April 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The secretary-general of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), Yasir Arman, has blamed “racist” statements of Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir for encouraging a mob of fundamentalist Islamists to attack a church in the capital Khartoum.
- FILE PHOTO - SPLM-N sec-gen Yasir Arman
An Evangelical Church in the Sawafi area of Khartoum was attacked and set on fire Friday by a group of fundamentalist Islamists mobilised by hard-line cleric Mohamed Abdel-Karim despite a police cordon in the area.
A pastor named Yusuf Matar Kodi told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday that the group had “burned Bibles and torched the school for training clergy on the farm, as well as the residence of the students."
In a press statement on Monday, Arman said that the assailing group had been motivated to burn the church as police forces “stood and watched” by the “racist” statements of Al-Bashir.
Arman was referring to a number of derogatory remarks Al-Bashir has made against leaders of South Sudan following the latter’s military takeover two weeks ago of oil-rich Heglig region on the disputed borders between the two neighbours.
On separate occasions, Al-Bashir described the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in South Sudan as “an insect” whose members must be disciplined by “the stick,” in what some have linked to a well-known Arab phrase that says “don’t buy a slave without the stick.”
The predominantly-Christian South Sudan seceded from Sudan to form an independent state in July last year but an estimated 500,000 southerners whose Sudanese citizenship has been revoked are still living in the Muslim-dominated north.
According to Arman, the fighting over Heglig has revealed the “racist face” of Al-Bashir’s regime, accusing its leaders of making insults that dwarfed those of former Apartheid leaders in South Africa.
“Al-Bashir did not only offend South Sudan’s people but also offended the northerners he rules in their names,” Arman said.
The rebel official also said that Al-Bashir’s remarks represent an insult to all of Africa and every black person including all northerners and mediators of the African Union.
Arman went on to condemn the attack on the church and warned that the move will harm the integrity of Sudan’s social fabric.
He further called on northern Sudanese Muslims to denounce the attack and defend Christians and their rights for equal citizenship.
Arman also criticised what he described as the silence of the international community in the face of “racism, fascism and use of food as a weapon” by Al-Bashir’s government in Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile where his SPLM-N have been fighting the government since last year.