By Brad Phillips During the last six weeks the profile of Sudan in the international media has been raised as the North-South conflict escalates. It is some comfort for those whose lives are at stake to know that their plight and suffering is not going unnoticed by the world. Even more encouraging is the knowledge that Christians the world over have been mobilized to pray. Heightened awareness aided by technology to put a real-time spotlight on the evil events as they are unfolding in Sudan. This has forced the U.S. and other governments to go on record and react. The heat is being turned up on Khartoum.
In response to the tougher rhetoric coming out of Washington against the terrorist-led government in Khartoum, the regime is responding with rage on both military and diplomatic fronts. The government of Sudan promised to seal off the border with South Sudan and even the Minister of "International Cooperation" threatened to expel the American consulate in Khartoum if the US continued to warn of a developing famine in Southern Kordofan State. For good measure, Khartoum launched more air strikes across the border into South Sudan, targeting refugees from the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile State who have fled the violence.
At a recent rally with his troops, Sudan Dictator, Omar al Bashir, proudly mocked the US and said he did not fear the Americans. "We've been tested by the Americans for 20 years," boasted Bashir. Bashir then defended Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, his Minister of Defense, who recently joined Bashir on the ICC's list of indicted war criminals. "If anyone raises a finger against Sudan, we will cut it off!" shouted Bashir. "If anyone raises his eyes towards Sudan, we will pluck them out."
This aggressive and violent response by Bashir doesn't make him any more friends in the international community, and actually highlights the arrogance and irrational behavior of a leader whose days are numbered.
But the reality is that Bashir's comments have more truth in them than I would like to acknowledge. Despite the warnings of the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains by U.S. Permanent Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Susan Rice, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the official U.S. position continues to be one of indecision and ambiguity.
In mid-March, celebrity activist George Clooney passionately appealed for action as he testified before a U.S. Senate hearing on the humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains and warned that the Nuba was becoming like Darfur. Clooney was later arrested (along with his father) for protesting outside the Sudan Embassy in Washington.
Clooney's testimony came in the wake of a flurry of new media interest in Sudan. The New York Times, NBC, and Al Jazeera English have all published fresh stories on the issue. With all this renewed attention, one could conclude it is becoming easier and easier for the politicians in Washington to do the right thing in Sudan.
Enter Princeton Lyman. The lead U.S. diplomat representing the Obama Administration on all things Sudan.
Ambassador Lyman, also spoke before the U.S. Senate the same day as George Clooney. But sadly, the testimony of Ambassador Lyman seemed to reassure the indicted in Khartoum that the U.S. posture toward Sudan will remain essentially toothless... that we currently have no intention of following through on recent threats to take unilateral action to open a humanitarian corridor in the Nuba Mountains.
A few days prior to his testimony, Amb. Lyman traveled to Addis Ababa to meet with Sudanese leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which is the alliance of marginalized groups in northern Sudan that includes the SPLM-N. He traveled to personally and publicly let them know that the U.S. would not support them in their goal of regime change. It seems the U.S. is still hoping to reform the National Congress Party believing a "carrot and stick" approach will win the day and transform indicted war criminals into democrats.
I am reminded of the words of the late Dr John Garang who said, "The National Congress Party is too deformed to be reformed." Quite right. But, somehow there are still some "experts" in government who fear regime change in Sudan. They argue that if Bashir goes someone really bad might replace him.
Apparently all the tough talk by Lyman, Rice and Clinton were empty threats. All it took was an angry Bashir for the U.S. to tuck tail and run.
Unfortunately, it is this kind of diplomacy which sends the NCP the message that the U.S. is not serious. The NCP regime in Khartoum, which has killed more than 3 million people since 1989, only responds to strength. It will continue to use food as a weapon and specifically target groups for destruction based on their race and religion until it is removed from power.
Meanwhile the SRF SPLM-N, the primary rebel group fighting Khartoum in northern Sudan, continues to score major victories in the ground war. Most of Southern Kordofan is firmly controlled by the rebels. And Khartoum is sinking more and more of its already limited resources on military equipment to replace the arsenal that the SPLM-N has destroyed or "liberated."
Commander Abdelaziz Adam Al-Hilu, who leads the rebel alliance in the northern Sudan continues to make only one plea to the U.S. and international community: support a "No-Fly Zone" to protect civilians in Sudan from the daily bombings and open a corridor for humanitarian access. Abdelaziz and his allies have consistently said they don't need or want military support from the West. He is leading a genuine 'popular uprising.' But he also points out that Bashir's tactic is to target innocent civilians. Bashir's aim is to drive out or kill the Africans in the Nuba and Blue Nile.
If we want to stop the genocide, now is the time to turn up the heat on Washington and let our representatives know we expect them to stand with the victims of genocide and take action before its too late. Appeasement has never saved lives.
If you haven't done so already, please visit savethenuba.com and find out what you can do to Get Active and help save lives in the Nuba.
After you do this, please forward the link to your friends or post it on Facebook to spread the word.
Thanks for your prayers and support for the persecuted in Sudan. I'll keep you posted on developments.