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«Annex XI: Genocide in the Nuba Mountains Eric Reeves Madeline Zehnder, research and editing Preface When I was in the Nuba Mountains of South ...»

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An Archival History of Greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012

Annex XI:

Genocide in the Nuba Mountains

Eric Reeves

Madeline Zehnder, research and editing


When I was in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan in January 2003, I met with

a range of military and civil society leaders. They had endured Khartoum’s genocidal jihad in the 1990s. If there have been doubts expressed about whether or not

genocide has occurred in Darfur there is no credible dissent from such a characterization of the extermination campaign that began in 1992. Deputy Governor Ismael Khamis, then the senior official in the Nuba, told me bluntly why he and his fellow Nuba felt threatened by any peace agreement between Khartoum and Juba that did not include them: “Khartoum doesnt regard us as human beings.” Judging by the nature of the genocide that has developed over the past fourteen months in South Kordofan, there can be little quarreling with Khamis’s assessment.

Clear patterns emerged from the scores of reports that began to flow almost as soon as Khartoum initiated fighting on June 5, 2011. Human Rights Watch confirmed early on that Khartoum’s regular military and militia were undertaking a campaign of house-to-house roundups of Nuba in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan and home to many Nuba. Many people were hauled away in cattle trucks or summarily executed; dead bodies littered the streets of Kadugli. The Nuba were also stopped at checkpoints grimly similar to those in Rwanda, where those suspected of SPLM or southern political sympathies were arrested or shot. The real issue, however, is not political identity but Nuba ethnicity. As one aid worker who recently escaped from South Kordofan reports: “[Nuba] coming in are saying, ‘Whenever they see you are a black person, they kill you.”’ Another Nuba aid worker reported that an Arab militia leader had made clear they had received their orders: “to just clear.” Soon thereafter the Satellite Sentinel Project established conclusive existence of multiple mass graves in and around Kadugli. The graves were capable of holding many thousands of bodies and many body bags were photographed near gravesites.

Eyewitness accounts and further satellite reconnaissance revealed a number of other such graves in and near Kadugli. The most devastating instrument of civilian destruction has been the ongoing aerial campaign against the Nuba Mountains that began fourteen months ago and is directed against agricultural production, villages, water sites, hospitals, cattle, and whatever else might sustain life. Two agricultural cycles have been profoundly disrupted: in most of the Nuba no food remains, and people are starving, eating leaves, grass, and insects.

Again, this is a campaign of extermination from which as many as 300,000 people from the Nuba and Blue Nile have fled, primarily to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The most recent UN figure for those displaced within or from the Nuba Mountains was over 500,000, though this figure is likely low.1 Displacement and growing starvation are taking a terrible toll, which will only escalate as Khartoum continues to deny international humanitarian relief efforts to both South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

News agencies, human rights groups, and other witnesses have chronicled these conditions in detail throughout the fighting: this is not a repetition of the jihad of 1992, which began invisibly. This is a calculated, well-chronicled, and fully deliberate attempt to destroy the Nuba people. It is genocide, the details of which have been reported in astonishingly replete detail, given the denial of all access by Khartoum. Yet the international community balks at using the word for fear of incurring obligations, moral or legal. Perversely, the example of Darfur should prove that declaring realities to be genocidal has no evident entailments: former Secretary of State Colin Powell, immediately after confirming that evidence collected by the Coalition for International Justice overwhelmingly supported a determination of genocide (September 2004), declared that “nothing new” in the way of U.S. policy followed from this unchallenged research finding.

We have known about genocide in the Nuba Mountains from June 2011 to the present. The pieces below chronicle as fully as possible just what we have known about this continuing destruction of the Nuba people during the first months of its execution.


–  –  –

Genocide in Sudan: Is it Happening Again? (June 20)........... 16 Genocide in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan (June 22)........... 19 Sudan: The Horror Continues—And the World Sits By (June 24)..... 23

Abyei and South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains:

Under Siege, Deeply at Risk (July 1)................. 26 Hillary Clinton, Sudan, and the Policies of Equivocation (July 13).... 33

Mass Graves Identified in Kadugli (South Kordofan):

The End of Agnosticism (July 14).................. 35 U.S., UN Refuse to Speak Honestly About Compelling Evidence of Genocide in South Kordofan (July 17)......... 40

–  –  –

Acquiescence Before Mass Human Destruction in Sudan’s Border Regions (October 24)................ 75 The History of Sudan’s Third Civil War (December 10).......... 89 Obama’s Second “Rwanda Moment” June 13, 2011 Recalling President Bill Clinton’s massive moral failure in the face of the Rwandan genocide of spring 1994, many spoke of Darfur as President Obama’s “Rwanda moment”—the moment in which he was obliged to choose whether or not to commit truly substantial American diplomatic and political resources to halt the ethnicallytargeted human destruction that has raged for more than eight years. As I’ve recently noted, candidate Obama virtually invited such a framing of his actions, declaring: “The government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day” (April 2008). But more than three years later the situation has not improved in Darfur; rather, a grim genocide by attrition continues, and Obama’s incompetent special envoy, former Air Force General Scott Gration, made no progress on the key issues. He failed to secure a peace agreement (or even the trust of Darfuris), and he produced no improvement in access for humanitarians or freedom of movement for the UN/African Union peacekeeping force. Conditions are if anything worse than when candidate Obama spoke, and his “Rwanda moment” has passed. He has failed.

But the consequences of General Gration’s incompetence extend to critical issues that remain unresolved between Khartoum and Juba, the capital of what will be in less than a month the independent Republic of South Sudan. Most pressing is the genocidal violence that has exploded in South Kordofan over the past week and threatens to take all of Sudan back to civil war. There are increasingly ominous reports of mass executions and the ethnic targeting of civilians, especially those with origins in the Nuba Mountains—including women and children. Arab militias armed by and allied with the Khartoum regime are going house-to-house, searching out “SPLM (Southern) sympathizers,” who are either summarily executed or detained. The fate of a great many of these people is unknown. Numerous reliable accounts from the ground make clear that Khartoum’s military aircraft are again engaged in the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets throughout the Nuba. Churches have been burned in Kadugli (the capital of South Kordofan) and church staff murdered. Most terrifyingly, a humanitarian situation that is already desperate is deteriorating rapidly: Khartoum has engineered a security crisis that has produced mass evacuations of humanitarian personnel from South Kordofan, and if this is not very quickly reversed, vulnerable populations that have fled up into the mountains will die from exposure, malnutrition, and dehydration.

General Gration came to his position without significant diplomatic experience or knowledge of Sudan; his conviction, evident from his first pronouncements, was that we should make friends with the men of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party, and that they in turn would become reasonable and accommodating. His notorious policy of appeasement was most conspicuously on display when during an early trip to Khartoum he declared diplomatic success was more likely if the U.S. offered the regime’s g´ nocidaires “cookies,” as well as “gold stars” and e “smiley faces.” Out of such foolishness are genocides sustained.

Gration, having failed in Darfur, was just as ineffective in securing full implementation of the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005). Khartoum refuses to negotiate in good faith on border delineation, oil revenue sharing (approximately 75 percent of Sudan’s reserves lie in the South), citizenship and civil rights for southerners who remain in the North, and a host of economic issues, most pressingly the $38 billion in external debt that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has run up. Khartoum is pressing Juba to accept a significant percentage of this debt, even as none of the money borrowed was seen by the people of the South except in the form of military hardware directed against them. This intransigence and unconstrained pursuit of self-interest is the ultimate consequence of ill-informed and expedient diplomacy.

But most critically, Gration failed to deal effectively with the two most obvious flashpoints for renewed civil war—the contested Abyei region and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan (immediately to the north of the border with the South). Indeed, many blame Gration for Khartoum’s intransigence on Abyei, and ultimately its decision to seize the region militarily. For in mid-May Khartoum responded to Gration’s various offers of treats, including yet further compromises on delineation of the contested border area, by taking full military control of Abyei—a move that was foreseen by a number of analysts, and indeed had taken de facto form by March 2011. These military actions violated not only the key Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but also a “final and binding” ruling by the Permanent Count of Arbitration in The Hague (July 2009). In the immediate wake of Khartoum’s military move, more than 100,000 Dinka Ngok have fled for their lives to the South; this represents the entire estimated Ngok population of Abyei prior to the invasion.

An early UN assessment of the aftermath of the regime’s brutal military seizure of Abyei—an area a bit smaller than the state of Connecticut—found that the actions by Khartoum’s military and militia forces, including killings and ethnicallytargeted destruction of property and food stores, were “tantamount to ethnic cleansing.” But shamefully, senior UN officials, in their own effort to accommodate Khartoum’s sensibilities, toned this down dramatically, suggesting only that these actions “could” lead to ethnic cleansing. Ban Ki-moon declared flatly, “It is far too early to claim that ethnic cleansing is taking place.” Ban was evidently not interested in the mass of satellite and ground photography depicting precisely ethnic cleansing, or the testimony of hundreds of those interviewed once beyond the range of Khartoum’s security forces. Nor did Ban think it important to consider the extraordinary statements by former U.S. State Department Ambassadors-at-Large for War Crimes, speaking about the evidence of “crimes against humanity.” Humanitarian conditions are poor for those who fled Abyei and for many there is no assistance at all. Khartoum has thrown up an economic blockade on goods moving from North to South Sudan, including fuel. This has had the effect of leaving many relief organizations without mobility. A large number of the displaced are dehydrated and badly weakened. And in the voice of the survivors we can hear

a despair that will only deepen:

life for the [human] bargaining chips [in negotiations over Abyei in the wake of Khartoum’s military seizure of the region], meanwhile, has been miserable. For Mary Achol, it has meant eating leaves. On a recent morning in the border town of Agok, Ms. Achol slumped in the meager shade of a thorn tree, her belly rumbling from the nearly toxic mix of wild plants she ingested, a baby sweating profusely in her arms. During the chaotic exodus out of Abyei, Ms. Achol lost two other children. “Maybe they died of thirst, maybe they were eaten by lions,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of hope.”2 All this has predictably set the stage for the much greater violence rapidly unfolding in South Kordofan State, which abuts Abyei and lies immediately north of oil-rich Unity State in the South.3 For the past week events long warned of have exploded into violent ethnic slaughter and widespread military violence (including repeated cross-border bombing attacks just south of South Kordofan, in South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity State). But it is not at all clear whether the Obama administration appreciates the enormous differences between South Kordofan and Abyei, in particular the potential for large-scale genocidal destruction.

Certainly the administration’s response to the seizure of Abyei was far too muted and lacked a clear articulation of specific consequences if Khartoum failed to abide by a UN Security Council “demand” that the regime withdraw militarily.

This only encouraged Khartoum to believe that there would be an even less forceful response to military action in South Kordofan, which is geographically clearly in the north. Gration, who had no diplomatic skills or instincts, has been replaced by Princeton Lyman, a seasoned and widely respected career diplomat, with much experience in Africa. But Lyman seems out of his depth in dealing with the men in Khartoum, and there are signs that he only now realizes how dangerous the situation in South Kordofan has become in recent months.

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