The Government of Sudan is again deliberately engineering a genocidal famine directed against the peoples of southern Sudan. The UN’s World Food Program has just urgently reiterated its estimate that 3 million Sudanese, primarily in the south and west of the country, face famine. In deadly contrast, the Khartoum regime’s official for “humanitarian aid” declares that, “the situation is satisfactory and doesn’t cause worries” [Agence France-Presse, March 31, 2001]. Indeed “the situation” doesn’t cause Khartoum “worries”: in its relentless war on the peoples of the south, and particularly those in the oil regions, the regime finds it easiest to starve them.
Eric Reeves [April 2, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
A ghastly, widespread reprise of the 1998 famine in Bahr el-Ghazal is looming—and the most vulnerable populations are those displaced from the oil regions as part of the well-documented campaign of scorched-earth warfare that has cleared the oil concession areas of Talisman Energy, Lundin Oil, Petronas of Malaysia, and China National Petroleum Corp. (as well as their passive investors, such as OMV of Austria). The UN’s World Food Program has for months been warning of massive famine, threatening some 3 million Sudanese. Both the Associated Press [Mar 30, 2001] and Agence France-Presse [Mar 31, 2001] have reported on the UN’s declaration in the last few days that the situation is now “critical” (wire reports attached).
But the view from Khartoum is one of predictable, if unfathomable, callousness. Safaf Eddin Saleh, head of Khartoum’s bizarrely named “commission on humanitarian aid,” is quoted as saying “the situation is satisfactory and doesn’t cause worries” [from AFP report quoting the al-Sahafi al-Dawli daily]. In a shameful lie of monstrous proportions, Safaf Eddin Saleh also says that, “the government’s efforts are continuing to avoid a deterioration of the situation in these regions.”
The UN World Food Program’s representative in Sudan, Massoud Hyder, has an entirely different view:
“We have a critical situation in Sudan–the WFP is running out of food
at a time when we are supporting 3 million people there,” Hyder said at a news conference in London. “If you went to Sudan today, you would not see dead bodies. But it will be a lot different by July–devastatingly different.” [Associated Press, Mar 30, 2001]
And that devastation serves Khartoum’s military purposes: weakening the southern civilian population, destroying even more of southern civil society, and furthering the goal of insuring that those who have been displaced from the oil regions will not return. For the displaced are the most vulnerable of southern populations; and they will certainly not return to their homes in the oil regions if they are dead.
Nuer and Dinka deaths simply do not matter to Khartoum. And in deploying famine as a ghastly “weapon of mass destruction,” in deliberately refusing to acknowledge and respond to the crisis the World Food Program is proclaiming so urgently, the Khartoum regime shows its true attitudes toward the southern people. These attitudes constitute genocide. Khartoum’s is a policy designed to destroy the peoples of the south: it is “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (from the definition of the “Crime of Genocide,” in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide).
Khartoum is not using its oil revenues to buy food for the starving people of the south; it is investing in new weapons purchases. Instead of capitalizing its agricultural sector to forestall future famine (the IMF recently highlighted the undercapitalized state of this key economic sector), the Khartoum regime has invested oil revenues in the building of a domestic armaments industry. And Khartoum continues its deadly policy of creating a blanket of “no-go areas” in the oil regions of southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, areas critically in need of humanitarian assistance.
Oil companies active in Sudan give Khartoum the motive to pursue such genocidal actions. The governments of these companies, along with the companies themselves, must certainly know of these realities—and by refusing to act, they are making themselves complicit in them. Unless the governments of Canada, Sweden, Malaysia, China, and Austria call for an immediate suspension of all oil development and exploration activities, that complicity will grow on a daily basis.
The world has been put fully on notice by the UN’s World Food Program of the impending vast human disaster in southern and western Sudan. Khartoum, knowing full well the truth of the situation, prevaricates obscenely, even as it accelerates its military efforts. In the absence of an immediate call for a suspension of oil-related activities by the governments of those companies present in Sudan, there will be no effective pressure on the Khartoum regime to acknowledge its genocidal ambitions—and we will shortly see terrible human destruction on a massive scale.
Failure to act and speak forcefully now is complicity in genocide.
News Article by AFP posted on March 31, 2001 at 13:06:34: EST (-5 GMT)
“Sudan downplays report that country faces famine”
KHARTOUM, March 31 (AFP) — Sudan’s top humanitarian official insisted the country was not facing a food crisis after the UN World Food Program (WFP) said as many as three million are threatened by hunger in southern and western Sudan.
The situation “is satisfactory and doesn’t cause worries,” said Safaf Eddin Saleh, head of the government’s commission on humanitarian aid, quoted Saturday by the al-Sahafi al-Dawli daily.
The government’s efforts “are continuing to avoid a deterioration of the situation in these regions,” he said, adding that the government was committed to delivering aid.
“Without new and substantial assistance from the international community, food supplies will run out and we will face a crisis of enormous proportions whose severity could be comparable to previous famine situations in the region, ” said Masood Hyder, top WFP representative in Sudan.
Parts of Sudan are experiencing the “driest season in living memory, affecting 600,000 people,” he added.
Friday, March 30, 2001
U.N. Says Famine in Sudan Could Claim Thousands of Lives by July
LONDON–More than 3 million people in Sudan are threatened by famine, and thousands could die by July, the U.N. World Food Program warned Thursday.
A severe drought has added to the misery caused by an 18-year civil war and previous famines that have left 2 million people dead and more than 4 million displaced, said Massoud Hyder, the WFP’s representative in Sudan.
“We have a critical situation in Sudan–the WFP is running out of food
at a time when we are supporting 3 million people there,” Hyder said at a news conference in London. “If you went to Sudan today, you would not see dead bodies. But it will be a lot different by July–devastatingly
He said the WFP is making an international appeal for $135 million. It
takes about three months to get aid to people in Sudan, so it is critical
that governments respond now, he said.