By neglecting the needs of the Beja and increasing the number of Rashaida and other supporters of radical Islam in the region, Khartoum has slated the Beja for extinction. The regime is colonizing eastern Sudan with outsiders from the Islamic world that support its efforts to Islamize and Arabize Sudan, as well as its aspirations for a thoroughly Islamized African continent. In October 2006, the Beja and the Rashaida came together as The Eastern Front and signed the Eastern Peace Agreement with the governments of Sudan and Eritrea. Although purported to be an equitable settlement, the peace agreement gave all of the positions of political power to the Rashaida. The agreement also enabled Khartoum to sell the Beja’s land – or at least the resources found therein – to foreign investors. In a January 2009 appeal to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the Congress of Beja Intellectuals wrote that “the racist policy of the ruling Arab elites in the Central and Regional Governments is destroying the life of the indigenous populations of the eastern Sudan.” The peace agreement, they said, “deprived the Beja of the right of self determination, denied them their land and its resources and a proper share of power as well.”
One of Khartoum’s greatest advantages in its genocidal jihad to Islamize and Arabize all of Sudan is that the West in general and the United States in particular have never paid close enough attention to Khartoum’s overall agenda regarding its marginalized peoples. The world community had a very important, but very myopic focus on western Sudan ever since the first “Save Darfur” ads began to appear circa 2005. Its attention was finally forced upon South Sudan when it appeared that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was being torpedoed by Khartoum. But most of the government’s available Sudan energy is expended in these two regions. And when the U.S. government has expressed concern about the people of eastern Sudan, it has failed to make any distinction between the Beja and the imported Rashaida Arab allies of Khartoum.
It would appear that this is the kind of lack of attention that Khartoum is banking on for the upcoming International Donors Conference for the Development of East Sudan. On July 28, 2010, Relief Web reported that the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) agreed to participate in the conference after Sudanese Presidential Advisor Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail met with the IDB director in Saudi Arabia. Ismail, who is considered a war criminal along with President Bashir by Sudan’s marginalized people, said that the Sudanese government was “looking forward to the role that can be played by IDB to support and make the conference a success.” Khartoum would consider the conference a success if funds secured were dedicated to bolstering their Rashaida allies and if the attention-disordered U.S. government accepted at face value that a conference report detailing the financial support given to “East Sudan” actually describes aid given to the beleaguered Beja.
As Arab nations, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Sudanese government prepare for the November donor conference, the Beja ask the U.S. government to pay attention, not only to their plight, but to the pattern of Arabization and Islamization in Sudan of which it is a part. They urge the members of Congress who have championed the causes of South Sudan and of Darfur to recognize the Beja as a like-wise marginalized people group and to plead their case to President Obama, Sudan Special Envoy Major General Scott Gration, and Secretary Clinton. They also request that the U.S. lead the global community in pressuring Khartoum to allow free and safe access to Beja areas for humanitarian relief and development organizations and to ensure that the funds from the donor conference will not be used to prosecute a war against the Beja or to empower the Rashaida to take control of Beja land.
Sadly, in over ten years of U.S. government Sudan policy, it has not been the practice to even admit to the pattern of Arabization and Islamization imposed by Khartoum. Hopefully, in the months to come, Congress will renew its efforts against Islamic terrorism, concentrate more on the radix of terrorism in Africa, and pay attention to Khartoum’s war against all its marginalized people. And hopefully, it won’t be too late for the Beja.
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).