“Oil War Resumes, Despite Machakos Accord”
Ferocious fighting and civilian destruction in and around the village of Tam in Western Upper Nile makes all too clear how great an obstacle oil development remains to the securing of a just peace for Sudan. Tam, located just southwest of Bentiu (epicenter of the southern oil regions), has been the site of a major offensive by military forces of the Khartoum regime, which remains bent on securing territory in the oil concessions. Early wire reports from Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP), and Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA), suggest heavy civilian casualties and massive human displacement. Helicopter gunships appear to have been deployed to devastating effect. The peace talks at Machakos cannot succeed until oil development ceases to be of exclusive military benefit to the Khartoum regime. Indeed, despite the Machakos agreement, we can expect more attacks like that against Tam as Khartoum attempts to regain control of Concession Block 5a south of Bentiu (for the “security” of operators Lundin Petroleum of Sweden, Petronas of Malaysia, OMV of Austria.)
Eric Reeves [July 30, 2002]
Smith College firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton, MA 01063 413-585-3326
Dan Eiffe of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and a long-time observer of the war in the south, is cited by Reuters (July 30, 2002) for his commentary on Khartoum’s present massive military offensive: “There is extremely heavy fighting. There have been tens of thousands of displaced people.” Reuters also reports that “Eiffe, who said he had spoken with NPA staff in the area [of Tam], said the government was using troops and helicopter gunships.” Reuters also reports that a member of the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan has confirmed the fall of Tam to Khartoum’s assault.
This account comports well with the statement of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which speaks of over 1,000 people being killed and the use of three deadly helicopter gunships in the three-pronged attack. “‘There are a lot of massacres going on,’ [SPLM Spokesman Samson] Kwaje said” (Reuters, July 30).
This provides a context in which to assess the upbeat assessment of the military situation by Walter Kansteiner, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Associated Press (AP) reports (July 29, 2002):
“Fighting between the government of Sudan and southern rebels has declined sharply since the two sides agreed to talks to end Africa’s longest conflict, Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner said Monday.”
Clearly the Khartoum regime did not bother to share its military plans with Mr. Kansteiner. AP also reports that Kansteiner claimed responsibility for this supposed “de-escalation” of fighting:
“While there is no specific cease-fire accord, there are strong signs the Bush administration’s appeal to the Islamist government and the rebels to refrain from military action is taking hold, Kansteiner said.”
The attack on Tam and the areas around it in Western Upper Nile proves this to be egregiously wrong and leads to obvious questions about just how good US intelligence is, and how closely Khartoum is listening to “appeals” from the Bush administration.
The Bush administration, and Mr. Kansteiner in particular, have been reluctant to see clearly and honestly the role of oil revenues and oil development in fueling Sudan’s war. Perhaps the deadly attack on Tam will serve as a costly, a very costly, wake-up call. Peace will not come to Sudan until the realities of oil are fully understood. The absurd fantasy of the Danforth report—that oil can be an incentive for peace—makes no sense as long as one side receives all oil revenues and clearly benefits from scorched-earth clearances in the oil regions. The Tam offensive makes this point with excruciating clarity.
News Article by Reuters posted on July 30,
2002 at 13:41:00: EST (-5 GMT)
Sudan government attacks south — aid workers
By Fiona O’Brien
NAIROBI, July 30 (Reuters) – Sudan has launched a major offensive against rebels in the south just days after announcing a breakthrough in talks aimed at ending their 19-year war, aid workers and rebels said on Tuesday.
The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which made a deal with Khartoum on July 20 resolving the war’s two key issues, said more than 1,000 people had been killed since the government began its attack in Western Upper Nile region on Friday.
The reports could not be independently verified and the Sudanese government was not immediately available for comment.
“There is extremely heavy fighting,” Dan Eiffe, a spokesman for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), told Reuters in Nairobi. “There have been tens of thousands of displaced people.”
He had no information on numbers of dead. Other aid agencies said there were reports of locals fleeing the fighting, but had no details of numbers.
The war in Sudan began in 1983 and pits the Islamic government in Khartoum against southern rebels who say they want religious freedom and the chance to be independent.
The government agreed last week to let the south hold a referendum on self-determination after a six-year interim period.
But no ceasefire was signed, and issues such as power-sharing, oil-well sharing and human rights still need to be settled before a comprehensive peace deal can be signed.
The Sudanese charge d’affaires in Nairobi, Ahmed Dirdeiry, said he had no information about the attack on Western Upper Nile. But he said any fighting should not derail the overall peace process, given that no ceasefire had been signed.
“We have not got a ceasefire in place, although we should have that soon,” he said. “Until then, if there is any offensive from any party, it should not affect the peace process.”
CLEARING THE POPULATION
The government has often launched attacks on Western Upper Nile, which analysts say are aimed at clearing the local population to secure existing or potential new oilfields.
Fighting in the region worsened during this year’s dry season from January to May, after a separate ceasefire negotiated in the central Nuba mountains freed up more government soldiers for operations around the oilfields.
But it is unusual for the government to launch an offensive during the rainy season, which is currently in progress.
Eiffe, who said he had spoken with NPA staff in the area, said the government was using troops and helicopter gunships.
SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje said people fleeing to nearby Bahr al-Ghazal region had reported that a lot of civilians were trapped in a settlement called Tam.
“There are a lot of massacres going on,” Kwaje said. “The government is using three helicopter gunships to give cover for ground troops. It is a three-pronged attack on Tam.”
A source at Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), a consortium of relief agencies, said Tam, previously under SPLA control, had fallen to the government and militias.
A new round of peace talks is due to begin in Kenya in mid-August. The SPLA and Khartoum have said they are hopeful a comprehensive peace deal could be reached within weeks.
Observers say both sides are likely to try to shore up their positions before those talks begin.