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area, from October 1996 to April 1997, raiding cattle as they left, which had caused considerable internal displacement.230 They distinguished between the attacks by Riek Machar’s Nuer forces (at all times in question associated with the government) and the more recent government attacks (NovemberDecember 1997) conducted by Sudanese government army soldiers garrisoned in Pariang.
The agency team treated 768 patients during the 1998 assessment. It noted that most of the people needed treatment for more than one disease, and the report commented, “It was striking to see how sick the people were.”231 Maternal and child mortality rates were very high: among the population surveyed, 15 percent of the mothers died during delivery, and 43 percent of the children. None of the children questioned went to school. There were no schools in the whole area, nor any trained teachers available.
There was one Catholic priest, and twenty-two villages had a chapel each. By this time, there were two dry season landable airstrips, in Padit and Gumriak. This entire area, including the relief airstrips, was the target of government army attack again in May 1999.
The population of Panaru (Ruweng County) in the 1983 census was 79,000, much higher than the 55,000 estimated population in 1994.232 The agency assessment team cited the causes of the drop in population as disease and migration due to war.233 Though the county commissioner gave an estimate of 55,000 population for 1998, the 1998 agency assessment team surveyed the area and estimated that population had been reduced to the 25,000-30,000 range.234 This was the direct result of years of repeated government militia and army raids and flight bans.
The 1996 Political Charter and the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement 230 Agency assessment, Padit, 1998. These attacks remain to be investigated in more detail.
232 Agency document, “Nyarweng Narrative Proposal,” accompanying August 10-14, 1994 assessment (anonymity requested).
234 Agency assessment, Padit, 1998.
In addition to deploying the army and Baggara militia to clear out and “protect” the oilfields by displacement of the residents, the Sudanese government implemented a strategy of dividing and buying off those southerners occupying strategic territory. It carefully laid the necessary political groundwork. A peace agreement with Riek Machar’s Nuer-plurality breakaway faction, whose territory extended into, or was close enough to threaten, Blocks 1, 2, and 4 and much of the Muglad and Melut basins, was achieved. It constituted the jewel in the crown of the government’s divide-displace-and-destroy strategy to secure the southern oilfields for development.
In April 1996, the government signed a Political Charter with Riek Machar, head of the force by then known as the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A).235 The only other rebel signing that Political Charter was Cmdr. Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, a Dinka former SPLA high commander who joined Riek’s forces in 1993 after escaping from several years of incommunicado detention by the SPLA.236 The Political Charter provided for a referendum “to determine the political aspirations of the people of southern Sudan.”237 On its face, this represented a change in the government’s hard line on the unity of Sudan. One year later, in April 1997, the Political Charter was incorporated into a peace agreement between the SSIM/A and the government. A number of smaller rebel factions also signed the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement.238 The government touted it internationally as the solution to the war, and lambasted the SPLM/A for not signing.
235 The SPLM/A-United (earlier the SPLM/A-Nasir faction of rebels led by Riek Machar) was renamed the SSIM/A at a special convention following a Nuer reconciliation conference held in Akobo, Upper Nile in 1994.
236 From 1987-92, Kerubino was held in a series of SPLA detention centers, in prolonged arbitrary incommunicado detention for alleged coup plotting. He escaped and joined Riek Machar’s faction and later created his own force in Gogrial, a garrison town in Bahr El Ghazal. Since 1994 he also allied with the government of Sudan. See Human Rights Watch, Famine in Sudan, pp. 14-15.
237 The Political Charter was negotiated by Taban Deng, later governor of Unity state in December 1997, and Riek Gai, governor of Jonglei at the same time. SSDF officer, Human Rights Watch interview, Wunlit, Bahr El Ghazal, March 1, 1999.
238 Also called the Sudan Peace Agreement. Signatories in addition to Riek Machar and Commander Kerubino included Cmdr. Kwac Makuei Mayar (South Sudan Independents Group, Dinka of Aweil), Dr. Thisphohis Ochang Loti (Equatoria Defence Force), Samuel Aru Bol (a southern opposition politician with the Union of Sudan African Parties (USAP), based in Khartoum;a Dinka from Rumbek, he attended Wunlit and died in Khartoum in 2000), and Arok Thon Arok Kongor (Chairman, Bor Group, Dinka from Bor; he was an
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Riek Machar argued he had no choice but to sign the agreement with the government after the SPLM/A prevented his group, the SSIM/A, from joining the broad opposition coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), formed in Asmara, Eritrea, in 1995.239 Others “thought that he had been forced to do this because of the failure of the Ethiopians, Eritreans, or Americans to extend military assistance to his faction.”240 Whatever the reason, he made his deal, and took many with him.
The 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement called for the establishment of a Southern States Coordinating Council (SSCC) to govern southern Sudan prior to a self-determination referendum to be held (after certain conditions were met) in four years. President Bashir appointed Riek Machar president of the SSCC and assistant to the president of Sudan. Riek Machar also became head of a new political group he formed, the United Democratic Salvation Front, comprising most of the ex-rebel parties to the Khartoum Peace Agreement. In 1999, when the government lifted its ten-year ban on political associations, the UDSF registered as a political party in Khartoum.
Riek Machar also assumed the role of commander-in-chief of the SSDF, the army formed by the rebel groups that had signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement. The SSDF also—nominally—included the forces of Cmdr. Paulino Matiep, who joined Riek Machar’s forces in 1991. The 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement provided that the SSDF “shall remain separate from the National Army and be stationed in their [SSDF] locations under their command.”241 The agreement declared that federal powers included officer in the Sudanese army after the first Anyanya war, before joining the SPLA; he died in an accidental crash of a government military plane in 1998). Cmdr. Kwac Makuei was the target of an apparent government assassination attempt in Aweil in early 1998 and fled to Khartoum (he had already defected twice from the SPLM/A). His thirteen Dinka bodyguards were captured at his Aweil home when he was away. They were taken to the army garrison and summarily executed by northern government soldiers. Kwac Makuei, Human Rights Watch interview, Khartoum, July 26, 1999.
Signing the agreement shortly after Riek Machar were a Nuba Mountains faction, led by Muhammad Harun Kafi, and a Shilluk faction headed by Dr. Lam Akol. See Human Rights Watch, Famine in Sudan, p. 56.
239 The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) included many political parties and armed groups from the north, east, and west of Sudan, but the SPLM/A was the only representative of the south.
240 Nyaba, Politics of Liberation, p. 110.
241 Khartoum Peace Agreement, Ch. 6, Sec. 8 (i), Khartoum, April 21, 1997.
armed forces and defense affairs and national security;242 it reserved public order, state security, and good governance to the states.243 According to the Khartoum Peace Agreement, as interpreted by the Riek Machar group, the SSDF was to provide security in the south pending the referendum on the south’s political status. This group understood that the territories they had “liberated” from the 1980s until 1997 were to be theirs to govern and protect exclusively, including the facilities of any oil company doing business in their area.244 The SSDF duly waged war on behalf of the government.245 The SSDF later insisted that the government could not have fended off the SPLA’s attempt to capture the Eastern Equatorian garrison town of Torit in September-October 1998—nor retaken Torit in late 2002—without SSDF support. However, the SSDF complained that it only received equipment from the government of Sudan as long as the government verified that SSDF units were engaged against “the Dinka” (SPLA). As stated by the SSDF’s chief of staff: “Immediately after the Khartoum Peace Agreement was ratified, we received some little help: rifles, ammunition. We only received this when we were fighting. If no fighting, we did not receive anything.”246 The government was, moreover, nervous about the UDSF’s self-determination agenda. Accordingly, it moved in the army and government-supported Islamist militia (mujahedeen, holy warriors) to guard the area north of Bentiu, Blocks 1 and 2, at a time when the relationship between the UDSF/SSDF and the government was still new.
242 Ibid., Ch. 3, Sec. 3 (a) ((2) and (19).
243 Ibid., Ch. 3, Sec. 3 (b) ((1).
244 Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.
245 This involved attacks on the SPLA in Kongor, Upper Nile, as well as fighting at Pagok on the Ethiopian border against Ethiopian government forces and Nuer and Anuak Ethiopian militias friendly to the SPLA. Battles also took place against the SPLA in Fangak, Jokau, Mading, and Maban (Adar and Punj), Eastern Upper Nile. Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.
246 Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.
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These troops posed political problems for the Riek Machar UDSF government of Unity State, which in early 1998 implemented an agricultural scheme in the Dinka village at Athonj, in Block 1, where drilling for oil was underway at the El Toor oilfield.247 UDSF state authorities wanted to expand the agricultural scheme, but the army informed them that no settlement would be allowed so near the drilling location.
The army then displaced the Dinka from Athonj in October 1998, according to the UDSF officials.248 Tensions had already broken out between Paulino Matiep and Riek Machar’s factions in late 1997 over the campaign for governorship of Unity State. The government took advantage of the circumstances by continuing to separately fund Paulino Matiep and his militia to keep the Riek Machar group from controlling any oilfields. In addition, as long as the Nuer fought each other, conditions would not be “right” for a referendum on southern autonomy. Many in the UDSF/SSDF suspected that this was another government objective.249 After the Khartoum Peace Agreement, the government administratively combined its garrison towns with the rebel hinterland in each of the ten southern ministates delineated in 1994. In the southern state of Unity (al Wihda), or Western Upper Nile, the garrison town of Bentiu was folded in with former rebel territory.
247 An oil industry study supports this time frame of activity in this oilfield. El Toor #3, Block 1A, Unity Exploration Area (Muglad Basin) was spudded on February 20, 1998 and completed as a suspended oil well on March 23, 1998. IHS Energy Group, “Sudan Annual Synopsis 1998,” scouting report, http://www.ieds.com/Scout_Reports/synopsis98/esasyn/sudtxt.htm (accessed November 15, 2000). (To spud is defined as “to begin to drill an oil well.”) This was only one of the wells in the El Toor field.
248 The removal or relocation of the village Athonj is borne out by satellite images that Talisman commissioned to prove that there was no displacement from its areas. According to testimonies of villagers, soldiers came twice to remove people; those witnesses were removed on the second time, in 1999. See below, “Government Army Displaces Villages Near El Toor Oilfield, Block 1, October 1999.” “Kalagate Imagery Report, Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,”April 2001, published by Talisman Energy, Calgary. Inside the cover is the report of Geoffrey John Oxlee, Kalagate Imagery Bureau, “Report KIB/035-1/2001, Subject: Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,” April 2, 2001, p. 7 and Figure 4: El Toor-1 & 4.
249 Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.
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The International Petroleum Company (IPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Lundin, was granted the Block 5A concession in February 1997, two months prior to the signing of the Khartoum Peace Agreement but ten months after Riek Machar signed the Political Charter with the government. Lundin (IPC)’s operations began in Block 5A in late 1997-early 1998.