We are writing to inform you of a Women’s Action Alert for Nuban Women and Children. As MERIP readers know, an unabated civil war has been in progress in Sudan for decades. However, since the National Islamic Front and its military wing took power in 1989, the viciousness of the war has intensified. The relentless attacks by government forces and Islamist militias on the Nuba mountains area of southwestern Sudan have produced some of the worst atrocities of the war. The situation in the area has reaches crisis proportions in which large portions of the civilian population are trapped and starving. Aid corridors have been blocked, as have various relief agencies.
African Rights and various relief and church groups working in the Nuba Mountains, among others, have used the term “genocide” to describe the situation of the Nuba vis-a-vis the government of Sudan. African Rights, for example, says, “Sudanese troops are carrying out genocide against the Nuba people in the war against non-Arabs in the country’s south” The instruments of the ethnic cleansing in the Nuba mountains by the government of Sudan and its local militias include murder, rape, abduction, slavery, orchestrated famines as political weapons and banishment of civilians to so-called “peace camps,” where they are abused and pauperized under concentration camp-like conditions. Such banishment often occurs after the government of Sudan has burned their villages to the ground. At the same time, forced conversion to a particular kind of fundamentalist Islam (the Nuba are already heavily Islamized), the bulldozing and razing of Christian churches, Islamic mosques and schools, and the execution of “apostates” by the government are all indicative of a strategy of cultural genocide. In the eyes of the Sudanese government, the Nuba and other ethnic minorities are “expendable” people.
Furthermore, the government of Sudan remains openly defiant in the face of increasing scrutiny. It has continued to ignore all the reports and demands of UN organs and UN-affiliated international NGOs. Though the government claims to be a protector of global human rights, UN documents highlight its failure to observe even the most basic humans rights, and its constant denial that it has violated these rights. For example, the special rapporteur of the UN states that “the official position of the government of the Sudan with regard to the provisions of the resolutions adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly on reported human rights violations and to hold the perpetrators responsible have consistently been ignored.”
In fact, it remains a puzzle and a travesty of justice that the Sudanese government’ cleaning campaign against the Nuba (the other “minorities”) has earned only a slap on the wrist by the international community. There has been an embarrassing lack of a political will to act. The civil conflict and attendant human rights disaster in the Sudan remains, to the embarrassment of humanity, “an internal affair” that even the Organization of African Unity shamefully brushes off as something to be taken care of by the Sudanese government. Such international indifference is especially troublesome in light of the fact that the main sufferers are women and children. Or, perhaps this is one of the causes of the indifference. Continued international silence on the Sudan, however, will in our opinion only serve to prolong the war and the inhuman situation faced by the Nuba and others.
Therefore, we call upon the international community to demand that your governments pressure the UN to promote the establishment of relief corridors to facilitate the immediate free access of humanitarian organizations and UN relief programs to the Nuba mountains; and to pressure the UN Security Council to make use of the instruments in Chapter VII of the Charter in order to ensure the right to life of the Nuba people.
Most importantly, we call on the international community to acknowledge the state of genocide in the Nuba mountains and therefore to take the appropriate actions required by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. International silence on genocide is utterly inexcusable in the twentieth century.
The International Women’s Committee to Support Nuba Women and Children is an electronic group that formed this year from Sudanese (in exile), Sudanists and other interested women from all over the world. Our membership is small, but represents some of the leading intellectuals working on Sudan, the war and human rights issues. Comparable to the position expressed by many women throughout the world at the Beijing conference in 1995, we maintain that women can have an enormous impact on ending wars and atrocities such as the Nuba situation if we form strong alliances and act. Our campaign has been aimed at the international community, individuals, organizations and officials to alert all to the tragic humanitarian situation of the Nuba, especially the women and children. We are urging people to take immediate action.
Our committee has circulated a petition signed by hundreds that was sent to various government officials. People can lend their weight to our campaign by circulating this letter and by writing and sending e-mails and faxes to officials. Also, readers should feel free to send their statements of support to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 310-206-7833 to the attention of Sondra Hale, Anthropology Department, UCLA.
The International Women’s Committee to Support Nuba Women and Children