Sudan's collapse - South Africa's shame

Paul Trewhela says the ANC govt's refusal to enforce the ICC's injunction to arrest al-Bashir has contributed to dire situation

The African National Congress government of the past 30 years in South Africa is guilty of complicity leading to Africa's worst humanitarian crisis over the past century, now taking place in Sudan.

From the text below, see the consequences of the refusal of ANC goverment headed by Jacob Zuma, then president, and his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, when they violated the mandate of the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands, to detain for trial on a charge of genocide the then President of Sudan, General Omar al-Bashir, when he attended a conference in South Africa of the African Union between 13 and 15 June 2015. This act by ANC government was no "African union"; it was, instead, a violation of the union of the people of Africa.

This coming Monday, April 15, an international humanitarian conference will take place in Paris, France, to find how global agencies can help prevent Sudan's worsening catastrophe from leading to the deaths of more thousands and thousands of mainly black Africans.

Over the last two months, Politicsweb has published four articles by me giving the historical background and causes of this worst crisis of the continent in our liftetimes. The most recent was an article headed "A never-ending war against black Africans" (4 April).

With a main focus on the horror in Sudan, the New York-based  Gatestone Institute published my article "Slavery: The ostentatious hypocrisy of BRICS towards black Africans" on 3 August last year. The article begins:

In a garish example of anti-democratic, anti-West, collective state hypocrisy, leaders from the BRICS bloc -- representing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- meeting in South Africa over three days last week invited four Muslim states and two others to join the bloc, while keeping total silence over the racist and Islamist massacre by heavily armed Arab militias of black African civilians being carried out in West Darfur in Sudan over the preceding weeks.

Global news sources were clear about the racist character of the massacre, which resulted in black African survivors flooding across the border for refuge in neighbouring Chad.

Since that article was published, the massacre of black Africans by Arab Muslim state-directed Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Arab Muslim parastatal Rapid Support Forces (RSF) - now fighting each other in a civil war, with famine and starvation directed against black Africans as a crucial war strategy - has spread across the country from Darfur province in the west to the capital Khartoum, al-Jazirah province and the Juba Mountains in the centre of Sudan.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published a map showing the sites of conflict on April 8 last week, stating: "There are now 8.6 million forcibly displaced due to the outbreak of conflict in Sudan since April 2023, including 6.6 million internally and 1.8 million in neighbouring countries.

"Sudan and neighbouring countries were already hosting large refugee populations before this new emergency, and require additional support to provide protection and critical life-saving assistance, including for those who have been secondarily displaced within Sudan. Urgent needs include water, food, shelter, health, and core relief items.

"The current priority activities are the registration of new arrivals, relocation away from border areas, identification of especially vulnerable families and persons with specific needs, and putting mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and ensure alternative care services for unaccompanied refugee children."

In an article published on Daily Maverick on Wednesday, April 10, Tamsin Metlerkamp cited a report, From Catastrophe to Famine: Immediate Action Needed in Sudan to Contain Mass Starvation, produced in February by the Clingdael Institute, based at The Hague in the Netherlands. 

Speaking at joint press briefing last Tuesday, April 9, supported by the International Rescue Committee, CARE International, the Sudanese NGO Zenab for Women in Development and Concern Worldwide, a senior research fellow at the Institute - Anette Hofmann - is cited as stating: “The ongoing fighting prevents farmers in the main producing areas of Darfur, Kordofan and Jazeera from cultivating or harvesting, and as a result… the cereal harvest for the last season was 40% below average countrywide.

“We also find that both armies deliberately destroy and loot food infrastructure and prevent people from farming.”

With reference to "starvation as a weapon of war”, Anette Hofmann continued: "“Our findings suggest that Sudan is already experiencing famine-like conditions in parts of the country, particularly in RSF-controlled territories, and that [the chance of] Sudan’s trajectory to a countrywide famine is very high."

This is the outcome of a fundamental racial conflict in Sudan from even before it became an independent state on 1 January 1956 - the name "Sudan" being derived from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān (بلاد السودان), meaning "The Land of the Blacks".

As Human Rights Foundation stated in a report, "Sudan and modern slavery", dated 1 May 2007, "There are perhaps few countries whose history has been so intricately linked to slavery, and it is not over yet. ... For Arab traders ‘the nation of the blacks’, or Bilad Al-Sudan, has traditionally been the source of slaves."

This indicates the basis of a mainly unrecognised regime of apartheid - racist and Islamist - continuing into the 21st century.

Two books, each published in paperback more than ten years ago, give readers a clear and profound understanding of this racist and Islamist source of the catastrophe. The first to be published was Slave: The True Story of a Girl's Lost Childhood and her Fight for Survival, written by Mende Nazer, a former black Sudanese slave-girl and daughter of a Muslim Nuba tribal family, helped by a British author, Damien Lewis, and published by Virago Press, London, originally in 2004 and in paperback in 2007.

The second book, which pays tribute to Mende Nazer, is Sudan: The Failure and Division of an African State, by the British journalist and historian, Richard Cockett, first publihed by Yale University Press (New Haven, US, and London) in 2010, and in an expanded second edition in 2016.

In clear and very readable detail, Mende Nazer sets out how in the spring of 1994 - the year of South Africa's first non-racial general election, with Nelson Mandela then head of South Africa's first democratically elected government - she was captured and raped at around age 12 by Arab Muslim militias who attacked her family's rural village at the base of the Nuba Mountains, and enslaved for eight years. This took place first in the large house of a cruel and despotic Arab woman in the capital, Khartoum, and then when Mende was exported as a slave to her owner's sister - married to a Sudan diplomat - in London, before Mende managed to escape on 11 September 2000

Readers can get a glimpse of her life on the Wikipedia site, "Mende Nazer".

In October 2003, the website Reporter carried a verbal account by Mende given to Beth Herzfeld, press officer of the organisation Anti-Slavery International.

"I was living in a village, Karko, in the Nuba mountains with my parents, two sisters and two brothers. We had a very simple life. One night, when I was 12 or 13, we heard a noise outside. The village was under fire. People were screaming and there was confusion. We didn't know what we had to do, my dad said 'Mende, trust me, grab me hard.'...

When we finally reached the mountains, raiders were everywhere. We couldn't escape. Many people were dead. We ran and ran; we had nowhere to hide. It was very crowded and I lost my dad. Somebody caught at me and said [in Arabic - PT] 'I will protect you and I will take you back to your parents later.' I said okay. I believed him really because it was very dangerous. I saw people being killed in front of me; they killed the people at night, and raped the girls… [He] took me from this place to somewhere in the forest.

When I got there I found some girls and boys there and stayed with them, he said to stay there. They were around 10 and 12 years old.

... But after a while, all the raiders came and took everybody to a place called Geling, about a day's walk away. I was there for a few days; everyday people came and took children away. A man came to the camp and chose us; I was taken in a car with five other girls to a house in a place called Khartoum. He would not let us out. We had to work all day. One by one the girls were taken away. One day, a woman came and took me away. ...  I stayed with this woman for six or seven years.

I had to do very hard work, I had to do everything: clean the house and big yard, wash clothes by hand and look after her children; [over time] there were five. After she saw I was clean, she had me cook. ... 

From the beginning in my master's house I didn't realise I was a slave.... Later on, my master was talking to her friend and she said two things that made me realise. One was she mentioned she owned me. The other, she called me 'Abda' to her friend. She called me her slave. From that time on I understood who I am. From the beginning she treated me badly and beat me; even then I couldn't understand why. It was only when she said she was my owner and that she called me Abda then I understood.

One day she told me I was going to London. I cried because it meant I would be farther from my family. My master told me what to say [for the visa]. She told me a name to give [it was false] of the person I would work for and told me to say that I was only cleaning and washing dishes. I was asked how long I was going to stay and what I would earn. I said I didn't know -- he [the interviewer] was surprised -- so the interview ended. I was given a letter to give to my master [with these questions]. ...

She took me to the airport and said I would be collected. I worked in London as a domestic. My master in Khartoum instructed me to behave myself and obey the new master and do the same sort of work I did
for her."

After several months Mende escaped. She was taken to a solicitor's office and claimed asylum. After two years' of pressure, the UK Home Office rejected her claim in October 2002. "I was crying and crying. They would kill me if I went back to Sudan. I felt like killing myself."

In November, the Home Office overturned its decision and granted Mende asylum ....

Enslaved into the 21st century, readers can listen to Mende's account of her ruined childhood in an interview - in English, the language she learned - available on YouTube, recorded in 2010.

This is a first-hand voice of one of Sudan's victims. Among an extensive range of sources found by Richard Cockett from his own research in Sudan, there are also first-hand accounts by two of the aggressors, given to a British charity, the Aegis Trust, which "collects evidence against those committing genocide and crimes against humanity." (Cockett, Sudan: The Failure and Division of an African State, p. 188). Cockett writes:

"Here is the testimony of  one Sudanese soldier [from al-Bashir's armed forces - PT] describing what it was like to participate in these assaults:

The first village I attacked was Abu Sukeen in South Darfur in 2002. It was a big village, with perhaps 200 families living there, many of them farmers. When we attacked we did as were told and started killing elderly people, children and women. ... We destroyed Abu Sukeen in less than three hours. Then we moved on to another village.

Soldiers were ordered to shoot people whether they were armed or not. We didn't leave anyone alive and we didn't take prisoners. ... We were given instructions to poison the wells. ...The intention was to drive the population away from the well and from the area.

Refusing to rape during the attacks was often a death sentence. One commander made it clear  that rape was a compulsory part of our duty, especially the rape of young girls. The janjaweed [paramilitary militia - PT] would shout 'kill the slaves' and 'fuck the slaves!' They raped and tortured the girls. They want the children to be different in colour, to be like them. Raping was an order. ...

In Abu Sukeen, my immediate superior forced me to rape at gunpoint. He said 'If you don't do it, I'm going to shoot you.'  He forced me to do it. The girl was around eleven or twelve years old. ... When four or five men had raped the girls, we just left them lying there. Just like dead bodies.

"The employment of the janjaweed, what this soldier calls 'the Arabs', became the most notorious aspects of these operations. ... The non-Arab Darfuri tribes were to be forced to make way for Arab resettlement." (Cockett, Sudan, pp.187/89).

A senior SAF commander reported to Aegis Trust interviewers having been told by the vice-president of Sudan, Ali Osman Taha: " 'We don't need the people here. We need only land. That is what he said to us.' ... The commander was asked by the interviewers whether there was a racist intention from the Sudanese government to attack and kill people who were not Arab. He replied:

It is a racist and tribal issue. Because we are attacking villages and areas where there are the blacks, the niggers. These people are civilians. They have no weapons. They are not with the rebels. ... They have nothing to defend themselves, and we know very well they are not from Arab tribes. It was tribal. Primarily tribal. We knew they were from the Zurga tribe [meaning 'African'] ...we knew that they were not active members of the rebellion, and we knew that we had to exterminate them.

"Thus the politics of 'Arabization' now reached a logical conclusion," Cockett continues, "as years of ethnic poisoning were exploited by the leaders in Khartoum to turn nomadic Arab tribesmen into killers The janjaweed had been taught to have no respect for their victims. Their usual battle cry as they charged into the villages, as the soldier above remembered, was 'Kill the slaves! Kill the blacks! Kill the blacks!' ...

"With the SAF and the janjaweed  in full flow by the summer of 2003, Darfur was quickly turned into a death zone. After about the first year or so, between 100,00 to 150,00 people had died as a result of the fighting, and over a million had been displaced. By the time of writing, in 2010, about 300,000 had died (by the UN's best estimate), and about three million had been forced into refujee or internally displaced person (IDP) camps, in Darfur and Chad." (pp.189,191)

Now as the executive director of the World Peace Foundation, Alex de Waal, reported in February, "Sudan is collapsing ...".

To South Africa's shame, this is the meaning of ANC government's refusal to enforce the ICC's injunction to arrest al-Bashir, so that the then president of Sudan should have faced trial, accused of genocide.

Presiding  over the destruction of South Africa's infrastructure and economy, the governments of Zuma and Ramaphosa are no friend to the people of Sudan.