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Sudan: Blatant aggression

Sudan | Sudan's African Muslims in Darfur are in the thick of genocide, but Christians in the South are not off the hook

Issue: "Iraq: Fallujah's fallen," Nov. 27, 2004

Sudan's African Muslims in Darfur are in the thick of genocide, but Christians in the South are not off the hook. The peace process brokered by the Bush administration has stalled, and government attacks on Christian villages continue.

The strikes are not on the scale they were two years ago, says Persecution Project President Brad Phillips. But they are still significant: In the South's Upper Nile region, the Shilluk have seen tens of thousands of their tribe displaced and thousands killed this year. Despite Khartoum's commitments to a ceasefire, "there continue to be hostilities against civilians," Mr. Phillips said. "As recently as the last few weeks people have been killed."

The Shilluk have been particular targets since leader Lam Akol defected last year to the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, the main southern rebel group. The U.S. Civilian Protection and Monitoring Team last month confirmed several attacks, while unverified reports roll in. One example: In July along the White Nile, Sudanese forces abducted 11 civilians and killed six, along with looting 32 head of cattle.

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"Certainly the Darfur situation has caught the world's attention, but what's happening in Darfur is the same tactics used against Christians in the last 21 years," Mr. Phillips said. Despite the breaches, he complains, the State Department continues to shape reports to Congress in Sudan's Islamic-led government's favor.

In the meantime, early November saw a downturn in security in the western Darfur region, where nearly two years of ethnic cleansing has riveted international attention. UN monitors report that government militias are forcing civilians out of displacement camps in South Darfur. The recent assaults were aimed at breeding more instability, says Omer Ismail, programs director of the Virginia-based nonprofit, Darfur Peace and Development.

"When the international community came in and the presence of aid workers improved, they didn't have much of an opportunity to do whatever they wanted in these camps," he said. But now the government wants control again and will "delay the return [of displaced Darfuris] and create another situation the international community has to stabilize."

In all, the conflict has killed at least 70,000 Darfuris since March and displaced some 2 million, many of whom now languish in squalid camps.

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