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The Human Rights Causes

Human Rights Watch
Copyright 8 February 1999 by Human Rights Watch
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
ISBN 1-56432-193-2
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-60897



This report was researched and written by Human Rights Watch counsel and Sudan researcher Jemera Rone. Ms. Rone conducted research in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan, and in Kenya and Uganda, in October 1997 and April-May 1998. Other interviews were conducted in the U.S.

Repeated requests in 1998 for a visa from the government of Sudan were ignored; in a meeting on October 1, 1998, in New York, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail promised Ms. Rone a visa but it was not forthcoming.

Many private individuals requested anonymity because they had relatives living in government-controlled areas of southern Sudan or in northern Sudan. Some representatives of agencies requested anonymity because of fear that the government would take reprisals against their work in government areas.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges with gratitude the assistance of the Nub Relief and Rehabilitation Society, the Sudan Human Rights Association (Kampala), the Sudan Human Rights Organization (London), the Sudan Human Rights Organization (Cairo), the Human Rights Unit of Amal Future Care Trust, and the Sudan Rights Project of the Inter-Africa Group (formerly African Rights-Nuba Mountains branch). Human Rights Watch also thanks John Ryle and Philip Winter for their review of the draft report; all errors are the responsibility of Human Rights Watch.

The report was edited by Deputy Program Director Michael McClintock and Executive Director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch Peter Takirambudde. Associates Juliet Wilson and Zachary Freeman provided production assistance, as did special assistant Nicole Shanor.

This report could not have been written without the assistance of many Sudanese whose names cannot be disclosed.


Ansar Sudanese Sunni Muslim religious sect headed by Sadiq al Mahdi; base of the banned Umma Party

Anyanya the southern Sudanese rebel army of the first civil war, 1955-72; Anyanya is the word for a poison made in southern Sudan

Anyanya II southern Sudanese forces formed on a local level in the south before and after the second civil war started in 1983; some helped form the SPLA in 1983. Some defected from the SPLA later and became (mostly Nuer) militia forces in Upper Nile supported by the Sudanese government. Several Anyanya II groups were wooed back to the SPLA in 1986-87 but some, including those of Paulino Matiep, never joined the SPLA

Arakis an oil exploration company listed on the Vancouver (Canada)

Energy Stock Exchange which lead a consortium to develop oil resources

Corporation in Upper Nile region; it was acquired by Talisman Energy Inc. of Canada in 1998

Baggara Arabized cattle-owning nomad tribes of western Sudan, including the Misseriya of southern Kordofan and the Rizeigat of southern Darfur; their name is from the Arabic bagara, meaning cow (plural bagar)

Belanda an African Luo people living south of Wau in Bahr El Ghazal, related to the Jur

DUP Democratic Unionist Party banned in 1989; it was a junior partner in several 1986-89 coalition governments and is associated with the Khatmiyya traditional Sunni Islamic sect and its spiritual leaders, the Mirghani family

Dawa Islamic nongovernmental organization that engages in relief work

Islamiyya in over fifteen African countries, including Sudan

DHA U. N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs (now OCHA)

Dinka an African Nilotic people living in the Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile regions of Sudan; the largest ethnic group in Sudan. They practice the Dinka religion but many have been converted to Christianity and a few to Islam; they speak Dinka

E.U. European Union

Fellata the name for West Africans who settled in the Sudan, often in transit to or from Mecca

Feroge one of the Arabized Muslim families ruling over the Fertit in western Bahr El Ghazal

Fertit a name given the many small tribes, including the Kreish (the largest ethnic group in western Bahr El Ghazal), Banda, and Binga, all of African Bantu origin, who live in western Bahr El Ghazal, mostly non-Muslims and non-Arabic speakers

FAO U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross

IGAD Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (formerly the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Desertification, IGAAD), comprised of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda

jellaba a southern term for the diaspora community of small traders of Arabic-speaking Muslims from different parts of northern Sudan; refers to their typical white robe of rough cotton

jihad holy war or struggle

Jur an African Luo people living south and east of Wau, Bahr El Ghazal; they are agriculturalists and blacksmiths and mostly non-Muslims and non-Arabic speakers

Khatmiyya Sudanese Sunni Muslim religious sect headed by Mohamed Osman al Mirghani; base of the banned Democratic Unionist Party

LRA Lord=s Resistance Army, Ugandan rebel group noted for its gross abuses of human rights, including kidnapping of Ugandan children; the LRA is admittedly supported by the Sudan government

MSF Medecins Sans Frontieres, an international emergency medical nongovernmental organization often working in war zones

Misseriya a Baggara subgroup living in southern Kordofan

mujahedeen holy warriors or participants in jihad

muraheleen (murahiliin), the Misseriya word for Atravelers,@ now referring to Baggara tribal militias of southern Darfur and Kordofan who have been incorporated as a government militia under army jurisdiction to fight the Dinka in Bahr El Ghazal

NDA National Democratic Alliance, umbrella group of political parties and armed groups opposed to the current government and headquartered in Asmara, Eritrea; members include the SPLM/A, Umma Party, DUP, SAF, Beja Congress, and others

NGO Nongovernmental organization

NIF National Islamic Front, the militant Islamist political party which came to power in 1989 after a military coup overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi; formerly known as the Muslim Brotherhood, after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; in 1998 renamed the National Congress

Nuba the African people living in South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains, comprised of fifty tribes/subtribes with over ten distinct language groups using Arabic as their lingua franca. Some are Muslims, some Christians, and some practice traditional Nuba religions

Nuer an African Nilotic people living in the Upper Nile region of Sudan; the second largest ethnic group in southern Sudan. They practice the Nuer religion although many have been converted to Christianity (usually the Presbyterian church) and some to Islam, and they speak Nuer

OCHA U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, formerly Department of Humanitarian Affairs

OFDA Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development

OLS Operation Lifeline Sudan, a United Nations emergency relief operation for Sudan which began operations in 1989, serving territory controlled by the government and by the rebel forces. It is divided into southern and northern sectors. UNICEF is the lead agency of OLS (Southern Sector) and serves as the umbrella and coordinator for more than forty nongovernmental agencies operating in rebel-held areas of southern Sudan

PDF Popular Defense Forces, an Islamist government-sponsored militia under the jurisdiction of the Sudan army

Rizeigat a Baggara subgroup living in southern Darfur

SPLA-United the name a rebel group based in the Shilluk people of Tonga, Upper Nile formed by Dr. Lam Akol after his February 1994 expulsion by Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon from SPLA-United

SPLM/A Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, the political organization and army of Sudanese rebels formed in 1983, of which Dr. (Colonel) John Garang Mabior is chairman and commander in chief

SRRA Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, relief wing of the SPLM/A

SSIM/A South Sudan Independence Movement/Army; faction of the SPLA, led by Commander Riek Machar, that broke away from the SPLM/A and Garang=s leadership in August 1991. It was based in Nasir, Upper Nile, and for a time was referred to as ASPLA-Nasir.@ On March 27, 1993, others joined it and it was renamed ASPLA-United.@ In November 1994, it was renamed South Sudan Independence Movement/Army. In April 1996 it signed a political charter and in April 1997 a peace agreement with the government. After that, its forces were designated the South Sudan Defense Force whose associated political wing was the UDSF

SSDF South Sudan Defense Force, umbrella group for former rebel factions which entered into a 1997 peace agreement with the government, headed by Dr. Riek Machar

Talisman An independent, Canadian-based international upstream oil and

Energy Inc. gas company with its headquarters in Calgary, Canada, heading an international consortium developing oil resources in Upper Nile and Blue Nile regions of Sudan. Talisman, which acquired Arakis Energy Corporation in October 1998, was formerly British Petroleum Canada and is one of Canada=s largest corporations

UDSF United Democratic Salvation Front, the political umbrella group for ex-rebels headed by Riek Machar

UNCERO U.N. Coordinator for Emergency and Relief Operations in Sudan, based in Khartoum

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund, lead agency for OLS (Southern Sector)

USAID/FEWS United States Agency for International Development/Famine Early Warning System

Umma Party the banned political party which was the senior political party in coalition governments between 1986-89, associated with the traditional Sunni Islamic sect of the Ansar and its spiritual leaders, the Mahdi family

WFP World Food Programme, a United Nations agency headquartered in Rome that supplies foodstuffs in the emergency relief operation in Sudan

WHO World Health Organization


No one knows how many people have died in Sudan=s most recent famine or how many remain at riskCone reason the famine of 1998 was not recognized sooner as the catastrophe it was. But the United Nations estimated that as of July 1998 there were 2.6 million people at risk of starvation in Sudan, out of a total population of about 27 million. This famine was caused and is being perpetuated by human rights abuses by all parties to the civil war, now in its fifteenth year. Indeed, 2.4 million of those at risk of famine were in southern Sudan, the main arena of the war.

Southern Sudan occupies almost one third of the territory of Sudan, which at 2.5 million square kilometers is the largest country in Africa. The largest concentration of the population most vulnerable to the famine is in Bahr El Ghazal, in southwestern Sudan, where the famine of 1988 killed an estimated 250,000 people.

The failure of the international community to respond to the 1988 famine lead to the creation of the United Nations= Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), a cross-border emergency relief program. When the 1998 famine began to take shape, critics charged that OLS failed its original mission to prevent famine. Human Rights Watch=s investigation, conducted during and after an April-May 1998 visit to southern Sudan and Kenya, reveals that the fault lies primarily with Sudanese government and militias and opposition forces that precipitated the famine and deliberately diverted or looted food from the starving or blocked relief deliveries.

Systematic human rights abuses were the direct cause of the famine in Bahr El Ghazal. The famine agents are the government of Sudan, including the muraheleen or militia of the Baggara (Arab cattle nomads), and the rebel Sudan People=s Liberation Army (SPLA). The Dinka warlord Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, who has twice changed sides in one year, provoked famine mostly as the leader of a government militia. The Bahr El Ghazal famine affectedCand continues to assailCapproximately one million people, a majority of them Dinka, the largest ethnic group in Sudan.

The famine thus was not caused by incomprehensible forces. There is a very straightforward story line to the famine, set forth in detail in this report describing the integral role of war-related human rights abuses in causing this famine. It is fair to conclude that, but for these human rights abuses, there would have been no famine in Sudan in 1998.

The civil war is waged by means that expressly violate human rights and humanitarian lawCthe laws of war. The government=s counterinsurgency plan in Bahr El Ghazal, the central Nuba Mountains, and elsewhere is to attack civilians as a means to destroy the rebels social base, displacing, killing, or capturing civilians and stripping them of the meager assets that provide the means of survival in a harsh land. An important instrument of this policy are ethnic militias armed by the government to divide southerners against each other and enable non-southerners to attack southern civilians perceived to support rebel groups. The impoverished Baggara militias who help carry out the plan in Bahr El Ghazal are motivated by the prospect of booty: Dinka cattle, grain, children, and women. The Baggara, who live north of the Bahr al Arab River (which the Dinka call the Kir River), also saw they could freely use the traditional Dinka lands in northern Bahr El Ghazal and southern Kordofan, which have good grazing land and water sources, if the Dinka were displaced from them.

The SPLA=s strategy and tactics also disproportionately affect civilians. In particular, its sieges to force the surrender of government garrison towns and the Ataxation@ of or diversion of relief food from the starving population are abusive of civilians on both sides of the elusive front line.

The government=s divide and conquer militia strategy is applied even in southern areas under control of its allies: in oil-rich Western Upper Nile a Nuer faction has waged a scorched earth campaign against the main ex-rebel army. Both forces are supplied by the government and their fighting has resulted in significant displacement of Nuer from oil areas.

At the height of the 1998 famine, the international community was paying U.S. $ 1 million per day for famine relief, about the same amount the war is estimated to cost the Sudan government. The cost of rebel operations is not known.

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