Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Genocide returns to Southern Sudan

By Ron Brackin
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DALLAS, TX (ANS) -- From 2004-2009, I worked with Brad Phillips and the Persecution Project Foundation (PPF), bringing relief and the gospel to survivors of the genocide in Southern Sudan and Darfur.

Brad Phillips with Nuba resistance leader Abdelazia Adam Al-Hilu.
During more than two decades of fighting, over  two million Southern Sudanese people, most of whom were Christian or animist, were slaughtered. Four million more were displaced. The Nuba Mountains lost 500,000 people, roughly half its population, both Christian and Muslim. And since 2003, the genocide in Darfur  has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives.

In 2005, a  Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between north and south. This agreement provided South Sudan with semi-autonomy and eventually a referendum vote on self-determination, which, on July 9, 2011, resulted in the Republic of South Sudan becoming the world's newest nation.

SPLA  soldier with corpse
In 2009, the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The following year, another warrant was issued against him for genocide. Both were rejected by his regime in Khartoum, and Bashir remains at large and in power.

And recently, Bashir launched another bloody campaign of genocide in the Nuba Mountains.

On August 4, Brad Phillips, who also serves as Sudan Country Director for The Voice of the Martyrs, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The following is excerpted from that testimony:

Under the CPA, the Nuba people were guaranteed a free election, followed by a popular consultation, whereby elected leaders would interview their constituents and determine what the people wanted with regard to their political future. This consultation process would hopefully pave the way for a regime change or power-sharing arrangement in Khartoum that recogn ized and respected the rights of all of Sudan's diverse communities.

As of today, the popular consultation has not taken place. Moreover, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir publicly stated in April this year that if the NCP cannot get its way with the ballot box, it will use "the ammo box." This was a declaration of war and violation of the CPA. Also in April, as an intimidation tactic, NCP-backed forces attacked el Fayit, home to the Nuba SPLM commander and gubernatorial candidate, Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu. Twenty-seven members of al-Hilu's family were murdered in this attack.

All of this was done before the scheduled elections in May as an attempted provocation to draw the SPLM into war. But they did not take the bait. When the elections finally took place, evidence of large-scale vote rigging was reported. Yet, even with the evidence of voting fraud, Bashir sent down Nafie ali Nafie, special advisor to the president, to declare NCP candidate and indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun the winner before the end of the mandated verification period.

The newly "elected" Governor Haroun then ordered all SPLM/A forces out of Southern Kordofan by June 1.  This order was in direct violation of the CPA, which allows the SPLA to operate in Southern Kordofan up to 90 days after the close of the interim period on July 9th, 2011.

This attempt by the NCP to cleanse the north of the SPLM/A before the July 9th independence of South Sudan was also carried out in the disputed Abyei region. After massing troops around Abyei, NCP forces invaded on May 20th, forcing most of the indigenous African population out. Some estimates of the number of refugees from this area are as high as 100,000.

It became obvious to all watching these events unfold what was happening. It's no wonder that the SPLM refused to disband or leave Southern Kordofan. When the order was not obeyed by the June 1st deadline, the NCP tried to disarm the SPLM by force. This was the beginning of the war on June 5th.

On June 6th, the NCP attacked and sacked the capital of Kadugli, murdering potentially thousands of civilians in the subsequent days. The NCP also pulled out an old card from their deck: daily, indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets. Using Antonov bombers, MiG fighters, and helicopter gunships, the NCP launched a campaign of terror from the skies. I have included several pictures of bombed locations and civilian casualties for the committee's review.

I personally arrived in the Nuba Mountains on July 4th on one of the few private charters flying to the Nuba since fighting ended all UN humanitarian flights.

During my visit, I interviewed more than a dozen individuals who escaped from Kadugli, all of who m shared the same basic story:

Man with amputated leg
"Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops went from house to house searching for A. Any Nuba citizen, B. Christians, or C. Members of the SPLM. Anyone fitting this description was either killed on the spot or arrested and never seen again."

Fortunately, a few thousand residents obtained shelter at the UNMIS compound. But the compound soon filled, and I heard many stories and accounts of people being killed at the gates of the UNIMIS compound while UN soldiers stood by.
I spoke with Reverend Luka Bolis, an Episcopal Priest and Western Regional Chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, who escaped from Kadugli and told me that "The NCP is targeting the church in this war." Rev. Luka received a call from some friends in Kadugli warning him not to return. They told him the SAF had a list of all church leaders and suspected SPLM sympathizers.

Rev. Luka's testimony corresponded with others I received from Nuba Christians who were persecuted in the last war by the same regime. Luka said the NCP does not distinguish between a Christian and a member of the SPLM political party. If one is a Christian, he is assumed to be a supporter of the SPLM. Consequently, pastors are specifically targeted as leaders and recruiters of the SPLM.

Another pastor I interviewed, whom I will call "Kumi" for security reasons, was arrested by the NIF during the last war and tortured in the most horrific manner to try to force him divulge the names of his church members. His captors pulled out his fingernails and toenails. They hung him by the neck until he passed out. They crushed his testicles. They dragged him behind a tank. They poured gasoline on his hands and set them aflame, and many other cruel acts. Pastor Kumi was then imprisoned for a total of eight years. Although he lived several hours drive away from Rev. Luka and spoke concerning the previous war, his testimony was the sam e: the NCP troops assumed all Christians were SPLM members and all pastors SPLM leaders and recruiters.

Six men singing and praising God, echoed for miles through the mountains.

Yet another church leader I met in a completely different area had a similar story and perspective. "Musa" was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead after NCP troops attacked his church in 1997. Thinking Musa was dead, one NCP soldier cut off his left ear as a trophy. Musa told me that if the SPLM is defeated in the present war, the same persecution will return to the Nuba Mountains because the same regime is still in power in Khartoum.

And this is what I heard over and over again during my trip: the same people who committed war crimes in the Nuba Mountains before are doing it again today.

Commander Abdelazia joins with the church in singing hymns at a spontaneous worship service deep in the mountains.
The only difference in what I saw in 1998 and what I saw last month is that the SPLM has clearly taken the initiative and taken the fight, as it were, to their enemies. Led by Commander Al-Hilu, the people of the Nuba Mountains are fighting back and have won some impressive victories on the ground. And this has occurred without any significant help from the international community. This determined resistance by the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains is a genuine "Popular Uprising" and the only thing that has prevented another Rwandan-style genocide from happening. But time is running out.

The UN ended humanitarian relief efforts in June, and most NGOs operating under the UN umbrella pulled out. All roads to the north have been closed, and the rainy season in South Sudan has affectively closed supply routes to the south until the fall. The daily bombings have terrorized the local population to the degree that normal cultivation is not taking place during this crucial planting season. The Nuba Mountains are isolated, cut off, and f acing a humanitarian crisis within 60 days unless relief flights are allowed to recommence. And this will not happen while SAF MiGs and Antonov bombers and gunships patrol the skies. The NCP refuses to allow UN observers into the Nuba Mountains to document what is happening, which should not surprise anyone.

It is absolutely essential that the international community bring pressure to bear on the United Nations to immediately declare a Humanitarian Emergency in the Nuba Mountains and impose a "no-fly" zone to stop the bombing campaign and allow humanitarian access so that relief flights back into the region may resume.

Photo of me with weapons in a Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLS) camp, Nuba Mountains, 2004.
I will conclude by stating that there is more than enough evidence to justify speedy action by the US and the international community to address the dire situation in the Nuba Mountains. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is an indicted war criminal. The current governor of the Nuba Mountains is Ahmed Haroun, also an indicted war criminal for his role in the Darfur genocide. These men make Libya's Gaddafi look like a choir boy.

There is no justification in my mind for bombing Libya, while doing nothing in the Nuba Mountains. Seasoned reporters from the New York Times, Time Magazine, Aljazeera English, The Independent in Great Britain, and others have visited the Nuba Mountains and brought back testimonies, pictures, and video proving that war crimes are being committed against the Nuba people by the NCP regime. I have included copies of several of these articles with my testimony.

How is it, then, that the US government still claims there is not enough evidence to charge the NCP with war crimes? Why does the US government treat with the NCP and the victims of their crimes with moral equivalency? Based on the history of the NCP, and what we know about what they are doing today in Darfur, in Abyei, and in the Nuba Mountains, it amazes me how the US and the international community could tolerate these killers for so long, yet aggressively pursue other villains who have not killed 1/100th of the people for which Omar al-Bashir and his regime are responsible.

Three million lives-and counting. When will we say, "Enough"?

The writer of the NYT bestseller, "Son of Hamas", Ron Brackin has traveled extensively in the Middle East as an investigative journalist. He was in the West Bank and Gaza during the Al-Aqsa Intifada; on assignment in Baghdad and Mosul after the fall of Iraq; and more recently with the rebels and refugees of Southern Sudan and Darfur. Ron is the author of other books and has contributed articles and columns to many publications, including USA Today and The Washington Times. He was a broadcast journalist with WTOP-AM, Post-Newsweek's all-news radio station in Washington D.C. and weekend news anchor on Metromedia's WASH-FM. And he served as a congressional press secretary under the Reagan Administration. Visit his website at http://ronbrackin.com or his blog athttp://ronbrackin2.wordpress.com.

1 comment:

  1. Civilocity is a form of government where the people watch the ruler entirely amongst their reign.
    Democracy is a form of government where the people pick by majority who their leader is.
    Which form of government would you rather have civilocity or democracy?
    Civilocity makes sure the leader of a country like sudan never again has the ability to cover up genocide.
    Do you want the leader of sudan to cover up genocide tomorrow?
    Why don’t you advocate civilocity on the Persecuted Church News website?
    Do you want the leader of sudan to cover up genocide tomorrow?

    Nathaniel I. Wenger