March 1, 2004
by Center for Religious Freedom
The Center continues to follow closely the situation in Sudan as peace talks enter the final stage.
On March 9, the Center called a meeting of the Sudan Coalition where it heard from a representative of the U.S. Agency of International Development about U.S. efforts to keep the peace talks on track.
Nuban Episcopal Bishop Andudu also spoke at the meeting. The Nuba Mountain region is one of the hardest hit areas of the genocidal conflict and jihad that ravaged Sudan for twenty years. A ceasefire was put in place last year after Bush administration initiatives. The impressive young Bishop described new threats his people are facing as thousands return home during this time of peace to an area devastated by government bombings and enforced isolation. Such threats include life threatening water shortages from lack of wells and the shortage of all other life essentials.
Bishop Andudu said that there is no farming equipment. The Nubans are now farming with their bare hands or using converted weapons (literally turning swords into plowshares). These methods are not able to produce enough to feed the crush of Nubans coming home, desperate to escape Khartoum "peace" camps. He appealed for greater international humanitarian aid than that which was planned for a year ago. He also appealed for aid to bring into the region English-speaking East African teachers. The education system is now being rebuilt from scratch. He said it is crucial for the Nubans to identify with and be integrated into the south, rather than being Arabized by teachers sent from Khartoum. He told of the forced Islamicization by relief workers sent by Khartoum (the infamous convert-or-starve program).
On March 11, Center staff attended a standing room only hearing of the House’s African Subcommittee on Sudan. The State Department was represented by Charles Snyder, acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who stated:
"Over the last year, international monitors, funded and supported by the United States, confirm that there has been a measure of peace in much of the south unprecedented in recent decades. People have begun to live rather than simply trying to survive. Tens of thousands of displaced persons have returned to their homes in the Nuba Mountains as a result of the ceasefire there brokered by the United States and Switzerland;" and that “there have been few, if any, slave raids over the past year. We will work to promote family reunification once a peace accord is signed."
He pledged that, “achieving peace in Sudan is one of the Administration’s highest priorities in Africa."
While peace is holding in central and southern Sudan, a new conflict with similar patterns has flared along ethnic lines in the western province of Darfur, whose population is Muslim but ethnically African. At House hearings on March 3, Secretary Powell pronounced Darfur a “catastrophe”: "The violence and suffering in Darfur have made it one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa." Powell noted that, “of particular concern are the activities of the largely Arab Jingaweit militias,” which are “systematically” burning African villages, killing and abusing civilians. Secretary Powell stated: “These militias are proxies for the government."