Amid its ongoing bombing campaign in the Nuba Mountains area,
the government of Sudan has enacted a new ethnic cleansing strategy denying
citizenship to anyone deemed a “southerner.” The determination is based purely
on ethnicity, rather than any of the traditional criteria for citizenship, such
as residency or property rights. Khartoum has set April 8
as the deadline for “southerners” to leave or establish alien residency, though
no residency terms have yet been established.
In the southern self-determination referendum, Sudan’s president warned over a year ago that he would purge the North of non-Arab and non-Islamic
elements. He told the British newspaper The
Guardian, “If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution, and at
that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity.
… Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the
official religion and Arabic the official language.”
According to the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), about 700,000 ethnic “southerners” remain in Sudan after more
than 2 million people fled to the newly established nation of South Sudan. Most
of those who will be affected by the policy were born in northern Sudan and
have never lived in the south.
In addition, those who wish to leave have no means of
transportation. According to the IOM, a massive deportation program is
impossible — the Sudanese capital has refused to provide transportation
services, and the roads will become impassible after the rainy season begins in
a little over a month.
Sarnata Reynolds of Refugees International called the Sudanese
government’s plan intolerable. “First, the individuals targeted by this plan
have a legitimate claim to Sudanese citizenship, since most have lived in Sudan
their entire lives, and there is currently no way for them to apply for South
Sudanese citizenship,” Reynolds said. “Second, forcing men, women and children
into deportation camps and shipping them off to a country that many have never
seen would be a legal and moral disaster.”
The government knows that forcing hundreds of thousands of
“southerners” to move to South Sudan will exacerbate humanitarian crises on
both sides of the border. Those forced into South Sudan will have few resources
to enable their return to an agricultural lifestyle; South Sudan already struggles
to feed its own population.
Khartoum’s current actions are a window into a government built
on religious zealotry. The climate for followers of Christianity has deteriorated
since succession by the South. There has been a marked increase in threats and
attacks against churches, priests and Christians of all denominations. Those
perceived as Christians, or “southerners,” are often forcibly conscripted into
renegade militias operating in South Sudan with Khartoum’s backing. Sudan’s
leading political party is also rumored to be contemplating a name change — to Hizbollah
(Party of God).
Reeves in the Sudan Tribune
Posted: March 14, 2012
Updated: March 15, 2012