About the Conflict (Long Version)
Excerpt from Brad Phillips Testimony before Congress:
In 1989 through a coup d’etat, the National Islamic Front came to power in Sudan. And its leadership consisted of Islamic extremists. Many of them were founding members of Al-Qaeda. They were birthed by the Muslim Brotherhood. They were identified by our government as terrorists or supporters of international terrorism.And as soon as the National Islamic Front came to power, it began an intensive campaign to “Arabize” and “Islamize” the indigenous African population in Southern Sudan, the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountain Region of Southern Kordofan State. And more recently, in Darfur.
During the 1990s, up until the peace agreement was signed in Naivasha in 2005, more than two million southern Sudanese people, most of whom were Christian or animists, were slaughtered. But in the Nuba Mountains in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, roughly half the population, an estimated more than 500,000 people were slaughtered in a similar genocide. And all of us, I think, are aware of the genocide that took place in Darfur beginning in 2003 that claimed an estimated 400,000 lives.
The primary resistance to the National Islamic Front during the last war came from the SPLM, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement that was led by its charismatic leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. Dr. John was a Christian from South Sudan, but he desired freedom and self-determination for all of the Sudanese people. And his vision was called the “New Sudan.”
After more than twenty years of fighting, the SPLM fought the National Islamic Front to a standstill, and with the help of international pressure, much of it led by the United States, the NIF was forced to the negotiating table. And all of that was consummated in January, 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Naivasha, Kenya. This agreement provided South Sudan with semi-autonomy and eventually a referendum vote on self-determination, which we all know resulted in the welcoming in of the Republic of South Sudan as the world’s newest nation most recently on July 9th.
But while we do celebrate with South Sudan, its independence from this murderous regime, we must not forget that many marginalized groups in the north were not given the same guarantees as the south. Specifically, the Abyei region in Southern Kordofan State, the Nuba Mountains, also in Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile State received implicit promises for self-determination, as well as some explicit promises in this agreement. But as subsequent actions have shown during the interim period of the CPA, the NIF, now renamed the National Congress Party, really had no intention of granting self-determination to these marginalized areas.
Under the CPA, the Nuba were guaranteed a free election, a gubernatorial election most recently was supposed to take place in May of this year, followed by a popular consultation, whereby elected leaders would interview their constituents and determine what the people wanted to do with regard to their political future. This consultation process would hopefully have paved the way for a regime change or some sort of power-sharing arrangement in Khartoum that would recognize and respect the rights of all of Sudan’s diverse communities in Southern Kordofan State.
As of today, the popular consultation that was promised by the CPA has not taken place. Moreover, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir publicly stated in April this year that if the National Congress Party could not get its way at the ballot box, it would use the “ammo box”. He went on to say that he would smoke the Nuba people out of the mountains using tanks and camels. This was really a declaration of war on the 27th of April by Omar al-Bashir, and it was a violation, a clear violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Earlier that month of April, as an intimidation tactic, and I believe as an attempt to draw the SPLM into war before the election, Bashir sent militia forces to an area called el Fayit, which is the home of the Nuba SPLM commander, the home area of commander Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu, and twenty-seven members of Commander al-Hilu’s family were murdered in this attack.
He didn’t take the bait, and he went through with the elections.
When the elections finally took place, the evidence of large-scale vote rigging was reported. Yet, even with the evidence of vote fraud, Bashir jumped a few steps and sent down his advisor, Nafie ali Nafie, to declare their candidate, Ahmed Haroun, indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun the winner without any verification process taking place.
The newly “elected” Governor Haroun then ordered all SPLM forces out of Southern Kordofan by the 1st of June. This order was in direct violation of the CPA, which allowed the SPLA to operate in Southern Kordofan up to 90 days after the close of the interim period on July 9th.
This attempt by the NCP to cleanse the north of the SPLM/A before the July 9th independence of South Sudan was also carried out in the disputed Abyei region.
After massing troops around Abyei, NCP forces invaded on the 20th of May, forcing most of the indigenous African population out. Some estimates of the number of refugees from this area are as high as 100,000.
It became obvious to all watching these events unfold what was happening. It’s no wonder that the SPLM refused to disarm or to leave Southern Kordofan State. When the order was not obeyed by the June 1st deadline, the NCP tried to disarm the SPLM by force. And this was the beginning of the war on June 5th.
On June the 6th, the NCP attacked and sacked the capital of Kadugli, murdering potentially thousands of civilians in the subsequent days. The NCP also pulled out an old card from their deck, which is the daily, indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets. Using Antonov bombers, MiG fighters, and helicopter gunships, the NCP launched a campaign of terror from the skies. I have included some pictures of these bombed locations, which I think are playing now on the screen, bombing civilians.
I personally arrived in the Nuba on 4th of July on one of the few private charters that was flying to the Nuba since all humanitarian flights had ceased.
And during my visit, I had the opportunity to spend time with and interview more than a dozen individuals who had escaped from Kadugli during the first few days after the ethnic cleansing started, and all of whom shared the same basic story: the one which the Reverend has just shared and which you will hear from others.
“Sudan Armed Forces troops went from house to house searching for any Nuba citizen, anyone who was identified with the Church, or anyone who was associated with the SPLM. Anybody fitting any of these three descriptions was either killed on the spot or arrested and never seen again.”
Fortunately, a few thousand residents obtained shelter at the UNMIS compound. But the compound after being filled, and I’ve heard many stories and accounts of people being killed at the gates of this compound, as a result of the UNMIS allowing the security forces and intelligence forces of the SAF to enter the compound and take Nuba people out of that compound while they stood by and watched.
I had the opportunity to spend time with one of the colleagues of Reverend Andudu, Reverend Luka Bolis, who is the Chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, and he’s also an Episcopal Priest from the same area, and he escaped from Kadugli within a few days after it started, and what he said to me, and I have submitted the video of my interview with him, to this committee,
“The NCP is targeting the church in this war.” Rev. Luka received a call from some of his friends after getting out and first escaping to an area called Shier (?) and making his way outside of Kadugli County. And they basically told him that he was on the list, which is what the Bishop here has told me as well, meaning that if they find him, if they catch him, they’re going to kill him.
Rev. Luka’s testimony corresponded with so many others that I received from Nuba Christians and non-Christians alike who were persecuted in the last war by the same regime.
I’ll just mention one story of a man who I met whose fingernails were pulled out. His genitals were crushed. He was dragged behind a tank. He was in and out of prison for eight years, and what he pointed out to me was “This is the very same regime that did this to him and that is now bombing his village.” And we saw the planes passing over three or four times a day.
Reverend Luka said the NCP does not distinguish between a Christian and a member of the SPLM political party. They assume that if you are associated with the Church, that in fact, you must be an SPLM/SPLA. And this was the testimony that we got from so many of the pastors that we interviewed, that when they captured them, the first thing they did was they ask them for a list of all the members of their congregation, because if you’re part of the church, you’re the enemy. Consequently, even today, pastors and church leaders are being specifically targeted as leaders and recruiters of the SPLM.
Another pastor who I interviewed, whom I will refer to as “Kumi” for security reasons, was arrested by the NIF, tortured in some of the most horrific ways, and as mentioned, he was forced to divulge the names of his church members. During his capture, which I’ve already mentioned, they pulled out his fingernails and toenails. They hung him by the neck, and they crushed his genitals. They poured gasoline on his hands and they set them alight, and they did many other cruel acts. This pastor was imprisoned for a total of eight years. And although he lived several hours drive from the area where Rev. Luka was from, his testimony was the same.
Yet another church leader that I met in a completely different area was stabbed ten times. His name was “Musa”. They stabbed him ten times. He told me that he was killed, along with seven other elders and pastors in his church. They destroyed his church. They stabbed him ten times. He actually, they believed he was dead, but he survived. Each one of the people that they killed, they cut off their ear as a trophy to go and take back and show what they had done. And his message to me was again, was that these are the same people that are bombing us today. These are the same people that are cutting off people’s heads and slaughtering people like animals in Kadugli. And if they have their way, they’re going to exterminate us.
So I heard these stories over and over again during the twelve days that I was in the Nuba Mountains.
The only difference in what I saw in 1998 and what I saw last month is that the SPLM has clearly taken the initiative and taken the fight, as it were, to their enemies. Led by their leader, Commander Abdelaziz Adam Al-Hilu, the people of the Nuba Mountains are fighting back and have won some impressive victories on the ground. And this has occurred without any significant help from the international community. This determined resistance by the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains is a genuine “Popular Uprising” and the only thing that has prevented another Rwandan-style genocide from happening. But time is running out.
The UN ended humanitarian relief efforts early in June, and most NGOs operating under the UN umbrella pulled out. All the roads to the north have been closed, and the rainy season in South Sudan has effectively closed supply routes to the south until the end of the season in November or December. The daily bombings have terrorized the local population to the degree that normal cultivation is not taking place during this very crucial planting season. The Nuba Mountains are isolated, cut off, and facing a very severe humanitarian crisis within the next 60 days or less unless relief flights are allowed to recommence. And this will not happen while SAF MiGs and Antonov bombers and gunships continue to patrol the skies. The NCP refuses to allow UN observers into the Nuba Mountains to document what is happening, which should not surprise anyone.
It is absolutely essential that the international community bring pressure to bear on the United Nations to immediately declare a Humanitarian Emergency in the Nuba Mountains and impose a “no-fly” zone to stop the bombing campaign and allow humanitarian access so that relief flights back into the region may resume.
I will conclude by stating there is more than enough evidence to justify speedy action on the part of the US government and the international community to address this very dire situation in the Nuba Mountains. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is an indicted war criminal. The current governor of the Nuba Mountains is Ahmed Haroun, also an indicted war criminal because of his role in the Darfur genocide. In fact, he was the one carrying out the genocide in the Nuba Mountains in the ‘90s. These men make Libya’s Gaddafi look like a choir boy.
There is no justification in my mind for bombing in Libya, while we do nothing in a place like the Nuba Mountains. Many seasoned reporters from the New York Times, Time Magazine, Aljazeera English, The Independent, and others have visited the Nuba Mountains.
Some of them were with me during my time there. And they brought back testimonies, pictures, and video that corroborates and proves that the war crimes are being committed right now against the Nuba people by the National Congress Party regime. I have included some copies of some of these articles with my testimony.
And I ask the question, how is it, then, that the US government still claims there is not enough evidence to charge the NCP with war crimes? Why does the US government treat, deal with the NCP and the victims of their crimes with a moral equivalency? Based on the history of the NCP, and what we know about what they are doing today in Darfur, in Abyei, and in the Nuba Mountains, it amazes me how the US and the international community is able to tolerate these killers for so long, yet aggressively pursue other villains who have not killed 1/100th of the people for whose deaths Omar al-Bashir and his regime are responsible.
Three million lives—and counting. When will we say, “Enough”?