July 11th, 2011 by Tom Andrews
Tom celebrating in the streets of Juba on July 9th
We will soon head to the Juba airport to begin our journey back to the United States. It has been a joyful and yet disturbing stay in South Sudan. We have felt the unbridled joy of the birth of a new nation. (Here is a short clip of the moment that the clock struck midnight and independence for South Sudan.) And, we have heard numerous stories of a growing catastrophe in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and a plea for help.
The birth of this newest nation on earth was described as a “miracle” by many here. It was a miracle made possible, in no small measure, by the activism of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who pushed their government to take action, to save lives. So many here recognized the importance of this activism and wanted to share their greatest moment with our movement. Bishop Taban, an Episcopal priest from Torit, South Sudan, exclaimed: “Thank you all people of the whole world who made this birth possible.”
Tom speaking with Catholic Archbishop Paolino who gave the Independence Day invocation
But it became alarmingly apparent that history is repeating itself as we heard story after story of churches burned and looted in South Kordofan; of villages being bombed in Darfur; of the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a brutal blockade of vital food, water, medicine and fuel putting untold numbers of innocent civilians at risk.
It was also being repeated by a US government that seemed strangely unaware of the attacks on many thousands of innocent people at the hands by the Bashir government of Sudan. If it is aware, the United States remains unwilling to express outrage, demand that the assaults stop and that tough economic sanctions be imposed. Instead, as the killings and forced displacement continued, Secretary Clinton released a formal statement on behalf of the United States that included: “By continuing on the path of peace, the Government of Sudan can redefine its relationship with the international community and secure a more prosperous future for its people.”
There is an important connection between our movement and the extraordinary developments here in South Sudan. It was an informed, alarmed and committed people in the United States who helped to create the political conditions that saved countless lives and led to the birth of a nation. For many in Darfur, the power of our movement came too late. But, when fully engaged, it pushed the US government into action and saved countless lives.
As history repeats itself in this beleaguered part of the world – and in the halls of power in Washington DC – we need to re-ignite the passion and activism of our movement. Our actions to stop genocide in Darfur saved untold numbers of lives. But, it was too late for the hundreds of thousands of lives were lost.
We have an opportunity, no an obligation, to act before the death toll in the Nuba mountains mounts any further. We need to spread the word about the horror that is unfolding , reach out to everyone we know and ask them to join us in demanding that the Obama administration do everything in its power to end to the killing and hold those responsible fully accountable.
Please raise your voices with me and call on the Obama administration to issue tough economic sanctions against north Sudan’s president Bashir and his cronies, to issue a call for an international investigation of the crimes against civilians that are being committed in Sudan, and to declare support for an expanded UN protection force in the contentious border region to save the lives of those who are being targeted by the government of Sudan.
There is no time to waste. Untold numbers of innocent lives stand literally in the balance.