Beginning of the burning of the village of Um Zeifa in Darfur after the Janjaweed looted and attacked. Photograph taken by Brian Steidle.
USHMM, courtesy of Brian Steidle
Sudan is Africa's largest country and has been at war with only a brief reprieve (1971-1982) since its independence from Great Britain in 1956. With power centralized in the north around its capital Khartoum and natural resources concentrated in the south, Sudan is further divided by religion, ethnicity, tribal differences, and economic disparities. Lasting over two decades, the second civil war between the north and south resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people and displaced 4 million others. An on-going conflict in the western region of Darfur was marked by a period of intensive, systematic targeting of the civilian populations from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masaalit ethnic groups. In 2004, the Museum issued a genocide emergency in response to this violence.
Today, Sudan's entire civilian population faces enormous threats from continuing and potentially new violence. In January 2011, Sudan faced a decisive political moment when southerners voted in favor of independence in a referendum stipulated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the civil war in 2005. With unresolved disputes over borders and resources, in addition to the challenges of creating new political systems in both the north and the south, the process of separation - which will occur in July 2011 - is seeded with potential sources of conflict. Partition will take place amid ongoing conflict in Darfur, sporadic incidents of violence in the south, uncertainty about the status of key transitional regions between the north and south, and rumblings of discontent in the east. Half of Darfur's six million people are dependent on a precarious international aid effort, as displacement and insecurity continue.
The Museum's warning for Sudan stems from the Sudanese government's established capacity and willingness to commit genocide and related crimes against humanity. This is evidenced by actions the government has taken in the western region of Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and the south that include:
Use of mass starvation and mass forcible displacement as a weapon of destruction;
Pattern of obstructing humanitarian aid;
Harassment of internally displaced persons;
Bombing of hospitals, clinics, schools, and other civilian sites;
Use of rape as a weapon against targeted groups;
Employing a divide-to-destroy strategy of pitting ethnic groups against each other, with enormous loss of civilian life;
Training and supporting ethnic militias who commit atrocities;
Destroying indigenous cultures;
Enslavement of women and children by government-support militias;
Impeding and failing to fully implement peace agreements.
While rebel groups in the south and Darfur have also committed abuses, the Sudanese government, led by Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, bears primary responsibility for atrocities against and continued danger to civilians.