By Moyra Ashford
Reports of bodies floating in the white Nile, summary executions and widespread torture in the besieged southern Sudan city of Juba, have prompted the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, to launch an emergency campaign.
In a report released on September 23, Amnesty accuses Sudan government forces of deliberately killing at least 300 people between June and August.
The purge was unleashed after June 7, the day when troops from the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) infiltrated the city, seizing its military headquarters for a few hours before recapture by government troops.
The SPLA, now split into two factions, has since 1983 been waging a guerilla war against the Khartoum government in a bid for self-determination. With one faction of the SPLA led by Colonel John Garang and the other by Riak Macha, the two have converged on Juba in a power struggle.
The government in the weeks following the June showdown arrested hundreds of suspected SPLA sympathisers. Civilians who resisted during house to house searches were taken and shot, according to the Amnesty report.
"Relatives were too frightened to remove the bodies of those killed, and many were left unburied for several days", said the report.
While Amnesty has the names of nearly 50 prominent citizens swept up in the reprisals, it believes that hundreds more are still in detention.
While Amnesty has highlighted the critical situation of Juba, human rights abuses are taking place throughout the country in an offensive which has cast a million non-Muslim Sudanese from their homes, the report said.
Last month, the London-based Africa Watch accused the Islamic government of a "stepped-up campaign of horrifying dimensions" unleashed against the million-strong Christian Nuba population.
Tens of thousands have been forced off their land into scattered camps, breaking up families. "The current campaign appears to be aimed at eradicating the traditional society and culture of the nuba", says the report.
An enclave in the Muslim-controlled north, the Nuba have a tradition of resistance and intellectual leadership. Several Nuba intellectuals have been arrested or disappeared. The SPLA has also been accused of human rights abuses. Over the years an estimated 3 million civilians have fled to the north from the battlegrounds of the south, where an estimated 300,000 people are threatened with starvation.
Since the military takeover by the Muslim fundamentalist National Salvation Revolution Command Council in 1989, the balance of human rights violations has weighed heavily on the side of the government.
In July an Africa Watch report documented the "forcible and often violent program of expulsion" taking place in Khartoum, in which an estimated 500,000 of the city's poorest citizens have been forced out of their homes to camps located outside the city.
Hundreds of thousands more have been displaced in the south, where government has since the beginning of the year been pursuing a "scorched earth" policy — that is, burning villages on well-known SPLA routes.
[Inter Press Service/Pegasus]