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The Dinka, a people closely related to the Nuer but speaking a different Nilotic language, similarly live in the savannah country and the highlands, toic, and sudd (swamps) of the Nile basin in southern Sudan, moving their herds from riverine pastures to permanent settlements according to the season. Also like the Nuer, they form many independent groups of between 1,000 and 30,000 persons, each of which is “internally segmented into smaller political units with a high degree of autonomy.” “Dinka,” Enclyclopedia Britannica (1999-2001), www.britannica.com/eb/article?idxref=30583 (accessed April 27, 2001). The Dinka are a larger ethnic group than the Nuer, and there has been frequent intermarriage and warfare between them.
71 Map, “Bahr el Arab,” maps N.C. 35, 1:1,000,000 series, by the Sudan Survey, 1937, with administrative boundaries corrected in 1976 (U.S. Library of Congress map collection); map, “Sobat,” maps N.C. 36, 1:1,000,000 series, by the Sudan Survey, 1928, with administrative boundaries corrected in 1968 (U.S. Library of Congress map collection).
Ruweng (Panaru) Dinka areas in Western Upper Nile, the large area the Baggara called the Bahr (meaning river in Arabic).72 The first population census of the newly independent Sudanese government, carried out in 1955/56, counted the numbers of people living in different court centers (or omdiyas), giving figures ranging from 7,000 to 33,000 heads of household in each of nine ethnic groups in Western Upper Nile.73 Although the figures from the 1955/56 census are suspect, as all census figures for the south have been, they give a rough idea of the proportional sizes of groups. Dinka and Nuer heads of households in Western Upper Nile totaled 137,391 at that time. 74 Overall, the population of the Upper Nile as a whole in 1956 was given elsewhere as 888,611.75 It appears the Nuer and Dinka were classified by later Sudanese government census-takers as “rural” and the Baggara as “nomads.” The 1983 census showed a population in Upper Nile of 1,594,554, of which
89.9 percent was rural, 5.7 percent was urban, and 4.4 percent was nomadic.76 From 1946-54, the Jonglei Investigation Team (JIT) carried out a survey of the possible effects of a massive canal—the Jonglei canal—on the ecology and peoples of southern Sudan.77 The research was 72 Map, “Ghabat el ‘Arab, Sudan Sheet 65-L” (1:250,000), Survey Office, Khartoum, 1936 (University of Durham, U.K., Library Collection). See also the 1977 maps published by the Soviet Union on Sudan, showing settlements throughout the area.
73 The figures of male heads of household given for Western Upper Nile ethnic groups were: Aak-Adok [Dinka]: 31,296; Nyuong [Nuer]: 16,111; Jagei [Nuer]: 20,539; [Eastern] Jikany [Nuer]: 32,248; Bul [Nuer]: 33,893; Leek [Nuer]: 24,552; Alor Dinka: 7,013;
Awet Dinka: 7,652; Kwil Dinka:16,976. First Population Census of Sudan 1955/56, Notes on Omodia Map (Khartoum: Ministry for Social Affairs Population Census Office, August 1958), p.59, as cited in D.H. Johnson email, April 30, 2001. This census is recognized as the most accurate and only count of the ethnic population in Sudan. “Sudan: Ethnic Structure,” Encyclopedia Britannica (1999-2001), www.britannica.com/eb/print?eu=10842 (accessed April 27, 2001).
74 D. H. Johnson, email, April 30, 2001.
75 Omer Eltay and Sultan Hashmi, “A Quarter Century of Population Change in the Sudan,” in Population and Human Resources Development in Sudan, eds. Omer S. Ertur and William J. House (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1994), p.41, table 3.5.
76 The figures for this 1983 census would be 1,433,504 rural; 90,889 urban; 70,160 nomadic. Eltay and Hashmi, “A Quarter Century of Population Change...,”, pp. 40-43, tables 3.4-3.6.
conducted over a period of years beginning in 1946 and was based on administrative reports kept on the region by administrators who lived and traveled there.78 The JIT survey confirmed that the Ruweng (Panaru) Dinka and the Leek and Bul Nuer lived in areas of Western Upper Nile in what later became known as Blocks 1, 2, and part of 4;79 large parts of these areas were referred to on the JIT maps as “permanent settlements,”80 located on higher and better drained land.81 A 1954 JIT map illustrates the “permanent habitation” land south of Bentiu in what is now Block 5A.82 (Map D) The most prominent geographical feature is the Nile River tributary, the Bahr Al Jebel River (White Nile), flowing from south to north where it meets the Bahr El Ghazal River and flows eastward.
Coincidentally, Blocks 5A and 5B would be deprived of water by the Jonglei canal. Work on the Jonglei canal was brought to a halt in 1984 by an SPLA attack, however, and the project has not resumed as of the writing of this report.
77 Much of the water flooding the Upper Nile region annually is lost to evaporation. The Jonglei canal was to be cut in an almost straight line from the White Nile south of Malakal to the Bahr Al Jebel River near Juba.. The canal would short-cut the Bahr Al Jebel River as it meanders through Blocks 5A and 5B, and channel the flat and flooded marshes and the waters of the Nile, thereby preventing their evaporation. The waters captured in the deep canal could be sold to Egypt’s burgeoning population and used for agricultural development in northern Sudan under agreements pertaining to rights in the waters of the Nile. For a discussion of the Jonglei canal project, see S.L. Laki, “The Impact of the Jonglei Canal,” pp. 89-96.
78 For examples of administrative reports, see C.A. Willis, et. al, The Upper Nile Province Handbook: a Report on Peoples and Government in the Southern Sudan, 1931, ed. Douglas H. Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1995).
79 Jonglei Investigation Team (JIT), The Equatorial Nile Project and its Effects in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Vol. IV, Maps and Diagrams, map E 7 and map E 10 (1954), pp. 213, 217.
80 The concept of “permanent habitation” refers to geographically determined areas of settlement for the Nilotic-speaking agropastoralists of southern Sudan. It is one of three categories of land identified by the JIT, the other two being seasonally river-flooded pastureland and intermediate rain-flooded pastures. Jonglei Investigation Team, Vol. I, pp. 138-42.
81 Ibid., pp. 145-47.
82 Jonglei Investigation Team, vol. IV.
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The Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River originates south of Wangkei, flows north to join the Jur River coming from the west, then continues north to where it meets the Bahr al Arab at Wangkei, almost one hundred kilometers west of Bentiu.83 It then continues east through Bentiu, joins the Bahr El Jebel then the Bahr El Zeraf (both flowing south north to meet it), until it meets the Sobat River (coming from Ethiopia) in Malakal to form the Nile. It continues north as the White Nile to Khartoum, where it joins the Blue Nile (also coming from Ethiopia), to become the Nile River until it reaches Cairo and pours out into the Mediterranean Sea.
Historically, the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River provided a barrier to Baggara horseback penetration to Nuer settlements south of this river. Block 5A—except its northern corner—is south of this Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River and therefore did not experience many raids by the Baggara. Instead, Block 5A provided a refuge for the terrorized Leek and Jikany Nuer population fleeing south from Blocks 1, 2, and 4 in the 1980s and 1990s. Such displacement swelled the numbers of people and cattle south of the river.
The historical barrier was breached, however, when the Lundin consortium bridged the river at Bentiu in 2000 and the government later put in a bridge at Wangkei in Block 4. In 2002 the Baggara used them to penetrate south of the river for the first time, hunting Nuer civilians in government-organized destroy and displace raids.
The human and cattle population south of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River was, even before oil exploration and accompanying displacement started, denser than in the Heglig area of Western Upper Nile. Block 5A includes the small towns of Nimne, Nhialdiu, Duar, Boaw, Koch, Ler, Adok, and the market town of Rupnyagai that grew up after a peace agreement was reached between the 83 Some refer to the segment of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) that proceeds from the intersection with the Jur River to Wangkei the “Jur River.”
Nuer/SPLM/A and the Baggara in 1986 and trade between them recommenced. 84 Block 5A is populated by Bul, Leek, Jagei,85 (western) Jikany,86 and Dok87 Nuer. The Lak and Thiang Nuer also reside in Block 5A, on Zeraf island—formed by the triangle of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River, the Bahr El Jebel River (White Nile), and the Bahr el Zeraf River—but so far they have not been as greatly affected by the fighting. Lak and Thiang Nuer live in Zeraf Island (in Central Upper Nile), which has been back and forth between the SPLM/A and progovernment militia leader Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya, based in Pom to the east of Old Fangak (one day walking). The southern part of Zeraf Island, mostly of Thiang Nuer, is included in Block 5A.
The Nyuong and Dor Nuer lived predominantly in Block 5B, where the towns of Nyal and Ganyliel are located. On the East Bank of the Nile in Block 5B are the Gaweir and Gol Nuer. (Map C and D) The Living Patterns of Dinka and Nuer The subsistence economy and rich social life of the Nuer and Dinka have been determined in great measure by geography. Their agro-pastoral lifestyle has been adapted to the periodic flooding and dryness of the land they live in. Their way of life has been guarded from outside invaders—the first being slavers—by malaria, heat, wild animals, flooding, and papyrus-clogged rivers or sudd..
84 Rupnyagai, southwest of Bentiu and south of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River, became a market center for Baggara and Nuer after their 1986 agreement. Many commanders lived there because it was a commercial center. It was burned down in the first fighting between Paulino Matiep’s militia and the Riek Machar forces in September 1997 and subsequently rebuilt. It was partly rebuilt but burned down several times thereafter. It is on the border between Blocks 4 and 5A.
85 Boaw and Koch are located in the Jagei Nuer district inhabited primarily by the Jagei subgroup of the Nuer. Koch is ten hours from Boaw on foot. The five parishes in Jagei include Kuat, Gang, Guk, North Guk, and Boaw. William Magany Chan, RASS coordinator Koch (Jagei area), Human Rights Watch interview, Nyal, Western Upper Nile, August 18, 1999.
86 Duar town is in the Jikany Nuer area. Jikany in Western Upper Nile is sometimes referred to as Western Jikany, to distinguish it from the Eastern Jikany area later settled by the Nuer in their eastward expansion.
87 Ler, Adok, and Mayandit towns are in the Dok Nuer area.
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The spread-out villages or “permanent settlements” of the rural Nuer and Dinka do not refer to brick and mortar buildings, but to settled locations with more permanent type of mud and thatch housing above flood-level, to which the Dinka and Nuer return annually during the rainy season and where they plant their crops. These settlements include several extended family and/or other compounds. The compounds contain tukls, circular mud one-room huts with thatched roofs that last about five to ten years. The compound fence, of thatching or more permanent material, may encircle several tukls, depending on family size. Other permanent structures such as cattle byres (luaak, plural of luak) and graneries are also made of mud and branches, in contrast to the impermanent “dry season” houses built of flimsy materials, closer to the rivers, which are flooded out during the rainy season.88 Many anthropologists and others have studied Africa’s migratory agro-pastoralists, particularly the Dinka and Nuer. The care of cattle and the availability of water for their cattle is the main reason for their migration. Cattle to the Nuer and Dinka are not simply sources of food and other products. Cattle are the main form in which wealth is kept, and are signs of prestige. They are used to pay bridewealth, which is a group responsibility of the family of the bridegroom, and therefore helps maintain interrelations among lineage members. Cattle are also used to provide compensation for homicide and other crimes;
jails or prisons were introduced by outsiders and rebel movements. Cattle play an important role in the traditional religions. Even now, there is still resistance in most Dinka and Nuer areas to using cattle for draft or transport because the cattle might be harmed by such exertion.89 Movement from the permanent settlements to dry season grazing in the toic starts in December-January at the beginning of the dry season. The return journey to the permanent settlements usually starts in May-June, the early part of the rainy season.
88 Sharon E. Hutchinson, Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Madison, Wisconsin, April 18, 2001.
89 Majok and Schwabe, Development Among Africa’s Migratory Pastoralists, pp. 50-56. Sudan ranks second in cattle and sheep in Africa. It has an estimated 20 million cattle held by the 80 percent of Sudanese who live in rural areas. About 35 percent of the cattle population is estimated to be in the south, most of whose population is migratory pastoralists. Ibid., p. 49 (as of 1987). Most of the southern cattle can be found in the lower Sudd-land. Sue Lautze, email, October 17, 2001.
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These major migrations are planned not by individual families but by larger lineage groups. Some family members (particularly young men) accompany the cattle to the toic, and female family members go with them to milk cattle; these roles are traditionally assigned by sex. Other family members stay behind to cultivate.