“A Cry for Justice”
Various reports and accounts from humanitarian sources in southern Sudan make clear that there must be a public and unfettered UN investigation into the killing of a humanitarian aid worker in an attack on Waat, Upper Nile. This attack appears to have been carried out by the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM). As part of the attack, three aid workers were held hostage; they were all on the staff of World Vision International, a widely respected nongovernmental organization (NGO) that is part of the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan. The circumstances of the attack also strongly suggest that the murder of Charles Kibi, a Kenyan national, lies with a member of the attacking SSLM force, headed by Commander Simon Gatwich, whose militia has been allied with the government of Sudan. This in turn suggests that larger responsibility lies with Dr. Michael Wal Duany, head of the SSLM. Duany is an American citizen (he taught at Indiana University), and presently resides in Nairobi. Justice for Charles Kibi demands that both Kenya and the US take responsibility for prosecuting those responsible for this outrageous act.
Eric Reeves [August 7, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
The July 29, 2002 attack on the World Vision International compound in Waat, Upper Nile has to date been only superficially and vaguely reported by newswire accounts. We know that three World Vision workers were held hostage after an attack on Waat and on the World Vision compound in an apparent power bid by the SSLM; we also know that one World Vision worker, Charles Kibi, was deliberately murdered by a member of the SSLM attacking party.
The motive for the SSLM attack on Waat and the World Vision compound, and the subsequent hostage-taking, must be clarified by a formal, public UN investigation. For several reports from reliable sources in the region strongly suggest that the attack was little more than a grab for power and “recognition.” The SSLM hoped to secure various forms of material and financial support from the UN through Operation Lifeline Sudan (cars, stipends, offices in Nairobi). They also intended to manipulate food aid delivery from Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) to the SSLM-controlled areas of Upper Nile Province (Bieh State). The attack and the hostage-taking were evidently planned for several weeks before they occurred, and were designed to coerce OLS into providing the so-called “humanitarian” wing of the SSLM with food aid.
That the SSLM would welcome Simon Gatwich, an expedient militia commander presently allied with Khartoum, suggests all too much about the nature of the attack. The SSLM is reportedly also seeking to attract another Khartoum-allied military commander, Gordon Kuong.
Despite SSLM claims, any argument that this attack was motivated by a desire to “help” the people in SSLM-controlled territory of Upper Nile/Bieh State must be rejected. To be sure, there is inadequate delivery of food to this area, as there is in all too much of southern Sudan, both because of OLS security concerns and Khartoum’s denial of humanitarian access. OLS has been painfully aware of these realities for years. It has done its best, with extraordinarily committed humanitarian workers, to distribute food and medical aid equitably to the civilian populations of war-ravaged southern Sudan that are accessible.
This effort by the SSLM to dictate to OLS by means of hostage-taking is completely unacceptable. That hostage-taking should then extend to the deliberate murder of a World Vision worker is an outrage that simply must be addressed. Humanitarian workers, whether in southern Sudan or anywhere else in the world, must be vigorously protected by civilized nations everywhere from all such attacks—on them and the integrity of their mission.
In the present case, SSLM leader Michael Wal Duany must bear responsibility for the reprehensible actions of his organization, if an investigation confirms what has been reported. Dr. Duany is an American citizen, apparently carries a US passport, and resides comfortably in Nairobi, Kenya. If present accounts are accurate, Dr. Duany must be held accountable, along with those who participated in the hostage-taking and, in particular, the individual directly responsible for the murder of Michael Kibi.
If the US and Kenyan governments ignore the findings of a UN investigation, they will be encouraging similar outrages, not only in Sudan but everywhere that humanitarian workers are vulnerable. The risks for this most generous group of people are already unacceptably high. They must not be allowed to grow because of indifference to a clearly established incident involving hostage-taking for ransom and murder.