Civilian Devastation: Abuses by All Parties in the War in Southern Sudan
Introduction and Summary
The story of the trouble in the Sudan began with the story of the trouble in Africa itself, which started over 600 years ago from about 1400 A.D. when Africa began paying the price for the misfortunes of the New World, the Old World, and especially Western Europe. In the last fifty years, the continent has had its “independence” from their colonizers. However, we know that domestic colonialism exists, imposed upon the continent by Africans themselves.
The Sudan, located in eastern Africa, has a population of approximately twenty-five million people within one million square miles. This makes the Sudan the largest land area in the continent of Africa. The southern third of Sudan, which occupies a larger land area than many neighboring countries, now has a population of about four and a half million people. One would think that as one of the largest and most populous regions, it should be a positive role model for the entire continent. Well, it is not. It is just a gross example of how bad things are in Africa.
Sudan is internationally recognized as an economic basket case. It owes over $1.62 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the underdeveloped south, war, flood, drought, disease, and mismanagement have rendered useless ordinary survival strategies and made millions wholly or partially dependant on emergency food assistance provided by the U.N. and foreign agencies-that is, when the government or rebels do not prevent the civilian population from receiving this relief.
Keeping food from the civilians does not even begin to describe the depth of government abuses in southern Sudan. Civil war has raged in southern Sudan since 1983, claiming the lives of some 1.3 million people, all southern civilians. The civilians have been targeted specifically, fallen in indiscriminate fire, or they have been stripped of their assets and displaced, such that they died of starvation and disease. The U.N. estimates that the population of southern Sudan declined by 1.9 percent in the year of 1993, and that the excess morality in that year was 220,000. This rate will continue to increase, and millions more people will die if things continue the way they have been.
All parties to the conflict are responsible for the deaths of innocent people. The government and the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA) are in the forefront of the troubles. In 1991, the SPLA split into two factions, the SPLA-Torit and the breakaway SPLA-Nasir. The two have waged war in total disregard of the welfare of the civilian population and in violation of almost every rule of war applicable in an internal armed conflict. A few of the other offenses by the government and rebel parties include:
Indiscriminate aerial bombardment of southern population centers;
Scorched earth tactics around villages that ultimately displace or kill the civilians.
Use of torture and forcible conversion to another religion.
Restriction of movement in garrison towns even in times of food scarcity.
Killing civilians, lack of due process, inhumane treatment, abductions, etc (2).
Before “independence” in 1956, the British under the Anglo-Egyptian condominium government administered southern Sudan separately from the north. Armed conflict between the northern and southern parts of Sudan began in 1955, before independence. The conflict was punctuated by an autonomy agreement in 1972 that ended the first civil war between southern separatist forces and the central government, then headed by Jaafar Nimieri, a military dictator. In 1983, the second civil war began, and the autonomy has been broken numerous times by the government (19).
The second civil war was built on the shoulders of the first with the SPLA forming in 1983 in Ethiopia from Anya-Nya II groups and Sudan army mutineers, who were from the 105 Battalion stationed in Bor, Upper Nile. The SPLA experienced political divisions from the outset. John Garang is a former guerrilla who became a Sudan army officer and who emerged as a leader. He advocated a united secular Sudan. Many Anya-Nya II leaders sought the Anya-Nya I objective of secession or self-determination; Garang’s supporters and his Ethiopian government army allies attacked them in Ethiopia.
The Sudan governments and political parties aligned with the governments tried