August 20, 2003
In ghastly slow motion and in entirely predictable a fashion, the Machakos/IGAD peace talks are disintegrating and Sudan is yet another step closer to all-out war of unprecedented destructiveness. Despite the valiant and ongoing efforts of the IGAD mediators at the present negotiating session in Nanyuki (Kenya), there is no evidence that Khartoum will agree to work toward peace on the basis of the Draft Framework presented by the IGAD mediators at Nakuru (Kenya) in early July. Talks were suspended indefinitely on Monday (August 18, 2003), with no scheduled date of resumption. The nominal extension of the talks until September 20, 2003 (Deutsche Presse Agentur; August 20, 2003) is in present circumstances meaningless.
Euphemistically, this breakdown is described in wire reports as a “failure to agree on an agenda” (Agence France-Presse, August 19 and 20, 2003; Deutsche Presse Agentur, August 19, 2003). But of course Khartoum’s refusal to accept this document for discussion, its refusal to discuss what was indeed to have been the “agenda,” presents insuperable problems. For the Nakuru Draft Framework was conceived by the IGAD mediators (as well as the “troika” countries of Norway, Great Britain, and the US) as a best effort to provide a basis for final negotiations on all outstanding issues. If Khartoum continues its intransigent refusal to discuss the Draft Framework, this insures that the talks will either collapse or loose their integrity by virtue of yielding to diplomatic blackmail.
[To be sure, the SPLM/A should accept any reasonable diplomatic measures that would accommodate the Nakuru document to negotiating exigencies at Nanyuki, so long as the integrity of the Machakos process and the centrality of the Draft Framework are preserved.]
[Separately, discussions of the three contested areas—Abyei, Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile—appear to be continuing; but no agreement is possible on this immensely difficult set of issues except in the context of a larger and more comprehensive agreement (Agence France-Presse, August 19, 2003).]
It is imperative that the genesis of the Nakuru Draft Framework be continually recalled. After many months of fruitless talks following the breakthrough Machakos Protocol (July 2002), the mediators had decided that the time had come to confront in “holistic” fashion all outstanding issues, to present compromise positions in as balanced and comprehensive a fashion as possible, and then negotiate remaining disagreements on the basis of this central document. It was, in short, an exercise in arbitration as opposed to pure mediation. Though risks attend such a change in diplomatic strategy (since of course neither party will receive all it wishes), the failure to make progress by any other means urgently dictated the need for such a decisive effort.
This is the core issue at the now indefinitely suspended talks at Nanyuki. It is only nominally a “procedural” issue. In fact, it goes to the very heart of what has always been the key question: is the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum willing to negotiate a just peace? Many have argued this was never possible, that a just peace would inevitably set in motion democratizing and liberalizing forces that would bring down the tyranny that is the National Islamic Front (a regime that could not possibly receive 10% of the vote in any fair election). Khartoum knows this, it is argued, and will never negotiate away its existence, even if the only alternative is war. Moreover, it is clear that some in Khartoum’s leadership continue to believe that outright military victory over the south is possible with the weapons purchased by means of expanding oil revenues and development (see below).
Others have argued that if international pressure were only great enough, Khartoum could be forced to negotiate a just peace, even if it were only an expedient measure and designed to buy time. But with sufficient security guarantees for southern Sudan, of the sort that the mediators included in the Nakuru Draft Framework, a full-scale reneging by Khartoum would be a great deal more unlikely. The regime would either be forced to work in good faith to make a united Sudan an attractive option for southerners (to be sure, an extremely unlikely prospect), or the self-determination referendum for South Sudan promised by the Machakos Protocol could be guaranteed by a southern military force and command structure (Section 29.0 of the Nakuru Draft Framework: “PRINCIPLES REGARDING MANDATE AND MISSION OF THE MILITARY FORCES IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY”).
As has become clear in the last two weeks, both Khartoum and the Egyptian leadership have begun a full-scale effort to remove southern self-determination from the negotiations (see analysis by this writer, August 18, 2003; available upon request). For Khartoum this entails reneging on its commitment to the Machakos Protocol—the very diplomatic achievement that makes possible present negotiations—and now refusing to discuss a Draft Framework that makes possible the security arrangements that guarantee the self-determination provision that gives the Machakos Protocol its historic significance.
Though the time-frame for the Nanyuki talks has apparently been extended to September 20, without a breakthrough in which Khartoum accedes to the essentials of the diplomatic process, nothing can be achieved and war will resume. The dry season—the season of greatest military advantage for Khartoum—grows ever closer.
But Khartoum is not waiting for the dry season. Ominous developments in Eastern Upper Nile continue to suggest that the military imperatives of further oil development have already produced new and potentially vastly destructive movements southward by the Chinese-dominated “Petrodar” oil company, based in Adar Yel in Eastern Upper Nile—site of what is now Khartoum’s most powerful and active military garrison in this part of southern Sudan. Reports continue to be sketchy, but a terrifyingly cogent picture emerges when we looks at the geographical factors governing future oil development. Though there is a relatively small humanitarian presence in Eastern Upper Nile, accounts do continue to trickle in from a range of sources in the region, from people who have recently traveled in the region, and through direct communication with those on ground in the region.
Geographical context here is most important, so first a brief overview:
 The Adar Yel oil field comprises Block 3 of the concession scheme defining oil development in Sudan; it is dominated by the so-called “Petrodar” oil company, which is little more than a front for an overwhelmingly Chinese operation and thus for China National Petroleum Corp. (for a map of the concession blocks in Sudan, see the authoritative www.sudanupdate.org, under “Reports”);
 Adar Yel lies approximately 60 miles north/northwest of Longochok, site of significant recent fighting. Adar Yel is about 30 miles west/southwest of Mabaan, another area that has also seen significant fighting;
 Adar Yel is Khartoum’s major military base in Eastern Upper Nile and the point from which virtually all major military offensives have been launched over the last several years; it has become the equivalent of what Bentiu is for oil development in Western Upper Nile;
 As is the case with Bentiu, elevated, all-weather roads are essential for oil operations and development; such a road runs from Adar Yel through Golgook (the main base for Khartoum-allied militia forces in Eastern Upper Nile), south to Longochok, which is now under Khartoum’s military control;
 Another elevated, all-weather oil road runs from Adar Yel to the Mabaan and Boin region to the east; this is the area where a large massacre of civilians by Khartoum’s forces was reported to have occurred in April 2002 (such a massacre would be tactically similar to what has been authoritatively established in Western Upper Nile);
 The Adar Yel oil fields are presently producing in excess of 10,000 barrels of oil/day, though the Chinese are not providing reliable figures (the amount is likely greater); the oil is taken by trunk tankers northwest to Melut on still another all-weather road and from there loaded on barges to travel down the Nile to Khartoum and ultimately Port Sudan on the Red Sea (crude oil from this region cannot be refined domestically in Sudan);
 Having reached Longochok, the Chinese obviously wish to extend their oil development efforts further south, ultimately to Gueng, where Chevron drilled three very successful wells in 1984 (the Chinese drilled three oil wells in the Longochok area in February-April 2003; one is now capable of production);
 To reach Gueng and the Chevron oil wells drilled in 1984, the Chinese must extend their oil road about 45 miles further south, through Mading; this will require very significant civilian destruction and displacement;
 Reports are now coming from Daga Post (about 40 miles east of Longochok, very near the Ethiopian border, and not in Khartoum’s control) that displaced persons are streaming in from Mading, Longochok, and many villages along the site of the projected oil road (all evidence suggests that construction will begin with the onset of the next dry season);
 If people are indeed fleeing from Mading, which had been recaptured by the SPLA after falling to Khartoum’s militia forces in June, then this strongly suggests that Mading has either fallen back to Khartoum or (the more likely case) faces imminent attack by Khartoum’s regular and/or militia forces; civilians would thus be fleeing before attacked and dispossessed. This should hardly be surprising, given the overwhelming geographic logic of further oil development. Mading—in SPLA control— would prevent both road construction south to Gueng and any efforts to exploit the abandoned Chevron wells. It is certainly a primary military target.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of Chinese oil ambitions in Eastern Upper Nile, there has been virtually no reporting on this terrible reprise of what has been so authoritatively reported in Western Upper Nile. The US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team in its reports on Eastern Upper Nile has either scandalously failed entirely to note Chinese oil development, or has contented itself with vague references to the benign corporate presence of “Petrodar”—never noting that the company is entirely Chinese operated and represents the same ruthless ambitions that have been fully on display in Western Upper Nile. There, Amnesty International reported that “Chinese workers were armed and appeared willing to use their guns” (“Sudan: The human price of oil,” May 3, 2000; page 1). Now again, a very informed military source (not associated with the SPLA) has reported on Chinese security forces doing Khartoum’s military work in the region.
A further report from the region indicates that the notoriously brutal Khartoum-backed militia commander Chaiyot, now operating out of Longochok, has attacked Udeir (Wudeir), about 25 miles northeast of Longochok. This reported attack was apparently repulsed by the SPLA forces at Udeir, but even an attack by Chaiyot on this location has serious implications. It would first of all indicate that Khartoum has armed his forces very significantly and supplied them with sufficient logistical resources to permit an attack so far from his base. If he is reinforced by Khartoum’s regular forces from Adar Yel, or by the helicopter gunships that have for several months been operating in Eastern Upper Nile, then this will dramatically escalate conflict and is likely to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis that already exists in this remote part of southern Sudan.
It is, of course, striking that in attempting to understand what is clearly a volatile and insufficiently reported situation, all we have to work with are accounts that cannot be fully verified. Though there is a good deal of overlap in these reports, and though they are suggestive, the present situation obviously calls for energetic investigations by the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team or the Verification and Monitoring Team called for in the February 4, 2003 “Addendum” to the cessation of hostilities agreement (October 15, 2002). It is a disgrace, one reflecting deeply on the lack of true international commitment to peace in Sudan, that neither of these teams can provide such energetic investigations.
The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team has produced two reports on Eastern Upper Nile—both riddled with contradiction, consequential omissions, errors, investigative failures, and a conspicuous tendentiousness. The first report did not mention oil development at all, despite the geographical realities noted above; the second referred to “Petrodar” only in a fashion that worked to create a grotesque image of rapacious Chinese oil development as some sort of corporate benevolence and a reliable source of information about events in the area (see reports by this writer, June 19, July 2, July 9, 2003; available upon request). This is either stupefying ignorance or disingenuousness of a hopelessly compromising sort.
[To be sure, the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team has at least one enthusiastic champion: Khartoum’s embassy in Washington, DC has recently issued press releases celebrating the findings of the Team, a fact that speaks volumes. One of these embassy press releases contains a clear threat against this writer and others attempting to render a picture of current realities of Sudan. Citing the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team and its reports, Sudan’s diplomatic representation in Washington declares:
“the Government of the Sudan reserves the right of taking legal action against those who fabricated reports to tarnish the image of Sudan” (Press Release, The Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, August 14, 2003)
In the “double-speak” that prevails in Khartoum and seems to travel with all those who represent the regime, “fabricated reports tarnishing the image of Sudan” means anything critical of the National Islamic Front. Anyone wishing to inform Khartoum’s diplomatic representatives about the basics of First Amendment protections in this country may contact the embassy at the following email addresses:
Mr. Khidir Haroun Ahmed: firstname.lastname@example.org
(There is no ambassador from Khartoum in Washington; the leading diplomat is charg d’affaires, Khidir Haroun Ahmed)
Mr. Abdel Bagi Kabeir: email@example.com
Mr. Alier Deng: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Mohamed Eltom: email@example.com
Mr. Khalid Daffalah: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Mubark Osman: email@example.com
Mr. Safwat Siddig: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Hodari Abdul-Ali: email@example.com
Mr. Gamal Eldin Hassan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Atif Badri: email@example.com
Mr. Bushara Atia: firstname.lastname@example.org
There would seem to be, on an exceedingly generous reading, at least an implicit commitment to the truth in the Embassy press release; still, it is surely the case that a great many emails will be necessary to complete such a large educational undertaking.]
On another front, the Verification and Monitoring Team is still not meaningfully deployed, has seen unexplained changes in leadership, is reportedly rife with internal dissention, and has produced nothing in the way of useful reports on any situation of the sort specified in its original mandate. It is a failure, an international failure, of the most consequential sort.
As the last six years in Western Upper Nile have shown with unmistakable clarity, oil and war are inextricably bound up with one another in southern Sudan. This is the conclusion of every single human rights report, of the reports from every single independent international nongovernmental organization operating in southern Sudan, and of every analysis undertaken by a wide range of “think tanks.” It is thus no stretch to say that the impending collapse of the peace talks and the evidence for accelerating Chinese oil development in Eastern Upper Nile are deeply and importantly related.
Again, for many in Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime, oil revenues and oil revenue-funded military purchases/production continue to hold out the prospect of military victory, or at least control over all the strategic oil regions in the south. On this view from Khartoum, after the oil regions (and thus a huge part of southern Sudan) are controlled, the remainder of the South—most of Bahr el-Ghazal, much of Eastern and Western Equatoria—can be discarded and allowed to have “self-determination.” An ever-widening security corridor around the oil regions of Upper Nile will be heavily militarized, fighting will be stalemated, and Khartoum’s only strategic military goal will be to prevent infiltration by southern forces.
The rest of southern Sudan will then be abandoned, or nominally run under some completely subservient and contrived “Southern Administration,” which may even be put factitiously in charge of the oil regions in the south as well. Such a “Southern Administration” will be an ugly farce, glimpses of which appear now in what passes for southern Sudanese “representation” in the NIF government. The people of the south will of course have no real voice in such a “government.”
Every day brings news of greater disintegration in the Machakos peace process, as Khartoum continues to escape the necessary international pressure; every day makes it more likely that the horrifically destructive oil war will resume in southern Sudan.
So great is the crisis at this point that only direct, public intervention by the President of the United State—bypassing his ineffectual State Department–gives hope of generating the necessary diplomatic urgency and an understanding by the Khartoum regime that there will be serious and painful consequences for continued intransigence in the Machakos peace process.
President George W. Bush may be contacted at the White House:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Email (least likely to register consequentially): email@example.com
Northampton, MA 01063