The ongoing military slaughter of innocent civilians in Southern Sudan continues apace, as the Khartoum regime now bombs fleeing civilians in western Bahr el-Ghazal and makes ongoing use of Talisman Energy airstrips for indiscriminate and deadly helicopter gunship attacks in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. If we define terrorism broadly as deliberate attacks on civilians for no military purpose, then Talisman is complicit in state-sponsored, state-conducted terrorism. Talisman’s airstrips, and the crude oil they supply to Khartoum’s refinery adjacent to the El Obeid military airbase, serve directly in terrorist attacks on southern civilians. This savage assault is Khartoum’s self-described “jihad” against the largely non-Muslim southern peoples. Their blood stains, ever more deeply, the hands of Canada.
Eric Reeves [October 22, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Agence France-Presse reported yesterday (Oct 21) that the many civilians fleeing from the town of Raga in western Bahr el-Ghazal Province are being bombed by the Khartoum regime, and that at least 20 people have been killed and many others wounded. AFP was citing Samson Kwaje, spokesman for the SPLA, who spoke of the attacks as taking place at Sopo, some 70 kilometers southeast of Raja.
These attacks are the latest in a long string of aerial assaults on civilians in Bahr el-Ghazal. All these bombing assaults originate at the El Obeid air base, which lies directly adjacent to a 10,000 barrel/day refinery that receives all its crude oil from Talisman and its partners.
Earlier this month the UN’s World Food Program spokesperson, Brenda Barton, condemned similar bombing attacks in Bahr el-Ghazal as “abominable” and deserving of UN action. For these earlier attacks brazenly made use of the UN’s filing of flight plans (as required) with Khartoum. The flight information then allowed Khartoum to anticipate the UN flight and send military aircraft to drop bombs on the site of some 20,000 displaced persons, as well as UN humanitarian personnel awaiting the arrival of the UN relief plane.
The bombings have forced the World Food Program to abandon the program serving these desperate people.
But they are no more desperate than those relentlessly attacked by helicopter gunships using Talisman facilities and airstrip at Heglig. Last week’s important human rights assessment report by Georgette Gagnon (Canada) and John Ryle (UK) clearly establishes that helicopter gunships are used for the “intentional targeting of settlements—without regard to whether they are occupied by civilians or combatants—in non-government controlled areas in and around the [oil] concession.” They cite as evidence not only the testimony of recently defecting soldiers, but a host of civilian accounts. These voices must sear the conscience of any in Canada who feel responsibility for an ongoing Canadian corporate presence in the killing fields of Southern Sudan:
“I had four children and my one child who was six years old was killed by a gunship in December 2000. The problem is that when the gunship sees people, children playing, people under a tree, it starts bombardment.”
— Rebecca Nyiagok (Nuer woman displaced from Mankien, April, 2001) Turalei, Tuic County, 24 April 2001
“The gunships come from Heglig, whenever it comes, it opens the doors and starts shooting. We hear the noise of the gunship and know the direction it comes from, it takes off from Heglig.”
—Manurop (Nuer man displaced from Mankien, April 2001) Maper, Tuic County, 18 April 2001
“We left our home because of the lack of water and insecurity. The Government of Sudan installed military bases where we were living, burned villages and food stores. From gunship attacks there is random shooting at civilian targets including pregnant women. Two months ago, it killed two children and one man at Biem.”
—Chief Yong Mayath of Kayago, Ruweng County, Padit, 22 April 2001
The testimony of defecting soldiers also has an unmistakable authority:
“We have been given orders to go and fight in Pariang. To take control of the villages and loot cows so the community surrenders themselves to them. The convoy consisted of fifteen trucks, three tanks and a small Landcruiser mounted with a 0.7 machine gun and one water tank. There are two helicopter gunships. They are inside Heglig. They have been ordered to join the operation. And also Antonov are still bombing the area. They want to invade the area so it remains under their control then install oil wells around the area and establish military outposts.”
—Mabek Chol, Padit, 22 April 2001
The Gagnon/Ryle report notes that “civilian victims of gunship attacks asserted to the investigators that gunships had flown sorties from Heglig to attack civilian settlements. Eyewitnesses from three different locations in and adjacent to the concession at Biem/Padit, Buoth and Maper/Turalei in Tuic County stated that they were attacked by gunships in non-government controlled areas of the concession throughout 2000 and 2001. They identified flight patterns of the attacking helicopters that indicated the gunships came from and returned to Heglig and other oil facilities in the concession.”
There is simply no doubt whatsoever that Talisman’s Heglig facilities are being used for deadly helicopter gunship attacks on innocent civilians. Declarations of outrage by the Canadian government about “world terrorism” will ring terribly hollow so long as there is no response to Canadian corporate complicity in Khartoum’s domestic campaign of terror.