Imprisoned Sudanese Pastors Facing Death Penalty Barred From Seeing Lawyers, Family Following Visit by American Pastor

Rev. William Devlin Says Pastors' Move to High Security Prison Not Triggered by His 90-Minute Detention

June 10, 2015

Two Sudanese pastors who are potentially facing the death penalty after being arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of alleged conspiracy and espionage, were removed from a low-security military prison and transferred to a more dangerous facility where they've been denied access to visitors, the pastors lawyers have said.

Revs. Peter Yen Reith and Yat Michael, who've been detained since the winter and charged with violating seven laws including spying, undermining the government and insulting religion, were transferred from the Omdurman Prison for Men outside of Khartoum — where they were allowed to see their families and lawyers — to Kober Prison in North Khartoum, a high-security detention center.

According to an advocacy group closely following the case, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, no one — not even their wives or lawyers — has been allowed to visit with the pastors since their transfer to Kober.

Michael and Reith, who are clergymen from the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, had been held in Omdurman Prison since March 1 and were last seen there on June 3, the day in which they were visited by three other Sudanese pastors and American pastor the Rev. William Devlin, who was detained for over an hour and prevented from visiting with the pastors after guards caught him taking photos and video inside the prison waiting room.

Concerns were raised about the whereabouts of the pastors after family members were denied access to them on June 4, but prison officials confirmed on June 6 that the pastors were transferred.

"We are concerned by this development in the clergymen's case. They already endured extended detention without access to their families at the beginning of this year, and they and their families should be spared further emotional distress," Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.

"We urge the Sudanese authorities to ensure that the clergymen's detention is regularised, and they are permitted regular family visits and unhindered access to their lawyers. The decision to detain them at a higher security prison should be reconsidered, given that they have not been found guilty of any crime."

CSW believes that the Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service may have issued an order to prison officials telling them not to allow Reith and Michael to have any visitors.

The pastors' lawyers met with Sudan's director of prisons on June 7 and requested access to the pastors. However, they were directed to talk with the director of Kober Prison, who told the lawyers they needed a court order.

The lawyers request for a court order was denied because the court ruled that the decision should be left to the prison director.

CSW also reports that although there was no official reason given for the pastors' not being allowed to have visitors, there is speculation that the move "may have been triggered by the actions of foreign visitors," an implication that it may have been the result of Devlin's visit.

Devlin, who pastors the Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx, has visited Sudan eight times in the last nine years and always stays as a guest of Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti, he told CP last week. Upon his latest visit, he was invited by the three Sudanese pastors to go with them to visit Michael and Reith in prison.

Although the last time the pastors were seen in Omdurman Prison was the day in which Devlin was detained there, Devlin told CP on Tuesday that he was told that the transfer was already being planned prior to his visit.

"A Muslim colleague in Khartoum reported to me yesterday, that the move of the two imprisoned pastors was in the works prior to my 90-minute detention on June 3," Devlin wrote in a statement. "My detention was unintended by me. However, I pray that God would use my detention to make known the plight of these two innocent pastors."

Devlin had previously urged American and Western pastors to travel to Sudan to visit with the pastors and prove to Sudanese government officials that religious freedom violations impact how the country is viewed by potential international trade partners. Even though the pastors have been moved to a high-security prison where they are not allowed visitors, Devlin still encourages International pastors to travel to Khartoum to make a statement and support the pastors families.

"Western pastors, African pastors, European pastors must go to Khartoum to advocate for these imprisoned pastors," Devlin wrote. "Even if they cannot visit them, they can meet with their wives and support their wives and children financially."


Sudan Security Systematically Targeting Nuba Christians

March 14, 2013

South Kordofan — "According to HUDO's observation, it is clear that the systematic campaign of the government [of Sudan] is part of a plan targeting the native Nubians. Even the timing is arranged to destroy all institutions that gather Nubians either religious or social as the beginning of implementing the Univision (single Islamic Arabian), denial of Nubian Christians' religion rights and Nuba people's rights to practice their culture or social activities.

This was clear when the government security found no charges to issue against the innocent Nubian church leaders and they began accusing them of Christianization and accessing funds from outside Sudan in illegal ways", says the Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO).

In the second part of its report HUDO describes the arbitrary arrests, the systematic targeting and the reasons it believes are behind these incidents against the Nuba people. The information provided is based on the agency's own observations on the ground, but also on local reports and on information gathered from various sources.

Read below summarized parts of the report:

Arbitrary arrests

These arrests are ongoing and security forces continuously target the Nuba people wherever they are, regardless of gender or age. They have detention centers everywhere in Sudan, says HUDO.

According to the organization's observations, Nuba Mountains detainees "are suffering very abusive humiliation and racial discrimination. They are always detained for longer periods than others except Blue Nile and Darfurian in some cases".

Most of them are kept without charges and others are kept in government facilities that do not have the legal mandates to keep them in detention. These facilities, the organization says, belong to the Popular Defense Forces and tribal militias, for instance.

"Especially Nuba Mountains prisoners" are not allowed to receive family visits and some must wear the same damaged clothes, without being washed, for up to one year.

All of the detainees who worked in public offices before their arrests have their salaries cut off and the "punishment" was extended to their families. Those who were self-employed (such as cab drivers) had their assets confiscated by the government, the report reads.

Prisoners are tortured by the security services and forced to give false testaments incriminating themselves. In addition, large numbers of them are kept in small, poorly ventilated cells, sleep on the bare ground and no not receive proper nutrition. "Some of them died of starvation", it was stated in the report.
Accusations and reasons behind arrests

HUDO suggested many of the detainees are accused of spying for the rebel group Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

Mentioning anything about conflict in the region during telephone conversations is enough reason for their arrest and to be accused of spying for the rebel group, it was quoted. In addition, political and military affiliation to the SPLM-N are other reasons for detention.

Some people make incriminating confessions under torture -according to HUDO this practice also functions as a mechanism of accusers to settle personal disputes.

Systematic targeting

Since the beginning of this year, Sudanese authorities began systematically targeting different Nuba language and cultural centers, including those of Nuba Christians, the report indicated.

These centers, according to the agency, are outlined below:

- Kuku institute for Nuba language and heritages located in Omdurman: closed on 16 January 2013 by government security authorities (NISS). Its manager was arrested and his laptop and mobile phone were confiscated together with the institute's certificate of registration and other documents. The manager was released under the condition that he reports to the NISS office every morning.

- NINU center for languages and computer science -member of the UNESCO Clubs Union: closed by security authorities on 16 January 2013 without any reason. Note: the UNESCO Clubs Union has different centers working across Sudan and all carry out uniformly certified work. None of them was closed down apart from the NINU center.

- Evangelical Cultural Center library in Khartoum: closed on 18 February 2013 by the NISS. Books, media tools and documents belonging to the library were confiscated. Three people were arrested, including a priest. None of them were yet released.

- Gideon Theological College (GTC) in Omdurman: raided on 24 February 2013 by the NISS. Three Nuba Christians were arrested and released under the condition they report to the NISS office on a daily basis.

- Fellowship of Christian University Students (FCUS) office: raided by NISS on 24 February 2013. Two executive members were arrested; one was released under the condition he reports to the NISS office on a daily basis. The other remains under arrest. On the same day, NISS also raided the FCUS-guest house in another area in Khartoum and confiscated a car belonging to it.


In its report, HUDO outlined the following appeals concerning the situations described above:

- International and national organizations must exercise pressure on the mission of the Special Envoy to ensure prisoners can receive visitors and that violations are reported. "The High Commission for Human Rights (Sudan) is inefficient, and not respected by the government authorities."

- To continue with international advocacy campaigns of detainees -proved useful in the past.

- The international community must form a committee to investigate the issue of the prisoners in South Kordofan / Nuba Mountains and ask the government to disclose their information including how many are detained.

- Ensure detainees' human rights are respected, and allow them to have access to free and fair trial as soon as possible.

US warns Sudan on 'reprehensible' violence

(AFP) – Jun 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — The White House urged Sudan to "immediately" halt the escalation of "reprehensible" violence on southern army positions less than a month before the south's independence.

"The United States condemns reported acts of violence in Southern Kordofan that target individuals based on their ethnicity and political affiliation," White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday said in calling for a ceasefire.

The statement was in response to reports of further attacks by northern forces on the Sudan People's Liberation Army of the south.

President Barack Obama has sought to ensure the implementation of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan and peace in Darfur.

He was instruemental in orchestrating the intense diplomatic effort backing a referendum that ultimately saw voters favor the south splitting from the north.

"The government of Sudan must prevent further escalation of this crisis by ceasing immediately its pursuit of a military solution to disarm the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Southern Kordofan and to dissolve the Joint Integrated Units established under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Carney said in a lengthy statement.

"Accounts of security services and military forces detaining, and summarily executing local authorities, political rivals, medical personnel and others are reprehensible and could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity."

Carney called on the United Nations to investigate the reports.

The perpetrators should "immediately halt these actions and be held accountable for their crimes," he added.

Heavy clashes between Sudanese Armed Forces troops and northern members of the former southern rebel army first erupted in South Kordofan on Sunday.

Carney said the violence threatened efforts to forge a durable peace between the largely Muslim north and the primarily Christian and animist south.

The heavily armed state retains strong links to the south, especially among the indigenous Nuba peoples who fought on the side of the southern rebels, even though their homeland, the Nuba Mountains, is in the north.

Obama has signaled to the government in the north, under President Omar al-Bashir, that it could expect US incentives for choosing the path of peace.

That would included the lifting of economic sanctions and a process to remove US curbs imposed because Washington sees Khartoum as a state sponsor of terror.

The US president has dispatched a special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, to help resolve the crisis.

Washington is also working with the World Bank on whether to relieve Sudan's debt, estimated at $38 billion. It is also considering nominating a full ambassador to Khartoum after July 9.


Genocide in Darfur: The Arab League’s Impotence

Friday, August 04, 2006

by Mik Awake

Formed by seven countries in 1945, the Arab League is now a powerful political and economic alliance of twenty-two nations – twenty-three if you include the East African country of Eritrea. The mission statement of the Arab League reads something like this:

Serve the common good of all Arab countries, ensure better conditions for all Arab countries, guarantee the future of all Arab countries and fulfill the hopes and expectations of all Arab countries.

Since 1956, Sudan has been a member of the Arab League, and since early 2003, a murderous outbreak of Muslim-against-Muslim violence has gone on unabated in the country’s Darfur region while the Arab League has sat by, silent and impotent. It is a sign of the deep cynicism and misplaced morality of the Arab League that they have failed for the past three years to organize a significant and concerted outcry – let alone policing force – against the crisis in Darfur.

Neither is this a novel claim. In 2004, Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League to intervene. (Today they're doing the same thing again.) As tens of thousands of Sudanese lost their lives – hundreds thousands more their homes – the Arab League penned indignant press releases decrying Israeli arrogance. You will hear their outrage at Israeli-Palestinian violence. Or at American-Iraqi colonialism. Perhaps such claims are justified, but in Darfur, where Arab Muslims are murdering African Muslims en masse, the Arab nations – and most of their media outlets – have remained unforgivably silent.

As part of the recent Arab League summit held earlier this year in Khartoum, only one paper was delivered on the Darfur issue and in it, though there is ample mention of the Darfur rebel groups and their anti-governmental (read: anti-Arab) activities, there isn’t so much as one mention of the Janjaweed, which is perhaps tantamount to discussing the Holocaust without mentioning the SS.

Since the victims are Africans, not Arabs, it seems not to interest the Arab League, and perhaps the Arab media as well. On the Aljazeera website this week, there isn’t mention anywhere of the recent spate of attacks that have sent 25,000 Darfurians into exile. In the Darfur conflict, there is no symbolism to play up, no underlying inflammatory tension – only the cold, new reality of an ongoing human disaster.

The outcry from the Arab media over the recent horrors in Lebanon might strike a more cynical observer as being fiercely strategic, hypocritical and even racist. The sad reality of Arab indignation is that it has, in its obsession with American and Israeli hegemony, neglected African ills and reinforced a racial hierarchy that is as fierce and pernicious as that found in the our own mainstream media. The Africans in Sudan, though Muslim, continue to be ignored by the Arab world.

The message seems clear: the Arab League is not as concerned with the DEPTH of the evil as they are with PERPETRATORS of the evil. Two hundred Arab civilians killed by Israel is a more newsworthy story than 20,000 Africans killed in an Arab League country. Perhaps the urge to be self-critical is unwise and bad for “Arab morale” in this time of asymmetrical warfare, entropy in Iraq and widely rampant anti-Arab sentiments. But further neglect of Darfur will be for the Arab League what Rwanda was for the UN: the grossest moral failing of its existence . . . the beginning of the end.


Disgrace of Darfur

Khaleej Times
31 October 2006

THIS is an issue that has been staring us in the face for the past three years now. Over 300,000 people dead; three million driven from their homes and a country at war with itself. Darfur remains a huge challenge for the conscience of the Arab and Muslim world and an ever growing black spot on its visage.

Why are the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, otherwise swift to protest any slight or perceived injustice in any part of the globe, then silent on the shame of this great humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Sudan’s Darfur?

For one, most Arabs and Muslims, an overwhelming majority of them, do not really know what is going on in Darfur. For two, they suspect that the hue and cry of the West over Darfur and its indignant condemnation of Sudan are politically motivated, as always. Most Arabs and Muslims believe that the West has an axe to grind in seeking action against Sudan on the question of Darfur. Given the current tendency in the West to target everything Islamic, this suspicion is not really without basis. 

Indeed, the Islamic world has every reason to be distrustful of Western motives in seeking action against Africa’s largest, Muslim-majority and Arabic speaking country. After all, the Middle East and Africa share a long history of manipulation and exploitation by the colonial West over the past couple of centuries.

The West may indeed have an agenda in pushing for an international peacekeeping force in Darfur. Many in Sudan suspect, and not without reason, that the Western concern for the people of Darfur is motivated by a greed for the country’s rich natural resources. Sudan is home to huge and largely untapped energy resources.

But even if the West’s interest in Darfur is driven by its political and economic interests, should the Muslim world ignore the larger issue at stake? That is, the endless and systematic ethnic cleansing of the people of Darfur?

We in the Islamic world haven’t still forgotten the great ethnic cleansing of Albanian Muslims in the Balkans a decade ago and rightly so. The mass murder and rape of Bosnian and Kosovan Muslims at the hands of Serb militias shook the Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia. Today the tragedy of the Balkans is being replicated in Africa. The Muslims are being slaughtered and raped once again but not in a remote corner of Christian Europe but right in the heart of the Muslim world and at the hands of fellow Muslims. 

Few in the Arab and Muslim world know and realise that those getting killed in Darfur over the past three years are as Muslim as the members of murderous Janjaweed militia.

But since the West is leading the protests against the Darfur genocide demanding action against Sudan, most people in the Islamic world assume that the ‘wicked, infidel’ West is again out to target the believers. But how wrong, how tragically mistaken they are! If only they knew that their ignorance and deafening silence on the issue has sent hundreds of thousands of innocent people, almost all of them Muslims, to their death in Darfur.

Let’s face it. Darfur is the most systematic and planned annihilation of a Muslim population in the 21st century by the Muslims. Between 300,000 and 500,000 black-skinned Africans in Darfur have died already. Countless women have been raped and tortured, some killed. Three million are dispossessed and driven out of their homes and safe enclaves in a so-called Arab and Muslim country. No wonder the UN describes it as “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster”.

Why then is the Muslim world silent, for God’s sake? Where is our conscience? Where is our moral outrage? Where are protesting Arabs and Muslims? Why is the so-called Muslim street silent over Darfur? Why doesn’t this mass murder of helpless and innocent people agitate us, just as those innocent Muslims dying in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan do? 

Even if we didn’t know those dying in Darfur are indeed Muslims, shouldn’t we still raise our voice against the 21st century’s first and biggest genocide? Aren’t we supposed to stand up and speak for those who cannot do it for themselves? 

We never lose an opportunity to blast the West for practising double standards, from Palestine to Iraq to Afghanistan. But what are we doing in Darfur? We turn away our collective gaze while people are dying out there right now, forgotten and forsaken by the rest of the world including the Arab and Muslim countries. 

The Arab League refuses to confront Sudan on the shame of Darfur. In fact, it is the other way round. Sudan keeps complaining that League members do not support and stand by it in international forums. Support for what? For murder and rape of fellow Muslims?

The Organisation of Islamic Conference, which claims to represent the faithful everywhere, is yet to wake up to this continuing outrage. The League and OIC are too busy preparing those pointless, regulation resolutions to pay attention to the infinite suffering of the people in Darfur. To the Muslim world’s shame, if anyone has really forced Sudan to take some perfunctory steps on Darfur, it is the uproar and activism of human rights groups in the West.

When will the Arabs and Muslims wake up from their slumber of indifference to stop what is going on in Darfur? For if they do not, they will end up sharing the responsibility for the 21st century’s worst crime against humanity. As Edmund Burke warned, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. 


Eastern Sudan: A Forgotten Crisis

While the world’s attention is fixed on the Darfur killing fields, eastern Sudan struggles to cope with nearly 200,000 displaced people.

By Ayesha Kajee in Johannesburg

If Darfur, Sudan’s neglected westernmost region, is the Cinderella of the country, then eastern Sudan must be its ugly stepsister.

Subjected to similar levels of marginalisation by the Khartoum government as Darfur, and a virtual absence of social service infrastructure, the humanitarian crisis in the east may be even worse than that in Darfur, according to some diplomats and aid workers.

Eastern Sudan, a vast sun-blasted terrain of some 300,000 square kilometres, is home to between 3 and 4 million of Sudan’s poorest people.

The region has gold mines and gas reserves, and the east coast city of Port Sudan is essential for the export of the “black gold” (crude oil) to China and India that is the country’s main revenue earner. But the per capita income in some areas is as low as 25 US cents a day. Since the World Bank’s international poverty line categorises people living on less than one US dollar a day as being extremely poor, the inhabitants of eastern Sudan must rank among the most abjectly impoverished citizens on the globe.

While the world’s attention is fixed on the Darfur killing fields and the plight of Darfur's refugees, the three eastern Sudanese states of Kassala, Red Sea and Gedaref together host about 74,000 internal refugees - called IDPs, internally displaced persons, by bureaucrats - and more than 110,000 refugees from neighbouring Eritrea and Ethiopia.

A number of refugee camps are so poorly resourced that they do not even have plastic tarpaulin to serve as shelter from the elements. Some refugees who fled to Sudan to escape recurrent warfare between Eritrea and Ethiopia have lived here in limbo for between two and four decades - a plight that the United Nations this year called “one of the ten most under-reported stories on earth”.

The region has been subject to a low-intensity rebel insurgency over the past eleven years. The eastern rebels have had similar complaints to those in Darfur and southern Sudan - marginalisation and neglect - and their demands are similar too: they want greater power sharing and a larger proportion of the profits from Sudan’s oil wealth.

Until recently, the Khartoum government’s response to rebel strikes has been, as in Darfur, counter-insurgency by the Sudanese army and affiliated militias. The fighting has forced thousands from their homes in relatively fertile areas to camps in desert-like, drought-stricken areas.

Eritrea has armed and provisioned the eastern rebels in retaliation for Khartoum’s support of Eritrean rebel groups. Most of the rebels are Beja herdsmen who wage hit-and-run attacks against government soldiers from the backs of their camels.

The eastern rebels have also received support from the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, SPLM, in the far south and the Justice and Equality Movement, JEM, which is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur.

After the signing of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA, in January last year - painstakingly negotiated to end decades of conflict between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south - the Eastern Front, a coalition of rebels from the two largest ethnic groups in eastern Sudan, intensified their protests in anger at their exclusion from the agreement.

Sudanese government forces gunned down 27 peaceful demonstrators in Port Sudan last January, sparking an international outcry. The government also incarcerated rebel leaders without charge and allegedly tortured them, suspended humanitarian access, closed the border with Eritrea and imposed a state of emergency in an attempt to limit rebel activity.

The attempt proved misguided and backfired. Rebels stepped up attacks on such strategic government installations as the 1500-km Chinese-built oil pipeline which pumps 500,000 barrels of oil from the centre and south of the country to Port Sudan each day. Facing so much pressure from the Darfur conflict and preoccupied with handling the infant and fragile peace in the south, Khartoum needed "to put out this [east Sudan] fire”, said Ahmed el-Amin Terik, an adviser to one of the eastern state governors. "It wasn't like the eastern rebels were so much of a threat. But even a mosquito doesn't let you sleep." The fighting in the east is estimated to have cost some 5,000 lives in the last ten years, compared with hundreds of thousands in Darfur and the south.

Conversely, the rebels realised that the planned withdrawal of SPLM troops and weapons from the east, under the north-south peace deal, would weaken their support base. Eritrea, desiring better relations with Sudan, hosted peace negotiations in Asmara, which culminated in the signing of a peace agreement between the Sudan government and the Eastern Front in mid-October 2006.

Under the agreement, a ceasefire was called and the eastern rebels got a presidential aide, several state ministers and members of parliament appointed from their ranks. It also guarantees that about 600 million dollars will be spent on health and water programmes for eastern Sudan over the next five years.

But the Sudan Human Rights Organisation, while welcoming the accord, expressed concerns that it “maintains the political hegemony of the ruling National Congress Party [in Khartoum] and doesn’t provide sufficient funds to develop the region”. Just as the May 2006 Darfur peace accord is routinely ignored by all its signatories, it is unclear as yet whether the eastern agreement will manage to stabilise eastern Sudan.

More than half a century of underdevelopment and neglect will take decades to reverse and will likely require billions of dollars. The infant mortality rate in Red Sea state is the highest in the country. Only 20 villages in there and 50 in Kassala State have access to healthcare. Half of Kassala State’s population is chronically malnourished. Towns such as Tokar in Red Sea State are prone to both drought and summer floods, with more than 30,000 people affected by flooding this year alone.

In some regions, the literacy rate is as low as three per cent, a situation exacerbated by the conservative Muslim culture which predominates in the region and restricts education for women.

Religion is what brings the two parties in the Eastern Front together - the Beja Congress, representing the 2.4 million ethnic Beja people of the region, and the Rashaida Free Lions, a group who claim Arab descent. The Beja-Rashaida alliance, unusual between African and Arab tribes, was cemented through an influential religious Sufi movement, the Khatmiyyah Brotherhood.

Both groups were traditionally nomadic, but recurrent droughts and displacement due to conflict have forced many easterners to seek employment in urban areas. This has seen a mushrooming of slums around cities such as Port Sudan and Kassala, where Beja support is concentrated.

The rebels have settled for a lot less than they had initially envisaged. Though they had asked for one dollar from every barrel of oil shipped from Port Sudan, which would have netted them about 150 million dollars a year, they settled for 600 million dollars in development funds over a limited time-span. Also, Beja leaders had wanted regional autonomy but were placated with appointments in Khartoum instead. Rebels say they were pressed into accepting a diluted deal because of Eritrea's eagerness to normalise relations with Sudan.

The long-running Eritrea-Ethiopia cold war has shown signs of heating up once more, prompting the Eritrean government in Asmara to make moves to neutralise Sudan as a possible Ethiopian ally. The Eastern Front, which had largely operated out of rear bases in Eritrea, had little choice but to yield to Eritrean pressure.

Both the Beja and the Rashaida are proud peoples, a factor Khartoum needs to take heed of. Should the Sudanese government fail to fulfill its obligations to accelerate development and social service delivery in eastern Sudan, there could be Eastern Front attacks on the oil pipeline artery that delivers wealth to Khartoum’s elites.

Saboteurs and hostage-takers in Nigeria and Iraq are pointing the way in which petro-economies can be held to ransom if they fail to take heed of local concerns. Given that the pipeline traverses much of eastern Sudan; that the Red Sea State hosts the nation’s single deepwater port; and that impoverished, ultra-conservative communities are fertile breeding grounds for political and religious extremism, Khartoum needs to push development of the east.

The refugee situation has not been addressed by the Asmara peace agreement, and conscription-dodgers fleeing enforced military service in Eritrea continue to swell the ranks of refugees in eastern Sudan. New refugees are not allowed to work and have relied on humanitarian aid which has since been proscribed by the Sudan government. Eric Reeves, a Sudan analyst, says that Khartoum deliberately escalates “malnutrition and human mortality in eastern Sudan as part of a war of attrition against the people seen as supporting an insurgency movement (the Eastern Front)”.

As a result, most refugees live in conditions where hunger is a constant and preventable diseases such as malaria take a grim toll. Despite the conservative culture, almost half of refugee households are headed by women, most of them widows. They are forced to earn money to supplement the meagre food rations that aid organisations manage to smuggle through to the region, but cultural constraints limit their mobility and the type of work they can do.

For those refugees who have lived in eastern Sudan since childhood, this is the only home they know, yet they cannot claim citizenship. Their only hope is that peace in the region may bring increased humanitarian aid, which could help to focus greater media attention on their plight.

With the ceasefire and a re-opening of the Sudan-Eritrea border, it is also hoped that regional trade, once a mainstay of areas such as Kassala, will be resumed. Leaders are trusting that stability will bring foreign aid and much-needed investment. But since the world has largely ignored eastern Sudan in its time of conflict, that indifference seems likely to persist unless global energy supplies are in the balance.

Ayesha Kajee, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, is a regular IWPR contributor.


Darfur war crimes suspect defiant

BBC – February 28, 2007

Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister, accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said the move against him is political.

Ahmed Muhammad Haroun said he "did not feel guilty", his conscience was clear and that he was ready to defend himself.

The ICC accuses Mr Haroun and a Janjaweed militia leader, known as Ali Kushayb, of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Some 200,000 people have died in the four-year conflict in Darfur.

"I am not worried at all and I do not feel guilty because I acted within the legal framework and in accordance with the general interest," Mr Haroun told AFP news agency.

Mr Haroun was the former interior minister in charge of Darfur and according to the ICC was responsible for organising and funding the Arab militia known as the Janjaweed.

Ali Kushayb is accused of ordering the murder, torture and mass rape against innocent civilians during attacks on villages near Kodoom, Bindisi Mukjar and Arawala in west Darfur.

Next steps

The United States has urged Sudan to co-operate fully with the ICC, but Sudan says it will not hand over the two suspects as the ICC has no jurisdiction to try its citizens and its courts are capable of prosecuting the suspects.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges to issue summonses for the two men, saying there was reason to believe they bore "criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004".

The attackers, he said, "did not target any rebel presence. Rather they targeted civilian residents based on the rationale that they were supporters of the rebel forces".

The strategy, Mr Moreno-Ocampo added, "became the justification for the mass murder, summary execution and mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participant in any armed conflict".

He said, "Ahmad Muhammad Haroun visited Darfur on a regular basis and became known to people in Darfur as the official from Khartoum who recruits, staffs and arms the Janjaweed.

"The evidence shows that Ahmad Muhammad Haroun provided arms for the Janjaweed from a budget that was unlimited and not publicly audited."

ICC judges will now have to decide whether to open an inquiry against the suspects with the aim of issuing international arrest warrants, after Mr Moreno-Ocampo filed evidence against the two suspects.

More than 2m civilians have fled their homes, with most now staying in insecure camps supported by humanitarian agencies, who complain of frequent harassment from the Sudanese authorities.

Aid agencies are now said to be assessing how viable their operations may be following the ICC's intervention.


Oil and Violence in Sudan Drilling, Poverty and Death in Upper Nile State

Written by Egbert Wesselink & Evelien Weller

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The discovery of oil in a developing country can be a blessing or a curse. In Sudan’s case, oil exploration and development has helped fuel vicious warfare. The 2005 Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brokered an end to fighting between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), offers a framework to depart from that brutal legacy, but so far its promise has not been realized.

Sudan’s largest oil field is located in Western Upper Nile, southeast of the capital, Khartoum. Most of the international focus on the intersection of oil and violence in Sudan has been directed towards this area.

But oil development is now proceeding rapidly in another oil field east of there, in the Melut Basin in Upper Nile State, with a disturbingly similar story line.

Areas that the government has designated concession blocs 3 and 7 lie in this region. They are located in Melut and Maban Counties, in Renk District. Oil development rights for these concession blocs are currently held by the Petrodar Operating Company Ltd. (PDOC) under an Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement with the Sudanese government. The Petrodar Operating Company is jointly owned by the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC, 41 percent), Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas of Malaysia, 40 percent), Sudan Petroleum Company (Sudapet, 8 percent), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec, 6 percent), and Al Thani Corporation (United Arab Emirates, 5 percent).

Petrodar has served as a loyal partner of the government of Sudan. It has never raised its voice against the government’s use of violence to clear the way for oil development; and the government’s war strategy has been guided by a desire to pave the way for oil extraction and the funds it promises. Petrodar has evidenced virtually no concern for the people or environment of Renk District.

Displaced residents of Upper Nile State had reason to hope for dramatic change after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM. The CPA contains a range of principles and measures that offer a coherent framework for reforming Sudan’s oil sector and popular trust-building, but the relevant provisions remain a dead letter. Petrodar has not reversed its pattern of environmental and social neglect; and there is no process in place to change its conduct, nor to assure fair compensation and redress for the people who have suffered.

In the nearly 50 years since it gained independence, Sudan has known mostly military rule. Most of those years have been marked by a bloody civil war, stretching from 1955 to 1972 and again from 1983 to 2005, between the central government and the vast majority of the people in the South.

The Melut Basin is remote and under-reported. It lies on the northernmost edge of the Southern side of the former North-South front line, in a region that has not had a single permanent international presence since the Sudan’s civil war began. The inhabitants are predominantly Dinka and Maban agro-pastoralists, and non-Muslim. They mostly live by herding, cultivation and fishing. During the wet season, they stay in permanent settlements on slightly higher ground, for the most part small sandy ridges, surrounded by the black clay soil that floods and is not fit for settlement. A village in this area would typically count between 200 and 500 inhabitants.

The Chevron Find

Oil exploration in Sudan started in 1959, when Italy’s Agip was granted concessions in the Red Sea area. It was not until 1978, however, that Chevron, operator of a consortium in which Shell took a 25 percent interest, made the first important strike — not in northern Sudan, but in the Muglad Basin stretching deep into Western Upper Nile. In 1981, Chevron made a second, smaller find at Adar Yale in the Melut Basin in Northern Upper Nile, a predominantly Dinka area east of the White Nile. A year later, Chevron made a third, much larger discovery at Heglig, 70 kilometers north of the Unity field in Western Upper Nile. For the next 20 years, the fields in Western Upper Nile were to be the main focus of interest for the Sudanese oil industry.

In late 1983 and early 1984, less than a year after the outbreak of civil war between the Northern-dominated government and the ethnically diverse South, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA, affiliated with the SPLM) kidnapped and subsequently released a number of Chevron employees. Shortly afterwards, the SPLA attacked Chevron’s operational base. Chevron suspended its operations and virtually all its staff was evacuated by air within 18 hours of the attack. In 1989, a coup d’état brought the National Islamic Front (NIF) to power and the civil war intensified. Chevron left Sudan in 1990, under pressure from the Sudanese government to operate or quit.

Chevron’s huge concession was then divided into smaller units. For several years, the Sudanese government struggled to get capable companies interested.

The government awarded blocs 3 and 7 to Gulf Petroleum Corporation-Sudan (GPC), a private consortium in which Qatar’s Gulf Petroleum Corporation had a 60 percent stake, Sudapet held 20 percent and Concorp International, a private company owned by the NIF financier Mohamed Abdullah Jar al-Nabi, 20 percent.

GPC only managed small-scale production, but serious government violence accompanied the consortium’s operations. Government forces attacked and burned villages in order to clear the way for GPC to cut a road through inhabited, cultivated areas. "After the militias attacked and killed," says the paramount chief of the Dinka Nyiel (a Dinka sub-group), Deng Nuor, "the army came with tanks and burned villages. They chased us away from our areas — and then they built roads and brought electricity! Now all our areas are covered in wells."

Deng Nuor said the first large villages destroyed near the Khor Adar River (the Khor Adar is a seasonal tributary to the White Nile) were villages close to the place where the main oil road south from Paloich crosses the Khor Adar. He estimates that almost half the population perished in the attacks. "Approximately 1,000 people lived in [one village], Agor Ti," he says. "About 400 died, most of them by shooting."

In November 2000, nine months after the Harker report, a high-profile Canadian government-commissioned investigation into the link between oil development and human rights violations, confirmed that "oil is exacerbating conflict in Sudan," the Sudanese government awarded blocs 3 and 7 to the Petrodar Operating Company Ltd (PDOC).

Changes on the ground were immediate and impressive. A comprehensive oil development infrastructure began to be built, including 31,000 barrels-a-day field production facilities at the Adar Yale fields, a full-size airfield, and hundreds of kilometers of all-weather roads and feeder-pipes. Kotolok, just west of Paloich, became the center of operations and the hub for the 1,392-kilometer pipeline to Port Sudan that was inaugurated in April 2006. Blocs 3 and 7 are expected to produce 300,000 barrels-a-day in late 2006. With the current oil prices around $70 per barrel, by the end of this year, the Melut Basin could generate well over $10 million per day for the state, in addition to Petrodar’s profits.

Destruction and Displacement

Northern Upper Nile has suffered the same pattern of oil-related death, destruction and displacement as Western Upper Nile, though on a smaller scale. Many villages north and east of the Khor Adar River — formerly a frontier between the government of Sudan and the SPLM — have been emptied. Destruction in blocs 3 and 7 was carried out primarily by the regular Sudanese army and government-supported Dinka militias, at several occasions backed by helicopter gunships or even high-altitude bomber aircraft, despite the fact that the SPLA presented no direct threat to oil exploitation. Many settlements were burned. In an appeal to the international community in 2002, the Episcopal Bishop of Renk, Daniel Deng Bul, counted 21 torched villages in the vicinity of Melut alone, the result of a policy of "clearing the area of the local population, whom they expect to have relations with the SPLA."

The wave of destruction peaked in 1999-2002, preceding and coinciding with the development of the oil fields. Local church leaders claim government-backed militias destroyed 48 villages in 2000-2001 and several villages were destroyed in the Guelguk area. Lela Ajout Along, a Member of Parliament for Melut and Renk, has recently carried out a survey which lists a total of 168 emptied villages.

"The army declared a rule," says Bishop Daniel Deng Bul. "If a person is found after this in the area where the Chinese are working, [it] can cost his or her life. Most young people have left Melut towards the North, afraid of being captured, arrested or killed by the army."

Abuses continued, albeit on a lesser scale, in the ensuing years. In June 2004, the government increased its military forces in northern Upper Nile and moved in a battalion of 700 men. The reinforcement, which violated a Memorandum of Understanding requiring the parties to cease fire and "retain current military positions," coincided with the transport of sections for the pipeline from Kotolok to Port Sudan.

"When the pipeline was being built," says Commissioner Elijah Bioch, SPLM Commissioner of Melut, "people started to disappear on the road. If you travelled in a bus or lorry you would be safe. If you were footing, you would be killed."

North of Paloich, the pipeline passes close to the garrison town of Renk. A number of villagers complained about the damage done to their farming lands. Petrodar responded by calling in the army.

A similar problem arose in Kubri village in November 2004. People in Kubri complained to the Chinese workers that the pipeline prevented them from cultivating their land. The Chinese told the army, which arrested many people. They were released after the intervention of the civil authorities, but the pipeline is still there.

Oil exploitation has coincided with a decline in the rural population in parts of Melut and Maban Counties. This is mostly due to forced displacement of the Dinka and Maban populations, and partially to the effects of cheap and environmentally harmful engineering. The total number of people forcibly displaced is at least 15,000; the true number could easily be double that figure.

The majority of the displaced from the oil fields have found refuge in the regional centers Renk, Melut, Paloich and Maban, and in the SPLM-controlled area along the White Nile, south of the Khor Adar. They are ruined and have inadequate access to all basic human needs from shelter and food, to education and health services. To return to their places of origin, they will need security guarantees, tools and equipment, food, livestock and seeds.

Since the signing of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement, some people have begun to return to their villages, only to find that some of them no longer exist. Most of Upper Nile consists of black cotton soil that is swampy in the wet season and forms deep cracks in the dry season. It is extremely difficult to build on. It is not fit for living. However, there are numerous sandy "ridges" of slightly higher ground, and it is on these that the people build their villages. To economize, Petrodar has unearthed neighboring sandy ridges for road construction. Alongside oil roads, there are huge holes in the ground where villages used to stand. The companies have appropriated some sandy ridges. For example, where Kotolok, formerly an important village, was located, now sits the main oil base, about 15 kilometers from Paloich on the road to Melut.

There is also widespread resentment among displaced villagers because the graves of the ancestors, who are buried in the villages, have been desecrated. Their remains are now scattered in the oil roads.

Environment Under Siege

Crop patterns in Melut County have changed dramatically from November 1999, mostly due to displacement of villagers and partly to hydrological alterations as a result of cheap and inconsiderate engineering.

The hundreds of kilometers of all-weather roads constructed by Petrodar have hurt agricultural production and partially dammed seasonal tributaries to the Nile, including the Khor Adar. Satellite imagery confirm the statements from local residents that the roads are acting as dams and preventing the natural flow of water. This leads to flooding in some areas and drought in others. In 2005, even parts of Renk town were flooded. People have cut the road open themselves to allow the water to drain away, according to ECS Bishop Daniel Deng.

In March 2006, the remains of houses destroyed in the 2005 floods in the northern part of Renk were still visible.

From Geger to Renk, a distance of 40 kilometers, there are reports that agriculture was seriously affected by floods. Lela Ajout Along, the Member of Parliament for the Renk and Melut area, made a fact-finding trip in January 2006. She reported food shortages in the area and referred the matter to the World Food Program for investigation.

She discovered that vegetable gardens around Abu Khadra had failed and that in some areas cows have died near the pipeline because they cannot cross it. She also reported that, during construction, children died when playing on the half-completed pipeline. According to Ajout Along, there was no awareness-raising on health and safety for the local communities.

Sham Compensation

In acclaiming the discovery of the Paloich oil fields ("a petroliferous system with extremely rich oil and gas reserves") as its greatest scientific and technological achievement of 2003, the China National Petroleum Company stated, "the discovery cost per barrel is much lower than that for big international oil corporations, yielding both high exploration and social benefits." By lack of publicly available data, the cost-efficiency of Petrodar’s operations cannot be independently judged. All available evidence, however, indicates that the development of the Melut Basin has brought no substantial social benefits, but has rather taken the desperately poor area backwards.

Northern Upper Nile is extremely poor by any standard. More than 90 percent of the population in Renk District live on less than $1 a day. Data available from UN nutrition surveys conducted in Melut county indicate persistent food shortages, with malnourishment rates of 20.5 percent in May 2002 and 28.1 percent in April 2005.

Paloich, the main oil center, may serve as an example. Before 2001, Paloich was a small village that had a clinic run by foreigners, with free treatment for the poor. Today’s clinic is larger and better equipped, and almost exclusively for army use. The Dinka population is obliged to sell goats to buy medicine, and has no other option now but to treat themselves. So few facilities are in the area that the local Dinka have been crossing to SPLM/A-controlled areas in search of medical care.

A universal complaint from residents is the lack of basic services in the area. Production areas have electricity, but no indigenous population to use it. Rural settlements and camps for the displaced — where people do live — have no electricity. Oil centers like Adar and Paloich have clinics, but local people say they cannot access them, unlike oil workers and the military. Paloich has an important up-to-date airport, but its population has no fresh water, no jobs and no security.

No compensation has been offered, other than a patch of barren black cotton soil a few kilometers from Paloich, where Petrodar has built a police station (occupied by Northern police, even though it is in the South), a mosque (in an area where the people are non-Muslim), a school (also occupied by Northern police) and a hospital (without doctors or patients). People have refused to move there because they know it floods in the wet season. There are piles of rotting reeds stored in the school — this is Petrodar’s contribution to housing. Local people are outraged, especially as they have heard that Northerners displaced by dams and other projects are given ready-built concrete homes as compensation. Basic services such as health and education are almost non-existent in the Adar Yel oil field.

Security for Oil, Not People

Security in the area is still provided by Northern forces taking their orders from Khartoum rather than Juba, the regional capital of Southern Sudan.

Melut is one of the few places in Southern Sudan where mounted heavy weapons, with ready-use ammunition stacked next to them, are visible. They are stored in a church compound that government of Sudan forces occupied in 1997 and have refused to hand back.

In the south of bloc 7, government and militia forces are reported to have been militarizing the Sobat river. International observers say that at least nine government garrisons were established on the Sobat in the first half of 2005. They are "described as town halls, community centers and such, but clearly [are] not!" said Rev. John Aben Deng in April 2005.

Rev. Deng, who made a fact-finding trip to the region for the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, says everyone blames oil development for the militarization. "Why is the government building new garrisons on the Sobat?" he asks. "To occupy and secure the oil area and to protect the companies because the communities are against the drilling of the oil."

Local SPLM officials believe that Petrodar has colluded with Sudanese government security forces, who still restrict the movement of local people.

Petrodar now wants to expand south of the Adar River, but local authorities and traditional chiefs are trying to block this, and want the decision referred to Government of Southern Sudan in Juba, not to the Northern Islamic Front (NIF)-dominated Government of National Unity in Khartoum. They say that oil has only brought destruction north of the river; why should the same destruction be allowed to spread?

Empty Promises?

More than a year after the signing of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement, conditions for impoverished civilians have improved only minimally. Most of the displaced in northern Upper Nile have little or no knowledge of the peace agreement. Those aware of it believe that, because it promises peace, it must provide for an immediate end to the abuses they associate with oil, safe return to their villages and development.

"We have heard about peace, but seen nothing," says Chief Chol Nul, a chief of the Dinka Nyiel in Adar. "I want to see a big hospital, schools, roads, free movement to Malakal and Renk without government militias on the way. The CPA [should mean] employment, no hunger, hospitals and schools, no fear and UN troops on the front lines to monitor the ceasefire and the oil. Then there will be peace."

In a number of areas, local people are taking matters into their own hands. In Det, south of Guelguk, where an exploratory well was dug in 2004, civilians killed the Petrodar team leader in January 2006, within a fortnight of the CPA being signed, and chased away the government-backed militia of Jok Deng. "North of the Sobat," says Rev. John Abeng Deng, "the Dinka agreed that anyone doing oil work south of Khor Adar would be killed. They want oil development stopped until it is done with their agreement."

In many parts of the Petrodar concession, chiefs and civilians have asked the SPLA to arm them to enable them to return to their homes despite the continuing presence of government-supported militias. Paramount Chief Deng Nuor is one of them.

"We want to go back to our villages," he says. "If we are not helped to do so, we will fight the militia to settle in our villages. We have asked the SPLA for weapons. But we have been told: ‘There is peace. We don’t want fighting.’"

Egbert Wesselink is coordinator of the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) and Evelien Weller is research officer at ECOS. They work with Pax Christi Netherlands. ECOS is a group of over 80 European organizations working for peace and justice in Sudan. The coalition calls for action by governments and the business sector to ensure that Sudan’s oil wealth contributes to peace and equitable development. This article is based on an ECOS report, "Oil Development in Northern Upper Nile, Sudan."


Sudan: ICC case could provoke violence

July 13, 2008

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan's ruling party warned Sunday there will be more violence in Darfur if the country's president is indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide as hundreds of people rallied in Khartoum to show their support for the longtime leader.

A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is expected to seek an arrest warrant Monday charging President Omar al-Bashir with orchestrating violence in Darfur that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since 2003.

In Sudan, the ruling National Congress Party called the case against the al-Bashir "irresponsible cheap political blackmail" that has no legal basis, according to a statement from the party that was broadcast on state TV. It also warned there would be "more violence and blood" in Darfur if an arrest warrant is issued against the president, TV reported.

Al-Bashir huddled with Cabinet ministers and advisers Sunday, weighing how the government would response to any action taken by the ICC. Sudan has also asked the Arab League for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Outside the meeting, hundreds of Sudanese, many carrying flags and pro-government banners, demonstrated to show their support for al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 coup. Others held signs ridiculing the ICC and its prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina. "Ocampo is a plotter against Sudan's people," one banner read.

Al-Bashir briefly emerged from the Cabinet meeting and went to the roof of the building to wave at the cheering crowd. He did not say anything.

Sudan's state TV said the protest was organized by Sudanese labor groups.

"The different worker organizations are standing against any plot targeting the national sovereignty and expressing their support to the leadership," the TV said.

The report also said the country's Justice Minister Abdel Basset Sabdarat assured the demonstrators that his ministry was "ready to confront this plot." He did not elaborate.

One of the participants at the Cabinet meeting, Essam Youssef, told reporters afterward that Sudanese politicians agreed to send "a strong message to the international community that we stand with all our power against anybody ... who seeks to impose sanctions or target our head of state."

"This action violates Sudan's sovereignty and its people's values and dignity," said Youssef, an ally of al-Bashir who also heads the country's Muslim Brotherhood movement.

On Saturday, a government spokesman said al-Bashir's indictment would be "disastrous" for the region and could affect the work of humanitarian organizations in Sudan.

Mahjoub Fadul Badry did not specify what actions might be taken, but there are fears the charges could provoke reprisals against international aid workers and the U.N.-African Union peacekeepers that are already experiencing difficulties in doing their work.

A U.N. spokeswoman said Sunday the peacekeeping force was on security alert but still relying on the Sudanese government for protection inside the country.

Some foreign staff not directly working on emergency or humanitarian relief operations could be "temporarily relocated," said Shereen Zorba, deputy UNAMID spokeswoman.

Zorba stressed that any disruption to humanitarian work in Darfur could have disastrous consequences.

"The people of Darfur have already suffered unimaginable suffering and should not be subjected to more tragedy," she said.

Seven UNAMID peacekeepers were killed Tuesday when heavily armed fighters attacked them while they were on a patrol in northern Darfur. More than a dozen other peacekeepers were injured in the ambush — the deadliest against the joint U.N.-AU force since it deployed in the remote western Sudanese region earlier this year.

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said Moreno-Ocampo will present evidence of war crimes in Darfur to judges Monday and one or more new suspects would be named. Court officials have refused to identify any of the potential new suspects, but U.N. officials and diplomats have said Moreno-Ocampo will seek an arrest warrant against al-Bashir.

The prosecutor has clearly indicated that he is aiming for the top leadership of the Sudanese government, accusing them of sponsoring the janjaweed militias who have unleashed a reign of terror on the country's Darfur region.

Up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been displaced since the conflict began in early 2003.


The Lost Boys of Sudan