A detailed press release from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) makes clear that the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum is continuing its massive assault on civilians in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile Province. The SPLA/M release reports that eleven people were killed and forty-five wounded today when sixteen bombs were dropped from an Antonov bomber on the village of Rier, south of Bentiu near the oil road of concession Block 5a. The SPLA/M release also points out that Rier—like Bieh just to the south—is a relief center, critically important for the many tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the oil war of Western Upper Nile. The attack also comes on the eve of a visit by Andrew Natsios to nearby Ganyiel (also in Mankien County). Natsios is Senior Administrator for US AID and President Bush’s special coordinator of humanitarian affairs for Sudan.
Eric Reeves [May 22, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
The attack, characteristic in its savagery and destructiveness, has yet to be confirmed by independent sources, but there can be little doubt that the SPLA/M report (attached below) is accurate, given the corroboration of such reports in the past. Of course one reason there is no confirmation is because Khartoum has essentially shut down humanitarian access to Western Upper Nile, denying relief flights permission to land at virtually all sites in the region. (The rainy season has begun, making airlift efforts even more critical.)
This latest atrocity bears comparison to the attack on Bieh earlier this year. At Bieh, two helicopter gunships, flying at very low level, directed rockets and heavy machine-gun fire into thousands of women and children waiting for food at the UN’s World Food Program delivery site. The attack occurred in broad daylight; the UN site was well-marked; Khartoum had been notified of the humanitarian mission; there were no opposition military forces anywhere near Bieh. But there were two UN World Food Program workers who witnessed the attack, and it was through their report that the world was forced to see the true nature of Khartoum’s massive assault on civilian populations in the oil regions.
Rier, like Bieh, lies almost adjacent to the oil road leading south from Bentiu through Block 5a—the concession area in which Swedish, Austrian, and Malaysian oil companies have been forced to suspend operations. In order to “re-secure” operations for these companies, Khartoum has engaged in a massive campaign of scorched-earth warfare, attempting to depopulate the region (the conclusion, and title, of a recent and authoritative report from the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, “De-populating Sudan’s Oil Regions”; report available upon rquest).
In order to facilitate this brutal effort, Khartoum has denied humanitarian aid to virtually all of Western Upper Nile, the primary oil region of southern Sudan. This not only leaves hundreds of thousands of civilians without humanitarian relief, but also insures that there will be no more witnesses to the atrocities. The only lesson Khartoum learned from the attack on Bieh was that their efforts would be easier without the presence of international aid workers.
There are two other significant features to Khartoum’s attack on Rier.
First, Andrew Natsios—senior administrator of the US Agency for International Development and President’s Bush’s special humanitarian coordinator for Sudan—is scheduled to fly to Ganyiel tomorrow (May 23, 2002); Ganyiel, like Rier, is in Mankien County. The relatively close proximity of the two towns suggests that Khartoum is again engaged in a campaign of intimidation directed against US assessment efforts. It should be borne in mind that last year Khartoum’s forces shelled an airstrip in the Nuba Mountains two days prior to a flight into that same airstrip by US special envoy John Danforth.
Andrew Natsios is a man of courage and determination; he is unlikely to be deterred. But there can be little doubt that Khartoum is deeply concerned about such first-hand witnessing of the devastation that has been wrought in the oil regions, especially if the witness is a senior American official.
The second feature of the attack is that it would appear to violate a military stand-down that has been in the works for some time. The SPLA/M report declares that: “today’s attack is in violation of an agreement on a military stand-down that was reached and signed in the last 36 hours between the US Administration, the SPLM and Khartoum. The military stand-down (Cease-fire) is to be effective from 19th – 25th May 2002 to allow a high level US Humanitarian Delegation visit the Nuba Mountains (both GOS and SPLM controlled areas), Bahr el Ghazal and Western Upper Nile.”
If such a cease-fire has indeed been agreed to—and promptly violated by—Khartoum, it should serve as an abrupt wake-up call to those who believe that Khartoum will observe other cease-fires for any longer than they feel them to be in their military or political advantage. Cease-fires in Sudan are not the same as the just peace that must remain the primary goal of US and international policy. Even the Nuba cease-fire, for all its importance to the desperate people of the Nuba region, works to the military advantage of Khartoum, allowing for the re-deployment of significant forces to the oil regions, and securing a considerable length of the oil pipeline (which passes to the west of the Nuba region) from attack. If the Nuba cease-fire should become militarily troublesome for Khartoum, there can be little doubt that it will be violated.
A just peace, recognizing the rights of the people of the south, remains the only way in which to end attacks such as those at Rier and Bieh—and countless other villages. But so long as Khartoum feels that it is prevailing in its war on civilians in the oil regions and thus securing additional oil production, so long as it believes that it can use oil revenues to acquire the means for a final military solution, there will be no peace. Unless Khartoum is effectively pressured on oil development and revenue issues, the regime will feel no real incentive to negotiate. The logic of Khartoum’s strategic military vision is terrifyingly clear. If the international community refuses to see these ghastly ambitions for what they are, no progress will be made in ending the world’s longest and most destructive civil conflict.
AIR RAID KILLS ELEVEN AS GOS VIOLATES AGREEMENT ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS.
Eleven (11) people were killed and forty-five seriously wounded when the Government of Sudan (GOS) Antonov dropped sixteen bombs on the village of Rier in Mankien County. Western Upper Nile. Of the 45 people wounded many of them had their limbs tore off by the flying shrapnels in the air raid which took place today May 22, 2002 at 8:30am.
The aerial bombardment of Rier which is a relief centre for thousands of displaced population is a blatant violation of the Agreement for the protection of civilians and civil infrastructures which the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) and the GOS signed in March 2002. The SPLM/SPLA regards this bloody violation as a rude affront to the tireless efforts of the United States Government to restore peace, stability and sanity to the Sudan. This is not the first instance in which the rogue regime has misbehaved. It has been encouraged to continue in its habitual disregard for international treaties and conventions by this apparent inability by the international community to act more decisively on this rogue regime so that it may behave in a more responsible manner towards its citizens.
The SPLM/SPLA is on record that the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime is run by neocrats who simply have no respect for other opinions except their own ideology and will not honour any agreement it is a party to. The GOS has sufficiently demonstrated that it will not abide by whatever proposal recommended by the US Special Envoy, Senator John Danforth, to end the terrible anguish to which the regime has subjected the Sudanese people.
It is worth noting that the GOS has violated each and every article of the four confidence building measures which the Senator requested the SPLM/SPLA and the GOS to observe. The confidence building measures were:-
Humanitarian Cease-fire for the Nuba Mountains, Times and Zones of Tranquility for immunization of children, Halt to slave trade and slavery and Protection of civilians and civilian facilities. On February 19, 2002, the GOS violated the Nuba Mountains cease-fire by attacking Miri. On February 20, 2002 the GOS helicopter gunships killed 24 people while the World Food Programme was distributing relief food at Bieh, Western Upper Nile. On April 9,2002 the GOS once again violated the Nuba Mountains Cease-fire by re-deploying two army brigades to reinforce their forces in Western Upper Nile, also on April 20, the GOS sent it Mujahideen to abduct 300 people in Marialbai area of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Presently, the GOS is violating the Nuba Mountain Cease-fire Agreement by banning humanitarian flights into the area for the last three weeks. Today’s attack on civilians in Mankien county is the latest shameless conduct by a government that claims sovereignty over the whole country. The actions by the GOS justify the SPLM position that this is a government that can neither be reformed nor appeased. The Sudanese people reasonably argue that Internal and External Guarantees which Senator Danforth seems to recommend cannot work because this is a government that cannot be trusted. No agreement holds in as long as it does not further the ideological premise of the Khartoum regime.
In fact today’s attack is in violation of an agreement on a military stand-down that was reached and signed in the last 36 hours between the US Administration, the SPLM and Khartoum. The military stand-down (Cease-fire) is to be effective from 19th – 25th May 2002 to allow a high level US Humanitarian Delegation visit the Nuba Mountains (both GOS and SPLM controlled areas), Bahr el Ghazal and Western Upper Nile. The US delegation is being led by non other than the Administrator for the Agency for International Development Mr. Andrew Natsios who is also President Bush’s Special Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan. Mr. Natsios is expected to visit Ganyial near Rier (Mankien country) tomorrow 23 May 2002. This attack is therefore calculated to prevent Mr. Natsio’s visit to the area so that he may not witness for himself the displacement, destruction and the plight of the civil population in the oil fields areas. It is worth noting that two days prior to Senator Danforth’s November trip to the Nuba Mountains GOS artillery shelled the landing strip on which he was scheduled to arrive. Although he reacted angrily, Senator Danforth refused to be intimidated and made his first ever visit to the Nuba Mountains as planned. The GOS is repeating the same pattern but this time with a very heavy tone on life and property in Rier. We hope that Mr. Natsio’s visit proceeds as planned.
Dr. Samson L. Kwaje
Commissioner for Information and
Official Spokesman SPLM/SPLA
22 May, 2002 – Nairobi