Government-backed forces violate cessation of hostilities as peace talks resume
Brussels, 6 March 2003: As peace talks on Sudan resume in Kenya this week, the Khartoum government is continuing to violate the cessation of hostilities agreement it signed 15 October 2002 with the rebel Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA) and reaffirmed on 4 February 2003. Government forces and government-sponsored militias are attacking the oilfields of Western Upper Nile in an effort to dislodge the SPLA and expand oil industry development. The primary victims of the violence are civilians.
The fighting does not immediately threaten the peace talks. If this grave breach of signed agreements is not challenged by the international community, however, it will set a precedent that the parties have no reason to take other parts of the peace process seriously, including any final agreement and accompanying international guarantees that may be reached.
The Sudanese government conducted a similar military offensive in violation of the October 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement in December and January. Those violations were meticulously documented by the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), an international mechanism established to investigate attacks against civilians, but the Khartoum authorities were initially emboldened by the lack of resolute international response and continued the attacks until key countries - including the U.S. - publicly admonished them. This led to reaffirmation of the cessation of hostilities agreement on 4 February 2003 and measures to strengthen it, the most important of which was the creation of a verification and monitoring team, built upon the existing structure of the CPMT.
ICG has learned that monitors on the ground have indeed verified the new and continuing attacks by the government and its allied militias but, perhaps because administrative details for this official reporting mechanism have not been finalised, the mechanism or the governments that back it have said nothing publicly.
"The international community must immediately condemn the continuing violation of the cessation of hostilities by the government of Sudan", said ICG Africa Program Co-Director John Prendergast. "The parties must be held accountable for agreements signed in the context of the peace process. Otherwise, neither the government, the SPLA, nor the Sudanese people can be expected to take the process seriously".
ICG analysts travelling in southern Sudan have independently learned of the following confirmed violations by government-sponsored militias in Western Upper Nile since the 4 February agreement:
- 13 February 2003: Government sponsored militias attacked the villages of Thaker, Thargoth, and Dhornier. All three villages are situated close to Leer and a newly constructed road, built to facilitate oil industry development.
- 16 February 2003: Roughly 1200 government sponsored militias under the command of Peter Gadet led a three-pronged attack out of Mankien, targeting the villages of Loth, Keriel, and Ruothnyia Bol.
- 22 February 2003: Roughly 1100 government sponsored militias, again under the command of Peter Gadet, led a three-pronged attack out of Mankien, targeting the villages of Tam, Lingera and Wanglieth.
Other fighting is ongoing, but its origins and results are still under investigation.
Additionally, the Sudanese government has established a number of new garrisons in Western Upper Nile in territory captured since the 15 October 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement came into effect. They have not been removed, and troops withdrawn, as required by the 4 February 2003 agreement. These garrisons, all located along the oil road from Bentiu-Leer, include: Pultuni, Kuertoi, Khor Jamus, Padier, Mirmir, Reang, Kuak, Kual Kuony/Rubkuoy, Tutnyang, and Gier.
Continuous patrols and raids by government-sponsored militias along the Bentiu-Adok oil road are discouraging the return of civilians who were displaced by the fighting in January and early February, in direct violation of the 4 February agreement by the parties to facilitate such return.
The international community should not only condemn the Sudanese government for these violations of its signed agreements but should also push urgently to make the agreed verification mechanism for the cessation of hostilities agreement fully operational. Further, it needs to ensure that the mandates are extended for this mechanism, as well as for the closely related Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, which investigates attacks on civilians. Both mandates are due to expire on 31 March 2003.
For further analysis of Sudan's peace process and the military conflict, please see ICG's briefing, Sudan's Oilfields Burn Again: Brinksmanship Endangers the Peace Process, 10 February 2003. You can read it in full on our website, www.crisisweb.org.
Katy Cronin (London) +18.104.22.168.93.51 - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536.00.65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
Read all ICG reports on our website: www.crisisweb.org