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A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders
The Rt. Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, a Nuban community leader who goes by Bishop Andudu, serves as the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, the capital of the conflict-torn region of South Kordofan, Sudan. He also chairs an interfaith advocacy committee for Sudan. He came to the United States in May 2011 for medical care, just a few weeks before Kadugli's All Saints Cathedral, along with his home and the rest of his church complex, were ransacked and looted in June by armed men calling his name. He later learned that his name had been placed on a death list, and he has been granted asylum in the United States.
Bishop Andudu continues to receive reports from his parishioners on the ground, and the Satellite Sentinel Project has documented evidence of apparent mass graves at eight sites in and around Kadugli. Journalist Frederick Clarkson of Religion Dispatches writes: “If Anglican Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of Kadugli, Sudan had not been in Denver receiving medical treatment in early June, he might be in a mass grave now. He certainly thinks so.”
When George Clooney and Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast returned from their recent visit to Sudan and South Sudan, Bishop Andudu appeared with them at a March 13 Council on Foreign Relations event, along with Omer Ismail, a Sudanese activist on Darfur and Senior Advisor to the Enough Project. Bishop Andudu and Ismail also marched with Clooney and Prendergast to a peaceful demonstration at the Sudanese embassy in D.C. on March 16.
Bishop Andudu recently responded to questions on Clooney's capacity to focus the attention of worldwide media and senior policymakers in Washington, D.C., on the plight of the Nuba people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile who face a campaign of indiscriminate bombardment and starvation by the Sudanese government.
Why did the Nuba people invite George Clooney and John Prendergast to a conflict zone in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Sudan?
ANDUDU: Because our people are silently dying every day with indiscriminate bombardment and starvation and the world doesn’t know. Because the government of Sudan restricts and tries to prevent journalists or any kind of media to cover the situation. Therefore, the visit of George Clooney and John Prendergast is very important to us as Nuba people to bring to the world the real suffering and devastating situation that the media does not cover.
During their trip, Clooney wrote and directed a 4-minute video that documents a rocket attack targeting a civilian area and eyewitness reports of indiscriminate bombardment by the government of Sudan. What is your opinion of the video?
ANDUDU: The video is true. It reflects the real situation of what Nuba people are going through, the government of Sudan killing its own people. And it is not only in Nuba Mountains, but we have seen similar actions of war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Darfur and in the border regions of Abyei and Blue Nile, committed by the same government. Sudanese President al-Bashir and Sudanese Defense Minister Abdul Raheem Mohammed Hussein are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), along with the Governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, for war crimes including genocide in Darfur. The ICC warrant action is not out of nothing or baseless but based on many pieces of evidence. And the video is portraying part of such evidence of war crimes continuing today, along with reports from eye witnesses.
Some critics say the video simplifies a complex conflict that goes back decades, shows an unnecessarily graphic image of a young boy who lost both hands due to bombardment, and falsely portrays the conflict as one primarily driven by ethnic tensions. As a Nuba leader and an Anglican bishop who has chaired an interfaith committee for South Kordofan, what is your view?
ANDUDU: The question for those who criticize is, ‘Have you been to the Nuba Mountains and the other conflict areas?’ I am sure if they were there, then they would stand with George Clooney and John Prendergast against the violations of human rights in the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, and other border areas. Moreover, since I chair the Episcopal Interfaith Committee for South Kordofan and for all Sudan, I can affirm that the Nuba Mountains is a place where the Muslims and Christians generally are living and working together peacefully. However, the people who are being killed by the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains are mostly black Africans—both Christians and Muslims and animists. The Sudanese government sent a fighter jet that fired rockets at the mosque in the Nuba Mountains town of Kauda and other many churches were bombed by the government of Sudan. So it is fair to say that in the perspective of Nuba people, this current war has taken the form of targeting people based on ethnicity.
Generally, how do Muslims and Christians in the Nuba Mountains get along?
ANDUDU: Muslims and Christians are getting on well. In 2005, as chairman of the interfaith committee, I organized a conference attended by 160 participant Christians, Muslims, and practitioners of traditional African beliefs. The government of South Kordofan participated in the person of the Governor of the State, and the conference came out with very good resolutions which all participants passed on to the people in cities and villages. The main resolution was to respect and live together peacefully. Christians and Muslims visit each other in religious celebrations such as Christmas and Eid of Ramadan. We are all created the same and have existed since creation on the same land, so it is best to live together. Muslim and Christian families inter-marry here. And if the government of Sudan did not interfere, then we would be at peace today.
What else would you like for people to know about the daily struggles of the Nuba people and what should be done to bring a durable peace to the region?
ANDUDU: People in Nuba Mountains, they live in fear of the indiscriminate bombardment, especially children and women. Home are not safe places to stay. They abandoned their houses, living in the caves in the mountains. And even in the caves, they face the dangers of the snakes, mosquitoes and other wild animals, and the challenge of lack of water in the mountains, and starvation. People cannot farm in rainy season because of bombardment. And the government of Sudan closed roads that are going to the major cities, so nowhere to buy food or crops. There is no salt and soap and other basic items needed for living, and humanitarian organizations are blockaded by the government from giving aid to the people.
To bring peace to the region, negotiation is the best way. To achieve peace, there must be a ceasefire from all parties in all regions in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile.
If we don’t know the problem, we cannot solve it. To begin to identify the problems and causes of the conflict, ask the simple questions:
- Why is South Sudan separated from Sudan?
- Why is the ICC after the President of Sudan, the Sudanese Defense Minister, and the Governor of South Kordofan?
- Who is involved in the wars and conflicts in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile?
Therefore, the big part of the problem, it lies with the government of Sudan. And therefore, the government of Sudan has to show real will for ending the conflicts and also for honoring promises and commitments. Yet as we have experienced time after time, the Sudanese government breaks and violates the agreements. So we come to the point where we don’t know yes from no of the government of Sudan.
I believe that all parties have roles to play in creating a durable peace. But unless the government of Sudan is committed to solve the problem, we cannot continue to be slaughtered and women and young girls to be continually raped. As a last option, the marginalized people of Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile should be given their self determination.
Photo: Bishop Andudu and George Clooney at the protest in Washington, D.C., on March 16 (Enough / Robert Padavick)