Sudan’s president, Gen. Omar al-Bashir — an indicted war criminal — is now ferociously targeting the 1 million Nuba and various other peoples of oil-rich Southern Kordofan. Though this area sided with South Sudan in the civil war that raged from 1983 to 2005, it was, under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, left behind when the South seceded last month. Bashir wants to ensure that Southern Kordofan’s oil fields remain under Khartoum’s control.
Ever since Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup, with support from the National Islamic Front, he has waged perpetual, total war against his own people — first the Nuba, then South Sudan, then Darfur in the west, then the Beja people in the east, and now again the Nuba.
Since fighting broke out in Southern Kordofan on June 5, Khartoum has made it impossible for foreign aid groups to go there, and the region has never been on foreign journalists’ beaten path. Nevertheless, we have glimpses of the atrocities now taking place thanks to leaked U.N. reports and intermittent accounts by church representatives.
One such leaked U.N. human-rights report from late June describes the regime conducting
aerial bombardments resulting in destruction of property, forced displacement, significant loss of civilian lives, including of women, children, and the elderly; abductions; house-to-house searches; arbitrary arrests and detentions; targeted killings; summary executions; . . . mass graves; systematic destruction of dwellings; and attacks on churches.
Veteran Sudan analyst Prof. Eric Reeves writes:
Strong evidence is growing of house-to-house searches for Nuba people and those sympathizing with the northern wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA]. Also, compelling evidence points to roadblocks that have similarly targeted Nuba. Most Nuba found were arrested or summarily executed. This has occurred primarily in the Kadugli area, capital of South Kordofan. . . . Most disturbingly, a great many eyewitness accounts of mass gravesites are being reported.
Reeves also refers to an incident described in an earlier leaked U.N. report (see the Associated Press), in which members of Khartoum’s security services, disguised as Red Crescent workers, led 7,000 refugees, including women and children, out of U.N. protective custody in Kadugli on June 20. They have not been seen since, and the U.N. has no idea what happened to them.
Christians are singled out because they are presumed to oppose Bashir’s government. Brad Phillips of the Persecution Project and Voice of the Martyrs, who entered the region in July in a privately chartered plane (one of the few outsiders to have gone there since the new offensive), attested to this development before an August 4 emergency hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights:
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 [National Congress Party — Bashir’s party] 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 [Sudan Armed Forces] had a list of all church leaders and suspected SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] sympathizers.
Phillips also testified:
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 facing 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 U.N. observers into the Nuba Mountains to document what is happening, which should not surprise anyone.
Indeed it should not. As Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.), who chaired the hearing, concluded: “Whatever the numbers involved, we can be sure that the suffering of the people in Southern Kordofan, especially the Nuba people, has been catastrophic.”