Playing Humanitarian - Hypocrisy in Refugee Politics

How many times have I tried to put down these lines. And started over and over again? There is too much to write about Nuba people when you are blogging about human rights. You just can't tell the story in only 3000 characters. But finally, I managed to focus on one specific issue. More to come.

Ngato* is angry. Ngato is angry to witness this brutal hypocrisy. While playing humanitarian welcoming Syrian and Yemeni refugees – namely Muslim Arabs – the Al-Bashir regime in Sudan is butchering native African communities in Dar-Fur, Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains. People who identify as Africans, some Muslims, some Christians and others traditional Animists. They do not share the strict and patronising interpretation of Islam Al-Bashir wants to impose. They reject the idea of the Qur'an as being the sole constitution of the country. They stand up for their rights of self-determination and freedom of belief. They require a secular constitution with guarantees for ethnic and religious minorities. They are rebels.

A dictator of Al-Bashir's calibre cannot tolerate such opposition, the idea of equal rights or even the mere presence of people who do not fit into his agenda of arabizing and islamizing Sudan. He therefore sends his most criminal and despicable bandits, the Janjaweed, to exterminate – Muslim! - Darfurians. His bloodhounds not being able to penetrate Nuba Mountains, he opts to carpet bomb the region using Antonov planes. The victims are civilians, who see their schools, hospitals and villages destroyed. And in one of the most fertile regions of the country, people are starving as they cannot tend their fields without risking being killed. No NGO, no journalist is allowed to access the liberated areas. The UN have retreated long ago. This is twice useful, as relief does not enter and news are not leaving the region. The world is kept ignorant. Mostly.

Some among these people take up arms to fight, others are too weak or give up hope and flee. Darfurians find refuge in Chad. Blue Nile people in Ethiopia. Uganda, Kenyia, and even the war torn South Sudan are safer than staying as an undesirable under Al-Bashir's regime. Yida refugee camp in South Sudan alone has become home to about 70'000 people, mostly from Nuba Mountains.

When I wanted to visit Ngato's family, he said: “You will be fine, they don't want any diplomatic issues with Europe. But once you are gone, I cannot tell what will happen to me or to my family.” I decided not to go. When I asked him for pictures to compare medical facilities for refugees and those in the Nuba Mountains, he said it is too dangerous for people there to send any pictures out right now. How many times has he told me about some friend or cousin who had just disappeared. Probably arrested, tortured, killed by government forces, he explained. “I am not anti-system,” his profile picture states, “the system is anti-me!” And what seems a teenage rebel-ish declaration suddenly takes a much more serious dimension.

Facing how the Sudanese regime is causing tens of thousands to flee the country, can there anybody consider their welcoming of refugees as a humanitarian action? And I wonder, how do the refugees feel, once they find out how things are going in the country that offered them “a safe haven”?

*name has been changed for protection purposes


If you want to learn more:

Tomo Križnar's documentary about Nuba people's resistance against the army's war crimes: The Eyes and Ears of God (2012)

Nuba Reports: In a form of powerful non-violent resistance, local reporters document human rights violations against Nuba civilians in spite of the government's ban.

An insight about how it came to the current situation in Sudan: “Emma's war” by Deborah Scroggins, published in 2003 (Review in the Guardian)

Samuel Totten's documentation of attrocities committed by the Sudanese regime against Nuba civilans: Genocide by Attrition, 2012

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