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725 Cmdrs. Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar appparently agreed to a division of terrritory in Western Upper Nile/Unity State: Cmdr. Peter Gatdet (SPLA) was assigned Wangkei and Mayom (Bul Nuer territory, Block 4), and Cmdr. Peter Paar (SPDF/SSDF) had Bentiu, Ryer/Thar Jath, Ler, and Adok (territory of the Leek, Jikany, Jagei, and Dok Nuer, all in Block 5A). Gathon Jual, interview, July 31,
2000. This roughly corresponded with the allegiances of the local population. Each commander claimed the loyalty of his own ethnic group (Gatdet: Bul; Paar: Dok). The Leek were mostly aligned with the Bul Nuer commander, Peter Gatdet, the Nyuong with their Dok neighbors. The Jikany and Jagei were divided between Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar, with commanders from both groups on each side.
726 Leek Nuer former Gatdet combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 4, 2000.
Five of the Peter Gatdet troops were wounded. One government soldier, a northerner, surrendered and was taken to Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s headquarters at Buoth.727 Twelve wounded government soldiers were captured. The rebel soldier continued, “An officer told us to kill the twelve who were captured because we could not carry them.... This is the first time I was ordered to kill the wounded.”728 This eyewitness was rotated out of the field early in the day but another combatant who remained there after participating in the ambush appears to corroborate aspects of his
testimony (numerical differences may be attributable to time of day):
The Arabs fought and then retreated to [the garrison at] Riik. Some used horses, some used cars, so we killed a lot of Arabs on horses. These were soldiers, not muraheleen.
We do not know if the Chinese had arms. We captured two unarmed Chinese in Land Cruisers. They were released after they were shown to Peter Gatdet in Nhialdiu.
According to the SPLA soldier, before the ambush, when Cmdr. Peter Gatdet heard that this army convoy was on the move, he told his forces, “They capture our people and kill them, so if you capture them, kill them.”730 Despite training in international humanitarian law, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet reportedly ordered his forces to summarily execute captured soldiers in clear violation of this law.731 In mid-March 2001, Christian Aid, a London-based charity funding relief, education, health, and community-building activities in southern Sudan, issued a report, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan.
Christian Aid researchers interviewed civilians from several of the villages south of Bentiu in Block 5A:
Chotyeil, attacked in October 1999; Dhorbor, attacked in March 2000; Guit, attacked in May 2000; and Kuach, also attacked in May 2000. Helicopters were used in the first two attacks, in addition to the government troops that were used in all the attacks. On July 15, 2000, the town of Nhialdiu, then controlled by SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, was attacked by government militias, who burned everything 729 Former Block 1 Leek Nuer combatant in Peter Gatdet’s forces, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 1, 2000.
731 In February-March 2000, the ICRC reportedly held a program on the rules of war for fifty-five then seventy-five Peter Gatdet officers that lasted one week. John Noble, interview, July 31, 2000.
down (again) and displaced all the residents, including the estimated 11,000 displaced persons from the oil road who had sought refuge there.732 This is consistent with other reports and interviews, cited above.
Some civilians were displaced many times within Western Upper Nile/Unity State, until they finally left for Bahr El Ghazal or elsewhere outside the oilfield state. Some of the same displaced persons found in May 2000 in Nhialdiu had been burned out by the government’s militia in the July 2000 attack, and displaced for a second time. Many then fled all the way to Bahr El Ghazal. 733
Nuer Forces, Armed by Others, Return to Fighting Each Other, July-October 2000
SPDF Forces Receive Government Ammunition to Fight SPLA, June-July 2000 With the reemergence of Riek Machar as a rebel leader, fighting in the south between different Nuer militias heated up. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened immediately prior to the resumption of hostilities and the destruction of unity between the SPLA/Peter Gatdet and SPDF/Riek Machar/Peter Paar forces in Western Upper Nile/Unity State in June-July 2000—otherwise known as the “war of the Peters.” 732 Christian Aid, The scorched earth: Oil and war in Sudan, London, March 2001.
733 Julie Flint, “Desperation in Sudan,” Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), March 15-16, 2001. One of the persons interviewed originally lived in Wicbar, south across the river from Rubkona. Helicopter gunships attacked Wicbar in February 2000, and government army soldiers burned and looted, destroyed all the grain, and killed two fifteen-year old boys who were guarding the animals. The man fled to Nhialdiu from where he was displaced by a government attack in July. He then fled to Bahr El Ghazal. The journalist interviewed this same man in Nhialdiu in May 2000 and for the second time in Bahr El Ghazal in April 2001. Ibid.
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The SPDF claimed it was attacked in Nimne on June 26 by SPLA/Gatdet forces “for no reason.”734 The SPLA claimed that SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar executed nine of its (Peter Gatdet’s) soldiers in Nimne, which was the last straw after thirteen SPLA (Peter Gatdet) soldiers had been executed by Paar’s SPDF troops in Koch in December 1999. For good measure, the SPLA/Gatdet added that Cmdr. Peter Paar was already cooperating with the government and for that reason had not stopped the bridge construction at Bentiu or the road to Ryer/Thar Jath, nor had pushed the government out of Ler.
Whatever the motivation, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces moved on the SPDF location at Nimne, less than twenty miles east of Bentiu.735 His surprise attack occurred not on June 26 but early in the morning of July 7, according to another eyewitness.736 It appears that Cmdr. Peter Paar’s SPDF troops received ammunition at a place near Bentiu from the government militia under Maj. Gen. Paulino Paulino Matiep at this time,737 although the SPDF denied it.738 Peter Paar used this ammunition to push Cmdr. Peter Gatdet far back into his home Bul Nuer area, 734 (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, interview, April 6, 2001.
735 Nimne was a secure location, protected by the Dudur River from the garrison town of Bentiu, which was some hours away on foot to the southwest. (Map C) The Dudur River was deep even in the dry season and surrounded on both banks by toic or swamp.
Although no roads were open to Nimne, many civilians took refuge there from their own burned-out homes because the area had a suitable all-weather air strip for food drops.
736 “Gatdet knows how to cross the river. He did not do anything to civilians,” one source who witnessed the attack said. Former Nuer combatant in Nimne, interview, July 31, 2000. The reason for the difference in dates between June 26 and July 7 is not clear, but it appears that during that period both forces were deployed in a way that each thought defensive and that the other side took as aggressive. Inevitably small clashes pushed the situation over the edge to war.
737 RASS administrator, interview, August 10, 2000. David Gatluak Damai (Jagei) (SPDF) allegedly met the Paulino Matiep militia outside Bentiu, where Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s deputy commander Pachuar Chuangi supplied the SPDF with ammunition. SPDF commander James Lial Dieu is alleged to have received ammunition from Paulino Matiep’s militia inside Bentiu also. Ibid.
738 Riek Machar denied that any of his commanders were taking arms from the government, and said that they had ammunition “stockpiled.” He offered no other explanation for the sudden supply of ammunition. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000. Riek Machar separately told one expatriate that the Khartoum-appointed governor of Western Upper Nile/Unity State had offered peace talks to the SPDF through SPDF governor (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak. In the course of these talks, the Khartoum governor sent weapons and bullets to Governor Simon in Koch on June 20, as a “token of peace.” Expatriate resident in the area, Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, Kenya, August 2, 2000. But Governor Simon had yet another story. “Peter Paar can run short of
and was reportedly joined in this counterattack by Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces, who came out of Bentiu with 400 men to fight against his former deputy, Peter Gatdet.739 Riek Machar denied that his SPDF Peter Paar troops had conducted joint operations with the government/Paulino Matiep forces. He claimed instead that on June 21, 2000, some 150 of Maj. Gen.
Paulino Matiep’s troops had defected from the government and joined the SPDF south of Bentiu.740 The SPLM/A, however, claimed to have radio intercepts between SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar and the government commander in Bentiu proving that Peter Paar Jiek sent his commanders to the government in Bentiu to ask for help.741 The latter is the more likely scenario, in light of later developments.
Government Completes All-Weather Road to Ryer/Thar Jath The Western Upper Nile Nuers’ absorption with revenge against each other, one side fortified by government ammunition, the other by SPLA supplies, served a useful purpose for the Sudanese government and, by implication, the oil companies. Lundin’s nine-month report as of September 30, 2000, said the road construction was progressing well and testing operations should resume in first quarter 2001, with no mention of the war.742 With the army heavily patrolling the road and no ammunition and buy more from the muraheleen [Baggara].... For one cow you can get two boxes of ammunition. Now they come to the north of Nimne [to sell ammunition].” (Simon) Magwek Gai, interview, April 6, 2001. Taban Deng acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that the SPDF had received one shipment of ammunition from the government in 2000, but not until October/November 2000, in order to “survive.” Taban Deng, interview, April 9, 2001.
739 Nyuong Nuer community leader, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 5, 2001.
740 But Riek Machar did not know the names of any of the commanders (alternate commanders and captains) or other officers who defected to him, which detracts from the credibility of this version of events. Riek Machar claimed that two hundred men also defected to him (then SPDF) from government militia leader Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya in Old Fangak. This might have made it look to outsiders that government militia was fighting with the SPDF, but actually they had just abandoned the government, he claimed.
Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000.
741 Salva Kiir, interview, August 11, 2000.
742 Lundin Oil press release, “Record for the Nine Months Ended 30 September 2000: Record Profit,” Geneva, November 14, 2000.
interference from rebels for months, the greatly improved road to the Lundin site was completed between September and December 2000.
A Journalist Travels the Oil Road, April 2001 In April 2001, Lundin invited Anna Koblanck, a Swedish journalist from Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), on a trip down the oil road from Bentiu. The invitation was extended after the March 2001 publication of the Christian Aid report, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan.743 The report and accompanying publicity in Sweden condemned Lundin’s role in Sudan.
The Swedish journalist subsequently wrote: “The people in southern Sudan do not catch a glimpse of any oil money.”744 She went on to say that while Khartoum was pumping billions of kroner worth of oil with the help of Lundin, “the displaced in Bentiu are starving to death.”745 She found that displaced persons were careful about openly criticizing the government, and that “international relief organizations do not make any official declarations out of fear of being forced to leave the area.”746 The journalist quoted one woman as saying that her friend had died together with her four children when the (government) bombs landed around her, and noted that she was far from alone in her story.
Others complained to the journalist that the oil companies did not hire any southern Sudanese, even as security guards.
The journalist traveled with Lundin’s head of public relations Maria Hamilton and Lundin’s head of security Richard Ramsey in an army car with four soldiers “to guarantee our security” along the oil road south. It was Hamilton’s first visit to Sudan.
743 Christian Aid, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan, London, March 2001.
744 Koblanck, “Lundin Oil’s road/DN in Sudan,” April 28, 2001.
Anna Koblanck noted that “many villages along the road are empty. There are groups of gray grass huts where not a person can be seen.” Lundin’s head of security informed her that it was because the villages were not used during the dry season (April is at the end of the dry season), but according to the local population, no village is ever entirely abandoned. “If you see a completely empty village then something is wrong,” the journalist was told by a young man from the area west of the road.