Now is the Time to Act to Prevent Mass Starvation in the Nuba Mountains

By Samuel Totten and Hannibal Travis

February 21, 2012 (SSNA) — This past summer, the Government of Sudan (GoS) attacked and destroyed a slew of villages in South Kordofan, the home of the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile. Some 200,000 civilians in the Nuba Mountains, alone, disproportionately non-Arab and Christian, fled bombings, shelling, and house-to-house searches, and sought refuge in the caves of the mountain range rising above their villages. Still others fled across the border to the new state of South Sudan, where they settled in makeshift and roughshod refugee camps. By now, it is no secret that the people of the Nuba Mountains are facing potential starvation as they continue to hide in the aforementioned caves.

The adamantly refused to allow humanitarian aid into the Nuba Mountains, and continues to bomb the area at will. Just this past Thursday, four planes dropped bombs on, and destroyed, a bible school in the village of Heiban.

Last week, U.S. officials suggested that if the GoS continued to refuse to allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile then it might unilaterally, and without permission from the GoS, open a corridor along which aid could be delivered. The officials stated that they were waiting on making a definitive decision until the conclusion of the latest African Union summit. The summit has concluded, the AU has not reported on whether it even discussed the matter, but the U.S., for some reason, continues to bide its time in regard making a decision.

Delay in providing aid is costing lives. The 200,000 internally displaced persons have seen their food supplies dwindle as they seek continue to seek sanctuary in the mountains from aerial and ground attacks. As a result, each and every day Sudan’s non-Arab peoples face rising malnutrition, and in some cases, death, as a result of a lack of enough food (and this is especially true in the case of infants and the elderly).

While we understand that at this point in time neither the United Nations nor the U.S. government are willing to intervene militarily to protect civilians in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, as they did in the relatively recent past in northern Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, we believe that it is imperative that action be taken immediately to begin to provide food to the region in order to avoid an all out famine and mass starvation. As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice noted last week: “If there is not a substantial new inflow of aid by March,” the situation in Southern Kordofan will be “one step short of full-scale famine.”

In light of the urgency of the situation, we cannot understand why neither the U.N. Security-Council nor U.S. officials have acted to restore the flow of aid to Sudan, as they did at the outset of last year’s rebellion in Libya. More specifically, on February 26, 2011, the Security Council issued its first resolution on Libya, not authorizing intervention to protect civilians, but urging Libya to allow safe passage of aid and supplies, the safety of foreign nationals working there, and their buildings, immediately lifting censorship so the truth could get out, and calling upon all member states to "support the return of humanitarian agencies and make available humanitarian and related assistance.”

The least the international community could do to honor its ostensible commitment to the “Responsibility to Protect,” is, to demand an immediate end to the violence in Sudan and insist that the GoS ensure immediate access to civilian populations by human rights monitors and humanitarian aid personnel. Finally, the United Nations should insist that Sudan lift restrictions on all forms of media.

We urge all others who are concerned with human rights in Sudan to urgently press President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to apply unceasing pressure on the United Nations to act now. If the United Nations fails in this responsibility, then the United States, the European Union and their African allies must act now to avert mass starvation in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions.


Dr. Samuel Totten, a genocide scholar at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has conducted research in the Nuba Mountains. His latest book, Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains, Sudan is due out in 2012 (New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers).

Hannibal Travis is an Associate Professor of Law at the Florida International University College of Law in Miami, Florida.  He teaches and conducts research in the fields of international law and Internet law, and wrote the first comprehensive legal and political history of genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, entitled Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (Carolina Academic, 2010).

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