The Sudanese Government: The Cause of so Much Suffering

As the news of the unfolding tragedy in western Sudan is now making front-page news, people should be made aware that atrocities have been taking place in southern Sudan for decades. Aerial bombardments and helicopter gunships have been used to attack the southern Sudanese civilian population for years. In 1999, there were 65 confirmed aerial bombings of civilians in southern Sudan, however, the number of such attacks more than doubled in 2000 to 132 and tripled in 2001 to 195 confirmed bombings. Most of these attacks occurred in the Bahr el Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, Southern Blue Nile, and Upper Nile regions.

With such a history of state-sponsored atrocities, one wonders why it was Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and not President Omer Al Bashir of Sudan, that topped America's hit list in the War Against Terror.

Peace talks seeking to bring an end to the North/South conflict began early April 2003, opening the possibility for both Northern and Southern Sudan to exploit the wealth from the south's oil-rich territory. In early January 2004 an accord was signed on wealth sharing but the parties have yet to agree on how to share power. On 26 May 2004 the Sudanese government and the main independence movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), signed three key protocols which brought them a step closer to a comprehensive peace agreement. This agreement provided for six years of autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist south, to be followed by a referendum on the political future of the region. It is yet to be seen if the delicate peace with the South will stand. Given Sudan's track-record for the miltary domination of it's own people, one wonders if the promised oil revenue will only be spent on more military hardware and in the end fund more oppression and genocide within Sudan's borders.

Since the signing of the peace agreement with the South, civil war has continued in western Sudan (Darfur) and over one million people have now been displaced by government-allied militias. Similarly, in the Shilluk Kingdom of Upper Nile, militias have displaced between 50,000 and 150,000 people since February 2004 in clashes over territory and resources. Over the last 12 months both this Western Sudan crisis (Darfur) and the Northern Uganda crisis (displaced population due to LRA rebels) have attracted the description of "the world's worst" human tragedies - both of which are traceable to the deliberate actions and complicity of the northern Sudanese government.

To Sudan's south in Uganda, the LRA rebels have reportedly received substantial assistance from the Sudanese government during the 16 year conflict. Recently, LRA rebels captured by the Ugandan army have even been wearing Sudanese military uniforms! Many believe that Sudan's support for the LRA has been in retaliation for Uganda's support for the Southern Sudanese independence movement. The Sudan-sponsored LRA rebels have displaced over one million people, killed thousands of people and burned tens of thousands of homes. It has been conservatively estimated that over 40,000 children from northern Uganda have been abducted by the LRA. Captured children are routinely forced by the LRA to commit atrocities, including murdering members of their own families. Boys are forced into conflict as soldiers and young girls become prostitutes or are sold as slaves into Sudan. Many have died at the hands of the rebels. Some manage to escape. Others have been liberated by the Ugandan military as they pursue the LRA and have been able to obtain care and trauma counselling through special programs run by World Vision, enabling victims to eventually return to their homes. Other smaller organisations have also been seeking to relieve some of the suffering in the region by distributing food and other essential items to displaced people in the IDP camps and town centres.

The fact that such atrocities have been allowed to continue for so long without the anger and action of the international community is a travesty of justice, and reveals just how selective and inconsistant the international community has been in responding to human tragedies. As the Australian government comes under increasing criticism for it's role with the coalition in the deaths of over 10,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, Australia's defense minister has now indicated that Australia is considering sending troops to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan. But unless the people of Darfur get help soon this may be a case of 'too little, too late'. "We are contemplating whether to make a contribution," Defense Minister Robert Hill told AP. "It would be relatively modest and we haven't made a final decision. He said the troops of interest to the United Nations included medics and engineers.

It is good to see that the international community is finally taking some steps to intervene in Sudan's internal genocide. Let's hope and pray that Australia's consideration of military intervention in Africa will proportionally reflect legitimate concerns for the humanitarian need, rather than merely serving the economic interests of our most powerful allies.

Allan Weatherall,
Publisher, Worldview Interactive

Tuesday, November 7, 2006   printer friendly version | 7799 reads