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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Statement on Anniversary of South Sudan’s Independence

WASHINGTON, DC — On the first anniversary of the separation of Sudan into two sovereign states, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum registered deep concern over escalating cross-border violence as well as ongoing threats to civilian populations in both countries.

One year ago, the Museum joined with many others in the hope that the independence of South Sudan would usher in a new era for the peoples of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing them to live peacefully across a newly shared border. However, conflict persists on both sides of that border, amid continuing reports of atrocities and terror against civilian groups in both countries, particularly the Nuban people in Sudan.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing reports of indiscriminate violence against civilians in both Sudan and South Sudan,” said Michael Chertoff, chairman of the Committee on Conscience, which oversees the Museum’s genocide prevention efforts. “We had hoped that the independence of South Sudan might break the cycle of violence against civilians that has made this region among the deadliest in the world over the past three decades. However, the continuing failure of all parties to resolve their political conflicts is being borne on the backs of civilians.”

While both countries have launched deadly cross-border raids into the others’ territory, which have complicated efforts to reach a negotiated political settlement, the actions of the government of Sudan pose by far the greatest threat to civilians. The Khartoum-based government has a history of using brutal force against marginalized ethnic and racial groups along Sudan’s periphery. In particular, for the past 15 months, it has waged a vicious counterinsurgency campaign against rebels in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, in the course of which civilian noncombatants have also been targeted.

The Sudanese government’s tactics include indiscriminate aerial bombing intended to sow terror among the Nuban people, the obstruction of the delivery of medicines and foods and, according to human rights groups, extra-judicial killings of noncombatants. More than 500,000 people have been displaced or affected as a result of the fighting. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has alleged that war crimes have once again been committed by the government in this region, but efforts to monitor and document the crimes have been rebuffed by Khartoum.

“Unless the Sudanese government allows the uninterrupted flow of aid, tens of thousands of Nubans are at risk of starvation and disease. We call on the government of Sudan to allow international humanitarian access to the region,” said Chertoff.

These tactics recall previous efforts by the government of Sudan to suppress rebellion in Darfur, including scorched-earth campaigns against the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit peoples that reached their peak from 2003 to 2005. Over the past decade, some 2.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting, the overwhelming majority of whom are still unable to return home, fearing the threat of further atrocities or because their villages and livelihoods have been destroyed. Violence in Darfur continues and conditions for civilian populations remain dire.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.

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