Africa News
June 28, 2012 Thursday

Three months ago, in late March, the Obama Administration was toying
with the idea of supporting the establishment of a humanitarian
corridor in order to transport food to hundreds of thousands of people
in the Nuba Mountains who are now facing imminent starvation.

Unfortunately, "toyed" is the mot juste. In other words, talk, talk,
and more talk, along with indecisiveness and wavering, has lorded it
over action. Indeed, thus far, realpolitk has won out yet again over
the moral imperative to help our brothers and sisters in critical need.

Instead of acting on the Biblical injunction of being our brothers'
(and sisters') keepers, the plight of the Nuba Mountains people has
largely been swept under the proverbial rug. The result has been fatal,
as an untold number of people have already starved to death.

Unlike the innocent in Syria who are being killed with bullets and tank
shells, the Nuba Mountains people are facing a much quieter death - but
one that is no less deadly. As the victims' muscles atrophy and their
skin becomes frighteningly taut due to a lack of adequate nutrition,
each movement of their body results in intense pain.

Groaning and quietly weeping as they die a slow and excruciatingly
painful death, all their family members can do is look on in sorrow
and wonder who among them might be next in line for a similar death.

The Sudanese Government's (GoS) ongoing onslaught against the Nuba
Mountains people -- constant aerial bombing, forced evacuation of
hundreds of thousands from their villages and homes, and now the forced
starvation of mothers, infants, children and elderly - has not gone
unnoticed, just ignored. Indeed, neither the international community
nor the Obama Administration can claim, "We weren't aware of the
tragedy," as President Clinton did during the height of 1994 genocide
in Rwanda." In fact, the Obama Administration has been apprised time
and again of the crisis by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), various human
rights organizations, and, indirectly, by the media, ranging from The
New York Times (most notably NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof), The
Washington Times (most notably,Franklin Graham, Founder and Director
of Samaritan's Purse), National Public Radio, and the PBS NewsHour.

Since the Obama Administration insists on doing nothing - while,
ironically, touting itself as the first presidential administration in
the history of the United States to take genocide seriously ("Last year
in the first ever presidential directive on this challenge," Obama said
recently in announcing the establishment of the Atrocities Prevention
Board, "I made it clear that preventing mass atrocities and genocide
is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility
of the United States of America"), we, the citizens of the world who
deeply care about the plight of the Nuba Mountains people, cannot, and
must not, stand by and do nothing as generations in the past have in
the face of genocide (i.e., the 1915-1919 Ottoman Turk genocide of the
Armenians, the Holocaust, the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge slaughter of their
fellow Cambodians, the 1994 Hutu slaughter of the Tutsi in Rwanda,
and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica).

Now is the time to stand up; and if not now, when? (It will be
interesting to see if Ms. Samantha Power, President Obama's Special
Assistant and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human
Rights and Chair of the newly minted Atrocities Prevention Board,
will step up and be counted in this regard. After all, she is the one
who coined the term "Upstander" (which she defined as one who speaks
out in the face of mass atrocities, thus avoiding being a bystander),
and who has gotten a lot of mileage out of it as she's been praised
by one anti-genocide group after another for having done so. We all
know that it is much easier to talk the talk versus stepping up and
walking the walk. If anyone should walk the walk, it is Ms. Power,
an individual who vociferously criticized one U.S. president and
presidential administration after another in her Pulitzer Prize winning
book, "The Problem from Hell" (as well as a slew of editorials) for
not stepping up when potential genocide was on the horizon. Now that
she is in a position of power, one has to wonder why her voice has
gone silent.)

Since private citizens do not have the wherewithal to use military
force to establish a no fly zone over the Nuba Mountains to halt
the attacks by the Antonovs and MIGs, the means to bomb the runways
from which the bombers and MIGS take off from, or the forces needed
to arrest Omar al Bashir and turn him over to the International
Criminal Court, which has charged him with crimes against humanity,
genocide and war crimes due to the atrocities perpetrated in Darfur,
we must take a different tact.

Among the options I believe we, citizens of the world, should consider
(in no particular order, but solely with an eye to demanding and
seeing to it that effective action is carried out to save the Nuba
Mountains people from certain death) are as follows:

Organize and commit sustained civil disobedience in front of the White
House, U.S. State Department and/or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum;

Organize and conduct a sustained hunger strike in front of the White
House, State Department and/or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum;

Commit daily acts of civil disobedience over a significantly sustained
period of time in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.,
blocking entrance into the embassy.

Organize and drive five to ten lorries loaded with food and water from
South Sudan into the Nuba Mountains, thus leading the way and hopefully
prodding (cum embarrassing) the international community to follow suit.

If others have different and/or better ideas/approaches then they
should suggest them.

I fully realize that each of the above options appear radical; however,
for eleven long months not a single effort by human rights and various
anti-genocide organizations has been effective in prodding, cajoling
or embarrassing the Obama Administration or the UN into action (and
here I do not necessarily mean military action by U.S. forces, but
rather the Administration's application of pressure on the UN to act
and to act decisively). Enough is enough! This is not a game! Tens
of thousands of people's lives are at risk.

Over the past forty years or so, Holocaust survivors, scholars of
the Holocaust and genocide, and educators have spoken and written at
length about those individuals who failed to speak out on the behalf
of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, as well as those who did (such
as the Righteous Gentiles who have long been honored by the Yad Vashem
Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem). Those same speakers, authors, and
educators have frequently encouraged, prodded, and cajoled all those
who live in free societies to take a stand when others are brutally
being denied their basic rights and/or face potential, if not actual,
crimes against humanity and genocide. In making such speeches and
writing such papers among the most common admonitions issued are
"Never Again," and "Remember!"

In light of the silence of the world in the face of the imminent
starvation of the Nuba Mountains people today, one has to wonder:
are such speeches, such articles and books, such lessons in schools,
all for naught? Are such admonitions meaningless? Are such words simply
uttered, and accepted by those who hear and read them, something that
simply sounds good in the moment but then are quickly forgotten? Is
such counsel only going to be acted upon when it suits the powers
that be that action is in their interests (and, if it is not, then
the hell with those thousands, tens thousand and millions or more
who are facing imminent death)?

One has to really wonder what lessons the world - leaders and ordinary
citizens alike - has really learned from the Holocaust. Even those who
espouse such heartfelt sentiments/words/phrases are among those who
look away when such tragedies break out -- and here I mean Holocaust
survivors, survivors of other genocides, scholars, and educators at
all levels. And if they don't look away, then far too often they
stand slack jawed and silent. Neither is admirable; and, in fact,
both are unconscionable.

Not one to suggest that others should pursue an avenue I am not
willing to undertake, I shall place my name at the top of the list
to take part in any of the above actions that gain traction.

Those willing to step up and be counted and thus avoid the tag of
being a bystander in the face of certain crimes against humanity and
potential genocide by attrition can contact me at

Samuel Totten, a genocide scholar at the University of Arkansas,
Fayetteville, has conducted research in the Nuba Mountains. His latest
book, Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains, Sudan (New Brunswick,
NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012).