Rebecca Hamilton posts a horrific first person account of the violence underway in South Kordofan, a Sudanese province that borders the soon-to-be independent country of South Sudan. The writer was one of the last remaining foreign aid workers in the region.
What can only be called ethnic cleansing, when an ethnic group is targeted for extermination, started in Kadugli and Dilling while we were there. Door to door executions of completely innocent and defenseless civilians, often by throat cutting, by special internal security forces. We don’t know how many yet; hundreds seems for sure, but could be much worse. Terrible accounts of civilians – friends – attempting to find safety in the UNMIS (United Nations Missions of Sudan) compound being pulled out of vehicles and executed immediately. And now we hear that all the displaced who had been seeking some form of security alongside the perimeter fence of UNMIS are being forced to move by the government authorities. What will happen to them? So we just had to stay focused and get things moving on the ground. Incredibly brave and impressive locals both experienced aid workers and villagers leading the response; freed up by the immediate exit of all expats before thingswent wrong. Probably over 100,000 already displaced and more coming.
It is important to understand the basic political dynamics of why this ethnic cleansing is happening…and why now. The short version is this: the Nuba are a religiously diverse ethnic group that have traditionally been aligned with opposition to the ruling party in Khartoum. They have a not-insignificant fighting force which sided with the south during a 20 year civil war. That militia has been relatively muted since the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the civil war and paved the way for a new state of southern Sudan.
But several communities in which the Nuba people (and their fighters) live is indisputably above the border in Northern Sudan. The regime in Khartoum has apparently decided that they do not want this group living within their borders so they are forcing a massive migration.
The way in which Khartoum is undertaking this strategy is strikingly similar to the counter-insurgency tactics that were so effective in Darfur. Namely, Khartoum is attacking the population base of the Nuba people–not simply targeting alleged fighters. (And it is not a coincidence that one of the masterminds of the Darfur genocide, Ahmad Haroun, is in charge of South Kordofan). Those not killed in the bombing and executions are being forced to migrate.
This is the ethnic cleansing against a minority group. And it is happening now because Khartoum wants to assert its military strength ahead of the country’s partition in two weeks. Further, Khartoum probably judges that the international community’s response will be hamstrung over the fact that the major players are all sharply focused on making sure that the South’s independence happens on time. For it’s part, the South does not seem to want to be pulled into a war across the border. They are, reasonably, biding their time until July 9.
So, it makes perfect sense as to why Khartoum would want to engage in another round of ethnic cleansing in their territory. There is nothing that anyone (save, perhaps the Chinese, with which Khartoum enjoys a productive commercial relationship) can do to stop them.
Such is the strategic logic of ethnic cleansing on going in South Kordofan today.