by Bradford Phillips and Matt Chancey
While the world’s attention has been preoccupied on the fall of Libya’s Gaddafi, and the growing violence in Syria, and the continuing turmoil in Egypt, there has been more strategic and significant events happening in the Arab world of the Republic of Sudan.
The last few weeks have seen tremendous changes in Sudan. A full-scale war has been launched by the terrorist-led NCP government in Khartoum to eliminate all political opposition in the country. Of course, the excuse by the government is that they are trying to root out all “criminals” and “rebels” who violate the laws.
Recall in May, the NCP launched an attack on the oil-rich area of Abyei on the border of South Sudan. Abyei was sacked and hundreds, maybe thousands were killed. More than 100,000 native Dinka residents displaced.
Then, a few days later on June 5th, the NCP launched a new war in the oil-rich Southern Kordofan State, north of Abyei. Persecution Project Foundation travelled to Southern Kordofan in July and brought out documentation of war crimes committed by the NCP.
East of the Nuba Mountains is another disputed area of Sudan, the Blue Nile State. Like its neighbors in Abyei and Southern Kordofan, the Blue Nile is primarily African, not Arab, in its ethnicity. But perhaps most significant, all these areas are home to large numbers of supporters of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) – the primary political resistance to the murderous NCP regime.
In late August, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir declared a two-week unilateral ceasefire in Southern Kordofan. This declaration was met with skepticism by almost every organization watching events in the region. After all, Bashir was the one who instigated the war in Southern Kordofan. Why was he now calling for a temporary cease fire?
We didn’t have to wait long to find out.
On September 1st, Bashir’s forces attacked the residence of Blue Nile Governor, Malek Agar. This initial attack was quickly followed by a full-scale invasion and aerial bombardment from SAF planes. Thousands of people have already been displaced. The UN records that more than 27,500 alone have fled to Ethiopia.
Bashir then ordered SPLM-N offices in every northern state to be raided and closed. Dozens of party officials were arrested, offices vandalized, and documents and equipment stolen. This took place only weeks after an agreement was signed in the Ethiopian Capitol of Addis Ababa, where the NCP acknowledged the legitimacy of the SPLM-N.
Why is all of this happening?
While South Sudan was preparing for independence earlier this year, some NCP officials were telling their constituents that the departure of the South would ultimately be a positive for the nation, because it would remove a large obstacle in preventing Sudan from fully enforcing sharia law and creating a pure Islamic state. But that was just the public message to the masses. The reality was that the NCP was scrambling to figure out how to make up the loss of most of the oil revenue that would belong to the new Republic of South Sudan in July.
Bashir moved quickly to secure what remained of the oil located in the North. He started in Abyei. Abyei is located in the North, but its people are mostly loyal to the South. Then, Bashir invaded Southern Kordofan. This state is home to the rest of the oil in the North. And, like Abyei, Southern Kordofan is mostly loyal to the South, having provided thousands of troops to fight for the South in the previous war. These attacks took place prior to the South’s independence on July 9th. Bashir knew that the South would not oppose him, because it was too close to its own “finish line” and would not want to do anything to potentially restart the war.
And now, the Blue Nile State has been invaded. All opposition offices have been closed. Any official opposing Bashir has either been arrested or declared a fugitive and outlaw. Trade with South Sudan has been halted, because the NCP accuses the Juba government of harboring and supporting “rebels” in the North.
In our opinion, these acts represent the “high-water mark” of Bashir’s NCP regime. The Republic of Sudan is teetering on the brink. The economy is in shambles. Prices are shooting up as inflation runs out of control. There are shortages everywhere. Protesters have taken to the streets. The national debt currently stands at an unsustainable $37 BILLION.
Desperate for cash, the NCP is trying to strangle as much money as possible out of its new oil-rich neighbor to the south. Seventy-five percent of the oil produced in the old Sudan now resides in the new Republic of South Sudan. But the only pipeline to get that oil to market runs through the north. So Khartoum is trying to slap a hefty “surcharge” on every barrel that is piped through its territory. Originally, Khartoum wanted $50 a barrel (the current market price of oil is around $85 a barrel). This outrageous sum was rejected of course, but the two nations have still not arrived at a solution and the clock is ticking for Omar al-Bashir. Once the north begins to default on debt payments, the economy will really take a dive.
The economic woes for the NCP are combined with unresolved (and expensive) conflicts in Darfur, and now Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile. The failure of the NCP to hold the country together is causing consternation within the minority factions of the party, weakening Bashir’s grip on power.
After 22 years of war, mass murder and economic looting of the country, the chickens are finally beginning to come home to roost for President Bashir and his cronies in the NCP. The violent outbursts in the southern border states represents the death throws of a monstrous regime whose time has finally come.
Why then is the US government so silent on the subject of Sudan? Why is President Obama continuing to treat Omar al-Bashir and the victims of his endless wars on a moral equivalency basis? As we have shown above, a casual look at the current national situation easily explains what’s going on.
For now, Sudan’s marginalized people, including the country’s largest Christian community in Southern Kordofan, face a growing humanitarian crisis. Khartoum’s actions make it very clear that any opposition to its rule will result in arrest, exile, enslavement, or extermination. International aid, as well as access by reporters and other foreign observers, is still prohibited to the conflict areas.
After returning from the Nuba Mountains in July, we realized that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan has finally been completely overthrown. Our hope is that this new war will not last as long as the previous one, but President Bashir has shown himself to be a very resilient leader. Many violent dictators who cannot hold a candle to Bashir’s regime have been overthrown for much less. Our prayer is that this elusive cat is about to run out of lives.
Please pray for the safety of all Sudanese people who now find themselves facing escalating persecution at the hands of their own government. Pray that PPF can fill the role as an advocate for the victims of war and as a facilitator for bringing aid and comfort to the persecuted church in Sudan.