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Newsweek reported that hardly any people gathered for the food distribution and preaching offered where their plane had been directed to land; Nhialdiu was on the front line, the journalist discovered when the artillery barrage started. The missionary had to leave the supplies with the rebels; Cmdr. Peter Gatdet said that he would keep only 25 percent of the food and distribute the rest to the needy. A senior UNICEF official in Nairobi suggested to Newsweek that such freelancers (as Rev. Kusunoki) simply became the tools of the SPLM/A.822 The Military Tide Turns Toward the Rebels in Block 5A, Late 2001-2002; Lundin Suspends Operations Again With the onset of the dry season in late November 2001 and the Gatdet/Paar and SPLM/A/SPDF standstill agreements, the rebel forces began to attack more government military targets in Block 5A.
SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek had been guarding the Lundin installations in Block 5A since 2000. He switched sides in August 2001, and ceased to guard the Lundin project against SPLA attacks after that.
818 Testimony of Gary Kusunoki before the House Committee on International Affairs, Washington, D.C., March 28, 2001.
819 Masland, “Soldiers of Christ.” p. 18.
821 Testimony of Gary Kusunoki, March 28, 2001.
822 Masland, “Soldiers of Christ,” p. 19.
On December 9, 2001, near Old Fangak on the border of Block 5A, the SPLA attacked the progovernment Nuer commander Gabriel Tanginya.823 The U.N. received a report that the attack was actually on Tanginya’s forces at the government garrison in New Fangak.824 Paulino Matiep arrived three weeks later, however, with a 1,000-man militia, and managed to recapture Old Fangak briefly, but lost it to the SPLA again on January 7, 2002.825 In December 2001, a Lundin helicopter was shot and its pilot gravely wounded about one hundred kilometers south of Rubkona.826 According to confidential sources, the helicopter was shot at by members of the Paulino Matiep militia after the Lundin pilot refused to give them a ride.827 Of greater significance was the rebel push on the Bentiu to Ryer/Thar Jath oil road to try to close it down. The rebels conducted a series of ambushes on reinforcement convoys traveling on that road. The SPDF issued press releases (in the name of the reunited SPLM/A) stating that it had repeatedly attacked enemy garrisons of Pultutni (for Ryer/Thar Jath), Kuok, and kilometer 40, killing enemy soldiers on 823 “Rebels Claim 254 Government, Allied Troops Killed in Southern Sudan,” AFP, Nairobi, December 19, 2001. The SPLM/A claimed victory, reportedly killing 130 soldiers and capturing a number of rifles.
824 U.N. Security Situation Report, week 50/51/52, Khartoum, December 10-30, 2001. Tanginya was wounded in the incident, his body guard and one of his wives killed. Nine soldiers were killed and nineteen wounded badly enough to warrant evacuation to Khartoum. Ibid.
825 It was in SPLA hands at the time of a Human Rights Watch visit in June 2003, despite several attacks on it that year.
826 “On the 20th of December 2001 at around 17:00 hrs the Lundin helicopter (operated by Gulf Air) was shot at and hit by (at least) small arms fire. This incident took place approx. 100-km south of Rubkona. The Pilot (Australian) was hit by a bullet and evacuated to Johannesburg (South Africa) for treatment. Also, two GoS military were hit by shrapnel.” U.N. Security Situation Report, week 50/51/52, December 10-30, 2001.
827 Email, journalist to Human Rights Watch, February 20, 2002 (confidentiality requested); email, relief worker to Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2002 (confidentiality requested).
December 26, 2001, and January 13, 2002. During the December 26 attack, the SPDF claimed, it captured eleven pieces of seismic and road equipment worth millions of dollars.828 The SPLM/A also announced that it had repulsed a large convoy of about 7,000 men, comprising regular army soldiers and several “tribal militias” supported by two helicopter gunships and an Antonov bomber. It ambushed that convoy on the road between Nhialdiu and Bentiu on January 14, 2002.829 On January 22, 2002, Lundin announced that its operations in Block 5A would be suspended “as a precautionary measure to ensure maximum security for its personnel and operation.”830 The helicopter shoot-down, the defection of the pro-government militia guarding its installations, and increased ambushes combined to cause Lundin to suspend activities.
Although Lundin had announced this suspension, the Sudanese army continued to use the oil road and to reinforce and guard the oil locations. The SPDF reported that its forces, led by Alternate Cmdr.
Daniel Ruai Makuei, ambushed a government convoy between the Ryer/Thar Jath garrison at Pultutni and Mirmir on January 23, 2002, killing sixty-three soldiers, capturing two soldiers alive, and capturing various amounts of weapons.831 According to the same rebel press release, two days later, on January 25, 2002, SPDF Cmdr. David Gatluak Damai engaged a government convoy at Kuac, forty kilometers south of Bentiu, killing 102 enemy soldiers and capturing four alive on the oil road. 832 Other sources reported that on the same day 828 SPDF press statement, “The SPDF forces Lundin Petroluem out of Block 5A in Western Upper Nile,” January 22, 2002, including photos of captured equipment, http://www.usinternet.com/users/helpssudan/SPDFpress39.html (accessed June 24, 2002).
829 “Sudan: Government and SPLA clash in Upper Nile,” IRIN, Nairobi, January 24, 2002.
830 Lundin press release, “Lundin Petroleum Announces a Temporary Suspension of Activities in Block 5A Sudan,” Stockholm, January 22, 2002.
831 SPDF press statement, “SPDF kills 165 enemy soldiers in Western Upper Nile,” Nairobi, January 28, 2002, http://www.usinternet.com/users/helpssudan/SPDFpress40.html (accessed June 25, 2002).
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SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet ambushed a convoy of two hundred conscripts the Sudanese government sent to reinforce its Pultutni garrison and protect Lundin’s rig at Ryer/Thar Jath.833 The SPLM/A claimed the deaths of 198 government soldiers in that ambush. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet reported after this engagement that he controlled the old road leading to Ryer/Thar Jath. 834 A team of human rights investigators separately reported that the government used Antonovs to bomb Koch on January 24, 2002, and helicopter gunships to attack Koch, Ler, and Mayandit on January 25,
2002.835 The rebels confirmed that they were engaged in the Ler vicinity: an SPDF press release said that on January 26 the government soldiers tried to return to their Ler barracks from Payak airstrip, a distance of five kilometers, but the SPDF beat them back to the garrison at Payak airstrip, killing fifteen enemy soldiers with losses of two SPDF soldiers.836 Government Counter-offensive in Block 5A, 2002, Displaces Civilians The government dry season offensive (or counteroffensive) in early 2002 caused the flight of civilians living on the Block 5A/Block 4 border, in Rupnyagai and Buoth near the Barh El Ghazal (Nam) River.
“A long range artillery gun placed in the government garrison town of Wangkai was able to reach Buoth and surrounding villages. This coupled with the ground troops forced people to flee south across the streams to Wicok and then further south again to Chotchar,” investigators reported. 837 The government resorted to targeting Nuer civilians who lived along the road, according to investigators.
833 “Oilfield, Battlefield,” Africa Confidential (London), March 8, 2002, p.4.
835 Christian Aid and DanChurchAid, “Hiding Between the Streams. An Advocacy and Humanitarian Assessment Trip to Western Upper Nile March 28th – 31st 2002,” Nairobi, London, and Copenhagen, April 11, 2002, pp. 5-6.
836 SPDF press statement, “Battle over Leer airstrip,” Nairobi, February 2, 2002, http://www.usinternet.com/users/helpssudan/SPDFpress42.html (accessed June 25, 2002).
837 “Hiding Between the Streams,” p. 5.
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The Nuer civilians that lived along the oil road said they were free to do so in 2001 due to the ‘period of cooperation’ between GoS and the SPDF [Cmdr. Peter Paar], a major southern opposition movement.
This cooperation came to an abrupt end when the SPLM/A and SPDF agreed to unify and fight a ‘common enemy,’ the [government of Sudan]. The civilians then became targets again. Now, these Nuer have joined the ranks of the displaced and are living in Touc, Chotchar and Wumlit, south of Pam [the marshy areas in the southern Block 4].838 As part of the clearance campaign, the Sudanese government launched what investigators called “a vicious air attack” on the civilian populations around Pultutni (the garrison for Ryer/Thar Jath) in late January 2002 and Ryer/Thar Jath in February 2002. “Everyone interviewed stated that the gunships came in pairs three times a day when the villages were under attack, as high altitude Antonov bombers flew overhead.”839 The ground forces came from the garrisons at Ryer/Thar Jath and Bentiu, burning and looting villages. Some of the displaced walked west to Wicok, a distance of eighty kilometers (thirtysix miles), across numerous swamps and rivers under cover of darkness.
This was part of a larger campaign of civilian destruction and displacement through aerial bombardment.840 The ground forces included the horsebacked Baggara, used for the first time south of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River, who crossed the river using the oil company-built bridge.
Other targets for displacement were villagers who lived near Nhialdiu. An investigative team from Christian Aid and DanChurchAid visited several locations in Rubkona County south of Bentiu in late March 2002, following the trail of displaced persons fleeing south from the fighting launched by the government in the Nimne-Nhialdiu corridor in Block 5A.841 The team visited the villages of Wicok, Mayaluok, Chotchar, Tuoc, and Pam and interviewed local leaders and displaced civilians. An eight-yearIbid.
839 “Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions,” p. 10 840 “Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions.” 841 “Hiding Between the Streams.”
old boy who had lived in a small village near Nhialdiu said that after the Antonovs and helicopter gunships, the horsemen and ground troops advanced on his village. “They ride two to a horse.... One is riding the horse while the other is behind shooting at us with his gun.” The boy and his cousin ran toward the grassy swamps at the edge of their village to evade the horses, but gunships flew low overhead, and the boy’s cousin was shot in the back of the head and killed.842 A displaced woman who fled a village near Nhialdiu said, “The horsemen [Baggara] chased the people to the river and shot at them as they struggled across burdened with young children and the elderly. Even pregnant women were not spared,” she said, referring by name to two young women near term who were shot by the horsemen in this exodus.843 The team concluded that the “Government of Sudan is deliberately targeting civilian populations, resulting in the displacement of the majority of Rubkona County.”844 This military activity also resulted in many civilian deaths from “being bombarded by Antonov planes, strafed by helicopter gunships and rockets as well as being chased into rivers and streams by armed horsemen [Baggara] and foot soldiers.”845 According to the team’s report, “All this is done because of the oil. Rubkona County sits on large reserves of oil that Lundin Oil Company of Sweden has the concession to exploit.”846 A researcher from KAIROS, a Canada-based ecumenical initiative, extensively documented a separate government attack on January 27, 2002, which caused the immediate displacement of hundreds of 842 “Depopulating Sudan’s Oil Regions,” p. 14.
843 Ibid., p. 11.
844 “Hiding Between the Streams,” p. 3.
845 Ibid., p. 1.
846 Ibid., p. 4.
people from the town of Mankien, Western Upper Nile/Unity State, in Block 4, west of the oil road.847 The displaced gave terrifying testimonies of the Sudanese government’s attack on Mankien, a town teeming with displaced people where the SPLA also had a presence. Days before the ground offensive, the government began high-altitude bombing with Antonov planes, indiscriminately striking the civilian population.848 Then, before dawn on January 27, government soldiers and allied militia attacked, with the sleeping villagers as victims.
Those who survived the attack all told a similar tale. The government forces killed those who could not run away from the onslaught. One survivor said that the government forces “came in the early morning when people were sleeping..... They raped girls and killed many people. Our village was destroyed....
I don’t know why we were attacked, they just came and killed people.”849 Helicopter gunships provided support for the forces on the ground.
Those who survived walked for two to three days without food or possessions to Maper in Twic County, Bahr El Ghazal. Based on the testimony of aid organizations, churches, foreign aid agencies, the SPLM, and the displaced Nuer, the KAIROS investigator estimated that 500 civilians were displaced from their homes as a result of the one attack,850 signaling a heightened campaign of intentional forced displacement around the oilfields.
Government troops spread out also on the other side of Bentiu, in the displaced haven of Nimne twenty kilometers northeast of Bentiu in Western Upper Nile/Unity State. MSF-Holland evacuated its basic health care unit and kala azar treatment center there on February 1, 2002, after rebel warnings that 847 Gary W. Kenny, KAIROS Researcher/Policy Advocate, “Report of an Investigation into Forced Displacement in the Town of Mankien, Western Upper Nile,” April 2002. The researcher visited Twic County in northern Bahr El Ghazal where he interviewed the displaced Bul Nuer.
848 “Report of an Investigation into... Mankien,” p. 9.
849 Nyewit Jaguna, interview, February 14, 2001, quoted in ibid., p. 8.
850 Ibid., p. 6.
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