To Whom It May Concern,
More than sixty genocide scholars are calling on the Obama Administration to airlift aid to thousands of Sudanese facing starvation in the embattled Nuba Mountains. The experts believe the Sudanese regime is deliberately targeting the minority Nuba people, and they warn that as many as 300,000 internal refugees face imminent starvation.
In their letter to President Obama and other U.S. officials, the scholars cite multiple reports from reputable human rights groups, journalists and U.N. agencies, describing the killing of civilians by Sudanese armed forces. They warn that the regime’s racist ideology is driving it to annihilate ethnic groups it suspects of supporting rebel militia, regardless of the civilians’ true affiliations.
Satellite imagery has revealed mass graves, razed communities, and the indiscriminate low altitude aerial bombardment of civilian areas in South Kordofan state. Reliable eyewitnesses continue to report systematic government shelling and bombing of refugee evacuation routes, with helicopter gunships hunting civilians as they flee their homes and farmland to hide in caves, and a deliberate and widespread blockage of humanitarian aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Anecdotal evidence of perpetrators screaming racist slurs as civilians are killed and raped are familiar to anyone who knows what has been happening in Darfur since 2003.
Almost 200,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled across the border into South Sudan to escape the violence which began 15 months ago. Humanitarian agencies warn they face starvation and disease in squalid and overcrowded camps, cut off by seasonal rains.
However, hundreds of thousands remain trapped in Sudan, sheltering in caves and living on grass and insects. The Sudanese government, based in Khartoum, refuses to allow aid groups access to those at risk. An African Union-brokered deal, signed at the beginning of August, may eventually allow the delivery of aid, but observers fear Khartoum will place conditions on access, determining where food goes. Naturally, the regime denies there is any humanitarian emergency in the region.
In their letter the scholars point out that the Sudanese government, led by indicted war criminal Omar Bashir, used the same tactics against the ethnic minority Nuba people in the 1990s. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in its southern states led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. However, Khartoum has violated the terms of the deal by refusing to allow the people in the contested Sudanese border states of Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Abyei to have a say in their future. Many in the region identify more with ethnic groups in South Sudan. Consequently, rebels in the SPLM-North have gained ground in the area, long marginalized both economically and politically by Khartoum.
The genocide scholars fear the Sudanese regime will continue to block or interfere with humanitarian access because it believes food aid will bolster the rebels. They call on the U.S. to act under the power given to it as one of the three guarantors of the CPA.
“We strongly urge you to act now to stave off the starvation of an entire people,” the scholars said in an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and Advisor to the President and Director of the Atrocities Prevention Board Samantha Power.
“As world leaders you have the moral authority granted by the U.N.’s unanimous 2005 declaration of the Responsibility to Protect to demand delivery of aid to those inside Sudan,” the letter continues.
The scholars go on to warn that Khartoum will continue to kill its own people, “if once again the United States declines to use the economic and diplomatic leverage to enforce the delivery of aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states under internationally acceptable terms.”
While human rights groups and aid agencies have been pressing the Obama administration to act for more than a year, this is the first time experts from ten countries have called on the U.S. president to intervene.
But will he? If it chose to, the U.S. could apply ‘soft power’ pressure to the regime in the form of targeted economic sanctions against the architects of the Darfur genocide, measures already approved by the U.N. Security Council but never implemented. The White House could also offer incentives in the form of access to much needed financial support from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The U.S. could also remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terror, in exchange for the cessation of violence against ethnic minorities in Darfur and the contested border areas.
However, the White House has consistently underestimated its potential leverage, fearing President Bashir will jeopardize fledgling South Sudan’s independence to an even greater extent. Obama is also under pressure from U.S. security and intelligence agencies to appease Khartoum in the unlikely event that Sudan’s avowedly Islamist leaders will pass on information about its ideological bedfellows in al Qaeda. Given that Bashir counts Iran, Hamas and Hizbollah as his closest friends, it is doubtful he would hand any useful intelligence to Washington. Yet, hope continues to triumph over experience and common sense. And the civilians hiding in caves in the Nuba Mountains continue to pay the price.
September 5, 2012
To: President Barack Obama
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power.
From: The Undersigned Genocide Scholars
Subject: Humanitarian Catastrophe in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States of Sudan
Dear President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador Rice and Special Assistant Power:
On June 6, 2011, the Sudanese regime, led by indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, unleashed a wave of targeted ethnic killings against the people of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan state, Sudan. Since then this state-sponsored violence has spread to engulf much of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
The continuing multiple atrocities amount to at least crimes against humanity. This, in and of itself, is alarming. According to the tenets of the Responsibility to Protect now is the time to protect the targeted population.
Satellite imagery has revealed mass graves, razed communities, and the indiscriminate low altitude aerial bombardment of civilian areas in South Kordofan state. Reliable eyewitnesses continue to report systematic government shelling and bombing of refugee evacuation routes, helicopter gunships hunting civilians as they flee their homes and farmland to hide in caves, and a deliberate and widespread blockage of humanitarian aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Anecdotal evidence of perpetrators screaming racist slurs as civilians are killed and raped are familiar to anyone who knows what has been happening in Darfur since 2003.
Sufficient evidence exists for us to believe the Sudanese regime is attempting to annihilate those whom the government suspects of supporting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North’s (SPLM-N) aims. Hence many local people are automatically targeted regardless of their true political affiliations.
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese remain trapped in South Kordofan, the victims of forced starvation, unable to farm their land. This critical situation largely mirrors what the same regime perpetrated in the 1990s, a case of genocide by attrition.
Meanwhile in Blue Nile state, a scorched earth campaign by government forces has forced the SPLM-N to retreat, leaving tens of thousands with no protection from the perpetrators.
As genocide scholars we have a solemn responsibility to educate the public about the horrors of the past in the hope of creating a future free of such crimes. We are the keepers of the chapters of human history that are difficult to confront, casting a dark shadow on all of humanity. We study the past to find ways to prevent such egregious actions in the future. We exist to remind the world of humanity’s capacity to commit genocide anywhere and against any group of people.
It is because of that responsibility that we write to you. We call on you to fulfill your responsibilities as global leaders when it comes to confronting mankind’s most terrifying of crimes.
Although we welcome your efforts to aid the refugees who have found their way to camps in South Sudan, we must point out that as world leaders you have the moral authority granted by the UN’s unanimous 2005 declaration of the Responsibility to Protect to demand delivery of aid to those inside Sudan. As guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed that same year, moreover, you have not fulfilled your legal and moral obligation to sanction violators of that agreement.
The Sudanese regime continues to slaughter its own civilians, while denying them access to aid and in defiance of various international treaties and conventions it has signed, not to mention the Sudanese constitution.
The Tripartite Agreement signed on 4 August 2012 in Addis Ababa, called upon the Government of Sudan to allow humanitarian access to all areas of the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile state dependent on certain conditions. Yet the Bashir regime’s track record leads us to fear it will interfere with aid delivery to those in most need. Seasonal inaccessibility also requires extraordinary and timely arrangements, such as airdrops. Hence we beseech you to take the following steps immediately to ensure aid is delivered to South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
• Establish a land and air humanitarian corridor through which aid can be delivered without interference or hindrance from Sudanese security, military or other forces or proxies.
• Secure arrangements with the SPLM-N for the airlifting of these supplies directly into territory in their control.
• Inform relevant Sudanese officials that, due to the urgency of the catastrophe created by their actions, the United States will deliver relief directly into the war-affected areas underneath SPLM-N control.
• Invite relevant Sudanese officials to observe the cargo to be delivered so they can verify the contents.
• Use the most effective means possible, including airlifts, to get supplies into affected areas in SPLM-N control.
• Keep armed escort planes on standby for the protection of aid delivery planes if necessary.
It is therefore unwise to respond to the Khartoum regime’s various crimes with appeasement. By allowing the NCP to behave with impunity, the U.S. and the rest of the international community signals a weakness that only emboldens those who would flout its own international agreements.
Furthermore, it is unwise to assume, as the international community does, that Khartoum intends the best for its citizens. Therefore we call on your administration to end Khartoum’s effective blockade of aid to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The regime will continue to kill their own people if once again the United States declines to use the economic and diplomatic leverage at its disposal to enforce the delivery of aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile states under internationally acceptable terms.
We strongly urge you to act now to stave off the starvation of an entire people. Nothing would speak louder to the United States’ concern for the protection of international human rights than an immediate operation to deliver aid to the Nuba Mountains people while they are still alive and able to be helped.
If your administration chooses to stand with the victims of Sudan’s continuing campaign of ethnic cleansing, then history will accord you respect and honor. If you do not stand with the victims, history will be much harsher.
We very much look forward to hearing from each of you in regard to our letter and the suggestions therein.
In solidarity with the victims, and with respect,
Dr. Samuel Totten
Professor Emeritus, and author of Genocide by Attrition: Nuba Mountains, Sudan (2012)
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Dr. John Hubbel Weiss
Associate Professor, History
Mr. David Kilgour, J.D.
Former Canadian Secretary of State for Africa
Dr. Israel W. Charny (dual citizenship, U.S. & Israel)
Director, Genocide Prevention Network and Past President of the International Association of Genocide Studies, and Chief Editor, Encyclopedia of Genocide
Dr. Helen Fein
Chair of the Board, Institute for the Study of Genocide, and author of Human Rights and Wrongs: Slavery, Terror and Genocide
New York, NY
Dr. Roger Smith
Professor Emeritus and Past President of the International Association of Genocide Studies, and editor of Genocide: Essays Toward Understanding, Early Warning Prevention
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Dr. John Hagan
MacArthur Professor, and Co-Director, Center on Law & Globalizations, American Bar Foundation Co-author of Darfur and the Crime of Genocide (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Author of After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide.
Dr. Ben Kiernan
Whitney Griswold Professor of History and Director of Genocide Studies Program (Yale University
Author of Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur
New Haven, CT
Dr. Herb Hirsch
Professor, Department of Political Science and Co-Editor of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal and author of Anti-Genocide: Building An American Movement to Prevent Genocide (Praeger, 2002)
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Dr. Hannibal Travis
Associate Professor of Law and author of Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq and Sudan (2010)
Florida International University College of Law
Professor Linda Melvern
Department of International Politics, and author of A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide
University of Aberystwyth, Wales
Dr. Henry Theriault
Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, and Co-Editor of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
Worcester State University, MA
Dr. Eric Weitz
Dean of Humanities and the Arts, and author of A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation
City College, City University of New York
New York, NY
Dr. Gregory Stanton
President, Genocide Watch
Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Dr. Rouben Adalian
Director, Armenian National Institute
Dr. Susanne Jonas
Professor (retired), Latin American & Latino Studies, and author of The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads and U.S. Power
University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. Robert Skloot
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Nicolas A. Robins
Co-editor, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, and author of Genocide by the Oppressed: Subaltern Genocide in Theory and Practice
Raleigh, North Carolina
Dr. John D. Ciorciari
Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Dr. George Kent
Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Hawaii, Honolulu
Dr. Elisa Von Joeden-Forgey
Visiting Scholar, Department of History
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Peter Balakian
Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor in Humanities, and author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
Dr. Ernesto Verdeja
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies
University of Notre Dame
Mr. Stephen D. Smith
Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation, and Adjunct Professor of Religion
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, California
Dr. Paul Slovic
Professor, Department of Psychology
University of Oregon, Eugene
Dr. Jason Ross Arnold
Assistant Professor of Political Science
L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Dr. Jason K. Levy, Associate Professor, Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and Director, National Ho9meland Security Project, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Dr. Amanda Grzyb (Dual Citizen, U.S. and Canada)
Assistant Professor, Information and Media Studies, and editor of The World and Darfur: International Response to Crimes Against Humanity in Western Sudan
University of Western Ontario (Canada)
Dr. Alan L. Berger
Reddock Family Eminent Scholar in Holocaust Studies, and Director, Center for the Study of Values and Violence After Auschwitz
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
Dr. Douglas H. Johnson
International Expert, Abyei Boundaries Commission, 2005
Author of The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars
Haverford, PA and Oxford, UK
Dr. Gagik Aroutiunian
Associate Professor, Department of Art, Media & Design
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Dr. Gerry Caplan
Independent Scholar and Author of Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Dr. Dominik J. Schaller
Lecturer, History Department, and author of The Origins of Genocide: Raphael Lemkin as a Historian of Mass Violence
Ruprecht-Karls-Univeristy, Heidelberg, Germany
Dr. Philip J. Spencer
Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence
Dr. Maureen S. Hiebert
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
University of Calgary (Canada)
Dr. Eric Reeves
Professor, and author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical moments in the Darfur Genocide
Smith College, Northhampton, MA
Dr. Robert Hitchcock
Professor, Department of Geography, and co-editor of Genocide of Indigenous Peoples
Michigan State University, Lansing
Dr. James Waller
Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, author of Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing
Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire
Dr. Rubina Peroomian
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Colin Tatz
Visiting Fellow, Political and International Relations, and author of With Intent to Destroy: Reflecting on Genocide
Australian National University, Canberra
Dr. Kjell Anderson
The Hague Institute for Global Justice
The Hague, The Netherlands
Dr. Adam Jones
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, and author of Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction
University of British Columbia
Dr. Elihu D. Richter, MD MPH
Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention and Hebrew-University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Danish Institute for the Study Abroad, Copenhagen, Denmark
José Carlos Moreira da Silva Filho
Professor, Criminal Law Post Graduate Department
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Port Alegra RS – Brazil
Co-Founder, The Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
Dr. Uriel Levy
Director, Combat Genocide Association
Dr. Penny Green
International State Crime Initiative
Kings College, London
Dr. Tony Ward
Professor of Law
University of Hull, UK
Ms. Amy Fagin
International Association of Genocide Scholars
New Salem, MA
Dr. Ann Weiss
Director, Eyes from the Ashes Educational Foundation, and author of The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Bryn Mawr, PA
Dr. Rick Halperin
Director, Embrey Human Rights Program
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX
Mr. Geoff Hill
Bureau Chief, The Washington Times,
Johannesburg, South Africa