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MORE PEACE EFFORTS, MORE FIGHTING IN THE OILFIELDS: 2001-2002 Overview The government’s highest-ranking Nuer army officer, Brig. Gen. Gatluak Deng, united the various southern pro-government militias under one command in Juba in April 2001, while the rebel movements remained fractured. An attack on Riek Machar’s (and the U.N.’s) relief hub at Nyal, Western Upper Nile/Unity State in Block 5B by SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet in February 2001 threatened the 1999 Wunlit peace agreement, but, following an emergency meeting of the peace council, no further attacks or reprisals were reported in that vicinity.
In Block 5A, the army and the SPDF local troops under Cmdr. Peter Paar guarded the road to Lundin’s new well at Ryer/Thar Jath, and Lundin made progress in oil development until Peter Paar switched allegiances in August 2001. The two Peters—Peter Paar (SPDF) and Peter Gatdet (SPLA)— reached a standstill agreement in August 2001. Riek Machar formally joined what was left of his SPDF forces with the SPLM/A a few months later, in January 2002, after nearly eleven years of strife between predominately Nuer troops and the heavily Dinka SPLA; several of Riek Machar’s officers joined the government rather than the SPLM/A.
In response to rebel military activity, the government called for further militia recruits, and also deployed the army, in particular in the GNPOC area. In Blocks 1 and 4 more oil roads were being built for new oil rigs, and at the Wangkei garrison the government hoped to build another bridge across the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River. In Block 4, tens of thousands of civilians were displaced in government army/helicopter attacks on the population in October 2001. When they had been cleared out, GNPOC located a drilling rig in the immediate vicinity, and the road from Heglig was extended to that rig.
In the December 2001-April 2002 dry season in Block 5A, the situation worsened for civilians after the John Garang (SPLA) and Riek Machar (SPDF) factions united and ambushed several convoys. The government launched a counter-offensive with Antonov bombers, helicopter gunships, Baggara horsebacked militia, Nuer militia, and government troops to drive civilians from the oil road and from
the area of Lundin’s desired operations. Lundin was forced by these conditions of insecurity to suspend work in Block 5A on January 22, 2002.
By that time, developments elsewhere seemed to hold out the possibility of peace in Sudan. An initiative led by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, appointed U.S. envoy for peace in Sudan by President George W. Bush in September 2001, led in January 2002 to a six-month internationally-monitored humanitarian ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains, signed by the government and the SPLM/A. In March 2002 these two parties signed an agreement advocated by Senator Danforth to refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects in the conflict.
In the course of newly-invigorated peace talks sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the two parties surprised all but the mediators (led by a Troika of the U.S., U.K., and Norway) by signing a protocol in Machakos, Kenya, on July 20, 2002, agreeing to a southern referendum on self-determination with independence as an option after a six-month pre-interim and a six-year interim period. They also agreed that law of southern choosing, not shari’a, would be applied in the south and shari’a would be applied in the rest of the country during that period.
Political Developments Related to the Oil War
Southern Efforts to Unite Southern Militias in Government Territory In April 2001, the southerners in the Khartoum government—appointed to fill the gap created by the January 2000 defection of Riek Machar and others—brought the different pro-government armed groups of southern Sudanese into one unified force. A conference of these militia (or armed groups, as they later preferred to be called, considering the term “militia” too derogatory) was convened in Juba on April 24, 2001, by chairman of the SSCC, Staff Brig. Gen. Gatluak Deng Garang, a long-time Sudanese army officer (of Nuer mother and Dinka father), who had never been in the SPLM/A or Anyanya. More
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than one hundred commanders attended.765 The Juba 2001 conference concluded with the unification of the former rebel armed factions under the general command of Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep—the government’s most loyal proxy in the south. These forces continued to use the joint name of South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF), the name used by them when Riek Machar was their commander-in-chief from April 1997 until January 2000.766 The loyalty of the pro-government southern political and military forces to Khartoum was never a sure thing, and contradictions in the relationship with Khartoum abounded. SSCC Deputy Chairman Dr.
Theophilous Ochiang, addressing the closing session of the unification conference, said that the objective of the conference was to unite the south for peace. He appealed to the army and security forces to cooperate with the southern state governments to this end.
The SSCC Deputy Chairman also criticized the Sudanese government army and security forces. He denounced rampant arrests by security agents of civilians in southern Sudan, and said that Juba security agents should not keep detainees in large metal shipping containers, as these were unfit for human accommodation767—an abuse long practiced in Juba and long denounced.768 Even the southerners who 765 “Over 100 pro-government militia commanders meeting in Juba,” Khartoum Monitor, April 25, 2001; “Pro-government militias to be unified under army supervision, says official,” Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, in Arabic, March 4, 2001, as translated in BBC Monitoring Service, March 4, 2001.
766 The provisional military council of the SSDF announced on April 27, 2001, was as follows: Cmdr., Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep (Bul Nuer); Deputy Commander (D/C) and Cmdr. For Operations Gordon Kong Chol (Eastern Jikany Nuer); D/C for administration Cmdr.
Emmanuel A. Ocholimoi (Latuka); D/C for logistics and supplies Maj. Gen. Ismail Konyi (Murle); D/C for security and intelligence Cmdr. Elio Benson Otome (Acholi); D/C for training Cmdr. Ater Benjamin Bil (Dinka Agar); D/C for political mobilization Cmdr. John Macham (Dinka Bor/Twic); D/C for mobile force Cmdr. Simon Gatwich Dual (Lou Nuer, Waat); Cmdr. Equatoria military area Martin Terensio Kenyi (Bari); Cmdr. Upper Nile military area Brig. Gabriel Tanginya (Lak Nuer); Cmdr. Bahr El Ghazal military area Maj.
Gen. Tom El Nur (Kreish, the largest of the Fertit groups in western Bahr El Ghazal). The Didinga, Mandari, and Toposa militias did not appear to be represented in the leadership.
767 “Conference ends with unification of southern factions,” Khartoum Monitor, April 28, 2001.
768 See Human Rights Watch, Civilian Devastation.
were government loyalists criticised the government’s treatment of their people, and the Nuer progovernment militias were often more strident about southern self-determination than was the SPLM/A.
The government of President Omar El Bashir was not enthusiastic about this new southern unity. The SSDF forces and the state governments in the south experienced prolonged periods of nonpayment of salaries and other expenses by the central government.
Wunlit Threatened by Continued Intra-Nuer SPLA/SPDF Fighting, February 2001 While southerners in government made efforts to unite their military forces, an attack on Nyal, an OLS relief center in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, in February 2001 by Nuer forces of the SPLA under the command of Peter Gatdet threatened to destroy the West Bank Nuer-Dinka peace agreement reached at Wunlit.769 It was initially feared that the Peter Gatdet forces included Dinka. Fighting between West Bank Nuer and Dinka would imperil not only the Dinka civilians who had moved back to their border villages on the West Bank, trusting in Wunlit. It would also expose the tens of thousands of internally displaced Nuer who had taken refuge in Dinka areas in Bahr El Ghazal, likewise trusting in Wunlit, to danger of retaliation. The SPLA attack on the relief hub drew wide condemnation, including by the U.S.
government.770 An emergency conference called by the Wunlit West Bank Peace Council was held in the Nyuong Nuer territory of Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile/Unity State in April 2001. The meeting was under the protection of Riek Machar’s SPDF forces led by Governor Simon (Magwek Gai Majak) of Western Upper Nile/Unity State; he and his troops wore very new government-style uniforms. The conference ended with peace council support for continued peace and adherence to the Wunlit covenant. The civilian leaders present called on Cmdrs. Peter Paar and Peter Gatdet to meet with the West Bank Peace 769 Prior Gatdet/Paar fighting in 2000 in Block 5A was not considered a violation of Wunlit, because there was no perceptible NuerDinka faceoff; it was intra-Nuer fighting.
770 U.S. Department of State Press Statement, “Report of Attack on UN Relief Base in Southern Sudan,” Washington, D.C., March 1, 2001.
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Council, speak out on and resolve their grievances against each other, and enter into a lasting ceasefire agreement.771 Neither commander heeded the call to meet with the Peace Council, but no further attacks across the West Bank Nuer-Dinka border occurred. In August 2001 the two “Peters” came to an agreement to cease hostilities, and in late January 2002 the two commanders finally entered into a peace covenant with each other and the people of Western Upper Nile/Unity State.
SPLM/A and SPDF Talks and Merger, 2001-2002 SPDF Cmdrs. Riek Machar and Tito Biel left Nairobi in early 2001 and went to Eastern Upper Nile to rally support for their SPDF forces.772 Riek Machar traveled to many areas of Eastern Upper Nile. He spoke to gatherings of his followers and urged them to join the SPLA, although his negotiations with the SPLA were far from concluded. One local leader who attended a meeting held by Riek Machar in his village in March 2001 said that Riek Machar urged that when they “had two factions they could not reach their goal of defeating the jellaba,” so they should join the SPLA. When the people objected and said that they did not like the SPLA, Riek Machar insisted that they had to, they had “to have one government.”773 Therefore many local SPDF forces and communities switched their loyalty to the SPLA. Some waited until the SPLA forces were close enough to make a switch without subjecting them to retaliation by the 771 West Bank Peace Council meeting, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 5-7, 2001, resolutions.
772 In Eastern Upper Nile, the SPDF had continued to cooperate with the SPLA forces against the government and the progovernment forces of Nuer militia leader Cmdr. Gordon Kong Chuol. Biel Torkech Rambang, Human Rights Watch interview, Washington, D.C., March 14, 2001.
773 Local Nuer leader, Human Rights Watch interview, Eastern Upper Nile village, July 29, 2002.
progovernment forces. Others participated in staged “attacks” on villages which resulted in SPLA “captures” of former SPDF locations—“attacks” in which there were no casualties.774 The reasons that local SPDF forces gave for switching loyalties were that the SPLA was “the first government of the South, the SPDF is doing nothing for our liberation;”775 “I had decided that when the SPLA was near, I would go to it, it was in my heart.... there were many deaths between southerners and the one who really fights the ‘jellaba’ is the SPLA.”776 When Riek Machar left Nairobi in early 2001 for Eastern Upper Nile, Taban Deng Gai, former Unity State governor and spokesman for Riek Machar’s faction throughout its many incarnations, stayed in Nairobi and entered into negotiations with SPLM/A officials in order to settle the differences between the SPLM/A and the SPDF. A statement issued by both the SPLM/A and SPDF dated May 28, 2001 announced that they had agreed on the “organic unity of the two Movements under the SPLM/SPLA,” an immediate ceasefire between their two forces, and a referendum for self-determination, among other things.777 This was later challenged by anti-SPLA members of the SPDF, who claimed that those involved in the negotiations, Taban Deng Gai, Thomas Duoth Giet, and James Kok Ruea, had merely defected to the SPLA.778 Immediately, a group called the “SPDF Peace Committee” issued a press release “clarifying” the declaration, characterizing it as “premature” and asserting that the two SPDF signatories were “not authorized by the leadership” to speak because consultations within the SPDF were not complete. Some of the leadership called an emergency SPDF convention to discuss the matter, 774 Residents of Eastern Upper Nile village where Riek Machar spoke in March 2001 which was then “captured” by SPLA from SPDF in May 2001, Human Rights Watch interviews, Eastern Upper Nile, July-August 2003.
775 SPLA radio operator, Human Rights Watch interview, Eastern Upper Nile village, July 31, 2002.
776 SPLA alternate commander, Human Rights Watch interview, Eastern Upper Nile village, July 31, 2002.
777 “Declaration on Unity Between the SPDF and SPLM/SPLA,” Nairobi, May 28, 2001, signed by Dr. Justin Yaac Arop and Prof.
George Bureng Nyombe for the SPLM/A, and by Cmdr. Taban Deng Gai and Cmdr. James Kok for the SPDF. Both sides stated in the declaration that they had been “fully mandated by the leaders of the two movements.” 778 “The SPLA-SPDF Declaration: Unity or Defections?” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), p. 21.
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scheduled for June 28, 2001, in southern Sudan.779 Meanwhile, the SPLM/A spokesman Yasir Arman said that the merger had been achieved two weeks prior to the signing via a reconciliation meeting between Cmdr. Peter Gatdet (SPLA) and Taban Deng (SPDF) in the presence of Dr. Justin Yaac (long a close advisor to SPLM/A leader Dr. Garang). Then both Peter Gatdet and Taban Deng met with Dr.