Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
Sudan: Nuba Mountains Letter
Sudan: Nuba Mountains Letter
Date distributed (ymd): 971024
Document reposted by APIC
Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents: This posting contains a letter of protest, with a request
for organizational and individual signatories, from the International Women's
Committee in Support of Nuba Women and Children. It cites reports from
several sources, including African Rights, documenting genocidal human
rights abuses by the Government of Sudan in the Nuba Mountains region.
International Women's Committee
in Support of Nuba Women and Children
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Dear International Community, Individuals, Organizations, and Officials:
We are writing to alert you to the tragic humanitarian situation of
the people, and especially the women and children, of the Nuba Mountains
of southwestern Sudan. In this remote and internationally isolated region
of the Sudan, a long-running human rights disaster is precipitously worsening.
Therefore, we urge you to demand your governments to act immediately, and
with the requisite political will, to help put an end to this unfolding
human tragedy. The catastrophic human rights situation in the Nuba Mountains
of Sudan has been highlighted for nearly a decade. From independent human
rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the United Nations and
the United States Department of State, various international groups and
observers have presented one piece of gruesome evidence after another.
This evidence strongly demonstrates that the aggression and violence of
the Sudanese Islamist government (the National Islamic Front, NIF) and
its local and national militias are part of a concerted effort to purge
and thereby subdue the Nuba. This is made clear by the fact that the government
of Sudan (GOS) and its armed militias do not attempt to differentiate between
Nuba who are sympathetic to the armed opposition, Sudan People's Liberation
Army (SPLA), and those who are innocent civilians.
In fact, the term "genocide" adequately describes the situation
of the Nuba vis-a-vis the GOS. African Rights and numerous relief and church
groups and individuals working in the Nuba Mountains, among others, have
so labeled it. African Rights, for example, says that "Sudanese troops
are carrying out genocide against the Nuba people in the war against non-Arabs
in the country's south" (reported by Chege Mbitiru, Associated Press
Writer, Tuesday, August 5, 1997, Nairobi, Kenya.) In addition, Alain Destexhe,
former Secretary General of Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres)
has written that: "the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Sudan
could well qualify as genocide. . . . in the name of Jihad, the whole population
was either massacred or deported to camps in the north of the country .
. ." (Alain Destexhe, "Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century"
New York University Press, 1995, p. 17.)
The instruments of the ethnic cleansing in the Nuba Mountains by the
GOS 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 occurring after the GOS has
burned their villages to the ground (see Human Rights Watch World Report
1997). At the same time, forced conversion to a particular kind of fundamentalist
Islam (the Nuba are already heavily Islamicized), the bulldozing and blazing
of Christian churches, Islamic Mosques, and schools, and the execution
of "apostates" by the GOS are all indicative of a strategy of
Though the GOS has increasingly unleashed its brutality on the Sudanese
people more generally, "regardless of their race, religion, language,
ethnic or social origin and status" (U.N. Special Rapporteur's Report),
the Nuba remain a focal target of the GOS' policy of ethnic purging. Religion,
ethnicity, class, and gender have been and remain salient features of the
NIF regime's campaigns in the Nuba Mountains, as in other areas of the
Sudan. In the eyes of the GOS, the Nuba and other ethnic minorities are
"expendable" people. The U.N. Special Rapporteur, for example,
"cannot but conclude that the abduction of persons, mainly women and
children belonging to racial, ethnic and religious minorities from southern
Sudan, the Nuba Mountains and the Ingassena Hills area, their subjection
to the slave trade, including traffic in and sale of children and women,
slavery, servitude, forced labor and similar practices are taking place
with the knowledge of the Government of the Sudan" (Special Rapporteur's
Report -- SRR -- to the Commission on Human Rights resolution 1996/73,
at its 60th meeting 23 April 1996).
Unfortunately, the GOS remains openly defiant in the face of increasing
international scrutiny. It has continued to ignore all the reports and
demands of United Nations organs and UN-affiliated international NGOs.
Though it claims to be a protector of global human rights, U.N. documents
highlight its failure to observe even the most basic human rights, and
its constant denial of violating these rights. For example, the SRR states
that "the official position of the Government of the Sudan [GOS] with
regard to the provisions of the resolutions adopted by the [U.N.] Commission
on Human Rights and the General Assembly on reported human rights violations
can be summarized as unequivocal rejection. At the same time, calls upon
the Government of the Sudan [GOS] to bring an end to the violations and
to hold the perpetrators responsible have consistently been ignored."
The GOS has also failed to ensure the access of humanitarian relief
groups to needy civilians, whether they are in GOS- or SPLA-occupied areas.
In fact, the GOS has deliberately obstructed humanitarian assistance (by
direct military targeting of relief efforts and representatives) to the
people of the Nuba Mountains (and other beleaguered areas of Sudan). As
in the southern Sudan, the NIF regime has persistently refused to authorize
the extension of the U.N. Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) relief programmes
and those of other humanitarian organizations to SPLA-held areas of the
Nuba Mountains. This denial by GOS of humanitarian assistance lies in blatant
breach of the joint U.N. and GOS statement of 15 September 1992, affirming
". . . critical importance of access of all people in need of humanitarian
assistance wherever they may be." (G.A., res. 48/147)
Though the worst offender, the GOS has not been the only perpetrator
of human rights abuses in the Nuba Mountains. According to the SRR, "[m]embers
of different parties to the conflict in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains,
other than the Government of the Sudan [GOS] and those affiliated with
it, have committed a series of abuses and atrocities against the life,
liberty and personal security of Sudanese citizens in the areas under their
control." Nevertheless, the GOS has been the least self-critical party
toward the human rights abuses perpetrated by its members. For example,
in "Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan" (1996), African Rights
cites more determined (though imperfect) efforts by the SPLA to curtail
and punish human rights abuses by its members in the Nuba Mountains (and
elsewhere), as compared to a total lack of such efforts by the GOS.
Clearly, the situation in the Nuba Mountains is extremely complex. General
war symptoms and targeted ethnic cleansing are often misleadingly lumped
together by both local and international observers. Ironically, the same
sort of confusion occurred in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and even Nazi
Germany -- a state of confusion (or political evasion?) which obscured
genocide and justified international passivity until far too late in each
It remains a puzzle and a travesty of justice that the Sudanese government's
cleansing campaign against the Nuba (and other minorities) has earned it
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 (OAU) 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 Sudan conflict is
currently the longest, and perhaps most atrocious, civil war in the world.
And, we fear, the fact that the main sufferers are women and children may
be an important cause of this 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 women and children of the Nuba Mountains.
The international community must take action now, before it is too late
for the people of the Nuba Mountains.
Therefore, our Sudanese and non-Sudanese woman-organized campaign to
help stop the atrocities to the Nuba calls on the United States government
and its allies to stop collaborating in the genocide through its support
of the Sudan government's suspect "peace accord" of April 21,
1997. (The April 1997 accord is suspect because, among other factors, the
GOS itself does not take it seriously: it continues to militarily target
innocent civilians in the Nuba Mountains and the South.)
We also call upon you to demand that your governments pressure the U.N.
to promote the establishment of relief corridors (General Assembly, res.
45/100) to facilitate the immediate free access of humanitarian organizations
and U.N. relief programmes to the Nuba Mountains; and to pressure the U.N.
Security Council to make use of the instruments in Chapter VII of the Charter
(S.C. res. 688) in order to ensure the right to life of the Nuba people
(art. 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; art. 12, International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966; art. 6, International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
Finally, and 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 United Nations Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
International silence on genocide is utterly inexcusable in the twentieth
century. Please, let the people of the Nuba Mountains and all of Sudan
know that they are not less human than those in Sierra Leone, where a military
coup called for interference by neighboring West African countries; nor
less worthy than those in other areas of the world where the international
community has interfered to protect civilians and to punish the culprits
who committed atrocities against them. In short, show the people of the
Nuba Mountains and all of Sudan that the phrase "never again"
is not an empty slogan.
The International Women's Committee to Support Nuba Women and Children
[Letter drafted by: Sondra Hale, Asma Abdel Halim, and Laura Nyantung
PLEASE SUPPORT THIS CAMPAIGN:
The Women's Committee will send this letter, along with all of your
signatures, to various government officials and committees (U.S. and international),
U.N. and other international bodies.
To support this letter please send a message to: Actnsudan@aol.com
In the Subject line, type "Crisis in the Nuba Mountains."
In your message, state that you endorse the Women's Committee letter. Please
include your FULL NAME and, if you are endorsing on behalf of an organization,
the name of your organization.
PLEASE REPLY BY FRIDAY OCT. 31, 1997.
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 who belong(ed) to other Sudanese
lists, and are from all over the world. Our membership is small, but represents
some of the leading intellectuals working on Sudan, on the war, and on
human rights issues. Comparable to the stance 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. We are also a group that
engages in intellectual exchange about women's and feminist issues.
Additonal Notes: Two reports from African Rights on the situation in
the Nuba Mountains area are available from African Rights,11 Marshalsea
Rd, London SE1 1EP, UK. Tel: 0171 717 1224; Fax: 0171 717 1240; E-mail:
(1) A Desolate Peace: Human Rights in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan (August
1997), 27 pages, available for $7.95 plus $2 postage.
(2) Justice in the Nuba Mountains: Challenges and Prospects, 1995-1997,
43 pages, available for $7.95 plus $2 postage.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington
Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate
in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa,
by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and
analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.