The Forgotten War in Sudan

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by Elizabeth Dias,

from TIME Magazine,

The world has moved on, but the suffering continues.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti wanted to talk about Jesus, not the mounting allegations that his country’s military forces have committed war crimes.

But Karti’s presence, at a time when he is lobbying to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, nonetheless made many uncomfortable. Senator Bob Casey Jr., a congressional co-chair of the Breakfast, objected to Karti’s invitation to a meeting the Fellowship had scheduled with Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats during Karti’s visit. Over the past three decades, Sudan’s government has been implicated in what Congress has termed two genocides, one in the nation’s south that cost as many as 2 million lives, in part from famine, and one in the nation’s western province of Darfur, where an additional 300,000 people died, according to the U.N. The country’s President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Karti oversaw the Popular Defense Force militias for a time during the first genocide. According to State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, Karti is also credited with organizing the janjaweed militia, the brutal forces that terrorized Darfur.

The trouble continues. As Karti spoke of his affection for Jesus and his teachings, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) was preparing to reveal a report on gruesome mass rapes in late October in the Darfur village of Tabit, perpetrated by the Sudanese Armed Forces.

Karti repeatedly denied any government wrongdoing, even when a reporter showed him an iPhone with photos taken days earlier by Catena displaying burned children and legless women, victims who had told Catena they were hit by government forces. Karti insisted that the government targets only combatants.

The U.S. government disputes Karti’s denial. Aerial bombardments by the government are routine–it is the only force in the region with planes–and the violence is one reason for the continued U.S. sanctions against Sudan. “The tactics used tend to have a greater impact on civilian populations,” says Donald Booth, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. “We have continually urged the government of Sudan to avoid targeting civilian populations and trying to use civilians in the military strategy they are pursuing.”

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