The agony of Sudan: unfathomable in scale, unsurpassable in cruelty, evil beyond description. And yet we must remember that behind the unimaginably great numbers of dead and displaced, behind the massive savagery that is Khartoum’s conduct of the war, there are only individual southern Sudanese victims. And today another one of them, a nine-year-old boy, died as a result of yesterday’s government bombing attack on the town of Narus.
Eric Reeves [April 23, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
This child, like so many who have perished in Sudan, died in terrible individual agony, having been disemboweled in a bombing attack yesterday on Narus, a town in eastern Equatoria, perhaps twenty miles from the Kenyan border. The attack by a Government of Sudan Antonov occurred at 2:15pm on Sunday (April 22), and was witnessed by Catholic Bishop Paride Taban, who was present. The bomber dropped 16 bombs on civilians in and around Narus, with two bombs landing in the market place and two in the church school (several buildings were destroyed).
This innocent child, who died some hours after his terrible and painful wounding, was killed by the ambitions of a savagely cruel regime that cares nothing for innocence, or for the lives of southern Sudanese children. It is a regime that willingly bombs children in schools, in hospitals, and in emergency feeding stations. Indeed, it is a regime that has repeatedly and deliberately bombed the humanitarian efforts of those seeking to aid the children of southern Sudan.
And in this deliberate, ongoing, calculated attack on children and the southern civilian population, the Khartoum regime of the National Islamic Front is making a brutally frank statement:
“We will make every effort to crush southern civilians and destroy southern civil society. We will kill children to terrify the people of the south. We will wage unconstrained war on their aspirations for freedom and justice by attacking the most innocent of all southern Sudanese.”
Those who would partner with the Khartoum regime, those oil companies that would tout their “constructive engagement” with this embodiment of cruel ambition, must answer to this child. It is not enough to look at Sudan from the confines of an oil concession compound and declare that things appear peaceful. For Khartoum wages its war with ever greater destructiveness because of the massive oil revenues that the oil companies now send to the regime which ordered the attack on this young child.
And this same regime is presently attacking innocent children throughout southern Sudan—by denying food aid to critically distressed populations displaced from the oil regions; by supporting the murahileen militia that have enslaved so many thousands of southern children; by conducting scorched-earth warfare that kills children indiscriminately and (as Amnesty International reports) often in the most brutal fashion.
The aviation fuel for this attack on the child at Narus originated as crude oil from the concession areas of Talisman Energy, Petronas of Malaysia, and China National Petroleum Corp. In all probability it was refined at El Obeid, adjacent both to the oil pipeline and the largest forward military air base of Khartoum regime. And the bombs that landed in Narus may very well have been the new, significantly more powerful sort that have been reported from eyewitnesses to the aftermath of this aerial savagery—bombs now easily within the military budgetary means of a regime that has doubled such expenditures since oil started flowing.
The child in Narus is but one of hundreds of thousands of innocent children who have died in southern Sudan during 18 years of war. We can be sure that he will not be the last. Indeed, absent a just peace and a willingness by civilized nations to insure full humanitarian access to southern Sudan, we can be sure that tens of thousands of additional children will die soon. We may be all too sure.
But the child of Narus is still a terrible reality unto himself. An innocent young human being dying in agony—leaving a family bereft, and a world morally diminished with its unwillingness to act to halt such cruel, ongoing assaults on innocence.
For we cannot avoid a painfully simple conclusion: Khartoum does not halt its attack on innocence because the world has not forcefully told it to do so. The world has not said that it will impose the painful consequences that would force Khartoum to halt such attacks. The National Islamic Front regime has not been told that it will face, among other consequences:
*a full suspension of all foreign participation in oil development projects, pending the permanent halting of aerial assaults on civilians in southern Sudan;
*a suspension from all IMF or World Bank assistance programs and monitoring, pending the permanent halting of aerial assaults on civilians in southern Sudan;
*a strengthened UN suspension of all senior Sudanese diplomatic travel, pending the permanent halting of aerial assaults on civilians in southern Sudan;
*a direct, forceful, and internationally sponsored resolution, condemning the continuing aerial assaults on civilians in southern Sudan.
Khartoum, with the willing assistance of international oil companies now reaping a terrible profit in “blood oil,” has effectively silenced the world. Canada, China, Malaysia, Sweden, Austria, Britain and others have accepted that economic “engagement” with those who would bomb children constitutes a proper foreign policy toward Sudan. In doing so, they have effectively told Khartoum that it will pay no significant price for the child killed at Narus.
It can’t be that these countries and their governments are unaware of the child at Narus, whose death we know with terrible certainty is but one of hundreds of thousands. So we must ask, in surveying this vast destruction of innocence, and knowing that this knowledge is readily available to all:
“Does the deliberate killing of children not matter? Can there be any defense of engagement with a regime that is all too fully defined by such willing destruction of innocence?”
Every day, Canada, Sweden, Malaysia, China, Austria, Britain—and indeed so much of the rest of the world—answer with their silence.
The child of Narus, dying in agony, is tragic emblem of the world’s indifference to Sudan’s suffering.