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544 “Split in ranks behind Khartoum’s chief for south Sudan, Machar,” AFP, Khartoum, June 2, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Southern Sudan leader faces ouster attempt,” Reuters, Khartoum, June 4, 1999. On June 3, Weles Wal Bang, a Nuer convert to Islam, and others broke from the UDSF and set up the UDSF Collective Leadership, calling for Riek Machar’s dismissal from the UDSF and the SSDF.
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Nuer Civilians Flee to Mayandit, then to Dinkaland Fighting between the government troops and militias, and the rebel forces over control of the oilfields caused great hardship to the civilian population of those areas. The intent of Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s militia (under Zonal Cmdr. Peter Gatdet) to drive away civilians was evident from the looting and destruction of the civilian economy—not only the usual cattle looting, but also destruction of grain, granaries, animals that could not be carried off by the militia, and homes. Civilians who lagged behind were captured or killed; some were forced to act as porters, many women were raped, and underage boys were forcibly conscripted.
Not all civilians fled immediately after the attacks on Ler. Some hid outside the town as they had done in 1998, although it was the wet season. Many stayed in the toic for long periods, waiting to see what would happen, and suffered rashes on their bodies and swollen legs because of the water, as well as malaria, from which several of those in hiding died.545 One woman who escaped to the toic from Ler returned to her tukl at night to check on her four children who remained at home, because “the soldiers do not move at night.” She did not take her children to the toic because there were too many mosquitoes there. In her absence the four, unaccompanied by other family members, had to flee from soldiers and she became separated from them, like countless other displaced families.546 Another woman returned to Ler secretly to look for her daughter, who had just given birth, but could not find her; it was reported that her daughter had fled toward then-governmentoccupied Koch.547 When the SSDF withdrew from Ler in early May, many civilians fled with them. Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep took one day to organize his forces and chase them on foot, following on the heels of the civilian 545 Michael Wal, interview, August 18, 1999.
546 Elizabeth N, interview, August 18-20, 1999.
547 Elizabeth N.and Martha N. interviews, August 18-20, 1999.
stragglers. Civilians recalled the flight as very difficult: “People were killed around me; the Paulino [Matiep] forces were close behind as we fled to Mayandit. The Paulino soldiers chased us five hours to Mayandit from Ler.”548 This witness remembered seeing the body of one victim, Peter Yu Yut, a Presbyterian church elder, shot by Paulino Matiep’s forces, and sixty head of cattle stolen from him. A woman, Ayong Tap of the Sudan Women’s Association, was killed. A sixty-year-old man, Bulthiep, was tied to a tree and beaten to death, also by Paulino Matiep militia.549 When those displaced who could move faster reached Mayandit, they collapsed into sleep. While they were asleep, Paulino Matiep’s forces attacked Mayandit. Out of ammunition, the SSDF commanders and troops crossed the River Neang on the other (west) side of Mayandit. A female resident of Mayandit observed: “There was never such destruction in Mayandit as this year ; there is no Arab garrison in Mayandit,”550 meaning that without a government garrison neaby, the people had been left in peace. She continued, “I saw the Paulino soldiers and the bad things they did. Those who did not run for their life were shot on the spot.” She saw bodies with gunshot wounds. She saw people running away who were shot outside their houses: “All were running, shooting was all around them. They were caught in the early morning. This was when they [Paulino Matiep’s forces] had already defeated [Cmdr.] Peter [Paar]’s forces, killing the civilians who were left behind. They were using mortars for some of this killing.”551 Buar Kueth and his brother Kui Kueth, both young unmarried civilian men, were killed running away in Mayandit, according to witnesses.552 Many others were separated from their families in the confusion. 553 548 Isaac Majok, interview, August 14, 1999.
550 Nyakier, displaced woman from Mayandit, Human Rights Watch interview, Paliang, Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, August 15, 1999.
This was not combat but a mad dash by Nuer combatants and civilians alike across the river. Those civilians who could not find dugout canoes swam, as did the cattle.554 But “so many drowned, and cattle drowned too.”555 Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces did not cross the river. After a few days of looting in Mayandit, his troops returned to Ler.
The people crossing the river thought their best bet was to keep running from Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep and the army. The SSDF and Nuer civilians in the thousands, once across the river, kept walking through the swamp and rain for days until they reached safety in Dinkaland to the west, or in Nuer towns of Nyal and Ganyliel, to the south. Some of those who fled described the terror and hardship of
553 Elizabeth N. and Martha N.., interviews, August 18-20, 1999.
554 Adok chief, interview, August 20, 1999.
555 Elizabeth N. and Martha N., interviews, August 18-20, 1999.
556 Nyakier, interview, August 15, 1999.
Some walked seven days to reach safety in the Dinka area of Makuac in Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal:
“There was so much water on the way, and we were walking with children, that it took a week.”558 Different groups formed and continued walking together; usually the men could walk to Makuac in three or four days, without women and children, but this trip took longer. Once it was clear they would be safe in Makuac, they sent word back so that other displaced Nuer could join them. The displaced Nuer brought few possessions because they were carrying their children.559
There was hunger and sickness, such as relapsing fever,561 malaria, and skin diseases. “The main thing was the mosquitoes eating us alive, leaving rashes, scabies. We drank the water from the road and toic.
558 Isaac Magok, interview, August 14, 1999.
561 “Relapsing fever is an acute febrile illness caused by spirochetes of the genus Borrelia. The high fevers of presenting patients spontaneously abate and then recur.” This pattern of recurrence gives the disease its name. There is a 30-70 percent morbidity rate in untreated patients. It is transmitted by ticks and human body lice. Jonathan A Edlow, MD, “Tick-Borne Diseases, Relapsing Fever,” eMedicine Journal, January 26, 2001, Volume 2, Number 1, http://www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic590.htm (accessed June 27, 2001).
There were rivers with water lilies and fish; we ate both.”562 According to another, “Hunger was the main problem.”563 Twenty-three people from one group died of hunger and disease on the way.564 The cattle that were too exhausted to keep up and straggled behind were attacked by lions, which the displaced saw behind them as they traveled by day and night. One man survived a snakebite on his heel.565 There was rain, sometimes erratically, starting on one day and continuing to the next. But they were grateful. “The rain saved our lives. It stopped them from chasing us, and we kept walking through the rain. Small children died of cold on the way, and had to be left on the road.”566
Dinka Warmly Welcome Displaced Nuer, Slow International Relief In keeping with the covenant at Wunlit in March 1999, the Dinka from Makuac had returned to resettle the border communities deserted because of the Nuer-Dinka war. Building in this floodplain was seasonal, starting in October, with thatching grass for roofs not available until after the rainy season ended and vegetation dried out, starting in December. So the Dinka planted sorghum and other crops in 562 Isaac Magok, interview, August 14, 1999.
563 Woman displaced from Mayandit, Human Rights Watch interview, Paliang, Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, August 15, 1999.
564 Chief Chany Both Nyang of Mayandit, Human Rights Watch interview, Paliang, Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, August 15, 1999.
565 Isaac Magok, interview, August 14, 1999.
Makuac and stayed in Paliang, Bahr El Ghazal, five hours away by foot.568 They had not even settled in when the Nuer arrived seeking refuge, starting in May 1999.
The Nuer stayed around Makuac despite the lack of shelter, because it was near the toic and fishing camps, sources of food. They had almost nothing. A Nuer chief from Mayandit said, “We are lacking so many things because our houses [in Western Upper Nile] were looted and burned. We have no mosquito nets, nothing for cooking, no blankets, and the cows were looted. We are being helped by this Dinka population.”569 According to Dinka chief Lino Madut of the Luak-jang Dinka, who was present at Wunlit: “We the Dinka slaughtered eighty-three bulls for the Nuer because they had no rations.”570 The Nuer confirmed that the Dinka also shared their WFP relief food with them.
In Makuac, the Nuer were not associated with or related to forces that belonged to the SPLM/A but they were nevertheless welcomed by Dinka chiefs and other traditional leaders because of the Wunlit agreement. The friendship that grew up between Dinka chief Lino Madut and Nuer chief Isaac Majok at Wunlit made the decision to flee to Dinkaland easier. Chief Isaac Majok said: “We are here because peace was signed in Wunlit. Also because that peace led to an escalation of fighting by the jallaba [northerners], stirring up fighting between us Nuer.”571 The Nuer flight to Makuac, and the Dinka welcome of them there, thus marked another important step in the demilitarization of Dinka-Nuer relations on the West Bank of the Nile.
568 Victor Bol Duop, assistant commissioner of Makuac, Human Rights Watch interview, Paliang, Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, August 14, 1999.
569 Chany Both Nyang, interview, August 15, 1999.
570 Lino Madut, paramount Luak-jang Dinka chief of Makuac, Human Rights Watch interview, Paliang, Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, August 14, 1999.
571 Isaac Majok, interview, August 14, 1999.
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The Dinka welcome of the Nuer was all the more generous because these Dinka had been displaced themselves—by the Nuer now seeking their help. Chief Lino Madut, one of the Dinka who fled Nuer raiders, said Makuac was evacuated by its Dinka residents “during the war with the Nuer, which lasted from 1993 to 1999.” He continued, “I’m glad I was in Wunlit.... They [the Nuer] devastated Makuac and today we are brothers. We had a quarrel with our brother but the dispute is over. Today we and they
are one.” 572 As to why the Nuer chose to flee to a Dinka area, the Nuer chief said:
The WFP conducted an assessment of the area in early August 1999, several months after the first Nuer displaced arrived. By that time, in mid-rainy season, the mud was deep and passage for vehicles was impossible. The Makuac airstrip had been waterlogged for weeks. The WFP team had to slog on foot several kilometers to Makuac. About a dozen trucks carrying relief food from WFP warehouses in Uganda had been stuck for weeks in Paliang, not able to get any closer to Makuac. By mid-August, the agencies decided to ask the displaced Nuer in Makuac to walk the five hours from their makeshift shelters to the bogged down trucks in Paliang for the first relief food distribution. The displaced gladly complied, and the Nuer women carried fifty-kilo bags of maize and sorghum back on their heads, along slippery muddy paths.
Nuer Chief Isaac Magok commented to a Human Rights Watch researcher:
Other Displaced Nuer Embark on Hazardous Journey to Nyal and Ganyliel Some Nuer who fled Block 5A due to fighting and forced displacement were closer to the Nile and turned south along this waterway, which flows north. They escaped using primitive river transport into the territory of the Nyuong Nuer in Western Upper Nile, to their main towns of Nyal (on the sudd) and Ganyliel (formerly a port on the Nile). The OLS (Southern Sector) assessment team visited Nyal and Ganyliel in late May 1999.575 These displaced, who carried little but their children with them, optimistically planned “to cultivate in Nyal and Ganyliel and return to their original homes when the fighting stops.”576 They may have brought tuberculosis and kala azar with them, however, which were newly reported in both towns.577 One Ler man left his wife, one child, and an infant born on May 30 hidden in the toic southeast of Ler.
He went to look for transport. As he went north down the Nile, he could hear firing on the fishing camps and villages near the river, and artillery shelling on an island. He, his younger brother, and a guide spent almost two weeks looking for a canoe; at this time of year the rivers were too deep to swim. They located his family (which had fled the government troops) and then in a canoe made of a hollowed-out palm tree, they paddled south upriver with his wife, child, and newborn baby for three days, through mosquitoes and rain, arriving in Nyal on June 16.578 574 Ibid.
575 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), Weekly Report: May 31–June 6, 1999.
578 Michael Wal, interview, August 18, 1999.