There have been two extremely ominous reports from the United Nations “Integrated Regional Information Network” (IRIN) over the last several days. One declares that Khartoum’s “indiscriminate” bombing campaign in southern Sudan “has resumed its previous intensity” (IRIN, Aug 4). The other reports on evidence that humanitarian access to stricken populations in southern Sudan has been increasingly denied in recent months (IRIN, Aug 6). It is not difficult to see the larger import of these two reports: the Khartoum regime is dramatically escalating its genocidal efforts against the people of southern Sudan, particularly in the oil regions.
Eric Reeves [August 8, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
No reader of the UN’s IRIN reports can fail to reach the obvious conclusion that the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum is bent on destroying the civilian population of southern Sudan. Both indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets, and the denial of emergency medical and food aid to desperate populations, serve only to kill civilians, to destroy civil society, and to weaken the agricultural economy. This is Khartoum’s “weapon of mass destruction,” and it has been loosed without restraint.
One clear goal of the campaign is to facilitate the clearance of indigenous populations from the oil regions—to create a cordon sanitaire for oil companies like Talisman Energy (Canada), Petronas (Malaysia), China National Petroleum Corp., and Lundin Oil/Petroleum (Sweden). These companies, and countries, are willing to allow such vicious tactics to serve as their security for oil production and exploration.
We are witnessing genocide. IRIN is reporting on “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such” [from the 1948 “United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”]. The Nuer, Dinka, and other people of the south, as well as the people of the Nuba and other marginalized areas, are being targeted not for military purposes, but to destroy them “as such.” In the mind of the Khartoum regime, a southern Sudan in which the indigenous populations have been sufficiently destroyed will lack the means to support themselves or sustain opposition military forces—or to resist further consolidation of Khartoum’s control of the oil regions.
The IRIN report of August 4 gives a breakdown of bombings by southern provinces, but summarizes by noting that: “In all, there were almost 100 air strikes in the first six months of the year, with attacks on Bahr al-Ghazal, in particular, intensifying in late May and through June, humanitarian sources told IRIN.”
It must again be stressed that “air strikes” by the Government of Sudan consist of massive shrapnel-loaded barrel-bombs beings rolled out the back cargo doors of retrofitted Antonov cargo planes, flying at very high altitudes. They are without anything approaching the precision that would be needed to strike directly at opposition military assets. The only purpose of these crude but immensely destructive barrel bombs is civilian destruction and terror. For this, and only this, they are supremely effective.
In reporting on the increase in Khartoum’s denial of emergency humanitarian flights, IRIN cites the US Agency for International Development (USAID): “Flight clearance denials by the Government of Sudan had increased significantly in the last several months, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) reported on 3 August” (IRIN, Aug 6). In particular, USAID noted that: “There is significant humanitarian concern that Government of Sudan flight denials are restricting Operation Lifeline Sudan access to parts of Western Upper Nile, where population displacement around the oilfields is increasing” (IRIN, Aug 6).
Insecurity on the ground also accounts for many flights being cancelled, but there can be no doubt about Khartoum’s motives in banning relief flights when ground security is not the issue: the regime wishes to force civilians from the oil regions by preventing humanitarian aid that might allow them to remain in their villages or home territory. In addition to the well-documented scorched-earth warfare conducted by Khartoum military forces in the oil regions, Khartoum is clearly using the denial of emergency relief aid as a further weapon in its war on civilians.
Again, this is genocide, if we are guided by the UN Convention on the subject. And yet there has been nothing in the way of an adequate response from any Western nation to this most terrible of realities. There has been no concerted effort to force Khartoum to abandon its genocidal policies; rather we hear of Canada’s policy of “constructive engagement” or the European “critical dialogue” with Khartoum.
The United Nations “Integrated Regional Information Network” has supplied the facts that make clear such policies are not working. The question is whether countries like Canada, Sweden, France, Britain, Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy—and the United States—have the moral courage to respond to the facts as they have been all too clearly presented.
News Article by IRIN posted on August 03, 2001
at 17:53:03: EST (-5 GMT)
“Bombings Intensified in the South”
Nairobi, Aug 04, 2001 (IRIN) — During July, the government’s apparently
indiscriminate bombing campaign in southern Sudan seemed to have resumed its previous intensity, according to humanitarian sources. Khartoum announced on 24 May that it was “halting air strikes against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in southern Sudan and the Nubah Mountains” but reversed its decision in early June in the wake of an SPLA offensive, which saw it gaining ground—including the town of Raga—from government forces. The government then said it had taken the decision to “defend itself in the face of continued aggression” from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
There were at least 13 aerial attacks by government forces that endangered civilians in southern Sudan during the month of July, humanitarian sources stated. Five of the attacks occurred in Equatoria
(in Ngaluma, Ikotos, Magwe, Kayala and Parajok) while four occurred in Bahr al-Ghazal (on Raga, Malualkon [Malwal Kon] – twice, and Mangar Angui) where fighting has intensified since an offensive by the Sudan
People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in late May/early June, they said. There were also four attacks in Upper Nile (Juaibor, Thokchak, Padit and Maiwut) during July, they added. Each side has accused the other of targeting civilians displaced by fighting in Western Bahr al-Ghazal since late May. In all, there were almost 100 air strikes in the first six months of the year, with attacks on Bahr al-Ghazal, in particular, intensifying
in late May and through June, humanitarian sources told IRIN. There have also been reports of an increased number of areas to which humanitarian agencies are denied flight access, thus limiting their chances of assisting vulnerable populations.
“US Concern At Poor Humanitarian Access”
UN Integrated Regional Information Network
August 6, 2001
Flight clearance denials by the government of Sudan had increased significantly in the last several months, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) reported on 3 August. At any given time, numerous locations may be closed by UN security and/or government denial of clearance for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) relief flights, it said.
“There is significant humanitarian concern that Government of Sudan flight denials are restricting OLS access to parts of Western Upper Nile, where population displacement around the oilfields is increasing,” it stated in its complex emergency situation report on Sudan. “Access to the Nuba [Nubah] Mountains and southern Blue Nile, areas outside the OLS mandate, remains extremely limited,” it said. In addition to the Nubah
Mountains and oil-rich Upper Nile, USAID drew special attention to the situation in Southern Blue Nile—“an area of historically heavy military activity”. The region continues to be an active zone of conflict between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), with periodic media reports of attacks by government forces on civilian targets, USAID stated.
Since 1988, hundreds of thousands of people from Southern Blue Nile had been displaced to other areas of Sudan, and humanitarian access to the state—which is outside the mandate of the OLS—had been denied by the government, it added.
The government of Sudan was also continuing “to use aerial bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets as a military tactic”, according to the USAID situation report. It cited OLS security reports as saying that 195 bombs had been dropped by the government since the start of this year, affecting populations in Bahr al-Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, Southern Blue Nile, and Upper Nile. “The aerial bombing of civilian targets in southern Sudan has more than doubled since 1999, when there were 65 confirmed aerial bombings,” it stated. In an additional blow to humanitarian access, relief organisations frequently had to evacuate their staff from many parts of Sudan due to insecurity, it added.
The government of Sudan had denied accusations that it had intensified its bombing campaign in southern Sudan in recent months, the daily ‘Al-Ayyam’ newspaper reported on 5 August.
This year, USAID’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) expected to increase funding beyond last year’s levels, expanding programmes in areas which have been historically under-served by the international relief effort, such as the Nubah Mountains, Upper Nile and Southern Blue Nile, according to the 3 August situation report. OFDA’s funding focuses primarily on health care and food security (incorporating capacity-building and self-reliance), as well as having a geographic focus on areas of critical need, it said.