The `Silent Killing Fields'

The tragedy in Sudan has been invisible to the eyes of the world

IN Sudan, more people have died than in Bosnia and Somalia combined, yet the media have barely noticed. For the last several years the Bashir government has been committing genocide in southern Sudan.

The facts are known, even if not widely reported. In the absence of television coverage, here are some verbal pictures that span a five-year period of tragedy in Sudan:

* From a cable sent to the United States State Department by an officer of the mission in Addis Ababa, April 4, 1988: "All [arrivals] were naked through rags around the waist; all had the dull concentration camp stare of the starving.... After visiting [an inpatient medical] unit. UN Representative Priestly said it was the worst sight he had seen in 37 1/2 years of UN service.... [The patients] compared poorly with pictures of Nazi concentration camp victims and were as bad or worse as anything seen in E thiopia during the 1984-86 famine."

* From a radio message sent by Paride Taban, Roman Catholic bishop of Torit, to a relief-aid organization in Khartoum, Sept. 28, 1988: "This war in the South has become a fratricidal war. We can only compare it to the atomic bomb dropped on Japan, or the Vietnam war. Both sides claim to be defending the life and rights of the civilians, but we see the very civilians they fight for are the victims. Where will our people run to? For wherever they run in the South, their imminent death is waiting for them. Their only chance remains to run to God."

* From remarks by head of state Lt. Gen. Omer Hassan al-Bashir at a public rally in Khartoum, Dec. 3, 1989: "I vow here before you to purge from our ranks the renegades, the hirelings, the enemies of the people and enemies of the armed forces.... Anyone who betrays this nation does not deserve the honor of living.... There will be no fifth column. The masses have to purge their ranks.... The responsibility is really a collective one. You have authority, and are its enforcers."

* From "Sudan, a Human Rights Disaster: An Africa Watch Report," March 1990: "The Sudanese government has already surpassed its predecessors in its ruthless methods.... Christians and Muslims, northerners and southerners, even brothers from the same family are to be found fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. It is a civil war that has had devastating consequences for the civil society that will remain even when the war is over.... The current war has been characterized by gross violations of human

rights on a scale that is so substantial, it is difficult to convey the true magnitude of the tragedy that is tearing Sudan apart."

* From the testimony of Roger P. Winter, director, US Committee for Refugees, before two House of Representatives hearings on African affairs, March 15, 1990, and Oct. 25, 1990: "With the rains already beginning in Equatoria, there are no buffer stocks of food in any of the areas I visited.... I consistently examined storage areas in each of the towns I entered. Nothing!... I could routinely see old women forty feet up in the tops of trees, picking leaves to eat.... I must tell you in all sincerity that I am scared. In Sudan today, we are confronting the possibility of preventable human death on a massive scale.... I believe the United States needs to fundamentally reconsider its posture regarding Sudan.... Our policy needs to be people friendly, not government friendly...."

* From a UN General Assembly resolution on the Sudan, Dec. 2, 1992: "The General Assembly ... noting with deep concern reports of grave human rights violations in the Sudan, particularly summary executions, detentions without trial, forced displacement of persons and torture ... calls on the government of the Sudan to comply with applicable international instruments of human rights."

* From a letter to Pope John Paul II from Philip Thon Leek, director of the Friends of African Children Educational Foundation, Feb. 6, 1993: "Your Holiness ... over 1.5 million lives have already been lost and at least 4 million people from the Southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains have been internally displaced and over one million are refugees. Certainly more people will continue to die of starvation, diseases, and the government policy of ethnic cleansing conducted by the Muslim Fundamentalist forces ...."

* From a statement by US representative Frank R. Wolf, Feb. 14, 1993: "The Khartoum government conducted high altitude bombing on [Kajo Keji] when there was no military presence. I saw bomb craters where they hit huts and destroyed the market place.... Our government must work for relief from the Khartoum government. Pressure must be put on them to stop the bombing and stop the killing.... Failure to act soon will surely result in still more tragic loss of life and possibly the loss of an entire culture. "

* From the testimony of Judy Mayotte, The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Refugees International, May 4, 1993: "Southern Sudan is a silent killing fields. Yet, the international community closes its eyes to the carnage and unconscionable violation of human rights.... Sudan is Bosnia. Sudan is Somalia."

* From Situation Report No. 5, Agency for International Development (AID), May 26, 1993: ` "the Nuer people drag the bodies of those who starve to death out beyond the village for the vultures to pick over and the hyenas to drag away. In the therapeutic feeding center, ward after ward of near death children - literally black skins over white skeletons - lay motionless.' One of the CDC team members reportedly feared that the trauma of weighing and measuring the children would kill some of them. The only s ource of water is a contaminated, stagnant pool that is shared by the people and the few remaining cattle. Malaria, severe diarrhea, scabies, and guinea worms are widespread."

For six years the people of Sudan have been waiting and dying. For six years the US and the rest of the world have failed to respond. Almost 2 million people have died already.

How many more will perish before the world acts?

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