Though US-sponsored negotiations to extend a humanitarian cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan are encouraging, the Government of Sudan is refusing to accept international monitoring of a ban on the bombing of civilians and humanitarian relief efforts. Khartoum will thus be free to continue its targeting of noncombatants, emergency relief centers, villages without military presence, refugee camps, and international aid efforts. Those attempting to judge how reliable Khartoum will be in living up to its negotiated agreements would do well to note that while the regime has nominally accepted a cessation of such bombing, it refuses to agree to effective monitoring. The value of Khartoum’s expressed commitment on this critical issue is entirely vitiated.
Eric Reeves [December 17, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network [IRIN] reports (Dec 17) that agreement on extending a humanitarian cease-fire for the Nuba Mountain region has been brokered by the US. This is exceedingly good news, inasmuch as the Khartoum regime has for more than a decade been obstructing all humanitarian relief to the Nuba region, and only recently relented under significant pressure from the US, the UN, and humanitarian relief organizations from many countries.
But attending this good news are concerns that cannot be ignored. General Omar Beshir, who heads the Khartoum regime, has signaled that he wishes this cease-fire extended to the oil pipeline that runs to the west of the Nuba Mountains, and even to the oil infrastructure and operations further south. In other words, Khartoum wants to use a Nuba Mountain cease-fire, negotiated for humanitarian purposes, to serve its military ambitions for the oil regions.
Moreover, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement [SPLA/M] has very recently reported Khartoum’s violations of the truce agreement, including shelling and aerial bombardment. There is good reason to believe that if Khartoum thinks it militarily advantageous, it will violate the cease-fire on an expedient pretext
That Khartoum must be regarded with deep skepticism in its nominal commitments is also revealed in the IRIN reporting (excerpts attached) on the specific issue of civilian bombings. Here the context is US Special Envoy John Danforth’s “four confidence building measures,” which include:  humanitarian cease-fire and access for the Nuba,  an investigation of Khartoum’s well-established practice of abetting human slavery,  the creation of zones and periods of tranquility (for example, for polio vaccinations)—and  the cessation of aerial bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets.
On this last issue, IRIN reported:
“‘The Government [of Sudan] and the SPLM each made a clear, firm commitment to avoid all bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets,’ the US stated on Friday, echoing another of Danforth’s proposals to the warring parties in Sudan.”
But immediately following, IRIN also reports:
“[The] SPLM agreed to the proposed establishment of an internationally-supported verification mechanism to investigate and report on alleged incidents of civilian targets, ***though the government [of Sudan] said that it was unable to agree to such a mechanism except in the context of a negotiated, comprehensive cease-fire***.” [my emphasis]
Khartoum and the SPLA/M have very different visions of how to reach a “negotiated, comprehensive cease-fire.” Khartoum wishes chiefly to consolidate its military control of the oil regions in southern Sudan, and this thinking governs its assessment of any cease-fire proposal. The SPLA/M, on the other hand, sees a cease-fire as the culminating point in realizing the Declaration of Principles that anchors the IGAD peace process, to which the Khartoum regime is nominally committed. Because of these sharply contrasting positions (indeed, contradictory on Khartoum’s part), a meaningful cease-fire seems highly elusive.
The upshot is that what IRIN quietly describes as Khartoum’s inability “to agree to such a mechanism” (viz., international monitoring) reflects the regime’s determination to proceed with bombing attacks on civilians and humanitarian relief. For absent effective international monitoring of the reports on such attacks, Khartoum will be unconstrained.
One has only to look at the roster of Khartoum’s confirmed attacks on civilians and humanitarian relief in late November: Pakam and Akuem (Bahr el-Ghazal Province) were bombed on Nov 20, killing or injuring 18 people; Kuey (Upper Nile Province) was bombed on Nov 24; Malual Kon/ Gordhim and Madhol (Bahr el-Ghazal) were bombed on Nov 26, killing two civilians, wounding others; Malual Kon was bombed again on Nov 28. One bomb at Malual Kon landed within 150 meters of the compound of the International Rescue Committee (one of the participants in the UN’s “Operation Lifeline Sudan”).
These are only the confirmed bombings; many others were reported but precisely because of the absence of international monitors, they are listed as “unconfirmed,” even though reports by the SPLA/M on bombings have been consistently confirmed when confirmation is possible.
The US has previously enunciated a clear-eyed view of Khartoum’s behavior. President Bush, in appointing John Danforth as special envoy for Sudan, declared:
“For nearly two decades, the government of Sudan has waged a brutal and shameful war against its own people. And this isn’t right, and this must stop. The government has targeted civilians for violence and terror. It permits and encourages slavery. And the responsibility to end the war is on their shoulders.” [From remarks at the Rose Garden ceremony appointing Senator Danforth, September 6, 2001]
If the US is serious about addressing the brutal realities that President Bush articulates, if it is serious about confronting Khartoum as the party overwhelmingly responsible for ending this terrible war, then the US must be serious about insuring that agreements negotiated with Khartoum are verified on the ground. In the case of indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarian relief, this means an effective international monitoring mechanism. If Khartoum objects, it is for one reason only: they wish to continue this military savagery in an effort to destroy southern Sudanese civil society.
News Article by IRIN posted on December 17, 2001 at 14:07:37: EST (-5 GMT)
US reports progress on humanitarian access
NAIROBI, Dec 17, 2001 (IRIN) — The government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan people’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) have agreed on an internationally monitored cease-fire to cover the Nuba [Nubah] Mountains region, Southern Darfur, south-central Sudan, and on “military stand-downs” to implement a US-proposed initiative to eradicate polio, according to the United States government.
“The Government [of Sudan] and the SPLM each made a clear, firm commitment to avoid all bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets,” the US stated on Friday, echoing another of Danforth’s proposals to the warring parties in Sudan.
In this regard, the SPLM agreed to the proposed establishment of an internationally-supported verification mechanism to investigate and report on alleged incidents of civilian targets, though the government said that it was unable to agree to such a mechanism except in the context of a negotiated, comprehensive cease-fire.