Today is Blog Action Day, when people around the world are joining together to blog on the topic of Human Rights. Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse, writes about the human rights issues still occurring in Sudan, where the government is attacking its own people.
What is all the continuing fuss in Sudan about?
Many people ask me this question. They think that peace has spread throughout the nation since the war between South Sudan and Sudan ended. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Civil war raged for 23 years until 2010, when South Sudan was granted international recognition to hold a referendum that would decide if they wanted to be independent. Over 99 percent of the population voted for South Sudan to become free, and independence was declared on July 9, 2011.
I was honored to be there as the South Sudan Declaration of Independence was read to a crowd of an estimated half million people. It was an incredibly jubilant and emotional time for the Southern Sudanese who had suffered untold brutality and oppression at the hands of the power-hungry group of rulers based in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.
After 23 years of having his military attack its own citizens, Sudan President Omar Al Bashir—who came to power in a military coup in June 1989—succeeded in losing one-third of the geography of the country and two thirds of the gross domestic product.
Generally history is a strong teacher and people learn from their mistakes. However, this year President Brashir continues to wage war on two groups in his greatly reduced state of Sudan.
On June 4 of 2011, the Sudanese Armed Forces waged ground and aerial attacks against the black Africans living in the Nuba Mountains. By September 2011, President Bashir’s forces also had attacked the black African citizens of Blue Nile state.
These two states had fought with the military of South Sudan for 23 years. Like the Southerners, they fought for freedom, a secular government, and human dignity. They wanted to have a voice in their government, and they wanted the forced Arabization and Islamization to be stopped.
This isn’t anything new, either. Eight years earlier, President Bashir launched a vicious and brutal attack against the people of Darfur, in the western part of the country. The fighting in Darfur rages to this very day.
It is estimated that President Bashir’s forces, the nation’s own military, have perpetuated human atrocities and even war crimes in Darfur. Actually on March 4, 2009, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of President Bashir for genocide. He is the only sitting head of state to have such an indictment leveled against him.
Today, President Bashir continues to wage war against the people of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. His forces conduct routine aerial bombardments on civilian populations of over 1.5 million people. His attacks have driven more than 200,000 people to seek safe refuge in South Sudan, where Samaritan’s Purse is working to provide relief for people living in makeshift camps just over the border.
At times, these bombing campaigns have been in conjunction with the planting and harvesting seasons in order to deny people the ability to go to the fields and grow food. As a result, both areas are highly food insecure, basically meaning an orchestrated famine is being perpetuated on a massive scale against innocent women and children. Recent assessments indicate that over 45 percent of the population has less than one week of food in storage.
Making matters worse, the Khartoum regime refuses to allow any humanitarian access. These groups of people are totally cut off from food, medical assistance, and the outside world. This is exactly what President Bashir and his National Congress Party desires.
Several months ago I had the honor of testifying before the Tom Lantos human rights commission, a committee of the United States Congress.
President Bashir should be brought to justice. In the last two weeks, the citizens of Khartoum have taken to the streets and rioted against inflation and heavy-handed murderous tactics by their national security forces. Published reports claim more than 200 citizens have been killed by national security in the streets of the city.
All the people of Sudan deserve an opportunity to govern themselves and to live a peaceful life.
A government’s main responsibility is to reign in justice and protect its citizens. But the government of Sudan has used its military—which has never engaged with a foreign enemy—to only attack its own citizens.
Sudan is a hard part of the world— and that is even in good times. No one on earth deserves to be hunted down and attacked by their government’s own military.
It’s time for a change in Sudan— A constitutional and institutional alteration.
Thank you for your interest and compassion toward these struggling people. Please pray for all the people of Sudan and South Sudan, especially the areas of Sudan where the government is waging war on it’s own citizens.