Saturday, March 25, 2006

A History of Ethnic Cleansing in Sudan

Arab Domination

Since its independence in 1956 from Britain, the governments of Sudan have always been controlled by the Arab ethnic minority. Deriving its name from the Arabic “Bilad Al Sudan” which means “Land of the Blacks”, Sudan has been a victim of numerous invasions and has historically been an important source of slaves for Arab traders. As a result, Sudan is now divided in hundreds of Black, Arab, and mixed ethnies, tribes, and languages. In the ethnic census of 1956, Arabs represented less than 40%, and Blacks more than 50% of Sudan population.

Except for a 10-year quiet period, Arab governments have tried to force the country, and mainly the Black Animist and Christian South, to adopt the Arab language, culture and even the religion of Islam. This imposition took another level in the early 1980s when the government of Sudan instituted the traditional Islamic law (Shariah) including punishments ranging from amputations for theft to public lashings for alcohol possession in all the regions of Sudan.

Atrocious Ethnic Cleansing

Driven by Islamic radicalism, a sense of Arab racial superiority, as well as an economic interest in the oil-rich South region, successive Arab Muslim governments and Arab tribes engaged into massive genocide.

In South Sudan, systematic persecution, killings, rapes and enslavement of Black Animists and Christians took place over the last few decades, mainly since the 1980s. Experts estimate that, as a result of this ethnic cleansing, more than 2 million civilians have died and more than 4 million were displaced either internally or to neighboring countries. In addition, and in line with a long tradition of Arab slavers in Black Africa, tens of thousands of South Sudanese were captured and enslaved. The testimonial of Francis Bok who spent 10 years of his life as a slave is a must-read on this topic. Not only were these Black Sudanese forced to work for free in terrible conditions but they were, and may still be, subject to atrocious conditions: A recent field research conducted by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) discovered that over 95% of the Sudanese slaves attested to being frequently beaten, nearly 60% of women reported being victim to gang rape and over 33% to genital mutilation. Another 60% recalled being forced to convert to Islam.

In the last few years, the ethnic cleansing efforts have moved from the Black Animist and Christian South to the Black Muslim region of Darfur. In less than three years, more than 400,000 civilians were slaughtered and more than 2 million have been displaced, living in squalid camps and constantly fearing the next Arab raid.

Clear Government Responsibility

The ethnic cleansing that has been taking place over more than 2 decades has been organized and financed by the Arab Sudanese Government. As Human Rights Watch puts it, “despite persistent Sudanese government characterization of the Darfur conflict as a tribal conflict, and repeated denials of state coordination of abusive militia groups, there is irrefutable evidence of a Sudanese government policy of systematic support for, coordination of, and impunity from prosecution granted to the ‘Janjaweed militias’, a policy that continues to this day…The pattern of joint army-militia attacks supported by intensive aerial bombardment demonstrated in North Darfur became standard as the conflict spread to other areas of Darfur. In many cases, villages were first heavily bombed, then the Janjaweed and army ground forces moved in, again with aerial support, to ensure the ‘cleaning up’ of any remaining civilian presence.” This is the same pattern as the successful ethnic cleansing strategy used in South Sudan years before.

Future of Sudan?

In the last 20 years, close to 3 million Blacks have been ethnically cleansed and more than 6 million others have been displaced. Besides the targeted killings, mass rapes, forced displacement and enslavement, hundreds of African villages have been destroyed.

Will the country whose name means “Land of the Blacks” soon deserve such a name? Whether we call it genocide or a crime against humanity, no one has yet been punished or brought to justice. Why are we not forcing Sudan to stop this massive slaughtering and to enable its Black population to live freely in their own country? The silence of the UN, the West, the Muslim countries and the rest of the World is deafening. Why do you think our leaders are silent in the face of the slaughtering, enslavement, and displacement of millions of Blacks? Have we not learned from the genocide of Armenians, Jews or Rwandans? When will “Never Again” be words that we won’t have to use anymore?


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