|2/15/2000: Hearings on Religious Persecution in Sudan: Caroline Cox Oral Testimony|
February 15, 2000
BARONESS COX: Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to give evidence today on Sudan, which is probably the Nation with the highest toll of persecution in the world at the present time.
I will briefly offer my credentials and those of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CSW, examples of persecution of Christians, Muslims and traditional believers, some policy considerations for the United States, and I would like if I might just to show six slides at the end, because pictures speak louder than words.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CSW, is an inter-church human rights organization working for victims of persecution. We do not proselytize. We operate according to the principles of "the four A's"--advocacy, based on the authenticity of first-hand evidence. We try to reach those people who are cut off from everybody else--in Sudan, those in the "no-go" areas denied access to UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan. As they are war areas, we have to have an aid dimension to our work, and we try to be accountable--our fourth "A"--to those for whom we speak, giving accurate information on their plight.
I have visited Sudan 25 times, first in 1985, working as a nurse among Arab and Muslim communities in Northern Kordofan; then, in July 1993, I made an official visit to Khartoum to meet the NIF leadership and to visit areas under their control in Juba, the Nuba Mountains, and the camps for the displaced. More recently, the CSW has made numerous visits to "no go" areas in Bahr-el-Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Western Upper Nile, and Eastern Sudan.
We have the confidence and the support of the leadership in all the areas we visit, but the NIF regime does not like our visiting areas to which it is trying to deny access.
In Khartoum in 1993, the NIF leaders to whom I spoke referred frequently to jihad. "Jihad" has many interpretations, but in Sudan, it is being carried out as full-scale war. It includes the policies of forced Arabization and Islamization, with military offensives against innocent civilians; denial of food and medicine to the victims of those offensives; and slavery.
In Eastern Sudan, the Beja Muslin people have been driven off their lands to scavenge and die in the desert. In the North, there have been numerous reports of extra-judicial arrests, imprisonment, torture, killings of political opponents and Christians, harassment, and destruction of churches.
I will give just a few examples based on first-hand experience; more details can be found in our fuller reports.
First, on Christian persecution, the African communities in Southern Sudan comprise mostly Christians and traditional believers. In other areas such as the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, mixed communities of Muslims, Christians and animists live peaceably together. All suffer at the hands of the government.
Military offensives kill and terrorize civilians, driving them off their lands, with raids involving up to 2,000 government soldiers, Popular Defense Force militia, and locally-recruited murahaleen, armed by the government with Kalashnikov rifles. Aerial bombardments with high-flying Antonovs or low-flying helicopter gunships often accompany ground offensives.
We have witnessed massacres on a huge scale. We have walked for miles amongst human and cattle corpses. We have seen scorched earth policy, with systematic burning of homes, churches, mosques, animist shrines, clinics, schools and crops. The scale of killing in many areas, we believe justifies the use of the term "genocide."
As these raids are carried out in "no go" areas, survivors have no food or medicine and die of disease, injury or starvation. They tell us that the Government's objective is to force them to go to Government-controlled areas where Christians have to adopt Muslim names and practices in order to obtain life-saving supplies, and where African girls and women are sexually exploited by Arabs, irreversibly changing their racial genetic identity.
In the Nuba Mountains, the Government's military offensives are designed to force people to go to so-called "peace camps," with similar policies of forced Islamization and Arabization.
It is impossible to estimate numbers precisely, but we have repeatedly witnessed the aftermath of raids in which hundreds of civilians have been killed--we have seen them--hundreds of thousands may be dying from starvation and disease, and many choose that fate to sacrificing their Christian faith and African identity.
We frequently hear those who are dying of starvation and disease declaring they will never go to Government-held areas for food or medicine because, "We are Christians, and we will live and die as Christians."
We also estimate many tens of thousands have been taken into slavery. We have interviewed many returned slaves. Those who are Christians testify to pressure to convert to Islam. Their accounts are consistent. One must speak for all, if I may quote: "I was captured with my three children and forced to walk for 10 days. There were more than 1,000 people captured from different areas. We were fed leftovers, like bones. We weren't allowed enough water. We took the leaves of a tamil tree to get water. We were tired together in groups at night. We were driven north to Cetep near Abyei and then divided into groups and ordered to fetch water, grind grain or tend animals. We were given Arabic names. I was called Amuna, the children Mohamed, Abdullah, Adam. We were forced to observe Islamic practices such as attending mosque. When we refused, we were beaten. I conceived a child by my owner."
On oil exploitation, the present UN rapporteur has recently expressed his concern over adverse effects of oil. Last year, we visited areas near the oil exploitation sites at Bentiu, in Western Upper Nile. We saw the effects of Government raids; bomb craters from aerial bombardment; the scorched earth policy in which about 6,000 homes, seven churches, three mosques, several animist shrines, three schools, and a clinic were destroyed.
The attacks are oil-related, but they serve the NIF's jihad by destruction of local communities and their spiritual and cultural traditions. It has been estimated in the UN Report of November 1999 that at least 150,000 people have suffered from such raids in these areas alone.
To turn briefly to persecution of Muslims, many Muslims are suffering at the hands of the regime and fighting alongside the Christians. For example, the Beja people and the Muslim people in Eastern Sudan, and African Muslims in Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, all believe that all Sudanese should have freedom to practice their own faiths and that the NIF is a perversion of Islam.
One imam from Yabus in Southern Blue Nile described the new freedoms Muslims enjoy since the SPLA took control over the area from the NIF. I quote, briefly: "We have more freedom now than ever before. Before, we were not allowed the freedom to know many things. Now we can pray in peace with no repression. The NIF was not a pure religion or pure Islam. It was highly politicized. The regime talked about a jihad, but that is not true Islam. Their jihad was to take freedom away. I myself am ready to fight against them, because as an imam, I do not believe these is a true jihad."
I now turn briefly to conclusions and recommendations. Large-scale, systematic, continuing, egregious persecution forms a major part of the spectrum of violations of human rights by the Government of Sudan. They have been condemned, as we have heard this morning, by the UN Security Council, by Dr. Gaspar Biro in his capacity as a former UN Special Rapporteur, by numerous NGOs.
Any attempt by the international community to help the Sudanese people to achieve peace with justice must take into account the current military and political situations.
So, very briefly, on the military situation--that war is continuing with aerial bombardment of civilian targets such as hospitals and the school in the Nuba Mountains just a few days ago, and continuing ground offensives in the oil-rich areas around Heiglig and Unity oil fields, and around the new oil-drilling rig south of Bentiu. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and countless civilians are hiding in the swamps.
The oil factor is helping NIF to fuel the war, encouraging foreign investment and generating a veneer of respectability.
However, the opposition forces are still resolute. Attacks on the pipeline have been attributed to the Beja Congress forces, who operate in strategically significant areas in the East. And the SPLM/A is consolidating control over vast areas and is working hard to establish the principles and structures of civil society.
Politically, the NDA seems to be fragmenting, with separate agreements being negotiated by some opposition parties with the Government.
However, recent reconciliation efforts have often been facilitated by the churches and have been encouraging, such as the Nuer-Dinka agreement.
The recent rapprochement between Riek Machar and the SPLM/A may strengthen the latter, but the situation is unstable. All major parties to the conflict have subscribed to the IGAD agreement, to the right to self-determination, secular government, and democratic principles.
However, the Northern parties do not agree to the South's call for a secular state as a condition for unity, and the people of the South, represented by the SPLM/A, do not accept the proposed basically Islamic state with some exceptions for Christian and other non-Muslim communities.
So discussions between the NIF and the SPLM/A have been long and exhaustive. Both sides have defined their bottom line positions, and little change can be expected unless external pressure is applied, which brings me to my last point.
Until hostilities cease, there is an urgent need for more political, humanitarian and practical support for those suffering and dying at the hands of the Government, especially for those in "no go" areas and those controlled by the SPLM/A. The time may be right for a negotiated political solution built on that commitment to the right to self-determination.
To facilitate this, it might be helpful if a conference were convened, hosted abroad, to bring together all parties to agree to basic conditions for a settlement, together with international guarantees to ensure that any agreed conditions are kept.
Apart from full independence, such options could include federal status for agreed states, including those often not mentioned, and may not have been mentioned this morning, not only the Nuba Mountains, but the Southern Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and the Beja Territories.
Chairman, as we speak, the people of the Sudan are suffering and dying. The need for peace is desperate, the time for effective action overdue. If this hearing can help to precipitate such action, it will perform a service of priceless value, and I wish it every success.
RABBI SAPERSTEIN: Thank you. Did you want to show the slides?
BARONESS COX: Yes, please. It will take 30 seconds.
RABBI SAPERSTEIN: Please. Could we dim the lights?
BARONESS COX: The first slide, Chairman, demonstrates the Government's scorched earth policy. This is in Bahr-el-Ghazal. This is not a famine area, but the Government has rampaged through the area. You can see the green, fertile land; you can see the totally wanton destruction in the scorched earth policy in Bahr-el-Ghazal.
This is one of the casualties following one of the raids. This brave man was trying to stop the raiders from taking a boy into slavery. He was shot in the face at pointblank range by a raider with an automatic rifle. The Red Cross could not come in to rescue him because this is a "no go" area, and that raises the whole issue of access to "no go" areas. We had to afford the money to evacuate the casualties, but many remain unreached and untreated.
This is the typical aftermath of one of the raids. This was around Minabun [ph.] in Bahr-el-Ghazal. You can see the cattle have been stolen, and those that will not go with the raiders are slaughtered so there is no food left for survivors of the raid.
This is another example of the completely wanton scorched earth policy.
I could show you many hundreds of these, I am afraid, but these are the civilians who cannot escape during the raids. If you look closely, you will often see beads and bracelets; these are civilians, usually women and children. If they are not abducted, they are killed.
This is the politics of hunger. This is again in Bahr-el-Ghazal. These people said to me: We could go to Government-held areas to obtain food, medicine and clothes; we will never go, because we are Christians. We prefer to live and die as Christians.
And the price of that faith in Sudan today, to make that decision not for yourself but for your children.
This shows two boys in the Nuba Mountains following a raid, and all that is left of their home.
And my final slide shows examples of some who have returned from slavery. If you could speak with them, you would be as convinced as we are about the authenticity of their experience as slaves.
Thank you, Chairman.