“Where is the Monitoring Team for Attacks on Civilians in Southern Sudan?”
Reports of deliberate aerial attacks on civilians in Southern Sudan continue to stream in, and yet these attacks, ordered by Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, occur with impunity. There are no protests from the US State Department, or other Western governments, or the UN. More disturbingly, there is no international monitoring force in place to report on these attacks (including escalating attacks on civilians in the oil regions). This is so despite the fact that Khartoum, under great pressure, agreed to such monitoring in March, 2002. And this is so despite Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner’s testimony before the Senate on July 11, in which he declared that the end of August was a reasonable time in which to expect deployment of this American-organized effort. Why have over five months elapsed since the initial agreement, with no evident presence on the ground in Southern Sudan? Has Mr. Kansteiner let this critical issue slip his mind? Has he forgotten about the end of August time-frame? Meanwhile, civilian destruction and terror continue apace—without consequence for Khartoum’s brutal regime. This augurs poorly for guarantees emanating from Machakos.
Eric Reeves [August 30, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
The peace talks at Machakos, Kenya will perhaps bear fruit. There are a number of encouraging signs, and concerted international efforts are making the consequences of failure more and more significant for the recalcitrant party. But a negotiated peace will have little meaning without effective international guarantees and guarantors. There will have to be robust, committed monitoring teams in place to insure that whatever is negotiated at Machakos is realized on the ground in Southern Sudan.
Thus it is particularly dismaying that there is still no monitoring team in place in Southern Sudan to investigate authoritatively the reports of civilian bombings and brutally destructive civilian clearances in the oil regions. The deployment of such a team was the subject of pointed questioning of Assistant Secretary Kansteiner by Senator Russ Feingold during the Senate hearing of July 11, 2002. Kansteiner replied to Senator Feingold (chair of the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) that he felt the end of August was a reasonable time-frame for the deployment of monitors, a process agreed to by the Khartoum regime and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in March of this year (see transcript excerpt below). And yet there is no monitoring, at the very end of August, despite clearly continuing attacks on civilians.
Reports are still pouring in from multiple sources on the ground, indicating that Khartoum’s Antonov bombers continue to wreak havoc with attacks on clearly civilian targets, especially in Eastern Equatoria. There are also highly reliable accounts from news reporters on the ground, indicating that attacks on civilians in the oil regions are actually increasing. The distinguished weekly “The Economist” has just published (Aug 29) a lengthy article with the title, “War and peace in Sudan: A merciless battle for Sudan’s oil.” The dateline is Mayen Jur, in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. The correspondent for “The Economist” notes of the civilians in this region that they “are poor, black and non-Muslim. Because they live above oil, the government wants them out. It flattens villages of pointy grass huts with high-flying bombers, attacks civilians with helicopter gunships and sends its militias to steal their cattle and children. Once the civilians have fled, it bans aid agencies from sending food aid to the area; and then assures foreign oil firms that their concessions are beneath uninhabited land.”
Why is it possible for this highly current account, amplified with many details, to be written by a journalist without corresponding confirmation from an international monitoring team? Is the issue not a priority for Assistant Secretary Kansteiner? Was his answer to Senator Feingold disingenuous? Is Kansteiner not aware of how much there is to investigate, given the mandate of the monitoring team? This agreement on civilian attacks was much celebrated by the Bush administration and by Senator John Danforth, the administration’s special envoy for Sudan. But as Danforth continually reminds us, agreements are just pieces of paper until they are reflected in actual implementation.
Human Rights Watch wrote to Danforth in December 2001, outlining the features of a robust and effective monitoring force for civilian attacks. Khartoum and the SPLA/M agreed on the monitoring force in March (this was, of course, in the wake of Khartoum’s savage and highly publicized helicopter gunship attack on thousands of defenseless civilians at a UN World Food Program distribution center at Bieh, in the heart of the oil regions). Kansteiner then declared in early July that the end of August would be an appropriate time-frame for the deployment of this critically important monitoring force.
And yet instead of news of such deployment, we hear from UN sources and the Diocese of Torit in Eastern Equatoria of the continual aerial bombardment of towns like Isoke (south of Ikotos)—bombed on August 19, on August 27, on August 28. Just today (August 30), another attack in this region was reported from Hiyala, one of the most densely populated villages in Eastern Equatoria. The attack of August 27 on Isoke destroyed the store of Catholic Relief Services, a member of the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). There is no military presence near Isoke, or the nearby villages of Mairo and Imee, which were also bombed. As the spokesman for the Diocese of Torit declared, “these villages are all inhabited by innocent, defenseless and unarmed population and have no military presence. The frontlines are well known to the government so it should directs its war efforts to the military locations rather than putting the innocence to havoc on daily basis” (Press Release, Catholic Diocese of Torit, August 29, 2002).
It is just such brutal attacks that the agreed upon international monitoring force was to investigate. If this critically important effort is left in abeyance, what can the people of southern Sudan expect of guarantees negotiated at Machakos?
The scandalously dilatory process of putting in place monitors for attacks on civilians suggests either ineptitude, or lack of moral concern, on the part of the US administration, which clearly has leadership responsibilities on this issue. It’s time to hold people like Assistant Secretary of State Kansteiner accountable for the failure to put words into action.
[from the transcript of the Senate hearing on Sudan, July 11 (Africa subcommittee, Senator Russ Feingold, Chair):
FEINGOLD: Mr. Kansteiner, you noted the civilian bombing verification team to be fully staffed and operational in what you called the “very near future.” What does that mean? Does it mean by the end of this month?
We are getting the report back from General Lloyd probably at the end of this month. So we will look for probably end of the summer before it’s fully staffed.
End of August?
Yes. I would say that would be a very good target.
What will be the team’s mandate?
The team’s mandate will be to, in fact, check and verify any attacks that have been reported and attacks that affect civilian populations.]