afrol.com, 25 January - Sudanese government planes bombed civilian and humanitarian targets at least 152 times in southern and central Sudan last year, according to a final review of field reports by the US Committee for Refugees (USCR). The report also concludes on the use of larger bombs and use of helicopter gunships.
The bombings have continued at an unrelenting pace this year, with eight confirmed bomb attacks against civilian and humanitarian sites during the first three weeks of January. The USCR has been working in the field in Sudan since the 1970s and dedicated much effort on documenting the humanitarian crisis following the civil war in the country.
According to the organisation, "the Sudanese government appears to be using larger, more powerful bombs and has unleashed helicopter gunships in some of its most recent attacks against villages and farming communities." The USCR collected this evidence during a just-completed site visit to southern Sudan.
Last year's 152 confirmed bombings - documented by UN humanitarian agencies, private international aid organizations, and local church workers - mean that aerial attacks occurred, on average, nearly three times each week during 2000. The attacks intensified during the final months of the year, with 38 known bombings during November and December combined.
- The Sudanese government has deliberately bombed its own citizens during much of the country's 17-year civil war to force populations to flee and to disrupt local economies and international relief efforts, the USCR concludes. "Last year, however, was the first year that comprehensive documentation by humanitarian agencies on the ground revealed the full scope of the government's bombing campaign."
The grim final tally of 152 bombings last year is almost certainly an underestimate. Aerial bombings in remote areas of southern Sudan often remain unreported to the outside world and are therefore difficult to count. Fuller documentation of the Sudanese government's aerial attacks would probably reveal that 200 or more bombings actually occurred last year, USCR estimates.
USCR Executive Director Roger Winter last week completed a site visit to southern Sudan, where he investigated a new bombing site in Bahr el-Ghazal Province and spoke to civilian survivors. Winter reported evidence that the Sudanese government is using larger, more powerful bombs in recent attacks. Survivors also reported to USCR that government forces are increasingly using helicopter gunships to push local residents from lucrative oil-producing areas.
- The Sudanese government's objective seems to be to push people from their homes in preparation for a large new military offensive and to depopulate areas to begin exploitation of expanded oil fields, Winter said. "The bomb craters I investigated are larger and deeper than those previously seen, suggesting that Sudanese planes might be using larger or more sophisticated bombs. Some bomb craters were more than ten feet deep. This is a new development.
- Local villagers reported that they were attacked by helicopter gunships, Winter stated. "I spoke with people wounded in the helicopter attacks. Helicopter gunships are a lethal weapon against civilians in southern Sudan's flat, open terrain."
Sudanese military planes have bombed civilian and humanitarian targets at least 279 times during the past four years, according to a USCR review of available field reports by humanitarian agencies.
An estimated 2 million people have died of causes linked to Sudan's civil war during the past 17 years. Some 4.4 million Sudanese have been forced from their homes - the largest uprooted population in the world.
Source: Based on US Committee for Refugees