A report released last week by African Rights tells how a Sudanese tribe has been the victim of genocide at the hands of the National Islamic Front. Peter Moszynski writes THERE IS DISTURBING evidence pointing to a campaign of genocide being conducted in the Nuba Mountains, which are on Africa's great divide between the Islamic north and black African south.
• Although the outside world is now aware of the struggle of the African people of Southern Sudan, who have been fighting the government in Khartoum on and off since Ig55, few people know of the ancient African civilisations that live in north Sudan, because the government claims that northern Sudan is entirely Arab.
The Nuba live in the geographical centre of Sudan, but have been pushed to the margins of Sudanese politics and society They live in some of the richest agricultural areas of the country, but they have been reduced to destination.
The Nuba have some of the richest and most varied cultures in Sudan, but they are being reduced to an underclass without a culture they can call their own.
A report released last week by African Rights: Facing Genocide: the Nuba of Sudan, describes a ten year war of annihilation.
It tells how almost two million Nuba people used to live peacefully in their mountain retreats, but since the area was sealed off from the outside world following the 1989 coup, Khartoum's National Islamic Front government has unleashed a ferocious campaign against them in an attempt to transform Sudan's heterogeneous, multi-cultural society into an Islamic society made in its own extremist image.
A BBC2 documentary shown last week also presented alarming evidence of genocide and ethnic cleansing, carried out behind the scenes of the world's longest running civil war.
A BBC film crew, together with investigators from African Rights, recently visited the area. They showed how, in a government declared Jihad (holy war), hundreds of villages have been burnt, civilians raped, tortured and enslaved, churches and mosques burnt and hundreds of thousands of people moved from their fertile land in the mountains to "peace camps" in the desert to the north.
Children are kidnapped and sold as slaves, or taken from their parents and forcibly convert to Islam.
Even Muslim Nuba are not safe from the government's notion of Jinad. African
Rights says "The Sudan Government is fighting its war in the name of Islam.
Its attack on the Christian Church in the Nuba Mountains is not a surprise. Dozens of churches have been burned, many priests and catechists have been killed, and Christians in peace camps are routinely forced to convert to Islam.
What is more shocking is that the Sudan Government is also desecrating mosques. It is burning them and destroying copies of the Koran, as commanded by a Fatwa issued in 1992 by pro-government Imams, which decreed An insurgent who was previously Muslim is now an apostate; and a non-Muslim is a non-believer standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam, and Islam has granted the freedom of killing both of them.'
When the Pope visited Sudan in February 1993, his Holiness warned President Omar el Bashir that "in a multiracial and multicultural country, a strategy of confrontation can never bring peace and progress,
Only a legally guaranteed respect for human rights in a System of equal justice for all can create the right conditions for peaceful coexistence and cooperation in serving the common good.
My hope for your country can therefore be expressed more concretely in a heartfelt desire to see all its citizens without discrimination based upon ethnic origin, cultural background, social standing or religious conviction take a responsible part in the life of the nation, with their diversity contributing to the richness of the whole national community.
At a time of growing awareness of the importance of respect for human rights as the basis of a just and peaceful world, the question of the respect due to minorities must he faced seriously, especially by political and religious leaders."
The BBC film showed that there is a determined attempt to wipe out, if not the entire Nuba people, then at least their civilisation and culture. Filmmaker Julie Flint comments: "This remarkable society is looking into the abyss. More Nuba live as captives and forced labourers in government "peace camps" than live free in the mountains, where government troops are destroying everything that they cannot control. If the international community continues to look away, to turn a blind eye to scorched earth, rape and torture, the Nuba are probably doomed."
African Rights concludes: "There is no doubt that genocide is being committed in the Nuba Mountains.
"If the Sudanese government is able to continue its war against the civilian population for one or two more seasons, tens of thousands of Nuba people will be killed, the majority of the women and girls raped, and most of the children separated from their parents.
"It is unlikely that Nuba civilisation will ever exist again. There is a moral imperative to prevent this crime from being perpetrated."