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The People of Wau and Dinka-Fertit Rivalry

Wau has been an ethnically mixed town. Among the southern non-Arab groups of Wau town are the Fertit, the Dinka, and the Jur.24 The Bahr El Ghazal region was populated by Dinka (From the northwest to southeast of Wau), Jur from to the south and east of Wau, and Fertit from the west, centered on the town of Raga.

The Fertit, a group of many small African tribes related to the Bantu of central Africa, traditionally have been ruled by Arabized Muslim families, including the Feroge family of Fartak. The Fertit are agriculturalists and most follow traditional African religions.25

The Dinka are Africans living mostly in Bahr El Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Lakes regions. Many live in Wau. As a result of the war and famines, many have migrated to urban areas of the north where there is no war.26

The Jur are a Luo (African) group from east and south of Wau who live in proximity to the Dinka in Bahr El Ghazal.27 They were forced westward in Bahr El Ghazal in the nineteenth century by the Dinka, who were in turn being pushed westward out of Western Upper Nile into Bahr El Ghazal by the expansionist Nuer.28 In the process, the Jur lost their cattle to the tsetse fly and became agriculturalists and blacksmiths.29 The Jur language is close to Acholi, a Luo tribe that straddles the Sudan/Uganda border.

Wau also has a Fellata community of Muslim West Africans who migrated to Sudan following trade routes to Mecca;30 many northern Sudanese Arab traders, known as jellaba, also live in Wau.

The Arabized Baggara cattle nomads, whose militia is the muraheleen, live to the north of Bahr El Ghazal, in Darfur and Kordofan regions.31 They visit Wau en masse when they accompany the military train to Wau.

Wau has intermittently been the scene of fighting, often along ethnic lines. During the first civil war (1955-1972), in January 1964, the southern separatist guerrilla force called Anyanya attacked Wau. The attack failed.32 In July 1965, northern troops conducted mass killings of southerners in Wau, sparking an exodus of southerners into border states.33

The ethnic, cultural, and political polarization of western Bahr El GhazalCincluding WauCwas evident in the first civil war and increased in the current war. Some Arabized, Islamized people from western Bahr El Ghazal were attracted by the NIF=s militant Islam as a means of vindicating their role and presence in a sea of non-Arab non-Islamic southerners. The central government mobilized Muslim groups as well as the Fertit in Bahr El Ghazal against the SPLACwhich was viewed as a Dinka armyC arming the Fertit militia and exploiting historical animosities between the Fertit and the Dinka.34

The Dinka were the primary victims of the 1988 famine in Bahr El Ghazal that was caused in large part by raids by government-backed muraheleen who stole cattle, burned huts and grain, and abducted women and children. In 1987 and 1988 Dinka famine victims streamed into Wau in search of food; their numbers reached almost 100,000. While some were able to draw on kinship ties to Dinka born in or earlier displaced to Wau, the many who were not able to do so remained at a great disadvantage. They were forced to sell their remaining assetsCcattleCcheaply, work for little or no pay, and made to live in camps. In part because of the suspicion of SPLA sympathies with which rural Dinka were viewed, they were prohibited from movement out of displaced peoples camps. The prohibition on movement outside the camps to cultivate, gather firewood, or to leave to find work in the north was tantamount to a Asentence of death by starvation.@35 Many did starve in Wau in 1988.36 After the famine subsided, many migrated north to work or, especially after 1993 when relief began to reach the rural areas, returned there to cultivate.37

The SPLA strategy was to lay siege to garrison towns, cut off all means of transport, and force them to surrender. Wau was under siege by the SPLA since about 1986. In February 1992 the government forces opened an offensive from Wau to break the SPLA siege, but did not succeed. In April 1992, those war-displaced without relatives in Wau were relocated to two camps on the East Bank of the Jur River six kilometers east of Wau, and at Marial Ajith, ten kilometers to the north of Wau. AThey served to consolidate a security zone around Wau.@38 The government military strategy for Wau, as for many garrison towns after 1992, involved relocating and settling the war-displaced into peace villages, and the separation of these displaced from other kinds of populations.39

By 1996 many of the displaced in these camps had fled Kerubino's attacks as well as muraheleen raids.40 Some ran from the SPLA. Following a flight ban by the government from April 23-May 15, 1997, the OLS found that Athe situation [in the camps] was indeed critical with little food and virtual lack of feeding center activities . . .  malnutrition in the displaced camps is approaching 20 % . . . while efforts for cultivation are hampered due to insecurity.@41 After food distributions, a nutritional survey in Wau town and the camps still showed moderate levels of malnutrition in under five year olds.42 The U.N. projected Amajor food deficits@ for the displaced camps around Wau in 1998.43

By 1998, two of three Wau camps for internally displaced were exclusively Dinka: Marial Ajith (population about 6,000) and Eastern Bank (about 6,200).44 The third camp was Moimoi, to the south, where about 3,000 Zande (a large Sudanese African ethnic group near the Uganda/Congo border) lived. At least two neighborhoods of Wau were heavily Dinka: Hilla Jedid (Der Akok in Dinka) and Nazareth. Hilla Jedid (Der Akok) had an estimated 8,700 people and was located in the northern part of WauCand just south of the Girinti army baseCwhere Dinka family members of the military (and families of SPLA Adefectors@) also lived. Nazareth in south central Wau had an estimated 21,000 population, 75 percent of which was said to be Dinka and Jur. By 1998 some estimated that 42,000 lived in Dinka neighborhoods and displaced camps and elsewhere in Wau, although numbers are notoriously unreliable.45

The Fertit Militia and the Dinka Police

The government formed and armed a Fertit militia in the mid-1980s.46 The relationship of the government with the Fertit militia, called of Jeish el-Salam (Peace Army), and Anyanya II, both known as Afriendly forces,@ was regulated through a charter that the newly elected parliament of Sudan adopted in a secret session in August 1987. The charter recognized a parallel set of military ranks for these militia, who were to participate in joint operations and convoys with the army, and supply it with intelligence. The Fertit militia was officially under the jurisdiction of the army=s military intelligence department, and like Anyanya II, they received training, arms, ammunition, uniforms, and other supplies from military intelligence.47

The Fertit militia has been described as Aone of the clearest examples of a militia formed and developed as part of a deliberate [government] military strategy,@48 by one authority. Their leader was Tom Al Nour, who as major general commanded them still in 1998.

The Fertit, like other less numerous southern peoples, feared the potential of the Dinka to dominate by virtue of their large population. In Wau the police force was predominately Dinka and the other government posts were precariously balanced between the Dinka and Fertit.49

Initially the Fertit militia was intended to protect small Fertit towns from the SPLA. Many Fertit had been forced to flee to Wau to escape SPLA attacks around Wau in which Fertit civilians were deliberately killed by SPLA troops.50 In 1987 the SPLA attacked Khor Shammam (twelve kilometers from Raga), the home of the Fartak ruling family; the Fartak were considered an inveterate enemy of the SPLA.51

The Fertit were divided among themselves, and most Fertit leaders distrusted those chosen to lead the Fertit militia. They regarded the militia as a dangerous escalation of the war, according to one source.52 In 1987 the Fertit militia was withdrawn to Wau where it was coordinated by the army. This set the stage for ethnic clashes that claimed many civilian victims. As one report described Wau in 1987:

Three mutually antagonistic elements were prepared to loot and kill for food and vengeance: The army controlled the barracks, the railway depot, and the airport; the Fertit militia Carmed by the government, made up of the hodgepodge of Sudanic peoples, and in large part Muslim and committed to oppose Dinka expansionCcontrolled half the city; and finally, the Dinka dominated the police force and the suq (market), markaz (administrative headquarters), and half of the residential area. In January [1987] the Fertit militia took advantage of food riots to kill their Dinka adversaries and burn their living quarters.53

In July 1987, Major General Abu Gurun was appointed army commander in Wau and greatly exacerbated Fertit/Dinka tensions:54

In summer 1987 Wau=s agony continued without surcease. . . . Wau Town had fallen into a state of veritable anarchy. Civilians disappeared at night and were found dead the next morning; corpses, many riddled with bullets and showing signs of torture, were dumped along the town perimeter. Armed by the government and led by Missiriya Baqqara, the Fertit needed little excuse to attack the Dinka, particularly the Dinka police. . . . Thanks to [Major General Abu] Gurun=s dispensation, the militia roamed through Wau, throwing grenades into Dinka huts and murdering Dinka civilians in the streets. In June a score of Dinka were killed and mutilated in the Lokoloko quarter; after a government [large cargo aircraft] C-130 was hit by an SPLA SAM-7 [anti-aircraft] missile over Wau airport on 3 August, General Abu Gurun supervised a search of the Dinka quarters that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 persons. . . . Later, in a single evening the Sudanese army lobbed nearly a dozen mortar shells into the Dinka quarter, creating confusion and death. . . .55

The Fertit militia, with the loan of army tanks,56 finally attacked the police headquarters, leaving twenty-five Dinka police dead in the heart of Wau on September 6, 1987.57 Army tanks attacked the Dinka sector of town and burned or destroyed nearly six hundred Dinka tukuls (huts), killing 300 civilians.58 The Dinka police fought back for three days, defeating the Fertit militia which then retreated to the Jebel Kher area three or four miles outside of Wau ("The Dinka do not go there.").59 The transfer of Maj. Gen. Abu Gurun out of Wau at the end of 1987 eased the situation considerably, but a low level of killings continued.60

Famine was also taking lives in Wau during the killings of 1987 and 1988. Thousands of displaced Dinka from Aweil and Gogrial, as well as Fertit and Luo from other areas, sought food and shelter at four camps the Roman Catholic Diocese created in June 1987. More than 200 people reportedly died in the camps by the end of August, in a situation that was described as increasingly desperate:

By September the markets in Wau were bare; the jallaba were escaping to Khartoum and those who remained sold sorghum on the black market for more than twenty times the prevailing price in Khartoum. . . .

In early October 1988, Angelo Beda, the chair of the government=s hapless Council for the South, visited Wau and informed the press that >62 people die daily of hunger.=61

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced an airlift to Wau more than a year later, in 1989, but food conditions were not much improved, and security was also bad:

The Fertit militia was still active. It had attacked a displaced camp in January [1989] and the following month burned to the ground 300 huts in the Hay-Fellata quarter. Murder was a nightly pastime. Food relief trucks were habitually commandeered by the army, civil servants went unpaid, sugar was selling for the equivalent of $15 a pound, the hospital was low on medicines, and corruption was rampant.62

After the coup d= etat on June 30, 1989, the new NIF-military government began to impose stringent restrictions on the relief effort and on foreign eyewitnesses. Expatriates working in government garrison towns in Sudan, including religious personnel, frequently confronted the problem of travel permits. Often they would forego or delay taking leave for fear that they would not receive government permission to return, since even long residence did not and does not guarantee the right to return.

Although there were an estimated 70,000 displaced persons in Wau in September 1989,63 the head of military intelligence reportedly refused access to any foreigners without clearance from Khartoum.64 A rash of violence similar to that of 1987 again broke out in mid-1989, as Fertit militia and the military attacked Dinka civilians and Dinka police seeking to protect them:

On 18 July [1989] the tenuous peace was shattered when army soldiers ran amok after one of their comrades was badly injured by an antipersonnel mine planted two kilometers north of the Wau military base. 65

The massacre was conducted by soldiers in the 311th Field Artillery Battalion who rushed to the Zagalona neighborhood of Wau and there began an indiscriminate attack on the Dinka. They seemed to target the displaced, including women and children living in camps set up by the ICRC.

The Dinka police tried to intervene to stop the killing but the military stopped them and the police, outgunned, retreated. When the slaughter was over, one hundred Dinka civilians were dead and scores were badly injured. The soldiers collected the dead and the mortally wounded and dumped them down a well located northwest of the military post.66

Justice was never done in this case; the authorities acted as if the massacre had never happened. Although its details were widely known inside Wau, neither the military nor the local government bothered to investigate or punish the guilty.67

In 1991 the Fertit militia together with the muraheleen attacked Dinka civilians and police in Wau, according to one source. The Dinka police defeated them and captured muraheleen cattle. The Fertit then sought peace negotiations, mediated by then Governor (Major General) George Kongor Arop, a Dinka army officer who is now second vice president of Sudan. The agreement was signed by the Dinka police and the Fertit militia. There was no more fighting inside Wau until January 1998.68

The economy of the garrison town of Wau was skewed by the war and dominated by a military/merchant cartel, according to a 1996 review of the OLS:

The formal economy of the region has collapsed, although the government has managed to keep some resources flowing into the town [of Wau] to support civilian and military administrations. . . . [Land has been set aside for agricultural production but] the ability to derive a subsistence income from this production is undermined . . . by a cartel of traders and military officers who have combined to control the food market. With a monopoly on trucks and military protection, the cartel has been able to regulate the import of food to Wau . . . . Seasonally, food prices are subject to the manipulation of the cartel, and since 1989 they have consistently been among the highest in Sudan.69

When the south was administratively divided from three states to ten in 1994, Wau became the capital of Western Bahr El Ghazal, considered a Fertit area. The rest of Bahr El Ghazal was divided among Northern Bahr El Ghazal (Aweil), Warab (Tonj and Gogrial), and Lakes (Yirol), all considered to be Dinka. Some Fertit were said to believe that the Dinka should move out of Atheir@ town, Wau, into the Dinka areas.70 This did not happen until January 1998, and within months, about one-third of the Dinka who fled Wau returned, in desperate condition.

24 See Appendix B, The Ethnic Groups of Wau.

25 See Appendix B. AFertit@ is not an ethnic group or tribe but a derogatory term for the small African ethnic groups of western Bahr El Ghazal.

26 A Dinka organization in Khartoum is campaigning to return to the original name, AJieng,@ which was spurned as unpronounceable by European explorers in the eighteenth century, and corrupted to the name of a chief, Deng Kak, into Dinka. The Dinka (or Jieng) make up about 12 percent of Sudan=s people. Nhial Bol, AWhat=s in a Name?@ Inter-Press Service (IPS), Khartoum, December 26, 1998.

27 Jur is the Dinka word, broadly speaking, for non-European, non-Arab foreigner. Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 1, 1998; Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, May 11, 1998.

28 See Raymond C. Kelly, The Nuer Conquest (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1985). For a list of other scholars who sought to isolate the critical differences between the Nuer and the Dinka that could account for the consistent military superiority of the former throughout the nineteenth century, see Sharon E. Hutchinson, Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War, and the State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 31-32.

29 Stefano Santandrea, Ethno-Geography of the Bahr El Ghazal (Sudan) (Bologna, Italy: Gafopress, 1981), pp. 130-31.

30 Fellata is the name for West Africans who came through Sudan following west-east trade routes across the Sahel, many on pilgrimage to Mecca, and settled in Sudan as cultivators. Many were Fulani religious teachers. AFellata@ was a pejorative term applied by Arabic-speaking northern Sudanese to all immigrants from West Africa, who settled mostly in western Sudan. It is not a definitive ethnic category, but is associated with hard, menial, and unskilled agricultural work. Ahmad Alawad Sikainga, Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1996), pp. 66-67.

31 P.M. Holt and M.W. Daly, A History of the Sudan from the Coming of Islam to the Present Day, 4th ed. (New York: Longman Press, 1989), p. 70.

32 Ibid., p. 180. Anyanya was the name of a poison made in Madi country (near Juba) in southern Sudan from snakes and rotten beans. Ibid.

33 Ibid., p. 187.

34 See Ahmad Alawad Sikainga, The Western Bahr Al-Ghazal Under British Rule: 1898-1956 (Athens, Ohio: Center for International Studies, 1991), pp. 123-24.

35 African Rights, Food and Power in Sudan: A Critique of Humanitarianism (London: African Rights, May 1997), p. 95.

36 Burr and Collins, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1995), p. 132.

37 Ataul Karim, Mark Duffield, et al., OLS, Operation Lifeline Sudan: A Review (Nairobi: July 1996) (AOLS Review@), p. 163.

38 Ibid., p. 189.

39 Ibid., p. 188.

40 Human Rights Watch confidential interview with former Wau agency employee, Lokichokkio, Kenya, May 11, 1998.

41 Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) (Southern Sector), Emergency Update No. 11 (Nairobi), May 29, 1997.

42 World Food Programme (WFP), Emergency Report No. 42: Sudan, October 17, 1997.

43 Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), AUnited Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Sudan, January-December 1998,@ United Nations, New York and Geneva, February 17, 1998.

44 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 1, 1998.

45 Ibid.

46 Africa Watch, Denying the Honor of Living: Sudan, A Human Rights Disaster (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1990), pp. 100-01.

47 Human Rights Watch interview, human rights activist, January 22, 1999. For a discussion of Anyanya II, see below.

48 Alex de Waal, ASome comments on militias in contemporary Sudan,@ in Herve Bleuchot, Christian Delmet, and Derek Hopwood, eds., Sudan: History, identity, ideology (Reading, U.K.: Ithaca Press, 1991), p. 80.

49 African Rights, Food and Power in Sudan, p. 247.

50 Keen, The Benefits of Famine, p. 84.

51 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, p. 79.

52 DeWaal, AMilitias,@ pp. 80-81.

53 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, pp. 74-75.

54 DeWaal, AMilitias,@ p. 81; Africa Watch, Denying the Honor of Living, pp. 68-70.

55 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, pp. 90-91 (footnotes omitted).

56 DeWaal, AMilitias,@ p. 81.

57 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, p. 91.

58 Ibid., pp. 90-91 (footnotes omitted).

59 Human Rights Watch interview, Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, May 8, 1998; see Africa Watch, Denying the Honor of Living, p. 69.

60 DeWaal, AMilitias,@ p. 81.

61 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, p. 132. The authors note that the commissioner, a Zande from Tambura and a graduate of southern Sudan=s only high school, Rumbek secondary school, it was a terrible admission to have to make. Ibid.

62 Ibid., p. 199.

63 The same number of displaced famine migrants were in Wau nine years later, in August 1998.

64 Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, p. 223.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Ibid., pp. 223-24.

68 Human Rights Watch interview, Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, May 8, 1998.

69 OLS Review, p. 201.

70 Human Rights Watch interview, Biel Torkech Rambang, U.S. Representative of the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), Washington, DC, December 14, 1998.

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