US Condemns Latest Sudanese Offensive Against Civilians

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - The United States has condemned the Sudanese government following new attacks against civilians in rebel-controlled areas.

The latest reports said heavy fighting is going on in the rebel-controlled oil-producing Leer area of Western Upper Nile province, where militias allied with the government murdered civilians this week.

The Sudan government and the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) on Feb.5 signed an agreement to strengthen an earlier ceasefire deal. But State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher issued a statement saying that Sudan has violated the ceasefire agreement. He condemned what he described as "unconscionable attacks and abuses" against civilians in the Western Upper Nile region.

Boucher was responding to a report by U.S.-led team of international monitors who detailed a number of attacks in southern Sudan in December and January, and the displacement of thousands of civilians.

The condemnation follows reports by an international team of U.S. and Canadian officials, who traveled to Liang in Western Upper Nile province, where they discovered fields littered with human remains. Many of the victims were young children, they said.

The bodies were those of civilians killed in Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji areas in late April 2002. It is estimated that as many as 4,000 civillians were killed in that attack.

The report was released by officials from organizations including Servant's Heart, Freedom Quest International, and The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada).

Although Sudanese embassy officials in Nairobi were unavailable for comment, independent sources close to the Sudanese government told CNSNews.com that the fighting is still going on in Western Upper Nile, with SPLA Commander Riek Macher leading the rebels.

"The attacks on SPLA positions are being made by local militias supported by the government. The fighting has been going on for more than two weeks now," said the source.

One villager described the horrors of April 2002, as he watched Sudan soldiers shoot and kill his 4-year -old daughter as she tried to run away. Then his 6-year-old son was captured and beheaded by the soldiers, his body thrown into a burning hut.

Philipa Cevey, a spokesperson for the US-led Joint Military Command, which monitors the ceasefire agreement in the Nuba Mountains area, said the team's mandate does not cover the areas visited by the international team of U.S. and Canadian officials.

In January, the charity group Christian Solidarity International (CSI) called on the U.S. to speak out against Khartoum's resumption of "ethnic cleansing operations" and destruction of international aid agency facilities in rebel-controlled oil-producing areas of Western Upper Nile.

Sudan Catholic Bishops Regional Conference (SCBRC) officials confirmed that the latest fighting is going on in parts of Western Upper Nile province. SCBRC Assistant Development Coordinator Perre Odongi said the attacks by government militias were happening near the oil fields in the province.

He said his organization had found that local militias are encouraged by the government to attack civilians in the rebel-controlled areas in return for "small tokens" from the government.

"The attacks are sometimes brutal. We have reports where a lady was killed by hammering nails into her head," said Odongo.

The Islamist-dominated, Arab government of Sudan is fighting a civil war against black African Christians and animists in the South. At least two million people have died since the fighting began twenty years ago.

The Bush administration launched a peace initiative in September 2001, when the president appointed former Sen. John Danforth as special envoy for peace in Sudan.

The U.S. initiative has invigorated an eight-year-old peace process sponsored by a regional body called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

IGAD Special Envoy on peace in Sudan Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo on Feb.6 forecast that peace in Sudan would be realized before the end of the year. He spoke after the two parties signed an agreement on the issues of wealth- and power- sharing and committed themselves to tackling governance and security issues when the talks resume, possibly on March 2.

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