with close ties to the people of Nuba, reports that as many as 300,000 civilians are besieged and cut off from relief assistance,” states Human Rights Watch. “Humanitarian conditions have deteriorated precipitously, with critical shortages of water and food already reported…Khartoum’s forces have permitted the looting of UN World Health Organization warehouses in Kadugli, which contained critical and other humanitarian supplies.”

With Bashir about ready to embark on his third genocide, one wonders why Obama, who criticised George Bush’s lack of “consistency and strong consequences” in Darfur, has remained silent. He had made Sudan a plank in his election campaign but has done nothing to reign in Khartoum’s decades-old, genocidal tendencies since taking office.

Observers of the Sudan situation were also highly critical of his selection of retired Air Force General Scott Gration as his special envoy to that country. One critic, Eric Reeves, said Gration had “…no significant diplomatic experience or knowledge of Sudan…” and followed a “notorious policy of appeasement” with Bashir, wanting to “make friends” with the criminal regime. Angering the human rights community, Gration had also once said there were only “remnants of genocide in Darfur.

But silence is not the only area where Obama is hypocritical and culpable in regard to the life or death situation facing the Nuba people. Writer Daniel Goldhagen states that the president’s hypocrisy is also glaring when one considers he wanted Mubarak out and Gaddafi deposed but has “…soft-pedaled, negotiated with, even effectively lent support to Al Bashir and his totalitarian regime.” The crimes of Mubarak and Gaddafi, Goldhagen points out, were nowhere near the scale of Bashir’s.

“Going after Qaddafi and not Al Bashir is like going after Mussolini but not Hitler,” Goldhagen states.

A former US special envoy to Sudan, George Winter, probably correctly discerned part of the reason why America’s first African-American president remains silent while black Africans are being slaughtered in Sudan. Before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa last month, Winter was critical of Gration’s “seemingly intimate relationship” with North Sudan’s leadership.

“Perhaps the eccentricities of General Gration’s approach …are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world,” Winter said.

But a larger part of the reason for the White House’s silence probably has to do with China. The Chinese are Bashir’s biggest backer, as they buy two-thirds of Sudan’s oil production and have invested heavily in the country. In return, China sells Sudan modern weapons and remains unconcerned about the North’s human rights abuses. Despite criticism from human rights groups, for example, the Chinese leadership last month received the ICC-fugitive Bashir on a four-day state visit, during which the two governments discussed expanding ties

But if Obama fears a backlash from China for responding to the North’s new genocide, such appeasement will, as history has shown, only encourage Khartoum to commit more armed aggression. Already, several critics believe Gration’s soft diplomacy towards the Bashir regime is responsible for the current Abyei situation and the attack on the Nuba, against who the North’s armed forces are assembling with heavy weapons.

What has to be realized here is that the Nuba are only the first African people who the Islamic hardliners in Bashir’s government are planning to destroy. These are the same people who yelled out martyr, martyr in the North’s national legislative assembly when it was announced bin Laden had been killed. The assembly’s speaker had been praising bin Laden as a holy warrior at the time. During a public prayer session for the former al Qaeda leader, a Brigade of Bin Laden was also inaugurated that “many Mujahideen joined on the spot.

“Al-Bashir’s regime came pretty close to shutting down Sudan by way of official mourning of Bin Laden,” wrote one observer.

The game plan of Sudan’s Islamist regime all along has been to expand their hardline version of Islam down into East Africa. With their gallant stand, however, the southern Sudanese caused these plans to be put on hold – but only temporarily. As soon as the Nuba are exterminated, the North will renew the war with South Sudan and finish the job of annihilating the black tribes there through enslavement, war and famine, after which it will turn its attention to Uganda and Kenya.

“In Africa, Islam’s roots will go deep and become sturdy quickly. …What is there in Africa but tribalism?...We want to plant civilization in southern Sudan and beyond. They need one,” said Hasan el Turabi, once the regime’s influential Islamist theorist, about this racist and religious project of conquest.

So the current crisis in the Nuba Mountains could be compared to Hitler’s take-over of Austria or the Sudentenland. If Khartoum’s Islamist regime is not stopped now and the Nuba saved, war and bloodshed, mostly at the black Africans’ expense, will just continue its path down the Nile in the decades to come, as el Turabi has made plain. Failure to stop the Sudanese Islamists’ attempt to create “religious Lebensraum” in the Nuba Mountains will have the same catastrophic results the failure to stop the Nazis’ “racial Lebensraum” program early on did.

It is therefore imperative that the United Nations immediately establish a no-fly zone over the Nuba Mountains and humanitarian aid and weapons supplied to the Nuba for self-defense. If the no-fly zone is not respected, then Khartoum’s air bases must be bombed and other military action taken, as Western supporters of the Nuba, like Winter, have been advocating. A wild, genocidal beast like Bashir can only be tamed with a whip and not with words. But tragically for the Nuba, and for Africa, the White House has been unable so far to find either the whip or the words.