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675 Gabriel Yoal Dok, the UDSF party secretary in Khartoum who attended the Wunlit conference and then left the government and moved to Nairobi, was elected chairman and John Luk Jok, an SPLM/A lawyer and former commander, was elected secretary of the peace council. “Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Council Membership Elected at Waat Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Conference,” November 6, 1999 (Waat), http://members.tripod.com/~SudanInfonet/Waat/ (accessed February 29, 2000). NSCC press release, “People-to-People Peace Process Makes Another Breakthrough in Uniting Lou Nuer of Upper Nile,” November 12, 1999, and attached covenant of November 6, 1999.
676 This military meeting was not sponsored by the NSCC, although some Lou Nuer military had been invited to the Lou Nuer reconciliation conference; the Lou Nuer had been split, militarily, at least three ways.
677 Cmdr. Peter Bol Kong, chairman of UMCC (Lou); Cmdr. James Yiech Biet, deputy chairman (Eastern Jikany); Cmdr. Kuong Danhier Gatluak, secretary (Dok); Cmdr. Tito Biel Chuol (Dok),;Cmdr. David Gatluak Damai (Jagei); Cmdr. Nyuang Chuol Dhuor (Lou); and others.
678 Cmdr. David Reath Malual (Lou).
247Human Rights Watch
According to the joint statement that followed the meeting, these Nuer commanders discussed the fighting in Western Upper Nile/Unity State and the Sudanese government’s on-going production and export of oil from southern Sudan. The SSDF “de-linked itself from the... government” as of November 4, 1999. The commanders declared war on the government and a willingness to join forces with others fighting against the government. Their platform, unlike that of the SPLM/A, called for an independent south. Regarding Riek Machar, they “recognised the fact that he can no longer play any role” in the Upper Nile military situation, as he remained in Khartoum.679 Participants also formed a new political arm of the UMCC; it was named the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) after a similar political movement supporting southern independence during the Anyanya war (1955-72).680 Dr. Michael Wal Duany became chair of the Interim Executive Committee of the new SSLM.681 Although he spoke for the SSLM as early as December 1999, its existence was not formally announced until January 31, 2000.682 Fighting Continues between Southern Rebels and Government in Blocks 1 and 4, November 1999 While peace talks were taking place among Nuer on the East Bank of the Nile, fighting between Nuer government and rebel groups continued on the West Bank, around the oilfields. An SSDF military source claimed that SSDF forces killed at least 300 government soldiers in the two weeks starting 679 Documents concerning the formation of the South Sudan Liberation Movement and the Upper Nile Provisional Military Command Council Declaration, November 4, 1999, http://members.tripod.com/SudanInfonet/UMCC.htm, posted in January 2000 archive (accessed February 29, 2000).
680 SSLM was the last name adopted for the Anyanya forces (in 1970 or 1971).
681 Michael Wal Duany, SSLM press release, “South Sudan Liberation Movement: Press Announcement,” Waat, Upper Nile, January 31, 2000, http://members.tripod.com/SudanInfonet (accessed February 2, 2000). Michael Wal Duany was formerly with the Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S. He served as part of the leadership team at the Wunlit conference in his capacity as a Nuer intellectual from the diaspora.
248Oil Fuels the War
November 10, 1999. Allegedly, government troops fired on the SSDF “without provocation” in Rubkona, a Block 1 garrison town, killing ten civilians and wounding twelve. The SSDF retaliated by ambushing government forces in Fangak on Zeraf Island (Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya’s area), some sixtytwo miles east of Bentiu, on November 12.683 The situation in Bentiu was deemed “tenuous” by the OLS, and intensified conflict occurred around Wangkei and Mayom garrison towns. The U.N. told northern sector agencies to stay inside Bentiu and Rubkona and scale staff down to a minimum.684 In mid-November 1999, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s troops attacked three military barges proceeding upriver from Malakal with reinforcements for Wangkei—a key garrison protecting GNPOC installations.
Despite precautions, the barges were stuck in the sudd, or thick vegetation, in the river three hours east of Bentiu.685 Peter Gatdet’s rebel troops attacked them there.686 The barges were escorted by pro-government Nuer militia forces led by Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya, based in Fangak, and Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep. Their troops walked on both sides of the river, looting civilians of cattle and goods. The barges finally made it to their destinations, government army troops disembarked, and food was offloaded for the garrison. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet nevertheless claimed that his forces inflicted heavy losses on the government side.687 The militias stayed in Wangkei some weeks and on their return set fire to vegetation at several places along the river to clear civilians and rebels away from the river’s edge. Because of prior displacements, few residents remained on the north bank of the 683 “At Least 300 Killed in Sudan Fighting—Source,” Reuters, Khartoum, November 25, 1999.
684 U.N. OLS, “Operation Lifeline Sudan Weekly Report: November 17, 1999,” Nairobi, November 17, 1999.
685 The first barge was equipped to clear the sudd from the river to permit the other two to pass.
686 U.N. security official, confidential email, January 22, 2000; Gatluak Damai soldier, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 29, 2000.
river (formerly Leek and Western Jikany Nuer territory). The troops dislodged and burned the tukls of many people living along the more populated south bank of the river.688 The Canadian human rights delegation led by John Harker visiting Sudan in December 1999 interviewed twelve head chiefs who had fled that area with their people. The team interviewed them near Nhialdiu in Block 5A, just over the line from Block 4. They were all certain about the reason for their plight: “We are going to lose our lives for oil,” one civilian predicted.689 Referring to their displacement, burned houses,
disease, and dead children, he said:
The discovery of oil has caused these problems—before, in the 1970/80s, the Arabs weren’t able to exploit the oil but now they can with the help of the west. The Arabs are united against us and want to push us out. We blame the Christian community because the war is being made a religious war. Why is the Christian world not helping us?
He also asked: “Aren’t we included in the human rights of the world?”690 Another simply stated to the Canadians, “By the time your report is out we will be dead. The [government of Sudan] will kill us because you visited.”691 Indeed, government attacks on Nhialdiu (Block 5A) continued, and it was burned to the ground—again—in 2000 and 2002, when it was captured by the government.
688 Anonymous relief worker, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, July 24, 2000.
689 Harker report, p. 84.
690 Ibid., p. 85.
691 Ibid., p. 86.
THE OIL ROAD: NUER DISUNITY AND OIL DISPLACEMENT INCREASE, 2000Overview Faced with the new alliance created by Nuer disgust with his partnership with the government, and having little to show for this almost four-year collaboration, Riek Machar left Khartoum. His personal maneuvers in early 2000 to retain a significant political and military role in the affairs of southern Sudan played straight into the hands of the government. Just when it seemed that Nuer rebel unity was becoming a possibility, Riek Machar resigned from the government and returned to the south, where he created yet another political/military movement, the Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF), which destroyed the nascent unity.
In February 2000, Lundin announced that the lack of a road had delayed its drilling operations in Block 5A. The government’s dry season offensives of 2000 in Block 5A appeared designed precisely to capture land for, construct, and secure a road leading to Lundin’s Ryer/Thar Jath fields and the garrison at Ler.
A bridge linking Bentiu to the northern side of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River had been completed in early 2000, surmounting a natural barrier that had protected Nuer from Baggara for centuries.
Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, rather than join Riek Machar, joined the SPLM/A. He was nevertheless cooperating with the (Nuer) SSDF, now SPDF, forces under zonal Cmdr. Tito Biel and Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek.
Together, they were trying, unsuccessfully, to stop the construction of the new oil road in Block 5A as well as further roads in Blocks 1 and 4.
But the Riek Machar and the Peter Gatdet forces fell to fighting each other again in late June 2000. In the ensuing months of fighting, where the SPLM/A armed one side and the government of Sudan the other, tens of thousands of civilians in Block 5A and 4 oil areas were uprooted. While the two Western Upper Nile Nuer forces were slugging it out, the oil companies completed construction of the allweather road from Bentiu to Ryer/Thar Jath, Ler, and Adok by January 2001.
Riek Machar Resigns from Government and Forms Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front, February 2000 251 Human Rights Watch Riek Machar, who had been formally allied with the Sudanese government since the Political Charter of 1996, formally resigned from the government on January 31, 2000, from Koch in rebel-held Jagei Nuer territory of Western Upper Nile/Unity State.692 He summoned his commanders and Nuer chiefs to meet with him there.693 Several commanders, chiefs, and apparently all the officials he appointed to the movement’s relief arm, the Relief Association of Southern Sudan (RASS), answered his call and rallied to his side, splitting the Nuer of Western Upper Nile and throughout Sudan once again.694 Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, said to be in Bahr El Ghazal meeting with the SPLM/A, was the most important commander who stayed away from the Koch gathering.695 At or after the Koch conference, Riek Machar announced the creation of the Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF).696 The leaders who had created the UMCC and SSLM in Waat just 692 Riek Machar left Khartoum just before President Bashir’s December 13, 1999 declaration of a state of emergency and the dissolution of the assembly. He visited European and East African capitals, where he discussed his political and military options with diplomats and others, before going to “the bush” in Koch, Western Upper Nile.
693 The SPDF founding conference in Koch, Western Upper Nile, was facilitated by using U.N. planes under false pretenses to ferry commanders to the meeting. Southern political and military movements do not have the resources necessary to move commanders expeditiously around Upper Nile’s swamps and rivers and factions—chartering planes is an expensive proposition. The commanders apparently flew to Koch in U.N. planes under the names of RASS personnel or as authorized by RASS. John Noble, interview, July 31, 2000; see Nhial Bol, “Politics-Sudan: Talks on the UN Plane Hostage hit a snag,” IPS, Khartoum, February 8, 2000; Carola Hoyos and Mark Turner, “UN neutrality 'unwittingly compromised in Sudan’,” Financial Times (London), Nairobi, March 9, 2000.
694 John Luk Jok, “The Political and Military Dynamics in western Upper Nile,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), May 2000, pp. 11-14.
695 Ibid. Reportedly Riek Machar’s representatives made an attempt to meet with Cmdr. Galwalk Gai, Peter Gatdet’s ally, at Galwalk Gai’s home base in Boaw, but the commander declined because he disliked Riek Machar, and no meeting took place. Former Dok Nuer combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 31, 2000; former Nuer combatant in Nimne, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 31, 2000; John Noble, interview, July 27, 2000.
696 The constitution of the SPDF, dated January 2000, can be found on the group’s website, http://www.usinternet.com/users/helpssudan/WebSPDFconst.html (accessed November 28, 2000).
According to Riek Machar, the Nuer reconciliation conference came first, from January 25, followed by the conference with military leaders, after which he decided to resign from the government and then to form the SPDF. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000.
three months before could not hold these young organizations together in the face of Riek Machar’s return. Indeed, at Koch Riek Machar was under the protection of commanders Peter Bol Kong and Tito Biel, both signatories to the newly-formed UMCC.697 The SPDF remained anti-government for several months in 2000, sometimes fighting together with the SPLA (under Cmdr. Peter Gatdet) against the government.698 But the SPDF/SPLA alliance in Western Upper Nile/Unity State broke down in late June, with disastrous results for t7he civilians of that area.
Riek Machar’s resignation dealt a severe blow to the government’s Khartoum Peace Agreement and to its alliance with southern militia forces, of which his loyalists were the largest force. But it was not a death blow to the Peace Agreement, as Riek Machar had assumed it would be. Khartoum held out an olive branch to him, neither denouncing him, nor bombing his location in Koch, nor declaring the Khartoum Peace Agreement dead.699 In time Gen. Gatluak Deng, the highest-ranking Nuer officer in the Sudanese army, was appointed head of the SSCC and the SSDF, whose chief of staff, after the death of Elijah Hon Top in the Khartoum military hospital, became Brig. Gen. Paulino Matiep.700 Others believe that the SSLM press release of January 31, 2000 announcing the formation of a (rival) Nuer political party was the triggering event that led to Riek Machar’s unusual manner of resignation by radio message at night from the field, without consultation or warning to his exposed cadres in Khartoum.
697 Among the sixteen UMCC commanders who rallied to Riek Machar were the top three of the UMCC, Cmdr. Peter Bol Kong, Cmdr. James Yiech Biet, and Cmdr. Kuong Danhier Gatluak.
698 This working relationship was limited to Western Upper Nile/Unity State, as the various factions had different relations in other parts of Upper Nile. In Eastern Upper Nile, for instance, the Riek Machar SPDF forces were hammered by the government militia of Cmdr. Gordon Kong.