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Kerubino Raiding of the Baggara

During the last (1988) famine, the SPLA counterattacked the muraheleen raiders, and the army did not respond to muraheleen requests for assistance.113 This and other factors, including a cease-fire, brought some measure of relief to Bahr El Ghazal in the last famine.

In 1998, Kerubino and the SPLA attempted to halt militarily the famine-producing raids of the muraheleen. This did not have the same success as in 1987-88, because the muraheleen were now backed and aided by the government army and PDF.114

The Baggara responded politically and militarily to Kerubino and the SPLA=s counterattacks. The government held a press conference on April 21, 1998, at which Foreign Relations Minister Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail said the Sudan government was going to complain to the U.N. secretary-general that the SPLA took advantage of relief corridors to attack the Rizeigat (Baggara) tribe in South Darfur on April 14, killing forty-two persons, wounding eleven others, and looting 5,000 head of cattle.115 At the time of this press conference, however, there was no cease-fire (that did not come for three months) and there were no recognized relief corridors in Sudan. This appeared to be part of the government=s repeated calls for a cease-fire, its threat to ban assistance again, and its attempt to shift the blame for the famine away from itself.116

At a meeting on May 10, 1998 in Babanusa, a Baggara leader publicly announced Baggara losses as a result of Kerubino attacks: on April 4, 1998, nine killed, nineteen wounded, 1,360 cows stolen; on April 26, seven killed, 800 cows stolen; on April 28, ten killed, 300 cows stolen; on May 1, thirteen killed, 600 cows stolen. A Baggara rescue force was organized and badly defeated, and a delegation was sent to seek further assistance from Khartoum.117

The Sudan government claimed that the SPLA attacked Misseriya (Baggara) tribesmen in early May near Abyei, killing eighteen people and stealing thousands of cattle.118 Each accused the other of launching attacks while the peace talks in Nairobi were in progress.119

Sadiq al Mahdi, the exiled former prime minister and head of the Umma Party to which Baggara traditionally adhered, accused the government of deliberately sowing hatred of the Dinka among the Arab tribes, to enlist their support against the SPLA.120 He denied government claims that the SPLA had been behind three raids in Abyei district in which twenty-three Misseriya were said to have been killed.121

Separately, the government accused the SPLA of raiding the border of central Kordofan province and neighboring Bahr El Ghazal to open Aa route to the oil fields in [the Heglig] area.@ General Abdel Rahman Sirr al Khatim, the army spokesperson, stated that the SPLA made several attacks in mid-May on the tribes in the area, killing dozens of civilians and stealing thousands of livestock, but joint action Aby the armed forces and civilians blocked the road to the oil fields.@ He also admitted that 4,500 head of cattle and goats were Aretrieved@ by government forces, as well as weapons and ammunition. Fifty-six civilians were said to have been killed in the attacks.122

The SPLA called in June for a reconciliation conference with the Baggara, contacting tribal chiefs in Southern Darfur, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Southern Kordofan, and Upper Nile.123 The Misseriya said a specific offer was made to them: the SPLA would release Misseriya prisoners and return Misseriya cattle in exchange for a halt on armed raids of SPLA camps.124 Mukhtar Babu Nimir, a Misseriya chief, refused the offer, claiming that the SPLA recently killed A89 people of the tribe, looted 14,000 head of cattle in addition to taking 50 fighters of the tribe as prisoners of war.@125

Human Rights Watch has received reports that Kerubino did indeed raid Baggara areas during this time period, loot cattle (or Arecover@ the stolen Dinka cattle, depending on the point of view), and take captives. In addition, Human Rights Watch noted a connection between the SPLA attacks and Baggara/PDF retaliation on a visit to Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, in early May 1998.

At the time there was little SPLA presence among the hundreds of displaced persons who met the plane chartered by the Irish agency GOAL at Wunrok. While interviewing witnesses, shots rang out. When asked about this, the following exchange occurred with local civilian authorities:

The soldiers of the SPLA are killing bulls.

Did they pay for them?

They captured them from the Arabs, near Aweng [Bahr El Ghazal], where there was a big battle three to four days ago with many casualties. The enemy ran east. All were Misseriya. They camped in Aweng with SPLA permission but some went out from the cattle camps to join in the fighting against the SPLA and therefore the SPLA raided their cattle.

The SPLA noticed that Alots of Misseriya came to the camps, then the numbers dwindled down to a few@ when an attack on Dinka civilians was taking place. For example, the Misseriya started the fighting at Bahr al Arab river, Awhere the houses of these Dinka people from Abyei were.@126 They attacked at the river, burned houses, killed civilians, and clashed with SPLA forces. Large numbers of muraheleen, PDF, and government troops took part, then moved southwards. After the fighting at Bahr al Arab, some Misseriya returned to the cattle camps with guns. AThey did not look like ordinary nomads.@ It was separately mentioned that at Aweng the SPLA had captured not only cattle but also some of the muraheleen it found at the campCincluding a muraheleen chief. The prisoners were brought to SPLA-controlled Wunrok.

The insecure conditions in the area thus were partly the result of this back and forth, including muraheleen attempts to recapture cattle and free their leader. They went beyond this limited goal, however, and shortly thereafter harshly attacked the civilian Dinka population, causing hundreds of deaths in the space of a few weeks, as described by journalists below.

With access to the Baggara territory or any other government-controlled area barred to Human Rights Watch by the Sudan government, it proved impossible at the time of this report to judge the extent or the timing of the other allegations of SPLA/Kerubino raids, or to verify government and limited press accounts from the government side.127

There are extensive press, relief agency, and human rights accounts of organized and coordinated muraheleen and government raiding on Dinka civilians in Bahr El Ghazal in the April-July 1998 period, however, which substantially corroborate each other.

113 By late 1988 the SPLA had a strong presence along the Bahr El Arab river (except in eastern Bahr El Ghazal where Twic Dinka were attacked by Baggara raiders and others in December 1988). The river flooded and that too decreased raiding. Keen, The Benefits of Famine, p. 91. In northern Bahr El Ghazal, Aweil was harassed by the SPLA commander Daniel Awet Akot, who Afought furiously to rid Bahr El Ghazal of Muraheleen.@ Burr and Collins, Requiem for the Sudan, p. 50.

114 A cease-fire, however, has halted most raids from July 15, 1998.

115 AGovernment Threatens to Close Relief Corridors to Bahr Al-Ghazal,@ SUNA News Agency, Khartoum, in English, April 22, 1998; see ACabinet Discusses Rebel Activities in West,@ Sudan TV, Omdurman, April 26, 1998: "The cabinet also spelt out ways and efforts to purge the rebels' hostile movement against the innocent citizens in the [Darfur] area."

116 See, for example, Sudan Foundation, AThe Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan: The Facts,@ London, May 1998, a document produced by a pro-government foundation in London. It selectively cites U.N. press releases thanking the government for approving additional C-130's, without any objective discussion of the origins of the famine, government militias= abuses, or the government-imposed two-month flight ban.

117 Anonymous Diary, April to June, 1998.

118 ARebels said to kill 18 in southern Sudan,@ Reuters, Khartoum, May 5, 1998.

119 Alfred Taban, ASudan Talks Outcome Gets Mixed Reception,@ Reuters, Khartoum, May 7, 1998.

120 The Umma Party, whose leaders used the Baggara as a proxy force against the SPLA, is now an ally of the SPLA in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed in 1995 of military and political opponents of the NIF government.

121 ASudanese opposition denies massacring Arab tribesmen, blames Khartoum,@ AFP, Cairo, May 10, 1998.

122 ASpokesman accuses rebels of attempting to control oil fields,@ AFP, Khartoum, May 16, 1998.

123 ASPLA calls for reconciliation talks with Arab tribes of central Sudan,@ AFP, Cairo, June 8, 1998.

124 AArab tribe rejects truce with Sudanese rebels,@ AFP, Khartoum, June 21, 1998.

125 Ibid.

126 Human Rights Watch interview, Wunrok, Bahr El Ghazal, May 7, 1998.

127 There were reports of conflict in other areas of Darfur in 1998 as well: characterized as ethnic strife over land rights between Arabs and the black Fur community, it left 235 dead, forty-three injured and some seventy-four villages burned. Some 6,000 Sudanese fled into neighboring Chad as refugees. ASudanese Flee to Chad as Crisis Escalates,@ Xinhua, Nairobi, June 22, 1998.

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