If there is an emblem for Khartoum’s conduct of war against the people of southern Sudan, if there is an atrocity representative of the viciously cruel and racist attitudes of the regime, it is the deliberate bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets. This savagery is the face of Khartoum’s war against the south. It is the embodiment of the racist attitudes reported out yesterday by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, which spoke of the “enslavement of Africans by Arabs, genocide in the Nuba Mountains area, and ethnic cleansing in the Blue Nile area [in Sudan].” This utter indifference to the suffering and destruction of the peoples of southern Sudan and other marginalized areas should occasion the strongest possible condemnation by the civilized world, and a concerted, determined response. Tragically, most of the world offers an indifference of its own.
Eric Reeves [August 31, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
This past Sunday, during the time of church services, military aircraft of the Khartoum regime bombed several towns in Eastern Equatoria in southern Sudan. One 13-year-old girl was critically injured. The Sudan Catholic Information Office reports that Ngaluma, Ikotos and Hiyala were targeted; the first bombs fell on a camp for the displaced in Ngaluma run by Catholic Relief Services, one of the world’s most distinguished humanitarian organizations. Both church and relief officials noted that there is no military presence in these villages.
Government planes have also recently bombed the towns of Magwi, Ikotos, Hiyala, Parajok and Ngaluma a number of times, killing five people and injuring eight. The fact that there is no military presence in these towns does not, of course, matter to Khartoum: the purpose of these attacks is not to engage opposition forces but to destroy civilians and civil society. There have been many hundreds of these bombing attacks in recent years. Their predictable effect is to terrify and disperse civilians, and to make agricultural production almost impossible—this in a land continually stalked by famine. It is difficult to imagine a more callous cruelty.
But Khartoum has recently given us an opportunity to try. Both The Guardian (UK) and Channel 4 News (UK) have recently featured reports (available upon request) making clear that Khartoum has used its new oil wealth to acquire surface-to-surface missiles, in particular an Iranian missile known as the “Nazeat 10.” With a range of over 100 kilometers, but an error range of one to two kilometers, this missile is immensely powerful, capable of producing huge craters, with a depth of up to 7 meters. But it is also, given its range of error, another example of a weapon that can be used effectively only against civilians in the context of war in southern Sudan.
Paul Beaver, a defense analyst interviewed for the Channel 4 News program, and the person who identified the missile, remarked: “I’ve never heard of a short-range tactical ballistic missile being used in the war in Sudan. It’s the first time I’ve seen any evidence of it whatsoever and it does mark in my view an escalation. If it is what I think it is, then it’s the first time we have seen an Iranian missile in Sudan.”
Beaver also noted that the Nazeat is “a very indiscriminate weapon”—and a very costly one. He estimated that the missiles would each cost between $100,000 and $200,000, and would typically be purchased in groups of ten. In other words, using its oil wealth, Khartoum has spent millions of dollars on weapons that can only be used to terrorize civilians. As Beaver concluded: “I can’t really see how [the Government of Sudan] are going to have funded buying a short range tactical ballistic missile any other way than by in some way bartering oil.”
The Khartoum regime denies that it has missiles, despite damning videotape evidence of an actual missile launch featured in the Channel 4 news program. The tape was captured during a pitched battle in the south in which a government video photographer was killed, and his camera with the revealing tape captured. It contained video taping of a Nazeat missile being launched from Dindro south of the Ingessena Hills.
Such denials are served up automatically by Khartoum and can hardly be taken seriously. Yesterday Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail denied perfunctorily the reports on the recent civilian bombings, saying that such charges were “repetitive, not new, and baseless” (text of report by Sudanese newspaper Al-Ra’y al-Amm website, August 30).
But civilian bombings have been exhaustively and authoritatively reported and documented for years. This has been done by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, by the US Committee for Refugees, by the International Committee of the Red Cross, by the International Rescue Committee, and by scores of other human rights and humanitarian organizations working in southern Sudan (or mounting assessment missions to various regions). Indeed, the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan was forced to suspend operations last summer at this time because the deliberate bombing of humanitarian relief operations by the Khartoum regime became so intense.
This is not a matter of dispute or controversy; it has been clearly established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Khartoum regime deliberately bombs civilian and humanitarian targets to further its brutally destructive ambitions. Given the racial and ethnic characteristics of the victims, and the fact that they are targeted because of these characteristics, there is an inescapable conclusion. It is a conclusion bolstered by the UN Research Institute for Social Development in its just-released findings about the racist nature of the Khartoum regime (see report from this source, August 30, 2001).
These bombings, and now massively powerful missile attacks—deliberately targeting the non-Arabic southerners and people of other marginalized areas of Sudan, without any credible military purpose—amount to genocide as defined under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. In the larger context of the more than two million Sudanese who have already perished in this phase of the civil war, overwhelmingly civilians from the south, we must speak of a holocaust.
That there is clear Western and Asian corporate complicity in this genocidal destruction—that companies like Talisman Energy (Canada), Lundin Oil (Sweden), China National Petroleum Corp., and Petronas (Malaysia) are allowed to profit from and indeed sustain such destruction—suggests an incomprehensible moral failure, comparable now in all too many ways to the moral failures that permitted the events of Rwanda to proceed unimpeded, and that made possible the Holocaust of the Second World War.
The world’s failure to act before these terrible and compellingly established realities will find no forgiveness—and deserves none.