Ethnicity, Loyalty and Experience a Deadly Mix in Sudan

Peoples of Nuba Region Face Bleak Outlook

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ROME, JUNE 23, 2011 ( Families wandering aimlessly through the Nuba Mountains are some of the human faces behind the complex and already bloody political birth of South Sudan set for July 9.

They are fleeing from their homes in the only oil-rich state that will still belong to the North in just over two weeks, as attacks in the region are being decried as ethnic cleansing.

From one village on Wednesday, a report came of a woman killed and two children injured by bombs, as well as other casualties taken for medical care before they were counted. Another report spoke of a mother and three children killed when their home was bombed. Rape in the Nuba Mountains is also said to be increasing in the assault that started early this month.

The Nuba peoples are an ethnic minority, a mix of Muslims and Christians, unlike the rest of the north, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Most of the Nuba tribesmen sided with the South during the long civil war.

As they now come under attack again, rights agencies are recalling how the Nuba already suffered systematic attacks in the 1990s.

A bishop of the region, Bishop Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid, told the AFP last week that the north’s «President Omar al-Bashir has declared war against the Nuba people.»

«They should not touch civilians,» the bishop lamented. «Why should the women, children and elderly be targeted?»

A statement from the All Africa Conference of Churches on June 11 warned: «The reports being received from various quarters point to a deliberate process of ethnic cleansing; unfolding before us is yet another human tragedy in Sudan.»

Another tragedy in Africa and another one colored by oil.

Oil is the trickiest issue in the upcoming divide of the two nations. The South has most of it, but no way to get it out, and is thus dependent on the North’s cooperation.

But the north’s President Omar al-Bashir didn’t sound too neighborly in the official media reports Wednesday of his comments on South Sudan’s oil. There are three options, al-Bashir said: share the oil, pay fees and taxes for every single barrel that passes through the north, or have the pipelines shut down.

An analysis Wednesday by Reuters suggested that in fighting the Nuba, the «north wants to crush a well-armed and seasoned group of fighters.»

So unlike in the disputed region of Abyei, where the North and South agreed on Monday to allow the United Nations to keep peace, the situation in Southern Kordofan looks to stay bleak for awhile.

On Wednesday, the North’s army arrested six U.N. staff members of Southern origin in Southern Kordofan, resulting in an appeal from the United Nations to the parties of the conflict to «uphold their commitment to protect civilians and ensure the freedom of movement of all UN staff, regardless of their origins, or ethnic or political affiliations.»

The Caritas organization reported already last week that more than 70% of the population of Southern Kordofan’s capital, Kadugli, had fled the city.

The faces of the families of these peoples are those seen by Mexican Comboni missionary Sister Carmen from her post in the Nuba Mountains.

«Whole families continue to wander aimlessly, with no humanitarian assistance,» she told the Fides news agency on Monday, «while bombing by government aviation continues.»

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