Sudan and South Sudan: Commemorating Genocide

20 April 2021

The Darfur genocide (2003-2008) is often referred to as the first genocide of the 21st century. The UN estimates that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. The Government and government-funded militia group, the Janjaweed, conducted widespread ethnic cleansing, sexual violence and ‘scorched-earth’ campaigns which saw hundreds of villages burnt to the ground and vital infrastructures such as water sources and crops destroyed.

Twenty years earlier, these same tactics were used against the inhabitants of the Two Areas (Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states) throughout the successive Sudanese Civil Wars. Beginning in the 1980s, the Khartoum Government launched an eradication campaign against the Nuba people, pitting northern Arabs against Africans in the South. Nuba leaders were widely executed, surviving civilians were herded into government-controlled refugee camps and villages were burnt to the ground to prevent people returning to their ancestral lands. The aim? To see a racially pure Arab Islamist state throughout Sudan secured through ethnic cleansing Sudan’s traditional peoples.

Fast forward to 2020 and genocidal acts were still visible across the region. During a partner visit to a new project site, Abyei- a historically persecuted region, the HART team witnessed genocide first-hand. Situated along the Sudan-South Sudan border, the people of Abyei (who identify as South Sudanese) suffer greatly from a political failure to reach an agreement about Abyei’s official location. This failure means the region is deprived of aid as the Khartoum Government refuses to allow aid from South Sudan, which might imply it is part of South Sudan, whilst not providing aid itself in an attempt to drive the indigenous Dinka people away, re-inhabit with their own people and claim the oil.

Just after 7am on the morning of 22nd January 2020, nomadic Islamist Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked the Christian Dinka village of Kolom, Abyei. Arriving on motorbikes, armed with assault rifles and two RPG-7s, the herders killed 32 villagers, injured 24 people and abducted 15 children. They burnt 22 homes, the local church and clinic. When the HART team arrived just after 9am, many homes were still burning with burnt bodies inside. Mass graves were being dug.

Survivors told us that Arab militias are supported by the military regime in Khartoum, which reportedly provides arms to the Misseriya tribe in an attempt to drive the indigenous Dinka people off their land – a tension that is exacerbated by the presence of oil in the region. A survivor told us, “There have been other similar attacks but this massacre was on a far greater scale. It is horrific. We are heartbroken. They burn our homes to occupy our land.”

HART continues to support the massacre survivors with emergency relief. If you wish to support this cause, please click here and quote ‘Abyei relief’.


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