Category Archives: Heglig

Why Not Mention Genocide

I remain highly bothered by the complete absence of any mention by the United States at the UN Security Council, much less by the UNSC itself, of the ethnic cleansing and genocide being practiced by the government of Sudan against the people of the Nuba Mountains. I am appalled that instead the term chosen to refer to those fighting for their very lives against people who are trying to starve them and their families to death or force them to flee the country is “rebels.” The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising were rebels. The people bombed into hiding in caves in the Nuba Mountains are indeed rebelling. They wish to stop the government that is trying to murder them from accomplishing the feat. Such a rebellion! What gall they possess to think life deserving of rebellion!!!

Here is a United Nations resolution that totally ignores the genocidal nature of the regime, ignores the awful nature of its actions in recent times, and ignores the long history of the conflict, instead acting as if it began with South Sudan taking over Heglig from an purely innocent Sudan. Instead, it acts as if Sudan has every right to starve hundreds of thousands of people to death and to bomb them if they resist. No aid must be allowed to come to the rebels, the UN insists. No aid. This makes a mockery of the commitment “Never Again.” For an organization that itself has a day devoted to genocide, it is an absurdity.

This cannot be just about the war not long ended possibly resuming. It cannot, because resuming the war to save thousands of lives–that alone–would be reason to begin it anew and to begin it with the blessing of the UN which by all that is right and good should send troops to make sure that food aid is delivered to the starving masses. Certainly, the United States should have spoken out to mention the horrors occurring from its bully pulpit as chair of the Security Council. Yet, it did not. Why not mention the genocide in Sudan?

Here are President Obama’s words offered last Monday at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They stand in stark contrast to those offered by US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice’s words at the UN Security Council which did not mention South Kordofan or Blue Nile or mention genocide at all. I think that in this context President Obama’s words at the USHMM offered exactly one week before need no commentary. It will suffice for each to be followed by a simple question to be asked of the United States in its handling of the Sudan conflict at the United Nations, “Why Not Mention Genocide?”

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.

Why not mention genocide?

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

Why not mention genocide?

The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

Why not mention genocide?

And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Why not mention genocide?

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate — because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

Why not mention genocide?

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  

Why not mention genocide?

I will give my own answer, “Because it would require good people to act. We know that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Help Nuba!

US says the UNSC May Sanction Both Sides

The U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was happy with the vote:

With this vote, the Council has clearly imposed tight deadlines for concrete action, in line with the African Union decision. This Council, especially those members with particular influence, including my own, must continue to press both parties to implement the African Union Roadmap by ending hostilities, ceasing cross-border attacks and movements, halting aerial bombardments, withdrawing all their forces from the border areas including Abyei, activating the necessary border security mechanisms, and ending support to rebel groups working against the other state.

It is also essential that both parties return at once to the negotiating table under the auspices of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel to reach agreement on critical outstanding issues. We support the plans of the African Union to travel to Khartoum and Juba in the coming days to begin the process. This is ultimately the only way that further conflict can be avoided.

If the parties fail to take these steps promptly, this Council is united in its determination to hold both sides accountable. We stand ready to impose Chapter VII sanctions on either or both parties, as necessary.

The clear and unmistakable impression given by this statement is that the United States will offer no support whatsoever to those people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile who are fighting for their lives against a genocidal regime that wishes to kill them precisely because fighting for their lives constitutes a rebellion against the government of Sudan’s wish for them to leave or die. Is it possible for a rational human being not to wish for regime change under such a circumstance, nor to fight for it to happen?

South Sudan Agrees to the Terms of the UNSC Resolution

South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol said that South Sudan would follow the terms of the resolution. He stated:

It is my privilege to reaffirm to you that, in compliance with the decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement, and in the spirit of our commitment to peace, my government ordered the withdrawal of our police force from Abyei Area on 28 April 2012. We expect the international community to exert efforts to ensure the immediate and complete withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces from Abyei Area.

As acknowledged formally by the African Union, my government is already committed to the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the African Union High Implementation Panel. We welcome the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, and the commitment of the UN Security Council to the enhancement of the AUHIP led negotiations process through the active participation of the UN, the Chairman of IGAD and other international partners.

We appeal to the United Nations and its member states to urgently mobilize humanitarian assistance for the population affected by Sudan’s continuous aerial bombardment and ground incursions in northern states of South Sudan.

“African Ways” and Sanctions as “Extreme Measures”

The UN Security Council’s plan will likely accomplish little. Even if it does lead to Sudan and South Sudan returning to the negotiating table, it is unlikely to lead them to resolve the issues when they talk. For the Nuba Mountain people, the most important thing is what this resolution does not do. It does not help them. There is no threat against Sudan for acting against the people of South Kordofan or Blue Nile. The resolution is all about halting fighting between Sudan and South Sudan.

What is most disheartening to me, however, are the positions expressed by China and Russia as they spoke about the UNSC resolution. I find these statements to be appalling.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said:

We are always very cautious about the use and threat of sanctions. China has all along maintained that African issues should be settled by the Africans in African ways.

“African issues?” “African ways?” What is this if not racism? I can see the point made in a discussion,

“They’ve always had tribal warfare and slaughtered each other.”

“Who are we to interfere?”

Of course, China nor the UNSC has interfered in the past. They have let millions die while nobly not interfering.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that:

The arsenal of political and diplomatic instruments for normalizing the situation has nowhere been exhausted. We consider sanctions as an extreme measure.

Sanctions? An “extreme measure” against a genocidal government whose leaders are wanted for war crimes by the ICC? Really??? “Extreme???” Is it more extreme than a government deliberately trying to starve a significant minority of its population to death or force them to flee the country amid an indiscriminate hail of bombs?

Not according to the Russian Ambassador or to the UNSC. The Sudan Tribune article tells us that:

The Russian ambassador said that sanctions should not be used in relation to conflicts in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging since last year between Sudan’s army and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) who want to topple to Khartoum government.

The resolution orders Khartoum and SPLM-N to cooperate with the mediation and use a June 2011 framework agreement as a basis for talks. The deal was signed by presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie only to be scrapped by Bashir himself later.

Understanding the Heglig Dispute

Both Sudan and South Sudan claim ownership of the city that Sudan calls Heglig and South Sudan calls Panthou. This article by Dr Luka Biong Deng published by Gurtong explains the dispute from the point of view of the leadership of the SPLA and government of South Sudan. Dr. Deng wrote:

Despite claims to the contrary, Heglig was absolutely not determined to be part of Sudan (the North) by the July 2009 ruling of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal (referred by many in South Sudan as the Permanent Court of Arbitration decision (PCA decision). The parties signed an Abyei Arbitration Agreement in 2008 which clearly provided that the mandate of the arbitration tribunal was simply to determine if the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) exceeded its mandate and if it did, to then “define (i.e. delimit) on map the boundaries of the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905.”

This is the full report of the tribunal.

Dr. Luka Biong Deng goes on to note that:

What is indisputable is that South Sudan claims Heglig as theirs and Sudan claims it as theirs. The fact that Sudan has refused to “agree” that it is disputed —both in the context of the Technical Ad-hoc Border Committee and in the Addis negotiations— does not make it any less a disputed area. Those who would refuse to support the submission of Heglig to a peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms because it is not an “agreed disputed area” are playing a dangerous game by leaving a critical matter unresolved between the parties which can result in continued hostilities. The purpose of the negotiations is to address such matters, not leave them to foment distrust and violence in the future.

What is Wrong with the UNSC Plan

It appears that Russia is willing to support the resolution proposed by the United States in UN Security Council that calls upon both Sudan and South Sudan to cease hostilities. The resolution has no specific penalties for failure to comply though it is assumed that penalties will include sanctions imposed by the African Union and potentially enforced by the UN. According to the article in the Sudan Tribune:

UNSC’s intervention was requested by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) which issued a communiqué last week saying that Khartoum and Juba must reach a deal on post-independence issues within three months including oil, border demarcation, citizenship and Abyei.

This would be great. It just has no chance of happening. Is there any possible chance that Sudan would agree that Heglig should be called Panthou and be a part of South Sudan? Any chance? Might South Sudan be forced to admit the reverse? Possibly, but unlikely. More important are the AU plan’s immediate goals:

  1. Immediately cease hostilities – within 24 hours
  2. Unconditionally withdraw troops from disputed areas
  3. Cease harboring or supporting rebel groups fighting against the other nation
  4. Cease issuing hostile propaganda and making inflammatory statements to the media

I can see the first and the last of these occurring to some extent while each side negotiates with the UNSC and AU.

The second and third, however, are going to be much more difficult. Sudan would need to withdraw from many areas including Heglig which it just reoccupied and which is vital to its economy. Is Sudan likely to withdraw from Heglig? No. It is actually more likely that Heglig will be considered an undisputed part of Sudan by much of the international community and therefore no penalty will be forthcoming.

As for ceasing to harbor or support rebel groups, it will be impossible to confirm compliance. If these groups continue to act on their own, the appropriate governments will be accused of supporting them regardless of whether or not they actually offer material or any other type of support. In addition, remember that the rebel groups in the south of Sudan are fighting for freedom against a genocidal government. The UN as an organization is supposed to support democracy. Yes, I know that this is farcical at this point, but to have an official policy that mandates that people combating genocide are not to be supported is at best wrong and at worst cruel and inhumane.

A further problem, and not a minor one at all, is that the AU proposal does not address the famine issues, the ethnic cleansing issues, or the genocide issues. It pretends that “citizenship” includes those. It does not. Only an official sanction of ethnic cleansing by the United Nations could justify calling the citizenship of all Christians in Sudan into question.

Frighteningly, the United States at the helm of UNSC has put forth a proposal that does not directly address the crisis for the population of the southern states of Sudan. The proposal only sees state actors, abandoning the suffering people in the south to the whim of Sudan as a sovereign state. This, in my mind, is an appalling abdication of the role of America in the world and the supposed role of the United Nations. Do not get me wrong. I have no conception that the UN has ever been effective at preventing ethnic cleansing and genocide or that the United States should be expected, based upon past history, to help. I have written about this very topic on this website recently. I merely hope that the United States would change the historical pattern that allows genocidal regimes to act without impediment for years on end while the world cries in horror.

In the meantime, while the UN works on bringing Sudan and South Sudan to the negotiating table, Sudan will starve and slaughter tens of thousands of people in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. We need action against Sudan, not talk about action. We need to Help Nuba!

Sudan Pledges to Fight “Food Smuggling”

The level of incompetence being exhibited by the United Nations in response to events in Sudan is so high as to render absurd any consideration of the organization as effective at saving lives or useful at promoting peace. A few days after ordering South Sudan to retreat from Heglig and demanding that South Sudan not aid the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North, which it already said it was not doing, the UN is observing the consequences. Sudan has pledged to continue to prevent food from reaching the tens of thousands of starving people who are fighting against a government that is trying to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing against them. Actually, Sudan is arguing that it is attempting to prevent food smuggling from Sudan into the regions of South Sudan where there are also significant food shortages.

While there may well be clandestine trade between the two nations occurring, the real reason for military action against cross border food trade is not to combat rebels, but instead

  • to try to heighten the famine that will be faced by the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile,
  • to prevent humanitarian aid from non-governmental organizations from reaching them, and
  • to force the people to flee across the border into South Sudan to find food or
  • to perish in the mountains from starvation.

The United Nations’ Security Council’s refusal to act to save the people of the Nuba Mountains by ensuring that food arrives is tantamount to abetting the Khartoum regime in its war on civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur as well as in its growing campaign against Unity State. That the UN’s policy concerning aiding those being deliberately starved by their government should be to ask that very government to allow the food to be delivered is an absurdity that borders on callous indifference. If sending in food against that government’s will enables the people to save their lives and to continue fighting one of the most brutal regimes of the past century, I should hardly the think the world would be worse for having done so.