Khartoum is taking advantage of the world’s focus on Osama bin Laden’s terrorism, and the approving murmurs from Washington about the regime’s “cooperation,” to continue its own campaign of terror against the south. This campaign has most recently taken the form of a series of bombing attacks on the site of a UN World Food Program (WFP) food drop in Bahr el-Ghazal Province. The most recent attack has been marked by a particular barbarism: for it was deliberately timed to coincide with the arrival of a WFP relief plane, when a large number of UN personnel and civilians could be counted on to be in the vicinity of the food-drop site (Khartoum requires the UN to file flight plan information for all such missions). This is state-sponsored terrorism. Why does it not also receive vigorous international condemnation?
Eric Reeves [October 8, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Associated Press (AP), along with regional sources, are reporting that the village of Mangayath, near Raga in Bahr el-Ghazal Province, has been the site of repeated bombing attacks by the Khartoum regime over the past several days. The village is presently sheltering some 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), according to the AP report; they are in critical need of food aid. On October 5, 6, and 8, Khartoum’s Antonov bombers dropped dozens of high-explosive, shrapnel-loaded bombs on the site of a UN food drop. [AFP report attached below; regional report on the number of bombs dropped is available on request]
The attack today (October 8) was clearly timed to coincide with the arrival of the UN relief plane, and indeed the bombing attack began just minutes before the UN plane arrived. The timing insured that the maximum number of UN humanitarian aid workers and displaced civilians would be vulnerable on the ground.
Brenda Barton, spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Program, is cited by AFP: “‘I don’t see that people on the ground would have been sheltered. They were on the drop zone,’ she said, noting that WFP and other UN officials were on the ground at the time of the bombings” [AFP, Oct 8]. Ms. Barton described this attack by the Khartoum regime as “abominable” and declared her belief that it would be taken up at the UN.
But the terrible message implicit in these vicious attacks is that Khartoum is growing bolder. The regime is increasingly likely to be unconstrained in its campaign of terrorism against the people of the south, and against the humanitarian workers and agencies that would help them. The regime has heard itself characterized by official Washington as being “cooperative” in the war on terror; the conclusion Khartoum draws is that there will be no meaningful international response to their war of terror on the south.
And truth be told, their calculation is not likely to be proved wrong, at least if we are guided by the past. The UN has been particularly ineffectual in condemning Khartoum for the countless attacks on civilians and humanitarian aid efforts in the south, in the Nuba Mountains, and other marginalized regions of the country. Even in the summer of 2000—when Khartoum’s assaults on humanitarian organizations forced the suspension of all Operation Lifeline Sudan relief flights—the UN could muster no effective action, and made no credible threats to Khartoum about the consequences of such barbarism continuing.
In other words, numerous deliberate bombing attacks on the International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), the International Rescue Committee, and many other organizations in the UN Operation Lifeline Sudan consortium produced no forceful international agreement on how to prevent what is now occurring. This inability is not lost on the Khartoum regime, and they will continue to act on the belief that they will suffer no particular consequences for their assaults on civilians and humanitarian aid workers. US approval of their “cooperation” on terrorism is likely to make Khartoum even bolder in its campaign of domestic terror.
A war that has seen over 2 million beings perish—overwhelming civilians from the south—will continue to be defined by Khartoum’s terrorist tactics. The more than 4 million people who have been uprooted—again overwhelmingly civilians from the south—will continue to be highly vulnerable to such terrorist tactics, as they are now at Mangayath and countless other places of tenuous refuge in the south.
The world’s news media are now focussing with extraordinary concentration on Afghanistan and the possibility that there may be civilian casualties as a result of the US and British military efforts to destroy Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. One certainly hopes there are no civilian casualties from military actions in Afghanistan. But we can be grimly certain that civilian casualties will continue to mount in southern Sudan. Some directly from Khartoum’s bombing attacks, as was the case this weekend in Mangayath; others—no doubt more agonizing—will come from the inevitable attenuation of humanitarian aid efforts that will result in countless deaths by starvation and disease.
As Ben Martinson, the World Food Program’s operations manager for southern Sudan, said “We are extremely concerned about the recent [bombing] incidents which have created a significant setback to humanitarian operations in the areas” [AP, October 7, 2001].
By any meaningful definition, this is “state-sponsored”—indeed “state-conducted”—terrorism. If the world is serious about not just the events of September 11, but the cruelty and savagery that animate such events, wherever they occur, then the Khartoum regime must be assessed in the same terms as Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. It was not by accident that Sudan chose to shelter bin Laden from 1991 to 1996—and gave nurture to the al-Qaeda organization that came to full fruition in those years. The same men who rule Sudan now ruled Sudan during those years. Their attitude toward (and support for) terror has not changed, though fear of US power has forced some expedient changes in policy.
The deliberate bombing of civilians and humanitarian aid workers is terrorism. If this is true in America, it is true in Sudan. That Sudanese victims are poor and bereft and dark-skinned cannot make a particle of moral difference. Until the US and other Western democracies act accordingly, there will be a deep hypocrisy in the “war on terrorism.”
News Article by AFP posted on October 08, 2001 at 11:40:24: EST (-5 GMT)
Khartoum bombs south Sudan village amid WFP food drop
NAIROBI, Oct 8 (AFP) — A Sudanese government aircraft on Monday bombed a village in the southern Bahr el-Ghazal region minutes before a UN cargo plane airdropped food there, a UN spokeswoman said.
Brenda Barton, spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme, told AFP that this was the third such incident since Friday. An Antonov bomber struck the village of Mangayath shortly before a UN plane flew over to drop food.
Later Monday, the Khartoum government, which in recent weeks has worked to ease relations with Washington, condemned the US-led assault Sunday on Afghanistan.
“It was at the time the Ilyushin was due to drop its cargo that the Antonov showed up,” WFP spokeswoman Brenda Barton told AFP.
The bombing took place shortly after noon. The WFP aircraft, whose flight plans had been lodged with Sudanese officials, turned up at the village of Mangayath 15 minutes later.
Similar incidents took place on Friday and Saturday, according to Barton, who said the UN had already sent three “proces-verbaux”, a stern form of missive, to the government in Khartoum over the matter.
“Without a doubt this abominable act will be taken up” by the United Nations, added Barton.
“I don’t see that people on the ground would have been sheltered. They were on the drop zone,” she said, noting that WFP and other UN officials were on the ground at the time of the bombings.