Walid Phares is a professor of comparative politics and Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University. He is author of eight books, including Lebanese Christian Nationalism (Lynne Rienner, 1995).
War in Sudan between the mostly Muslim north and the mostly Christian and animist south started in 1956 and has been going on intermittently for over four decades. Total deaths number from 2.1 to 2.5 million,1 making this one of the most bloody conflicts of the post-World War II era.
Despite these horrendous numbers, the war through all these years has taken place in near-obscurity. Only recently has some international attention focused on it, the result of several factors: the ability of human rights groups to prove ethnic cleansing and slavery; the involvement of Sudan's regime in terror activities abroad, including the World Trade Center explosion in New York; and the interest of multinational companies in exporting recently discovered oil from Sudan.
Beyond the human catastrophe, fighting in Sudan touches on a number of American interests. The largest territory in Africa or the Arab world, Sudan has 300 million barrels in proven oil reserves and 86 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves,2 and this is before the main oil areas of the Red Sea coastal zone and the southern part of the country have been explored. The country also has potentially rich agricultural resources. Sudan is the only source of gum arabic, an ingredient used in such varied products as bakery products, beverages, dairy products, toppings, frozen foods, seafoods, candies, low-fat foods, and pharmaceuticals. Khartoum can threaten American interests in the Middle East; for example, assassins dispatched from there nearly murdered President Husni Mubarak of Egypt in June 1995.
For these reasons, it is important to understand Sudan's civil war and formulate a sound U.S. policy toward it.
Sudan means "the blacks" in Arabic. Despite this clear description, the country's single most important crisis concerns its identity: Is it black or Arab?3 Arabs dominate the central government in Khartoum; blacks are trying to win autonomy or independence from the central government.
In ancient times, the lands that now constitute Sudan included a number of kingdoms, principally Nubia, a chief competitor to Pharaonic Egypt. Beginning just years after the Prophet Muhammad's death, in 643 of the common era, successive waves of Muslim conquerors eroded Upper Nubia, forcing the African peoples to retreat to the south. Further advances over the centuries opened the way for Arabian and Arabized settlers to push the Africans further south. Yet Muslim attempts to enter the south failed and for twelve centuries, while Nubian Sudan was steadily Arabized, subtropical Sudan escaped Islamization.4
The south's long isolation came to an end in 1899, when Lord Kitchener led Anglo-Egyptian troops in the conquest over both the northern and southern regions, then established a governorate over the whole. In 1946, the British created a separate governorate in the south, and this served as the basis for decades-long coexistence. According to one scholar, "the British saw it in the best interest of the Sudanese that because they were such a different group ideologically and culturally than the north, they should have had distinct administrations."5 In particular, Britain's announcement in 1930 of a Southern Sudan Policy helped to contain the Islamization process in the south.
This insulation was opposed, however, by Arab nationalist elites in the north of Sudan, as well as by the newly sovereign Arab states and the Arab League, all of which supported a unified and independent "Arab" Sudan. Widespread agitations in Khartoum in 1945 calling for these changes caused the British a year later to reverse the Southern Sudan Policy and declare that "North and South are bound together."6 Bound they might be, but from the beginning, the south suffered political under-representation in Khartoum. A "National Unity" conference in 1947 gave it only thirteen out of the ninety-three members of the new legislative assembly of Khartoum, and it had only one of thirteen members at the constitutional commission that met in 1951. With independence imminent, the British confirmed this approach, declaring in 1952 that "the future of the South lay in a united Sudan."7 This policy fit with Britain's general policy of siding with the Sunni Arabs at the expense of others in such regions as Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
In 1954, as a precursor to full sovereignty, the north set up a provisional government; the south, in contrast, was ill-prepared to claim its own state. Further, the bulk of the colonial socio-economic structures were located in the north under Arabized and Egyptian influences, while the south was largely underdeveloped and socially tribal. Empowered by the British and Egyptian colonizers, the Arabs of Sudan controlled not only their own territories but also those of the Africans of the south who had never shared their identity or their dreams.
FIRST ROUND OF CIVIL WAR
Troops stationed in the south (the Equatorial Battalion) rebelled against Khartoum on the eve of independence, beginning a revolt that lasted until February 1972. Independence came in January 1956 and several incidents in the following half year gave birth to civil war. Once freed from British pressure, the Arab Sudanese waged an implacable program of Arabization of the south, bolstered by the pan-Arab movement led by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. For example, Khartoum expelled Christian missionaries from the country, took over all mission schools in the south, and imposed Friday as the day of rest and Sunday as a work day.
In 1963, a rebellion exploded with the uprising of military units in Juba in the south. In the same year, the Ananya—a liberation movement for southern Sudanese—declared war against northern troops stationed in the south. These conflicts escalated over the next two years, peaking in July 1965 with civilian massacres in Juba and Wau, the south's largest cities, and again in 1967, with massacres in the Torit district and massive use by the north of its air force.8
Between 1963 and 1972, most southern districts fell to the Ananya and its allies, Joseph Lagu's Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) and Aggrey Jaden and William Deng's Sudan African National Union (SANU). These rebels sought full independence from Khartoum, claiming that black people were never consulted at the time of independence. Successive northern governments responded to their demands with harsh repression and augmented efforts to Arabize the south. Member states of the Arab League—Egypt, Iraq and Syria in the first place—backed their brethren in Khartoum, giving the conflict a regional quality; on the other side, Haile Selassie's government in Ethiopia supported the rebels. The Soviets ultimately stood behind the Sudanese government forces and the Americans behind the southern rebels. Thus the conflict took on aspects of both the Arab-African and East-West confrontations.9
General Ja‘far Numayri's successful 1969 coup in Khartoum led to a quick proposal for southern autonomy, but fighting and negotiations continued for another three years, until the two sides signed the Addis Ababa Accord of March 1972. This agreement granted semi-autonomy to the south and promised southerners a greater role in the central government. The seventeen-year war had taken a terrible toll. More than half a million southerners died and the region suffered considerable destruction. The north also paid a high economic price for its involvement in the war.10
SECOND ROUND OF CIVIL WAR
A number of factors contributed to the failure of the Addis Ababa Accord and the igniting of a second round eleven years later; for example, the central government divided the south into three provinces, thereby preventing it from seeking a future special status as a single entity. But the most important development was the increased strength of fundamentalist Islam. The Numayri government initiated an Islamization campaign in 1983 when it imposed Islamic law (the Shari‘a) on all citizens, including non-Muslim southerners. This campaign also required the use of Arabic in schools to teach the Qu'ran and to impart Islamic culture; the segregation of females and males; and the enforcement of Islamic dress codes. It led to the expropriation of Christian schools and the severance of financial links with foreign Christian donors.11
The Islamization effort broke the backbone of the fragile 1972 peace and triggered a second round of fighting in the south. In the appraisal of a southern Sudanese scholar,
the Addis Ababa agreement was the last chance for a historic Peace in the Sudan. The Arab north was given a chance to demonstrate its ability to rule the African south with justice and fundamental rights. Instead, the Arab regime opened the door for Islamic fundamentalism to destroy African-Arab peace. By attempting to steal our basic liberties as a people, they forced us to reclaim our land, as the only guarantee for our freedom.12
The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the military branch of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), led the new uprising. Headed by Colonel John Garang, SPLA included many veterans of the first round and was better organized than Ananya had been. It achieved significant successes in the field during the 1980s, gaining control over most of Equatoria province. Garang, a U.S.-educated military officer, won the backing of Ethiopia's leaders and espoused a leftist agenda in which he portrayed his struggle as an anti-imperialist struggle. If Ananya had called for the separation of the south, SPLA sought to bring down the ruling power in Khartoum.13 As explained by the SPLM spokesperson in Washington, Garang believed "all democratic and progressive forces of the Sudan should join the SPLM in its struggle for a better and just country."14
This strategy won military and political successes for several years. But in 1989 General ‘Umar al-Bashir toppled the elected government in Khartoum and installed a military regime that enjoyed the support of the fundamentalist Muslims led by Hasan at-Turabi's National Islamic Front (NIF). With this coup d'état, Turabi became the real power broker in an ethnically divided country; and the first-ever Islamist regime had come to dominate an Arab country.
The Islamist takeover had tremendous implications for the civil war. Government forces, armed with sophisticated weapons and Islamist morale, waged an unrelenting jihad against the "atheist and infidel" southern rebels. By 1991, the Islamist north had taken the offensive and soon after the south Sudanese resistance movement was almost isolated and near defeat. SPLM effectiveness was undone by strife among the southern guerrillas; by late 1992, the "liberated areas" in the south split in two as an all-out war flared between the two southern factions. By the end of 1993, the south was militarily crippled and socio-economically in disarray.15
Southern disunity resulted from several factors. Ideologically, Garang's mission expanded from its origins as a local liberation movement to aspire to pan-Sudanese revolution, a goal too radical for many of his early supporters. A dissident wing led by Ryek Machar reaffirmed the initial objective—self-determination for the south—and criticized Garang for "entangling himself with Arab opposition groups."16 Tribal competition played a role, as Garang and his principal aides belong to the Dinka, Sudan's largest African tribe. Machar and other opponents criticized the "Dinka dominance" in the guerrilla zones. Political maneuvering made matters worse, as Turabi's strategists succeeded in creating rifts among the southerners. Lam Akol, a senior official with Garang, then with Machar, split from the latter, and signed a separate peace agreement with Khartoum.
Turabi, who is arguably the leading Sunni Islamist figure of his era, also found support from foreign Islamist forces. The Popular Arab-Islamic Congress he convened in Khartoum in 1992 brought the Iranian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Algerian leaders of powerful Islamist movements to Sudan. Such foreign backing provided Turabi with a psychological and logistical endorsement that had significant implications inside the country.17 Turabi's government also profited from assistance from Iran,18 Syria, and Libya. These many advantages permitted Khartoum's soldiers to recapture many strategic strongholds and march into the southern hinterland.19 By 1996, the Sudanese army and its auxiliaries from the NIF militia had invaded most of Equatoria Province and pushed the southern forces to the borders.
THE SOUTH'S RECENT SUCCESS
Repeatedly defeated, the southern guerrilla movement was never annihilated. "The Arab army controlled the towns and the main villages; we controlled the jungle and the bushes," said Steven Wondu, U.S. representative of the Liberation Army.20 In January-February 1997, SPLA led a major counter-offensive, winning back lost territories and changing the balance of power. This success resulted from a combination of factors: First, SPLA managed to join forces with other Sudanese opposition forces, including those of former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and other secular and moderate Muslim forces under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Second, this alliance established clear and specific goals. Meeting in Asmara in 1996, they agreed on a common agenda to overthrow the Bashir regime through the "creation of a new Sudan."21 Although John Garang's major objective is "to overthrow the [National Islamic] front regime, and to ensure a united democratic Sudan within the framework of the Democratic Grouping," he declared his support, in accordance with the Asmara resolutions, for "the formation of a four-year transitional government and for holding a referendum on self-determination."22 Self-determination marks an important shift in Garang's rhetoric. The SPLM's declared objective for years was to replace the regime in Khartoum with a united Sudanese coalition which would preserve the country's territorial unity; Garang's tilt toward self-determination reflects a growing trend among southerners toward complete separation from the Arab north.
Third, Khartoum pursued a systematic policy of Arabization and Islamization in the south, which prompted a severe backlash. It isolated non-Muslim regions (or regions inhabited by blacks who are Muslim but not Arabic-speaking), notably Nuba, from the outside world.23 It made schools24 and churches25 prime targets. Christians who refuse to convert are denied food; others are kidnapped and enslaved.26 In the north, particularly around Khartoum, the NIF's "peace camps" (mukhayyamat al-salam) forced hundreds of thousands of southern refugees to convert.27 The intensity of this repression against the southerners directly benefited SPLA and other opposition forces, to which flocked thousands of young men and women. It also prompted Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then United Nations secretary general, to express his deep concern over the "serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Sudan, as a result of the unilateral and unjustified obstruction by the Government of Sudan of urgently required humanitarian assistance to the affected population in southern Sudan."28
Fourth, the utter barbarism of the northern troops increased popular revulsion among southern Sudanese against the fundamentalist regime in Khartoum. Government forces—mostly the NIF's militia, the "Popular Defense Forces"—perpetrated terrible atrocities.29 The policy of continuous jihad mobilized tens of thousands of peasants and urban dwellers, many attracted by the prospect of acquiring weapons, conquering lands, and collecting booty. The Popular Defense Forces engaged in violent offensives that relied on overpowering force (including air strikes) and employed extreme measures (with civilians denied humanitarian relief and widespread acts of brutality). Entire villages might be eliminated during its advance.30 According to Rev. Eiffe, an official with the Norwegian People's Aid with ten years in Sudan, the NIF "used the element of Islam to launch a jihad and mobilize young men to go to the south and convince them that if they fought for the defense of Islam, they would go straight to Allah."31
But perhaps the most characteristic and horrifying aspect of the civil war has been Khartoum's consistent practice of enslaving the black populations of southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains.32 So extensive is the practice of slavery that it can be taken as the symbol of the southern Sudan's tribulations. Armed factions, mostly NIF militiamen, raid villages, kill the elderly and those attempting to protect the habitation, then round up other adults, mainly women, and children. "Slave trains" carry these abductees to the north where they are sold to slave merchants who in turn sell them to work on plantations growing crops or for use as domestic servers. Some slaves are shipped to other countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and possibly the United Arab Emirates.33
Confronted with new geo-political realities and a growing sympathy for the south abroad, Sudan's government has turned to public relations and diplomacy. Of course, the government rejected all allegations of persecution and had its embassies engage in a major campaign, endorsed by the Arabist and Islamist lobbies, to prove that it opposes terrorism, that no slavery exists, and that the governments of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda are interfering in its internal affairs.34 It hired public relations firms and lobbyists to counter the impact of the south Sudanese in Western Europe and North America. These engage in sophisticated efforts to defend the regime's reprehensible practices. Sean Gabb, director of the London-based Sudan Foundation, for example, admits that "there is some religious discrimination in Sudan" but places these in the context of the civil war. Gabb even justifies slavery ("It would be surprising if military and tribal prisoners of war were not put to work by their captors").35
To isolate Garang's powerful SPLA, the government invited competitive factions to negotiate. Ryek Machar, Lam Akol, and others have responded, permitting the Turabi regime to sign peace agreements with a number of southern groups and to argue that the "SPLA is preventing [a] peace accord."36 Khartoum also relies on that old chestnut of international relations: the need to maintain the status quo because breaking up Sudan would endanger regional stability by having a domino effect on other countries. And it argues that the population would be worse off: "We all know what happens in African countries when the central authority is dissolved. . . . killing and burning, and the long lines of starving, terrified refugees."37
Khartoum called for Islamic and African mediation, prompting Iranian, Qatari, and Malawi responses. It dispatched emissaries to the Muslim world, where it found much support. In Tehran, the authorities blessed efforts to "repel the African aggression against the Sudan"38 and called for a pan-Islamic jihad to defend the Sudan while volunteering to play peace broker. In Beirut, a handy measure of the Arab political mood, many organizations39 formed the Committee for the Support of the Arab People of Sudan that proceeded to condemn "the cowardly African attack on the brothers in Sudan, and the United States that backs them."40 Several governments (Syria, Iraq, Libya) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) declared their support for Khartoum, while Saudi Arabia expressed its concerns for the unity and sovereignty of Sudan. The Arab League declared that "Arab national security was threatened." The rhetorical war escalated against Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda, all three accused by the Arab world of "staging a conspiracy against the unity of the Sudanese land."41 Not surprisingly, several Arab governments accused Israel of being behind the events;42 others found "Zionism and the hand of Israel" guilty of inciting the African nations against the Arab world.43
Even the Egyptian government—at odds with the Bashir regime over a territorial dispute at Halayib,44 highly critical of Khartoum's fundamentalist cast, and still seething over a Sudanese-backed attempt to assassinate Mubarak in Addis Ababa—stood by the "Arabism" of Sudan. It rejected the military successes of SPLA and declared itself in favor of "stability and status quo."45
Two major groups have lobbied on Khartoum's behalf in the United States: business interests and the Nation of Islam (NOI). Despite legislation restricting trade with Sudan because of terrorism activities, the State Department allowed two American companies to negotiate oil contracts with Khartoum in January-March.46 Louis Farrakhan defends Khartoum's innocence and holds that allegations against Sudan are not just lies but part of a concerted Zionist campaign against an African country.
The southern Sudanese resistance has also been active internationally to promote its cause. It has had much success in the African states around Sudan, where governments rejected the accusation that they were "invading Sudanese lands,"47 and actually increased their assistance to the south.48 President Issai Afowreiki of Eritrea declared that "what we as Africans are confronting today in Sudan is the continuation of the struggle against colonialism."49 Khartoum's aggressiveness in supporting Islamist movements in its region now came back to haunt it. The Ugandan and Ethiopian governments presented evidence of NIF involvement inside their countries.50 South African leader Nelson Mandela, although traditionally close to the Arab regimes, signaled his views by receiving John Garang and allowing the SPLA to open an office in Pretoria. Against the West, Mandela may stand with anti-apartheid Arab allies like Mu`ammar al-Qadhdhafi; but when confronted with an Arab vs. black situation, he cannot but offer solidarity to fellow blacks.
In the United States, several developments have given the south a fighting chance in Washington; indeed, the cause of southern Sudan is now winning the battle for American public opinion. Taking a page from other national movements (one leader notes that the southern Sudanese "learned from the Jews and the Palestinians"),51 the pro-southern Sudan movement has formed coalitions to win support from a wide range of groups:
Christian-rights groups: The Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC), a coalition of four ethnic organizations52 launched in 1992, was the first international Christian organization to endorse southern Sudan's quest for self determination. The Geneva-based Christian Solidarity International (CSI) was in 1993 the first human rights group to organize field visits to southern Sudan, investigate the persecution of its population, and document the slave trade; in addition, it mobilized both the British and American legislative branches. In 1994 an alliance of sixty North American grassroots organizations, the Illinois-based Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights Under Islam (CDHRUI), raised the issue of southern Sudan in the context of defending the rights of
minorities within the Muslim world. CDHRUI then introduced this issue to human rights groups, the churches, and the U.S. Congress.53
Evangelical Christians: The American concern with the "persecution of Christians under Islam"54 has mobilized the Christian Right and the southern Sudan is a rallying point. Since early 1997, for example, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) has intensified its coverage of the southern Sudanese "plight."55
Human rights: Atrocities in southern Sudan have attracted the notice of established human rights groups. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International took the lead in mobilizing world opinion.56 Human rights activists criticized Arakis, a Canadian oil company exploring in Sudan, for seeking an agreement with the NIF-backed government.
Anti-slavery: The almost unbelievable resurgence of chattel slavery has triggered a new anti-slavery movement in the early 1990s. The Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), led by Charles Jacobs, was the first group to systematically denounce black bondage in sub-Saharan Africa.57 Slavery International has also become involved. The "First Abolitionist Convention for Sudan" took place at Columbia University in May 1995 and formed a Leadership Council out of which emerged a leadership intent on influencing the U.S. government and mobilizing American blacks.58
African-American: Exiled Catholic Bishop Makram Gassis believes that "Christians in America, black Christians particularly, will change the hearts of the American people, and hopefully the minds of the foreign policy establishment vis-à-vis southern Sudan."59 Indeed, starting in 1995, some African-American activists joined forces with expatriate south Sudanese leaders, challenging what they perceived as an "abandonment by U.S. Black leaders of their brethren in Africa."60 Writers61 and activists have initiated a movement of support for the southern Sudanese struggle. Hot exchanges take place between these "abolitionists" and Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. The abolitionists accuse NOI of protecting the interests of the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Sudan as a means to suppress the issue in the United States.62
The Left: Some liberals endorse the issue. The American Friends Service Committee raised the issue of slavery on campuses; journalist Nat Hentoff raised it in the press;63 and Barney Frank (Democrat of Massachusetts) raised it in the U.S. Congress. Small socialist circles in the New York area, in response to the Farrakhan movement, actively support the abolitionists. Even some Marxist groups (such as the Sudanese Marxist Front in Exile) stand by the SPLM.64
Anti-terrorism: The emergence of radical Islamism in Khartoum, with links to international terrorism, aroused American concern and facilitated the awareness campaign by the southerners. Sabit Aley, a southern Sudanese leader in the United States, notes that "after the New York bombing, we got the ears of both the legislative and executive branches."65
U.S. Congress. Harry Johnston (Democrat of Florida), chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, visited Sudan where he met with Garang, Turabi, and many other leaders to "convey a message from the U.S. government: The southern question should not be solved by violence."66 Congressman Chris Smith (Republican of New Jersey) was the first house member to advocate a strong and serious American reaction to the "massacre of the people of south Sudan by the NIF regime."67 Donald Payne (Democrat of New Jersey) was the first black representative to openly criticize slavery in southern Sudan.
In the Senate, Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas) and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the Near East, says that "Congress intends to continue the pressure on Sudan until the conditions of the southern Sudanese are improved.68 Senator Russ Feingold (Democrat of Wisconsin) noted that "Sudan continues to serve as refuge, nexus and training hub for a number of international terrorist organizations. . . . This is not a regime that should be included in the community of nations."69
In addition, twenty pieces of legislation touching on southern Sudan have been introduced into the Congress, dealing with both terrorism and human rights issues. The best know of them, introduced by Representative Frank Wolfe (Republican of Virginia) and Senator Arlen Specter (Republican of Pennsylvania), calls for economic sanctions against the Khartoum regime (along with others that engage in religious persecution). More broadly, Congress seems determined, as Senator Brownback put it in his opening remarks at a hearing last April, to wage the battle for "all persecuted groups in the Middle East."70
Until mid-1997, the White House and State Department had little interest in the plight of southern Sudan. After a meeting with senior officials at Foggy Bottom in May 1997, Steven Wondu concluded that "the U.S. administration had secretly agreed to allow U.S. companies to sign contracts for oil extraction in Sudan." Nina Shea of Freedom House added: "Despite an American law which forbids commercial transactions with states sponsoring terrorism—a list established by the State Department—the latter authorized Occidental to negotiate with the butchers of Khartoum."71
Over time, however, the north's rogue activities made it an increasingly prominent opponent of the U.S. government. This, plus the heat coming from American groups and Congress, along with pressure from the black African states, prompted President Clinton to issue an executive order on November 3, 1997, severing nearly all economic contact with Sudan. Based on the International Emergency Economic Powers,72 this order contains unusually strong language. It finds
that the policies and actions of the Government of Sudan, including continued support for international terrorism, ongoing efforts to destabilize neighboring governments, and the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the U.S. and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat . . . all Sudan properties in the U.S. are blocked.73
The State Department spokesperson, James Rubin, explained President Clinton's executive order to sanction Sudan and criticized Arab governments for not censuring Khartoum on its southern and human rights policies: "We have consulted with Congress," he said, but "we have not received as much support as we would have liked for the human rights issues in Sudan." Asked about the plight of Christians in Sudan, he commented that Khartoum's "practices on human rights and religious rights are one of the reasons behind the executive order."74 For her part, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asserted that "Sudan is a sponsor of terrorism since 1993. The new [executive] order will cut off trade [with Sudan] despite the interest by companies to exploit oil.75
A series of diplomatic gestures in December 1997 signaled new U.S. backing for the anti-NIF coalition. Unveiling a more militant stance toward a regime it labels "terrorist," the secretary of state visited African states at odds with Khartoum and met with John Garang. On the second leg of her seven-nation African tour, Albright promised to "isolate the Sudanese regime and contain its ability to support terrorism and destabilize its neighbors."76 She also threw her support behind forces trying to overthrow the regime in Sudan by hosting the leaders of the rebel groups at the U.S. embassy and assuring them of moral and political support if they stay united and pursue a goal of a democratic Sudan.
As Albright's reference to a "united opposition" indicates, Washington remains committed to a unified Sudan and rejects its break up. The endorsement of Garang fits into a wider anti-Turabi move, and does not signal a pro-south policy. U.S. policy continues to disfavor a southern Sudanese drive for secession, mainly on two grounds. First, Washington historically discourages secession, especially through armed rebellion, preferring solutions that involve dialogue, democratization, and maintaining the status quo. Second, to accept the partition of Sudan would create many difficulties in the Arab world.
TOWARD A SOLUTION
Geopolitically, southern Sudan is a piece of black Africa within Arab borders; it is what Samuel Huntington calls a civilizational fault line between Islamic civilization and African civilization.77 The core of the south Sudan problem, thus, is the issue of self-determination for an African people that rejects Arabization and Islamization. The south is adamantly opposed to assimilation and naturally attached to its ancestral land in black Africa. This explains why the south rejects Arab rule.
To maintain the unity of Sudan, Khartoum has offered not to apply fully the Shari‘a in the south. But this misses the point. The Arabized north remains ideologically committed to unity of the country as part of the integrity of the Arab nation. Its Islamic leaders view the southern provinces as part of Dar al-Islam. Would autonomy work—that is, the south staying in Sudan but in control of its own destiny? No, for no matter how sophisticated the formulation, it is incompatible with the goals of Arab nationalism and fundamentalist Islam.
Three changes can command a just and comprehensive solution to the bloodiest conflict in the Middle East and bring about peace to all the peoples of Sudan: a new democratic reality in the north, a realistic and unified leadership in the south, and a visionary foreign policy across the Atlantic.
Only radical concessions by Khartoum and realistic responses by the SPLM can end this forty-year drama. Arab Sudan has one way to coexist peacefully with its African south: correct the mistake of the colonial power and relinquish its claim to the south. This would allow the people of the south to live under their own rule. The Arab north must cease its effort to Arabize and Islamize the south and instead recognize the bi-national reality that exists within the Sudan's present-day borders. This implies respecting the south's right for self-determination and eventually its full independence.
The NIF regime clearly could not countenance such a policy; that would require a moderate government. And no matter how good its intentions, it would meet not just resistance domestically (from, among others, Arab nationalists and fundamentalist Muslims) but also from many Arab states. The emergence of a sovereign non-Muslim and non-Arab state in southern Sudan would be seen as an inspiration to minorities in such countries as Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, if not elsewhere, to challenge the unity of these countries.
For its part, the SPLM must also make dramatic concessions. John Garang will have to abandon his plans to take over in Khartoum; attempting to effect political change in the north is unrealistic and will eventually bolster the Arab resistance to southern independence. If he gives up this goal, it will reunify the southern ranks, generate favor internationally, and possibly win support in democratic Arab circles.
The U.S. government needs to endorse these changes, for American policy will have a great impact on Sudan's chances for a solution. It will not be easy, for the Arab capitals, Cairo and Riyadh especially, will work against this new outlook. But if the grassroots movement—human rights groups, African-Americans, Evangelical Christians—continues to grow, southern Sudan will become as difficult to ignore as apartheid in South Africa once was. Further, American oil companies will realize that with most of Sudan's oil fields located in the south, they are better off with an independent, pro-Western southern state, with a capital in Juba, than a radical and unstable Islamist regime in Khartoum.
1 Press release issued in Limassol Cyprus by the Mashrek Institute citing Dominic Mohammed's estimate of 2.5 million either killed during battles or as a result of disease and starvation, Mideast Newswire, Dec. 1997. Christian Solidarity International reports 1.5 million casualties in various reports aired by CBN, Feb. 4, 1997.
2 Chevron sold its concessions back to the Sudanese government in 1992, which later sub-divided these concessions into smaller exploration blocks. Arakis Energy of Canada signed a production-sharing agreement with the government for three concessions. Production and exports at a rate of 65,000 b/d is scheduled to begin in 1997, with full production of 300,000 b/d targeted by 2000. Development of the oil fields depends on the construction of an export pipeline 1500 km in length from Sudan's oil fields to the Red Sea coast.
3 This is not quite the dichotomy it appears, as the "Arabs" of the north are for the most part as dark-skinned as the "blacks" of the south. The real division concerns Muslim versus non-Muslim.
4 Robert Collins, The Southern Sudan in Historical Perspective (Tel Aviv: University of Tel Aviv, The Israel Press, 1975), p. 36.
5 Gabriel Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society (London: Frank Cass, 1978), p. 98.
6 Quoted in Dustan Wai, The African-Arab Conflict in the Sudan (New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1983), p. 67.
7 Quoted in Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism, p. 153.
8 Wai, African-Arab Conflict, pp. 105-109.
9 Ibid., pp. 125-141.
10 Pierre Arbanieh, "Mas'alat Janub as-Sudan: Ila Ayna?" Sawt al-Mashreq (Beirut), Dec. 1983.
11 Nicholas Khoury, "Aslamat Janub as-Sudan," Sawt al-Mashriq (Beirut), Jan. 1984. Also, Mordechai Nisan, "Sudanese Christians: Tribulations in Black Africa," Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Self Expression (Jefferson, N. C.: McFarland, 1991), pp 193-205; idem., "The Ethnic Factor in Sudanese Politics: South vs North," in Haim Shaked and Yehudit Ronen, eds., Ethnicity, Pluralism and the State in the Middle East, eds. Milton Esman and Itamar Rabinovitch, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1984).
12 Dominic Mohammed, "Jihad in Africa: The Islamization of Southern Sudan," lecture at Florida International University, Nov. 9, 1995.
13 Francis Mading Deng, "The Identity Factor in the Sudanese Factor," in Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies, ed. Joseph V. Montville (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1990), pp. 354-356.
14 Steven Wondu, U.S. representative of the SPLM, at a conference of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights Under Islam, Washington, D.C., May 2, 1997.
15 Mideast Newswire, Jan. 15, 1994, at http://www.cmep.com.
16 Telephone interview with David Chend, director for foreign affairs of the Ryek Machar faction, Nairobi, Nov. 12, 1994.
17 Mideast Newswire, Mar. 15, 1997.
18 Ryek Machar, "The Sudan Conflict: The SPLM/SPLA-United Calls on America to Support the People of South Sudan in their Struggle for Self-Determination, National Liberation and Independence in the Sudan," (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute for Peace, Apr. 12, 1994).
19 The New York Times, July 19, 1992.
20 Remarks during the symposium "The Impact of Islamization on International Relations and Human Rights," Unitarian Methodist Church Saint Andrew, Washington, D.C., Mar. 30, 1997.
21 Darb al-Intifada (the internal newsletter of the National Democratic Alliance, published by Deng Dongrin), Mar. 14, 1997.
22 Al-Musawwar (Cairo), Jan. 24, 1997, pp. 26-27.
23 Al-Nafir, July 14, 1996; author's interview with Sheikh Makin, leader of the Nuba Mountains Liberation Movement, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1997.
24 Documented by Operation Nehemaia for Southern Sudan, New Jersey. Newsletter, Summer 1997.
25 For an example, see "Churches Burning in Sudan," Camboni Press (Rome), Apr. 4, 1997.
26 Christian Solidarity International reports that "some, like Jacob Aligo lo-Dado have been arrested, beaten, and tortured. His crime? He objected to a government mandate that required all students to speak Arabic and study the Qur'an. Today scars mar his back and serve as a testimony." CSI report, quoted on CBN, Nov. 23, 1997.
27 John Eibner and Caroline Cox, Evidence on Violations of Human Rights in Sudan (Geneva: Christian Solidarity International, Apr. 1996).
28 Associated Press, July 15, 1996.
29 Its acts are fully documented by human rights organizations (such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International), journalists, the United Nations, and many others.
30 Mideast Newswire, Feb. 1994.
31 Christian Broadcast Network, Nov. 23, 1997.
32 David Littman, "The U.N. Finds Slavery in the Sudan," Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1996, pp. 91-94; Caroline Cox, member of House of Lords, United Kingdom, "Slavery in Sudan," submitted to the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, Joint Subcommittee Hearing with The Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Africa, Mar. 13, 1996. Two American reporters traveled to southern Sudan and actually bought back black slaves from northern traders; they reported on this in The Baltimore Sun, June 16, 1996.
33 Augustine Lado, "Africans Speak Out Against Slavery and Genocide in the Sudan," unpublished paper, First Abolitionist Conference, Columbia University, New York, Mar. 5, 1995.
34 "Fact Sheets" issued by the Sudanese embassy in Washington: "Sudan Condemns Slavery," Feb, 2, 1997; Feb. 5, 1997; "Sudan Opposes Terrorism," Feb. 6, 1997.
35 Sean Gabb, "Truth and The Sudan Foundation: A Debate Between Sabit Aley and Sean Gabb," Oct. 22, 1997, at http://www.sufo.demon.co.uk.
36 Agence France Press, Mar. 19, 1997.
37 The Sudan Foundation at http://www.sufo.demon.co.uk.
38 Radio Tehran, Mar. 5, 1997.
39 Hizbullah of Lebanon; the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad; the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) of Algeria; Jama‘a Islamiya of Egypt; Muslim Brethren-inspired political parties from Jordan, Yemen, and Lebanon, as well as the Ba‘th, Nasserite, and other Arab nationalist organizations.
40 An-Nahar, as-Safir, Mar. 12, 1997.
41 Agence France Press, Mar. 11, 1997.
42 "Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia Usman al-Sayyid Reports Visit of Israeli Intelligence Official to the South," Sudan News Agency, Sept. 2, 1997.
43 Al-Hayat, May 9, 1997 and Mideast Newswire, Apr. 15, 1997.
44 See Gabriel Warburg, "Hot Spot: Egypt and Sudan Wrangle over Halayib," Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 1994, pp. 57-60.
45 As-Safir, Apr. 10, 1997 and Mideast Newswire, June 15, 1997.
46 Mideast Newswire, Mar. 14, 1997. Also Charles Jacobs, "No Relations with Slavers: AASG asks Clinton to freeze oil deal with Sudan," Mideast Newswire, Jan. 30, 1997.
47 Agence France Press, Mar. 10, 1997.
48 Mideast Newswire, Mar. 15, 1997.
49 Ibid., Mar. 24, 1997.
50 The Islamists armed Eritean militias, based in Sudan, and issued press releases praising their "successful jihadic attacks against the Christian soldiers of Asmara," Mideast Newswire, Dec. 18, 1997.
51 Former Sudanese minister of information Bona Malwal, interview with the author in Miami, Oct. 11, 1995.
52 The Assyrian National Congress, the American Coptic Association, the World Lebanese Organization, and the South Sudan Movement of America. See Beit Nahrain Magazine (Modesto, California) Fall 1992.
53 A.M. Rosenthal, "The Well Poisonous," The New York Times, Apr. 29, 1997.
54 Rev. James Kennedy, leader of the Coral Ridge Ministry, aired by Trinity Broadcast Network (a California-based national television network), Sept. 24, 1997.
55 Its corespondents emphasize the anti-Christian character of the war. Chris Mitchell said "the 14-year-old civil war pits an Islamic government in Khartoum that has been waging a jihad, a holy war, against the largely Christian and animist south." Christian Broadcast Network, Feb. 4, 1997.
56 See for example the report by Jeff Barthel of the U.N.'s World Food Program, CBN, Nov. 23, 1997; also the annual reports on Sudan by the Human Rights Watch, the Mission On Human Rights (Geneva), and the State Department.
57 See AASG [American Anti-Slavery Group] Newsletter, Nov. 1995.
58 Charles Jacobs, "A New Abolitionist Movement," The Forward, May 24, 1997; Samuel Cotton, "The Slavery Issue: A Crisis in Black Leadership," Slavery in Africa Today, ed. Sabit Aley, papers presented at the First Abolitionist Conference, 1995, pp. 37-41.
59 Interview with the author in Washington, D.C., Apr. 10, 1997.
60 Samuel Cotton, "Abolitionist Convention for Sudan," presented at Columbia University, Mar. 12, 1995; idem, "Sorrow and Shame Brutal North African Slave Trade Ignored and Denied," The New York Weekly, Mar. 22, 1995.
61 Clarence Page, "Africa's Dirty Secret: Slavery in Our Time," The Washington Times, May, 3, 1995; ibid., "Tolerating Slavery in Africa," July 7, 1996.
62 Sabit Aley, "Genocide and Slavery in the Sudan: The Farrakhan Connection," Slavery in Africa Today, ed. Sabit Aley, collection of articles, First Abolitionist Conference, 1995; The City Sun, Mar. 1996; See also Nina Shea, In the Lion Den (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1997), pp 31-35.
63 Nat Hentoff, "Averting Our Eyes From Slavery, The Washington Post, Dec. 27, 1997.
64 Charles Jacobs, "Where are the Liberals?" The Boston Globe, July 8, 1978.
65 Interview with the author, Washington, D.C., May 14, 1997.
66 Interview with the author, Boca Raton, Fla., Feb. 24, 1997.
67 Address to the general assembly of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights under Islamization, Dec. 15, 1995.
68 Interview with the author, Washington, D.C., Oct. 29, 1997.
69 Congressional Records, Senate, Nov. 2, 1997, p. S11698.
70 Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East, hearing on "Persecution of Religious Minorities in the Middle East," Apr. 30, 1997.
71 Interview with Steven Wondu and Nina Shea, conference on Human Rights Under Islam, Washington, D.C., May 2, 1997.
72 50 USC 1701 et seq.
73 Press release, United States Information Agency, Nov. 4, 1997.
74 News release under Daily State Department Briefings, United States Information Agency, Nov. 5, 1997.
75 "BBC World News," Nov. 4, 1997.
76 Associated Press, Dec. 14, 1997.
77 Samuel Huntington, Clash Of Civilizations, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), ch. 3.
Related Topics: Public opinion polls, US policy | Walid Phares | March 1998 MEQ
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