The National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum has yet again deliberately bombed civilian and humanitarian targets in southern Sudan, killing innocent children, wounding many others, and sending deadly shrapnel into the compound of the medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (site of some of the injuries). There is no military presence in Akuem, Bahr el-Ghazal Province, where the bombings occurred. Indeed, the bombs were directed at a UN World Food Program drop zone. The World Food Program, which is obliged to file all flight plans with Khartoum, had just completed its food drop before the attack occurred. This savagery, this barbarous cruelty, is the face of Khartoum’s war against the people of southern Sudan.
Eric Reeves [February 11, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
These attacks have been confirmed by the UN, by humanitarian organizations on the ground, and by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), which also reported separate bombing attacks on civilian targets at Nimni and Koch relief centers in Western Upper Nile. These latter attacks reportedly killed at least four people, including a pregnant woman, and injured a number of others (Agence France-Presse wire report attached).
Such attacks make a mockery of what was to have been a key “confidence-building measure” set out by US special envoy for Sudan John Danforth, viz. the cessation of all civilian bombings. The attacks also highlight again the shameless expediency of the European Union in resuming development aid to a regime that deliberately attacks its own civilians by means of indiscriminate aerial bombardment. And the attacks suggest just how far the international community is from forcing Khartoum to accept civilized norms. For all such deliberate bombing attacks on civilians and humanitarian aid efforts are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.
The response to Khartoum’s continued terrorist assaults on civilians and humanitarian relief efforts in southern Sudan cannot be further acquiescence. There must be unrelenting pressure on the regime to halt unconditionally all bombing attacks on the south, and to allow for international monitoring of the cessation. Anything less is a signal to Khartoum that the international community is willing to countenance what it accepts nowhere else in the world: deliberate aerial assaults by a recognized government on its own civilians.
There is no moral ambiguity here. Khartoum has the only aircraft in Sudan’s civil war. It uses high-flying and notoriously inaccurate Russian Antonovs (retrofitted cargo planes) to drop large, shrapnel-loaded barrel bombs. The bombs are rolled out the back cargo bay from an altitude that provides safety from ground fire, but also insures that they are useless for any real military purpose. They attack large, “soft” civilian targets and humanitarian relief sites. Especially favored are hospitals, refugee and emergency feeding stations, churches, schools, open villages, herds of cattle. Their purpose is civilian terror, with the larger goal of destroying the fabric of southern civil society.
Every time that such an attack occurs, and the world community does not condemn it, is another moment of collective moral failure. The world is, this very minute, betraying the people of southern Sudan with its silence, a silence that has too long defined world response to the incontrovertible facts of Khartoum’s savagery. And in the case of too many countries—including Canada, Sweden, Austria, France, Russia, Malaysia and China—it is a silence that must be seen in the context of oil interests governing policy toward Sudan.
Civilian and humanitarian bombings are only the most conspicuously revealing feature of Khartoum’s brutal war against the people of the south. To end both the bombings and the war, Khartoum must face a world united in condemnation and a collective willingness to make such condemnation meaningful, with real economic penalties attached. Oil development must be suspended pending the negotiation of a just peace. Such action is essential if the world community intends to halt Sudan’s incalculably destructive civil war, and to make clear that it will not allow Khartoum to slip away from serious engagement with a meaningful peace process.
The US must lead in this effort, but it will require the backing of countries that have heretofore been willing to speak of a specious “critical dialogue” with Khartoum. Norway alone of European nations has shown a willingness to look honestly and unflinchingly at the realities of the National Islamic Front. Other European nations, particularly those that make up the EU, must accept that their “critical dialogue” has become little more than a convenient means for Khartoum to say one thing and do another.
The United States is, appropriately, being held to a very high standard by European countries in the confinement of members of Afghanistan’s Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The Geneva Conventions are being adduced, as they should be. But the Geneva Conventions have a much more pressing relevance for southern Sudan. Article 13(2) of Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 unambiguously prohibits:
“making civilians as such the object of attack; and acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population.”
This is precisely what occurs on a continuing basis in southern Sudan, with horrific results. Yet we hear nothing from these same European nations about Khartoum’s brutal violation of the Geneva Conventions. This is shameful hypocrisy, and reveals a terrible moral hollowness whose reverberations will be heard long after Afghan detainees have been released.
Five killed as Sudanese warplanes bomb civilian areas: rebels
NAIROBI, Feb 11 (AFP) — Five civilians, including a little girl, were killed
and six seriously wounded when Sudan’s government warplanes bombed civilian targets in the south of the country at the weekend, a rebel movement said Monday.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) said in a statement released here that Antonov warplanes bombed two relief centres in western Upper Nile State on Saturday and Sunday, killing three religious workers and a nurse.
A nine-year-old girl was killed in an air raid on Akuem in northern Bahr
el-Ghazal State on Saturday, the statement added.
“It is to be noted that one of the four confidence-building measures proposed by the US government for the observance by the SPLM and the government of Sudan includes stoppage of bombardment of civilians,” the rebel movement said.
The confidence-building measures were proposed when the SPLM/A and the government signed a US/Swiss-brokered agreement in Switzerland last month committing them to observing a ceasefire in the central Nuba Mountains region.
Sudan’s civil war has raged since 1983 when the SPLM/A took up arms in a bid to end domination of the mainly Christian and animist south by the Islamic government in the north.