Sudan: Christians' Future Bleak as War Looms

By: Elizabeth Kendal

In July 2002, with a very powerful and angry post-9/11 USA breathing down its neck, Sudan's ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) somewhat reluctantly signed the historic Machakos Protocol, putting Sudan on the path towards a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 021 | Wed 09 Sep 2009

SUDAN: CHRISTIANS' FUTURE BLEAK AS WAR LOOMS

In July 2002, with a very powerful and angry post-9/11 USA breathing down its neck, Sudan's ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) somewhat reluctantly signed the historic Machakos Protocol, putting Sudan on the path towards a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The regime's Islamic backers were strongly opposed to peace on anyone's terms other than their own -- and they were demanding the full Islamisation of all of Sudan. The 31 Dec 2004 signing of the CPA was extremely important because Khartoum had been investing its new found oil wealth on logistical development. Elevated dual-purpose roads together with sophisticated weaponry and security -- mostly Chinese -- were means for a military victory. The CPA provided hope for the predominantly Christian African Southerners who had spent decades fighting Arabisation and Islamisation.

The CPA gives the Southerners a 2011 referendum on secession, which was essential to bring them to the negotiation table. However, it was always known that the North would never just let the South secede as most of Sudan's oil reserves are in the south. This was one reason why Southern leader Dr John Garang advocated a united, equitable, secular and democratic 'New Sudan' -- something to benefit all Sudanese. Garang planned to unite the opposition and win the CPA-mandated national elections in mid-2009. Then (theoretically), Sudan's new, more representative government could work at making unity more attractive than secession, averting war.

But the elections, now postponed until April 2010, have been irretrievably compromised. The most important element of the process is the national census, as the census results will determine the proportional representation in the national assembly. But the census was shamelessly rigged and its results have been clearly revealed as fraudulent. The regime's aim is to secure (albeit fraudulently) an absolute majority in the new assembly so they can re-write the terms of the CPA and scuttle the Southern Self-Determination Referendum (SSDR). With the elections ruined and the SSDR under threat, Southern leader Pagan Amum has warned that the South might be forced to declare independence unilaterally, something the Islamist-regime in Khartoum has described as a 'red-line'. There is much concern that Sudan is heading towards a war that would lead to disintegration, chaos and a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented scale.

Meanwhile, Khartoum is believed to be behind the massive escalation of violence in the south. Some 2000 people have died and over 250,000 displaced across southern Sudan since January -- more than in Darfur! Moreover, the belligerents are using sophisticated, high-powered weapons and are targeting women and children, developments that are unprecedented in inter-tribal violence. Notoriously, the Arab-Islamist regime in Khartoum is earning massive funds exporting agricultural produce to Arab states while most non-Arab Sudanese are starving and dependent on foreign aid.

Our Christian brethren whom we prayed for through years of Islamic jihad and a tortured peace process are facing a seriously bleak future as war looms. Last week, Christians in Western Equatoria, South Sudan, held three days of prayer and fasting for an end to LRA terror (see RPLB 019). Hundreds of believers took part in a 20km walk for peace led by Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussula of the Catholic diocese of Tombura-Yambio and Bishop Peter Munde of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.