Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir is under indictment by the International Criminal Court on three charges of genocide, as well as war crimes, in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. But in every other part of Sudan – north, south, and east, Bashir’s National Islamic Front regime has also committed genocidal-level crimes against humanity that demonstrate the regime’s absolute contempt for Sudan’s black, African people. When it is not committing outright genocide as in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains where over 2.5 million died and over 5 million were displaced, or as in Darfur’s genocide by attrition, the regime perpetrates its racist agenda of total Islamization and Arabization in Sudan through a multitude of devious maneuvers whose significance never seems to be fully comprehended by the U.S. government.
One such maneuver may occur this November 2010, when Kuwait will host the International Donors Conference for the Development of East Sudan. Eastern Sudan, actually the northeast corner of the country, consists of Red Sea, Gedaref, and Kassala states, and borders Egypt and Eritrea. The Beja, the indigenous people of the region, fear that the conference is just one more of Khartoum’s schemes for displacing them from their traditional homeland. The Beja believe that Khartoum and its Arab allies intend that all financial and political support raised in the donors conference will benefit not the Beja, but the Rashaida Arabs.
The Rashaida are Bedouins originally from Saudi Arabia, who moved into eastern Sudan about one hundred years ago. They have strong familial ties to Kuwait, which, “coincidentally” is hosting the conference. Khartoum has been importing more and more Rashaida into Beja land in recent years. A further empowered Rashaida, taking more and more of eastern Sudan, with easy access to the Egyptian border, would not only be injurious to the Beja, but would be a further terrorist threat in the region. The Rashaida are already notorious for smuggling Iranian weapons to Hamas (when they aren’t blown to Kingdom Come by the Israelis, that is!). The U.S. government should heed the warnings of the Beja and ensure that the aid coming from the donor conference is distributed equally to all of the people of eastern Sudan.
The Beja are one more African people group that inconveniences the National Islamic Front government by existing and giving the lie to the idea that Sudan is an Arab country. They have survived a hardscrabble life in Sudan’s Red Sea Hills for some 6,000 years. Originally worshippers of Isis at Philae, an island in the Nile, the Beja became Christians in the 6th century, due to the influence of the Nubian Christian kingdoms that ruled the Nile Valley. Then in the 13th century, when Nubia was conquered by Muslim invaders, the Beja, along with the Nubians, were forcibly converted to Islam. They survived, and continued their customary, nomadic life as camel herders and traders, as well as farmers. They even survived fighting on behalf of the Sudanese Mahdi against the British. The Beja, also known then as “Blemmyes,” were honored for their valiant military prowess in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Fuzzy-Wuzzy.” Kipling calls the adversary Beja “first-class fighting men” because against all odds they “broke the British square,” the four-sided defensive infantry formation considered impregnable.
Only time, and the response of the international community, particularly the U.S. government, will tell if the Beja are able to survive Khartoum’s devices. Although they constitute fifteen percent of the entire population of Sudan, and number upwards of two million people, they have been marginalized by the Islamists. Eastern Sudan contains gold mines, oil, natural gas, and other resources. Sudan’s main port city of Port Sudan also lies in the region. It is a strategic harbor location on the Red Sea. But the Khartoum regime does not want to share this great wealth of resources and revenue with black, African Sudanese. Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, successive Sudanese governments have completely neglected the Beja and attempted to suppress their culture and identity. They prohibited the Beja language in favor of Arabic and viciously they have cracked down on dissenters and protestors. In addition, Khartoum has prohibited humanitarian relief and development organizations from entering the area to help the Beja. As a result, the Beja suffer severe rates of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, and high infancy and maternal mortality, as well as anemia, tuberculosis, meningitis, dengue fever, and other diseases engendered by Khartoum’s “jihad of neglect.” There is actually less access to potable water for the Beja than there is in Darfur.