The Government of Sudan is again escalating its deliberate aerial bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets in southern Sudan. The moral implications of this unspeakably cruel campaign of terror are all too clear, even as it is equally clear that such barbarism is unique: no other recognized government anywhere else in the world deliberately bombs its own civilians, hospitals, relief efforts, and even international humanitarian aid. Khartoum does so with impunity. It does so despite—indeed, in some ways because of—the tepid and ineffectual criticism from Canada and Europe. Moreover, though there has been sporadic criticism from the US government, there is still no willingness to declare that a halt to the bombing will be the unambiguous benchmark defining future bilateral relations between the US and Khartoum. If the regime senses weakness on this issue, they will know the US is not serious about pressuring for peace. And if the US is not serious, it is almost impossible to imagine the circumstances that could end this war.
Eric Reeves [July 25, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
It is clear from reports by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) that the last few days have seen another significant escalation in the aerial bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets in southern Sudan. Though there has not as yet been confirmation from nongovernmental and relief organizations in southern Sudan, such confirmation has in the past consistently followed SPLA/M accounts when there have been independent witnesses. There is simply no reason whatsoever to doubt that Eastern Equatoria has been attacked in the manner described in the SPLA/M press release of July 24 (and immediately reported by Agence France-Presse, which is well aware of the accuracy of previous such accounts from the SPLA/M; see attached wire report).
On July 22 Khartoum’s Antonovs dropped fourteen bombs at Ngaluma near Ikotos, killing one person and seriously injuring three others. Ngaluma is the site of an Internally Displaced Persons camp, a few kilometers south of Ikotos in Torit County.
Also on July 22, six bombs were dropped on Ikotos, injuring many people. The town of Ikotos has no military significance, but humanitarian organizations are present, including Norwegian Church Aid, Catholic Relief Services, the Diocese of Torit, and several indigenous Sudanese nongovernmental organizations.
On July 23 Antonovs dropped six bombs on Magwi Center in Magwi County and eight bombs on Kheyala in Torit County. Four people were killed in Magwi, including a child and three elderly persons. Three others were seriously injured. These were Internally Displaced Persons being accommodated at the center after being displaced from the surrounding villages by the Lord Resistance Army, a Ugandan terrorist group supported by Khartoum. The bombs dropped on Kheyala injured eight people, five of them seriously. A large number of cattle were killed and many houses destroyed.
On July 24 eight bombs were dropped on Parajok in Magwi County. Two of the bombs fell near the Norwegian Church Aid compound; the others fell near a church and a civilian settlement. One woman was seriously injured, and four buildings were extensively damaged.
All of these attacks were clearly without military purpose; their aim was to destroy civilians and humanitarian relief. To understand the nature of these aerial attacks, it must be borne in mind that the “Antonov bomber” is not a bomber at all: it is a retrofitted Russian cargo plan, flying at very high altitudes (to avoid ground fire), from which crude but massive and deadly barrel bombs are simply rolled out the back cargo doors. They are highly inaccurate, and from a military standpoint utterly useless. They have no real chance of hitting the military assets and personnel of the SPLA, and Khartoum knows it.
The purpose of these attacks is to wreak civilian death, injury, and terror—and for this they are supremely effective.
But the bombings now carry additional significance. They have become the clearest measure of European, Canadian, and increasingly a US unwillingness to confront Khartoum over its savage conduct of the war. We should recall here that there has been much talk of “constructive engagement” and “critical dialogue” with Khartoum; but if it has not yielded even a commitment to halt civilian and humanitarian bombings, what has been achieved? The sad truth is that such high-minded phrases have done little more than give a fig-leaf of rhetorical cover to oil development and other commerce with a regime that carries out attacks on innocent civilians and humanitarian workers, in the air and on the ground.
Indeed, Khartoum’s ongoing aerial assault on civilians has an even larger significance: it indicates, in yet another fashion, that they are simply not interested in peace negotiations. The US, by all accounts, has made clear to Khartoum that improving bilateral relations is conditional upon the suspension of these bombing attacks. Such suspension was to have been part of a series of benchmarks the US laid down to guide the Khartoum regime along a path toward the possibility for a true “constructive engagement.” But Khartoum has refused—baldly, unambiguously, unmistakably. By continuing to bomb civilian and humanitarian targets, they are signaling that they are not interested in this US effort to create a situation conducive to further engagement. To be sure, they want a more decorous relationship with the US (which in turn will serve them well with Canada and Europe); but nothing in the way of substantial improvement on the real issues.
Critics of American policy in the past have pilloried the US for efforts at unilaterally isolating Khartoum. And there is some justice to the methods of US policy. But it is Khartoum that has isolated itself with its relentless campaign of aerial savagery. Canada and most of Europe have simply been unwilling to see what is represented by Khartoum’s actions: whether it be civilian bombings, the refusal to engage seriously in the IGAD process, or deliberately moving between the IGAD process and the “Libyan/Egyptian Initiative” as a way avoiding any real commitment to negotiations.
It is Canada and the Europeans who, insisting that there can be “constructive engagement” and “critical dialogue” despite all signs to the contrary, are the real obstacles to peace in Sudan. They are responsible for the intransigence in Khartoum that saw both President Beshir and Foreign Minister Ismail declare this past weekend that religion and state could never be separated, and also clearly imply that southern self-determination would not be negotiated. In fact, the Libyan/Egyptian Initiative—a vehicle mainly for taking southern self-determination off the negotiating table—has been “reinvigorated” in large measure to assist Khartoum in walking away from its commitment (under IGAD auspices) to the Declaration of Principles, agreed to by Khartoum in 1997 as a basis for negotiations. Central to the Declaration of Principles are southern self-determination and separation of religion and state.
The various recent actions by the Khartoum regime—in these most recent bombings, the emphatic declarations by Beshir and Ismail, and the deliberate eclipsing of the IGAD process (such as it is) by means of a renewed pushing of the Libyan/Egyptian Initiative—all point to the same unwillingness to negotiate a just peace.
There is no one who understands the southern cause, or the sometimes fractious southern constituencies, who believes that peace will come without a genuine commitment to southern self-determination. Khartoum thinks it can crush these legitimate aspirations by accumulating sufficient oil wealth to purchase the military means for a “final solution” to the “southern problem.” In this belief they are continually encouraged by Canada and most European countries (Norway is the only real exception). Western corporate presence in Sudan’s oil development projects has signaled to others (most recently Russia) that the hydrocarbon free-for-all has gained international approval—and the oil-driven destruction in the south accelerates.
Khartoum sees all this, and has made a choice. That choice is for military victory, without surrendering anything to either the southern or northern opposition. The National Islamic Front may be utterly without moral scruple, but it is not without a rich endowment in low cunning. They have sized up European and North American resolve to confront Khartoum over its transparent intransigence, and found that it does not exist.
There could be no clearer impetus to continued war, and thus to continued massive human suffering and destruction in southern Sudan.
News Article by AFP posted on July 24, 2001 at 14:22:59: EST (-5 GMT)
“Southern rebels accuse Sudan govt of resuming bombing raids”
NAIROBI, July 24 (AFP) — South Sudan’s main rebel group on Tuesday accused Khartoum of bombing four towns since the weekend, killing at least five people and forcing displaced people (IDPs) to flee.
“In pursuance of its declared policy of targeting civil and humanitarian aid facilities, the Government of Sudan has for the last 72 hours bombed four civilian towns and relief centres in Eastern Equatoria,” read a statement released by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, which has been at war with Khartoum since 1983.
The statement said 14 bombs were dropped Sunday on an IDP settlement called Ngaluma “killing one person and injuring three others.”
“On the same day, six bombs were dropped on Ikotos (like Ngaluma, in Torit county) injuring many people,” it said, stressing that Ikotos had “no military significance but is housing several humanitarian non-governmental organisations.”
The statement said four people were killed Monday when government Antonov planes bombed Magwi Centre in Magwi County. Also Monday, “a large number of cattle were killed and many houses destroyed” in
a bombing raid on Kheyala in Torit County.
The SPLA said the bombing continued Tuesday, when “at about noon local time, eight bombs were dropped on Parajok in Magwi county.”
The rebel movement condemned the attacks and called on the international
community to do likewise and to help the “IDPs in Ngaluma, Kheyala and Parajok (who) have now deserted these places and are without food or shelter in the bushes.”