With a monstrous callousness, the Government of Sudan—business partner to Talisman Energy and the other oil companies presently exploiting southern Sudan—has publicly and unapologetically announced that it will continue its deliberate and systematic bombing of civilian targets in southern Sudan.
Eric Reeves [January 3, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail of the Khartoum regime declared today [Agence France-Presse report attached below] that his military air force will continue to use the high-flying and notoriously inaccurate Antonov bombers against civilian targets in southern Sudan. With an absurd disingenuousness, Ismail justified the practice as going after rebels hiding behind “human shields.” In fact, his defense is almost incomprehensibly ludicrous, given the highly limited “accuracy” of the Antonov aircraft and the nature of the military opposition on the ground. For the Antonov “bomber” isn’t a true military attack aircraft: it’s a retrofitted version of a Russian cargo plane, from which crude “barrel bombs” are simply rolled out the back cargo bay at high altitudes.
Indeed, so imprecise are these Antonov bombing attacks that they can achieve an “accuracy” that puts perhaps one out of ten bombs within a 50-meter radius of their civilian targets. While too often devastating for civilians, this is obviously not militarily useful against the dispersed, mobile, and typically lightly armed forces of the military opposition in the south where the bombings are concentrated.
The real purpose of such bombing attacks—and for this they are supremely effective—is to create civilian terror. By targeting schools, hospitals, undefended villages, emergency feeding stations, herds of cattle, and humanitarian relief operations, the Khartoum regime hopes to destroy civil society throughout southern Sudan. In the minds of people like Foreign Minister Ismail, if civilian destruction is sufficiently great, the military opposition will be commensurately, if indirectly, weakened—and oil development for the likes of Talisman Energy further “secured.”
Khartoum’s transparently absurd justification of its aerial assaults on civilians hardly needs additional rebuttal. But it should be borne in mind that the non-military nature of the bombing targets has also been emphatically established by reports coming from the most respected humanitarian and human rights organizations in the world, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the US Committee for Refugees.
Dr. Leonardo Franco, Special Rapporteur for Sudan, has also put himself on record in his most recent report as being “profoundly shocked” by these attacks on innocent civilians, noting specifically that “**civilians were deliberately targeted** as they gathered for food distribution.” He speaks further, and unambiguously, of the Khartoum regime’s “**systematic policy** of bombing civilians and civilian installations,” and of its “policy of bombing of civilians and civilian installations, **including humanitarian ones**” [my emphases]. Beyond this there is the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network, which has provided detailed, well-corroborated reports on civilian bombings—making fully clear yet again the non-military nature of the targets.
If the international community accepts at face value Khartoum’s savage prevarication, if it accepts without vigorous protest the regime’s utterly fatuous defense of aerial assaults on civilians, then it will have made itself fully complicit in these acts of immensely destructive barbarism. And it will also have left the very clear impression that oil development, and anything that constitutes “security” for such development, matters more than southern Sudanese lives and welfare.
News Article by AFP posted on January 03, 2001 at
11:10:33: EST (-5 GMT)
Sudan vows not to be deterred by “human shields” in war on rebels
CAIRO, Jan 3 (AFP) – The Sudanese air force is avoiding targeting civilians but will not allow rebels to hide behind “human shields,” Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in remarks published here Wednesday.
“The use of air power will continue against the rebels wherever they are and we will take care to avoid civilians,” Ismail said in an interview with the Egyptian government news weekly Al-Mussawar.
Air strikes by government forces “are not targeting civilians
but the government will not allow the rebel movement to use civilians as human shields,” Ismail said.
“The government cannot yield to such plans,” he added.
Sudan’s Muslim-Arab government in Khartoum, which has come under frequent charges from the United States and others for targeting civilians, has been fighting a civil war against African
rebels in the south since 1983.