Taxation of Relief Food by the SPLA and the ATayeen@ system
The OLS Review found that, in contrast to government prohibitions on access, AThe pattern of restriction takes a different form on the part of opposition movements and factions; here the pattern has been one of looting, intimidation and aid manipulation.@221
In the 1994-97 period, the SPLA used its veto on occasion to prevent OLS from landing in places controlled by Kerubino. And on numerous occasions the SPLA and SSIA have declared particular places insecure and in danger of attack, requiring the OLS to evacuate staff. When the staff left, these forces have, more than once, looted the abandoned aid compounds of items of value.222
The SPLA says the few SPLA soldiers caught taking food aid from civilians have been tried by court martial. It claimed, AWe have our own resources and have our own needs. We are selling our own resources to feed our soldiers.@223 While the SPLA has access to valuable timberland around Yei near the Ugandan border, it is not clear what resources, if any, it has hundreds of kilometers north in Bahr El Ghazal. Kerubino denied that any SPLA soldiers were taking food meant for civilians. He said the problem was that there was not enough food reaching the famine-stricken region.224
Despite SPLA claims to the contrary, many displaced in rural Bahr El Ghazal complained to relief workers that the SPLA was taking relief food from them. One complained in April that there was no food in Mapel, and whatever little came in had to be Ashared@ with the SPLA soldiers.225 A fifty-year-old man who fled to Wau in search of food complained that after the Arab raiders stole all his cattle, the little he had to eat was Astolen by everyone, including the rebel soldiers.@226 A chief complained, AOur homes have been looted. . . . (The SPLA) took everything away.@227 At the same time, some displaced entering Wau said that the SPLA tried to prevent men from leaving some areas, going so far as to shoot them.228
Estimates of the amount of food diverted by the SPLA in Bahr El Ghazal in 1998 started at 10 percent and ranged up to a high of 65 percent made by Bishop (now Archbishop) Cesar Mazzolari of the Diocese of Rumbek (Buheirat or Lakes state).229 Aid workers said that in some areas where the SPLA did not have widespread support, it demanded 10 to 20 percent of the food given to needy families.230 The press began to pick up these complaints.
The Findings of the Joint Task Force: the Tayeen System and the Chiefs
UNICEF, WFP, nongovernmental relief organizations, and SPLM/SRRA representatives set up a task force to conduct an assessment of the diversion in late July, in response to concerns about the efficacy of feeding programs. UNICEF=s executive director Carol Bellamy met with the SPLA leadership in Nairobi to discuss reasons food was not reaching the intended target in late July, among other things.231 The WFP lodged a strong protest in July about theft of food aid with the SRRA, the relief arm of the SPLA.232 The SPLA shot back with its own public criticism of the U.N. operations.233
A chart of the findings of the Joint Task Force is attached as Appendix A. One important finding, not highlighted or even well known before the Task Force investigation, was the role of the local authorities (chiefs and leaders of the communities) in relief food diversion. Their role, described by the Joint Task Force, makes it clear that diversion is not solely the work of armed parties to the conflict.
The chiefs and SPLA commanders organized the collection of contributions in food, known as the ATayeen@ system, from the households, a practice that began with the inception of the SPLA and was viewed Aas the support deservedly due to the volunteer SPLA soldiers who come from and continue to live in and protect the same community.@234 This appears to have been a system also designed to protect civilians from ad hoc stealing by hungry soldiers, or worse. This Tayeen system was applied to those with sufficient resources to afford the contribution; the poor were excused from contributionsCuntil the famine.
After the famine began, the Joint Task Force found that relief food distributed to vulnerable groups targeted by OLS agencies would often be collected for redistribution by local authorities, out of sight of the U.N. food monitors. The recipients would be told to go to a central point, usually a lual (large hut) or riang (open area) where the chiefs would amass the relief food and then redistribute it according to their priorities.
This introduction of Tayeen collection into the activity of relief food distribution meant that the poor, ordinarily excluded from Tayeen payments, had to make a contribution from relief rations. AThe incorporation of the Tayeen practice into the relief food distribution process is unjustifiable,@ concluded the Joint Task Force.235
The chiefs acted according to understandable cultural factors which were nevertheless at variance with international relief norms initially used during the famine of identifying and targeting the most vulnerable, i.e., those under five year olds who measure less than 70 percent of the normal height and weight, nursing mothers, and other vulnerable groups. One fundamental problem was that in many locations a general feeding program (for all the population) was required but there was not enough food for that. Other problems were the chronic lack of education in the south, lack of trained monitors, and insufficient understanding by the relief community and local leaders of each others= priorities and needs.
The groups shortchanged were 1) displaced or nonresidents who had no local representative or a chief to speak for them, nor any local kin;236 2) those with a family member in a feeding center; and 3) persons of low social status locally, particularly widows (including resident widows with relatives).
Those who benefited included members of the chief=s family and other powerful people in the community, such as the formerly wealthy whose cattle had been recently raided. Having slipped into vulnerability, they perceived that they were entitled to a share of the relief food coming into the community, and the chiefs included them in the division of scarce resources, even though this group might have been comparatively adequately fed.237
The chiefs are responsible for the welfare of those over whom they preside, usually a sub-clan, clan or other traditional grouping. Nonresidents who are not related to this group (often the internally displaced) are more likely to be marginalized because they are not within the chief=s responsibilities. As the war and famine have contributed to the breakdown of kinship ties, even some internally displaced with relatives in the community may not be included.238
Migration in search of food has been one response of the Sudanese to war and famine. Save the Children pointed out that when the armed conflict forces large numbers of people to flee their homes,
Some migrate from one emergency food drop to another. Others move northward, where there is less fighting but just as few resources and services. Far from home and unable to provide for themselves, many are now entirely dependent upon external support for their survival. More and more unaccompanied children are arriving at feeding centers, often malnourished and ill.239
Those migrating in search of food in 1998 were such a common phenomenon in southern Sudan that they even earned their own nickname in the communities that became overwhelmed by their presence: they were called AC-130 invitees,@ referring to the large Hercules aircraft used by WFP to airdrop food.240
Another marginalized group was families with a member in a feeding center. Chiefs lacked understanding of the purpose and beneficiaries of this supplemental feeding program where rations are usually given only to the individual. Cutting the whole family off from general rations reinforced the tendency of the head of household to share the small rations with the rest of the family members.241 Even within the chiefs= communities, however, there are some clearly qualifying for relief (by international standards) who were excluded from redistribution, namely those of low social status. Widows are among the most marginalized groups and they were often excluded from the redistribution in practice.242
The SPLA benefited from the redistribution. Individual SPLA soldiers also benefited from their ability to take food from anyone by virtue of their guns. It does not appear that this was frequent enough to be the main cause of diversion, however. Rather, it was the SPLA=s failure to act responsibly in areas it controlled, and its still weak administrative structure, that permitted others to divert relief food.
The persistence of large relief centers in SPLA areas such as Ajiep, and the persistence of very high death rates and malnutrition rates there, suggests that the SPLA may have had a hand in causing the population to gather in strategic areas, in order to benefit from the relief food that finally flooded the area. The relationship between these epicenters and the SPLA remains to be studied.
Young Men Armed to Protect the Cattle Camps
Similarily, the SPLA did not or could not prevent young armed Dinka men (not in the SPLA) from looting. The adolescent and young men of each Dinka family are traditionally charged with herding and pasturing the cattle. These young armed Dinka were called Tiit Weng or Ghel Weng, literally guarding (tiit) or protecting (ghel) the cattle or cows (weng). Far from their homes, they received milk as their rations, together with fish available in the watering places during the dry season.
They abandoned the use of spears years ago as cattle raiders, most notably muraheleen and neighboring Nuer militias, were armed. The Nuer cattle raids stepped up in 1995-96, targeting their Dinka neighbors across the swamps north of Yirol and Rumbek and east of Tonj, Gogrial, Twic and Abyei counties.
The drought of 1997-98 limited the milk and fish normally available to them and among other things led them to return to their villages earlier than usual. Faced with a lack of food at home (especially for those who lost cattle to raiding), some turned to looting after food distributions, asserting their status as defenders of the land and cattle.243
New Measures Taken to Ensure Food Reaches the Hungry
The measures the parties to the Joint Task Force Report took included SPLA taking strong and significant steps to disarm and arrest bandits, armed civilians and military deserters engaged in looting and robbery.244 The arrest of active duty SPLA for looting, robbery, or other crimes was not mentioned as a measure taken, however, which is a drawback with significant human rights dimensions.
Other measures taken included distributing food more frequently, where possible on a weekly basis, expanding the number of wet feeding centers, distribution of general rations to families as they leave the child feeding centers to help avoid the problem of exclusion from the general ration process, and other steps including increasing the number of food monitoring staff and training.245 Unfortunately, the long list of steps taken to improve the distribution systems did not specifically mention widows, although they were identified in the Joint Task Force Report as especially needy.
To test whether these measures had an impact, the WFP conducted post-distribution monitoring in November, and found that in Ajiep, where weekly distributions were given to families with members in selective feeding programs, an estimated 60 to 65 percent of the ration was consumed by the family. Some 20 to 25 percent was exchanged for other foods such as fish, meat, salt, and wild food, and non-food items such as tobacco. Approximately 10 to 15 percent was voluntarily shared with other members of the community.246 In the case of families receiving general rations (to population as a whole), however, an estimated 40 percent of the ration was shared or redistributed by the families, the rest being consumed or exchanged.
The WFP team found that the community perception was that everyone has been affected by the same problems and so everyone is vulnerable. On the other hand, it seems the community accepts the proposition that families with members in feeding programmes are worse off, and so should not be expected to share their rations.247
In other communities the pattern was slightly different. In Panthou, post-distribution monitoring indicated that 70 percent of the ration was consumed or traded by the targeted households, and about 30 percent was shared with other households, mostly relatives. In Ajak, about 25 percent of the ration distributed to targeted households was redistributed to or shared with the rest of the community.248
It appears that efforts to assure that the neediest received the rations allocated to them were making some headway. The U.N. remained concerned, however, that despite the Joint Task Force recommendations, Adiversions persisted at year-end.@ It noted that AAttempts to impose taxes on NGOs and refusal to grant travel authorisations constrained humanitarian activities in areas controlled by the SPLA.@249
221 OLS Review, p. 56.
222 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 1, 1998.
223 Corinne Dufka, AAid food just in time for Sudan=s starving,@ Reuters, Ajiep, Sudan, May 4, 1998.
224 Charles Omondi, "Kerubino defends SPLA soldiers,@ Nation (Nairobi), July 30, 1998.
225 Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, May 9, 1998.
226 James C. McKinley, Jr., AFueled by Drought and War, Starvation returns to Sudan,@ New York Times, Anthou, Sudan, July 24, 1998.
227 Mohammed Osman, ARefugees from Famine in Sudan Town,@ AP, Wau, Sudan, August 13, 1998.
228 Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, May 2, 1998. No further details were available.
229 Hugh Nevill, AAid for Sudan ending up with SPLA: relief workers,@ AFP, Rumbek, Sudan, July 21, 1998. The bishop is based in Nairobi and frequently visits his flock in SPLA-held territory.
230 Louis Meixler, ASudan Aid Drops Face Obstacles,@ AP, Maper, Sudan, August 8, 1998.
231 Hugh Nevill, AAgencies, rebels set up task force on food diversion,@ AFP, Nairobi, July 23, 1998.
232 Martin Dawes, ATheft Hampers Sudan aid effort,@ BBC News, World: Africa, Ajiep, South Sudan, July 22, 1998.
233 Manoah Esipisu, "Rebels say Sudan U.N. relief agencies inefficient,@ Reuters, Nairobi, July 27, 1998; see AU.N. hits back at Sudan rebels' accusations of corruption,@ DPA, Nairobi, July 27, 1998.
234 Joint Task Force Report, p. 5.
236 In Panthou, a survey by MSF reported a death rate for internally displaced children that was very much higher than for resident children: 43.8 deaths per 10,000 people per day for displaced children under the age of five, compared with 2.6 deaths per 10,000 people per day for resident children under the age of five. The overall level of malnutrition among under fives was 53.4. OLS (Southern Sector), Emergency Sitrep No. 14, August 1-31, 1998 (Nairobi).
237 Joint Task Force Report, pp. 6-8.
238 Ibid. p. 16.
239 Save the Children Alliance Press Release, AMore than Two Million at Immediate Risk,@ Westport, Connecticut, U.S., July 2, 1998.
240 Joint Task Force Report, p. 16.
243 Ibid. p. 8.
244 News Release, AOLS and the SRRA Announce New Measures to Help Ensure Food Reaches Hungry in Southern Sudan,@ Nairobi, September 9, 1998.
245 Ibid. WFP, which had twenty-five field staff at the beginning of 1998, was going to increase their number from eighty-five (in October) to 125.
246 WFP, Sudan Bulletin No. 65, December 6-13, 1998, December 18, 1998.
249 OCHA, AUnited Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Sudan, January-December 1999,@ New York, January 25, 1999.