“Khartoum Shuts Down All Humanitarian Access to Southern Sudan”
In an act of deliberate, massive human destruction, the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum is denying all humanitarian access to all civilians in all regions of southern Sudan: a total flight and road ban has been set to begin tomorrow (September 27, 2002). Many hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings will be beyond the reach of emergency food and medical assistance. And these are in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people already being denied humanitarian access by the Khartoum regime. Even humanitarian organizations not part of the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan (e.g., the International Committee for the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, and many smaller humanitarian groups) will be unable to make their way to desperate populations because Khartoum has imposed a total flight ban over Eastern and Western Equatoria, running the entire length of southern Sudan The most intrepid pilots will not fly into this interdicted airspace, given the clearly established presence of MiG-29s at Juba air base. This ban on access will block all flights and truck deliveries originating from Lokichokio in northern Kenya, the major staging point for humanitarian aid. If the international community permits this denial of humanitarian access, it will be acquiescing in Khartoum’s policy of deliberate civilian destruction.
Eric Reeves [September 26, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
There can be no equivocation, no finessing, no averting of eyes from the nature of this impending catastrophe: either the international community forces Khartoum to lift its blanket ban on all humanitarian aid to southern Sudan or the world will share in the blame for the deaths of innocent human beings that will ensue almost immediately. Even now, humanitarian organizations are scrambling to evacuate their personnel, not sure when or whether they will regain access that will be denied tomorrow. (Khartoum has indicated that humanitarian access will be allowed to resume on October 6, but given the regime’s history of denying and manipulating access, and reneging on agreements, this means very little.) Food and medical aid will cease precipitously. Medical evacuations will be impossible because Khartoum has refused to grant an emergency corridor even for this most pressing of humanitarian purposes
Khartoum is, with good reason, confident in the efficacy of its flight and road ban. For the pilots for humanitarian missions, even for the boldest of flight charter companies like “748,” will no longer be willing to fly into the airspace Khartoum has declared interdicted. With highly advanced MiG-29s now decisively established as operating out of Juba (indeed as having already engaged in attacks on civilian and humanitarian sites) the risk is simply too great. Vehicles moving on the ground would be even more vulnerable.
The purpose of Khartoum’s humanitarian shutdown is clearly related to its military ambitions in Eastern Equatoria, and in particular their offensive to re-capture Torit. Thus present events are the perfectly revealing example of Khartoum’s willingness to manipulate and deny humanitarian aid as an integral part of its military tactics and strategy. This makes all the more appalling the present US Sudan policy, which has the effect of supporting Khartoum’s military ambitions (see analysis from this source, September 26, 2002; available upon request).
The US State Department should be deeply ashamed of its present diplomatic posture, which is still officially the responsibility of Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner. But unless the Bush administration clearly signals soon that the policy being fashioned in the Africa Bureau is unacceptable, ultimate responsibility for present policy lies with Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush. Certainly today’s shamefully tepid State Department criticism of recent aerial attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets is a woefully and revealingly inadequate response to the realities on the ground in southern Sudan.
If this, and the State Department’s perverse equanimity in blaming Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement for the breakdown at Machakos, are any measure of administration commitment to the cause of a just peace for Sudan, then there is reason for the gravest concern.
The questions are unblinkable: Is the US prepared to remain silently ineffectual on this massive humanitarian crisis, engineered by Khartoum for clearly military purposes? Is it unwilling to speak out forcefully and effectively against Khartoum’s sharply escalating aerial assaults on civilian and humanitarian targets using advanced military jet aircraft operating out of Juba? And if the US should find its voices on these outrages, will it be supported by other members of the international community?
Hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese await an answer. We must hope, with all too little assurance, that history will not record this answer with their blood.