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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Statement on Independence of South Sudan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum welcomes the independence of South Sudan tomorrow, July 9, 2011. The Museum commends the people of Sudan for achieving this milestone but also remains deeply concerned about reports of ongoing violence against civilians in the border regions between north and south, as well as in the northern state of Southern Kordofan.

“We welcome the independence of South Sudan, born this week as the world’s newest country,” said Michael Chertoff, Chairman of the Committee on Conscience, the Museum’s genocide prevention program, and a former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

“The people of southern Sudan have suffered terribly over the past 30 years from a series of catastrophes that have included the large-scale targeting of defenseless civilians by government authorities. We hope that the independence of ern Sudan marks a new era of security for its citizens,” said Chertoff.

Independence brings to a close the transition period established by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, which ended a two-decade-long civil war that resulted in more than 2 million deaths and another 4 million displaced in the south. The war was one of the bloodiest in modern African history and saw civilians targeted because of their ethnicity, including the Dinka, Nuer and Nuba, who were the primary victims..

The Museum expressed concern about the continued use of violence in certain regions in Sudan to resolve outstanding issues in the immediate lead-up to independence.

“It is simply unacceptable that the government of Sudan has once again turned to violence against civilians to achieve its political goals,” Chertoff stated. “The renewed onslaught against the Nuba people has reached crisis proportions, and reports from Southern Kordofan are cause for the utmost concern and alarm. The government of Sudan and rebel forces must immediately cease all hostilities in that region, and allow unfettered access for humanitarian assistance, as well as to the media and independent observers.”

In addition, the Museum cited reports of massacres in the South and called on the government of South Sudan to commit itself to peacefully resolving its internal conflicts, and not allow its military forces to target ethnic minorities.

The Museum has been actively monitoring and raising awareness about genocide and mass atrocities against civilians in Sudan since 2000. It declared a genocide emergency for Darfur in 2004, and in 2007 partnered with Google Earth in an unprecedented online mapping initiative that enabled the more than 400 million Google Earth users worldwide to visualize and better understand the situation in Darfur. In the fall of 2010, Museum led a delegation on a bearing witness trip to South Sudan, and images and video from that trip can be seen here.

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 www.ushmm.org.

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