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The Scramble and Partition of Equatoria: Enslavement and Occupation of Equatoria through land grabbing by state machinery led by President Kiir

By Kenyi Modi

February 13, 2015 (SSNA) -- On December 15, 2013, a political dispute within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM)-the ruling party, triggered a war in South Sudan and is ongoing to date. Since then, the human rights situation in South Sudan has been a subject of attention in the young nation. The situation has resulted to shocking brutality, including gruesome massacres of civilians and attacks on individuals in their homes, churches, schools, mosques and hospitals on the basis of ethnicity, belief and political opinion. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes and sought protection at UNMISS Protection of Civilians camps while others crossed international borders and became refugees in neighboring countries. Some were forced to fight to defend themselves and resist the repressive regime under Kiir and his group.

South Sudan Civil Society Groups in collaboration with partners in the region and around the globe should as an emergency organize a seminar possibly outside the country on human rights situation in South Sudan to find ways and means to rescue the deteriorating human rights situation in the young nation. The aim of the seminar should be to create awareness about the prevailing human rights situation in the young nation and discuss regional and international response. It should also address the root cause of the South Sudan problems rather than focusing solely on dealing with symptoms such as the refugee issues, ensure justice and accountability. This will stop the government from committing further atrocities worsening the current human rights situation. The young nation which had through the years evolved from efforts to liberate its people from oppression since 1820 to 2011 has descended into one of the most repressive states as far as human rights are concerned. The pictures below show gravity of human rights situation and brutality in the young nation:

You will agree with me that although some elements within the country caused the ongoing armed conflict, South Sudan alone is unable to end the current armed conflict which is entrenched along ethnic lines (Now Nuers and Equatorians are the target) unless with intervention from and by the African Union, United Nations and the international community.

The Failure of International Sanctions: A State’s obligation to respect and ensure human right is primarily inward directed, i.e., owed to its subjects. The international community gets involved only when a State’s conduct is so egregious as to threaten this fundamental interest of the international community (erga omnes). The UNSC is mandated to deal with threats to, or breaches of, international peace and security under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The UNSC has, however, not been able to deal with the threats or breach of peace, e.g., Rwanda, former Yugoslavia including Kosovo and Sudan. Has it not learnt from past misjudgements? Will it do the same for South Sudan? A strong reaction by States to these breaches presupposes the existence of community interest to end gross violation of human rights and freedoms; breakdown in the rule of law and governance.

On 6 and 7 December 2012, at a conference convened by the Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, a group of interdisciplinary academics, policymakers and practitioners in the areas of international peace and security with a special focus on Africa, considered and affirmed the Pretoria Principles on ending mass atrocities pursuant to Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, set out below.

The Pretoria Principles are intended to provide greater clarity and inform action by the African Union, sub-regional actors, governments and practitioners on how to enhance their respective roles in ending mass atrocities in Africa pursuant to Article 4(h), which provides for ‘the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity’.

Since the Republic of South Sudan is a member, African Union has the right to intervene in South Sudan as a Member State to rescue it from further atrocities and disintegration into more than three states through armed conflicts. Currently, the population of the young nation is at risk and the warring parties particularly the Government of Republic of South Sudan seems unwilling and unable to end the ongoing armed conflict which killed thousands and displaced million of people and made others vulnerable to diseases, starvation, social breakdown, and psycho torture and homeless without basic necessity of live.

The Pretoria Principles require that every State has the primary responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens in accordance with domestic constitutional law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. However, South Sudan warring parties’ actions and omissions have been and will be contrary to these legal requirements and obligations if the war does not end. But under Article 4(h), the African Union (AU) is accorded the right to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government (‘AU Assembly’) in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity (mass atrocities).

Article 4(h) proceeds from the basis that there is a duty on Member States of the AU to protect their own populations from mass atrocities. This responsibility entails the prevention of mass atrocities through appropriate means such as the establishment and effective functioning of human rights protection mechanisms at the domestic level, and the acceptance of international human rights supervision. It requires Africa Union to intervene in the event of grave circumstances (intervention to protect populations from mass atrocities). There is South Sudan Human Rights Commission but institution is ineffective to protect human rights violation due to lack of independent from the Government and the ruling party or ruling tribe as some people called it.

Article 4(h) also empowers the AU to intervene in a Member State (South Sudan) under a limited set of stipulated ‘grave circumstances’. By consenting to Article 4(h), South Sudan and other member states of the AU have accepted that sovereignty is not a shield but rather a responsibility, particularly when populations are at risk of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Article 4(h) complements Article 4(g) of the AU Constitutive Act, which prohibits interference in the internal affairs of other States, if those mass atrocities are identified as legitimate concerns for the AU as a whole and may trigger intervention by the AU. However, South Sudan has not understood that sovereignty is not a cover but rather a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill as well as promote human rights, rule of law and good governance. Nevertheless, coming to power through election is not a license to repress and deny citizens and peoples the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the young nation. The African Union should not allow the young nation to grow as ill and worst member state because it will not only negatively affect its neighbours but the whole region and the globe. The suitable example is the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea where its people have been suffering from repression since liberation and independence from Ethiopia. The people of South Sudan have been undergoing this repression before, during and after independence in silence without external intervention.

Lastly, Article 4(h) allows the AU to protect populations at risk of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity if the target State is unable or unwilling to discharge its primary responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens and peoples. According to the wording of Article 4(h), intervention on the basis of Article 4(h) requires a decision of the AU Assembly. Where diplomacy and other peaceful means have failed, the AU may use force to protect populations at risk of mass atrocities. The AU heads of states should save lives rather than concentrate on selfish politics. South Sudan is unwilling and unable to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and all people in the country. Those in power only concern themselves in power. For example, they are talking of conducting election contrary to the requirements of the Transitional Constitutional of South Sudan, 2011 that conduct of general election should be done after population census and drafting a permanent constitution subject to referendum. Now the Government of South Sudan has scheduled to conduct general elections by June 2015 while the young nation is bleeding. This seems that the population census and drafting permanent constitution subject to a referendum will be bypass or citizens denied this process.

On the responsibility to protect, the AU Constitutive Act codifies the right of intervention to protect populations against mass atrocities. The notion of ‘responsibility to protect’, as set out in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, has the same objective as the right of intervention in Article 4(h). However, there are also important differences. Article 4(h) intervention relates, in particular, to the third of the three foundational pillars of the ‘responsibility to protect’, namely the use of military intervention as a last resort. The wording of Article 4(h) suggests that intervention on the basis of Article 4(h) is an exceptional measure in the face of grave circumstances that are beyond non-coercive measures and so require military option as a last resort. The ‘right’ in Article 4(h) implies a legal entitlement or prerogative which is compatible with the notion of sovereignty as responsibility. This ‘right’ should as far as feasible be interpreted to imply a duty to intervene to prevent or halt mass atrocities in the form of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

On modalities of intervention, article 23(2) of the AU Constitutive Act provides for political and economic sanctions and denial of transport and communication against errant States, Article 4(h) recognizes that there are limits to non-violent means in stopping mass atrocities, and the only realistic means can be military intervention. The threshold for intervention pursuant to Article 4(h) is ‘grave circumstances’ that constitute serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the form of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law are international crimes under international law that requires intervention to end the war, ensure justice for the victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

Threshold for intervention: mass atrocities, Under Article 4(h), the AU Assembly should consider the inability or unwillingness of the national government to protect its population from mass atrocities. It follows that one of the determining factors is the inability or culpability of the government concerned in causing, tolerating or failing to stop such atrocities. Therefore, where a State violates the fundamental rights of its own citizens and peoples, or tolerates or fails to stop mass atrocities within its territory, the AU is authorized by Article 4(h) to intervene to prevent or halt mass atrocities in order to protect populations and save lives. Why AU is folding its hands while stand and watch without intervention while the people of South Sudan kill each other? Considering the speed with which mass atrocities occur and that the threshold for Article 4(h) intervention is high, difficult to prove and amenable to political discretion, in deciding on Article 4(h) intervention, the AU must prioritize the imperative to save lives over technical or overly legalistic ascertainment of the commission of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Authorization of the Security Council:  As a matter of legal requirement, the AU requires the authorization of the UN Security Council for Article 4(h) intervention. The UN Security Council has the responsibility to authorize the use of force in the implementation of Article 4(h) intervention. Where the UN Security Council is unwilling or indecisive in authorizing intervention, the conferment of the right to intervene on the AU by Member States of the AU provides greater space for the AU to act in the face of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity on the continent.

The role of the African Union stakeholders in preventing mass atrocities: The AU should encourage States and sub-regional organizations in establishing prevention, early warning and early reaction capabilities to mass atrocities. South Sudan has not established preventive and early warning capabilities to mass atrocities. This mandates AU to fill the protection gap and enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflicts by strengthening the mechanism to oversee the compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) in South Sudan, detect violations and put pressure on the recalcitrant parties in armed conflict to comply with IHL in order to prevent further war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The AU’s Continental Early Warning System should develop capacity to rapidly detect and react to any genocidal intent on the continent and there should be an effective interface between early warning systems at the continental and sub-regional levels in order to take concrete measures to eradicate the root causes of genocide. This has not been established in the young by AU. So, it is high time that AU establish this system in South Sudan as soon as possible to help AU detect and reach to international crimes in the young nation. The AU should also ensure that Members States respect their legal obligations to bring perpetrators of genocide to justice by making its presence through the technocrats in the country.

The AU should exert peer pressure on AU Member States to end violations where systematic patterns of human rights and humanitarian law violations are revealed, and encourage Member States to enact laws to prevent mass atrocity crimes and punish the perpetrators of these crimes in the domestic courts.

In the spirit of popular participation, the AU should develop strong links with civil society organizations at the national, sub-regional and continental levels to ensure that implementation of Article 4(h) intervention allows for meaningful contributions from the citizenry at the grass root level. Civil society organizations, States, regional economic communities (RECs), the AU Peace and Security Architecture including the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Commission’), the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Court’), and other relevant international institutions all have a role to play in the implementation of Article 4(h). AU and its commissions and courts are yet to be known by the majority of the citizens of South Sudan leave alone the civil society groups, community based organizations and women groups.

Under Article 58 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Commission should provide authoritative reports on the existence of a series of serious or massive violation that may trigger Article 4(h) intervention, not only to the AU Assembly but also to the Peace and Security Council (PSC), which can serve as the basis for deciding whether or not to intervene. The presence of African Commission is yet to be felt in the young nation to document and provide reports on serious or massive violations for intervention.

The African Commission should also, as a matter of principle, bring cases against a State Party of situations constituting mass atrocities to the African Court pursuant to Rule 118(3) of its Rules of Procedure, and should articulate criteria for doing so. The PSC should coordinate with the African Commission and the UN Special Procedures to prevent mass atrocities by detecting looming atrocities and intervening before atrocities are committed. The African Court should exercise its jurisdiction actively to prevent war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, including the use of provisional measures to compel repressive States to respect and protect the fundamental rights of their citizens.

The Continental Early Warning System must be actively involved in human rights and IHL monitoring and reporting. There should be strategic partnerships and collaboration among sub-regional early warning capacities, human rights and humanitarian law monitoring bodies with the Continental Early Warning System.

The Panel of the Wise should serve as an impartial mechanism for advising on a decision to intervene pursuant to Article 4(h).

The Pan-African Parliament should fully engage with other AU organs within the sphere of its responsibility to promote peace and security, human rights, democracy, good governance and accountability in order to eradicate the causes of mass atrocities on the continent.

The Economic Social and Cultural Council have unquestionable locus standi before the African Court that can be utilized for the enforcement of human rights in order to prevent mass atrocities.

As one of the systems for monitoring adherence to the rule of law in African States, the African Peer Review Mechanism should provide political pressure on governments that ignore or challenge the findings of relevant human rights institutions or special procedures.

The African Standby Force should have a capability to protect populations at risk of mass atrocities and to deter potential perpetrators of mass atrocities. The role of sub-regional organizations in preventing mass atrocities.

The proximity to the conflict provides sub-regional organizations with a better understanding of its dynamics, key players, and context-specific management and resolution options and makes them better placed to initiate rapid and less expensive responses to conflict than the AU and the UN. Regional organizations should further enhance regional cooperation among judicial authorities to support international justice mechanisms.

The role of African States in preventing mass atrocities: AU Member States should adopt legislative, administrative and other measures that will ensure that their national courts can exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. States should also make the declaration allowing for individual petitions pursuant to Article 34(6) of the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court. AU Member States should address the root causes of mass atrocities within their jurisdiction. When implementing Article 4(h) intervention, the humanitarian motive to save lives and protect human dignity should override national or strategic interests. Furthermore, States should commit resources towards prevention of mass atrocities and should implement Article 4(h) where prevention fails.

However, South Sudan has not adopted legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that national courts exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Yet, it has not addressed the causes of the conflict and atrocities within its jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the young nation has not committed resources to prevent further mass atrocities. Instead it has committed itself to acquiring more deadly weapons which will result to grave violation of human rights.

The role of the international community in preventing mass atrocities: The international community, including the United Nations, regional and sub-regional organizations, and non-governmental organizations should help States to build capacity to protect their populations from mass atrocities and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out. Should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from mass atrocities, the international community should help the AU to intervene to stop the mass atrocities. The peaceful means is inadequate and South Sudan authorities are failing to protect its people from atrocities unless through African Union the international community intervenes to end the conflict.

The role of civil society in preventing mass atrocities: Given their influence and presence on the ground, civil society should contribute to the monitoring of implementation of human rights and humanitarian norms and build awareness of mass atrocity prevention. Where mass atrocities occur, the civil society should collect evidence of atrocities and identify perpetrators and also help the citizens to hold governments accountable. However, the South Sudanese civil society organizations lack resources, training, mobility and access to information from government institutions.

The author is human rights lawyer, fighting for fundamental reforms in South Sudan through human rights revolution. He can be reached through: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Black and African: A Life That the World Could Care Less About

By Riang Yer Zuor Nyak

February 11, 2015 (SSNA) -- It now appears that human life is important when it belongs to certain class of people, or when it belongs to an individual coming from a certain racial group. It is a reality that cannot be mistaken, or a reality that none can deny.

As I write this piece, I have still to recover from the shock that came as a result of the African Union’s (AU) decision not to publicize the findings of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. What are they protecting, and for whose interest? Certainly, it is not South Sudanese interest. One can only be forced to think that IGAD and AU have suddenly realized and recalled the provisions of the Arusha Agreement, which stipulates that anyone found to have some responsibility for the violence that started in December of 2013 would not be allowed to occupy a public office in both the SPLM and the government.

Could it be that the report has condemned someone whom they want to occupy certain office(s)? Could it be that they are looking for an agreement whose content could prevail over the Arusha deal in case of any conflict before the release of the report? It shall never be known for sure.

 The World is Biased Against Africa

In following the more recent world events, one could make a conclusion that events per se are not necessary good or bad. It all depends on the person or group of people whom the event affects. It follows that if a horrendous or heinous act is committed or has happened to a non-black, non-African, it is an act against humanity and deserving of full condemnation by the rest of the humanity. But, if similar acts are committed against a black African or if a disastrous event happens to an African or a group of Africans, the world sees it as a normal thing that does not change anything as to how things should be seen and done. The following are some of the recent events supporting this contention: 

 Lampedusa Tragedy

The harrowing incident took place on October 3, 2013 when desperate Africans tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to escape grinding continental poverty in search for a better life in a foreign continent. Out of about 500 souls, only about 155 survived after the boat sank. It was not a big thing for the so-called African leaders and the rest of the world. It was only Italy that showed sympathy with the victims and their families, and because the tragedy happened in her waters, by declaring a period of national mourning for the dead. But, it was a tragedy that anyone who cared should have questioned the legitimacy and relevancy of the African governments when it comes to serving the Africans. Not even one of these attempted to ask the question: When will European migrants ever drown in the high seas trying to cross to Africa in search for a better life?

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, had this to say about the tragedy: "There is something fundamentally wrong in a world where people in need of protection have to resort to these perilous journeys. This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call. More effective international cooperation is required including a crack-down on traffickers and smugglers while protecting their victims. It shows how important it is for refugees to have legal channels to access territories where they can find protection." I agree with Guterres that there is something fundamentally wrong in this world. But, most of the blame should go to those Africans who claim to be African leaders. There is a reason why people take these types of journeys to the world outside of Africa. It is after they show that they care about Africans that the rest of the world will begin to care.

 South Sudan’s December 2013

Beginning from December 15, 2013, Salva Kiir went on a rampage, systematically targeting and killing unarmed innocent Nuer civilians on the basis of their tribal origin. This was after he had falsely accused his political rivals of mounting a coup against his failing regime. The estimate is as high as tens of thousands exterminated in days, not weeks.

The American government and the rest of the Western Europe have joined the IGAD and the AU in referring to Salva as a legitimately elected president. It does not happen anywhere that a government and a president under whose watch thousands of people get exterminated and still be referred to as legitimate. In the eyes of the African presidents, it is legitimate because a member of the club has committed the act. In the eyes of the American, Western European and Asian leaders, it is legitimate because they were lives of black Africans which were taken by Salva Kiir (a fellow black African president).

 Ebola in West Africa

In December 2013, an outbreak of e-bola virus started in Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of now, the number of deaths stands around 9,177 souls. It is the worst of its kind in history. Initially, the world saw it as an African affair. It was not until Americans, Europeans, and Asians were diagnosed with the virus that the virus started getting the attention that it deserved.

 Chibok, Nigeria

On the night of April 14-15, 2014, a group of armed men entered a secondary school in the town of Chibok in Nigeria and abducted more than 200 school girls. It later emerged that they were members of the Boko Haram Islamist group in that country. The issue was not initially taken seriously, both in Nigeria and outside. The first lady was even reported to have said that the abduction was a fake one by the supporters of the group. It was later on the 4th of May that the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, spoke publicly about the tragedy.

Even though it was clear that the abduction had taken place, world reaction (not even action) was very slow. It was mostly some concerned citizens in Western countries and Nigeria that took to the streets to dramatize the tragedy. The rest of the world was just either silent or making lukewarm reactions.

 Kiev, Ukraine

On February 18, 2014, a peaceful protest in Kiev’s Independence Square was attacked by a riot police, which used live bullets. The citizens were simply showcasing their desire for their country to join European Union.

At the end of the attack, around 200 protesters were killed. The response by the American and Western European governments was very quick. It was a condemnation of the Ukrainian government. John Kerry, the U. S. Secretary of State, declared, and rightly, that Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovic, was no longer legitimate for presiding over such a massacre. By February 22, pressure had mounted so high on the dictator that he had to leave the country and went into exile in Russia.

Charlie Hebdo in Paris

On January 7, 2015, two Islamists stormed Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, shooting and killing 11 people. Subsequently, more people were killed, bringing the total number of dead to 17. The French government reacted to the attack in the best way it could.

World leaders reacted immediately by ensuring that they were together with the French people in their fight against terrorism.

On January 11, 2015, President Hollande was joined by more than 40 world leaders in leading a rally attended by about 2 million people. It was one of the biggest shows of solidarity with a people unjustly victimized.


Racism is an institution that does not have a particular headquarters or office in any particular country. Nevertheless, it lives. It appears that it is mostly practiced against the black race, or Africans to be specific. It is practiced either by action or omission. The examples above indicate that when an act of barbarity is committed against black or African people, it is taken as business as usual. But when a similar act, or even less in severity, is committed against white race, it becomes an outrageous act that must bring the ‘civilized’ world together to mourn and condemn.

In South Sudan, Salva Kiir murdered 20,000 souls in Juba beginning from December 15, 2013 and on. Yet, the American government and Western allies recognize him as a legitimately elected president. The same American government, in the person of John Kerry, condemned Victor Yanukovic and declared him illegitimate for presiding over the killings of 200 white souls. How does one explain such a glaring inconsistency in judging the two murderers?

In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the world basically merged on Paris to show their outrage resulting from the killings of the 17 French citizens. This same world had failed to merge on Juba when the 20,000 innocent black South Sudanese were savagely murdered by none other than their own government; this same world had failed to merge on Chibok when more than 200 young girls were abducted by an Islamist group that is not any different from the Islamists who carried out the attacks on Charlie Hebdo; this same world had failed to merge on the Italian island of Lampedusa when about 300 black Africans painfully drowned.

As to the ravages of the Ebola, the world leaders might use the excuse of health reasons for not merging on the three most affected West African countries to show solidarity with the people. But, their initial responses were clearly telling.

Concluding Remark

An African is left alone in his/her dark world. What goes on in that dark world is none of anyone’s business outside the Continent. His/her life is that which is expected to go any time, prematurely or maturely. Therefore when its destruction comes, the world sees it as normal, and, therefore, not the kind that other human beings can bother themselves with.

The problem is that some disrespectful American, European or Asian leaders, sometimes, shamelessly come out in public to make statements that they intend to be taken as showing solidarity with fellow human beings inhabiting the land that we call Africa when disaster struck. But, reality is that their statements and actions are not based on humanitarian grounds. They are in pursuit of non-African interests to be gained at the expense of the African. This is why they always stand with the one in power when a problem erupts—the person who has the power to grant them those interests in shady, under-the-table deals.

The so-called African leaders are not, really, leaders. They are robbers and murderers who see their positions as cards to loot and maim Africa as they wish, covering their selfish partnerships in criminal actions or omissions with the idea of sovereignty. Their difference with former colonial agents is that the current looters and murderers are biologically and racially black and Africans.

The AU’s decision to indefinitely postpone the publication of the report on South Sudan atrocities goes in agreement with the IGAD’s attempt to force the people of South Sudan to reach an agreement with the government without addressing the root causes of the problem. It is an inactive of their aversion to justice. Their main, and most important issue, is to see a government of national unity led by the “incumbent” president. It is apparent that presidency is more important than people. We, Africans, get it backward.

As things stand right now, there is still a state-inspired violence going on; life is no longer a right; people are being killed by the state security organs. A culture of impunity is acutely entrenched. These things demand that people should be held accountable for their contribution to these unfortunate destructions. It had been hoped that the AU Commission’s report who pave the way in resolving the current war by exposing who did what at the outbreak of the war and who has continued to do what after the war had broken out. It is after this that reconciliation, healing and forgiveness could start.

Now, who could reconcile with whom? Who could forgive who, and for which specific act (acts)? And without reconciliation, healing and forgiveness, how could these warring parties peacefully co-exist in a government of national unity without having addressed and resolved what took them to war in the first place?

IGAD and the AU must begin to stop their insensitive arrogance and start to recognize the compelling need to publicize the findings of the report before any peace deal is signed. Otherwise, any forced deal will only be a postponement of the violence to another time in the near future.

The world outside of Africa, for the sake of humanity and justice, must place enough pressure on the IGAD and the AU—enough to force them to do the right thing, publication of the report and addressing the root causes of the war. Otherwise, they should just admit that they are racists and indifferent when it comes to Africa going down the drain.

The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The Face of War in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan: The death of "Yusef," father of three young children

By Eric Reeves

February 9, 2015 (SSNA) -- On February 3rd, I published a brief introduction to a set of gruesome photographs taken by Dr. Tom Catena, the only surgeon working in the Nuba Mountains ( I posted the photographs of bomb victims separately from the introduction, given their extremely graphic and disturbing nature. In the interim, Dr. Catena has given a very moving and powerful interview to Radio France Internationale, which I urge all to listen to carefully (seven minutes | I conducted my own interview with Dr. Catena in March 2013 (, since the larger news organizations he approached showed no interest his extraordinarily courageous work.

Yesterday, Dr. Catena sent me one more photograph, and I believe I understand why he sent it alone. For there are all too many opportune moments for such photographs following the constant bombing raids in the area of his Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel (near Kauda in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan), but this photograph stands out. It came identified only in terse terms— "Antonov Bombardment. February 7th, 2015. Near Tess, Nuba Mountains. Civilian 28 years old, father of three"—but it requires little imagination to imagine the impact of his death on his three children, likely all under ten years of age, and his wife, if she has managed to survive the past three and a half years of assaults on civilian lives and livelihoods in the Nuba. Their chances for survival have been dramatically reduced.

This unnamed man is one of thousands of such victims. Dr. Catena alone has treated more than 1,700 such patients at his hospital alone since the outbreak of violence in June 2011, and this represents only the population close enough to travel by foot to Gidel---if they have not been killed outright or died of their wounds on the way to the hospital.

We have known that attacks such as the one that killed this man have been ongoing for more than three and a half years (let us call him "Yusef" to spare him the utter anonymity that is the fate of most victims). The Khartoum regime deliberately sends Antonovs and advanced military jet aircraft to inflict precisely such civilian casualties. We know from the minutes of an August 31, 2014 meeting ( of the most senior military and security officials of the regime that their goal is to "starve" the people of the Nuba into submission by disrupting agricultural production. This year's promising sorghum crop—the staple grain of the region—was targeted for burning as part of this starvation campaign ("starve" accurately translates the Arabic original in the minutes).

People live in terror because of the death of people like "Yusef," often fleeing to caves, ravines, or other countries. And this photograph suggests why terror is a predictably human response:

And yet the international community remains unwilling to do anything to halt such attacks as killed "Yusef" and threaten his family and indeed all in the Nuba Mountains,; the international community is also unwilling to compel Khartoum to permit a humanitarian corridor to reaching the more than one million human being in desperate need of relief aid in the Nuba and Blue Nile. Condemnations of Khartoum's actions, when they occur, are meaningless: nothing attaches to the dismay that comes in unctuous and inconsequential form. The impunity felt by the regime is correspondingly increased.

The Europeans in general prefer to discuss trade and development rather than halting carnage in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Darfur. There have even been suggestions from senior officials in countries such as Germany, Holland, and France of the possibility of debt relief for Khartoum, despite continuous profligate expenditures on advanced weapons and the hugely expensive conduct of three wars. The security and military budgets together represent at least 50 percent of national budget expenditures; estimates range as high as 70 percent. It would be hard to imagine a worse candidate for debt relief, especially given the extraordinary levels of corruption that have long prevailed within the regime. Transparency International ranks Sudan 177 out 179 countries surveyed in its annual corruption survey (

The UN is hopeless, as is the African Union. Although a humanitarian corridor was first proposed by the AU three years ago, Khartoum has agreed and the balked, agreed and the balked...and is prepared to continue this absurd diplomatic dance indefinitely. The pre-condition is unconditional surrender by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North. The UN Secretariat is paralyzed, unwilling even to speak honestly about Sudan's crises, and the African Union Peace and Security Council is far too cozy with the Khartoum regime to play any effective role in halting or diminishing aerial attacks on civilians.

The Obama administration sees Khartoum primarily through the lens of counter-terrorism intelligence, even as the regime boasts of how little it actually gives the U.S. In the August 31 minutes, Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein comments:

“America is facing the crisis of the ISIS and the other Jihadist movements that are newly formed and can move freely outside the traditional surveillance networks. Currently, there are twenty thousand (20,000) Jihadists and fifteen (15) newly formed Jihadist Movements who are scattered all over, from Morocco to Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, all the Gulf States, a wide presence in Africa and Europe and nobody owns a data-base on that as the one we have. We release only limited information to the Americans according to request, and the price is the armed movements file."

No one in the Obama administration has commented publicly on this or other extraordinary revelations in the August 31 minutes; and a State Department official made it clear to me that there would be no comment, even as we may be sure that the administration has certainly ascertained that the minutes are authentic (see To do so would be highly inconvenient for a Sudan policy that allows the lust for counter-terrorism to distort broader Sudan policy. It would certainly be more than inconvenient if the Obama administration were to explain exactly what Hussein means when he speaks about the "price" for the counter-terrorism intelligence as being "the armed movements file." Has the Obama administration actually given the regime intelligence assistance in its campaigns against the broad Sudan Revolutionary Front?

There are many questions the Obama administration has avoided, or not been compelled to face. Why has allowed Foreign Minister Ali Karti been given a multi-year, multi-entry visa to the U.S.—even as U.S. special envoy for Sudan, Donald Booth, can't secure a visa to Sudan for himself? Why has Ibrahim Ghandour come to the U.S.? (See Why can't Foreign Minister Karti handle whatever bilateral negotiations are underway? Does it not matter to the administration that Ghandour is revealed in the August 31 minutes as the point-person in rigging the April 2015 "re-election" of President Omar al-Bashir?

The truth is that the revelations of the August 31 minutes are too embarrassing of U.S. policy, still guided as it is by the assertion by former special envoy for Sudan, Princeton Lyman:

“We do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Asharq Al-Awsat, 3 December 2011 | )

This is simply preposterous, as National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, certainly knows full well. Where is her voice in challenging the absurd premise represented in Lyman's remarks? Or in condemning the atrocities that are accelerating in Darfur? And what of U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power? Why is she not an "upstander" in the face of the vast suffering in Sudan, the direct result of actions by a genocidal regime?

Unwilling to hold Khartoum accountable for it countless atrocity crimes, the U.S., the Europeans, the African Union, and the hopelessly compromised UN Security Council are all ensuring that there will be many more "Yusefs"—in the Nuba, in Blue Nile, and in Darfur.

Eric Reeves is the Author of Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007-2012 (

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