Government of Sudan military forces yesterday (November 11) used artillery to attack relief planes from the UN’s World Food Program. The question is once more put forcefully to the world community: when will Khartoum’s ongoing barbarism be decisively challenged? This most recent outrage occurred in the Nuba Mountains, one of the most desperate areas in all of Sudan. This past summer and early fall, during the time of a “hunger gap” when there were no harvests, 85,000 people faced starvation in the Nuba, according to a detailed assessment by humanitarian organizations. Relief efforts to a region that had already been under a ten-year siege by Khartoum were, and are, desperately needed. But the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, despite giving assurances that the UN mission could proceed, reneged yet again, shelling the airstrip at Kauda as the UN planes landed.
Eric Reeves [November 12, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
The artillery shelling of UN planes carrying personnel and equipment for food drops to the long-suffering people of the Nuba is but another outrageous assault by Khartoum against humanitarian relief. Just last month the defining event was the bombing of a UN food relief effort in the west of Bahr el-Ghazal Province, near the town of Mangayath. Using UN flight plans filed with Khartoum (as required), the regime’s military aircraft deliberately anticipated the arrival of a UN food delivery plane and dropped bombs on an area where there were 20,000 internally displaced persons and UN personnel.
Yesterday, Khartoum used its artillery in the Nuba to shell UN aircraft, which were arriving as a prelude to a food-drop for some of the most desperately food-deprived people in the world. This attack on UN humanitarian food relief must be condemned as an intolerable moral outrage by civilized nations everywhere. There is simply no meaning to the phrase “international community” if such acts escape the harshest censure and punishment.
Notably, these attacks on UN humanitarian food relief come in the immediate wake of the preposterous and deeply revealing claim by the Khartoum regime that there is “no food shortfall in the country” (BBC Monitoring Service [Nov 7, 2001]). The minister of state for agriculture, Abd-al-Jabbar Husayn “denied the existence of a food gap in Sudan.”
What Mr. Husayn really means is that he and his brutal partners in the National Islamic Front don’t care that people are starving in southern Sudan. There is no “food gap” only if the desperate plight of southerners is ignored. Indeed, through their military actions Khartoum’s forces have for years continued a campaign to destroy the people of the south by denying food relief access to stricken populations, by bombing humanitarian relief efforts and civilian targets critical to the food economy of the south, and by a savage policy of scorched-earth warfare in the oil regions. The latter effort entails the destruction of innocent men, women and children; the destruction of agriculture, agricultural tools, herds of cattle (central to the food economies of the Dinka and Nuer peoples); and the burning of food stocks.
Many of these scorched-earth attacks are mounted by helicopter gunships deployed from the airstrips of Talisman Energy (Canada) and its partners in the Great Nile project. They attack villages, fleeing civilians, cattle, and anything that might sustain life in the oil regions. The effort is to create an expanding cordon sanitaire. This campaign has now been indisputably documented by numerous human rights organizations, the Canadian government, independent news reporters, and the last three UN Special Rapporteurs for Sudan.
Moreover, in a very recent commentary, the present UN Special Rapporteur, Gerhart Baum, declared that oil continues to exacerbate the appalling human rights record of the Khartoum regime:
“Oil exploitation has continued to have a negative impact on the human rights situation,” Baum told [UN General Assembly] delegates in New York yesterday. “There is no concrete evidence of oil revenues being spent for the development of the south, in spite of the fact that 40% of the national budget comes from oil.” (News Article by UN Integrated Regional Information Network, November 09, 2001 at 15:15:50: EST [-5 GMT])
Baum also declared in the same address:
“I am particularly concerned at the recurrence of bombing of civilians, particularly in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile State, which has continued unabated, thus severely hampering access to humanitarian aid.”
It cannot be stressed often enough that there is only one military air force in Sudan’s war and that it belongs to the Khartoum regime.
Sudan’s agony could not be more dramatically or terribly evident, nor the connection to oil development more clearly demonstrated. And yet the world neither condemns Khartoum nor works to halt oil development, the engine of this massive, ongoing human destruction. The inaction that history will record is no less shameful because these vicious realities are not reported prominently, or because they have about them a sickening familiarity. The record of this unnamed holocaust will be marked always by the opprobrium of our unforgivable indifference.