Faced with the new alliance created by Nuer disgust with his partnership with the government, and having little to show for this almost four-year collaboration, Riek Machar left Khartoum. His personal maneuvers in early 2000 to retain a significant political and military role in the affairs of southern Sudan played straight into the hands of the government. Just when it seemed that Nuer rebel unity was becoming a possibility, Riek Machar resigned from the government and returned to the south, where he created yet another political/military movement, the Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF), which destroyed the nascent unity.
In February 2000, Lundin announced that the lack of a road had delayed its drilling operations in Block 5A. The government’s dry season offensives of 2000 in Block 5A appeared designed precisely to capture land for, construct, and secure a road leading to Lundin’s Ryer/Thar Jath fields and the garrison at Ler. A bridge linking Bentiu to the northern side of the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River had been completed in early 2000, surmounting a natural barrier that had protected Nuer from Baggara for centuries.
Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, rather than join Riek Machar, joined the SPLM/A. He was nevertheless cooperating with the (Nuer) SSDF, now SPDF, forces under zonal Cmdr. Tito Biel and Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek. Together, they were trying, unsuccessfully, to stop the construction of the new oil road in Block 5A as well as further roads in Blocks 1 and 4.
But the Riek Machar and the Peter Gatdet forces fell to fighting each other again in late June 2000. In the ensuing months of fighting, where the SPLM/A armed one side and the government of Sudan the other, tens of thousands of civilians in Block 5A and 4 oil areas were uprooted. While the two Western Upper Nile Nuer forces were slugging it out, the oil companies completed construction of the all-weather road from Bentiu to Ryer/Thar Jath, Ler, and Adok by January 2001.
Riek Machar Resigns from Government and Forms Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front, February 2000
Riek Machar, who had been formally allied with the Sudanese government since the Political Charter of 1996, formally resigned from the government on January 31, 2000, from Koch in rebel-held Jagei Nuer territory of Western Upper Nile/Unity State.692 He summoned his commanders and Nuer chiefs to meet with him there.693
Several commanders, chiefs, and apparently all the officials he appointed to the movement’s relief arm, the Relief Association of Southern Sudan (RASS), answered his call and rallied to his side, splitting the Nuer of Western Upper Nile and throughout Sudan once again.694 Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, said to be in Bahr El Ghazal meeting with the SPLM/A, was the most important commander who stayed away from the Koch gathering.695
At or after the Koch conference, Riek Machar announced the creation of the Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF).696 The leaders who had created the UMCC and SSLM in Waat just three months before could not hold these young organizations together in the face of Riek Machar’s return. Indeed, at Koch Riek Machar was under the protection of commanders Peter Bol Kong and Tito Biel, both signatories to the newly-formed UMCC.697
The SPDF remained anti-government for several months in 2000, sometimes fighting together with the SPLA (under Cmdr. Peter Gatdet) against the government.698 But the SPDF/SPLA alliance in Western Upper Nile/Unity State broke down in late June, with disastrous results for t7he civilians of that area.
Riek Machar’s resignation dealt a severe blow to the government’s Khartoum Peace Agreement and to its alliance with southern militia forces, of which his loyalists were the largest force. But it was not a death blow to the Peace Agreement, as Riek Machar had assumed it would be. Khartoum held out an olive branch to him, neither denouncing him, nor bombing his location in Koch, nor declaring the Khartoum Peace Agreement dead.699 In time Gen. Gatluak Deng, the highest-ranking Nuer officer in the Sudanese army, was appointed head of the SSCC and the SSDF, whose chief of staff, after the death of Elijah Hon Top in the Khartoum military hospital, became Brig. Gen. Paulino Matiep.700
The government still had the loyalty of the commanders of Nuer anti-Riek Machar militias it directly funded: Paulino Matiep, Gordon Kong Chuol, Gabriel Tanginya, Simon Gatwich, and others. But the Riek Machar resignation, coming as it did after the mutinies of Philip Bapiny (1998) and Peter Gatdet (1999), was something for the government to worry about. Riek Machar remained the most prominent Nuer leader, nationally and internationally.
In late March 2000, Riek Machar, with several of his top military commanders, flew by private charter to Kenya, where they remained for several months.701 These commanders included Peter Bol Kong, James Yiech, and Tito Biel. Peter Paar Jiek then became Western Upper Nile zonal commander. They all met with U.S. embassy officials in Nairobi. The purpose of the meeting seems to have been to demonstrate Riek Machar’s following and viability. The U.S. embassy officials, however, did not react.
In late February 2000, Lundin announced that the lack of a road had delayed its drilling operation at Ryer/Thar Jath.702 The whole stretch of road from Bentiu south into Block 5A was passable in the dry season.703 During the rainy season, however, April to October, and until the soil dried up in December, flooding and rains made it impossible for vehicles to pass, especially vehicles with the heavy equipment needed for oil exploration and production.704
Lundin announced a further delay in activity on Block 5A in late March 2000, this time “due to continued logistical difficulties and safety considerations.”705 In neither case did Lundin disclose that the war going on in Block 5A—in which several factions had recently switched sides and were against the government—posed the biggest practical barrier to resuming operations.
The Sudanese government was trying to remedy these problems: its initial 2000 dry season military objective appeared to be to capture land for, protect the construction of, and secure two all-weather roads for oil operations. The roads were built by the companies’ consortia, which often used Chinese subcontractors with Chinese labor. 706
It was vital for Lundin to extend the road from Bentiu south into Block 5A. It first built a bridge over the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River between Yoinyang and Bentiu in early 2000,707 then a road—with a spur to the Ryer/Thar Jath exploratory well—from Bentiu almost reaching Ler and Adok. On this road it would be possible to drive from Khartoum straight to the Ryer/Thar Jath well site. Provisioning would be much easier. The government also sought to use the road to rotate and reinforce its troops in the Ler and Adok garrisons, where some troops tarried for a year under siege and food had to be flown in.
The oil road passes by Kuey, or rather what had been the village of Kuey. A U.N. official overflying the area saw the road that cut through what was a U.N. relief airstrip for Kuey. Her interviews with chiefs from the area who had taken refuge in Nimne, protected by several rivers from the oil road, confirmed that it cut through the village and relief strip for Kuey.708
The second area of roadwork was in the GNPOC blocks. It was necessary to build a road from Bentiu to Wangkei garrison (Block 4). This would eliminate the need to resupply Wangkei by river, where sudd and ambushes impeded delivery. More roads were also needed further west, into Block 4’s Kaikang oilfields where more wells were to be drilled by GNPOC.
And more roads were needed inside Block 1, where oil work was expanding. In January 2000, the government announced: “Oil drilling has started in a newly discovered oilfield in the Unity State”709 and construction work “has started on a 90-km road linking the field with Bentiu oilfields to the north of it.”710 A celebration reportedly was held at the site to signal the beginning of road construction, attended by the country’s energy minister, Awad al Jaz, who urged the local population to help the company’s staff.711
In late March 2000, the combined SPLA/SPDF forces of Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar succeeded in forcing the government/Paulino Matiep militia troops back into the town of Bentiu, reversing some successes of the government’s 1999 campaign. This led to government/Paulino Matiep alleged killings (again) of suspected SPLM/A/SPDF supporters in Bentiu in retaliation. Many Bentiu civilian residents then fled to Nimne, a rebel-controlled town northeast of Bentiu, to escape this persecution; some 1,430 were reported to have arrived in Nimne from Bentiu on April 4, 2000 alone. One head chief of the Leek Nuer in Bentiu told a relief official at Nimne that the revenge attacks killed at least 160 people and prevented 4,335 members of his community from leaving Bentiu.712
In April 2000, Khartoum undertook an offensive supported by hundreds of muraheleen (Baggara militia) on horseback. Backed by artillery, gunships, and Antonovs, they advanced from the garrisons in Wangkei and Mayom on Mankien and other locations controlled by Cmdr. Peter Gatdet. He succeeded in repulsing this offensive, but at a cost in casualties, villages, and cattle.713
On April 15, 2000, the combined rebel forces of the SPLA’s Peter Gatdet and the SPDF’s Peter Paar ambushed a military convoy from Bentiu heading to the government position in Ryer/Thar Jath with material and personnel for the oilfield, including many unarmed Chinese.714 The first three cars in the convoy were civilian cars, driven by Chinese. After they passed by, according to one combatant present, the rebels attacked the military vehicles in the convoy, which included tanks. Many jumped out of the vehicles and started running. The convoy hastily turned around and went back to Bentiu. “No Chinese were wounded or killed,” said the soldier. “They were wearing white shirts, no uniforms, and they did not have guns. We never saw them shoot.” 715
Another, larger convoy returned the next day. “Present were some Paulino Matiep troops, Arabs, mujahedeen—no muraheleen [Baggara],” according to the same soldier. The fighting continued for three days. On the last two days, the government forces faced only Cmdr. Peter Paar’s SPDF forces, after Cmdr. Peter Gatdet recalled his troops to fight government troops in Rang (north of Bentiu). The Paar forces triumphed long enough for their soldiers to go into a vacated Ryer/Thar Jath location, see the trench that had been dug for what they thought was part of a pipeline, and destroy a twelve-inch-diameter pipe found at the site.716
Other ambushes on government of Sudan convoys between Ryer/Thar Jath and Bentiu during April-May 2000 had less success. As one participant said:
Reportedly, the rebel forces also attacked a bulldozer used for road work.718
According to the rebels, there was also road construction to Rang in Block 1, located north of Bentiu en route to Riik, an army garrison. As was often the case, among the rebels attacking Rang was a young Nuer man whose family had been displaced from nearby Riik years ago. The Sudanese military protected the road construction.719
One attack on Rang occurred on April 21, 2000. The rebels arrived silently at night and slept nearby. Early the next morning they crossed the swamp and went to a shallow river (water to the knees only) for the attack. As one of them described it:
The rebels opened fire on the government military convoy that morning, and claimed, “We won the battle at Rang.”721
According to a press report citing a Nuer survivor, during this period government soldiers attacked and burned a Rik village north of Bentiu (Block 1), shooting all males older than fifteen or sixteen. The women and children, by this account, fled towards Bentiu; some drowned while being chased across the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River, while others were captured and taken in cars in the direction of Bentiu.
This witness said he escaped to the village of Guk, a day’s walk south, and the army followed close behind. He hid and saw the soldiers kill two families, both known to him by name. In both cases, the men were killed with nails hammered into their temples and other body parts after an interrogation. The women were shot and children had their throats cut.722
An experienced journalist interviewed a Nuer from a village near the former market town of Rupnyagai—not near any of the ambush locations referred to above—who said that his sister and brother-in-law had been killed in an attack on Rupnyagai (Roub Nyagai) and several other villages near the Unity oilfield in 2000. His mother and brother were surrounded and killed when they tried to flee. He said: “All the soldiers wore the same uniforms. I saw no black person among them, only red [a word used by southerners to describe lighter-skinned northerners].”723
These Nuer made their way as far south as Pagarou, in the Dinka area of Rumbek County, Bahr El Ghazal. An SPLM/A relief official there said the number of displaced reaching his county had doubled from March to April 2000. They arrived in terrible condition, sometimes one to two hundred a day, many suffering from malaria and diarrhea, and all starved.724
In late June 2000, Peter Gatdet’s forces set up an ambush for military lorries (trucks) as they passed through Rang en route to building the Bentiu-Wangkei road.725 Military vehicles on this road had been ambushed before. One of the rebel soldiers described it:
Five of the Peter Gatdet troops were wounded. One government soldier, a northerner, surrendered and was taken to Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s headquarters at Buoth.727
Twelve wounded government soldiers were captured. The rebel soldier continued, “An officer told us to kill the twelve who were captured because we could not carry them. . . . This is the first time I was ordered to kill the wounded.”728 This eyewitness was rotated out of the field early in the day but another combatant who remained there after participating in the ambush appears to corroborate aspects of his testimony (numerical differences may be attributable to time of day):
According to the SPLA soldier, before the ambush, when Cmdr. Peter Gatdet heard that this army convoy was on the move, he told his forces, “They capture our people and kill them, so if you capture them, kill them.”730 Despite training in international humanitarian law, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet reportedly ordered his forces to summarily execute captured soldiers in clear violation of this law.731
In mid-March 2001, Christian Aid, a London-based charity funding relief, education, health, and community-building activities in southern Sudan, issued a report, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan. Christian Aid researchers interviewed civilians from several of the villages south of Bentiu in Block 5A: Chotyeil, attacked in October 1999; Dhorbor, attacked in March 2000; Guit, attacked in May 2000; and Kuach, also attacked in May 2000. Helicopters were used in the first two attacks, in addition to the government troops that were used in all the attacks. On July 15, 2000, the town of Nhialdiu, then controlled by SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, was attacked by government militias, who burned everything down (again) and displaced all the residents, including the estimated 11,000 displaced persons from the oil road who had sought refuge there.732 This is consistent with other reports and interviews, cited above.
Some civilians were displaced many times within Western Upper Nile/Unity State, until they finally left for Bahr El Ghazal or elsewhere outside the oilfield state. Some of the same displaced persons found in May 2000 in Nhialdiu had been burned out by the government’s militia in the July 2000 attack, and displaced for a second time. Many then fled all the way to Bahr El Ghazal. 733
With the reemergence of Riek Machar as a rebel leader, fighting in the south between different Nuer militias heated up. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened immediately prior to the resumption of hostilities and the destruction of unity between the SPLA/Peter Gatdet and SPDF/Riek Machar/Peter Paar forces in Western Upper Nile/Unity State in June-July 2000—otherwise known as the “war of the Peters.”
The SPDF claimed it was attacked in Nimne on June 26 by SPLA/Gatdet forces “for no reason.”734 The SPLA claimed that SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar executed nine of its (Peter Gatdet’s) soldiers in Nimne, which was the last straw after thirteen SPLA (Peter Gatdet) soldiers had been executed by Paar’s SPDF troops in Koch in December 1999. For good measure, the SPLA/Gatdet added that Cmdr. Peter Paar was already cooperating with the government and for that reason had not stopped the bridge construction at Bentiu or the road to Ryer/Thar Jath, nor had pushed the government out of Ler.
Whatever the motivation, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces moved on the SPDF location at Nimne, less than twenty miles east of Bentiu.735 His surprise attack occurred not on June 26 but early in the morning of July 7, according to another eyewitness.736
It appears that Cmdr. Peter Paar’s SPDF troops received ammunition at a place near Bentiu from the government militia under Maj. Gen. Paulino Paulino Matiep at this time,737 although the SPDF denied it.738 Peter Paar used this ammunition to push Cmdr. Peter Gatdet far back into his home Bul Nuer area, and was reportedly joined in this counterattack by Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces, who came out of Bentiu with 400 men to fight against his former deputy, Peter Gatdet.739
Riek Machar denied that his SPDF Peter Paar troops had conducted joint operations with the government/Paulino Matiep forces. He claimed instead that on June 21, 2000, some 150 of Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s troops had defected from the government and joined the SPDF south of Bentiu.740 The SPLM/A, however, claimed to have radio intercepts between SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar and the government commander in Bentiu proving that Peter Paar Jiek sent his commanders to the government in Bentiu to ask for help.741 The latter is the more likely scenario, in light of later developments.
The Western Upper Nile Nuers’ absorption with revenge against each other, one side fortified by government ammunition, the other by SPLA supplies, served a useful purpose for the Sudanese government and, by implication, the oil companies. Lundin’s nine-month report as of September 30, 2000, said the road construction was progressing well and testing operations should resume in first quarter 2001, with no mention of the war.742 With the army heavily patrolling the road and no interference from rebels for months, the greatly improved road to the Lundin site was completed between September and December 2000.
In April 2001, Lundin invited Anna Koblanck, a Swedish journalist from Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), on a trip down the oil road from Bentiu. The invitation was extended after the March 2001 publication of the Christian Aid report, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan.743 The report and accompanying publicity in Sweden condemned Lundin’s role in Sudan.
The Swedish journalist subsequently wrote: “The people in southern Sudan do not catch a glimpse of any oil money.”744 She went on to say that while Khartoum was pumping billions of kroner worth of oil with the help of Lundin, “the displaced in Bentiu are starving to death.”745 She found that displaced persons were careful about openly criticizing the government, and that “international relief organizations do not make any official declarations out of fear of being forced to leave the area.”746
The journalist quoted one woman as saying that her friend had died together with her four children when the (government) bombs landed around her, and noted that she was far from alone in her story. Others complained to the journalist that the oil companies did not hire any southern Sudanese, even as security guards.
The journalist traveled with Lundin’s head of public relations Maria Hamilton and Lundin’s head of security Richard Ramsey in an army car with four soldiers “to guarantee our security” along the oil road south. It was Hamilton’s first visit to Sudan.
Anna Koblanck noted that “many villages along the road are empty. There are groups of gray grass huts where not a person can be seen.” Lundin’s head of security informed her that it was because the villages were not used during the dry season (April is at the end of the dry season), but according to the local population, no village is ever entirely abandoned. “If you see a completely empty village then something is wrong,” the journalist was told by a young man from the area west of the road.
A chief displaced into Bentiu told the Swedish journalist that his village was burned down by government militias before the road was built, and that the road goes straight through the area that used to be his village. Three other villages had been burned along the road, one of them Dorang, which the journalist was shown on her Lundin tour. “It is not more than a pile of grass and branches on the ground right now, and the village itself is not much more than an army camp,” she wrote, confirming the chief’s testimony. “But under a tree there is a group of young boys wearing bright white shirts with Lundin’s logo,” she noted.747
The Lundin security officer explained to Koblanck that Lundin did not have any control over how its military partners conducted their operations. He said that SSIM (the name used generically for SSDF forces, which he described as the government-loyal militia) and the government army were in charge of security in the whole concession area. According to the security officer, Lundin ““was not allowed to talk to SSIM, for some reason I do not know. As a result we can not know exactly when they are going to attack somewhere, and most often we don’t find out the reason until afterwards.” 748
Halfway down Lundin Oil’s road was the village of Kuach, which the Swedish journalist visited. At one time, Kuach had reportedly been the home of 8,000 residents, but she observed a place that was “mainly just a camp for the SSIM militia. Hundreds of men are sitting in the shade of the trees with their automatic rifles close by. Many of them are just boys.” Next to water wells that Lundin had set up she finally met civilians in Kuach: a few women who walked several hours to fetch water in that village. One said that her village was burned down a month before, forcing her family to live under a tree. When asked who burned it down, three SSIM soldiers quickly interjected that it was the rebels.
The journalist found out that a village “on the map located in the middle of the old road close to Lundin Oil’s road” reportedly had been leveled to the ground. Some claimed that government forces had destroyed the village, while others said that guerrilla forces had burned it down. The journalist’s translator was from that village, which he said was attacked eight months before (September 2000), at the same time that the road was being built. The attackers had abducted his wife and seven-year-old daughter.
In another location, near Lundin’s second drilling location, Jarayan, journalist Koblanck saw that the drilling equipment was being moved to a third location in Thar Jath accompanied by the government soldiers. A local man said that women were raped by the government soldiers at the temporary army base at Jarayan. At her last stop, in Ryer near the third drilling location, Koblanck was told that the civilians there had fled to the small group of yellow huts because of hunger and needed a doctor, which the head of security had reportedly promised on his last visit to bring, but did not. 749
The situation of the displaced in Bentiu town, on the border between Blocks 1 and 5A, was already acute in early 2000. A December 1999 survey showed Bentiu had a global malnutrition rate of 26.3 percent, and the subgroup of displaced children (coming in from the fighting) had a malnutrition rate of 51 percent.750 Some 2,000 newly displaced persons, most from Ler, arrived in Bentiu during two weeks in February 2000.751 But renewed fighting limited WFP to rapid interventions, and only 26 percent of its planned distribution target for Bentiu was met in February 2000.752
The ICRC runs a large surgical hospital in Lopiding, Kenya, for Sudanese war wounded and others needing surgical care, including those from Western Upper Nile/Unity State. It announced that renewed fighting in various parts of southern Sudan had brought a heavy influx of wounded into its hospital. By May 2, 2000, the 560-capacity hospital had 646 patients. “This is the largest number of people we have ever had to care for” in Lopiding, said the ICRC Sudan coordinator.753
The July 2000 fighting between pro-government and anti-government Nuer forces left an extensive stretch of territory between Nimne and Nhialdiu burned to the ground and tens of thousands of civilians displaced. By July 28, 2000, thousands of civilians had fled with SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet’s forces as a result of the SPDF Cmdr. Peter Paar and Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s forces’ attack.
Observers in a relief plane flying over the area between Nimne and Nhialdiu (some fifty kilometers or 22.7 miles) saw few people, huts, or cattle, and saw that a wide swathe of land had been burned to the ground as far as the eye could see. Many civilians from the area fled or were driven west and north; many thousands were seen to the west, with their cattle and mats (but no other possessions) camped on the banks of the Jur River (also called the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River) flowing north to Wangkei in late July 2000, during the rainy season. Those who could manage to swim across this swollen river with their cattle did so. Once again, Nhialdiu and its market were burned to the ground.754
There were an astounding number of displaced—up to 60,000—who fled with their cattle into Bentiu, counted by agencies assisting the displaced in the garrison town. Those who fled to the Jur River instead were neither counted nor fed, as the area was deemed too unsafe to assess and the government banned flights in to this SPLM/A-held area.
The fighting continued from Wicok, to Buoth, to Boaw, to Koch during the July-August period. The Peter Paar/Paulino Matiep government forces pushed the Peter Gatdet forces west over the Jur River, leaving only one Peter Gatdet toehold on the east side of the Jur River, in Buoth. Then, after being resupplied by the SPLA, Cmdr. Peter Gatdet proceeded in August and September 2000 to retake much of the area lost to Peter Paar’s government-supplied SPDF forces.
Peter Gatdet’s offensive turned south and took Koch in late September. In the course of capturing the village two experienced health workers, Stephen Gatdet and Paul Tap, were killed by the Peter Gatdet SPLA forces. When the SPLA attacked, the two, unarmed, tried to escape from the clinic, carrying the community medical supplies with them. The SPLA soldiers shot Paul Tap dead, seriously wounded Stephen Gatdet, and stole the medical supplies. Stephen Gatdet died the next day of his wounds, as did the mother of an infant. One man, shot during interrogation, also died that day.755
An assessment by a Sudanese NGO in early November 2000 noted that thousands of civilians from Bul and Leek counties ran to Bahr El Ghazal (Twic County) between July and September 2000, on account of this fighting between the Peters. 756 This NGO, Organization for Relief and Community Development (ORCD), with roots in the Bul and Leek Nuer communities, had access to two payams (subcounties) in Bul and Leek areas, and met displaced civilians and community leaders from Jagei and Jikany counties as well. They observed large numbers of displaced people returning to their homes, or what was left of them, months later from Bahr El Ghazal. In many cases such displaced people remained displaced; with nothing left of their homes they migrated to locations where they had a better chance of survival because of relatives, relief airstrips, or fishing.
The ORCD team estimated that the population of the Bul and Leek counties was between 430,000 to 500,000, based on their interviews with community leaders and local authorities.757 The team also observed that there had been extensive burning of homes in the areas visited, and heard reports that other small towns such as Chaang and Boaw were burned down completely.758
There had been schools in the area, but they were reportedly destroyed or burned down in the series of attacks in 2000. Before the war came to this area in 1997, Bul County had more than eighty primary schools, with an estimated number of about 75,000 students, and Leek County had more than sixty primary schools with a scholar population of about 50,000. After the war’s destruction, most of the older boys reportedly joined the rebel forces, willingly or unwillingly, and the girls resorted to marriage due to lack of schools.
The team noticed “conspicuous” numbers of child soldiers with the Peter Gatdet forces during their visit. The local authorities said there was no place else to keep them since there were no schools. They claimed that they had demobilized four hundred child soldiers in June 2000 but when full-scale conflict resumed in July 2000 they were taken back into the rebel forces.759
To the south, an MSF survey conducted in July 2000 sounded the alarm about malnutrition in the Padeah district of Western Upper Nile/Unity State, near Ler. This nutritional survey, in an extremely isolated and inaccessible area (due to its location between the Nile, swamps, and major tributaries) of 40,000 people, showed a pocket of four villages where the children surveyed suffered from more than 35 percent global malnutrition, and half of those were severely malnourished. It found that the recent armed conflict in Padeah had displaced almost 75 percent of the population, and 95 percent of the population reported cattle losses, also because of the conflict. The team also discovered that:
According to MSF, even if the airstrip were cleared, the WFP did not have the food to respond immediately due to an undersubscription by donors. “‘This makes the situation even more tenuous for the populations we are trying to serve.’”761 In such situations, where not just one thing goes wrong but adversities cascade, famine is most likely to occur.
The U.N. noted that the conflict had intensified in this area in 2000, with many needy civilians inaccessible to relief agencies.
As diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis spread in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, the WFP predicted increasing food shortages for the whole state in 2000 due to a failed harvest and “insecurity.”763 It was worse than that; the U.N. concluded, “During 2000, the main conflict area has been in Unity State (Western Upper Nile) around the oil rich areas, with devastating effects on the populations of these areas.” 764
692 Riek Machar left Khartoum just before President Bashir’s December 13, 1999 declaration of a state of emergency and the dissolution of the assembly. He visited European and East African capitals, where he discussed his political and military options with diplomats and others, before going to “the bush” in Koch, Western Upper Nile.
693 The SPDF founding conference in Koch, Western Upper Nile, was facilitated by using U.N. planes under false pretenses to ferry commanders to the meeting. Southern political and military movements do not have the resources necessary to move commanders expeditiously around Upper Nile’s swamps and rivers and factions—chartering planes is an expensive proposition. The commanders apparently flew to Koch in U.N. planes under the names of RASS personnel or as authorized by RASS. John Noble, interview, July 31, 2000; see Nhial Bol, “Politics-Sudan: Talks on the UN Plane Hostage hit a snag,” IPS, Khartoum, February 8, 2000; Carola Hoyos and Mark Turner, “UN neutrality 'unwittingly compromised in Sudan’,” Financial Times (London), Nairobi, March 9, 2000.
694 John Luk Jok, “The Political and Military Dynamics in western Upper Nile,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), May 2000, pp. 11-14.
695 Ibid. Reportedly Riek Machar’s representatives made an attempt to meet with Cmdr. Galwalk Gai, Peter Gatdet’s ally, at Galwalk Gai’s home base in Boaw, but the commander declined because he disliked Riek Machar, and no meeting took place. Former Dok Nuer combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 31, 2000; former Nuer combatant in Nimne, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, July 31, 2000; John Noble, interview, July 27, 2000.
696 The constitution of the SPDF, dated January 2000, can be found on the group’s website, http://www.usinternet.com/users/helpssudan/WebSPDFconst.html (accessed November 28, 2000).
According to Riek Machar, the Nuer reconciliation conference came first, from January 25, followed by the conference with military leaders, after which he decided to resign from the government and then to form the SPDF. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000. Others believe that the SSLM press release of January 31, 2000 announcing the formation of a (rival) Nuer political party was the triggering event that led to Riek Machar’s unusual manner of resignation by radio message at night from the field, without consultation or warning to his exposed cadres in Khartoum.
697 Among the sixteen UMCC commanders who rallied to Riek Machar were the top three of the UMCC, Cmdr. Peter Bol Kong, Cmdr. James Yiech Biet, and Cmdr. Kuong Danhier Gatluak.
698This working relationship was limited to Western Upper Nile/Unity State, as the various factions had different relations in other parts of Upper Nile. In Eastern Upper Nile, for instance, the Riek Machar SPDF forces were hammered by the government militia of Cmdr. Gordon Kong.
699 Because the resignation took place unconventionally, over high frequency radio, the Khartoum government was slow to accept it. Government officials radioed back to Riek Machar in Koch, and he agreed to meet a Khartoum delegation in Nairobi for further discussions about his resignation. John Luk Jok, “The Political and Military Dynamics in Western Upper Nile,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), May 2000, p. 12.
700 Brig. Gen. Gatluak Deng was removed from his positions in late 2002 by President El Bashir, and former state governor Riek Gai was appointed head of the SSCC while Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep was named commander-in-chief of the SSDF.
701 The SPDF was off to a poor financial start. It was difficult to raise the money for a chartered plane (often U.S. $ 6,000) to pick up this group. See Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000.
702 Lundin Oil press release, “Testing of Thar Jath Well Onshore Sudan Delayed,” Geneva/Stockholm, February 22, 2000.
703 Paul Wilson, interview, May 16, 2001.
704 Thomas Duoth, interview, July 22, 1999.
705 Lundin Oil press release, “Further delay in Sudan, January Production Update,” Geneva/Stockholm, dated March 21, 2000.
706 According to rebel combatants, the road crews they saw were Chinese. Leek Nuer combatants, interviews, August 1, 3-4, 2000.
707 Different rebels gave different reasons for why they never attacked the new Bentiu bridge: one said that they did not know about it; another said they lacked ammunition. Cmdr. Peter Gatdet reportedly faulted Cmdr. Peter Paar for allowing the Bentiu bridge to be built in Peter Paar’s sector.
708 The interviews took place in Nimne during in January 2001. Diane deGuzman, former OLS Humanitarian Laws Principles officer, briefing, Washington, D.C., May 8, 2001.. She was told by a RASS relief worker from Kuey that other Kuey residents had fled three days’ walk into the swamp east of Kuey, in the direction of the Nile.
709 “Drilling Takes Off In New Oilfield,” PANA, Khartoum, January 26, 2000.
712 Confidential communication from relief source, May 1, 2000.
713 John Luk Jok, “The Political and Military Dynamics in Western Upper Nile,” South Sudan Post (Nairobi), May 2000, p. 13.
714 SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet provided ammunition (which he obtained from the SPLA) to Cmdr. Peter Paar of the SPDF (Riek Machar’s forces) during April 2000, according to Michael Wal Duany, head of a rival group. Michael Wal Duany, Human Rights Watch interview, Nairobi, August 7, 2000.
715 Leek Nuer former combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 3, 2000.
717 Dok Nuer former combatant, interview, July 31, 2000.
719 “Riik is two days north from Nhialdiu, and between Bentiu and Pariang. People living there before were Leek but their place was destroyed and the Arabs live there now. The Leek left long ago, maybe before I was born. Some Pariang Dinka live there now. My parents now live in Nhialdiu. They and my big brother were born in Riik.” Leek Nuer former combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 1, 2000.
722 Julie Flint, “Britain Backs Ugly War for Oil,” Observer (London), April 16, 2000. The journalist, who has covered Sudan for years, told Human Rights Watch that she found these witnesses credible. Julie Flint, Human Rights Watch interview, Kampala, Uganda, July 12, 2000.
723 “Britain Backs Ugly War for Oil,” April 16, 2000.
725 Cmdrs. Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar appparently agreed to a division of terrritory in Western Upper Nile/Unity State: Cmdr. Peter Gatdet (SPLA) was assigned Wangkei and Mayom (Bul Nuer territory, Block 4), and Cmdr. Peter Paar (SPDF/SSDF) had Bentiu, Ryer/Thar Jath, Ler, and Adok (territory of the Leek, Jikany, Jagei, and Dok Nuer, all in Block 5A). Gathon Jual, interview, July 31, 2000. This roughly corresponded with the allegiances of the local population. Each commander claimed the loyalty of his own ethnic group (Gatdet: Bul; Paar: Dok). The Leek were mostly aligned with the Bul Nuer commander, Peter Gatdet, the Nyuong with their Dok neighbors. The Jikany and Jagei were divided between Peter Gatdet and Peter Paar, with commanders from both groups on each side.
726 Leek Nuer former Gatdet combatant, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 4, 2000.
729 Former Block 1 Leek Nuer combatant in Peter Gatdet’s forces, Human Rights Watch interview, Kenya, August 1, 2000.
731 In February-March 2000, the ICRC reportedly held a program on the rules of war for fifty-five then seventy-five Peter Gatdet officers that lasted one week. John Noble, interview, July 31, 2000.
732 Christian Aid, The scorched earth: Oil and war in Sudan, London, March 2001.
733 Julie Flint, “Desperation in Sudan,” Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), March 15-16, 2001. One of the persons interviewed originally lived in Wicbar, south across the river from Rubkona. Helicopter gunships attacked Wicbar in February 2000, and government army soldiers burned and looted, destroyed all the grain, and killed two fifteen-year old boys who were guarding the animals. The man fled to Nhialdiu from where he was displaced by a government attack in July. He then fled to Bahr El Ghazal. The journalist interviewed this same man in Nhialdiu in May 2000 and for the second time in Bahr El Ghazal in April 2001. Ibid.
734 (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak, interview, April 6, 2001.
735 Nimne was a secure location, protected by the Dudur River from the garrison town of Bentiu, which was some hours away on foot to the southwest. (Map C) The Dudur River was deep even in the dry season and surrounded on both banks by toic or swamp. Although no roads were open to Nimne, many civilians took refuge there from their own burned-out homes because the area had a suitable all-weather air strip for food drops.
736 “Gatdet knows how to cross the river. He did not do anything to civilians,” one source who witnessed the attack said. Former Nuer combatant in Nimne, interview, July 31, 2000. The reason for the difference in dates between June 26 and July 7 is not clear, but it appears that during that period both forces were deployed in a way that each thought defensive and that the other side took as aggressive. Inevitably small clashes pushed the situation over the edge to war.
737 RASS administrator, interview, August 10, 2000. David Gatluak Damai (Jagei) (SPDF) allegedly met the Paulino Matiep militia outside Bentiu, where Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep’s deputy commander Pachuar Chuangi supplied the SPDF with ammunition. SPDF commander James Lial Dieu is alleged to have received ammunition from Paulino Matiep’s militia inside Bentiu also. Ibid.
738 Riek Machar denied that any of his commanders were taking arms from the government, and said that they had ammunition “stockpiled.” He offered no other explanation for the sudden supply of ammunition. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000. Riek Machar separately told one expatriate that the Khartoum-appointed governor of Western Upper Nile/Unity State had offered peace talks to the SPDF through SPDF governor (Simon) Magwek Gai Majak. In the course of these talks, the Khartoum governor sent weapons and bullets to Governor Simon in Koch on June 20, as a “token of peace.” Expatriate resident in the area, Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, Kenya, August 2, 2000. But Governor Simon had yet another story. “Peter Paar can run short of ammunition and buy more from the muraheleen [Baggara]. . . . For one cow you can get two boxes of ammunition. Now they come to the north of Nimne [to sell ammunition].” (Simon) Magwek Gai, interview, April 6, 2001. Taban Deng acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that the SPDF had received one shipment of ammunition from the government in 2000, but not until October/November 2000, in order to “survive.” Taban Deng, interview, April 9, 2001.
739 Nyuong Nuer community leader, Human Rights Watch interview, Ganyliel, Western Upper Nile, April 5, 2001.
740 But Riek Machar did not know the names of any of the commanders (alternate commanders and captains) or other officers who defected to him, which detracts from the credibility of this version of events. Riek Machar claimed that two hundred men also defected to him (then SPDF) from government militia leader Cmdr. Gabriel Tanginya in Old Fangak. This might have made it look to outsiders that government militia was fighting with the SPDF, but actually they had just abandoned the government, he claimed. Riek Machar, interview, August 8, 2000.
741 Salva Kiir, interview, August 11, 2000.
742 Lundin Oil press release, “Record for the Nine Months Ended 30 September 2000: Record Profit,” Geneva, November 14, 2000.
743 Christian Aid, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan, London, March 2001.
744 Koblanck, “Lundin Oil’s road/DN in Sudan,” April 28, 2001.
748 Richard Ramsey, Lundin security officer, as quoted in ibid.
750 The major cause of this high rate found among children was “inadequate dietary intake” because “[r]elief food has been erratic over the past 5 months due to insecurity.” Relief food made up 76 percent of the intake of the displaced people. WFP, “WFP Sudan Monthly Overview—January 2000,” Rome, January 31, 2000, p. 10.
751 CARE found that eighty percent of the displaced’s households were headed by females, of whom 30 percent were pregnant or nursing; about 20 percent of the displaced were elderly. WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 120: 1-15 February 2000,” Rome, February 15, 2000.
752 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 120: 1-15 February 2000,” Rome, February 15, 2000. Rapid interventions by relief officials are limited to only a few hours on the ground for food delivery. Insecurity restricted the presence of WFP staff inside Bentiu “to six hours a day when possible” in February 2000. The price of grains in the market trebled during that month, making food too expensive for most internally displaced persons. WFP, “Sudan Monthly Overview—February 2000,” Rome, February 29, 2000.
753 “Sudan: Huge number of war-wounded,” ICRC News no. 17, Geneva, May 11, 2000.
754 John Noble, interview, July 31, 2000.
755 MSF, Violence, Health, and Access to Aid, p. 29. The attack on Koch, which occurred the day after the September 27, 2000, delivery by air of medical and other non-food relief items, was conducted by Peter Gatdet/SPLA commander James Gatluak Gai. Apparently, these rebels were after the delivered items. Koch is where the Peter Paar forces killed Peter Gatdet troops in December 1999 in a tense standoff (see above). Email, Julie Flint to Human Rights Watch, February 21, 2001, based on field interviews.
756 ORCD, “Humanitarian Assessment Mission to Western Upper Nile Region: Bul, Leek, Jagei and Jikany Counties, November 5-20, 2000,” by Koang Tut Doh Nairobi, December 12, 2000. ORCD stands for Organization for Relief and Community Development.
757 The estimates were: Bul County: 250,000-300,000; Leek County: 180,000-200,000; Jagei County: 100,000-120,000; and Jikany County: 40,000-60,000, total 570,000- 680,000. Ibid.
758 ORCD, “Humanitarian Assessment Mission to Western Upper Nile Region,” p. 11.
760 MSF press release, “Doctors Without Borders/MSF Survey: Alarming malnutrition rates in Western Upper Nile, Southern Sudan,” Nairobi/New York, July 6, 2000.
762 OCHA, Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Sudan 2001, p. 2, see http://www.reliefweb.int/.
763 WFP, “Sudan Bulletin No. 120: 1-15 February 2000,” Rome, February 15, 2000.
764 Consolidated Appeal, 2001, p. 11.