“Full Confirmation of Khartoum’s Western Upper Nile Offensive:
Report from the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team”
For a number of weeks there can have been no reasonable doubt about the scale and destructiveness of Khartoum’s January offensive against civilians in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile province. But the just-issued report from the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Force makes unambiguously clear the brutal nature of this offensive by the National Islamic Front in Khartoum. The regime has continued its blunt strategy of depopulating the oil regions by military force, killing or displacing countless thousands of civilians as a means of providing security for international oil companies. These morally irresponsible companies have chosen to operate in the midst of the vast human carnage and suffering that define Sudan’s civil war. Indeed, they clearly sustain and exacerbate the war, both by providing immense oil revenues and by virtue of their “security” needs. Oil companies—and their European, Asian, and Canadian apologists—often deny these realities, even as they have been authoritatively established by numerous detailed human rights and UN reports. But they cannot with any credibility deny the findings, made in “real time,” by a team of military and civilian experts deployed with a specific mandate to investigate military attacks on civilians. That the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team has issued such a frank indictment should end the obscene pattern of disingenuous denial.
Eric Reeves [February 10, 2003]
Northampton, MA 01063
My means of “aerial over flight and on-ground assessments using digital photography (still and video), recorded interviews with a variety of people, from military commanders to abductees, wounded persons and prisoners of war, and personal observations by verification personnel,” the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) has given a ghastly view into the very heart of Khartoum’s recent offensive in the oilfields of Western Upper Nile (“CPMT Final Report: Military Events in Western Upper Nile, 31 December 2002 to 30 January 2003”; issued February 6, 2002 in Khartoum).
To be sure this is portraiture, no full reckoning of the human devastation that has taken place even over the last month. But there can be no more authoritative account of attacks on civilians by the military forces of the Khartoum regime. These attacks have included the killing of civilians by means of helicopter gunships; they have been characterized by wide-spread destruction of tukuls, as well as crops and cattle; foodstuffs have been looted; and women and children have been “abductedand taken to [Government of Sudan-] controlled towns where the children are held captive and women forced to provide manual labor and sexual services.”
The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team is unambiguous in declaring that “military attacks against villages and non-combatant civilians have been conducted by [Government of Sudan-] allied militia, supported directly by [Government of Sudan] military forces.” Further, the CPMT report declares that Khartoum’s “direct support to attacks included artillery, and helicopter gunships in Lingera and villages north of Tam.” And to emphasize the offensive nature of these attacks, the report declares that “there was no indication that the [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] had attacked [Government of Sudan] or [Government of Sudan] militia in the region.”
The CPMT report (under “Specifics”) gives detailed accounts of attacks on Lara (Western Upper Nile) on January 1, 3, and 14, 2003. It concludes that “no population remains in the village except approximately 150-200 elderly women and young children and a few cattle. Water and food are now critically short.”
The CPMT report continues with an account of the multiple attacks on Lingera and villages north of Tam (Western Upper Nile) between January 1 and January 14, 2003. Notably, the CPMT report declares that it found “direct evidence of helicopter (HIND) gunship attacks against Lou”; “evidence was obtained from verification of strafing tracks and retrieval of ejected cannon cartridge cases and belt links from the HIND main guns at the scene.” All too predictably, “most of the population of these villages [attacked by helicopter gunships] has fled to Leel or moved south of Tam.”
In speaking of the January 21, 2003 attack on Leel, the CPMT report declares that: “CPMT was on-scene within two hours of notification, and verified that this attack was directed against the civilian population in the village. [Rocket-propelled grenades] and heavy machine gun fire was used in this attack.” Interviews with captured Government of Sudan militia involved in the attack “clearly indicated that the purpose of the mission was to burn the village to drive out the inhabitants.”
Just as significantly, in speaking about Khartoum’s military activities south of Bentiu in the Leer area, the CPMT reports finds:
“Significant road construction has been conducted south of Kock since [January 1, 2003], with the main roadbed now completed to within a few miles of Leer. The [Government of Sudan] military has been providing security for construction by pushing their regular units forward along the new road axis. They are now approaching the town of Leer. Villages along both flanks of the new road have been cleared of the civil populace.”
The CPMT also confirms what has been reported by many regional sources, a highly significant military buildup by Khartoum’s forces:
“CPMT continues to receive reports of a [Government of Sudan] military buildup in the Western Upper Nile region from various sources operating in the area. Observations during over flights by CPMT aircraft confirm significant military activity within [Government of Sudan] garrisons. Additionally, forced conscription of large numbers of Nuer and Dinka boys and men is reported in the region, in Khartoum and elsewhere.”
And finally, the CPMT reports on Khartoum’s level of cooperation in the investigation:
“On 30 January 2003 the CPMT teams, while physically on-site at Leer, were denied access to the military garrison camp despite repeated requests for this access to verify the Government of Sudan version of alleged attacks by the [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement]. Additionally, at the same location, a senior Sudanese officer told the team the CPMT aircraft would be ‘shot down’ by his forces if it overflew the garrison.”
There is no ambiguity here, no room for doubt or varying interpretations: the Khartoum regime was for all of January engaged in a full-scale military offensive against civilians with the clear purpose of securing further control of the oil regions. This occurred during a time in which the regime was nominally committed to a cease-fire that should have precluded all the military activities that the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team reports.
As the International Crisis groups says in its report of today (“Sudan’s Oilfields Burn Again: Brinkmanship Endangers the Peace Process”; Brussels, February 10, 2003): “The offensive from late December until the beginning of February was an extension of the government’s long-time strategy of depopulating the oil-rich areas through indiscriminate attacks on civilians in order to clear the way for further development of infrastructure” (page 1). The ICG report (available at www.crisisweb.org) highlights various of the implications of this military offensive:
“[it raises] questions about the Khartoum government’s commitment to peace” (page 1);
“[it reveals] the willingness of the government [of Sudan] to disregard signed agreements” (page 1);
“the latest fighting reflected a calculated decision to violate the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 15 October 2002. The signing of new agreements, therefore, does not guarantee their implementation” (page 1);
The ICG report asks, in turn, the essential question: why would Khartoum put the Machakos process at such clear diplomatic “risk by launching this latest offensive”?
“Part of that answer lies in the fact that the fighting allowed [Khartoum] to extend the important all-weather road [south of Bentiu] deeper into the oilfields and build garrisons along its course into which it repositioned significant numbers of troops while systematically depopulating the adjacent areas. This should enable it to offer greater opportunities to the international [oil] companies with stakes in identifying and developing the local oil resources” (page 4) [Here, appropriately, ICG highlights the “quiet return” of Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum.]
The time for denial is indeed over—and has long been for those who would only look honestly at the realities of the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. But the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team report forces an obvious question: what will the US State Department do about such undeniable realities? There has been in the past no coherent response to oil development and its consequences for Sudan’s catastrophic civil war. There appears to be none on the horizon. Can we expect anything but more State Department moral and diplomatic paralysis on this central issue?