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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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The second part of the report covers oil development by Lundin (IPC) in Block 5A starting in 1996 and the role of Talisman Energy starting in 1998 in continued development of Blocks 1, 2, and 4, examining the large-scale displacement that continued to accompany oil development and intensified civil war in the region. The third part of the report provides a detailed account of the human rights consequences of oil development in Sudan, including population displacement, ethnic manipulation, aerial bombings of civilians, property destruction, waste, and, especially for many Nuer and Dinka, human misery and despair. The fourth part considers what oil company representatives knew and the extent of their complicity, and their governments’ all too common preference for business as usual over policies aimed at ending abuses.


The Displaced According to information provided by the United Nations (U.N.) World Food Program (WFP) and others, as of March 2002 an estimated 174,200 civilians remained displaced as a result of the conflict between the government and its southern militia proxies, and the rebel SPLM/A in the oilfields of Western Upper Nile/Unity State (roughly Blocks 1, 2, 4, 5A, and 5B). Numbers are at most estimates, and hard to come by, but the displacement continues as of the writing of this report, in spasms of military attacks by government army forces and Nuer militia (or armed groups, as they now prefer to be called), joined in by militia of the Baggara tribes to the northwest. The uprooted civilians’ movements in search of safety and food took them in different directions, sometimes to the edge of another oil concession, sometimes to the toic (seasonally flooded grasslands), sometimes to a garrison town or relief airstrip, and sometimes outside of Western Upper Nile/Unity State. This count did not include many others who fled to areas inaccessible to the U.N. and other relief organizations, or to northern towns such as Khartoum.

The estimated numbers break down as follows: 1998-99: 70,500 displaced from/within Western Upper Nile/Unity State; and 2000-February 2001: 134,000 displaced; as noted above, by March 2002 a total of 174,200 civilians were listed as displaced from the oilfields in two regions, Lakes (part of Bahr El Ghazal) and Upper Nile. This is a conservative estimate as it does not include the oilfield displaced that went to other parts of Bahr El Ghazal or to Khartoum. The displacement has continued in sporadic surges of tens of thousands ever since.

The Nuer and Dinka people, members of the two largest ethnic groups in the south, have borne the brunt of the war in their home territories, through war-caused displacement, death, disease, dislocation, asset destruction, and recurring famine.

The year 1999 saw a significant escalation of conflict and displacement, shortly after the Canadian company Talisman Energy Inc. became the operating company for the concessions in Blocks 1, 2, and 4 and brought much greater financial muscle and technical expertise to bear on opening up oil production 39 Human Rights Watch in Sudan. In mid-May 1999, the Sudanese government launched an all-out attack lasting several weeks on Dinka communities in the eastern part of Block 1. The assault commenced with aerial bombardment, followed by ground troops who looted freely and burned everything. Tens of thousands of people were displaced.

The completion of the pipeline from Block 1 to the Red Sea in May 1999 meant that Block 5A became commercially viable in a way it had not been before. A government offensive into the block followed ineluctably. Survivors described to Human Rights Watch the exodus of Nuer civilians being chased by pro-government militia from Block 5A’s oilfields in late 1999. The displaced Nuer carried fishing spears, but most left behind even such basic necessities as kitchen spoons and cooking utensils. Some had a few implements and mosquito nets but they could not carry much because they were carrying their children.

They tried to save their cattle, their main asset, but those cattle that were too exhausted to keep up and straggled behind were attacked by lions.

On the long walk through the wetlands to Makuac, in Dinka territory, “There was so much water on the way, and we were walking with children, that it took a week,” said a Nuer chief of Ler, who took part in the flight. “Hunger was the main problem,” he said, while the cold and rain were both a curse and a blessing: “The rain saved our lives. It stopped them from chasing us, and we kept walking through the rain. Small children died of cold on the way, and had to be left on the road.” He said there was hunger and sickness, such as relapsing fever, malaria, and skin diseases. “The main thing was the mosquitoes eating us alive, leaving rashes, scabies. We drank the water from the road and toic. There were rivers with water lilies and fish; we ate both.” Twenty-three people from one group died of hunger, exposure, and disease on the way to safety in Bahr El Ghazal.

We slept on the grass, outside. This is what killed some children. A boy aged eight and a girl of ten years were lost on the way. I do not know if the wild animals got them. When they were missing we searched for them and could not find them. We lost both in the toic after crossing the Dinka border, near the cattle camp Ngot. The girl’s name was Nyanit Biel.


These were not the only abuses. Boys were conscripted and women raped. One boy soldier forcibly inducted by Nuer pro-government militia said, “If they captured you and then took your sister as a wife [raped her], if you were angry, they would beat you. They are serious about raping.” A young woman who had never been captured described her fear. “They are abducting girls and making them their ladies [raping them],” she said, to explain why she had been in hiding before leaving her village of Ger. She knew some of the girls who were abducted, including a young woman of her age—eighteen—who was taken with three girls from a village one hour away.

Their mother came to our house and told us of the abduction by the renegades [progovernment militia]. No one knows what happened to them. Their mother tried to follow but she could not find them.

This young woman had been hiding in the forest and going home at night to sleep. After hearing of the abductions, she fled south.

This suffering has continued in the same pattern to date. In February 2000, the Swedish company Lundin Oil AB, lead partner in Block 5A, announced that the lack of a road had delayed its drilling operations. The government’s dry season military activities in 2000 in Block 5A appeared designed precisely to capture land for, construct, and secure a road leading to Lundin’s fields and the Sudanese army garrison at Ler. In the ensuing months of fighting, most of it between Nuer rebels opposing the government and the government’s Nuer militias, tens of thousands of civilians in the Block 5A and adjacent Block 4 oil areas were uprooted. During this time, with the rebels distracted and on the defensive, the oil companies forged ahead with construction of a north-south all-weather road from Bentiu, on the border of Blocks 1 and 5A, to an exploratory drilling site at Ryer/Thar Jath, and Ler, reaching the Nile port of Adok in southern Block 5A in January 2001.

By July 28, 2000, thousands of civilians were on the move from both the pro-government militias and the rebel forces. Relief workers in a plane flying over the fifty kilometers between Nimne and Nhialdiu in Block 5A saw few people, huts, or cattle, because a wide swathe of land, as far as they could see, had been burned to the ground. Many civilians from the area fled or were driven west and north; many thousands were seen with their cattle and mats (but no other possessions) camped on the banks of the 41 Human Rights Watch Jur River in late July 2000. Those who could manage to swim across with their cattle did so. A separate mass of up to 60,000 people made it to the relative safety of Bentiu, a garrison town.

By early 2001, the oil road south of Bentiu was heavily defended by military patrols and guard posts.

While the oil companies said that civilians were living there and enjoying the road, the tens of thousands of people already displaced from there to other less militarized areas told an entirely different story—one of people forced from their land, their cattle stolen, homes and possessions destroyed by government agents without the least notice or compensation. They were abandoned to the over-extended and underfunded international relief network, whose operations were the object of a government cat-and-mouse game in which a government “win” meant that the newly displaced were cut off from international aid altogether.

In late 2001-early 2002, newly reunited rebel forces—including a previously government-allied militia that had been guarding the Block 5A installations—went on the offensive. The rebels succeeded in ambushing several large government military convoys on the oil road in Block 5A, stymieing oil operations for a period.

The government used heavy bombing—including a total of sixteen new attack helicopters, purchased abroad in 2001-2002 with oil revenue—in an attempt to retake and secure the oil road and operational area. It also deployed Baggara militia for the first time south of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam in Nuer) River.

The Lundin-built bridge at Bentiu made it possible for the first time for the government-armed Baggara horsebacked raiders to attack in this area of Block 5A. Civilians ran for shelter further south and west, into a marshy area crossed by streams where the horses could not reach; from there the newly-purchased government attack helicopters often picked up the chase. The civilians were scattered and isolated, hungry, thirsty, and tired, beyond the reach of aid agencies, which the government prohibited from searching for them. Many of those who were uprooted and dispossessed of all means of survival faced famine and death in the unfamiliar areas to which they fled. Block 1 was also a target of Sudanese army offensives and SPLA counter offensives throughout 2001, including a government attack with new helicopters and ground troops in October in Ruweng (Panaru) County, in which an estimated 80,000 persons were displaced.


Ongoing armed conflict has led to continued flight; establishment of government garrisons has prevented the displaced from returning to their homes. While both sides employ modern weapons, the government has produced and purchased more and better weapons with its new oil money, including sixteen new attack helicopter gunships in 2001-2002, more than tripling its military helicopter fleet.

The government made civilian suffering worse by banning relief flights from reaching those who try to cling on in areas the government wants cleared. The government repeatedly refused international relief access to Nuer and Dinka oilfield areas that were in rebellion against the government, calculating that the civilians, who have lost everything in attacks on their villages, would be forced by famine to migrate elsewhere—anywhere—in search of food. It also prohibited humanitarian access to those recently displaced, if they remained in areas near the oilfields.

Even as the government entered into peace negotiations in 2002, it stepped up its attempts to close off Western Upper Nile/Unity State to all relief except that which went to its garrison towns. Finally, under extreme foreign pressure and in the middle of peace talks, the Sudanese government relented on humanitarian access in October 2002. The ceasefire, signed that same month, was broken mostly in Western Upper Nile/Unity State’s oilfields.1 Sudan’s Land and Peoples Sudan’s 2.5 million square kilometers make it the largest country in Africa, more than one quarter the size of the United States (U.S.). Because of lack of water in the vast northern desert part, half the population lives in just over 15 percent of the land, along the Nile and, in the south, along its many tributaries and annually flooded areas.

Sudan’s estimated 30.3 million people are even more varied than its desert-savannah-floodplain-swamprainforest terrain. (Map A) They are divided among nineteen major ethnic groups and some 600 subgroups who speak more than one hundred languages and dialects. In the first and only ethnic census 1 See reports of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team established by agreement of the parties, http://www.cpmtsudan.org.

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taken (1956), Arabs were 39 percent, and Africans 61 percent, of whom Dinka were the largest group at 12 percent of the total population. Perhaps 70 percent of the population is Muslim, most living in the northern two-thirds of the country. The rest of the population practices traditional African religions or Christianity.

The African non-Muslim citizens who populate the south have been at war with the central government, dominated by an Arabized Muslim elite, since independence in 1956. State power remains in the hands of this elite, which dominates the officer corps of the army, security agencies, and other implements of power—although poverty-stricken Africans from the Nuba Mountains, west and south of Sudan make up the bulk of the soldier class.

Although there was a decade of peace and southern autonomy in 1972-83 after the separatist southern rebels laid down their arms, it came to an end when the central government abolished the southern autonomous region and made shari’a (Islamic law) the law of the land in 1983. The civil war flared up again, but with a different political agenda. While southern sentiment remains strongly separatist, Dr.

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