Fear Pervades Nuba Mountains that Sudan Government Intent on Genocide

Tucked away in the hilly mid-section of Sudan lie the Nuba Mountains, an isolated region that was the target of genocidal actions by the government of Sudan (GoS) in the early 1990’s. This past week the Nuba Mountains has exploded in violence again, and many of the inhabitants fear that Sudanese President Omar al Bashir may be planning to complete what he left unfinished many years ago.

Villages perched on steep hillsides in the Nuba mountains. (Source: http://postconflict.unep.ch)

Left out of the referendum that resulted in southern Sudan severing its relationship with the north, the people of the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile region were, per the internationally brokered Comprehensive Peace Plan, forced to remain with the north. That left many in the Nuba Mountains devastated, frightened, and angry.

After all, boys and men from the Nuba Mountains fought for their freedom with the south during the 20-year war between the north and south, which resulted in some two million deaths. Not only that, but many fear that without the support of the south’s massive military might, the Nuba Mountains might, once again, face the scorn of the GoS, be it in the way of a scorched earth policy and/or forced starvation.

Exacerbating the entire situation was the recent “election” of Ahmed Haroun to the position of governor of South Kordafan, the state in which the Nuba Mountains is situated. Running against a popular former commander (Abdul Aziz) of the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army, the rebel group responsible for forcing the north/south referendum, Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on over 40 charges for crimes against humanity and war crimes for atrocities committed in Darfur, won what many in the Nuba Mountains perceive as a rigged election.

For the past six months the people of the Nuba Mountains have held one rally after another, sometimes numbering in the thousands, which is something to behold in such an isolated and sparsely populated area, calling on Haroun to give himself up to the ICC. Cognizant of such rallies, just three weeks ago al Bashir flew to Kadugli, the capital of South Kordafan, and warned, “If the people here [meaning those in the Nuba Mountains] refuse to honor the results of the [gubernatorial] election, then we will force them back into the mountains and prevent them from having food just as we did before.” According to Article 2C of  the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide (UNCG), under certain conditions, purposely and systematically depriving a people of food constitutes genocide.

The people of the Nuba Mountains take his threat very seriously, for they know what he and his cohorts are capable of doing. Unfortunately, the threat turned into reality within a week’s time. Over the past two weeks the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have attacked one town after another in the Nuba Mountains, killing people indiscriminately and destroying farms and people’s tukuls (homes). Many people have fled into the mountains, just as they did in the 1990’s. Having left behind their only means of livelihood and source of food—their farms—the Nuba Mountains people may be facing a repeat of the 1990’s in which they had no resort but to scour the rocky land for leaves, roots, and weeds to eat.

Now is the time for the international community to act—before  starvation becomes a fact of life and before the attacks morph into massive crimes against humanity and/or genocide.

The current and ongoing attacks sound very much like those that the GoS has carried out in Darfur for the past eight years. Ample proof of that is the following description of a recent attack on the Nuba Mountains’ village of Fet, which I just received from an individual, who must remained unnamed, residing in the heart of the Nuba Mountains: “At 8 a.m., approximately 350 men dressed in green army uniforms attacked. Some civilians ran inside their homes for protection but when the attackers approached the homes they started burning them and they continued to burn people that were hiding inside their homes.  One of the first houses attacked was burned with three women locked inside.  One of the women was pregnant. As the civilians were running away they were shot.  The attackers burned everything in site (sic).” While this all-day attack was carried out, the national police, SAF troops, and national security troops looked on and did nothing. In fact, “it is reported that the forces were ordered not to shoot.”

The most recent update I received today was ominous: “More and more voices on the ground are now describing this as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and comparing it to the genocide which took place in the Nuba Mountains in the early 1990’s. Urgent international response is critical!”

While the ongoing crisis in Darfur (which the U.S. government in 2004 deemed to be genocide) and the recent referendum that resulted in the south splitting from the north (thus creating the new nation of South Sudan) have been spotlighted by the international media and various human rights campaigns, the crises in the Nuba Mountains have largely gone unnoticed. That must change, and now!


Samuel Totten

Samuel Totten is a genocide scholar based at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He served as one of the 24 investigators with the U.S. Atrocities Documentation Project in eastern Chad. His most recent book is An Oral and Documentary History of the Darfur Genocide (Praeger Security International, 2010). He was last in the Nuba Mountains in January 2011 conducting research for a new book.

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  1. Sam Totten’s warning here is incredibly important.  We could be seeing a new genocide in Sudan.  Perpetrators such as Al-Bashir learn their lessons well — when they are allowed to get away with one genocide, they treat genocide as a tool they are free to use.  We are seeing the result of the failure to stop the Darfur Genocide now in the Nuba Mountains.  People there have suffered enough, in the 1990s, but now Al-Bashir seems intent on finishing the job.  Armenians everywhere need to raise their voices — to the United Nations, to their elected representatives, to human rights organizations — to stop this genocidal butcher and his supporters.

  2. When all the civilized leaderships of the nations of the world persist in their ongoing “ignorance” of the crimes of Genocides… these criminals, never brought to face justice, continue the slaughtering, raping, torturing of humans.  

    Seems our civilized nations of our world has not become civilized – yet. 

    Nations, religions, even the average peoples of the world, and more, are incapable of facing the honesty, the morality, that humanity deserves.  Despots, unstopped, continue their Genocides… and why not?  Despots are the winners and the victims are the losers…  Morality, religions, honest leaders have all turned away from the saddest, vilest, most inhumane acts of humans against humans is allowed to continue.
    If, the first Genocide of the 20th century, the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation had been addressed as President Woodrow Wilson had been pursuing a Turkey shall have had to make all their reparations in full, then, to the Armenians, for all the  lands, properties, businesses, et al that the Turls stole from the Armenians they slaughtered, raped, tortured and worse…  Too, then, all the Genocides that followed shall never been – for despots shall have known that Genocides were not tolerated, allowed, exist – anywhere – on our planet earth.  Today, in the 21st century, since the Turks have yet to face justice, Genocides are still being pursued by Sudenese of the Darfurians still, and too the Turkish Genocide today, of the Kurds.  Despots have not the rights to slaughter and eliminate peoples cruelly.
    Where are the voices of the UN, the honest religions of the world, the honest leaderships of the civilized nations, the Int’l Genocide organizations…. and more, from the Halls of the Congress of the United States of America… Victims are the mercy of the cruelest mentalies… Morality needs
    to speak out and ‘eliminate’ the criminals – instead of the criminals ‘eliminating’ the victimS!!
    The shame of the cruelty to the victims is laid at the feet of all their leaderships and all peoples of the world who have not sought to bring to face justice the criminals who have committed Genocides – thus to end bring to justice ALL Genocides in past – still today…

  3. manooshag,
    I think it’s naive to assume that if the Armenian genocide was properly dealt with, treated as a crime and perpetrators brought to justice, that subsequent genocides would not have happened. There is no way to prove this. It’s an assumption. That said, I believe that the Holocaust would have happened regardless of 1915, because the Nazi leaders had it in them to carry out a genocide (or two, or three).

  4. Random, you miss the point… don’t you think Hitler, the Nazis, gained their ‘strengths’ having seen the elimination of the Armenians by the Turkish slaughters, rapes, vile tortures all accomplished by the barbaric Turks to eliminate the Armenians had been a ‘success’?  For, less than  one generation later, when Hitler initiated his terrors his reply when the elimination of the Armenian by the Turks was  mentioned to him brought his reply:  WHO TODAY REMEMBERS THE ARMENIANS?  (Historically, too, Germans had participated with their ally Turks efforts).
    Hitler then assumed since Turks had succeeded in stealing a whole nation for their misdirected goals – why should he not gain his goals too… eliminate Jews.  Fortunately, for the Jews the world eliminated a Hitler and his cohorts faced the justice of the world!  And Jews of the world were to receive/receiving their reparations …   Today, there is discrimination… so many Genocides, including the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians needs to be addressed and recognized fully by civilized nations (even joined by nations who suffered Genocide)!  Sadly, today Genocides continue…. ongoing/unending still today – the Darfurians, the Kurds.  WHY?
    When, Lemkin, a Jew, recognized that the Turkish hordes gained a nation that was ancient and advanced -READY MADE – for Turks to steal for themselves, claiming all the advances of the Armenian culture, in its entirety,  (as if all Armenian ancient history were belonging to the Turk). Lemkin then recognized that it required to be addressed, recognized, and labeled it GENOCIDES!
    That said, (as you said) I see that the Turkish elimination of a nation was a great impetus for the likes of a Hitler to assume that he should eliminate the Jews – for after all, since Turks had “gotten awaywith murders” the slaughters, rapes, tortures, walked/abused through the deserts until deaths, and too, all unburied bones, still today, unburied…  Hitler believed elimination of JEWS could be accomplished… for, he’d said at the time…. WHO TODAY REMEMBER THE ARMENIANS? True!
    Better still, who today cares that Genocides still exist on our planet TODAY!!.. ACTUALLY, when the first Genocide of the 20th century of the Armenians was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson efforts, was not addressed morally… by the ignorance of ALL the Allied nations of the time…Sadly, now we contend with their immoral and self-centered choices… then, ongoing! 
    Random, Germans did have their example… the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation!

  5. manooshag,
    I’m aware of the Hitler quote and Lemkin. But what you present is still speculation. Even without the Armenian genocide, I think the Nazi’s would have ended up doing the same thing. The motivation and the evil to commit genocide was there within them. The only thing about the Armenian genocide is that it might have encouraged them as insinuated by Hitler’s quote, but that’s all.
    Was Pol Pot thinking about how the Turks got away with it? Were the Hutu extremists thinking the same thing? I guarantee that the vast majority of the people involved in these genocides didn’t even know who the Armenians were.
    But recognizing the Armenian genocide is still critical in genocide prevention, now that more and more people are aware of 1915.
    Is there any more evidence other than the Hitler quote that the Nazis took encouragement from the Armenian genocide?

  6. Random, you call me ‘speculator’… which I resent.  I did say that the Germans had been with
    Turkeys “in all their efforts”..(against Armenians)!  What better resource/examples for Germans!
    In all my years, living without knowing my grandparents, their families, and fact that I could not account for any of my generations past… for when I, and all those of my family today would be asked to write in school about our forebears… None of us could go back beyond 1915!
    The lying Turks had eliminated the Armenian nation, all my people.  We had not any  photos, no memorials as hand me downs, none of us to have seen our church they attended, not to know more of their daily lives. their homes/villages, all this and more denied – to all Armenians – via the vile barbaric mentality of the Ottomans. -Yet, now, all their subsequent leaderships are in avid pursuit of eliminating, debasing, destroying all evidences/sites of the existence of Armenians on their own lands of nearly 4,000 years. THE IRONY: Turks claim all that was of the  Armenian – is of Turkish history – which Turks had not had until they stole the history of the Armenians!!
    Unashamedly, today,  Turks still honor their leaders who were the world knows to be the perpetrators of  Genocides – against the Armenians, Greeks, Asssyrians, and more –  destroying the Caucasus.  Whether called Genocides or not, the elimination of humans by humans can only be recognized as Turkish inhumanity to humans – Turks outstanding claim to fame as being the first perpetrator of Genocides of the 20th century – for Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation. Yet, continuing to lie to themselves, lying to the world, lying even to their own youth as they misdirect their education – Proof Positive evidences of the cruelty, dishonesty and inhumanity of Turks… whose actions in the past, and into today, still are as of the same hordes who came down from the mountains of Asia – seeking to steal a nation/its culture – choosing to claim it as being Turkish, historically. Stolen, not by wars, which they might have lost as they had before and during WWI… but by Genocides – easily eliminating the Armenian peoples whom they had unarmed, then, via slaughters, rapes, kidnappings, tortures and worse –  stole their land of Armenia.  Turks lie, insisting, Turks never committed any crime of Genocides… Turkey lies to the world,  to themselves – and to all the bodies that await, across the deserts…to be buried.

  7. Random Armenian,

    Do we completely eradicate crime by punishing criminals? Of course, not. It’s in human nature. But I am sure there will be significantly more crime if we let them go unpunished.

    I am totally with Manooshag on this. Obviously, Hitler was beeing warned about possible consequences when he uttered those words. Otherwise, why would he bring up Armenians?

    His remark shows very clearly that he expected to go unpunished. Specifically, nobody would remember Jews. Everything would be forgotten and forgiven. What better enouragement do you want for a potential criminal? I am sure he wouldv’e at least thought much harder before acting had the guilty of Armenian Genocide been punished. 


  8. Random, you might read a new book
    by Simon Baron-Cohen
    (which was reviewed in NYTimes June 7th)
    Cohen mentions Armenians…
    too, that the Nazis COPIED barbaric Turks

  9. manooshag

    You need not have gone into a lecture on the nature of the Armenian genocide. I understand it through my own family’s history. The issue is the claim that without the Armenian genocide the Holocaust would not have happened. I’m sorry you resented what I said but that claim is speculation. Unless there is evidence that I’m ignorant of, of how Nazis took inspiration and/or encouragement from the Turkish “experience”, I believe that is’s next to impossible to know if the Holocaust would not have happened. This however does not diminish the relevance of 1915 to understanding genocides one bit.

    I know that many German officers who served in the Ottoman army, and knew of our genocide also served under Hitler in WWII. And I have wondered myself what this meant in terms of the our genocide setting a precedent.

    Thanks for the book reference, I’ll check it out when I have time.


    Again, you’re expressing an speculation based on a single quote. It may seem obvious but you need more than just a single quote.

    Please see the following:

    I believe that Germany of WWI and WWII era would have led to the Holocaust without outside “inspiration”.

  10. Note that my link is to a Wikipedia article which are not scholarly works themselves. Here’s another article on the Herero atrocities comitted by Germans:


    What I’m trying to convey here is that the seeds of racism, barbarism and genocide were there in Germany and because of that, I believe, the Holocaust would have happened no matter what. Unless there is good hard evidence saying otherwise.

  11. Random Armenian,

    You insist that the Holocaust would’ve happened independently of the Armenian Genocide and how the executioners of it were dealt with. That is SPECULATION, too. If you think we can’t be sure it wouldn’t happen then you should accept that you can’t be sure it would happen. All your stories about human nature and how Hitler would’ve done what he did under any circumstances are pure specualtion. 

    And, lastly, what is the point that you are trying to make? Is it that bringing the guilty to justice serves no useful purpose?

    I am sorry but you sound like Ragnar when you demonstrate such pedantry.

  12. Gina,

    Yes, that’s correct, I’m speculating too. And that’s the point. One can’t be sure because we can’t rewind history, change a few things and press play to see what happens. Our understanding of history is only as good as the strength of the evidence.

    Who’s saying the guilty should not be brought to justice?!

    My reaction was to manooshag’s assertion that if the Armenian genocide was prosecuted properly “Too, then, all the Genocides that followed shall never been – for despots shall have known that Genocides were not tolerated, allowed, exist – anywhere – on our planet earth.” I thought that was a extraordinary statement to make and very speculative.

    In the case of the Holocaust, the guilty were brought to justice, the world was forced to agree to recognize and name a new crime of genocide (which they should have, but did not do, before WWII, if they had listened to Lemkin), reparations made, and denial frowned upon. And yet even after this, genocides continued to happen. People will try to get away with crime, no matter what the crime is and what the punishment is, when they are sufficiently motivated.

    And I am not like Ragnar!

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