Special Report by ICC
12/14/2012 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Tens of thousands of Christians, caught in a crossfire between Sudanese armed forces and rebels in Nuba Mountains, are facing indiscriminate air strikes, detentions, and starvation - with no access to humanitarian aid.
The Arab-Muslim dominated Khartoum government has “adopted a strategy to treat all populations in rebel held areas as enemies and legitimate targets, without distinguishing between civilian and combatant,” says a Dec. 12 report by Human Rights Watch, concerning the conflict in Nuba Mountains, home to Sudan's largest Christian population and non-Arab Muslims.
HRW's field research shows that in the absence of an international call to end violence, bombings have greatly intensified in the Nuba Mountains state of Southern Kordofan.
Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) dropped 106 bombs in October, and 125 in the first half of November alone, the report says. "The persistent bombing has terrorized the population; most families have dug foxholes near their homes or moved to sheltered areas, and even small children now refer to the 'Antonovs,' the common name for the cargo planes used by Sudan to drop bombs."
Government forces burned 26 Nuban villages, destroying schools, homes, churches, food crops and grasslands, in the Nuba Mountains in November alone, according to the Satellite Sentinel Project, which analyzes satellite imagery and eyewitness reports from the ground.
The U.N. estimates over 200,000 people have been displaced and fled over the borders, mostly into South Sudan. The people of Nuba Mountains are also living in constant danger of arbitrary detention, which is taking place on a massive scale and being seen as a new method of intimidation and terror to force them to leave their villages, writes Osman Naway, a local human rights defender, in an article on allafrica.com.
International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst William Stark said, “Although air raids by the Sudanese government are not specifically targeting Christians in the Nuba Mountains, the government is not doing anything to avoid innocent Christians being caught in the crossfire."
Fighting broke out in Southern Korfodan after its Governor Ahmed Haroun claimed victory in a disputed election in June 2011, during the days leading to Christian-majority South Sudan's secession from the Muslim-majority Sudan.
Though a large section of the population in the Nuba Mountains identifies with the south, they were not allowed to join the secession to South Sudan. Following the June election results, Khartoum banned the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), remaining forces of the former southern rebel SPL Army.
The SPLM-N controls large areas of the countryside around Kadguli, particularly in El Buram, Um Durein, and Heiban localities, and mountainous areas northwest of Kadugli - the areas where SAF have carried out hundreds of bombings, shelling, and rocket attacks on civilians in the recent months
Southern Korfodan's governor, Haroun, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are subject to arrest warrants by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for crimes committed in Darfur.
Southern Korfodan is dear to al-Bashir partly because it is the only oil-producing state after the independence of the South. But for the people of the Nuba Mountains, the rule of Khartoum also means cultural and religious subjugation.
"The Sudanese government has declared its intentions to make Sudan a purely Islamic state," Stark said. "It has pursued this goal by marginalizing Christians and other non-Arabs.”
In its report, HRW has warned that “the lack of justice for serious crimes committed during the North-South conflict... and Darfur also appears to have emboldened" those engaged in the South Kordofan conflict. It's time for the international community to break the silence.
Thus far, the al-Bashir regime has shown no sign of restraint. On the contrary, the Sudanese army is dispatching heavy reinforcements to South Kordofan in order to defeat the rebellion and increase security in the border region, the country’s defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein has announced, Sudan Tribune reported on Dec. 13.
“Hopefully, the international community will be able to avoid another Darfur in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains,” Stark said.