Witnesses describe Sudan's ethnic cleansing in emergency hearing

Left to right Rep  Ann Marie Buerkle Chairman Chris Smith and Rep  Don Payne CNA US Catholic News 8 4 11 Left to right: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairman Chris Smith and Rep. Don Payne

Witnesses told a House of Representatives subcommittee on Aug. 4 that the Sudanese border state of South Kordofan is descending into racial and religious violence, as the world looks on.

“The Nuba people fear that we will be forgotten, that the world will stand idly by while mass killings continue without redress,” said Anglican bishop Reverend Andudu Adam Elnail, of Sudan's Episcopal Diocese of Kadulgi, in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

“Our hope,” Rev. Elnail said, “is that the United States will lead the international community in taking prompt, effective action to protect tens of thousands of displaced people, including an untold number of civilians being killed house-to-house and bombed by their own government.”

South Kordofan lies just north of the partially undefined border between Sudan and the newly-established Republic of South Sudan, which became independent on July 9. In recent months, a 2005 plan for South Kordofan's self-determination has given way to violence that some observers say is meant to “Arabize” the region, by terrorizing its Black African population.

Brad Phillips, Sudan country director for the Christian organization Voice of the Martyrs, explained the historical roots of the current violence in his testimony before the subcommittee. He recalled that South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains region already lost around 500,000 people – “roughly half its population” – between 1990 and 2005, during Sudan's second civil war.

During that war, many residents of the Nuba Mountains supported the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, an insurgency that later evolved into South Sudan's autonomous government. But with the Republic of South Sudan now fully independent, Khartoum's opponents in the Nuba Mountains find themselves at the mercy of a government that has not forgotten their disloyalty.

Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who convened Thursday's hearing, presented the subcommittee with a clear picture of the disparity between insurgents in the Nuba Mountains, and their opponents in the Khartoum government.

“Some are trying to down play the overwhelming responsibility of the Sudanese government for the devastation taking place in Southern Kordofan by referring to the refusal of the SPLM-North to lay down their arms to negotiate with Khartoum,” Smith said. “But there is no moral equivalence between the SPLM-North’s actions and those of the government.”

“SPLM-North members are not bombing people indiscriminately, driving Arabs off their lands and out of their homes nor going door-to-door to identify their perceived enemies and execute them,” the congressman pointed out. “The Government of Sudan’s military forces are.”

Thus, while some members of the liberation movement have achieved their independence, others continue to suffer under the government they fought against.

“While we celebrate with South Sudan on its independence from the murderous regime in Khartoum, we must not forget that many marginalized groups in the north were not given the same guarantees as the south,” Phillips noted.

“Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 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.”

“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 (governing) National Congress Party cannot get its way with the ballot box, it will use 'the ammo box.'”

Al-Bashir's government has not hesitated to reach for its ammunition against South Kordofan. Phillips recalled that the National Congress Party's troops “attacked and sacked the capital of Kadulgi” on June 6, then “launched a campaign of terror from the skies” against residents.

Kadulgi's Anglican bishop testified to the devastation the Khartoum government was inflicting on the capital.

“I hear almost every day new reports from the Nuba Mountains of the Sudan Armed Forces indiscriminately bombing civilians, including children and women and old people, in places not known to be near military installations. I see photos of the people maimed and killed in these bombing raids.”

“To me, these people are not numbers and statistics. They are my neighbors, my friends, local business leaders, and members of my congregation.”

More in Middle East - Africa

Phillips, who was in the Nuba Mountains in early July, recalled interviewing residents who had fled Kadulgi, “all of whom shared the same basic story” of Sudan Armed Forces troops conducting house-to-house searches. They were looking, he said, for anyone who identified as a Nuba citizen, a Christian, or a member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

“Anyone fitting this description was either killed on the spot or arrested and never seen again,” Phillips testified.

“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 UNMIS compound while U.N. soldiers stood by.”

Rev. Elnail likewise stated that there was “a need for effective peacekeeping forces with a real mandate to actually keep the peace, and not just stand by while mass murder occurs house-to-house, around the clock.”

In light of such violence, Rev. Elnail said, the United States must continue to employ diplomatic pressure and other forms of leverage against the Khartoum government.

“The United States cannot begin to consider normalizing ties with Sudan, and should not de-list Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism or approve this outlaw nation’s access to international financing and debt relief,” he told the subcommittee. “Those individuals and groups most responsible for the mass atrocities should be designated and sanctioned.”

Phillips went so far as to call for a “no-fly” zone over South Kordofan, “to stop the bombing campaign and allow humanitarian access so that relief flights back into the region may resume.”

(Story continues below)

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.