June 19, 2003
The US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team has today its released its shamefully belated findings in connection with the reported atrocities in the Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji areas (Eastern Upper Nile) in late April 2002. The scale and nature of the atrocities was first publicly reported by Mel Middleton of Freedom Quest International (Calgary, Alberta) and Dennis Bennett of Servant’s Heart (Seattle, Washington) on the basis of first-hand interviews with survivors in the region. Both men have extensive experience in southern Sudan. Their meticulous interviews, with very able Mabaan translators, followed exceedingly arduous efforts to reach the sites from which ominous accounts had emerged in 2002. These interviews occurred in January 2003.
In a press release of February 6, 2003, Servant’s Heart and Freedom Quest International refer to their discovery of “fields littered with human remains, many of them from young children.” The investigating team of Middleton and Bennett took extensive photographs, made videotapes of evidence, and recorded numerous interviews (all made available to both the State Department and CPMT). They also refer explicitly to a specific time-frame: “late April 2002.” It is a measure of the sheer incompetence of those who conducted the CPMT investigation, and prepared its report, that this key issue of chronology is consistently confused. Sometimes the CPMT report refers to a “late April time-frame.” But at other places it refers to the attacks being investigated as having occurred in “early April.”
This is of critical importance. Indeed, the significance of this confusion in dates can hardly be overstated. For many of those interviewed by CPMT refer to events of “early April” when asked about the allegations at issue from “late April.” For example, a CPMT interview in Khartoum with Gidion Jimgo, “a former SPLM/A commander, who defected to GOS [the Government of Sudan] in June 2002,” has Mr. Jimgo being “involved in a military operation in early April 2002.”
But the reported massacre of civilians, again, is specifically dated by Freedom Quest International and Servant’s Heart to “late April.” What, CPMT should have asked, is the relevance of an interview referring to events in “early April,” weeks before the incidents in question? And why, we might ask here and of other “interviews,” is there no acknowledgement of the highly compromised nature of interviews conducted in Khartoum, where Mr. Jimgo would know the untoward consequences of making any comments unflattering of the regime? This failure to ask whether interviewees were in a position to say anything but what Khartoum would have them say is a signal shortcoming of the report, as is its clear bias toward securing interviews with people allied with Khartoum.
Indeed, the failure to interview more civilian survivors from Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji is striking and all too revealing. Seven of the people named as interviewees are either in Khartoum, in Khartoum’s army, or part of militia groups supported by Khartoum. Only two of the other people interviewed (“peasant farmers”) were clearly from the area attacked, and they were interviewed in the village of Jammam, which is under the control of Khartoum’s military—a fact that would surely not be lost on the interviewees. Yet another “young SPLA soldier” (“John”) was not in the area being investigated at the time of the attacks. He was interviewed, it seems, because “he speaks good English.” “Ismail” (no last name given) may also have been from Liang, although the CPMT interview account is ambiguous (and as is the case throughout the report, poorly written).
There is no guiding methodology to the interviewing procedures; it seems rather to have been the case that arriving so belatedly in the area of Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji (or at least vaguely near the area), the CPMT simply interviewed whoever might be available. Some of the translations also give clear evidence of tendentiousness, and there is no discussion whatsoever of the linguistic and anthropological difficulties in speaking with the Mabaan people.
But again, it is the confusion between an “early April” and “late April” time-frame that is essential to keep in mind. Gidion Jimgo is not alone in referring, as the CPMT puts it in their own report, to “early April 2002,” when the original allegation that began this investigation could not have been more explicit in referring to “late April 2002.”
Thus when the CPMT interviewed Daud Gasha in Khartoum (a medical assistant who is another defector from the SPLA), Mr. Gasha refers to “wounded from the attack reach[ing] the SPLM/A hospital in Belathuma on 10 April 2002.” But what has this to do with incidents reported as having occurred in “late April 2002”? This is simply inexcusable sloppiness—or, as would seem much more likely from the tenor of the report as a whole, clear investigative and reporting tendentiousness.
Other examples of this inexcusable confusion or obfuscation of the relevant time-frame:
 CPMT interviewed Musa Deli in Jamman (again, a Khartoum-controlled village). CPMT reports Mr. Deli as confirming that, “the Ruffa Arab Militia launched an attack in ***early April 2002*** (my emphasis).
 CPMT interviewed Omar Ahmed Ali, the “Commanding Officer of the GOS in Bancholi since 1999.” He is reported as speaking of “fighting that took place between ***12 – 14 April 2002***” (my emphasis).
This chronological confusion alone vitiates the integrity of the entire CPMT report, a report that was to have investigated atrocities explicitly reported as having occurred in “late April 2002.”
But there are other extremely telling shortcomings that are readily apparent in the CPMT report. As noted above, linguistic, anthropological, and political issues seem not to have been of concern for CPMT investigators. They nowhere discuss the problems of translation in dealing with the Mabaan people of the area in question, nor do they give any evidence of understanding the context in which people are speaking.
Some problems are immediately and very troublingly apparent. The CPMT report is strewn with references to “cattle”; but the Mabaan people have lost virtually all their cattle since the outbreak of fighting in 1983. They have goats, they fish, they cultivate—but with very rare exceptions they no longer raise cattle. What, then, does it mean for various translations imply that the fighting was over “cattle”? Is this a casual substitution of “cattle” for “goats”? This seems extremely unlikely, and the quality of the translations is immediately suspect.
There is a reported CPMT interview with a “Chief Sayid” in Liang, but this also raises acute problems of interviewing methodology. We learn nothing of him, not even his first name. Is it also an Arabic name, which would have notable implications in this part of Eastern Upper Nile? Is he even from Liang? Is he a chief? a subchief? of which payam? Was he in Liang at the time of the attack? Does he have any connection to Liang at all? He is vague about time. How does he know how many were killed? And what is the basis for his estimate for the population of the entire area (3000 – 5000)? Strikingly and disturbingly, the “chief’s” source-less guess comes be the basis for CPMT’s estimate of the population of the area in the conclusion to the report. What does this say about CPMT commitment to checking sources and information?
The CPMT report also refers to its inability to “locate a site that could be identified as ***a field*** where an alleged massacre of 2500 persons occurred” (my emphasis). But this is either gross ignorance or gross tendentiousness. 2500 Mabaan people certainly would never allow themselves to be herded into a single massive killing field. But this is not what was alleged. The February 6, 2003 report from Servant’s Heart and Freedom Quest International referred to “fields” (emphatically plural) and to villages (Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji) that are spread over many miles. Moreover, as Freedom Quest and Servant’s Heart well know, Mabaan huts tend to be scattered, not organized around a single village center.
The implicit, and no doubt deliberate, mischaracterization of the allegation emanating from Servant’s Heart and Freedom Quest should not go unchallenged. This is especially so when the CPMT report concludes by urging that these organizations “cautiously avoid inflaming the situation and reality on the ground.” Nothing is more likely to “inflame” the situation in southern Sudan than such careless and tendentious reporting as CPMT has today offered. It is not a coincidence that CPMT has lost virtually all credibility with the SPLM/A in light of its recent reporting efforts.
Returning to the January investigation by Freedom Quest and Servant’s Heart we should recall that this was already occurring one full rainy season after the events in question, and that very tall elephant grass and other vegetation had covered, almost completely, many skeletal remains. These had to be assiduously searched out in the fields by Bennett and Middleton, as villagers could do no more than gesture toward where the remains might be (most remains, of course, would have been either buried by returning villagers or consumed by wild animals). This was clearly an arduous task that the CPMT investigators were not willing to undertake.
Indeed, CPMT appears simply not to have been willing to devote the requisite resources for an investigation of the Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji area until May 2003, more than three months after the investigation was supposedly begun (the CPMT report disingenuously claims that “upon receipt of the allegation, the CPMT commenced an investigation”: this is simply not true in the sense of doing what would need to be done to gather evidence of any real value). Because it had only fixed-wing air craft at its disposal, and because it was unprepared to do serious overland walking, CPMT was unable to reach the Liang area until (by its own account) May 21, 2003—well into the present rainy season, which began in April. This insured difficult travel conditions and exceedingly difficult movement on the ground, even on-site.
The “reconnaissance flights” that the CPMT report refers to as the necessary substitute for helicopter transport (“due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the location”) were useless for gathering evidence of the sort required by the allegations of a massacre on the ground over many miles and between several villages, in vegetation that had grown through a full rainy season.
Yet another methodological problem insinuates itself throughout the report, and that is the myopic view of what sustains fighting in Eastern Upper Nile, as well as other regions in the south. CPMT should know that the primary reasons are at least two-fold:  Khartoum’s determination to use allied militias to destroy civilians and civil society, and  Khartoum’s determination to expand oil exploration, production, and export means. Though the CPMT report alludes at points to the fact that various militias in Eastern Upper Nile are supplied by the Khartoum regime and military, they do not make explicit the clear motivation: Khartoum can fight a war in the south most efficiently and cheaply by supplying one faction or militia and playing it off against others. All dead southerners contribute in Khartoum’s mind to its ultimate military advantage.
This has been repeatedly chronicled in authoritative fashion (see, for example, the International Crisis Group “Sudan’s Oilfields Burn Again,” February 10, 2003, Nairobi/Brussels; pages 7 – 12). It is also of great importance to recall that there is significant and growing oil production in Eastern Upper Nile, not just in Western Upper Nile. The Adar Yel site is reportedly producing 10,000 barrel/day, and aggressive exploration activity continues in Eastern Upper Nile. This will eventually require a pipeline for transport, whether the pipeline goes west (toward the existing pipeline from Western Upper Nile) or east toward the Gambella district in Ethiopia (see, for example, Alexander’s Oil and Gas Report, on Sudan [January 2003]: http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/frame_nta_news.htm). Either way, a new pipeline insures vast civilian clearances of the sort that have been authoritatively documented for Western Upper Nile.
Failing to note either Khartoum’s notorious “divide and conquer” military strategy, or the significance of oil in Eastern Upper Nile, makes a mockery of the one paragraph that constitutes the “Background” section of the CPMT report. Indeed, CPMT seems content to offer a glib version Khartoum’s account of what sustains fighting in Eastern Upper Nile: ‘traditional” cattle disputes (“the conflict appears to revolve around the ownership and control of cattle”). This again ignores the fact that the Mabaan people who are of concern here do not typically raise cattle.
But most disgraceful in all of this sorry account is the failure to find more people actually from the villages to interview. (CPMT claims to have interviewed an SPLA commander from the region, one “Boutros”—no first name given—and that he claims there was no significant fighting in the area. Research into the identify and reliability of this “Boutros” is presently being undertaken with the SPLM/A.) What CPMT has provided in the end are only two interviews of people clearly from the area at the time of the attacks (both men are presently in a Khartoum-controlled village), and the interviews receive but a very brief and vague paragraph each (they are the two shortest accounts in the CPMT report). Even so, while their accounts give no sense of scale, they do offer clear indication of deliberate civilian destruction and looting. Shamelessly, CPMT concludes by congratulating itself on having conducted “exhaustive witness interviews.”
But to get anything like a true sense of what really happened in late April 2002 in the Liang area, CPMT should have done what Mel Middleton and Dennis Bennett did: hike the arduous 35 kilometers needed to reach the site of reported atrocities from the nearest available landing strip. If CPMT had done so—in a timely fashion, with fully adequate translators, and a real willingness to search for survivors—they might have heard what Middleton and Bennett did. Excerpts from their interviews, videotaped and conducted individually in January 2003:
First Interview: Awtio, Subchief of Liang Payam
Q: Please describe what happened?
A: When they (the soldiers) came they (the villagers) were asleep. When these Arabs came, they chased the people away and started burning their houses.
Q: How does he know they were soldiers? What were they wearing?
A: The soldiers wore “khaki” uniforms
Q: What color were the soldier’s skins?
A: They saw the soldiers carrying guns. They were red-skinned soldiers. [note: “red-skinned” is the local term for Arabs]. When the soldiers came, the majority of the village was asleep. But we had awakened and were sitting by the fire. They (his family) saw a movement and that was what caused us to rush away.
Q: Did he see the solders firing the guns?
A: Yes, they were shooting at us.
Q: Rifles only, or heavier weapons also?
A: They were using heavier machine guns also.
Q: Did he hear explosions?
A: He heard 60 mm mortars going off during the attack.
Q: Were the craters by the bones caused by the explosions?
Q: Where did the people run to?
A: We ran towards Dengaji, Kawaji.
Q: Were any of his family killed?
A: Yes, they were killed.
Q: Who was killed?
A: Peter Jungday was killed and 1 other
Q: When did they return to their village?
A: We stayed in hiding for 2 days, to wait and see if the soldiers returned. When we returned, we buried those bodies we could find (of their own families) and we also started rebuilding our houses.
Q: Some of the wounded died while they were in hiding, and were buried there?
A: Five of the people who fled with me [i.e., the subchief being interviewed] died while fleeing and we managed to bury them there. Others were wounded but survived and were treated locally [i.e., were treated with traditional medicines]. Three of the five who died were children.
Two of his household died and the five who fled with them (3 were children) were the ones who died that he personally saw.
Others who fled into the bush and died are unknown. [note: this is the cause of the bones we saw in the grass fields]
Q: How long did the soldiers stay in the village area?
A: When the soldiers came, they did these bad things (burned our houses, took our belongings, burned our food). But they did not stay.
Q: Does he know of any who were taken (captured) by the soldiers?
A: None. But they caught one child (a girl) and threw her into the fire.
Q: What was her name?
A: She was a young girl by the name of Yata.
Q: Did he hear the soldiers speaking amongst themselves?
A: Yes, they were speaking Arabic.
Q: Thank you.
Second Interview: Tuka Tuka, Subchief of Kawaji Payam.
Q: What was he doing when the attack happened?
A: The soldiers came very early in the morning and they got us at home. They came and started shooting and we started running.
Q: Were they any SPLA soldiers there in your village to fight off the soldiers?
A: There were none of them.
Q: Did he see any people being killed?
A: They killed 3 people there. He saw the dead bodies.
Q: Did he see the soldiers himself?
A: Yes, he saw them.
Q: What were they wearing?
A: They were wearing these uniforms.
Q: Did he hear any soldiers speaking?
A: Yes, they were speaking Arabic
Q: What was their skin color?
A: Red. Arab color.
Q: How many were killed from Kawaji that he saw?
A: He only saw three people from Kawaji killed [with his own eyes].
Q: How many people were living in Kawaji before the attack?
A: Many. Kawaji had more than 2,000 and something living in the village (payam) before the attack.
Q: How many are living there now?
A: Now about 1,000 and something are living there.
Q: What religion were most of the people living in Kawaji?
A: They don’t believe in Islam. They all believe in Christianity or our local traditional religious beliefs.
Third Interview: Wol Majief from Dengaji (a woman)
Q: Please describe what happened
A: They came after sunrise and got us while we were still at home. They started shooting
Q: What did she do?
A: When they came we started rushing (running away) and they killed four (4) of her children.
Q: What were the names of the children killed?
A: Teela, Anjota, Jotier, Berta. Two of the four were ages 7 and 8 (approximately)
Q: How were they killed?
A: We were rushing and they were shooting at us. That’s how my children were killed.
Q: Did she see the soldiers? What were they wearing?
A: Yes. Uniforms
Q: What color were the uniforms?
A: Color like the soldiers wear.
Q: Did she hear explosions during the attack?
A: She heard lighter ones and bigger explosions also.
Q: How did the soldiers come to the village?
A: The soldiers were sent directly from the Boing garrison
Q: Did the attacks on all the villages happen at the same time?
A: You know, she says that at the same time they rushed from Dengaji to Liang, and when they got to Liang they found everyone in crisis there, too. So they turned and rushed towards Bugiya [note: Bugiya is 35km away, on foot]
Q: How many people did she see killed?
A: Some were wounded and ran to the bush where they died. She did not see them again (ever) and they are lost forever [note: meaning they died in the bush and were never found]
Q: How many people from her village were killed?
A: “10” Elder people were killed. [note: most Mabaan can only count to 9. Any larger number of people or numbers is always “10,” a substitute for the word “many” among the uneducated Mabaan].
Q: How many children were killed?
A: Three (3) girls were killed besides her own four (4) and the “10” Older people.
Q: Were there any SPLA soldiers in the village before the attack?
A: None of their army were among us at that time. We were all just civilians.
Q: What else did the attacking soldiers do?
A: They burned the houses and they burned the food stocks that we had.
Q: Why does she think they did this?
A: We don’t know why they did this. You can take our clothes or other things from Mabaan people. But in Mabaan tradition it is very bad to take food.
Q: What religion were the people of her village?
A: We believe in the God of the Kawija, Jesus.
Fourth Interview: Billy Worgo, Native Administration (Chief) of Dengaji
Q: What happened?
A: Forces were sent from Boing. They came in the morning and attacked us.
Q: Did he see the soldiers himself?
A: Yes, he saw them.
Q: Please describe what he saw.
A: I saw them by my own eyes, because I was not feeling well that day so I could not rush [i.e., run away], but most rushed. I have hidden like that. That was a miracle for me, not to have been killed and I don’t know how I survived.
So I saw them with my own eyes, wearing uniforms and carrying guns.
Q: What was their skin color?
A: Red. (Arabs)
Q: What color were their uniforms?
A: Dark green and black, like those worn by soldiers.
Q: What kind of weapons did he see?
A: Russian AK and RPG’s (Rocket propelled grenades). Also 60 mm mortars.
Q: Did he see people killed?
A: Three (3) men and three (3) old women. Three small girls were shot in the stomach until their stomachs (intestines) came out, then they (the girls) were thrown into the fire [i.e., burning huts].
Q: Did he see this happen?
A: They chased us and we ran and hid for three (3) days. After three days we felt thirst and came to look for water. When we got the water, we came looking for our people here (in Dengaji). That is where we got our people here dead.
Q: What date did this happen?
A: He cannot remember the date exactly but it was last April, 2002.
Q: Were any SPLA soldiers in his village before the attack?
A: No, only civilians were living in the village.
Q: Were any of his immediate family members killed in the attack?
A: His step father and his step brother named “Jongo” were killed that day.
Q: “Thank you”
A: Your coming here is good. This is the first time anyone from the outside has come to find out about this problem. This is very encouraging to us. Your visit makes us very happy.
Fifth Interview: “Tunya Jok” and wife “Naomi” from Dungaji
[note: Dungaji is different from “Dengaji”being a distinct village area nearby these other villages]
Q: Please describe what happened:
A: We were asleep at the very early morning. We were taken by surprise hearing gunshots. Then we started rushing. Then the dead were shot at that time.
Q: Did he see the soldiers himself?
A: Yes, I saw them.
Q: Did his wife see the soldiers?
A: [Naomi]. No, I was just rushing. I did not see the soldiers. Women are scared and just rush as soon as they hear the shooting.
Q: What did the soldiers look like?
A: The soldiers wore these uniforms and they were red people [i.e., Arabs]
Q: What kind of weapons did he see?
A: Light (assault) Rifles and RPG’s.
Q: Did he see any children killed?
A: They killed my children. I will not talk of others, but they killed even mine.
Q: How old were his children that were killed?
A: One, a daughter, another was my son. And two ladies also. My daughter was four (4) years old. My son was six years old.
My daughter’s name was Miriam. My son’s name was [undecipherable] “Ton”??
Q: How did they die?
A: Miriam was shot inside the house. My son was just slaughtered.
Q: Please explain
A: My small girl was shot dead. The bullet went in one side of her chest and came out the other side [while she was in the house].
The boy was slaughtered.
Q: Please explain what he means by “slaughtered”
A: The soldiers cut off his head. They threw the body of my son into the burning hut to be burned and left the head upright outside of the hut (facing away).
Q: When did he find the bodies?
A: We just rushed to the bush and we hid there. Later we came back to observe the situation when we knew it was safe. We found the two children of his plus another 3 bodies – two old women and one (1) old man plus my own two (2) children.
Q: Did he see any other children beheaded?
A: These are the ones I know. These five (5) people.
Q: Does he know if any others were beheaded?
A: All of these other people were shot. Only this son of his was slaughtered.
Q: Why does he think the GOS did this?
A: We are sitting peacefully here, and they [the GOS] are now doing this in favor to weaken us and make us go to them there [i.e., Boing]. But we can’t do that because if you want us to be with you, you cannot come and kill me and then ask me to be with you. I can’t.
They [the GOS] are doing this to show that those who are defending us are weak and cannot even protect us. But we don’t want to go to them.
Q: Does he have any children left alive?
A: He has only one (1) child left alive.
He is now counting. He had two children killed then three more killed in the second attack so I am remain with one (1) child left. [note: a bit unclear as to the distinction between first and second attacks.seemed to indicate the portion of the attack while they were “in their hut” (1st) and then as they ran away (2nd attack), but unfortunately we did not follow up on this line of questioning to clarify].
A: They [the GOS] are doing these atrocities to us. They are burning our houses. How are we going to live during the rainy season? They are burning our food. How are we going to eat?
How can they claim us to become their people? We agree to have some of our cattle and goats taken by them. But if they take our food [i.e., sorghum], it is not acceptable.
What are we going to eat? We don’t understand. This is our land. Who will back us?
Last interview: Tangook, from Dengaji (a woman)
Q: Please describe what you saw.
A: I saw a bad thing. Arabs came and chased us. I ran when I heard others running. I saw four (4) dead women, also children dead. My family had two (2) children killed, ages 4 and 5 years old [approximate].
I rushed from Dengaji to Liang. Men went back to Dengaji after two (2) days to find the bodies. My children’s bodies were being eaten by birds. The soldiers burned all our houses and took all our belongings. When the men went back to the village looking for [salvageable] items they found almost nothing left.
Q: Why did the soldiers do this?
A: We don’t know. This is our land. They are now coming to chase us off our land.
Q: What happened to the rest of your family?
A: I have two (2) children left alive. My husband went to the refugee camps recently, looking for food. There is no food left here.
Q: What would she like us to tell people in North America?
A: Your coming here is good. Tell them we are badly [treated?] by these Arabs. They are now chasing us away from our lands.
Northampton, MA 01063