Sudan’s Forgotten War

After years of war in Sudan, Bernard-Henri Lévy asks Yasir Arman, secretary-general of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, what the world can do to stop the violence.


A dozen years ago, Jean-Marie Colombani and Edwy Plenel at the French daily Le Monde, along with The New York Times, asked me to do a series of reports on the “forgotten wars” of the first years of the new century.

Refugees at Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan
Refugees from South Kordofan, at the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan. The camp currently hosts 65,000 refugees, primarily those displaced after fighting broke out between north and south Sudan forces in June 2011. (Camille Lepage, AFP / Getty)


I reported on five wars between May 30 and June 4, 2001. They were largely ignored by the mainstream media who were and remain focused on the “great conflicts” of our times. Three of these wars—in Angola, Burundi, and Sri Lanka—petered out for lack of combatants, but only after uncounted millions were left dead, nameless and faceless, most buried in unmarked graves. The fourth war, in Colombia, likewise appears heading toward settlement, though (it should be said) out of sheer exhaustion. But the fifth, the bloodiest, the one that moved me most, rages on: the total war, the war of extermination, being conducted by the Islamists of Khartoum against the black population in the Nuba Mountains to the south. There, apparently, nothing has changed.

Yasir Arman, secretary-general of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, filled me in when he was in Paris recently.

A handsome and impressive man of about 50, Arman has the face of a thinker, reminding me of John Garang, the guerrilla leader with whom Gilles Hertzog and I spent an afternoon in Boma discussing Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, the Peloponnesian War, and his dream of a secular, democratic, and unified Sudan.

Yes, Arman began, Abdel Aziz Adam al-Halu, who had hosted Herzog and me, is alive, and he’s still the military chief in the Nuba Mountains.

No, the little commander in Kawdah who had wept upon recognizing his father, a legendary Nuba immortalized in Leni Riefenstahl’s book, which we had brought with us—the little commander is no longer with us, having died last year when his village was bombed.

The pace of the bombings? Their severity? It all depends. Nothing for weeks, as the blockade and famine bring the men down into the plains, where they are rounded up into camps and sorted, just as they had been 12 years ago, for the slave dealers of Khartoum. And then entire weeks when the planes come every day, 20 bombs a day, flying low, knowing that they face only small, reclaimed guns. Read More

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