In the 1990s, the National Congress Party (NCP) government of Sudan, then known as the National Islamic Front (NIF), attempted to exterminate the black African Christians, Muslims, and followers of traditional religions in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. The militia came obscenely close to accomplishing its goal. Over 2.5 million people died in those regions, and over 5 million were displaced from their homes in the genocidal jihad to establish Sudan as sub-Saharan Africa’s model Arab Islamic state. Now, less than a month before South Sudan officially separates from the Islamic Republic of Sudan and becomes Africa’s 54th nation, ethnic cleansing has begun again in the Nuba Mountains, now known by its Arab name “South Kordofan.”
Beginning on June 5, 2011, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of the NCP and the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), an Islamic militia comprised of Misseriya Arabs known as the “Al Qaeda of Sudan,” launched an attack, a war of extermination, in the Nuba Mountains. The attack began just two hours after the NCP signed a ceasefire agreement with northern representatives of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). In his June 16 testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, Ambassador Roger Winter, former State Department special representative on Sudan, told members of Congress that “throughout South Kordofan reports of gratuitous violence by SAF and their allies are now the norm.” Winter warned that once again, “Nuba are positioned for liquidation by Khartoum forces.”
The extent of the racism demonstrated by the Arab Islamic regime is breathtaking, but seems to evoke no outrage from those who condemn racism even when it does not exist. John Ashworth, advisor to the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and long-time Sudan expert, confirms that black African Nuba are being targeted by the northern military and Arab militias. “They are being hunted down for their ethnicity,” he said. Khartoum, the north’s stronghold, is attempting to completely replace the Nuba Mountains’ Nuba people with Misseriya Arabs. Professor Eric Reeves, author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide, provided the following grim details to The New Republic on June 20:
Another Nuba resident of Kadugli told Agence France-Presse that he had been informed by a member of the PDF that his forces had been provided plenty of weapons and ammunition, and a standing order: “He said that they had clear instructions: just sweep away the rubbish. If you see a Nuba, just clean it up. … He told me he saw two trucks of people with their hands tied and blindfolded, driving out to where diggers were making holes for graves on the edge of town.” There have been several more reports, so far unconfirmed, of mass graves in and around Kadugli.
Unless the U.S. government and the world community intervene, Khartoum will finish what it started two decades ago. Many fear this would just be the beginning. Already there have also been egregious attacks on another one of the disputed border areas, Abyei, and Southern Blue Nile State is also vulnerable to attack. Looking at Khartoum’s past actions against the Nuba demonstrates the lengths to which this regime will go to racially cleanse these lands of those to whom the territory belongs: the black African groups.
During the so-called civil war, both Christian and Muslim Nuba men fought bravely alongside the southerners in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The SPLA was fighting to defend the people who were targeted by Khartoum, and to resist the imposition of Sharia, or Islamic law, on all of the country. Winter explains that the SPLA was “attracted by the SPLM’s vision of a ‘New Sudan’ in which people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, could benefit equally.” As a result of its siding with South Sudan, the Sudanese government Islamists declared the Muslims of the Nuba Mountains “apostate” and issued a fatwa against them. Since they were no longer considered Muslim, they were targets for extermination, along with the Christians.
The National Islamic Front government made the Nuba Mountains a “no go” area, cutting the Nuba off from the rest of the country and from the world. Like South Sudan, this region, which at 30,000 square miles is slightly larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined, was attacked from the air by Antonov bombers and from the ground by slave raiders (muharaleen) and SAF troops.
In his scrupulous report for the U.S. Committee on Refugees, Quantifying Genocide in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains: 1983-1998, Dr. Millard Burr writes that from 1989-1991 “scores of villages were burned and thousands of villagers killed in joint army and militia assaults in the Nuba Mountains.” Burr also told how the Sudanese Army purged “Nuba officers and noncommissioned officers,” arrested thousands of educated Nuba, and starved tens of thousands of men, women, and children.
Now Khartoum is coaching the SAF and PDF from the same old playbook. If anything, the attacks are even more virulent than those of the 1990s, since Khartoum wants revenge on those Nuba who sided with the SPLA. Killing crews are burning villages and killing villagers in towns throughout the Nuba Mountains. The small steps towards education and development in the region were wiped out in the first week’s worth of bombing. People’s homes (tukuls), farms, marketplaces, schools, and churches have all been attacked, looted and burned. The scores and scores of people who have been killed – murdered, executed – have not yet been counted.
In the capital city of Kadugli, Khartoum’s troops are searching for suspected members and supporters of the SPLM and are executing them on the spot. This has also taken place in another town, Dilling, where troops are slitting the throats of SPLM members and supporters when they are found. And Christians are also targeted by the Islamists. Clergy have been rounded up and arrested. In some cases, their whereabouts are now unknown. Others are known to have been killed.
It has been reported that Sudan government troops have planted land mines throughout the area. And according to Reeves, “It seems Khartoum intends to starve the Nuba into submission,” just as it tried before. He says that on June 15, Khartoum’s military aircraft completely destroyed the runway in Kauda, a town in the middle of the Nuba Mountains. “Because the Kauda airstrip is critical for humanitarian transport in the region, its destruction works to ensure that the hundreds of thousands already in need will remain cut off from relief,” says Reeves.
As is to be expected, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) serves no purpose, except to exacerbate the situation. In fact, since UNMIS troops were first deployed to the Nuba Mountains following the signing of the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the Nuba have warned that the troops, mostly Egyptian Islamists, were siding with Khartoum against the people they were supposed to help. Many reputable sources reported that Egyptian UNMIS soldiers in Kadugli were seen raping local women. And some UNMIS troops even openly declared to the Nuba that they were there to complete the jihad against infidels.
In the present crisis, UNMIS troops are observing the violence and doing nothing to stop it. Some are collaborating with the SAF and PDF. When a crowd sought sanctuary at UNMIS headquarters in Kadugli they were told to leave and go to Dilling, some 120 miles away, leading them directly into the hands of SAF troops and PDF militias. Some sources on the ground have also said that the UN Egyptian “peacekeepers,” since they are able to go wherever they want, are spying on the SPLA and reporting back to the Sudanese Armed Forces. Therefore, if, as some are demanding, the mandate of UNMIS in the area is changed from “Chapter 6” to “Chapter 7,” giving the troops a clear mandate to intervene to protect civilians, then a change in the UNMIS personnel must also be demanded.
Every day in the Nuba Mountains the ethnic cleansing of the Nuba is occurring, and the idea that what is taking place is genocide becomes more and more believable. It might be said that the first genocide took place in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains because the world lacked knowledge of what was happening. And even if information came out, it was so monstrous and unthinkable that, as Elie Wiesel has said, the enemy knew that it would not be believed. Today, Khartoum doesn’t care if the world knows what it is doing in the Nuba Mountains. The north’s genocidal leadership doesn’t think that anyone really cares. May God have mercy on the Nuba and on us and prove them wrong.
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).