Sunday, December 22, 2013

As Christmas approaches, Sudan still in flames

There is little peace in  the Sudan. The so-called War in Darfur which began in 2003 has never really ended. At the same time, other conflicts continue in the southern regions of the Republic of the Sudan, crossing over into the Republic of South Sudan (which became an independent state in 2011). Only a few days ago, a UN compound in South Sudan was overrun by gunmen--reportedly from the Nuer--resulting in the deaths of local civilians and foreign peacekeepers, alike.

Located in Bor--right in the middle of South Sudan--the UN base was being used to shelter people displaced by violence elsewhere in the nation. At the same time, violence and unrest has continued in Juba, the nation's capital, located to the south of Bor. The ethnic lines of battle in these regions are very clear: the Dinka versus the Nuer. The nation's army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), is dominated by the Dinka, having been founded by members of the same--and other enthnic groups from the north--way back in 1983 (then a rebel army that used mostly guerrilla tactics). When the South achieved independence, the great majority of it was under the direct control of SPLA leaders. As such, the SPLA became fully legitmate as the force responsible for keeping the peace in South Sudan.

One of the many steps it has taken in this regard is the disarming of other groups and civilians. But the Nuer have always resisted such disarmament, fearing--quite rightly, in my opinion--that this would effectively lead to their own elimination and/or subjugation by the Dinka. Back in 2006, elements of the Nuer community formed their own rebel group, the Nuer White Army, to resit the SPLA. This group was put down very harshly, mostly by punishing the Nuer community as a whole, by the SPLA. And now, with this latest outburst of violence from the Nuer, the SPLA has responded in a horribly violent yet entirely predictable fashion:
Since clashes broke out in Juba on Sunday fighting has occurred in half of the country‘s ten states. Victims and witnesses told the New York-based monitor, Human Rights Watch, that government soldiers and police have been interrogating people on the street in Juba about their ethnicity and deliberately shooting ethnic Nuer.
This is Christmas in the Republic of the South Sudan.

Things in the northern nation, the Republic of the Sudan, are not much better. Aside from the continuing violence in Darfur, there is a new hotbed of violence and war: the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, just north of the border from the southern Republic. Here, the Sudanese Army is attempting to eliminate--or at least control--the Sudan People's Liberation Movement--North. This is the very same org that created the SPLA and achieved independence for the South. When that happened, the remnants of the group in the north continued on.

The Sudanese Armed Forces of the north, however, are very well equipped. And rather than engage the SPLM-N at ground level, it has been using it's air force:
Eight persons of one family, of whom five were children, were wiped out by Sudan's air force when an Antonov dropped bombs on Tirmo village on Wednesday, in South Kordofan.

The killed family members are three adults, four children and a baby who was inside a burning house when the mother went to fetch water. The spokesperson for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, told Radio Dabanga this on Friday. One six-year old was wounded by the explosions.

"As from 26 November up to date, the Sudanese Air Force attacks several villages in Rashad county in the Nuba Mountains state on daily basis, from 7am to 7pm," Lodi claimed. "They drop more than 50 bombs a day and cause death among the residents."
And it is here that we see just how strange--and terrible--things can become, in the politics of ethnicity. The SPLM, when founded, had as its primary goal the establishment of a democratic government, wherein ethnic minorities would be protected. The north is dominated by Sudanese Arabs, almost all of whom are Muslims. But South Kordofan is home to many non-Arab peoples, including the Nuba, the Fulani, and of course the Dinka. Some of these people are Muslims, some are Christian, and some practice traditional African religions. But all are most definitely not Sudanese Arabs. As such, they had very good reasons to resist the powers that be in the Sudan, just like many of the non-Arab people in the Darfur region, who also were involved in the formation of the SPLA and SPLM.

So what we have here is a group--the SPLM--that fought for and continues to fight for (in the north) justice for marginalized minority peoples, while simultaneously becoming the arm of regime in the south that is brutalizing minority people like the Nuer. And how does the world react to this? By and large, stupidly. For while the leadership of the Republic of the Sudan has been condemned by the UN, the leadership in the Republic of South Sudan is getting UN support.

And still, the innocents in both nations continue to suffer, year after year. This Christmas, remember them in your prayers and thoughts. Thank you.

Courtesy Benjamin Lowy/Getty, from the New Yorker, Dec. 19th, 2013

Cheers, all.


  1. Politics in the Sudan... "responded in a horribly violent yet entirely predictable fashion." This says it all, Robert.
    Liam J.

    1. It's a very sad thing, how we are no longer surprised by such things, but almost come to expect them.

      Cheers, Liam.