The Common Good

Sudan: History Must Not Repeat Itself

We cannot allow the history of a brutal genocide to repeat itself in Sudan, nor denial and inaction to repeat itself in Washington, D.C., but both are happening at this very moment.

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I'm in Nairobi, Kenya where I have been meeting with survivors of the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur and the election violence that rocked Kenya in 2008. We leave tomorrow for Rwanda and then onto Juba, South Sudan for the July 9 independence celebration when South Sudan becomes the newest nation on earth.

Today, I spoke at an international news conference here in Kenya. On behalf of GI-Net and Save Darfur, I demanded that the international community act NOW to protect the innocent civilians of South Kordofan and Darfur who are under relentless attack by government soldiers and government backed militias. Those who are behind these heinous crimes need to know that they will be held accountable. And if they are not, WE will hold accountable government leaders who refused to act. We released a report with Crisis Action and other partners, "Beyond the Pledge: International Engagement After Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement". We've followed news of the ongoing violence in Sudan, largely at the hands of the Khartoum regime, led by an indicted international criminal who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for the systematic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of his own citizens. Yesterday 16 people, including 8 women and children were killed and 32 wounded in the most recent bombing of villagers in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan. The attack came less than one day after it was announced that the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement had agreed to a 20 kilometer "demilitarized zone" along the north-south border.

We met with two refugees from Darfur in their home yesterday on the outskirts of Nairobi. Their stories put the escalating attacks on the Nuba mountain villages into perspective. They told of being startled at 4 a.m. by 3,000 Janjaweed militia galloping into the sleeping village on horseback. Machine guns mounted on pickup trucks followed. The invaders torched homes and massacred startled villagers as they ran from their burning homes.

Somehow our hosts managed to escape and make their way to the very place that is under vicious attack today, the Nuba mountains of South Kordofan. They spoke of the warmth and hospitality of their Nuban hosts who welcomed and cared for them even as conditions became strained with diminishing supplies of food and water to accommodate the growing numbers of refugees from Darfur.

As we sat in their darkened home, chickens cackling and children playing outside, they told of their alarm at the news from the very place that gave them refuge: "Nuba is becoming Darfur".

I thought of our Darfur hosts when I read Nicholas Kristof's latest piece in the New York Times. He quotes the Rt. Rev. Andudu Elnail, an Episcopal bishop for the Nuba Mountains who talked about the attacks that continue to rage against his people : "They're killing educated people, especially black people, and they don't like the church," he said.

President Bashir need only fear the truth being disclosed IF someone outside of those villages gives a damn and does something about it. IF he and his murderous colleagues are held to account.

Our hosts had wondered why the international community, particularly the U.S. or UN, had refused to help them as they looked back from their escape route and saw the thick black smoke of their burning village. The U.S. government and UN did too little, too late, and their families and neighbors perished while the world waited.

As we made our way around Nairobi to learn more from those who experienced the horror of genocide firsthand, we heard that the indicted criminal President Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity, was walking down a red carpet of welcome by the government of China.

And, as we waited to hear a strong statement of outrage by the White House or an announcement that tough, targeted sanctions would be imposed on the perpetrators of the killings in South Kordofan, we heard silence.

History is repeating itself before our very eyes. From the brutality of a genocidal regime that kills and rapes with impunity, to the silence and inaction from the rest of the world. The rest of the world includes us.

If you haven't already, please join our chorus of calls to the White House. Tell the Obama administration that we need tough new sanctions imposed on President Bashir and his cronies who are behind the violence. We need an international investigation into the crimes against humanity that are being committed every day in Sudan. And we need a strong UN protection force to save the lives of those who are being targeted by the regime.

You can make a difference today by demanding that our government act now. We cannot afford to look back and wonder how it was possible that, once again, untold numbers of innocent people perished while the world did nothing.

Tom Andrews is president of Save Darfur.

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