August 4, 2003
As the prospects for peace in Sudan diminish with Khartoum’s continuing intransigence in the Machakos process and its recent declaration of unacceptable “preconditions” for resumed talks (UN’s IRIN, July 29, 2003), it is fundamentally important that responsibility for the squandering of this historic opportunity be appropriately assigned. For no new peace process for Sudan could ever begin without a clear understanding of why Machakos failed. All too accustomed to success in shopping for new diplomatic peace forums, the Khartoum regime simply must not be allowed to walk away after collapsing the Machakos process without clear and forceful consequences. Indeed, the most appropriate set of consequence under present circumstances would be a full-scale international effort to force the demise of the National Islamic Front regime through concerted and comprehensive economic sanctions, and to provide a robust military response that would insure continued humanitarian assistance to the south and other marginalized areas of the country.
For of course the immediate result of Khartoum’s engineering a breakdown in the Machakos process will be the resumption of war, and war characterized by unprecedented human destructiveness. Though attention has rightly been on the peace process following the apparent breakthrough represented by the Machakos Protocol of July 2002, the international community—having failed to bring sufficient resources to the peace process—is now morally obliged to recall the nature of the war that was largely suspended by virtue of the cessation of hostilities agreement of October 2002. This agreement, negotiated ten months ago, has created a distance in time that apparently already partially obscures the realities of renewed fighting in Sudan. It is thus appropriate, as Machakos is at its last gasp, to recall fully why peace is so urgent, and how violent such renewed war will be.
 Most ominous are the threats to humanitarian aid that will immediately come into play, given how Khartoum has consistently conducted war in the past. The regime’s weapons are many in this arena and it is important to recall how they have been deployed in recent years.
[a] Interdiction and prevention of humanitarian aid.
During the terrible 1998 famine in Bahr el-Ghazal, Khartoum banned, from February 4 to March 31, all relief flights into all areas of the province not controlled by the regime. This was a major contribution to catastrophe. In the end, perhaps as many as 100,000 human beings died in the famine. Impeding humanitarian aid during this crisis continued a war strategy that has been aptly described by Human Rights Watch: “The government’s counterinsurgency plan in Bahr el-Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, and elsewhere is to attack civilians as a means to destroy the rebels’ social base, displacing, killing, or capturing civilians and stripping them of the meager assets that provide the means of survival in a harsh land” (“Famine in Sudan, 1998,” New York, 1998, pp. 1 – 2).
More recently, the UN estimated in early July of 2002 that the number of civilians being denied humanitarian relief by the Khartoum regime was 1.7 million. Even more recently, on September 27, 2002, Khartoum imposed a blanket ban on all humanitarian relief flights by closing air space over both Eastern and Western Equatoria. The number of people who were then beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance was estimated at over 3 million.
There have been numerous other occasions on which Khartoum has used the denial of food and humanitarian aid as a weapon of war. The people of the Nuba Mountains were denied all food and other aid for over a decade; Southern Blue Nile was similarly beyond the reach of the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) until very recently. If war resumes in Sudan, we can be sure that Khartoum will again institute humanitarian flight bans, will create gratuitous bureaucratic hurdles and delays for OLS, and will deny humanitarian access to specific locations for military purposes.
[b] Military assaults on humanitarian relief efforts.
Khartoum has regularly engaged in aerial bombings of known humanitarian relief sites in southern Sudan. Indeed, so relentless were the bombing attacks on humanitarian efforts in southern Sudan that during the summer of 2000 the UN was forced to suspend all flights for over a week.
Examples of what led to this extraordinary action include the dropping of shrapnel-loaded barrel bombs on Mapel (August 7, 2000); Mapel was at the time a site of operations for Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, and Save the Children/UK. The clinic of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Chelkou was also deliberately bombed on July 14, 2000. On July 26, 2000 Khartoum again bombed the ICRC, this time at Billing. In Billing, ICRC pilots on the ground, who had an approved flight plan from Khartoum, heard the bombers coming and desperately spread out a large Red Cross flag on the ground. It did no good. The bombs fell anyway. Other attacks occurred at Malualkon (July 28, 2000), where a relief worker was injured during the bombing, and Akuem (also on July 28, 2000).
The UN recorded at least 33 separate bombing incidents (and a total of over 250 bombs) in July 2000 alone, and reported that aid compounds, as well as OLS and Red Cross planes had been specifically targeted (Associated Press, August 8, 2000). When the bombing of humanitarian relief sites continued with the same intensity in August, the UN took the unprecedented action of grounding all its humanitarian aircraft flying into southern Sudan.
The attacks on humanitarian relief have been a constant feature of Khartoum’s war effort. An especially brutal example from last year is the attack on Bieh in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. On February 20, 2002 Khartoum’s helicopter gunships attacked a UN World Food Program center during an actual food distribution (UN workers were terrified eyewitnesses). One account of this unspeakably barbarous act comes from the Los Angeles Times:
“On Wednesday afternoon, two helicopter gunships hovered above 4,000
people lined up for rations of beans, vegetable oil and corn porridge for their children. As soldiers in one helicopter kept guard, their comrades in the second aircraft fired at least five rockets into the crowd, according to [UN] World Food Program spokeswoman Laura Melo. A soldier in the second helicopter reportedly fired his machine gun indiscriminately at women, children and aid workers.” (Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2002)
The Los Angeles Times continued:
“World Food Program chief Catherine Bertini said its aid distribution had been approved by the Sudanese government. She called Wednesday’s attack [on the Bieh food distribution center] ‘an intolerable affront to human life and humanitarian work.’ ‘Such attacks, deliberately targeting civilians about to receive humanitarian aid, are absolutely and utterly unacceptable.'” (Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2002)
But there have been a great many “Bieh’s”; and despite such UN protestations, we may be sure that attacks of this nature will resume with any new outbreak of fighting.
[c] Intimidation of humanitarian relief efforts.
It is likely that a highly sophisticated dual-use radar system (military/commercial) has now been installed at Khartoum’s main southern garrison town of Juba. The system, manufactured and installed by the British-Italian firm Alenia Marconi, will offer significant new aerial surveillance possibilities (Alenia Marconi has already installed a system at El Obeid, site of Khartoum’s major forward military air base). Indeed, the system will almost certainly make possible the interdiction of any humanitarian flight into southern Sudan (these flights are conducted by means of slow-flying propeller aircraft). Every single pilot interviewed in southern Sudan and Lokichokio (Kenya) by this writer in January 2003 expressed extreme apprehension over the implications of an operational Alenia Marconi system. The pilots indicated that if this system permitted Khartoum to scramble any form of MiG military aircraft from Juba to threaten planes in flight, they would cease to fly altogether.
There is no reason to assume that Khartoum will not engage in precisely such tactics of intimidation, given the regime’s past record.
 Fighting in the oil regions.
In addition to augmenting its forces through massive oil-funded military manufacturing and imports, Khartoum has also mobilized large numbers of new troops. For example, Al Ayam in Khartoum (July 31, 2003) reports the deployment of a new Popular Defense Force brigade, the “Al-Akhyar Brigade.” Radio Omdurman recently boasted of the training of 75,000 new soldiers. Moreover, Khartoum’s armed forces have had the highly significant advantage of continuous redeployment over the last ten months, in clear violation of the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement. All this will permit—depending on the nature of fighting in Darfur province—many points of attack: toward Yei from Juba, where redeployments have been concentrated; toward Rumbek from Wau, which has also seen major augmentation of military forces; perhaps towards Kapoeta from Juba and garrisons on the east side of the Nile.
But the major strategic goal of Khartoum will be to consolidate its control of the oil regions of Western and Eastern Upper Nile. It is no accident that this is where fighting has been most continuous, even after the October 15 cessation of hostilities agreement. Khartoum’s large-scale January offensive in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile—using both regular and militia forces—is the best portent of what we will see with resumed war. Khartoum’s heavy militarization of the oil road from Bentiu to Leer will continue, with a link-up to Adok on the Nile. (Aerial photography reveals that Khartoum’s military presence at Adok has tripled since the October 15 agreement.)
Indeed, far from dismantling the garrisons constructed along this road after the October 15 cessation of hostilities agreement (dismantling required by the February 4 “Addendum” to the October 15 agreement), Khartoum has recently built two additional garrisons. Malaysia’s Petronas, now the dominant partner in this Block 5a concession area, has begun active drilling and has expanded road construction—the latter again a clear violation of the February 4 agreement. (Earlier reports on construction violations along the Bentiu-Leer oil road came from the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team under its previous leadership.)
Similarly, the escalating fighting in Eastern Upper Nile has been directly related to oil development by the Chinese “Petrodar” operation. One regional source reports that Chinese nationals are actively participating in military actions (as was reported by Amnesty International in Western Upper Nile). The role of oil development in Eastern Upper Nile has been deliberately obscured by the present incarnation of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, but a resumption of full-scale fighting will quickly reveal the direct link between such development and Khartoum’s conduct of war.
This link between oil development and scorched-earth military tactics directed against civilians and humanitarian relief efforts in Western Upper Nile has of course been fully and authoritatively documented by numerous human rights and other reporting organizations. These include the last three UN Special Rapporteurs for Sudan; reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the Harker Report commissioned by the Canadian Foreign Ministry; the reports from Christian Aid (“The Scorched Earth: Oil and War in Sudan,” March 2001) and the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (“Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions,” May 2002); the extremely powerful indictment offered by Georgette Gagnon and John Ryle in the their October 2001 report (“Report on an Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan”); the report from Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (“Violence, Health, and Access to Aid in Unity State/Western Upper Nile, Sudan,” April 2002); and many others.
What this well-established history of militarized oil development suggests is that the civilians of both Western and Eastern Upper Nile will be relentlessly destroyed and displaced. The means will include helicopter gunship attacks, Antonov bombing attacks, militia and regular forces burning villages, killing, raping, abducting, looting cattle and destroying foodstocks. Humanitarian relief will be severely attenuated if not halted altogether because of insecurity on the ground in the oil regions.
The oil road leading west from Bentiu is likely to see especially intense renewed fighting. Particularly ominous in this connection is the recently reported reconciliation of militia leaders Paulino Matip and Peter Gadet. Al Hayat (Khartoum) reports that the two “signed a conciliation accord on July 28, 2003” (Al Hayat, July 29, 2003). Matip and Gadet are Khartoum’s two most powerful and ruthless militia leaders operating west of Bentiu, but they had been fiercely at odds. Though a reported reconciliation means nothing in itself, if it were to prove true, this would greatly heighten the threat to the civilian populations west of Bentiu, which have already suffered terribly as a consequence of Khartoum’s January offensive in the region.
All must understand that control of the oil regions, and increasing oil production and revenues, will be Khartoum’s most urgent strategic goal in resumed war. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that such war will be any less destructive of civilians in the oil regions than previous reports have established. And though reporting on Eastern Upper Nile has been much less than that for Western Upper Nile, the inevitable escalation of fighting in the east will oblige a much fuller survey of the ensuing civilian destruction and displacement.
If the international community behaves at all responsibly, those oil companies presently complicit with the Khartoum regime in the oil-driven destruction of southern Sudan will be held accountable. China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petronas, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Company, and Austria’s OMV should all face international boycott, directly or indirectly, and they should confront the prospect of capital market sanctions in the US and the European Union. India’s rapidly increasing role in Sudan’s oil development should be especially highlighted.
 Increased assistance to the maniacally destructive Lord’s Resistance Army, operating in southern Sudan and northern Uganda.
Khartoum has recently admitted that its army officers have been aiding Joseph Kony and his terrorist organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army (Agence France-Presse, July 29, 2003). The Lord’s Resistance Army is notorious for its extraordinarily brutal tactics, for kidnapping and enslaving civilians (especially young girls and boys), for human mutilation and maiming, and for widespread pillaging and destruction. Khartoum’s admission that its army officers have been supporting the LRA was forced by the recent upsurge in reporting on activities of the terrorist organization, including especially authoritative accounts from the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative.
To be sure, Khartoum preposterously denies any knowledge of aid from its military officers to the LRA, but simple logic makes clear the absurdity of such a claim. It has long been the case that the Ugandan government has accused Khartoum of supporting the LRA, and that this has been a major source of tension between Khartoum and Kampala. How likely is it that, given the large bilateral stakes in the issue, Khartoum would allow major military aid to the LRA to go undetected? Especially when the accusations concerning such aid are of longstanding? The LRA has always been considered by Khartoum as a means of destabilizing civilian life in both northern Uganda and southern Sudan, and thus as a lever by which to pressure Kampala into abandoning the SPLM/A. This critically important and viciously deployed military tool is not going to be left to free-lancers in Khartoum’s military forces.
Moreover, the scale of the aid suggests how unlikely it is to have gone undetected by Khartoum’s notoriously efficient military security forces. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reported from Kampala (June 19, 2003):
“A statement issued by the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI) leaders said that since the second half of 2002, ‘members of the Sudanese Armed Forces have been delivering truckloads of military assistance to the LRA in Nsitu,’ including ‘arms, ammunition and other items.’ The accusation was based on testimonies from ‘six different returnees from the LRA’ who had come out of the bush under amnesty in the months between February and June, the statement said.”
How likely is it that “truckloads” of military assistance to a terrorist organization that is a major source of tension in a key bilateral relationship would go undetected? We may be sure that if war resumes, and the LRA seems to be a useful military tool, additional “truckloads” of military equipment will flow to Joseph Kony and his fellow brutal thugs.
 Repression and gross human rights abuses in the north of Sudan.
Despite the unconscionable elimination of a UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan, the recent sharp upsurge in reports of repressive measures and human rights abuses in Khartoum and elsewhere in northern Sudan will only continue to grow. If peace talks have broken down, there will be even less to restrain Khartoum in its vicious tyranny. What Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail recently euphemistically referred to as the regime’s “previous shortcoming” will be on massive display: torture, disappearances, barbaric imposition of the shari’a penal code, denial of political freedoms, press censorship, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings. The fate of civilians in Darfur province, where there is presently a very significant insurgency campaign by the newly named “Sudan Liberation Army/Movement,” will be especially harsh, and we may expect to see much greater civilian destruction and a savage effort to impose military governance.
It should also be noted that Khartoum’s profligacy in military spending has left the regime without the resources to respond to domestic crises of the sort represented by the severe flooding now occurring in Kassala province. These perversely misguided spending priorities give all too clear a sense of how much suffering renewed war will inflict on the people of northern Sudan.
These are the inevitable consequences of resumed war in Sudan, and of course the scale of destruction and suffering by civilians can only be partially suggested in any such account. But if we cleave to the most terrible statistics of this war, if bear in mind it has been the engine for the deaths of well over 2 million human beings and the displacement (internal and external) of 5 million more, we may catch at least a glimpse of the consequences of the collapse of the Machakos peace process.
Responsibility for this collapse simply must be assigned with historical authority and clarity. There can be no casual assertion of a “moral equivalency” between Khartoum and the SPLM/A, no ignorant claim that “neither party was really interested in peace,” of the sort we might expect from US special envoy for Sudan John Danforth. Khartoum’s behavior, and in particular its categorical refusal to negotiate a final peace agreement on the basis of the Nakuru document presented by the Machakos mediators, must be seen for what it clearly is: an intransigent refusal to deal seriously with the key issues that remain outstanding a year following the signing of the Machakos Protocol.
To be sure, despite Khartoum’s blackmailing ultimatum (“our ‘precondition’ for resuming peace talks is that the Draft Framework presented by the mediators at Nakuru be abandoned”), there will be some who argue that the SPLM/A must bear some of the blame for a re-ignited civil war. Some of these voices will come from the US State Department. They will suggest that various statements by SPLM leaders, such as Yasir Arman and John Garang, were responsible by virtue of threatening war. But it is important to understand what SPLM Chairman John Garang is asserting when he opines:
“What is the alternative if [Khartoum’s leaders] reject this document? The alternative is to go back to war. And absolutely that is a bad alternative.”
(Reuters, July 23, 2003)
We must attend to two significant features of this statement. First, though it is certainly the case that Garang and the SPLM/A do not represent all southerners, they are nonetheless never more representative of sentiment in southern Sudan, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile than when they refuse military surrender to Khartoum. Certainly those who think that a just and sustainable peace can be built on such a military surrender of the south have simply not attended to the historical realities of southern Sudan and the marginalized areas over the last half-century.
Secondly, Garang’s statement is not in itself a threat of war—it is not properly a threat at all. It is rather the assertion, which would seem unimpeachable given the evidence, that if the Khartoum regime is successful in fatally compromising the integrity of the Machakos peace process, war will inevitably resume. The demise of Machakos will see Khartoum immediately accelerate its offensives in the oil regions of Western and Eastern Upper Nile. In turn, from the view of the SPLM/A, the October 15, 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement, which presently makes the Machakos negotiations possible, cannot be maintained any longer without a just peace agreement clearly in the offing. In other words, the SPLM/A cannot be expected to accept a “no peace/no war” status indefinitely, for this will eventually prove to be precisely the unacceptable military surrender.
As unfathomably great as their suffering has been, the people of the south show no sign of surrender, as anyone who has traveled recently to southern Sudan can attest. Indeed, this is a statement of fact so obviously true, and yet evidently so far beyond articulation by various members of the international community, that we can only marvel at the paradox. But this sense of the marvelous is likely to be short-lived. Realities looming in the very near term will show such a morally incomprehensible silence to be of little significance—other than as symbol of the international failure of will that led to the resumption of Sudan’s catastrophic civil war.
Northampton, MA 01063