Four Years of Bombings in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (email@example.com)
KHARTOUM (ANS. SEPT. 7) The recent trial of nine young Christian women in the Sudanese capital Khartoum for wearing trousers and skirts – deemed “indecent or immoral dress” – has brought fresh attention to the plight of Sudan’s Christian minority.
According to a story by World Watch Monitor (WWM), the nine women were from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan’s South Kordofan state, described by Operation World as “an island of mostly Christian peoples in a sea of Islam.”
The Nuba Mountain region was one of the key disputed areas between North and South Sudan, but eventually went to the North, becoming part of the Islamic Republic of Sudan.
Since South Sudan’s independence in summer 2011, Sudan’s government – led by Omar al-Bashir, the only sitting President wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity – has waged a “relentless” bombing campaign on the South Kordofan region, according to a July report by Amnesty International (AI).
“Since the start of the (four-year) conflict, the civilian population in South Kordofan has been living in desperate conditions, fleeing from relentless bombardment and seeking refuge inside foxholes and caves, with limited access to food, water, and medical care,” according to AI’s report, “Don’t We Matter? Four Years of Unrelenting Attacks Against Civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan State.”
WWM said AI estimates that “at least one-third of the state’s population of 1.4 million people may be internally displaced … living in precarious and insecure conditions in which food and other humanitarian needs are often unmet and communities remain vulnerable to ongoing armed attacks.”
After a recent visit to the area, Christian charity Open Doors International reported that “daily” and “indiscriminate” bombardment has led to the destruction of Christians’ homes, churches, schools, hospitals and crops.
For a large part of its history, Sudan has seen armed conflicts within its borders. Religion has played a major role in these conflicts.
While the North has been dominated by Muslim Arab tribes, the South has been dominated by the mainly Christian and Animist African people.
Shortly after independence from colonial rule in 1956, the Arabization and Islamization policies of the northern government led to a continuous build-up of tension between the North and the South. WWM said when the government implemented Sharia in 1983, it ignited full-scale, brutal civil war that lasted more than 20 years.
In 2005, that war came to an end with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The agreement was a set of protocols that provided a roadmap for peace and included rulings on matters such as governance and oil-revenue sharing. An important part of the CPA was that it allowed for a referendum on secession for the South.
However, WWM said, it lacked clarity on the future of the three border areas (Nuba, Abyei and Blue Nile), which have great strategic, economic and geographical importance, and large oil reserves.
Although these areas had fought for independence alongside the South, the CPA only offered an ill-defined “popular consultation process” for them.
Following the South’s secession in 2011, tension immediately started building between the government and the people in the Nuba Mountains because the government remained dedicated to Sharia and constantly frustrated the political process by which the Nuba people could gain greater autonomy.
By June 2015 the process had broken down completely and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army North (SPLA-N) rebel army took up a battle for greater autonomy, and to a large extent, religious freedom.
WWM said the Government of Sudan responded with force, and started a brutal campaign to suppress the rebellion.
In July 2015 The New York Times’ Nicholas Krystof and his colleague produced a video report, “The Worst Atrocity You’ve Never Heard Of,”
which provides a graphic insight into what life is like for the people of the Nuba Mountains.
Amnesty International’s report describes how the government has been using unguided bombs, dropped out of the back of Antonov aircraft, which do not allow for accurate targeting to distinguish between military and civilian targets.
WWM reported the Government of Sudan has also been accused (by organizations such as Nuba Reports) of deploying long-range shells (Uishi missiles), incendiary bombs and cluster bombs to burn buildings, grass and crops.
“The evidence that Amnesty International has received indicates that these attacks were either directed at the civilian population and civilian objects or were indiscriminate attacks that led to civilian deaths,” AI’s report says. “Intentionally directing attacks against civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, or against civilian objects, is a war crime.”
In the two weeks before Open Doors International’s visit to the region, the charity reported that bombings had killed 41 people and injured many more. A hospital was also destroyed, as well as four churches and one school. Sorghum, which the community cultivated the previous season, was also burned.
Prior to these attacks, eight other churches had been destroyed, although noone was killed because the Christians had stopped using the churches and were meeting under trees due to the constant bombings.
“In my area the situation is very bad,” WWM said a man referred to as “Demas” told Open Doors. “The Antonovs are overhead all the time. People are not sleeping because the Antonovs are bombing at night. People have run to caves. The situation is not good.”
“Three weeks ago the aircraft came and attacked my village,” added another man, “Filip.” “As the people came from school, they gathered at a borehole to drink water. An aircraft dropped two bombs on those boreholes. (They) killed one and injured another. Several livestock were killed. Near the borehole there was a rakuba (storehouse) with sorghum. It was burned down along with the village … That village was destroyed.”
US-based Sudan advocacy group said, “Operation Broken Silence.“Government attacks against civilians … are accelerating at an alarming pace. Rape as a weapon of war has become a daily occurrence. Aerial bombings have displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.”
For more information visit www.worldwatchmonitor.org
Photo caption: Jeremy and Elma Reynalds
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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