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«Human Rights Watch Brussels London New York Washington, D.C. Copyright © 2003 by Human Rights Watch. All rights reserved. Printed in the United ...»

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activities of their commanders in the field—although their spokesmen were engaged in a war of press releases with the government on the progress of the fighting.617 They fully understood the big picture, however, as Elijah Hon Top made clear: “[T]he Arabs want Paulino [Matiep] to be in control of the oilfields. He is the only loyal one. With our forces, they suspect we will not provide the necessary security. The current fighting came because of that. We claim the oil should be exploited with our participation.”618 Renewed Fighting in Block 5A, July 1999 As the government was gearing up for the first export of crude oil, the fighting flared up again in Block 5A, which the government had just cleared of “rebel” SSDF. In a surprise move, Cmdr. Tito Biel of the SSDF, having secured ammunition from the SPLA, launched an offensive on July 3, 1999, in an effort to roll back Paulino Matiep’s pro-government militia occupying strategic parts of Block 5A. As Agence France-Presse noted on July 6: “Fighting has resumed between two pro-government factions in a dispute over the right to guard oilfields in southern Sudan’s Al-Wihda [Unity] state, one of the rivals said Tuesday.”619 Within a week, Cmdr. Tito Biel’s forces pushed their opponents back almost to their headquarters in Mankien. The fighting was in the opposite direction from its southerly May trajectory: in July, the SSDF went on the offensive north to Ler then to Duar, Koch, Boaw, and Nhialdiu, all in a matter of days.620 617 Although in August 1999 Tito Biel said that Riek Machar had not been fully informed that the SSDF had accepted ammunition from its erstwhile enemy, the SPLA, a year later Riek Machar contradicted his commander Tito Biel and claimed that he had authorized it and controlled it all along. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000. It is clear that Tito Biel understood his blanket orders from Riek Machar to be: do not let the Khartoum government take control of the Block 5A oilfields; we (the SSDF) are to protect all territory south of Bentiu. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999.

618 Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.

619 “Fighting resumes near southern Sudan oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999.

620 SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999. U.N. OLS (Southern Sector) received reports of fighting on July 5 in the Duar, Koch, and Ler areas. U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 5-11, 1999,” Nairobi, July 11, 1999.

–  –  –

On July 9, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep withdrew to Wangkei, and then to a place four hours from Mankien, safe in Bul Nuer territory.621 On July 8, 1999, the outbreak of fighting prevented the delivery of food to all 16,000 civilians deemed needy in Bentiu. On July 10, WFP and NGO personnel were evacuated from Bentiu for security reasons.622 The WFP feared “a worsening humanitarian crisis as it is unable to deliver urgent relief assistance to tens of thousands of people trapped by the fighting” further inside Western Upper Nile/Unity State. The

WFP said:

WFP is extremely concerned for thousands who left their homes last month [June 1999] for safety and moved further inside Western Upper Nile as they are now even more difficult to reach. WFP is also worried that thousands who moved towards the bordering areas of northwestern Bahr El Ghazal and Jonglei will put extra strain on these areas still suffering from last year’s [1998] devastating famine and floods.623 At the same time, the medical emergency agency Médecins du Monde (MDM), which had a long history of working in Mankien, evacuated its staff from that town as a precautionary measure.624 As a result, it 621 Makuac Youk, spokesman in Khartoum for the SSDF, said that the SSDF had killed two hundred and captured 109 of Paulino Matiep’s forces. SSDF Chief of Staff Elijah Hon Top announced that his troops had recaptured all the positions lost in May in Ler and Rubkona. Joseph Manytuil, an aide to Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, confirmed only heavy fighting in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, and accused the SPLA of supporting the SSDF with troops. (There was no evidence that SPLA troops participated in this fighting. The SPLA soldiers are predominantly Dinka and, despite Wunlit, would risk attack by hastily combined Nuer forces if they ventured into Nuer home territory. At that time, there were no units of West Bank Nuer in the SPLM/A aside from those of Cmdr.

Philip Bapiny who defected in late 1998. There was no indication that Philip Bapiny’s forces were involved in the mid-1999 fighting.) “Fighting Resumes Near Southern Sudan Oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Pro-government groups fight in south Sudan,” Reuters, Khartoum, July 6, 1999; “Fighting resumes near southern Sudan oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999.

622 U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999,” Khartoum, July 14, 1999.

623 WFP News Release, “150,000 Trapped by Renewed Fighting in Sudan’s Western Upper Nile Region,” Nairobi, July 10, 1999.

624 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 5 July – 11 July, 1999.”

–  –  –

was able to immunize only 2,000 children against a measles outbreak, a small proportion of those exposed.625 At that point, with Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep withdrawing to his home area, the government army intervened. Wangkei is a key garrison town in Block 4 where two tributaries of the Nile meet southwest of Bentiu.626 These tributaries have been geographical obstacles to a military attack from the south (Bahr El Ghazal) on the GNPOC oilfields, and vice-versa, to a military attack from government bases in Western Upper Nile/Unity State on Bahr El Ghazal.





The government used Antonov aircraft and—for the first time in Western Upper Nile/Unity State— helicopter gunships to push the SSDF back from the garrison at Wangkei.627 At the same time as the agencies were pulling out of Bentiu and government planes were brought in to stop the rebel advance, Paulino Matiep’s forces moved to “clean up” Bentiu. The UDSF/SSDF alleged that Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces went through another round of killings and abductions or arrests of UDSF civilian supporters in Bentiu on July 11-12, 1999. According to former Gov. Taban Deng and others, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s agents abducted two UDSF (Riek Machar) state ministers from 625 “Conflict prevents vaccination of 50,000 Sudanese children,” AFP, Nairobi, July 20, 1999.

626 The tributaries are the Bahr al Arab River, coming from the northwest, and the Bahr El Ghazal River from the south. They become one Bahr el Ghazal (Nam) River at Wangkei.

627 Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999. Cmdr. Tito Biel said the Antonovs came out of El Obeid, twice a day for seven days, and the two helicopter gunships came out of Bentiu. One of them reportedly bombed Nhialdiu when an ICRC plane was on the ground.

According to an SSDF officer, in mid-July 1999 the SSDF shot down a helicopter en route from Mankien to Rubkona, but the government claimed mechanical failure. Tito Biel and his commanders did not know the name of the helicopters but described the gunships as having two propellers, one on the body and one on the tail, the larger propeller having five blades. The wheels withdrew when the helicopters took off, and they were painted camouflage. Each carried twelve gunners and two pilots. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999; SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999. This helicopter gunship is probably the Mi-24 Hind gunship, a Soviet product. According to Military Balance 1999-2000 (Oxford, U.K.: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1999), p. 276, Sudan then had four Mi-24Bs and five Mi-35s (export version), nine in all, of which only six were believed to be in working order. The “ordinary” helicopters, seen as they transported ammunition and arms to Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, were white and large. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999.

234Oil Fuels the War

Bentiu: Choge Kiir de Juch, Minister of Social Affairs and Information (Pariang Dinka), and Lewis Keah Madut, Minister of Engineering Affairs (Bul Nuer). The agents were also alleged to have abducted Tang Gatket, a chief; Zaki Yarang, the (Dinka) commissioner of Pariang province; and two Dinka traders. All were reportedly taken from their homes at midnight on July 11-12. The two state ministers were allegedly killed by army or Paulino Matiep forces; the commissioner of Pariang was said to be wounded and in the hospital.

The Riek Machar camp believed that these UDSF/SSDF followers were killed in retaliation for, or anger because of, Cmdr. Tito Biel’s July 3 surprise attack on the government/Paulino Matiep forces in Ler in Block 5A. Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s spokesperson denied the charges of assassination. 628 Human Rights Watch interviewed a former captive, (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, appointed in 2000 by Riek Machar as governor of the area. Governor Simon said many of the captives were killed and that only he and ten others had survived. They were freed in September 1999 by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet when he mutinied and captured the Mankien base.629 The SSDF, again out of ammunition, started the long run south back to Nyal, chased by the government’s Antonovs and gunships through Nhialdiu, Boaw, Duar, and Koch, on July 11 and 12, 628 Human Rights Watch asked Sudan’s minister of justice in late July 1999 if the reported killings of the two state ministers and others in Bentiu had been or were going to be investigated, and if those against whom there was evidence would be tried. The minister of justice replied that it was not possible to investigate such allegations because it was “too dangerous” for his staff to go to Bentiu, which he called a war zone. The undersecretary of foreign affairs told Human Rights Watch, in response to the same question, “This is a political problem. Steps are being taken.” Human Rights Watch received no response to requests to meet the military officials who might have knowledge of these events. If there was an investigation, its results were never publicized. Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999; Ali Yassin, minister of justice, Human Rights Watch interview, Khartoum, August 3, 1999; Hassan Abdin, undersecretary of foreign affairs, Human Rights Watch interview, Khartoum, August 3, 1999. See also, U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999;” Alfred Taban, “Two Regional Officials Killed in South Sudan Feud,” Reuters, Khartoum, July 13, 1999.

629 (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, UDSF/SSDF governor of Western Upper Nile, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 6, 2001. He said Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep captured him and forty-six Riek Machar supporters in Bentiu in July

1999. They were taken to the jail in Mankien, where Simon was approached by Ibrahim Shamsa El Din who urged him to “abandon the cause of the south,” and speak out for unity. Ibid. Gen. Shamsa El Din, one of the chief architects of the war in the south, died in 2001 in a military air accident.

–  –  –

1999. At least eleven civilians reportedly were killed, including two children, and many cattle. Taban Dengin Khartoum denounced government bombing on BBC radio,630 which either stopped then or was already over.

On July 10, after it began its rollback of SSDF Cmdr. Tito Biel’s forces at Wangkei, the government imposed a relief flight ban on Western Upper Nile/Unity State with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.631 Meanwhile, the continued fighting in Block 5A during July 1999 forced thousands more civilians to flee to remote areas where the OLS (Southern Sector) was not able to investigate or assist them.632 Nor could relief officials from the northern sector help, as Bentiu and Rubkona, and the Bahr El Jebel river along the Adok corridor, were declared no-go areas for all U.N. staff.633 Cmdr. Tito Biel managed one more military round with the government forces/Paulino Matiep militia in August 1999, with the same results: running out of ammunition, he had to fall back again and the cycle of displacement continued.

Khartoum Peace Agreement Talks Fail Again On August 17, 1999, a UDSF spokesman said that talks to salvage the Khartoum Peace Agreement had only widened the gap between the government and Riek Machar’s forces. He threatened that Riek Machar would leave the government unless the situation improved.634 The Khartoum Peace Agreement’s Southern States Coordinating Council, of which Riek Machar was president, had been unable to pay the 630 The UDSF was still a registered political party and its officials held government posts, so apparently the local press was not reluctant to quote them. At the time, there was an opening in free speech in Khartoum. SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999.

631 WFP press release, “150,000 Trapped by Renewed Fighting...,” July 10, 1999; “Sudan flight ban sparks fear of humanitarian crisis,” AFP, Nairobi, July 27, 1999.

632 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 5 July – 11 July, 1999;” “Conflict prevents vaccination of 50,000 Sudanese children,” AFP, Nairobi, July 20, 1999.

633 U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999.” 634 “Dialogue Breaks Down between Khartoum, Pro-government Party,” AFP, Khartoum, August 17, 1999

236Oil Fuels the War



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