Slavery in Sudan has a long history. The first recorded account of the acquisition of slaves from the Sudan was inscribed in stone near the second cataract of the Nile during the reign of Egypt’s First Dynasty Pharaoh Djer (c. 2900 BCE). The modern history of slavery begins with the conquest of the Sudan by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1821 and the enslavement of Africans in the southern Sudan by Muslim Arabs from the north.
The independence of the Sudan in 1956 brought to a head the deep tensions between the African traditionalist and Christian southern Sudanese and the northern Sudanese oriented to the Arab world and Islam. Their irreconcilable differences in culture, religion, and race precipitated a fifty-year spiral of violence that has revived the slave trade and slavery, killed more than two million southern Sudanese, and produced another four million refugees by ethnic cleansing, war, famine, and accusations of genocide.
The decision by the Sudan government in 1984 to distribute automatic weapons to the Baggara tribesmen of Darfur and Kordofan, members of the Arab militia or murahileen, combined to escalate war-related deaths of the southern Sudanese into the hundreds of thousands.
In Darfur, villages would be surrounded before dawn and attacked at first light by an Arab militia known as the janjaweed. The women, children, and teenage males that did not escape were collected with the cattle. The men were indiscriminately killed, often accompanied by mutilation, and the village and cultivations were then methodically destroyed and the cattle, women, and children divided among the Baggara to serve or to be sold.
On June 30, 1989, a coup d’état by Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir installed the first theocratic Islamist government in the Sudan. TYhe new government of the National Islamic Front were more determined than ever to defeat the southern Sudanese insurgents in order to impose Islam and Arab culture on the Africans of the southern Sudan.
In 1990 the air force began indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilians in the southern Sudan; its only targets were villages, cattle, churches, schools, and hospitals. An estimated eleven thousand Sudanese were either killed or wounded. The offensive was symbolic of more demonstrable efforts by the Sudanese government to use premeditated ethnic cleansing. Between 1990 and 2000 the jihad in the Nuba Mountains had killed more than an estimated 100,000 and resettled another 170,000 Nuba in so-called peace villages on the Sahilean plains of Kordofan where they labored in fields and towns for northern Sudanese entrepreneurs (slaves).
Military offensives during the 90’s resulted in the death of another estimated 200,000 Dinka and Nuer in the Bahr al-Ghazal by killing and famine. Others were displaced by the hundreds of thousands. During the drought of 1993 and 1994 the Sudan government deliberately intervened in the distribution of humanitarian food aid by Operation Lifeline, a Western organization. The Sudan effectively utilized famine as a weapon of war to depopulate large areas of the Bahr al-Ghazal by starvation, forcing its inhabitants to become internally displaced persons (IDP). The southern Sudanese casualties from 1991 to 2000 are estimated at approximately 250,000, and an equal number of southerners were displaced.
It is estimated that more than 1.3 million southern Sudanese perished in the conflict between 1983 and 1993 in a population, according to the 1983 national census, of some 5 million in the southern provinces of Sudan. The total war-related deaths of southern Sudanese during the twenty years from 1983 to 2003 numbers more than 2.5 million.
There is evidence that the Sudan government officially adopted a policy to eliminate particular ethnic groups in the southern Sudan, which would be an act of genocide. Their policies have involved the indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilians, the withholding of humanitarian aid to cause death by starvation, and silent indifference to the activities by government-supported militias to loot, kidnap, rape, torture and enslave civilian populations.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
DO THESE CONSTITUTE WAR CRIMES OR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?
SHOULD ANYONE BE PROSECUTED FOR THEM?
IF SO, WHO?