May 30, 2003
Those wishing to assess the meaningfulness of agreements signed by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum would do well to survey the history of monitoring commitments made over the past 14 months. Both the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team and the notional Verification and Monitoring Team have seen serious reneging on Khartoum’s part—by means of subterfuge, disingenuousness, and an astute calculation of what will go unchallenged by those who negotiated the agreements in the first place.
The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) was negotiated in March 2002 by US special envoy for Sudan John Danforth. Despite its critically important mandate—to monitor military attacks on civilians in southern Sudan, indeed all of Sudan—the team was not deployed until October of 2002, and did not come up to full speed until early January 2003, when it began to do excellent work in chronicling Khartoum’s massive violation of the October 15, 2002 Memorandum of Understanding on a “cessation of hostilities.” The CPMT reports addressing Khartoum’s intensely destructive attacks on civilians in the oil regions south and west of Bentiu (along the oil road axes) are our most authoritative to date, and show conclusively the direct relationship between oil development and civilian destruction and displacement.
But the CPMT was grounded from March 7, 2003 through April 11, 2003 by Khartoum’s military command, which refused to grant flight clearances for CPMT. Disturbingly, during the entire time CPMT was grounded, there was no public protest by the US State Department, despite the fact that the Team is US-led and US-funded. Indeed, even in the State Department’s lengthy report on Sudan of April 21, 2003 (per the terms of the Sudan Peace Act), there was no mention of this highly consequential grounding of the CPMT. Though the achievements of the Team were noted, the State Department deliberately and inexcusably failed to say anything about this clear flouting of the terms of deployment for the CPMT, which provides for “unhindered flight access” for investigations of reported attacks on civilians.
Khartoum, of course, construed this and other critical omissions as reflecting an unwillingness by the US to “rock the boat” during the Machakos negotiations. Moreover, with the State Department orchestrating the firing of General Herb Lloyd (previous CPMT commander in Khartoum) and Colonel Paul Davenport (previous CPMT commander in Rumbek, South Sudan), and with the resignation of a key Sudan expert from CPMT-Rumbek, and with the firing of the communications officer in Khartoum, the Team has clearly been in turmoil and disarray.
This in turn has led to highly disturbing changes in the way in which the CPMT now operates. Though supposedly unhindered in its access (this ready access was the basis for CPMT’s great successes in January and February 2003), CPMT in Rumbek must now pass its requests to investigate through the new head of CPMT in Khartoum, General Charles Bauman (Bauman was the immediate instrument by which Colonel Davenport was fired). Highly authoritative reports from the region make clear that General Bauman is now delaying the investigations for as long as four days, and routing requests from CPMT-Rumbek through Khartoum’s military bureaucracy.
When the CPMT-Rumbek finally receives clearance and arrives on the scene of attacks on civilians, Khartoum’s military forces have had plenty of advance notice and are able to manage or conceal the forensic evidence and intimidate potential witnesses. Moreover, the forensic standards for evidence have been suspiciously elevated by CPMT-Khartoum, with the result that there have been virtually no reports since the April 11, 2003 “resumption” of CPMT activities. Clearly, the threat of renewed grounding of CPMT is implicit, if it has not been explicitly made by Khartoum.
There are again highly authoritative reports from the region and from the ground in southern Sudan that CPMT has failed to fly for as long as a week at a time. This contrasts sharply with the grueling schedule of January and February, when CPMT-Rumbek flew nearly every day. There is only one conclusion: CPMT was entirely too effective in revealing Khartoum’s savage civilian clearances and destruction in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. Report after report from the CPMT chronicled in terrible detail the nature of Khartoum’s scorched-earth tactics (see especially “CPMT Final Report: Military Events in Western Upper Nile, 31 December 2002 to 30 January 2003,” Khartoum, February 6, 2003; “CPMT Report to IGAD: Military Events in Leer, 26 to 30 January 2003,” Khartoum, 2 February 2003).
It should be noted here that evidence of a massive atrocity in Eastern Upper Nile, near the village of Liang, has failed to be investigated despite deeply disturbing evidence gathered by NGO workers traveling to this remote region in January 2003. Rather, there has been a decision by CPMT—ultimately reflecting a State Department judgment—not to investigate, and for reasons having nothing to do with the very substantial photographic evidence, taped interviews, and other forensic evidence indicating that as many as 3000 civilians were slaughtered in early April 2002, in an area of Eastern Upper Nile nowhere near any fighting (this date and location put the Liang event clearly within the time-frame defining the CPMT mandate).
It should also be noted that General Bauman, head of CPMT-Khartoum, and Jeff Millington, US charge d’affaires in Khartoum, have been working very closely. Millington, in turn, obviously works very closely with the US State Department (where he previously worked in the Africa Bureau). In short, there is no way in which the operating procedures, forensic standards, and investigative decisions made by General Bauman, in consultation with Millington, are unknown to the State Department’s Africa Bureau, or conflict with the policy views of the Africa Bureau.
This is the troubling context in which we should seek to understand the apparent agreement last week by Khartoum and the SPLM to deploy a “Verification and Monitoring Team” (VMT). The VMT was a key element of the February 4, 2003 “Addendum” to the October 15, 2002 cease-fire agreement. The “Addendum” was made necessary by Khartoum’s massive January offensives in the oil regions, which clearly left the October 15 agreement in tatters. The February 4 agreement specified:
“a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT), which may include, in addition to the two parties [Khartoum and the SPLM], personnel and aircraft from an expanded Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), IGAD, AU, Observer Nations, i.e., Italy, Norway, UK and the US, and any other nation that may be agreed to by the parties.”
The “Addendum” also stipulated the VMT would be “permitted free access to travel in and around areas where a complaint had been filed by any of the parties.”
The VMT was contemplated specifically as a means of strengthening the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) and to “avoid further violations of the MOU.” The October 15 MOU stipulated that a “cessation of hostilities” meant, among others things, that both Khartoum and the SPLA would “cease supplying all areas with weapons and ammunition.” This provision has been massively and systematically violated by Khartoum, though again the State Department has offered no criticism of these violations, even in its lengthy April 21, 2003 report.
The October 15 MOU also stipulated that both parties would “refrain from any acts of violence or other abuse on the civilian population.” Thus the VMT contemplated in the February 4 “Addendum” created a force with a mandate very similar in this respect to that of the CPMT. But rather than strengthening the scrutiny and investigation of military attacks on civilians, the proposed VMT eventually led to Khartoum’s suspending of access for the CPMT and an effective stalling on the creation of a viable VMT force. Such stalling was conspicuously helped by confusion on the part of the US State Department, IGAD mediators (under whose auspices both the October 15 and February 4 agreements were negotiated), and other members of the group of European contact nations.
As a result, four months after deployment of a VMT was negotiated, we are seeing only the beginnings of such a team, and real success in deployment is far from assured. Here we need only recall the inexcusably belated deployment of the CPMT, and the ways in which Khartoum grounded the Team subsequent to its redeployment—and the present highly suspect terms of renewed deployment.
The nature of the VMT—its relation to the CPMT, its logistical capacity, its deployment location(s)—was initially vague and remains far too unclear even now. For example, will the VMT be deployed from inside southern Sudan? Perhaps, but not soon. Indeed, the UN’s IRIN recently reported on the VMT (“Monitoring Team to Begin Work,” Nairobi, May 28, 2003) and speaks of a “visit [to Sudan] this week to identify possible locations for permanent VMT bases.” Again, this scouting of possible deployment sites is occurring four months after the initial signing of the agreement.
Evidently embarrassed by this delay, the US State Department prepared for President George Bush a “Memorandum of Justification” (again per the terms of the Sudan Peace Act) that spoke of the VMT as having already been deployed and active:
“The VMT, created as a means to supplement an October 2002 cessation of hostilities between the SPLM and the Government of Sudan, detailed [sic] violations by Khartoum’s regular and irregular forces.” (April 21, 2003)
But this is simply erroneous, as the IRIN report and all other reports have consistently made clear. As IRIN bluntly notes: “[the VMT] has not yet undertaken any missions” (UN’s IRIN, Nairobi, May 28, 2003). It obviously cannot have “detailed” any violations, as the State Department report to the President would have it. This kind of factual error is much too common in State Department reporting on Sudan, and reflects serious shortcomings in policy and personnel.
Nor is it at all clear that Colonel Paul Davenport, despite his important successes with CPMT-Rumbek, will remain chief of operations for the VMT. He was fired under ugly circumstances by the new head of CPMT-Khartoum, General Bauman. Moreover, the Europeans are pushing hard to have the VMT take on a non-US character, given the distinctly US-led nature of the CPMT. Great Britain has apparently taken the lead and has already reportedly committed $400,000, though this is far from enough money to fund a meaningful VMT.
But the real issue is whether the VMT will ever be effectively deployed. Past history is distinctly unencouraging. Though there was agreement last week between Khartoum and the SPLM on “tasking procedures,” agreements signed by the National Islamic Front have consistently meant nothing, and have been honored only so long as the regime finds them useful. The October 15, 2002 “cessation of hostilities” MOU offers a perfect example.
The stakes here are extremely high. If a VMT tasked with strengthening the October 15 agreement is unable to deploy in full and effective fashion, from within southern Sudan, the Team will be nothing but a charade—the evident fate of the CPMT under General Bauman and Khartoum embassy charge d’affaires Millington. The VMT must aggressively monitor the redeployment of offensive military assets by Khartoum. Five brigades have recently been redeployed by Khartoum to deal with the increasingly powerful insurrection in the western province of Darfur—including forces from Wau, Juba, Bentiu, and Kassala. The original deployments of these forces to the front lines were made after the October 15, 2002 MOU, which explicitly forbade them. These brigades must not be allowed to redeploy to the military front-lines yet again if fighting in Darfur should unexpectedly diminish.
The VMT must also work effectively to see that Khartoum “refrains from any acts of violence or other abuse on the civilian population.” Though this is clearly also the mandate of the CPMT, there should be no opportunity afforded Khartoum to play against one another the deployments of the two teams, as happened during the grounding of CPMT from March 7 through April 11, 2003.
Khartoum clearly counts on confusion over the multiple agreements it has signed, continued US State Department ineptitude, and a general weariness and frustration with the complexities of the Machakos process. Even so, it remains fundamentally true that the only response that serves the cause of a just and durable peace in Sudan is a relentless willingness to confront Khartoum over its serial violations of signed agreements, and to make clear that any meaningful peace agreement will have the most robust of international guarantees and guarantors. Absent this resolve, efforts to end the war permanently are bound to fail.
Northampton, MA 01063