Dear Special Adviser Deng,
July 14, 2011 (SSNA) — I am writing in regard to the ongoing crisis in South Kordofan in Sudan. Now six weeks into the violent conflict, at least a hundred thousand civilians (and possibly four times that many, according to Abdel Aziiz) have fled their villages and are hiding in caves along rugged mountainsides out of fear for their lives due to the ongoing bombings by Government of Sudan (GoS) MIGs and Antonovs. Homes and churches have been bombed and/or ransacked, and rumors are afloat that at least two mass graves have been located — the one in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, is said to hold approximately one thousand dead bodies.
Four weeks ago, GoS troops and militia carried out door-to-door searches in Kadugli and Dilling for individuals suspected of being members and/or supporters of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). In Kadugli they executed the suspects on the spot, while those in Dililng had their throats sliced and were then left to choke to death on their own blood.
MIGs and Antonovs zeroed in on airfields in the Nuba Mountains and blasted them with bombs, making it virtually impossible for any planes to land and offload humanitarian aid or to airlift out expats working for humanitarian aid groups and/or anyone badly injured
On June 16, the GoS and SPLM/A agreed to “cease hostilities and enter into negotiations,” but based on my sources in the Nuba Mountains, the bombings of villages and the killing of innocent men, women and children by the GoS continued unabated.
On June 19, 2011, three days after the aforementioned agreement, I received two emails from two individuals, one a citizen of the Nuba Mountains and the other an expat in the Nuba Mountains. Here is what each had to say, respectively:
* “Sam, this is REDACTED from REDACTED. How are you doing? Longtime since you left Nuba Mountains. Sam, I think you are aware of what is going on now in Nuba Mountains and what Sudan govt is doing to her own people. The govt is doing all this because (1) We are Africans [blacks], therefore we don’t have rights to say anything, and (2) Sudan govt is planning to clear every black person /Nuba in order to bring Arabs in Nuba land. This is what is happening now: killing of civilians using [helicopter] gunships, Antovovs, MIGS, and tanks against its own people. What does it mean the world is not paying attention to this? Sam, we are wondering because no one is caring of [about] our cry. We don’t know what to do!”
* Sam, here is a quick update:
Reports from several sources who must remained unnamed also stated that GoS troops had mined large swaths of land around Kadugli. This not only endangers those civilians fleeing the area but will undoubtedly endanger innocent people for years to come – long after the crisis is over. (A case in point: This past January (2011) I witnessed de-mining crews blowing up mines buried along a well trod path in Kauda in the Nuba Mountains; mines that had been buried there many years in the past.)
But the horrors do not end there. UNMIS personnel, and specifically those from Egypt, reportedly raped black woman who sought sanctuary at the UN compound. This is an outrage and one can only hope and pray that you have already ordered an investigation into this allegation; and if its found to be true, you have taken the requisite action have the rapists arrested, charged and held.
As you surely know, just a week ago (on June 28, 2011), in Ethiopia, the National Congress and representatives from the rebel forces in South Kordofan signed an agreement whose express aim was the restoration of peace in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. While it was not a peace agreement or cease-fire, per se, both sides agreed that they would work towards bringing about a cease-fire. However, upon his return from China, al-Bashir announced that his troops would continue attacking South Kordofan. That, as you know, Mr. Deng, is Omar al Bashir’s modus operandi: agree to a resolution, cease-fire, and/or peace agreement and then renege hours or days later. That is the habitual behavior of al Bashir and his cronies, and everyone seems to recognize that fact except for the United Nations and the United States, as the latter two entities continue to bizarrely think that they can engage in diplomacy with the GoS as they do other states that abide by their word. For eight long years now, Omar al Bashir has played cat against the international community’s mouse, and he has yet to pay for it. Why? Because the international community seems fearful to stand up to the tyrant.
Less than a week ago (July 5, 2011), a colleague in the Nuba Mountains reported the following: “Men continue to send their children and wives up into the caves in the mountains. Chinese made MIG 25s and Russian made Antonovs are howling and shooting day by day…You feel death is so close.”
My understanding is that the mandate of the Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide is “to collect information on situations where there may be a risk of genocide or mass atrocities, based on the cumulative effect of the eight risk factors outlined in the Analysis Framework.” I also understand and appreciate that “due to the sensitive nature of the mandate, most of the Office’s work remains outside of the public eye.” However, the latter includes a caveat, which either emanates from your office, the Secretary General’s or the UN Security Council: “When the Special Adviser assesses that making his concerns public will reduce the risk of genocide or mass atrocities in a specific situation, or advance the cause of peace and stability, he does so.”
Special Advisor Deng, this is not only the time to issue a genocide warning but the time for you and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to do all you possibly can to convince, prod, and cajole the UN Security Council to place fierce and sustained pressure on President Omar al Bashir to: (1) cease and desist from the ongoing attacks (and to ground the Antonovs and MIGs that are wreaking so much destruction on villages in the Nuba Mountains); (2) halt the killing from the air and on the ground; and (3) and provide UNMIS with a stronger mandate and more personnel and resources in order to guarantee security for the people of South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains. While no one knows whether genocide is at the root of al Bashir’s actions, no one can dispute that his troops haven’t already committed crimes against humanity.
Again, Special Adviser Deng, it seems that now — as the violence in South Kordofan (and more specifically, the Nuba Mountains) continues unabated, as the MIGs and Antonov bombers continue to fly sorties, and as crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated — is the time for you and your office to go public. Indeed, if preventive efforts are not carried out immediately then the international community may be facing another Darfur, if not worse. As you well know, prevention is less costly than intervention, and that is true in regard to lives lost, materiel and resources gobbled up over months and years by peacekeeping missions, and the rebuilding of obliterated infrastructure, et al.
Time is of essence. It is your call, of course, but many hope you have more intestinal fortitude, more integrity, and a louder and more demanding voice than those UN officials who allowed Rwanda to spiral into 100 days of horror in 1994 during which some 500,000 to one million were brutally murdered and/or those who stood by and largely watched as hundreds of thousands perished in Darfur, some two million people internally displaced, another 275,000 forced into refugee camps in Chad.
I thank you for your consideration of this plea to you to speak up and take action now. I pray that you do the right thing.
I look forward to your response.
Samuel Totten is a genocide scholar based at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He served as one of the 24 investigators with the U.S. Atrocities Documentation Project in eastern Chad. His most recent book is An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide (Praeger Security International, 2010). He was last in the Nuba Mountains in January 2011 conducting research for a new book, Genocidal Actions Against the Nuba Mountains People: Interviews with Survivors of Mass Starvation and Other Atrocities.