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The Consequences of the Failed Attempt to Take Wau

The consequences of Kerubino=s defection and attack on Wau were enormous. They provided the excuse for lethal retaliation by government forces against hundreds of Wau residents identified with the SPLA and Kerubino, primarily the Dinka and Jur. This ethnic slaughter went on for approximately twelve days, after the government was clearly in control of the town.

The physical deprivation and dislocation suffered by the escaping Dinka, Jur, and others of Wau, Aweil, and Gogrial was enormous and continues. The fighting was the immediate cause for the government slapping a retaliatory flight ban on much-needed U.N. relief flights into Bahr El Ghazal, and putting these displaced and several hundred thousand other Dinka at risk of starvation for two months and more. Many died. The famine is expected to last until the end of 1999.

Although perhaps 21,000 Dinka former Wau residents (or 30 percent of the 72,000 aid beneficiaries registered in Wau in August 1998) were forced by hunger and muraheleen raids to return to Wau for food by August 1998, they no longer could expect the protection of a Dinka civil servant and police class in Wau. Most of the small educated Dinka middle class in Wau that worked for the government and agenciesCmany of whom had earned college and graduate degrees abroadCleft Wau, as did most of the Dinka wearing government uniforms. This has meant a radical change in the ethnic balance of power inside Wau. It has also provided an infusion of educated people to the rebel side, although they have a lower standard of living there than in Wau, which was by no means good.43

The danger that unrestrained looting and pillagingCpermitted by Kerubino and the SPLA leadershipCposed to military effectiveness was amply demonstrated at Wau. Yet no one seems to have been called to account for this costly lack of discipline and violation of international law. Nor has Kerubino=s long history of brutality that so undermined civilian life in Bahr El Ghazal been punished. Finally, the SPLA=s press statements claiming victory in Wau, Aweil, and Gogrial were unreliable, further undermining credibility.

The fighting in Wau apparently provided the excuse for the Sudan government to follow up the changed balance of ethnic power in Wau with new political appointments to circumvent the unexpected vote against the NIF candidate in the December 1997 governor=s election. Just one month after the fighting, according to various sources, President Bashir named acting governors to take the places of some elected governors and appointed state ministers for those states without consultation with the elected governors. The losing governors were those who were not NIF or Riek candidates.44

A close examination of Khartoum appointments of acting southern governors shows that the elected governors for the ten southern states were sworn in on December 16, 1998, by President Omar El Bashir.45 On February 27, 1998, less than a month after the battle at Wau, President Bashir issued decrees in which Aacting governors@ were named in place of six governors, and many state ministers were appointed.

In Wau, Western Bahr El Ghazal state, Anthony Achor Michael was listed as Aagriculture minister and acting governor,@46 and Governor Charles Julu=s name was missing from the long list of state officials. Of seven ministers in Western Bahr El Ghazal, only three named in that February 1998 decree were supporters of Julu, and the others were Muslims (usually aligned with the NIF government in Wau) or Ain the government=s pocket,@ according to an informed source.47 One minister was Uthman Tamim Fartak, social and cultural affairs minister, the brother of defeated NIF governor Ali Tamim Fartak, still a power in Wau.48

In five southern states in addition to Western Bahr El Ghazal acting governors were also appointed: Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes (Buheirat), Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Bahr El Jabal. There the governors named Aacting@ were not the ones who had won the elections. These decrees do not explain why in six of ten southern states acting governors were named on the same day, February 27, 1998, with no reference to the governors elected just two months prior to that date. Most state ministers were named simultaneously with the acting governors.49

In Upper Nile, where the elected Riek-supported governor, Dr. Timothy Tutlam, died in a plane crash on February 12, 1998, new elections were held on May 22.50

Later in the year, some elected governors resurfaced. Riek Machar, head of the SSCC, said in July that the governors of all ten southern states, most of whom were based in Khartoum, had been told to move immediately to their own areas and operate from there.51 In August, Charles Julu was back in Wau, with the title of governor and struggling with a burgeoning death rate among returned and displaced Dinka;52 he had spent several months in Khartoum after his house was attacked by government forces during the battle for Wau.

In Northern Bahr El Ghazal, the official residence of elected governor Kwac Makuei, who had been backed by Riek, was attacked by what the press called Aunidentified gunmen,@ who killed thirteen men (twelve bodyguards and a civilian). Kwac was in Khartoum at the time, in June 1998, and another had been named acting governor in his place in February (Zakariya Ngor Ngor, also named health minister).53 Riek Machar, in an open letter to President Bashir, blamed these Aextremely dangerous and bloody events@ in Aweil on Asome armed elements of the government.@54

Although the government and its SSDF allies retained military control of Wau, Gogrial, and Aweil, its first vice president Zubeir and several other high-ranking officials involved with the southern government-directed peace process, including Dr. Timothy Tutlam and Arok Thon Arok, died in a plane crash on February 12, 1998, in Nasir in southern Sudan. They were on a tour of southern garrison towns to reassure government stalwarts that Kerubino=s defection to the SPLA was not a serious setback to the government=s war (or peace from within) policy. Zubeir was the government signatory to the Political Charter and Peace Agreement, and was considered a vital link between the army and the NIF.

The burial of one crash victim, Arok Thon Arok, a Dinka army officer and former SPLA commander who signed the Peace Agreement, turned into an undignified religious tug-of-war over the body. NIF officials in Khartoum, including NIF leader Hassan al Turabi, tried to claim Arok Thon Arok=s body for Islamic burial on the grounds that he had converted to Islam, while his relatives denied any conversion and insisted on a Christian burial. The family won.55 This episode provides another illustration of the tensions that plague the relations between the NIF and its southern non-Muslim allies.

With Kerubino=s defection, southerner and national assembly member Angelo Beda was appointed deputy chairman of the SSCC in his place.56 Beda, however, did not have the cachet of being an SPLA commander who had turned his back on the SPLA and made peace with the government. Beda was a civil servant long loyal to the governments in Khartoum.

43 "Rural Bahr El Ghazal Benefits from Sophisticated, Displaced Town Talent,@ Sudan Democratic Gazette, Year IX, No. 101 (London), October 1998, p. 10 (AThe rural areas are now benefitting from the talents and experience of educated people who have been forced to flee into the countryside from the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime controlled towns. These educated people are helping the local people to cope with the trauma of war and famine and are proving their worth in practice.@); David Fox, ASudan intellectuals try to keep mind, body alive,@ Reuters, Turalei, Sudan, March 6, 1998.

44 See Confidential report on Wau, April 1998.

45 "Sudan=s President Calls for Peace, National Unity,@ Xinhua, Khartoum, December 16, 1997. Those sworn in were Charles Julu (Western Bahr El Ghazal), Kwac Makuei (Northern Bahr El Ghazal), Nikora Magar Achiek (Lakes or Buheirat), Arop Achier Akol (Warab), Taban Deng Gai (Unity or Wihda), Dr. Timothy Tutlam (Upper Nile, formerly head of Relief Association for Southern Sudan, relief arm of SSIM/A), Riek Gai Kok (Jonglei, head of RASS prior to Dr. Tutlam), Henry Jada (Bahr El Jabal), Abdalla Kapelo (Eastern Equatoria), and Isaiah Paul (Western Equatoria). See Appendix E.

46 APresident Bashir Names New Southern States= Governments,@ Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, February 27, 1998, in Arabic, BBC Monitoring Service: Middle East, March 2, 1998.

47 Confidential report on Wau, April 1998.

48 APresident Bashir Names New Southern States= Governments,@ Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, February 27, 1998, in Arabic; in English, BBC Monitoring Service: Middle East.

49 Compare ANew Governors Elected in Southern States,@ SUNA, Khartoum, in English, December 4, 1997, BBC Monitoring Service: Middle East, with APresident Bashir Names New Southern States= Governments,@ February 27, 1998.

50 AMango Ajack Elected Wali of Upper Nile State,@ SUNA News Agency, Malakal, Sudan, May 24, 1998. Lam Akol, who by then was appointed Transportation Minister, did not contest these elections.

51 Alfred Taban, APro-government factions clash in Sudan,@ Reuters, Khartoum, July 7, 1998.

52 Mohammed Osman, ARefugees from Famine in Sudan Town,@ Associated Press (AP), Wau, Sudan, August 13, 1998.

53 AThirteen die in attack on south Sudanese governor=s residence,@ AFP, Khartoum, June 18, 1998.

54 Letter, Riek to Bashir, Appendix F.

55 ASudanese Religions Clash at State Funeral,@ All Africa News Association (AANA), Khartoum, February 24, 1998; ASudanCPolitical Plane Crash,@ Africa Confidential (London), February 20, 1998.

56 See Mohamed Ali Saeed,AConflicts rage on in Sudan, despite humanitarian crises,@ AFP, Khartoum, July 29, 1998.

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