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From May to September 1999, the government continued to fight behind its Nuer militia headed by Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep and his zonal commander Peter Gatdet. This militia received weapons and other assistance from the government army. Their enemy, Riek Machar’s SSDF, in turn received ammunition from the SPLA as of June 1999, marking the first material rapprochement between the SPLA and Riek Machar’s forces since the SPLM/A split in 1991.

The SSDF forces did not then join the SPLM/A, but their realignment to an anti-government position in Western Upper Nile/Unity State marked the first step in what took two and a half years to become a formal reconciliation with the SPLM/A. It was only one of many realignments of Nuer forces that are ongoing as of the writing of this report.

At the time, this first step was significant. The second significant realignment of Nuer forces took place only a few months later, also seemingly provoked by the government’s attempts to monopolize oil pumped from Nuer territory. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, who beginning in early 1999 led Paulino Matiep’s marauding pro-government militia through Block 5A, mutinied from Paulino in September 1999. Peter Gatdet captured the Mankien base, with its stores of ammunition and weapons. Most of Paulino Matiep’s Bul Nuer soldiers mutinied with him, leaving Paulino with a shell of a militia.

Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s mostly Bul and Leek Nuer troops, poised in Block 4, their home area, were in an excellent position to take the war to the GNPOC oilfields—as Paulino Matiep had been to block Dinka/SPLA forces from reaching these oilfields. In late 1999, Peter Gatdet’s troops turned around toward the oilfields and conducted ambushes that took the lives of several Sudanese, both oil workers and government soldiers, as army displacement from Block 1continued. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet did not consistently attack the oilfields, however, but became distracted by intra-Nuer fighting in which the government armed one side and the SPLM/A armed the other.

In early November 1999 many Nuer commanders made peace, including Peter Gatdet and Tito Biel, and formed an Upper Nile Provisional United Military Command Council (UMCC). Only Paulino Matiep and three other commanders remained of the pro-government Nuer militia in Upper Nile at the end of 1999; only one of them, Gabriel Tanginya, was in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, on the far eastern edge.

Rapprochement Between the SPLM/A and SSDF 1999

The government oil offensive of 1999 pushed some previously opposing southern forces back into alliance with one another. In his speech marking SPLA Day in May 1999, John Garang spoke of his willingness to welcome back all those who left the movement in 1991:

I wish to inform you that early this week, I personally talked over the HF [high frequency] radio with Cdr Tito Biel [of Riek Machar’s SSDF], who is leading the resistance against the NIF [National Islamic Front, referring to the National Congress party in power in Khartoum] in Bentiu, and I have given him, and all those with him, my personal assurances and congratulations for the patriotic action they have taken to stop the robbery and vandalization of the Bentiu Oil by the NIF regime.613

When the SSDF commanders were defeated by the government and its Paulino Matiep militia in May 1999 and pushed out of Western Upper Nile/Unity State, Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek was sent to Bahr El Ghazal to see if the SPLM/A could assist them against the government.614 The SPLA provided ammunition on two occasions in 1999 to the SSDF Tito Biel forces.615

This was a significant development because, since the split in the SPLM/A eight years earlier, the two forces fought against each other much more than they had fought against the Sudanese government. Now, the SPLA was providing ammunition to the breakaway faction—that was technically on the government side—to attack the government.

This realignment was the result of many factors, chief among them that the SSDF, its political wing the UDSF, and its leader head Riek Machar no longer trusted the government to live up to its agreement and share resources with them. Despite this new cooperation, however, SSDF Cmdr. Tito Biel did not join the SPLM/A but maintained a separate SSDF command. The SPLA did not send any forces into the Nuer area to participate in the fighting, for political/ethnic reasons—until Nuer Cmdr. Peter Gatdet joined them in early 2000 and the SPLA had “its” sizeable Nuer forces.

When Human Rights Watch asked Cmdr. Tito Biel if Riek Machar, still in Khartoum, knew and approved of the new relationship with the SPLA, he stated that Riek Machar had not been asked about this SPLA cooperation because “when we are facing a problem in the field we cannot wait for Dr. Riek. We go to our brothers [southerners in the SPLA] and share our problem.” 616

Obviously, deniability was important for Riek Machar, the assistant to the president of Sudan, who remained in Khartoum with SSDF Chief of Staff Elijah Hon Top, ostensibly not fully informed of the activities of their commanders in the field—although their spokesmen were engaged in a war of press releases with the government on the progress of the fighting.617 They fully understood the big picture, however, as Elijah Hon Top made clear: “[T]he Arabs want Paulino [Matiep] to be in control of the oilfields. He is the only loyal one. With our forces, they suspect we will not provide the necessary security. The current fighting came because of that. We claim the oil should be exploited with our participation.”618

Renewed Fighting in Block 5A, July 1999

As the government was gearing up for the first export of crude oil, the fighting flared up again in Block 5A, which the government had just cleared of “rebel” SSDF. In a surprise move, Cmdr. Tito Biel of the SSDF, having secured ammunition from the SPLA, launched an offensive on July 3, 1999, in an effort to roll back Paulino Matiep’s pro-government militia occupying strategic parts of Block 5A. As Agence France-Presse noted on July 6: “Fighting has resumed between two pro-government factions in a dispute over the right to guard oilfields in southern Sudan’s Al-Wihda [Unity] state, one of the rivals said Tuesday.”619

Within a week, Cmdr. Tito Biel’s forces pushed their opponents back almost to their headquarters in Mankien. The fighting was in the opposite direction from its southerly May trajectory: in July, the SSDF went on the offensive north to Ler then to Duar, Koch, Boaw, and Nhialdiu, all in a matter of days.620 On July 9, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep withdrew to Wangkei, and then to a place four hours from Mankien, safe in Bul Nuer territory.621

On July 8, 1999, the outbreak of fighting prevented the delivery of food to all 16,000 civilians deemed needy in Bentiu. On July 10, WFP and NGO personnel were evacuated from Bentiu for security reasons.622

The WFP feared “a worsening humanitarian crisis as it is unable to deliver urgent relief assistance to tens of thousands of people trapped by the fighting” further inside Western Upper Nile/Unity State. The WFP said:

WFP is extremely concerned for thousands who left their homes last month [June 1999] for safety and moved further inside Western Upper Nile as they are now even more difficult to reach. WFP is also worried that thousands who moved towards the bordering areas of northwestern Bahr El Ghazal and Jonglei will put extra strain on these areas still suffering from last year’s [1998] devastating famine and floods.623

At the same time, the medical emergency agency Médecins du Monde (MDM), which had a long history of working in Mankien, evacuated its staff from that town as a precautionary measure.624 As a result, it was able to immunize only 2,000 children against a measles outbreak, a small proportion of those exposed.625

At that point, with Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep withdrawing to his home area, the government army intervened. Wangkei is a key garrison town in Block 4 where two tributaries of the Nile meet southwest of Bentiu.626 These tributaries have been geographical obstacles to a military attack from the south (Bahr El Ghazal) on the GNPOC oilfields, and vice-versa, to a military attack from government bases in Western Upper Nile/Unity State on Bahr El Ghazal.

The government used Antonov aircraft and—for the first time in Western Upper Nile/Unity State—helicopter gunships to push the SSDF back from the garrison at Wangkei.627

At the same time as the agencies were pulling out of Bentiu and government planes were brought in to stop the rebel advance, Paulino Matiep’s forces moved to “clean up” Bentiu. The UDSF/SSDF alleged that Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces went through another round of killings and abductions or arrests of UDSF civilian supporters in Bentiu on July 11-12, 1999. According to former Gov. Taban Deng and others, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s agents abducted two UDSF (Riek Machar) state ministers from Bentiu: Choge Kiir de Juch, Minister of Social Affairs and Information (Pariang Dinka), and Lewis Keah Madut, Minister of Engineering Affairs (Bul Nuer). The agents were also alleged to have abducted Tang Gatket, a chief; Zaki Yarang, the (Dinka) commissioner of Pariang province; and two Dinka traders. All were reportedly taken from their homes at midnight on July 11-12. The two state ministers were allegedly killed by army or Paulino Matiep forces; the commissioner of Pariang was said to be wounded and in the hospital.

The Riek Machar camp believed that these UDSF/SSDF followers were killed in retaliation for, or anger because of, Cmdr. Tito Biel’s July 3 surprise attack on the government/Paulino Matiep forces in Ler in Block 5A. Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s spokesperson denied the charges of assassination. 628 Human Rights Watch interviewed a former captive, (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, appointed in 2000 by Riek Machar as governor of the area. Governor Simon said many of the captives were killed and that only he and ten others had survived. They were freed in September 1999 by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet when he mutinied and captured the Mankien base.629

The SSDF, again out of ammunition, started the long run south back to Nyal, chased by the government’s Antonovs and gunships through Nhialdiu, Boaw, Duar, and Koch, on July 11 and 12, 1999. At least eleven civilians reportedly were killed, including two children, and many cattle. Taban Dengin Khartoum denounced government bombing on BBC radio,630 which either stopped then or was already over.

On July 10, after it began its rollback of SSDF Cmdr. Tito Biel’s forces at Wangkei, the government imposed a relief flight ban on Western Upper Nile/Unity State with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.631 Meanwhile, the continued fighting in Block 5A during July 1999 forced thousands more civilians to flee to remote areas where the OLS (Southern Sector) was not able to investigate or assist them.632 Nor could relief officials from the northern sector help, as Bentiu and Rubkona, and the Bahr El Jebel river along the Adok corridor, were declared no-go areas for all U.N. staff.633

Cmdr. Tito Biel managed one more military round with the government forces/Paulino Matiep militia in August 1999, with the same results: running out of ammunition, he had to fall back again and the cycle of displacement continued.

Khartoum Peace Agreement Talks Fail Again

On August 17, 1999, a UDSF spokesman said that talks to salvage the Khartoum Peace Agreement had only widened the gap between the government and Riek Machar’s forces. He threatened that Riek Machar would leave the government unless the situation improved.634 The Khartoum Peace Agreement’s Southern States Coordinating Council , of which Riek Machar was president, had been unable to pay the salaries of its employees for three months, because the government had kept it short of cash; the government also terminated the incentives promised to former rebels, about 50,000 Sudanese pounds each.635 Cutting off Riek Machar’s ability to pay his many followers and their dependent large families seemed designed to pressure him to bring his forces into line.636 Neither that nor a “national dialogue” conference worked.637

Pro-Government Militia Commander Peter Gatdet Mutinies Against Paulino Matiep and Government, September 1999

In September 1999, the government’s most active Nuer proxy, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, whose militia had borne the brunt of the 1998-1999 fighting against the SSDF on behalf of the government, was deserted by most of his SSUM/A troops. His number two, Zonal Cmdr. Peter Gatdet,638 mutinied, capturing the Paulino Matiep garrison and arms depot at Mankien and taking several thousand officers and troops (Bul and Leek Nuer) with him. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet was said to have withdrawn the government-supplied ammunition and weapons to Rupnyagai and Nhialdiu. Paulino Matiep’s prisoners held in Mankien—some captured during July 1999 from their homes in Bentiu—were freed by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, according to one of them.639

Coupled with the SSDF (Tito Biel)’s quiet realignment with the SPLA, the Peter Gatdet mutiny radically changed the military and political equation in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, causing a sizeable increase in the number of anti-government Nuer forces and leaving the government with far fewer Nuer troops to act as its proxies in this oil area.640

Once again, conflict over oil was implicated in the new fighting. Reportedly, the Gatdet mutiny was blamed in part on Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep (that is, the government) for “not giving pro-government militias salaries and part of the oil revenue.”641 Cmdr. Peter Gatdet told the London-based Financial Times that:

The government of Sudan is occupying our land and destroying our people because of this oil. . . . Wherever oil is found, they refer to it as an asset for the whole country; then they remove it from the people. There is complete displacement. . . . I made this move so I can attract the attention of other South Sudanese, so we can all come together and face a common enemy . . . . We have given enough warnings. If the oil companies don’t leave, we will attack the fields and make them go.642

Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s shelling of Bentiu in September 1999 forced the WFP to suspend food distributions in the government garrison town for the week of September 19-25, adversely affecting thousands of needy civilians both in the town and as far as Ruweng County, where planned aid deliveries from Bentiu were canceled.643

The WFP and OLS received reports of bombings of Mankien on September 18 and 19,644 most likely part of a government effort to retake the base. Civilians were injured and some killed, including some who had already been displaced from Mayom and were sheltering in Mankien. The government of Sudan denied flight access to Mankien and Nhialdiu from September 23 until the end of the month,645 an indication that it did not control either town. The fighting forced many families to abandon cultivation of their lands. Families depending on small family granaries outside of Bentiu found their granaries burned down.646

Cmdr. Peter Gatdet targeted Mayom also, a government garrison town with a shrinking civilian population. On September 29, shelling was reported there, and civilians fled. Peter Gatdet’s forces shelled Bentiu again in late September, fighting to within three kilometers of that garrison town, where Peter Gatdet’s former commander, Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, put up resistance.647 Relief organizations suspended all food aid to Mayom, and rations began to run out in special feeding programs for children in Bentiu and Rubkona.648

Clashes between Cmdr. Peter Gatdet and the government in October 1999 caused civilians to continue to flee from the garrison towns of Bentiu (Block 1) and Mayom (Block 4) to Rupnyagai (Block 4), Nhialdiu, Boaw, and Dorkhan (all Block 5A).649 Even after arriving in these areas, these and other internally displaced people were unable to cultivate because of spreading insecurity.650 The relief agencies predicted a severe food deficit would arise, starting with the hunger gap period—the time between planting and harvest—of April to September 2000.651

Fighting was heating up further south in Western Upper Nile/Unity State. On September 28, 1999, SSDF forces remaining around Ler (which they gradually lost and never managed to retake) claimed that they had wiped out a company of Sudan armed forces at the Piliny bridge between Ler and Adok, capturing two non-commissioned officers.652 In early October, Chief Magai Reat Wuor, a Nuer chief elected to the Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace Council at the Wunlit conference, was summarily executed between Koch and Ler by government troops under the command of Paulino Matiep, according to the New Sudan Council of Churches.653

Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s Troops Attack Oil Areas and Oilrig in Block 1, October 1999

Cmdr. Peter Gatdet had in the past blocked the advance of rebels to the oil areas. Now he turned his troops around and used the strategic position of the Bul Nuer to threaten the GNPOC oil operations. Relief agencies reported fighting in several locations in Western Upper Nile/Unity State in the week of October 11-17, marking a deterioration in security conditions. OLS security put almost all Western Upper Nile/Unity State locations off limits (“red no-go”).654 Then, after attacking a number of government positions in Blocks 1 and 4, Peter Gatdet lived up to the threat that he would target oil facilities there. In mid-October 1999, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s troops attacked an oilrig in Talisman’s Unity field. According to the SSDF, this was a diversionary strike to lure reinforcements to the rig. Among the reinforcements was a military vehicle that ran over an anti-tank landmine in the road laid by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces. The landmine killed three Sudanese government soldiers, two of them officers.655

Neither Talisman nor GNPOC issued any statement regarding the military attack on what Talisman later told Human Rights Watch was its “Mobile Rig 15” inside the concession. A few months after the incident, Talisman’s CEO Jim Buckee essentially agreed with the rebel version of events. He said it was his understanding that the attack on Mobile Rig 15 occurred on October 15, 1999, at night. Twenty or so intruders opened fire and the army soldiers stationed at the rig responded, according to Buckee. The shooting lasted about twenty minutes, and the intruders withdrew, leaving one of their own dead behind. Also killed were two Sudanese oil workers, employees of a subcontractor. Another Sudanese employee was injured in the buttocks by a bullet. Buckee confirmed that two or three Sudanese military men died when their vehicle ran over a landmine nearby, as they came to reinforce the soldiers at the rig.656

The OLS noted fighting on October 15 near Mayom.657 An SSDF press release announced that Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces had badly beaten the Protectors of the Oil Brigade (Liwa Hamma al Bitarol) when it tried to come out of Mayom garrison on October 19. The SSDF claimed most government soldiers in the brigade were killed or wounded, some being drowned in the river.658

Meanwhile, the OLS reported that shelling was “ongoing” in Bentiu and surrounding areas,659 and travelers arriving in Khartoum from Bentiu on October 21 told the press that Cmdr. Peter Gatdet was “bombarding” Bentiu. But Talisman said that its oil output was unaffected by the reported attacks on Bentiu and other garrison towns in its concession. 660 In a further denial, CEO Buckee said, “I don’t know anything about it, and it seems unlikely because nobody down there has got any artillery.”661 But both the Sudanese government and the SPLA had artillery, as reported by agencies, travelers, and weapons experts.662

Government Recruitment and Diplacement in the Oilfields, October 1999

Government Army Displaces Athonj and Other Villages Near El Toor Oilfield, Block 1, 1999

Beginning in or before 1996, the army and government militias had gradually displaced the Athonj-Pagoi line of villages closest to Heglig, where Talisman had its base, in an area known as the El Toor oilfield (Block 2). By May 1999, according to a report of the Canadian government human rights delegation led by John Harker, these villages had been destroyed and their residents dispersed. Athonj/El Toor village itself was reportedly moved a few kilometers north of its original location.663

When personnel of the California-based nongovernmental organization Safe Harbor and a journalist flew into the relief airstrip in the rebel-held area of Biem in November 1999, they found about 2,000 ragged, starving, and disease-stricken displaced people, who said the army had recently forcibly “evacuated” them from Athonj and Gumriak. These areas, located northwest of the Biem relief airstrip, were within thirty-seven kilometers (seventeen miles) of Talisman’s rigs, according to the residents.

“Government officials came and told us, ‘We don’t want anybody here, this is not your place any more because we have business to do here,’” according to Dhunya Chan, an ex-resident of Athonj. Chan said that three days after the warning, the army arrived on foot and in helicopters and started dragging people out of their homes. His mother-in-law was killed during this October 1999 attack, along with seven others in the village. The government troops then burned the villages to make way for the oil development, the former residents said,664 despite the fact that many Athonj residents had already been displaced one time before for the same reason.665

Talisman’s own report bears out the destruction of Athonj village. Talisman commissioned satellite images that purported to prove that there was no displacement from its areas. The image-reader of satellite images taken between 1965 to 2000, however, specifically noted that in the Athonj/El Toor area in Block 1, early images showed a human habitation at Athonj—but few traces of it were observed in the 2000 satellite photo of the same site. Another new indigenous strip village was located in 2000 for the first time, in another place in the same oil region, tending to bear out the testimony that the village was removed.666

Calls for Mujahedeen Volunteers

In response to the threat posed by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s mutiny, and before the wet season ended in 1999, the government began recruiting more young “volunteers” from universities for the Popular Defence Force (PDF) militias, keeping its Islamist rhetoric high and its coercive tools sharp.667 At a PDF ceremony in October 1999, President Bashir warned against anarchy and vowed to continue in the path of jihad668 and martyrdom. PDF coordinating director Ali Ahmad Karti read out the names of the brigades that had been sent to the field, including the “Protectors of the Oil Brigade,” and promised that more brigades would be created.669 The minister of defense, as well as other high-ranking military officers and police, attended the ceremony.670

The same month, the president waved the nationalist flag and warned of expected U.S. aggression, accusing the U.S. of trying to block Sudan’s development. He claimed that the exploration of Sudan’s oilfields did not please the U.S. Every ministry and institution therefore had to provide a certain unspecified number of people to the PDF.671

Nuer Peace Talks; Formation of the Upper Nile Provisional Military Command Council, November 1999

In an attempt to end the fighting once and for all between Bul and other Nuer in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, a New Sudan Council of Churches peace team met with civilian and military leaders in Wicok, Western Upper Nile, on October 10, 1999. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, recently defected from the Paulino Matiep militia, was present, as was Cmdr. Tito Biel of the SSDF, his former rival. Their discussions reportedly made progress. This was to be a prelude to a longer meeting. Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep was not present. Shortly after the international press on October 15 reported this peace meeting in Wicok, the government bombed Wicok, despite a government ceasefire with the SPLM/A that covered this area. The OLS contemporaneously noted that the Wicok airstrip was hit and rendered unusable on October 17.672

In late October, there were further peace talks which included Paulino Matiep. The Riek Machar UDSF/SSDF, however, accused Paulino Matiep of summarily executing twenty-five SSDF officers in Bentiu on October 31, 1999, during ceasefire discussions. Paulino Matiep denied these allegations and said that some SSDF forces had died in combat when they attacked the town.673

In November 1999 there were further peace talks among the Nuer. One effort to reconcile the Lou Nuer was sponsored by the New Sudan Council of Churches. The Lou Nuer are the most numerous Nuer ethnic group, and live on the East Bank of the Nile.674 After six months of prepatory work that culminated in a seven-day peace and governance conference in Waat, Upper Nile, from November 1-7, 1999, the conference issued a number of resolutions. The participants elected the Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Council to rebuild the entire civil administration structure from the bottom up, in theory surpassing what had been done at Wunlit.675

Separately, there was a meeting of Lou and non-Lou Nuer military commanders on November 2-4 at Waat.676 They formed a military command council, the Upper Nile Provisional United Military Command Council (UMCC), which was to have supreme military authority over all their forces in Upper Nile. Participants included commanders or former commanders of Riek Machar’s SSDF,677 the SPLM/A,678 and pro-government militias including that of Paulino Matiep. This group included some forces that had already been informally cooperating with each other.

According to the joint statement that followed the meeting, these Nuer commanders discussed the fighting in Western Upper Nile/Unity State and the Sudanese government’s on-going production and export of oil from southern Sudan. The SSDF “de-linked itself from the . . . government” as of November 4, 1999. The commanders declared war on the government and a willingness to join forces with others fighting against the government. Their platform, unlike that of the SPLM/A, called for an independent south. Regarding Riek Machar, they “recognised the fact that he can no longer play any role” in the Upper Nile military situation, as he remained in Khartoum.679

Participants also formed a new political arm of the UMCC; it was named the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) after a similar political movement supporting southern independence during the Anyanya war (1955-72).680 Dr. Michael Wal Duany became chair of the Interim Executive Committee of the new SSLM.681 Although he spoke for the SSLM as early as December 1999, its existence was not formally announced until January 31, 2000.682

Fighting Continues between Southern Rebels and Government in Blocks 1 and 4, November 1999

While peace talks were taking place among Nuer on the East Bank of the Nile, fighting between Nuer government and rebel groups continued on the West Bank, around the oilfields. An SSDF military source claimed that SSDF forces killed at least 300 government soldiers in the two weeks starting November 10, 1999. Allegedly, government troops fired on the SSDF “without provocation” in Rubkona, a Block 1 garrison town, killing ten civilians and wounding twelve. The SSDF retaliated by ambushing government forces in Fangak on Zeraf Island (Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya’s area), some sixty-two miles east of Bentiu, on November 12.683

The situation in Bentiu was deemed “tenuous” by the OLS, and intensified conflict occurred around Wangkei and Mayom garrison towns. The U.N. told northern sector agencies to stay inside Bentiu and Rubkona and scale staff down to a minimum.684

In mid-November 1999, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s troops attacked three military barges proceeding upriver from Malakal with reinforcements for Wangkei—a key garrison protecting GNPOC installations. Despite precautions, the barges were stuck in the sudd, or thick vegetation, in the river three hours east of Bentiu.685 Peter Gatdet’s rebel troops attacked them there.686

The barges were escorted by pro-government Nuer militia forces led by Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya, based in Fangak, and Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep. Their troops walked on both sides of the river, looting civilians of cattle and goods. The barges finally made it to their destinations, government army troops disembarked, and food was offloaded for the garrison. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet nevertheless claimed that his forces inflicted heavy losses on the government side.687 The militias stayed in Wangkei some weeks and on their return set fire to vegetation at several places along the river to clear civilians and rebels away from the river’s edge. Because of prior displacements, few residents remained on the north bank of the river (formerly Leek and Western Jikany Nuer territory). The troops dislodged and burned the tukls of many people living along the more populated south bank of the river.688

The Canadian human rights delegation led by John Harker visiting Sudan in December 1999 interviewed twelve head chiefs who had fled that area with their people. The team interviewed them near Nhialdiu in Block 5A, just over the line from Block 4. They were all certain about the reason for their plight: “We are going to lose our lives for oil,” one civilian predicted.689 Referring to their displacement, burned houses, disease, and dead children, he said:

The discovery of oil has caused these problems—before, in the 1970/80s, the Arabs weren’t able to exploit the oil but now they can with the help of the west. The Arabs are united against us and want to push us out. We blame the Christian community because the war is being made a religious war. Why is the Christian world not helping us?

He also asked: “Aren’t we included in the human rights of the world?”690

Another simply stated to the Canadians, “By the time your report is out we will be dead. The [government of Sudan] will kill us because you visited.”691 Indeed, government attacks on Nhialdiu (Block 5A) continued, and it was burned to the ground—again—in 2000 and 2002, when it was captured by the government.

613 SPLA News Agency (SPLANA), “Message to the Sudanese People on the Occasion of the SPLM/SPLA 16th Anniversary,” by Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Nairobi, May 18, 1999 (text of radio message).

614 Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek attended Wunlit as part of the Khartoum delegation sent by Riek Machar. Most of the SSDF officers already knew the SPLA officers, since most of them had been in the SPLM/A from 1983 until 1991, and had trained and/or fought together with them.

615 Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999. Cmdr. Salva Kiir, chief of staff of SPLA, approved the request in the period of June-August 1999. SPLA Chief of Staff Cmdr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, August 11, 2000. There were two shipments. Thomas Duoth, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, August 23, 1999; Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000.

616 Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999.

617 Although in August 1999 Tito Biel said that Riek Machar had not been fully informed that the SSDF had accepted ammunition from its erstwhile enemy, the SPLA, a year later Riek Machar contradicted his commander Tito Biel and claimed that he had authorized it and controlled it all along. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000. It is clear that Tito Biel understood his blanket orders from Riek Machar to be: do not let the Khartoum government take control of the Block 5A oilfields; we (the SSDF) are to protect all territory south of Bentiu. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999.

618 Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999.

619 “Fighting resumes near southern Sudan oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999.

620 SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999. U.N. OLS (Southern Sector) received reports of fighting on July 5 in the Duar, Koch, and Ler areas. U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 5-11, 1999,” Nairobi, July 11, 1999.

621 Makuac Youk, spokesman in Khartoum for the SSDF, said that the SSDF had killed two hundred and captured 109 of Paulino Matiep’s forces. SSDF Chief of Staff Elijah Hon Top announced that his troops had recaptured all the positions lost in May in Ler and Rubkona. Joseph Manytuil, an aide to Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, confirmed only heavy fighting in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, and accused the SPLA of supporting the SSDF with troops. (There was no evidence that SPLA troops participated in this fighting. The SPLA soldiers are predominantly Dinka and, despite Wunlit, would risk attack by hastily combined Nuer forces if they ventured into Nuer home territory. At that time, there were no units of West Bank Nuer in the SPLM/A aside from those of Cmdr. Philip Bapiny who defected in late 1998. There was no indication that Philip Bapiny’s forces were involved in the mid-1999 fighting.) “Fighting Resumes Near Southern Sudan Oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Pro-government groups fight in south Sudan,” Reuters, Khartoum, July 6, 1999; “Fighting resumes near southern Sudan oilfields,” AFP, Khartoum, July 6, 1999.

622 U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999,” Khartoum, July 14, 1999.

623 WFP News Release, “150,000 Trapped by Renewed Fighting in Sudan’s Western Upper Nile Region,” Nairobi, July 10, 1999.

624 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 5 July – 11 July, 1999.”

625 “Conflict prevents vaccination of 50,000 Sudanese children,” AFP, Nairobi, July 20, 1999.

626 The tributaries are the Bahr al Arab River, coming from the northwest, and the Bahr El Ghazal River from the south. They become one Bahr el Ghazal (Nam) River at Wangkei.

627 Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999. Cmdr. Tito Biel said the Antonovs came out of El Obeid, twice a day for seven days, and the two helicopter gunships came out of Bentiu. One of them reportedly bombed Nhialdiu when an ICRC plane was on the ground. According to an SSDF officer, in mid-July 1999 the SSDF shot down a helicopter en route from Mankien to Rubkona, but the government claimed mechanical failure. Tito Biel and his commanders did not know the name of the helicopters but described the gunships as having two propellers, one on the body and one on the tail, the larger propeller having five blades. The wheels withdrew when the helicopters took off, and they were painted camouflage. Each carried twelve gunners and two pilots. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999; SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999. This helicopter gunship is probably the Mi-24 Hind gunship, a Soviet product. According to Military Balance 1999-2000 (Oxford, U.K.: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1999), p. 276, Sudan then had four Mi-24Bs and five Mi-35s (export version), nine in all, of which only six were believed to be in working order. The “ordinary” helicopters, seen as they transported ammunition and arms to Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, were white and large. Tito Biel, interview, August 19, 1999.

628 Human Rights Watch asked Sudan’s minister of justice in late July 1999 if the reported killings of the two state ministers and others in Bentiu had been or were going to be investigated, and if those against whom there was evidence would be tried. The minister of justice replied that it was not possible to investigate such allegations because it was “too dangerous” for his staff to go to Bentiu, which he called a war zone. The undersecretary of foreign affairs told Human Rights Watch, in response to the same question, “This is a political problem. Steps are being taken.” Human Rights Watch received no response to requests to meet the military officials who might have knowledge of these events. If there was an investigation, its results were never publicized. Elijah Hon Top, interview, July 26, 1999; Ali Yassin, minister of justice, Human Rights Watch interview, Khartoum, August 3, 1999; Hassan Abdin, undersecretary of foreign affairs, Human Rights Watch interview, Khartoum, August 3, 1999. See also, U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999;” Alfred Taban, “Two Regional Officials Killed in South Sudan Feud,” Reuters, Khartoum, July 13, 1999.

629 (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, UDSF/SSDF governor of Western Upper Nile, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 6, 2001. He said Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep captured him and forty-six Riek Machar supporters in Bentiu in July 1999. They were taken to the jail in Mankien, where Simon was approached by Ibrahim Shamsa El Din who urged him to “abandon the cause of the south,” and speak out for unity. Ibid. Gen. Shamsa El Din, one of the chief architects of the war in the south, died in 2001 in a military air accident.

630 The UDSF was still a registered political party and its officials held government posts, so apparently the local press was not reluctant to quote them. At the time, there was an opening in free speech in Khartoum. SSDF officer, interview, August 3, 1999.

631 WFP press release, “150,000 Trapped by Renewed Fighting . . . ,” July 10, 1999; “Sudan flight ban sparks fear of humanitarian crisis,” AFP, Nairobi, July 27, 1999.

632 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 5 July – 11 July, 1999;” “Conflict prevents vaccination of 50,000 Sudanese children,” AFP, Nairobi, July 20, 1999.

633 U.N. OLS (Northern Sector), “Weekly Report: July 14, 1999.”

634 “Dialogue Breaks Down between Khartoum, Pro-government Party,” AFP, Khartoum, August 17, 1999

635 Nhial Bol, “Former Rebels Threaten to Quit Sudan’s Islamic Regime,” IPS, Khartoum, August 16, 1999. This article gives the rate of 1,700 Sudanese pounds per U.S. $ 1, making the incentive worth U.S. $ 29. The small amount of money at stake illustrates the poverty of the country and the low value assigned to former rebels. On July 31, 1999, one month prior to commencement of oil export, Sudan officially changed its currency from the Sudanese pound to the Sudanese dinar, which was worth ten times the pound. “Sudan Switches from Pound to Dinar,” AFP, Khartoum, July 31, 1999.

636 A top National Congress official, Ali Tamin Fartak (of the African Fertit people, former NIF/NC governor of Western Bahr El Ghazal), urged Riek Machar to abandon the UDSF and join the government party, the National Congress, if he wanted the 1997 accord to be implemented. Nhial Bol, “Former Rebels Threaten to Quit Sudan’s Islamic Regime,” IPS, Khartoum, August 16, 1999. Many NIF/NC members were still resentful that Riek Machar had withdrawn from the National Congress in early 1999 to form another political party, the UDSF––although he immediately registered the party with the government, which many opposition parties refused to do.

637 “War-torn Sudan Takes Step toward National Dialogue,” Reuters, Khartoum, August 21, 1999.

638 Peter Gatdet, a Bul Nuer, was a soldier in the Sudanese army who was sent for a one-year term of service with the Iraqi army during the 1980-88 war with Iran, on account of which he was nicknamed “the Iraqi.” He earned a reputation for artillery prowess later. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet was serving in the east during 1998 and was only transferred back to Western Upper Nile/Unity State, his place of origin, in 1999. Relief official, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 5, 2001.

639 (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, interview, April 6, 2001. Cmdr. Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, a veteran of Anyanya, then officer in the Sudanese army, then a founder of the SPLM/A who defected to the government—and a gross abuser of human rights—died in the course of Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s mutiny in Mankien. Kerubino had burned his bridges to both the government and the SPLM/A by then. He went to his relative by marriage, Paulino Matiep, for refuge. Kerubino was in Mankien when Peter Gatdet captured the base. Kerubino reportedly was delayed leaving Mankien because Paulino Matiep was trying to negotiate for Kerubino’s safety at the army garrison at Mayom; the army had taken a dislike to Kerubino after his defection from their ranks at Wau in January 1998, which cost the government many casualties. Human Rights Watch, Famine in Sudan, pp. 46-48. 130-34. Gatdet’s forces put Kerubino to death by firing squad, according to one of the freed prisoners aligned with Riek Machar. (Simon) Magwek Gai, interview, April 6, 2000; see “Sudanese Rebel Leader Bol Said Killed in Ambush 10 Sep,” Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), Khartoum, September 13, 1999, as translated in World News Connection, September 13, 1999; “Leading Sudanese Rebel Leader Bol Reported Killed,” DPA, Khartoum, September 13, 1999; “Sudan Militia Leader Said Still Alive But Tortured,” Reuters, Khartoum, September 13, 1999; “Sudanese MP Says Militia Leader Behind Ex-rebel’s Assassination,” AFP, Khartoum, September 14, 1999; Rosalind Russell, “Sudanese Warlord Dies in Mutiny,” Reuters, Nairobi, September 15, 1999; “Slain Sudanese Warlord Mourned by His 10 Wives,” East African (Kampala), Khartoum, September 28, 1999; Salva Kiir, interview, August 11, 2000 (Peter Gatdet executed Kerubino).

640 The militias of commanders Simon Gatwich of Akobo and Gordon Kong of Nasir remained loyal to the government, but well to the east of Block 5A and Western Upper Nile/Unity State. Old Fangak is in the Zeraf Island formed by the White Nile (Bahr El Jebel) on the west and the Bahr El Zeraf on the east. Most of Zeraf Island is within Block 5A although it was not under exploration by Lundin. The militia of Gabriel Tanginya of Old Fangak was separated from the Lundin-identified oilfields by vast stretches of Nile and sudd. When Old Fangak changed hands to the SPLA, Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya’s forces relocated to Poum to the east, sometimes referred to as “New Fangak.”

641 Alfred Taban, “Sudan Town Shelled by Renegade Militia,” Reuters, Khartoum, October 21, 1999.

642 Mark Turner, “Oil Fuels the Conflict in Southern Sudan,” Financial Times (London), Wicok, Western Upper Nile , October 15, 1999.

643 OLS Security closed the Bentiu area on September 21, on the grounds of safety. WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 105: September 19-25, 1999,” Nairobi, September 25, 1999.

644 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: September 22, 1999,” Nairobi, September 22, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 104: September 12-18, 1999,” Nairobi, September 18, 1999.

645 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 105: September 19-25, 1999,” Nairobi, September 25, 1999.

646 Alfred Taban, “Sudan Town Shelled by Renegade Militia,” October 21, 1999.

647 WFP, “The Security Situation in Unity State and Impact on WFP Activities: October ’99.”

648 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: 13 October 1999,” Nairobi, October 13, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 106: September 26-October 2, 1999,” Nairobi, October 2, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Sudan Town Shelled by Renegade Militia,”October 21, 1999.

649 U.N. OLS (Northern and Southern Sectors), “Joint Weekly Report: October 13, 1999,” Nairobi, October 13, 1999; WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 112: November 7-13, 1999,” Rome, November 13, 1999.

650 On September 28, 1999, relief personnel and local authorities visited Koch, Boaw, and Pabuong, locations inside Block 5A and SSDF territory to which civilians displaced by government forces had fled over the previous months. The relief team discovered that life had been severely disrupted by the fighting and had not returned to normal. The displaced Koch population was beginning to return, but many crops had been stolen by militias or damaged by floods. The Boaw population was hosting a “large number” of displaced persons from elsewhere in the state, straining local resources. To the south, Pabuong had become a transit point for displaced fleeing Koch and Ler to safer areas in Nyal and Ganyliel (Western Upper Nile/Unity State, Block 5B) and Makuac (Tonj County, Bahr El Ghazal, Block 5A). WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 106: September 26-October 2, 1999,” Nairobi, October 2, 1999.

651 In the U.N. Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Sudan 2000, the U.N. estimated that around 210,000 persons (after the harvest) and 547,000 persons (during the hunger gap period) would qualify for food assistance, and food insecurity was expected to be worst, in Leech State and Ruweng County (Western Upper Nile/Unity State). “These areas will be of particular concern to WFP in 2000 since food deficits are more severe and access to beneficiaries are more problematic than elsewhere in southern Sudan.” Ibid., p. 16. To circumvent insecurity and government flight bans, relief agencies planned to stockpile basics—needed for survival in this swampy area—which could not be airdropped, including mosquito nets, shelter material (plastic for tents), and fishing equipment. They decided against stockpiling, however, as fighting continued.

By the hunger gap period in 2000, the situation was worse than predicted. Scorched earth attacks caused more mass movements of tens of thousands of fightened civilians. See below.

652 Kuong Danhier Gatluak, SSDF press release, “Government of Sudan Uses Chemical Agents in Aerial Bombardment in Western Upper Nile,” Nairobi, October 22, 1999. The names of the captive non-commissioned officerss were given as Cpl. Ahmed Mohammed Makin, from the Kadugli (Nuba Mountains, Southern Kordofan) auxiliary police force, and Cpl. Ibrahim Abdalla Ahmed, Damazin command (El Kurmuk, Southern Blue Nile). (The use of chemical agents was not established.)

653 NSCC press release, “Peace Council Refuses to Be Intimidated and Documents Remarkable Progress in People-to-People Peace Process,” Nairobi, October 4, 1999.

654 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: October 11-17, 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.

655 Kuong Danhier Gatluak, SSDF security officer, Human Rights Watch telephone interview , Nairobi, October 28, 1999. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces may have obtained the landmine when they captured Mankien.

656 Talisman officials, interview, February 3, 2000. But see “Buckee speaks on Sudan controversy,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), Calgary, May 8, 2000. Talisman’s British Army-trained security chief in Sudan tried to make it appear that these were two unrelated incidents: he told a journalist some shots were fired at a drilling rig location south of the Heglig oilfield, injuring two Sudanese rig hands. Within a twenty-four hour period, he said, a mine exploded in the vicinity, killing military personnel guarding the area. “Making it sound like organized combat is inaccurate,” he explained. He added: “We are not trying to say there are no difficulties in the south, a region with a history of inter-factional conflict.” “Seeking Riches in Sudan,” Calgary Herald, November 20, 1999.

657 U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: 11-17 October 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.

658 SSDF press release, “Government of Sudan Uses Chemical Agents . . . ,” October 22, 1999.

659 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 108: 10-16 October 1999,” Rome, October 16, 1999.

660 “Talisman Says Sudan Fighting Not Affecting Oil Flow,” Reuters, October 21, 1999; Alfred Taban, “Sudan Town Shelled by Renegade Militia,” October 21, 1999.

661 “Talisman Says Sudan Fighting Not Affecting Oil Flow,” October 21, 1999.

662 See International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1999-2000 (London: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 275-76.

663 Harker report, p. 49. Biem, which the Canadian delegation visited, was some distance east of Pariang village, in an area nominally under SPLA control. Ibid., p. 46.

664 Charlie Gillis, “Meeting the Victims of Sudan’s Oil Boom,” National Post (Toronto), Biem, Western Upper Nile, November 27, 1999.

665 According to Riek Machar, the prior time was in October 1998, after the army refused him permission to expand an agricultural scheme. See above, “Contested Elections and Displacement by the Nuer Militias, 1996-98.”

666 The series of satellite photos show that the small habitation developed into a strip village, and sprouted a second small group of huts in the area also. This was all gone by the 2000 satellite photo. “Kalagate Imagery Report, Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,” April 2001, published by Talisman Energy, Calgary. Inside the cover is the report of Geoffrey John Oxlee, Kalagate Imagery Bureau, “Report KIB/035-1/2001, Subject: Sudan Oilfield Exploration Concession,” April 2, 2001, p. 7 and Figure 4: El Toor-1 & 4. These photos and analysis were presented at the Talisman annual meeting in May 2001 and selectively to the press.

667 In prior years, effective recruitment devices had included threats that the students would not graduate, would not get a job, and would not be able to travel abroad unless they “volunteered” for the Popular Defence Force for four months and went to the front. Student PDF members in an SPLA prisoner of war camp, Human Rights Watch interview, Yei, southern Sudan, October 22, 1997.

668 Jihad is the Arabic word for the Muslim concept of holy war or struggle.

669 It appears that the Protectors of the Oil brigade may have been composed partly or entirely of PDF militia members. At times, the Islamist-oriented and –recruited PDF formations are referred to as mujahedeen, holy warriors.

670 PDF commander Staff Brigadier Umar al Amin Karti said the PDF would continue to send convoys to support the armed forces at the front lines, and praised the people’s support for jihad. “Sudan: President Pledges to Continue ‘Jihad’, Warns Against Anarchy,” Republic of Sudan Radio, Omdurman, in Arabic, October 18, 1999, as translated in BBC Worldwide Monitoring, U.K., October 18, 1999.

671 Mohamed Osman, “Sudan Leader Warns of New Aggression by the United States,” AP, Khartoum, October 31, 1999.

672 Mark Turner, “Oil Fuels the Conflict in Southern Sudan,” October 15, 1999; Kuong Danhier Gatluak, SSDF press release, October 22, 1999. The government of Sudan and the SPLM announced a three-month extension of their ceasefire, starting on October 15, which the government said covered all its areas of operations in the south. WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 108: 10-16 October 1999,” Rome, October 16, 1999; U.N. OLS (Southern Sector), “Weekly Report: October 11-17, 1999,” Nairobi, October 17, 1999.

673 SSDF unit commander Angelo Raui, twenty other officers, and four noncommissioned officers met for peace talks with Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, according to the UDSF. A regional government army officer invited them to his office inside a Bentiu army garrison. Allegedly the commanding army officer told Cmdr. Angelo Raui that Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep had issued a warrant for his arrest. When Angelo Raui protested he was shot dead by gunmen in the office. His twenty-four companions were reportedly shot dead shortly afterwards outside that office. “Sudanese Faction Claims 25 Officers Killed by Rivals,” AFP, Khartoum, November 3, 1999; “Southern Sudan Leader Says 25 Fighters Killed by Rival,” AP, Khartoum, November 3, 1999; Mohamed Osman, “Report: 40 Killed In Fighting between Rival Southern Militias,” AP, Khartoum, November 5, 1999.

674 The Lou area includes Waat, Akobo, Yuai, and Langkein.

675 Gabriel Yoal Dok, the UDSF party secretary in Khartoum who attended the Wunlit conference and then left the government and moved to Nairobi, was elected chairman and John Luk Jok, an SPLM/A lawyer and former commander, was elected secretary of the peace council. “Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Council Membership Elected at Waat Lou Nuer Peace and Governance Conference,” November 6, 1999 (Waat), (accessed February 29, 2000). NSCC press release, “People-to-People Peace Process Makes Another Breakthrough in Uniting Lou Nuer of Upper Nile,” November 12, 1999, and attached covenant of November 6, 1999.

676 This military meeting was not sponsored by the NSCC, although some Lou Nuer military had been invited to the Lou Nuer reconciliation conference; the Lou Nuer had been split, militarily, at least three ways.

677 Cmdr. Peter Bol Kong, chairman of UMCC (Lou); Cmdr. James Yiech Biet, deputy chairman (Eastern Jikany); Cmdr. Kuong Danhier Gatluak, secretary (Dok); Cmdr. Tito Biel Chuol (Dok),;Cmdr. David Gatluak Damai (Jagei); Cmdr. Nyuang Chuol Dhuor (Lou); and others.

678 Cmdr. David Reath Malual (Lou).

679 Documents concerning the formation of the South Sudan Liberation Movement and the Upper Nile Provisional Military Command Council Declaration, November 4, 1999,, posted in January 2000 archive (accessed February 29, 2000).

680 SSLM was the last name adopted for the Anyanya forces (in 1970 or 1971).

681 Michael Wal Duany, SSLM press release, “South Sudan Liberation Movement: Press Announcement,” Waat, Upper Nile, January 31, 2000, (accessed February 2, 2000). Michael Wal Duany was formerly with the Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S. He served as part of the leadership team at the Wunlit conference in his capacity as a Nuer intellectual from the diaspora.

682 Ibid.

683 “At Least 300 Killed in Sudan Fighting—Source,” Reuters, Khartoum, November 25, 1999.

684 U.N. OLS, “Operation Lifeline Sudan Weekly Report: November 17, 1999,” Nairobi, November 17, 1999.

685 The first barge was equipped to clear the sudd from the river to permit the other two to pass.

686 U.N. security official, confidential email, January 22, 2000; Gatluak Damai soldier, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 29, 2000.

687 Ibid.

688 Anonymous relief worker, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, July 24, 2000.

689 Harker report, p. 84.

690 Ibid., p. 85.

691 Ibid., p. 86.

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November 2003