What is the truth about very recent reports that the Khartoum regime
has continued to bomb civilian and humanitarian targets in southern Sudan? The question is of considerable importance, since the halting of such barbaric attacks is one of the key conditions for peace articulated by US special envoy for Sudan, John Danforth. National Islamic Front peace adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani has denied the bombing reports, declaring two days ago that “This is an incorrect report [by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement] and is a ploy by the rebel movement to undermine the peace process” (Agence France-Presse, Nov 25). But in fact, the last two days have seen massive, indisputable confirmation of Khartoum’s recent bombings, coming from the UN and humanitarian organizations operating in the region. Khartoum stands completely exposed, both in its lies and its willingness to continue to attack civilians and humanitarian relief efforts.
Eric Reeves [November 27, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Khartoum’s past record of extensive aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarian relief efforts in southern Sudan has been thoroughly established by numerous humanitarian and human rights organizations. Indeed, in the late summer of 2000, Khartoum’s attacks on humanitarian relief sites and personnel were so extensive that the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan was forced to suspend all flights into southern Sudan and evacuate personnel.
Though its vicious past has been carefully documented and authoritatively established, Khartoum has consistently and shamelessly denied all responsibility. And now it denies that it has recently bombed civilian or humanitarian relief sites. But confirmation that this is precisely what the regime has done over the last week comes from UN security personnel, from the distinguished International Rescue Committee (IRC), from Tearfund (UK), from the Sudan Catholic Information Office, and from other regional sources.
All are unambiguous: they reveal that the Khartoum regime has ordered attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets in and near Malual Kon in northern Bahr el-Ghazal province (a refugee center and a major relief site for the UN World Food Program), a displaced persons camp at Pariang (very near the oil concessions in Western Upper Nile), and Magwi in Eastern Equatoria region.
Khartoum, in other words, is deliberately and contemptuously violating one of the key conditions—“confidence-building measures”—that special envoy Danforth laid down as critical for peace negotiations during his visit to the region earlier this month.
Let’s be perfectly clear about what has happened: the highly influential Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, primary “peace advisor” to the National Islamic Front regime, declared that reports of Khartoum’s bombing attacks coming from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) were “incorrect”—“a ploy by the rebel movement to undermine the peace process” (Agence France-Presse, Nov 25).
Here is what is being reported by those humanitarian aid organizations working on the ground in southern Sudan:
UN security sources confirm that yesterday (Nov 26) six bombs were dropped in Malual Kon, one landing very close to the compound of the International Rescue Committee. The compound was showered with shrapnel; one woman was killed, as were a number of cattle. The same Antonov bomber that Khartoum had sent on this attack also dropped six bombs at another nearby site. One man was killed and a young boy injured.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) reports that their Field Manager in Malual Kon has confirmed that six bombs were dropped yesterday (Nov 26) in Malual Kon, one landing approximately 150 yards from the IRC compound. They also confirm that a Sudanese female civilian was killed, as well as a number of cattle, and that shrapnel and debris from the bomb rained into the IRC compound. In addition, the IRC confirms that shortly before the bombing of Malual Kon, five bombs were dropped on nearby Malual Bai, and that one man was reported killed and one child injured. Significantly, the IRC emphasizes that Malual Kon is at least 12 miles from any military presence and that only civilians and humanitarian personnel are present in the area. (The IRC is part of the UN consortium of aid organizations, “Operation Lifeline Sudan.”)
Further, the humanitarian organization Tearfund (UK), which is also present in Malual Kon, confirms the attack yesterday (Nov 26) on the site. Very importantly, Tearfund also confirms the SPLA/M press release (disputed by Khartoum’s Atabani) that Malual Kon was attacked on November 21. The bombs from that attack landed seven miles southwest of Malual Kon, and caused no injuries or damage.
Additional confirmation of Khartoum’s bombing attacks in the Malual Kon area comes from personnel of the Diocese of Rumbek, relayed through the Sudan Catholic Information Office and published today (Nov 27).
The significance of Khartoum’s denial, and the vindication of the accuracy of the SPLA/M press release, must not be overlooked. This episode again suggests that SPLA/M reports of bombings of civilians in other areas must be taken very seriously, even in the absence of confirmation by humanitarian organizations or the UN. And it reveals yet again the willingness of Khartoum to lie about its actions in the south—to lie without care, without compunction, without shame.
If the US special envoy is serious about pressuring Khartoum to accept proposals that will be conducive to the fashioning of a just peace for southern Sudan, he simply cannot ignore these egregious affronts to the terms defining those proposals. This is especially true since he has created such a short time-frame for the demonstration of good faith by the parties in the war. He has explicitly called for the cessation of the aerial military assaults on civilian and humanitarian targets. And yet this is precisely what continues to occur. Mr. Danforth can have no credibility if he does not respond vigorously to such savagery by Khartoum, bespeaking as it does an unmistakable contempt for American resolve and commitment.