The United Nations Security Council met in New York on Friday, November 16, 2012 to discuss the report of the Secretary General on Sudan. In their fifteen-minute-long meeting they adopted unanimously Resolution 2075 extending the mandate of the UN security mission in Abyei until May 31, 2013. But although the Sudan government has been attacking the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State for almost a year and a half, they did not address that region.
It is good that the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has been renewed. Thankfully, UN peacekeepers in Abyei – mostly Ethiopians – have been helpful, unlike UN peacekeeping troops in other regions. But this provides no solution to the property rights dispute in that troubled border region. Abyei is in the grips of a major crisis with ongoing conflict and near-starvation conditions. Tens of thousands are attempting to return after fleeing during Sudanese government attacks.
Abyei church leaders reported to Compass Direct News Service on November 19, 2012, that up to 20,000 returnees to Abyei town have found devastation. The Sudan Armed Forces destroyed almost all of the buildings and infrastructure. Compass Direct reported, “Even water boreholes have been badly damaged, following the withdrawal of Sudanese government troops in June 2012.” Only the heroic work of an Inter-Church Committee of Roman Catholic, Episcopal Church of Sudan, and Pentecostal leaders, along with relief aid from the World Food Programme, gives these men, women, and children a chance to survive.
Yet if world leaders, including the United States government, had held the Sudanese regime in Khartoum accountable for violating the agreement(s) it has signed, the dispute have been settled long ago. Instead Khartoum continues to violate the Abyei protocols with impunity.
The traditional homeland of the African Ngok Dinka, Abyei was transferred from Bahr el Gazal Province, South Sudan to the northern province of Kordofan during colonial rule in 1905. The area was used for grazing by both Ngok Dinka and nomadic northern Arab Misseriya tribes. When the north/south peace talks began, Abyei was a major sticking point – especially when oil was discovered. But the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by both the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), tasked an international commission with drawing Abyei’s boundary lines. The CPA called for both sides to adhere to the borders decisions of the Abyei Boundary Commission.
In the unanimous July 2005 decision, according to commission member and Sudan historian Douglas Johnson, the boundary experts “drew the boundary further north than the government delegation had anticipated, and further south than the SPLM had hoped for.” Unsurprisingly, the Sudanese government rejected the findings, while the SPLM said that it was a “final and binding decision that had to be implemented.” Khartoum suffered no repercussions for their rejection, nor for burning Abyei town to ashes in May of 2008 and again in May of 2011, nor for rejecting successive conciliatory decisions on Abyei, such as that by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which increasingly have given way to Khartoum and taken more from South Sudan.
Both Act for Sudan, the alliance of advocacy organizations and individuals of which IRD is a founding member, and IRD joined over 80 other human rights and religious freedom organizations in a November 12 letter to the UNSC, urging that they impose deadlines and consequences on the government of Sudan to save lives in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile State, and elsewhere. We found it remarkable and extremely disappointing that the UNSC did not address the ongoing genocide in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State. As one activist reported, “Nothing . . . was said about the men, women and children living next door to Abyei who are being bombed, attacked and starved by the Government of Sudan.” “How is that possible?” she demanded.
In response to the UNSC’s inaction on these critical regions, we must continue to demonstrate Khartoum’s brutal atrocities against the people of the Nuba Mountains. One of Act for Sudan’s affiliates, Operation Broken Silence, has recently released an excellent film produced from their trip to the Nuba Mountains: “Across the Frontlines: Ending the Nuba Genocide.” Another great resource is on-the-ground journalists, Eyes and Ears Nuba, that have just released a 5 minute video, “A Hidden Hunger: Life in the Caves of the Nuba Mountains.” Another affiliate, Stop Genocide Now, has set up a way for citizens to contact the Obama Administration and tell President Obama that he has a second chance to do the right thing to stop genocide in Sudan.
Urging citizens to take these measures, another Act for Sudan affiliate said, “As we count our blessings” (this Thanksgiving) let’s “help bless the Sudanese people.”
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