By: Garang Kuot Kuot, JUBA, NOV. 25/2012, SSN;
Prior to installation of oil facilities in Panthou/Heglig in 1999, Khartoum carried out scorch-earth policy against civil population in the area, mostly Pan Roou Dinka community, in a deliberate attempt to depopulate the area. The inhabitants of the area were forcibly and permanently displaced from their ancestral lands.
The same painful history is about to be repeated in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State by Khartoum regime.
The unfortunate inclusion of 14 Mile in the Cooperation Agreement by Khartoum was a pretext to execute its policy of forceful displacement that will pave a way for annexation of this resource rich region of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. In order to put this into context, Khartoum regime ordered its air force to carry out indiscriminate and intensive aerial campaign targeting villages and market places in and around Kiir Adem Payam on 20th, 21st, and 22nd November, 2012.
On 20th November, 2012 when this unprovoked bombardment began, Khartoum mercilessly murdered seven civilians and wounded eight others. On the second and third days of bombardment, Khartoum similarly targeted villages and market places in the same area, severely wounding one woman on 21st November. On 22nd November, 2012, the fourth day of Khartoum’s aggression, the regime sent its war planes to hover over the area for many hours in an obvious attempt to terrorize the residents.
Now, one must ask: why is Khartoum targeting the civil population? To get answer to this question, we must revisit the painful history of Panthou.
Today, Panthou is firmly under the control of Khartoum after its rightful owners were forcefully and mercilessly evicted from their ancestral home lands. As we speak, the owners of Panthou are made to become permanent Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Unity State. It’s this very policy of permanent displacement that Khartoum wishes to execute in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State and it has already begun.
After three days of consecutive, indiscriminate aerial bombardment, there was, and still is, wider panic amongst yhe civilian population in the area. And indeed, causing widespread fear amongst the civilian population is the ultimate aim of Khartoum Government. The most likely calculation among Khartoum planners and strategists is that yhe civil population will eventually be forced to leave their homes, paving way for Khartoum to entrench its control over the area and eventually settles its Messeria and Rezeigat nomads there.
When this goal is achieved, Khartoum will easily exploit our resources without hindrances as it is doing in Panthou today. This is an eventuality that must not come to pass under any circumstance.
Besides, Khartoum regime is also calculating that it should forcefully evict the residents of Kiir Adeem Payam or “14 Mile” area – as it being called today – in preparation for future visit by the Joint Demarcation Committee (JDC) and Joint Technical Committee (JTC), both of which are tasked with demarcating Sudan and South Sudan borderline.
The plan is that once the civil population is displaced, Khartoum regime feels, it will have better chances of annexing the area and this explains why the unprovoked bombardment kept increasing in intensity. But this calculation is not thought out well by Khartoum strategists. Targeting civilians only discloses the true colors of the regime to the wider world as having lost every element of legitimacy to lead the Sudanese people.
Recent failed coup plot is a case in point and it explains the frustration of the Sudanese people with this murderous regime. The residents of Kiir Adeem Payam will never ever leave their homes no matter how long Khartoum wishes to continue with its aerial campaign.
Having witnessed what happened in Kiir Adeem Payam of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, it is important to reexamine the many scenarios that come with sudden inclusion of 14 Mile area into the claimed and disputed territories. In my previous article on the subject, I cited five likely scenarios that could easily play out following the designation of 14 Mile as disputed.
The recent aerial bombardment constitutes the sixth scenario in which Khartoum will try to forcibly evict civil population in 14 Mile. However, any attempt to repeat the history of Panthou in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State will be resisted and will eventually fail.
This act of aggression comes in less than two months after the signature of September 27th Cooperation Agreement which was hailed as a new beginning for better relations between the two countries. As it was widely expected, Khartoum has already begun to undo the accord in the same manner that it has dishonored previous agreements as correctly observed in the book of a distinguish Statesman, Abiel Alier Kuai: “Too Many Agreements Dishonored.”
Just to underscore Khartoum’s resolve to undo the agreement, it has not only began its usual act of aggression against a sovereign nation as seen in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, but in its wild attempt to renege on the agreement, Khartoum is already giving impossible conditions to be met by the Government of South Sudan before oil production could begin.
At the moment, the dateline for resumption of oil production has long passed and it looks like we may not see the resumption of oil production any time soon. It is not surprising that Khartoum is doing this in direct contravention with oil agreement provision in which Sudan had committed to granting the Republic of South Sudan “…access rights to the processing and transportation facilities…” as clearly stipulated in Article 3 (3.1).
Khartoum regime is known for not keeping its word, a fact that prompted Late Dr. John Garang to describe it as “too deformed to be reformed.”
Khartoum has insisted that its bombing campaign is being conducted in Sudanese territory and this misplaced propaganda seem to be getting some listening ears in the international arena. If Kiir Adeem Payam or 14 Mile area, for that matter, was a Sudanese territory, why was it designated as disputed area in the agreement? And if it is a Sudanese territory, why are all casualties of recent aerial attack South Sudanese?
African Union and International community should condemn this act of aggression and hold Khartoum responsible for the death and wounding of innocent civilians. The silence of the International community over this matter is worrying South Sudanese masses.
Since Khartoum is clearly reneging on the agreement, it would be advisable that the Government of South Sudan reconsiders its commitment to pay a sum of USD 3.028 billion to Sudan as Transitional Financial Arrangement. It will be pointless to continue committing to this provision since the other party is not living up to the provisions of the accord.
Finally, I can’t end this article without expressing my utmost outrage with South Sudan Television (SSTV). SSTV has failed the nation many times in the past and continues to do so now.
For instance, back in April when our gallant forces (SPLA) took over Panthou in response to Sudan aggression, SSTV failed the nation very badly. While Sudan Television was busy all day long propagating lies about the war and demeaning, in the worst way possible, the Republic of South Sudan and her people, SSTV was either off air most of the time or was busy with its absolutely meaningless programs.
While SPLA was demonstrating greater level of professionalism and bravery in their confrontation with Sudan Armed Forces during April episode, media war between the two countries was largely one-sided. It was, for the most part, dominated by National Congress Party (NCP) propaganda machine. The world was manipulated and misled by the NCP through its Sudan TV. At the same time SSTV failed to provide an avenue to counter NCP propaganda which, in my opinion, was unforgivable.
We had a just cause for going to Panthou (Higlig) but the world was not fully educated about that cause because SSTV did not do its job.
I had expected that SSTV would stage a more robust but positive propaganda to educate the world about how much South Sudan endured throughout Pre and Interim Period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and during one year and four months now since it attained independence. Discussions and analysis on SSTV would have contextualized and justified the Republic of South Sudan’s military and political position in April.
I had also expected that SSTV would give ample time to both military and civilian experts to discuss, evaluate and analyze military operations along the border so that the citizens of this country became part of what was happening instead of being kept in the dark as though they had no stake in the crisis.
The same failure that we saw in April and in many other incidences are being repeated now. While Sudan Armed Forces was busy bombing villages in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, it was business as usual on SSTV. All we saw and continue to see on the television is monotonous music and absolutely meaningless programs. SSTV is paying very little attention to this open act of aggression against the Republic South Sudan. This barbaric act of aggression against civil population by a foreign army was not even an item on the headlines.
In my opinion, SSTV is indeed a disgrace to the young nation. I hope some listening ear in the ministry will do something about this ineptness of nation’s television.
Garang Kuot Kuot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org