Human Rights Watch cautions that a three-month ceasefire in southern Sudan may fall apart if the government and the rebels do not take measures necessary to protect human rights.
Gross human rights abuses in the fifteen-year war have caused and aggravated the famine in Bahr El Ghazal, the hardest-hit region in southern Sudan. The ceasefire should end abusive military strategies_such as targeting civilians and their cattle_that have stripped assets from the civilians, debilitated their survival coping mechanisms, and repeatedly displaced them.
Two parties to the fighting in Bahr El Ghazal especially need to be brought under control: the government-sponsored Arab tribal militia (muraheleen), and the forces of Cmdr. Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, a Dinka warlord who ravaged the area while aligned with the government and recently rejoined the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Human Rights Watch calls on both of these parties, the government, and the SPLA, to:
- cease all targeted and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects;
- end looting and punish the looters, as well as those who buy and sell looted goods;
- respect freedom of movement so that anyone may move to and from rural areas to cultivate;
- end arbitrary detentions of persons fleeing the famine;
- protect the safety of the displaced;
- permit international monitoring of relief efforts, with access for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) not aligned with any party;
- cease manipulation and diversion of relief goods and other food belonging to civilian populations;
- the government should pledge not to use the Babanusa-Wau train for military resupply during the famine, but to reserve all wagons or boxcars for relief; the SPLA should not attack any train dedicated to relief; international monitors should ride on the train to guarantee its proper use and to deter SPLA attacks; and
- those who caused the famine should be expected to defray its cost: the government can contribute grain from a good harvest in western Sudan, and the SPLA might contribute the labor of its soldiers for humanitarian purposes during the ceasefire.