Amid its ongoing bombing campaign in the Nuba Mountains area, the government of Sudan has enacted a new ethnic cleansing strategy denying citizenship to anyone deemed a “southerner.” The determination is based purely on ethnicity, rather than any of the traditional criteria for citizenship, such as residency or property rights. Khartoum has set April 8 as the deadline for “southerners” to leave or establish alien residency, though no residency terms have yet been established.
In the southern self-determination referendum, Sudan’s president warned over a year ago that he would purge the North of non-Arab and non-Islamic elements. He told the British newspaper The Guardian, “If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity. … Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.”
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 700,000 ethnic “southerners” remain in Sudan after more than 2 million people fled to the newly established nation of South Sudan. Most of those who will be affected by the policy were born in northern Sudan and have never lived in the south.
In addition, those who wish to leave have no means of transportation. According to the IOM, a massive deportation program is impossible—the Sudanese capital has refused to provide transportation services, and the roads will become impassible after the rainy season begins in a little over a month.
Sarnata Reynolds of Refugees International called the Sudanese government’s plan intolerable. “First, the individuals targeted by this plan have a legitimate claim to Sudanese citizenship, since most have lived in Sudan their entire lives, and there is currently no way for them to apply for South Sudanese citizenship,” Reynolds said. “Second, forcing men, women and children into deportation camps and shipping them off to a country that many have never seen would be a legal and moral disaster.”
The government knows that forcing hundreds of thousands of “southerners” to move to South Sudan will exacerbate humanitarian crises on both sides of the border. Those forced into South Sudan will have few resources to enable their return to an agricultural lifestyle; South Sudan already struggles to feed its own population.
Khartoum’s current actions are a window into a government built on religious zealotry. The climate for followers of Christianity has deteriorated since succession by the South. There has been a marked increase in threats and attacks against churches, priests and Christians of all denominations. Those perceived as Christians, or “southerners,” are often forcibly conscripted into renegade militias operating in South Sudan with Khartoum’s backing. Sudan’s leading political party is also rumored to be contemplating a name change—to Hizbollah (Party of God).
Source: Eric Reeves in the Sudan Tribune