Sudan

Testimony of J. Millard Burr, Consultant, U.S. Committee for Refugees on The Crisis Against Humanity in Sudan

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Before the Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, U.S. House of Representatives
May 27, 1999

Introduction and Summary

Mr. Chairman. I am Millard Burr, a consultant to the U.S. Committee for Refugees. I appreciate your invitation to testify today regarding the "Crisis Against Humanity in Sudan."

At the U.S. Agency for International Development, I worked as logistics coordinator for the ongoing Sudan relief program beginning in late 1988. Once in Khartoum, my responsibilities were soon expanded following the creation in April 1990 of "Operation Lifeline Sudan," a humanitarian assistance program sponsored by the United Nations and the U.S. Government. That $120 million effort was a unique undertaking designed to deliver food aid in a neutral fashion while a particularly bloody civil war raged in Southern Sudan. In that year, Operation Lifeline Sudan generally succeeded in both design and performance.

With the continuation of the Operation Lifeline Sudan program, and the diminution of the food aid crisis in Southern Sudan, I left USAID and then retired from Government service.

In summer 1990, I began a collaboration with the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that regularly monitors and assesses the situations of refugees and displaced people around the world. In August 1990, USCR published my study, "Khartoum's Displaced Persons: A Decade of Despair." That report was, I believe, the first effort to evaluate the government's treatment of the Southern Sudanese who had fled to the North, especially to the capital region, to escape the civil war. By 1990, more than one million displaced persons somehow managed to survive there, despite the indifference, antipathy, "and finally the outright prejudice" of the capital's Arab and Muslim majority.

At this point it is important to note that the 1983 national census found that about one-quarter--or 4.9 million people--lived in Southern Sudan. Incredibly, seven years later, at least one in three southern Sudanese had been uprooted! Fleeing warfare, drought, and famine, most settled in the North, in Government army garrison towns in Southern Sudan, or in areas of the South controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army. In addition, a half million could be found in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.

For those who sought relief in Khartoum, life was hell. Still, the Southerners managed to survive despite the occasional and insidious Government forced relocations, or "kasha" campaigns, carried out against them. Their degradation, and their misfortunes in the period prior to the USCR publication of "Khartoum's Displaced Persons," seem almost insignificant when compared to what they would soon have to endure.

On June 30, 1989, the democratically elected Government of Sadiq al-Mahdi was overthrown by a military coup d'etat. A Revolutionary Command Council--led by Brigadier Omar al-Bashir and backed by Hassan al-Turabi and his fiercely Islamist and nationalistic National Islamic Front (NIF)--initiated a campaign in early 1990 to force displaced Southerners from the national capital region itself. One horrific pogrom, and such they were, followed another and continue even to this day. The government effort to reduce the presence of southerners in Khartoum has been the subject of numerous excellent reports issued by human rights and other nongovernmental organizations and needs no further elucidation at this time. Suffice to say, the Government continues its kasha campaigns. Most recently a report surfaced that the Government intends to bulldoze three Catholic schools that provide education to 3,000 southerners in the Hajj Yousif quarter of the capital area.

In 1993, I entered a new collaboration with USCR. At that time, I sought to quantify the number of deaths that could be directly traced to a decade of civil war. That result resulted in "A Working Document: Quantifying Genocide in the Southern Sudan, 1983-1993," published in October 1993. After sifting through hundreds of documents and thousands of news reports, and after collecting hundreds of data points, I concluded that during the decade, at least 1.3 million Southern Sudanese died as a result of war-related causes and government neglect.

I felt certain that the use of the term "genocide" to describe what was occurring in Sudan would lead to substantial debate, and the USCR study itself carried the following caveat:

The estimate of 1.3+ million deaths is hardly the last word on the subject, nor should it be. There are hundreds of Sudanese and expatriates who have worked in southern Sudan who may wish to provide more detail to this study or challenge its assessment, including the thesis that a series of Khartoum governments have carried out a policy of genocide vis-a-vis the Africans of southern Sudan. Such efforts are welcome.

In the "Overview" to the study I discussed, en passant, the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Because by training I am a political geographer and not an international lawyer, and because I have had years of experience working with State Department legal officers who rarely found a treaty they couldn't confound, I thought it best to touch lightly on the subject itself. Thus, the title is mine, and, if you will, the term is employed generically. Indeed, as I suspected, the legal ramifications of the term "genocide"--as used to describe what is occurring in Sudan--are debated even within the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Committee for Refugees.

Since the publication of the first working document, I have answered scores of inquiries and provided information on specific actions and activities that occurred during the 1983-1993 period. Ironically, there have been no efforts to engage me in debate concerning my use of the term "genocide" in the title of the study. Certainly, the Sudanese Government has not chosen to do so. Had I been so engaged, I would have argued that the title was an expression of my opinion, and that I welcomed any study that might attempt to refute my arguments.

Since 1993, I have collaborated with Dr. Robert O. Collins, a historian with a long acquaintance with the Sudan, in the publication of two books, Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought and Disaster Relief on the Nile (Westview Press, 1995), and Africa's Thirty Years' War: Chad, Libya and the Sudan, 1963-1993 (Westview Press, 1999). With the completion of the second book, I renewed my collaboration with the U.S. Committee for Refugees, in an effort to quantify the death and destruction suffered by southern Sudanese since the previous study.

"Working Document II: Quantifying Genocide in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, 1983-1998" was published by the USCR in December 1998. Once again, the study was based on a review of thousands of articles and studies. Rather than simply quantify incidents both by province and by year, three new elements were added to the new study. The first dealt with the purposeful Government aerial bombardment of civilian populations. (The campaign continues to this date, and there have been reports this month of Government planes bombing civilian centers in Bahr al-Ghazal.)

The second new element, a chapter titled "The Nuba Genocide," describes the degradation and massacre of Nuba Mountain tribes by Government forces. Pernicious Government-sponsored relocations schemes were reviewed. This chapter benefitted from the numerous recent studies by a number of human rights organizations of the Nuba carnage. Like the bombing campaign, noted above, the Government effort to extirpate the Nuba tribes from the agriculturally valuable Nuba Mountain region continues to this date.

The third new element in the updated study was a section titled "Genocide in Bahr al-Ghazal." It discussed the activity of Government forces and the Government's Arab militia (Murahileen) to depopulate the Kiir River region of northern Bahr al-Ghazal. It was once the most densely populated region in southern Sudan; today, it is a wasteland where humanitarian aid organizations struggle to meet the food needs of the greatly depleted Dinka population.

The study concluded that:

...approximately 600,000 additional people have perished in southern and central Sudan since 1993, raising the toll to an astounding 1.9 million deaths since the current phase of Sudan's civil war began in 1983.

To reiterate, the conclusions were my own, and the study itself notes that:

The research, methodology, and conclusions contained in this report are those of Millard Burr, working independently of USCR.

Those who wish to argue either with the title or the study's conclusion are free to do so. However, I would like to point out that Sadiq Nasr, Director General of the Sudanese Statistics Bureau, and the man responsible in 1993 for carrying out the first national census in a decade, was shocked to find that instead of the 26 to 30 million souls he had expected to find in Sudan, only 24.9 million were enumerated. In contrast to the 4.9 million Sudanese enumerated in southern Sudan in the 1983 census, only an estimated 3.9 million were found in 1993. In ten years, the southern population had dropped from 25 percent of the national total to 16 percent.

If the Khartoum Government continues along the path it has chosen, one can expect a further diminution in the year 2003.

Copyright 1999, USCR