Christians versus Muslims
Sudan, a vast and impoverished country, is Africa’s largest nation in land area, larger than France, Germany and Spain combined. It has been plagued by military coups and internal tribal, racial and religious strife since its early years as a nation in the 1950′s. Sudan has been accused of sponsoring and aiding groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Though Sudan provided safe haven to Usama bin Laden and al-Quaeda in the 1990s, a decade later it changed its position, working to cut its ties with these and similar internationally recognized religious-based terrorists and their organizations.
In one of Africa’s longest-running and deadliest religious-based conflicts, the Christians and Animists of the south continue to fight their war of insurgency against the Muslims of the north in Sudan. This incipient revolt, which is principally religious in nature, has been continuing unabated since its beginning in 1983, and has now reached a dangerous point. The United States has, for instance, been uncertain as to whether it should supply food and other support to the Christians. Other countries lean toward supporting the Muslim side.
This, however is not the only religious-based conflict in Sudan. In 1985, the Muslim regime of President Gaafar Nimeiri ordered the hanging of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, the respected sage of the Republican Brothers for the crime of heresy. The Republican Brothers are a small religious organization of a few thousand which has existed in Sudan for about 55 years.
In any event, through 2001, it has been estimated that 2 million people have lost their lives as a result of the religious-based conflict here. And, for those who have been luckier, their lives have been forever changed. For example, the United Nations learned that the Christian rebels in the south of Sudan had used at least 10,000 children between 8 and 18 years as frontline soldiers. Furthermore, at least 4 million others have been forced from their homes, forever losing them, as a result of this conflict.
In September, 2003 a purported peace agreement was signed at the Kenyan resort of Naivasha between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Sudan Government calling for gradual steps to peace, requiring at least two and a half years to implement. However, as with most peace processes, the closer the endgame draws, the more strident, obstructionist and legalistic the parties seem to become. And, in any event, even if this process is successful – and all hope it will be – the root problem which was the initial cause of the conflict, will not have been attacked or resolved, setting the stage for renewed conflict in the future.
By October, 2004 the 2003 peace agreement had still not taken hold. Sadly the conflict had even worsened. An October 15, 2004 a United Nations health agency report revealed that in the recent refugee tragedy in Darfur which had resulted from forced displacement from their homes, an additional 1.5 million villagers were in displacement camps without proper food, water or shelter, and more than 200,000 of them had fled across the border to neighboring Chad. The report further stated that the death toll in these refugee camps had reached 70,000, and that the people would continue to die from starvation and disease at the rate of 10,000 per month if more food and water was not quickly supplied.
We continue to closely watch this region.