SUDAN PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC FRONT (SPDF)
SUDAN PEOPLE’S DEFENSE FORCE
Position Paper for the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom Hearings
February 15, 2000
The longest, most miserable war in the history of Guerilla warfare’s is now waging in the most prestigious country, If peace were existing, called Sudan. Since independence, the South has experienced constant political and religious domination. Political marginalization of the South through under representation, discrimination, and other restrictions that did not permit South Sudanese to occupy certain important constitutional posts, deliberate retardation and neglect of socio - economic development of South Sudan as all socio-economic development projects are concentrated in North Sudan, purposeful stealing of resources from the South for the benefit of the North, cultural subjugation through imposition of Arabic culture and Islamic values on the people of South Sudan in a deliberate attempt to destroy their African culture and heritage. The declaration of Sudan as an Islamic state by the present regime has relegated South Sudanese to third class citizens. This imposition of cultural and religious laws - Islamic sharia - is a negation of common citizenship, which could be the basis of national unity, equality and social justice in a heterogeneous state such as the Sudan. The war has brought with it untold horror of human suffering, including the destruction of the entire infrastructures of the South; and displacement of people from their homes; leaving young with no future to rely on.
Plans to bring this war to an end peacefully are being attempted, but nothing has been successful to date. The IGAD process is currently mediating between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) but again no concrete progress has been made for whatever reason it might be. Another parallel initiative sponsored by Libya and Egypt is launching another effort to reconcile the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with the GOS, but no signs are showing that there will be a way to succeed in mediating the two warring parties.
Another attempt to end the war peacefully was the April 1997 Peace Agreement between the GOS and the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) leaders. We believe, this Agreement, if honored would fully address the grievances of the people of the Sudan, however, the GOS has failed to honor the Agreement, so the SSDF has come to a conclusion that the GOS can still understand only the language of warfare.
Evidences showing the Peace Agreement is not being implemented
1.) An assassination attempt against one of the signatories to the Peace Agreement, Kwac Makwei, Chairman and Commander in Chief of the South Sudan Independence Groups (At that time the Governor of Northern Bahr Al Gazal). This has proven to the Southerners that the Government of General Bashir is working to dismantle the Agreement. After the assassination attempt failed Dr. Riek Machar met with President Bashir specifically to get to the bottom of the problem. This is Dr. Riek’s statement in a letter to Gen. Bashir dated July 4, 1998 “that the investigation committee failed to travel to Aweil for unknown reasons. My own firm conclusion is that the government is condoning and supporting those who committed the crime and not showing any seriousness in finding the solutions, which are expected by everybody. The governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal has concrete evidence showing that he was the one who was deliberately targeted for assassination.” In the attempt 13 soldiers were killed. The killing of these 13 soldiers who were committed to protect the Khartoum Accord has shown only one example of the gross atrocities the GOS is committing to its own people.
2.) The depopulation of the people living in and around the oil fields in Unity State. Since 1997 the GOS started to use Major General Polino Matip to declare war against the SSDF forces that were guarding the oil fields and the civilians in the surrounding territory. After several meetings, finally a complaint letter was written by Dr. Riek Machar to General Hassan Al Bashir informing him about the vicious acts Matip was carrying out against the people of Unity State and calling for a proper investigation of the criminal activity. Bashir declined to respond positively to the request.
3.) The formation of a Joint Military Technical Committee whose work
was supposed to be safeguarding the Peace Agreement, security of the
Southern States, and the Northern States, and to take a cautious care of
the SSDF and the National forces for any mutinies, was never
4.) Finally, the GOS has totally ignored the UDSF Party when enforcing its policies in the South. No consultation to the party about any events affecting the Southern States, culminating in the Presidential dismissal of all Constitutional legislation governing the State governments and the unilateral appointment by Presidential whim of State officials. This removed all semblance of the democracy demanded by the signing of the 1997 Peace Agreement.
All of the previous stated violations and many unmentioned here led Dr. Riek Machar, The Assistant to the President of the Republic, the President of the UDSF Party, and the President of the Coordinating Council to resign from these posts, returning to the bush to reorganize the SSDF Forces into the now Sudan People’s Defense Force represented by the Sudan People’s Democratic Front.
In addition to this the GOS has proven that religious persecution is existing. The UDSF has witnessed it after we concluded the Agreement. Dr. Riek Machar has written a statement of complaint to the Governor of Khartoum State regarding the seizing of church properties without proper cause. After no appropriate responses, Dr. Machar was open about the religious persecution in the media and in his speeches in Khartoum. Moreover, the UDSF Party met and reached to a conclusion that religious persecution is not only existing but also that the government is sponsoring this persecution. In 1999 the GOS has released a decree passed by the executive office saying “All primary schools in Sudan must be Koranic” In other words, in all elementary schools the Koran must be taught to children.
Furthermore, the SPDF was launched from Unity State amidst a bombardment from the GOS. This bombardment actually began before the resignation of Dr. Riek Machar from these government posts in Khartoum. This organization was named after we had realized that the Khartoum Peace Agreement was totally violated. The SPDF is the new political and military organization encompassing, among others the SSDF.
Previously, when the Nasir Faction declared that we are fighting for
the South and tried to uphold the rule of law against the injustices,
lack of democracy and false imprisonment within the SPLA, the majority
of the Southern citizens backed the intentions of the Nasir Faction. We
believe that the citizens of the South must determine their own
political aspirations, either voting for “unity” or “secession”. The
SPLA was calling for unity within a secular Sudan and saying we would
fight to the last man to win that goal. However, the intention of the
people has always been self-determination.
We now appeal to the International community first and foremost to support concrete efforts to realize a just peace for the people of Sudan. Our people need the right to a fair democracy. Too many of our fathers, brothers, and even sisters and mothers have died to earn that right for us. Support us in our battle, both militarily and politically.
Many proposals are on the table about how to help the suffering people of the Sudan, especially those of us in the South. These proposals range from feeding us as rebels so that we can better conduct our war to strengthening the IGAD process. We appreciate deeply the concern of the international community in their interest to see us come to a better situation. We want to say that we greatly appreciate the work of Operation Lifeline Sudan in its valiant contribution to feed our starving people. We applaud the NGOs and the neighboring IGAD countries who have advocated actions that will lead us to peaceful resolution of the conflict.
We would like to point out however, that through history we are pastoralists and agriculturalists people. It is war and the purposeful destruction of the moral of the civilian population that has interrupted our ability to maintain the needs of our own population. We appeal to you to promote those efforts, which will help us to be educated, industrious, and self-governing. We face many challenges in this capacity because of the long-running war and yes, we are in need of international intervention. We the SPDF would not reject even the formation of a peace-keeping force that would help us to create the structures within which the aspirations of the people of Sudan could be made clear by ballot. Other suffering peoples have been protected from bombardments against the civil population by no-fly zones. We would not reject this either. We are fighting militarily and politically to defend the rights of our people and we shall continue to do so as long as the injustices remain.