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Before the discovery of oil, chiefs on both sides would negotiate their differences, in 1965 and 1967. After that, there was no negotiation because the government of Sudan prevented that. The government of Sudan at Bentiu took no action to protect any Nuer or Dinka from the raids. They called it a “cool war,” a political war, which kills people indirectly.153 Thus, the Leek Nuer fled from north of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) and Bahr Al Arab Rivers, down to the area south of Bentiu. Some Ruweng (Panaru) Dinka moved far away, south and west to Bahr El 150 Ibid.
151 Ibid. Bilpam, Ethiopia, had been the main training camp for southern rebels during the 1955-72 civil war, and was a base camp for Anyanya II in the 1970s and early 1980s. S. E. Hutchinson, interview, April 18, 2001.
152 See former school administrator, interview, August 1-2, 2000. There were nine Bul Nuer sections on the 1954 taxpayers’ list, organized into two main sections, the Nyang (also called Kwac) and Gok. D. H. Johnson, email, April 30, 2001. See former school administrator, interview, August 1-2, 2000.
Ghazal province. Both Nuer and Dinka tended to go to relatives where possible, and to put a river between themselves and the Baggara for protection.154 According to Taban Deng Gai, the governor of Unity State (Western Upper Nile) from 1997-1999,155 the attacks on the Nuer in Western Upper Nile followed government demands that the Nuer population
leave the areas north of the river:
The Leek Nuer lived north of Bentiu, in what are now the Unity and Heglig oilfields. In 1983 they were told to move by the central government, to cross the [Bahr El Ghazal or Nam] River. They received no compensation. Their names were registered for “later on.”156 Many contemporaneous reports confirm the expulsion of Nuer and Dinka from the early oilfield areas of Western Upper Nile. Anthropologist Sharon E. Hutchinson lived in Tharlual, where a Leek Nuer 154 The Ruweng (Panaru) Dinka on the east of the Block 1 oilfields tended to stay north of the river in Block 1 Nuer areas because there were no adjacent Dinka communities immediately to the south. Those Dinka who fled the Ruweng area occasionally went east to the Shilluk (Tonja) or to the Nuer areas of Duar and Nhialdiu south of Bentiu and the river. Ibid.
There is a pocket of Ruweng Dinka southeast of Tonja and south of the Nile, at Atar. Atar is an SPLA area from which its Dinka SPLA commander, George Atar, occasionally moves up into the Dinka area in northeastern Western Upper Nile (Block 1).
155 Taban Deng was born in Kerial (Ker-riaal), a Leek village near the current Unity oilfield that has since been destroyed. He identifies himself as (western) Jikany Nuer. Taban Deng Gai, “Talisman False Community Development Claims in Western Upper Nile,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), February 2001, p. 12; Taban Deng, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, April 9, 2001. The South Sudan Post is the only news periodical dedicated to events in southern Sudan. It is published in Nairobi and its editor is John Luk, an attorney, political activist, former commander in Lou Nuer areas, and sometime member of the SPLM/A.
156 Taban Deng, interview, July 26, 1999. Another source said that in 1983, Chevron paid some compensation to the dislocated when it was building roads. Simon Kun, executive director, Relief Association of Southern Sudan (RASS), Nairobi, July 23, 1999.
chief resided, during her fieldwork among the Leek Nuer in the early 1980s.157 She described their
By late 1984 I had learned that my principal field sites in both eastern and western Nuerland had been destroyed. Tharlual had been overrun and razed by a band of northern Baggara (Misseriya) Arabs that had been armed with automatic weapons and ammunition by the government and instructed to clear the oil-rich lands of the Western Upper Nile of its Nilotic inhabitants.158 Africa Watch, now the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, reported that the muraheleen, active in 1983 and 1984, were “raiding into north-west Upper Nile, and devastating [the] Leek [Nuer].”159 A large pocket of Ruweng (Panaru) Dinka, who kept few cattle and were more sedentary, remained in the northeastern corner of Western Upper Nile/Unity State in Block 1-Block 5A. They were affected by government-armed muraheleen raiding starting in about 1983; by 1993, residents told a relief assessment team, they had few cattle because they had been taken in “Arab cattle raids” since the beginning of the war. The team observed very few cattle and goats in this whole Dinka area.
Perhaps as much as 70 percent of the population surveyed in 1993 in this part of Ruweng (Panaru) County had died in the previous four years (1989-93) because of displacement, migration, and disease, primarily kala azar, a wasting disease, according to those conducting the 1993 evaluation.160 The Dinka 157 Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas, pp. 34-36. The author conducted fieldwork among the Leek Nuer west of Bentiu and north of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River between December 1980 and February 1983. Sharon E. Hutchinson, Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Madison, Wisconsin, April 18, 2001.
158 Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas, p. 5.
159 Africa Watch, Denying “The Honor of Living”—Sudan: A Human Rights Disaster (New York: Africa Watch, 1990), p. 88.
160 Ibid. Kala azar, a parasitic disease also known as visceral leishmaniasis, causes chronic fever, swelling of the spleen and liver, anaemia and diarrhea. If left untreated, more than nine out of every ten people infected die, usually from uncontrolled bleeding.
Sudan has suffered many epidemics of the disease in recent history, resulting in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of deaths.
Treatment must be administered by trained health workers at regularly spaced intervals to have effect, and the medicine may be
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residents were exposed to kala azar when they began hiding in the acacia forest nearby for safety from the murahaleen raids.161 This epidemic started in the (western) Jikany area, south of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River, in the mid-1980s, spreading north from the Nuer population to the Dinka area of Ruweng (Panaru) County in the late 1980s. MSF finally estimated that about 100,000 people had died from kala azar in Western Upper Nile/Unity State since 1984, as a result of the war.162 Southern politicians at the time saw a close link between the displacement and oil. Abel Alier, former head of the southern regional government, wrote that Chevron attempted to support these muraheleen
as a way to protect the oilfields:
[T]he role of oil in South-North politics was further developed when Chevron made concerted attempts to support the activities of Southern Kordofan based armed militia [muraheleen] to secure protection of the oilfields in Bentiu Area Council to make exploitation and further prospecting possible. All oilfield areas were practically cleared of civilians in 1985-86; some of [the civilians] returned to the area in 1988 under the protection of the SPLA.163 harmful if not used correctly. World Health Organization (WHO), “Leishmaniasis,” Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, http://www.who.int/emc/diseases/leish/leisdis1.html. (accessed April 30, 2001) 161 Ibid. The acacia forest is the prime habitat for the sandfly which carries the parasite which causes kala azar; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Violence, Health and Access to Aid in Unity State/Western Upper Nile, April 2002, pp. 20-23.
162 According to MSF, the four factors associated with the spread of the disease are all related to the war: spread of the sandfly (regrowth of the acacia forests due to reduced cattle grazing led to an increase in the sandfly population, becoming a large vector pool for the parasite); introduction of the parasite (military moving within the area and between Ethiopia and Sudan in the mid-1980s);
increased transmission of the disease (due to war and displacement, people seeking safety and foraging for food in the acacia forests); and high susceptibility to the disease (mass starvation in the mid-late 1980s, no health care services, limited humanitarian access). Ibid., pp. 20-21.
163 Alier, Southern Sudan, p. 243.
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Africa Watch noted that the muraheleen operating in the area in the early 1980s had been “organized by the government to protect Chevron’s oilfields in Bentiu.”164 A journalist based in Khartoum at the time wrote that in early 1984 a special “Oilfields Protection Force” was established at Chevron’s request and that until at least late 1984 Chevron was providing substantial support to these troops. According to her, the battalion was based not in the oilfields (Heglig and Unity) but further north, in El Muglad, and was under the command of the son of General Abboud, the late military dictator.165 Years later, in 1988, the troops were sent to Rubkona near Bentiu to re-secure the oilfields and put pressure on Chevron to fulfill its concession obligations.166 Chevron Attempts and Fails to Develop the Oilfields From the outset, the Chevron project was beset with difficulties. The SPLM/A opposed the oil developments in Heglig and Unity, the relationship between Chevron and the government of Sudan was tense, and the civil war as well as the government’s political and economic difficulties kept the country perpetually unstable and an ongoing investment risk.
Chevron relations with the local southern authorities (during the period when the south had autonomy, 1972-83) began propitiously but deteriorated.167 The security situation worsened. In 1982, Nuer rebels took hostage five employees of a Chevron subcontractor, seizing them from offices in Yoinyang near Bentiu. After several weeks, a Nuer Roman Catholic priest, Father Zakaria Bol Chatim, managed to convince Anyanya II to let the hostages go. According to one observer, the rebels wanted to make the point that the oil “belonged to south[erners].”168 In December 1983 Charles David Hubbard, a Chevron 164 Africa Watch, Denying “The Honor of Living,” p. 88.
165 Carol Berger, “Oil and ‘Spearchuckers,’” Economist (London), 1985 (author’s copy).
166 Carol Berger, “Drive to re-open Sudan oilfield,” Africa Analysis (London), Muglad, Southern Kordofan, June 10, 1988.
167 Muriel Allen, “Sudan: Oil a Political Weapon,” July 11, 1997.
168 Roger Schrock, interview, October 28, 1999.
expatriate employee, was shot and killed during an armed robbery attempt at the company’s base camp in Bentiu.169 The safety of Chevron facilities and personnel was a major concern to the company. Oil development largely depended on the Sudanese government’s ability to provide adequate security for international oil companies working there. Abel Alier, former head of the southern regional government, maintained that Chevron itself had a role in destabilizing the area, leading to its expulsion in 1984.170 On February 2, 1984, Anyanya II, led by Cmdr. Bul Nyawan and his deputy, Cmdr. James Lial Dieu, attacked Chevron’s base camp in Yoinyang, killing three expatriate workers171 and injuring others. The company suspended its operations.172 After receiving assurances from the Sudanese government that the area was safe, Chevron resumed some operations on March 9, 1984, a month after the fatal rebel attack.173 John Silcox, president of Chevron’s overseas operations, told the Wall Street Journal that the main reason the company did not fully resume operations was that “[w]e have to have access to the south before we can go back to work and we’re not going to expose our employees to undue risk. And being in the middle of a civil war zone is an undue risk in our opinion.”174 169 “Funeral Scheduled at Poteau for Oklahoman Shot in Sudan,” Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), December 8, 1983.
170 Alier, Southern Sudan, p. 243.
171 Biel Torkech Rambang, interview, March 6, 2001. Several others gave similar versions of the event, all mentioning Bul Nyawan as commander. “Anyanya II’s commander Bul Nyawan attacked Chevron and closed it down. He was fighting the Baggara since 1981 and closed down Chevron in 1983 [sic]. His deputy in that attack was Paulino Matiep. Also James Lial Dieu, who is with SPDF now.” James Kok, Nairobi representative for SPDF, Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Nairobi, March 15, 17, 2001.
172 “Chevron to Resume Sudan Operations,” Dow Jones News Service (New York), March 9, 1984.
174 “Sudan Accord With Saudi Financier Puts Pressure on Chevron to Develop Oil Fields,” Wall Street Journal (New York), November 1, 1984.
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But Chevron’s area of operations did not quiet down. The Anyanya II rebels under Brig. Paul Thong in September 1984 overran Bentiu and then withdrew, taking hostage three Catholic priests (one Sudanese and two foreigners) from the parish house in Bentiu. The rebels, who held the hostages six weeks, had warned foreigners to leave the area. Expatriates working in development projects had already departed.
One hostage was the same Nuer priest, Fr. Zacharia Bol Chatim, who had negotiated the release of oil company hostages the year before. The rebels initially thought the two white priests with him were Americans (i.e., with Chevron). The church again negotiated the release.175 By the end of 1984, while Chevron’s operations were effectively suspended, the Sudanese government defaulted on its debt service payments of U.S. $ 264 million to international creditors, including an approximately U.S. $ 218 million debt to the IMF. As a result, the IMF threatened to declare Sudan ineligible for new loans unless an agreement could be reached regarding resumption of debt payments.
The Sudanese government approached its old benefactors, the Saudis and the U.S., to repay the debt for them, without success.176 The government’s inability to pay was due in part to the fact that the Chevron project did not provide any revenue.177 175 See John Ashworth, Sudan Focal Point-Africa, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, August 10, 2000. Ashworth was one of the priests. The other foreigner, Fr. Peter Major, reportedly now serves in northern Sudan.