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952 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 12-18, 1999.” 953 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 99: August 8-14, 1999,” Nairobi, September 14, 1999. Nyal became the only location in rebel-held Western Upper Nile/Unity State to which WFP was able to deliver food in August 1999: it distributed 205 metric tons of food for 21,750 people. WFP Sudan Bulletin No. 101: August 22-28, 1999, Nairobi, September 14, 1999.
954 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: August 18, 1999,” Nairobi, August 18, 1999.
beneficiaries in Bentiu and verified the presence of almost 1,000 newly arrived displaced persons into Rubkona (Block 1) from the six villages nearby where there was “insecurity.”955 The government flight ban was lifted and by early September the relief agencies could finally access almost all Western Upper Nile/Unity State locations.956 But the window only opened briefly, to be snapped shut because of fighting following Peter Gatdet’s mutiny from Paulino Matiep starting September 9-10,1999.
By mid-November 1999, the U.N. relief officials reported, about half the people who had fled Bentiu town (Block 1) since July 1999—when fighting erupted and Riek Machar supporters in Bentiu were selectively killed or detained—returned to Bentiu town. Some 10,000, however, remained along the road between Bentiu and Rubkona. CARE resumed some of its most urgent humanitarian activities in Bentiu.957 But as the military action heated up again in at the beginning of the dry season in late 1999, the Khartoum government reduced the number of locations that WFP could reach by air, again denying access to most of the population in Western Upper Nile/Unity State.958 This forced many more waraffected civilians to leave the oil areas if they wanted assistance, as was apparently the government’s intention.
955 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: August 25, 1999,” Nairobi, August 25, 1999. During the next week of August, WFP provided food to 3,938 beneficiaries in Rubkona, the first food since June. U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: September 1, 1999,” Nairobi, September 1, 1999.
956 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: September 8, 1999,” Nairobi, September 8, 1999.
957 U.N. OLS, “Operation Lifeline Sudan Weekly Report: November 10, 1999,” Nairobi, November 10, 1999.
958 Alfred Taban, “WFP Warns of Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan,” Reuters, Khartoum, November 24, 1999. The flight locations in Western Upper Nile/Unity State denied by the government for December 1999 were Nhialdiu, Duar, Toy, Ganyliel, Gumriak, Mankien, Ler, and Wicok. Aya Shneerson, email, December 1, 1999.
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By November 1999 the WFP protested that many areas of Western Upper Nile/Unity State continued to be inaccessible to humanitarian agencies, and that 140,000 vulnerable people were cut off from emergency food assistance. A return to famine remained an ever-present specter, a WFP official warned.959 Based on the evidence above, government bombing of relief airstrips where the needy displaced persons congregated was designed to prevent agencies from delivering relief to rebel-held areas and to scare people away from relief locations there, prompting further displacement. This tactic was used in Western Upper Nile/Unity State in 1999-2002, and in 2001 in Raga, Western Bahr El Ghazal.
For instance, more than 6,000 displaced persons in Biem and a slightly larger number in Tagiel, both SPLM/A areas of Ruweng County in Block 1, received relief aid in February 2000.960 Some 2,300 of these 6,000 had been displaced from Bentiu town because of SPLA/Gatdet bombardment as well as periodic assassinations of Nuer and Dinka civilians by government forces. On February 17, 2000, the government bombed Biem.961 In late July and early August 2000, the fighting between Cmds. Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar was in full swing in the Nimne-Bentiu-Rupnyagai-Nhialdiu-Boaw-Wicok axis, along the Block 5A-1-4 border, and no relief was going through. Then outside of this area, with implications for the entire south, the government took a new tactic. Instead of just banning relief airstrips or bombing them, it increased the risks of relief delivery. It bombed relief airstrips when relief aircraft were on the ground, nearly hitting the planes and in some cases inflicting substantial damage on the planes with shrapnel.962 959 “WFP Warns of Humanitarian Crisis,” November 24, 1999.
960 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 120: 1-15 February 2000,” Rome, February 15, 2000 961 WFP, “Sudan Monthly Overview—February 2000,” Rome, February 29, 2000.
962 Owner of aircraft company serving southern Sudan relief operations, Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, Kenya, August 3, 2000. This included all types of relief planes in various parts of the south: OLS, non-OLS, and ICRC, which has its own separate
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These bombings occurred within a week or ten days (on one day there were three bombings on different airstrips), and caused great concern to all pilots flying into Sudan, whether they were working with the U.N., with the ICRC, or were flying without Khartoum’s permission. The point seemed to be a warning, interpreted by nervous pilots as follows: “Now we are bombing the airstrips when the planes are on the ground. Next we will bomb the planes when they are on the ground. Next we will attack the planes when they are in the air.”963 OLS declared its own flight ban for security reasons, rightly considering the bombing a denial of access.964 Some relief staff complained, however, that the OLS ban was playing into the hands of Khartoum.
At the same time, the Sudanese government wanted to impose a new series of restrictions and limitations on relief operations coming out of Kenya, such as posting a representative of the Khartoum government in Lokichokkio, requiring a two-week advance notification of the exact aircraft (call sign, make) that would be flying to a particular relief location (latitude and longitude).965 The tightening up of restrictions on access was done by the Sudanese government with an eye to ultimately achieving its stated goal, the relocation of all relief activities to government-controlled towns inside Sudan, where they could be more easily and more tightly controlled by the government. The Sudanese government was motivated by its conviction that the U.N. southern sector relief operation served the SPLM/A. It had long sought to close down the southern sector, without regard to the fate of several million desperate civilians.
A U.N. relief coordinator for southern Sudan pointed out the bright side: that through persistence the OLS had increased the needy areas (or airstrips) to which it had access over the years. In March and May agreement and ground rules with the government. In most of the locations, there was no SPLA presence. Anonymous relief worker witness to a bombing, Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, Kenya, July 28, 2000.
963 Owner of aircraft company serving southern Sudan relief operations, interview, August 3, 2000.
964 Sikander Khan, deputy to Sarhad Sapra, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Southern Sudan, OCHA, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, August 11, 2000.
965 These requirements are unrealistic in the context of a complex emergency operation in a large war zone. They give no leeway for the need to replace planes because of broken parts, planes stuck in the mud or diverted on an emergency basis elsewhere, and other practicalities. The requirements resulted in a diminution in access. Diane deGuzman, briefing, May 8, 2001.
1994 OLS (Southern Sector) had access to seventy-seven locations on a monthly basis. In mid-2000, it had access to one hundred locations on a monthly basis.966 The problem, as a top relief official noted, was not the gross numbers of landing strips accessed. The OLS’s review of the government’s flight bans revealed that there was a pattern of consistent denials to seven locations, ongoing for twenty months up to July 2000 (the time of the interview). The consistently banned locations were in Western Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria (bordering Uganda). The bans continued for another two years, on the same basis. During the IGAD peace talks, on October 26, 2002, the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A agreed to full humanitarian access and a ceasefire. The principle on which the U.N. operates, that there should be unimpeded access to the beneficiaries wherever located, was violated by the Sudanese government for years in Western Upper Nile and elsewhere.967 One of the areas banned frequently in 2000 was SPLA(Peter Gatdet)-held Mankien, which was bulging at the seams with internally displaced from Mayom, a garrison town still under Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep; both towns are Bul Nuer. Those fleeing Mayom told of retaliation by Paulino Matiep and Sudanese government soldiers following Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s mutiny (September 1999) and his continued shelling of Mayom. Little aid reached Mankien’s internally displaced or their hard-put hosts until February 2000, when Christian Aid, a non-OLS agency, brought in basic supplies. The agency returned on March 19-21, 2000. But the area was one that remained almost permanently off limits for OLS agencies due to government flight bans and U.N. security worries.968 As a result, those displaced due to the Gatdet/Paar fighting from areas south of Bentiu were forced to flee not just within Western 966 Sikander Khan, interview, August 11, 2000.
968 Makur Kot Dhuor, “Mankien Faces Serious Starvation,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), March 2000, pp. 2-4. Christian Aid did not operate under the OLS umbrella so could choose to ignore the ban and assume the risk of flying into a forbidden location.
Upper Nile/Unity State, but often much further from their homes, into Bahr El Ghazal, where relief aircraft were not as frequently banned.969 These government bans applied to relief flights, not to road deliveries. The banned locations in Eastern Equatoria were close enough to the Ugandan and Kenyan borders, and the roads were adequate enough, following a U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.AID) program of road and bridge repair, that overland truck delivery of food and non-food items was feasible (at least during the dry season).
Overland trucking also was much more cost effective.970 Attacks by Sudanese government-supported Ugandan rebel troops, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), on relief convoys driving through northern Uganda into southern Sudan were an obstacle to this cheaper form of transport.971 Western Upper Nile/Unity State, however, was another matter. Because of six months of inundation and the consequent lack of all-weather roads (except what the oil companies built in the oil drilling areas), truck access was impossible, and even during the dry season overland transport to the area from Kenya and Uganda was not possible because of the lack of roads, the sudd, toic, rivers and other natural 969 See Kenny, “Report of an Investigation in the Town of Mankien.” 970 Human Rights Watch press release, “Sudan Bans All Relief to the South,” New York, September 28, 2002, http://hrw.org/press/2002/09/sudan0928.htm, (accessed August 18, 2003).
971 Human Rights Watch, “LRA Conflict in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, 2002,” Background Briefing, October 2002, http://hrw.org/press/2002/10/uganda1029-bck.htm (accessed October 31, 2002).
barriers.972 Therefore there is no alternative to air delivery from Kenya and Uganda to most of Western Upper Nile/Unity State south of Bentiu.973 Moreover, even when relief could be delivered by road from Khartoum to Bentiu, food trucked in had to pass by numerous government army bases. In January 2000, authorities in Heglig, the location of a large army base and GNPOC headquarters, detained two truckloads of WFP food (eighty metric tons) en route from El Obeid to Rubkona. They held the commercially contracted trucks for ten days until WFP negotiations with Khartoum authorities secured their release.974 Even after arrival at its village or destination, the food was not always safe from the military or security forces. In March 2000, local pro-government militia forces in Rubkona stole two metric tons of sorghum from a WFP stock of ninety-five metric tons of food intended for the needy.975 While geography, weather, and even amounts of donated food are not within the control of the parties to the conflict, flight bans certainly are. The government of Sudan has been active in banning relief flights to Western Upper Nile/Unity State, but the international aid community has not been diligent enough in addressing this situation. The U.N. Security Council was briefed in early August 2000 about the consistent denials of flight access to Western Upper Nile/Unity State and Eastern Equatoria,976 but 972 There were military and political barriers even where natural barriers were lacking. An enterprising trucker drove from Rumbek, Bahr El Ghazal (SPLA area) to Nyal, Western Upper Nile (Riek Machar SPDF area) during the dry season in early 2001, over the flat terrain where a road used to be, and the SPLA strongly objected. The February 2001 SPLA/Gatdet attack on Nyal came on foot from the direction of Rumbek. The SPLA did not want a road to be developed/used there because it might be used militarily—for instance to facilitate a reverse strike. Relief official, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 5, 2001.
973 Airboat delivery was talked about for years, but never became a mode of transport used for relief deliveries in Western Upper Nile. Rumors abounded about possible oil company use of airboats in Block 5A even after the suspension of oil activities there in January 2002.
974 WFP, “WFP Sudan Monthly Overview—January 2000,” Rome, January 31, 2000. WFP did not state why the trucks were held.
975 WFP, “Sudan Monthly Overview—March 2000,” Rome, March 31, 2000.
976 Sikander Khan, interview, August 11, 2000.
the content of that briefing was confidential and no perceptible change resulted for Western Upper Nile/Unity State.