When I started covering slavery and other crime against humanity being committed in Sudan seven years ago I was appalled at man’s inhumanity to man back then.
And here we are in 2013, the ten year anniversary since the beginning of the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan, crimes that the U.S. government found to constitute genocide and continue to this day. Over 130,000 people have fled their homes in the last few months alone, and violence continues to spread throughout Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.
People often ask why the tension in Sudan continues to occur. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts relations between Sudan and South Sudan have been tumultuous since the two split apart in July 2011 under a peace deal that ended decades of civil war – and both have accused the other of continuing to support rebels in their territories. (Although the violent history between the north and south regions dates back to the late 1950’s when the British handed over power of the vast region to the Arab Muslim in the north. Sudan’s north-south war which began in 1985 was one of Africa’s longest and deadliest conflicts, killing some 2 million people, devastating much of South Sudan. That civil war ended with a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.)
After the split, the two countries disagreed over where the border should be drawn, the status of disputed land, the division of national debt and how much the landlocked South should pay to export its oil through Sudan, among other issues.
Tensions forced South Sudan to shut off its entire 350,000 barrel-a-day oil industry which is the lifeblood of both economies, in early 2012. That move nearly resulted in another war a few months later. But Sudan’s First Vice President Ali Osman Taha recently said the two sides were headed toward warmer ties since agreeing in African Union-brokered talks earlier this year to a timeline for resolving some of their most bitter disputes. (Source: Reuters)
But despite politicians talking about ending the fighting, families in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states continue to be in caught in the cross fire. Here’s a first-hand account of violence in the Nuba Mountains. In one week alone, “Nuba Reports” has recorded nearly 40 bombings in South Kordofan that have killed six civilians and injured three others. More bombings have been recorded in a week than in the previous six weeks combined. (Source: Nuba Reports)
Fighting in the two border states has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. The United Nations has been denied access to deliver aid via Sudan to rebel-held territories in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
While in the Nuba Mountains covering the current attacks on civilians I was struck at how little these people have, including water. These photos by Tom Stoddard, an internationally renowned photographer took these photos of the Jamam refugee camp in Upper Nile State, South Sudan houses 36,500 people who have fled across the border from their homes in Blue Nile state to escape the ongoing fighting between Khartoum’s government troops and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.
Certainly, aerial attacks can be deadly but the real danger is coming as the rainy season approaches. The people are thirsty and are spending six hours outside with jerry cans in the intense heat. Rather than being an answer to prayers, the rains will make things worse. The health risk is glaring; deadly water-related diseases could sweep through the camp like wildfire. “We have a real humanitarian crisis on our hands.” Marcel Pelletier, a water engineer with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Meantime, the Obama Administration is being criticized for inviting a war criminal to Washington D.C., for “candid discussion on the conflicts and humanitarian crises within Sudan,” according to the Associated Press. Critics of this move say Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and his representatives should be jailed, not invited for negotiations. Ideally, these men accused of war crimes should be tried but since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon if ever let’s see what a conversations with terrorists (to quote my friend Reese Erlich’s book title) can evolve in to something substantive and sustainable for the people of South Sudan and Darfur.
It has now been nearly two years since Sudan’s government launched its latest campaign of mass atrocity crimes in the country’s Nuba Mountains. Continued aerial bombardment and humanitarian blockade of civilian areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states by the Government of Sudan has led to more than 900,000 Sudanese in dire need of humanitarian support.
So, what is the U.S. doing to address this humanitarian crisis? On April 24, 2013, Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), and 22 other co-sponsors introduced H.R. 1692 – the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013. If passed, this bill would support protection of civilians, emergency aid, and punishment for perpetrators of mass violence.
So, what can you do? This is a strong piece of legislation that needs your support to get passed. Just go to this link to save lives now.
This legislation is welcomed and supported by a coalition of nonprofit organizations including The Enough Project, United to End Genocide, American Jewish World Service, Jewish World Watch, and Act for Sudan.
Also, the people of the Nuba Mountains are at risk of losing not just their lives but their culture. I’ll be returning to South Sudan to tell you more about the art, culture, music and wrestling of a special people.
In the meantime, remember, you can make a difference.