«Human Rights Watch Brussels London New York Washington, D.C. Copyright © 2003 by Human Rights Watch. All rights reserved. Printed in the United ...»
On May 5, the Popular Defence Force’s coordination office announced the dispatch of the first batch of “Protectors of the Oil Brigade” (Liwa Hamma al Bitarol) to the oilfields. Sudanese TV announced that a major mobilization for the Brigade was underway in states throughout the country, with “scores of mujahedeen pouring into the assembly centers to join.”440 President Omar El Bashir appealed to young men to volunteer to defend their oil from foreigners, warning of “plots prepared by the U.S. and Israel to be executed by Uganda and other hirelings for preventing exportation of petroleum as of next June 30.”441 A few days before the inauguration of the pipeline, on May 27, Sudan’s official radio announced that the government was sending another batch of 2,500 volunteers, mostly youth and students, to protect the oil pipeline. The brigade was seen off by Defence Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Rahman Sirul Khatim in Khartoum.442 The prize was growing: because of Talisman’s successful exploration, the proven reserves in GNPOC grew steadily: for the years ending December 31, 1998: 403.6 million barrels; 1999: 528 million barrels;
2000: 562.8 million barrels; and 2001: 725.2 million barrels.443 The government’s figures were even 440 “Sudan: Government Forces Dispatched to Defend Oilfields,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, Omdurman, May 5, 1999;
“Government Dispatches Mujahadeen to Defend Oilfields,” IRIN, Nairobi, May 6, 1999.
441 “Beshir Warns of Foreign Plot to Block Sudanese Oil Exportation,” AFP, Khartoum, May 5, 1999; “Sudan: Government forces dispatched to defend oilfields,” Sudan TV, Omdurman, in Arabic, May 5, 1999, as translated BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, U.K., May 5, 1999;.
442 “Thousands of Sudanese Volunteers to Guard Oil Pipeline,” AP, Khartoum, May 27, 1999.
443 Based on Talisman Energy, 2001 Annual Report, p. 57.
higher.444 An energy and mining ministry official told a youth conference that oil reserves explored in Heglig were expected to reach 1.2 billion barrels by the end of 1999.445 444 By April 1999 reserves in Blocks 1 and 2 were estimated at 800 million barrels instead of the 450 million barrels estimated only one year before, according to Assistant Secretary of Energy and Mining Ali Ahmed Othman. The assistant secretary said that oil exploration in Sudan was just beginning. “Sudan Confirm Oil Reserves of 800 Million Barrels,” Panafrican News Agency (PANA), Khartoum, April 13, 1999.
445 “Sudanese Oil Reserves Surpass 1 Billion Barrels,” Xinhua (Beijing), Khartoum, May 3, 1999.
Overview The year 1999 saw a significant escalation of conflict and displacement, as the pace of population clearance from oil areas quickened. In mid-May 1999, the Sudanese government launched an all-out attack lasting several weeks on Ruweng (Panaru) County in the eastern part of Block 1, which had already been battered by continued displacement efforts by the government but where, nevertheless, a spread-out Dinka community of tens of thousands remained. The assault commenced with aerial bombardment followed by ground troops who looted freely and burned everything as they withdrew to the garrison town. The SPLA’s small contingent put up little resistance. Tens of thousands of residents were displaced, often for the second or third time. Although some returned, many were frightened off for good.
The displacement was not limited to Ruweng County. Many other areas were targeted, as the Talisman difference in oil development began to make itself felt. The pipeline was on schedule for use in a few months and more new wells had been located; some were already being drilled.
Government Campaign of Forcible Displacement from Block 1, February-July 1999 In early 1999, the Sudanese army began operations to displace those civilians still remaining around Pariang, Ruweng County, a much-besieged Dinka area where the SPLA had mobile troops from time to time, moving to and from a base in Atar southwest of Malakal. In February 1999, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s government-sponsored forces began warning Dinka civilians there to move to the garrison town or to the north of Sudan, claiming they would be killed by the SPLA or the SSDF if they did not.
Many fled soon thereafter. They were living only tens of kilometers away from some oilfields.446 Some 446 Over the roads GNPOC built or improved, Gumriak was perhaps fifty kilometers and Pariang twenty kilometers from El Toor oilfield. (See Map D) The Sudanese army had displaced Dinka civilians from the immediate area of El Toor in mid-1998.
who owned cattle went to the Dinka in Twic County, Bahr El Ghazal, while many without cattle went to Liri in the Nuba Mountains, northwest of Pariang, following the road that ran north from Bentiu and on to Khartoum, according to an SSDF official.447 Reflecting the military operations, during the early months of 1999 the World Food Program declared Gumriak—part of Ruweng (Panaru) County in Block 1—a “no-go” area for its operations for security reasons.448 As many fled from Ruweng County, other displaced persons arrived. In late April, WFP completed a distribution of food aid to 15,360 beneficiaries in Gumriak, where it found groups of Jikany and Leek Nuer arriving from the environs of Bentiu following Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s operations there.449 A small contingent of SSDF troops (Riek Machar’s army) led by Cmdr. Paul Thon Roch had been conducting ambushes of government military vehicles along the Heglig-Rubkona road and Maj. Gen.
Paulino Matiep’s troops forced them to flee. Cmdr. Paul Thon’s forces reorganized and attacked these enemy troops, but the attack failed, leaving Cmdr. Paul Thon boxed in. At this point he chose to join the SPLM/A rather than Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep.450 Thus, in addition to displaced civilians, there was a small rebel military presence of Nuer SSDF (SPLA) as well as Dinka SPLA in Block 1.
These February-April maneuvers and displacements were minor compared to what came next. Between May 9 and 23, 1999, the government army launched an offensive on Dinka villages from the Pariang garrison, moving to Tagil and then Gumriak. From there they went to Padit (Block 5A), all in Ruweng 447 Thomas Duoth, interview, July 22, 1999.
448 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 76: 21-28 February 1999,” Rome, March 8, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 77: February 29-March 6, 1999,” Rome, March 12, 1999. Gumriak remained a no-go area for the rest of the month. WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 78: March 7-13, 1999,” Rome, March 22, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 79: March 14-20, 1999,” Rome, March 25, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 80: 21-27 March 1999,” Rome, April 7, 1999.
449 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 83: April 18-24, 1999,” Rome, May 11, 1999.
450 Thomas Duoth, interview, July 22, 1999. Cmdr. Paul Thon was a popular SSDF commander of Jikany Nuer origin. He died shortly thereafter, after being wounded in battle. Simon Kun, interview, July 23, 1999.
187Human Rights Watch
County, with the main intention of driving the villagers off their land, according to civilian survivors.
The attack was an all-out effort by the Sudanese government. It first used Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships and then deployed tanks and armored personnel carriers backed by militia from garrisons at Liri in the Nuba Mountains and Pariang.451 Several, including SSDF officers, regarded the government’s May 1999 offensive in Ruweng County as retaliation for the SPLA’s March killing of three Sudanese government employees traveling with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);452 others reported that the government army attacked because it had heard rumors of an impending SPLA strike on the oilfield from Ruweng County.453 But a local SPLA commissioner of Gumriak said, “The reasons for the attack are clear: they want to exploit the oil in this area without fear of local resistance, so they are clearing the area and removing all the people.”454 451 Harker report, pp. 48-9; Damien Lewis, “Fight for Sudan’s Oil Is Killing Civilians,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), Gumriak, Western Upper Nile, October 5, 1999; Confidential communication to Human Rights Watch, July 1, 1999.
452 SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999. In late March 1999, four persons—three government employees, including the deputy commissioner of Pariang, and a Sudanese Red Crescent tracing officer—died in SPLA custody in Ruweng (Panaru) County. The group had fallen into SPLA hands on February 18, 1999, when they strayed into SPLA territory around the village of Kong in the Pariang area. The three government employees were accompanying a team of two Swiss nationals of the ICRC and two Sudanese Red Crescent workers carrying out a humanitarian mission. On April 2, the SPLM/A announced that the four detainees (the two foreigners had been released and one Sudanese escaped) had been killed on March 31 in crossfire during an unsuccessful rescue operation by government of Sudan forces. The ICRC demanded “a full inquiry to shed light on the events and the full cooperation of the SPLM/A in repatriating the four bodies to allow for decent burial.” The SPLM/A refused to turn the bodies over to the government, the relatives, the ICRC, or any other entity, to permit or conduct any investigation, or to give any further explanation, leading to the inference that the four had been summarily executed. See WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 78: March 7-13, 1999,” Rome, March 22, 1999; “ICRC Establishes Contact with Its Workers Kidnapped in Sudan,” DPA, Geneva, March 10, 1999; John Nyaga, “Sudanese Rebels Say Hostages Died in Rescue Attempt,” AFP, Nairobi, April 2, 1999; ICRC press release, “ICRC Appalled by Death of Four Detained Sudanese,” Geneva, April 1, 1999.
453 See Harker report, p. 50.
454 Damien Lewis, “Fight for Sudan’s Oil Is Killing Civilians,” October 5, 1999.
188Oil Fuels the War
Whatever the reasons for the government military offensive, it improperly targeted and also
indiscriminately hit civilians, and deliberately burned and destroyed civilian items necessary for survival:
food, huts, and seeds. These are not legitimate military objectives under the rules of war.455 The oilclearance rationale was the most likely because of the extensive and targeted attacks on civilians and civilian objects, and later statements by government officers involved in the operations.
According to the report of the Canadian human rights delegation that visited the location a few months later, “Roads built by the oil companies enabled [ground troops] to reach their destinations more easily than before. The village of Biem 1 was destroyed, and the burning of tukls and theft of cattle ranged as far as Padit. Biem 2, which we visited, was badly damaged.”456 The Canadian report added: “Heavy bombing occurred near the... river where many of the Dinka habitually reside in the dry season.”457 It found that the report of U.N. Special Rapporteur Leonardo Franco, initially challenged by Talisman,458 actually understated the extent of the fighting. The offensive lasted two months, not ten days as Franco estimated, and “was characterized by bombing runs and helicopter gunships flying low enough to kill people, and make the survivors afraid to cultivate.”459 A relief worker from the health NGO Medair, who was in Gumriak when the aerial attacks began on May 9 until his evacuation on May 12, witnessed bombings and frequent runs by government helicopter gunships.460 After flying out the Medair staff, relief agency aircraft evacuated some wounded residents, 455 See “The Illegality of Forced Displacement Under International Humanitarian Law,” below.
456 Harker report, p. 11. Biem was sixty-five kilometers from Pariang.
457 Ibid., p. 48.
458 Steven Edwards, Claudia Cattaneo, and Sheldon Alberts, “Calgary firm tied to Sudan ‘atrocities’,” National Post (Toronto), Khartoum and Ottawa, November 17, 1999.
459 Harker report, p. 49.
460 Ibid., p. 49. No rebel faction has military aviation.
before a government helicopter gunship went in and attacked again. According to a witness, it seemed clear that the government wanted to remove all NGO presence from the area.461 As a result of the offensive, the government army captured Padit airstrip and Gumriak in May 1999.
Apparently, the SPLA fought them off at Tagil airstrip, to the north, but either was not present or retreated from the other locations attacked.
The daily government newspaper Al-Anbaa announced in late May that the government army and militias had destroyed a number of SPLA “camps” in Unity State. Lt. Khalid Ahmed al Bashari, commander of the Pariang government military area, said government forces had destroyed all the rebel camps that threatened the oilfields in the area. According to a government soldier, they “cleaned up the area completely from the rebels and secured the oil area.” 462 The army also claimed it had freed four Sudanese and a Chinese engineerworking in the oilfields area who had been seized by the SPLA463 This appears to be the same group referred to by a Talisman oil company official who said that five members of a seismic crew— four Sudanese and one Chinese—were abducted by the SPLA from Munga in Block 1464 (apparently on May 12). A soldier who was seized at the same time from the same location was killed, according to a Talisman security official at Heglig. 465 The 461 Field worker in southern Sudan, confidential communication to Human Rights Watch, April 30, 2000.
462 Al-Anbaa, as quoted in “Sudan Army Destroys Southern Rebel Camps,” Reuters, Khartoum, May 23, 1999.
463 Ibid. Initially Sudanese army spokesman Gen. Mohamed Osman Yassin called the reports of capture or hostage-taking of workers, including Chinese nationals, “false” and “untrue.” “Sudan’s army denies reported abduction of oil workers,” AFP, Khartoum, May 10, 1999. Later in the month, however, the pro-government Alwan newspaper printed an article in which the army in effect admitted the SPLA capture. “Sudan army says destroys southern rebel camps,” Reuters, Khartoum, May 23, 1999. No other information was available, as the SPLM/A did not issue any statement on the topic.
464 On the Talisman map, Munga appears southeast of Umm Sagura.
465 Harker report, p. 50.