Home | Press Releases    Monday 19 April 2004

VMT confirms UN fears for humanitarian situation in Shilluk Kingdom

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IGAD Secretariat on Peace in the Sudan

Verification Monitoring Team PO Box 30933 Nairobi Kenya

- Ambassador/Special Envoy: Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Lazaro Sumbeiywo
- Senior Liaison Officer: Col. John Steed

Press Release

NAIROBI, Monday 19 April 2004 — The IGAD Verification Monitoring Team confirmed on Monday that it has evidence of a campaign of violence by forces allied to the Government of Sudan (GoS) against civilians in the Shilluk Kingdom (Upper Nile region).

The VMT’s statement came in response to a statement by the United Nations, expressing concern at the humanitarian consequences of conflict in the Shilluk Kingdom.

The VMT urged the GoS and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to respect the cessation of hostilities. With the peace talks between the GoS and the SPLM/A at a critical stage, the VMT urged the GoS and SPLM/A to restrain allied forces and other armed groups under their overall control.

On 2 April - at a Memorandum of Understanding Channel of Communications Committee meeting in Naivasha - the IGAD Special Envoy, Lt.-Gen. (Rtd.) Lazaro Sumbeiywo, ordered the VMT to investigate allegations that forces allied to the GoS had been rampaging through the Shilluk Kingdom, destroying property and forcing people out of their homes.

On 3-4 April the VMT sent two patrols from its field base at Leer in Western Upper Nile to investigate these allegations and assess the extent and number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). A VMT patrol had visited Aburoc on 31 March.

A patrol visited Popwojo on Saturday 3 April and found the village to be almost completely destroyed. Houses had been burned to the ground. There were fresh grave mounds and witnesses said at least eight people - mainly elderly people trapped in their burning homes - had died. Forces allied to the GoS had attacked Popwojo on 18 March. Popwojo is still under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

A patrol visited Malakal on Sunday 4 April and flew over parts of the Shilluk Kingdom. The patrol saw entire villages destroyed and deserted; large areas of scorched ground; groups of IDPs sheltering; and a destroyed aid compound.

The patrols found evidence that thousands of people had been displaced by the violence. The VMT’s estimate of the number of IDPs in the Shilluk Kingdom - based on investigation patrols and other sources - is at least 70,000.

The Shilluk Kingdom was, until October last year, under the control of the SPLM-United, a force allied to the GoS and led by Dr. Lam Akol. Dr. Akol rejoined the SPLM/A in October 2003. Some SPLM-United commanders followed him; others remained allied to the GoS. Dr. Akol’s forces - now allied to the SPLA - remain in control of the Shilluk Kingdom.

Renewed fighting between forces allied to the GoS and the SPLA broke out in the Shilluk Kingdom in early March. Elements of the SPLM-United loyal to the GoS took part in this fighting. The violence escalated and spread across the Shilluk Kingdom.

On Sunday 4 April Vice-President Taha ordered the regular forces of the GoS (the Sudan People’s Armed Forces or SPAF) to withdraw from the Shilluk Kingdom. There are indications that forces allied to the GoS and the SPAF are building up strength in the Upper Nile region.

The VMT is compiling a report based on its investigations. The report will be presented to the Memorandum of Understanding Channel of Communications Committee in due course.

For more information contact Stephen Jones, VMT Public Information Officer, tel: 0734 654 445
e-mail: mio-m@igadvmt.com


P.S.

- The VMT is the verification and monitoring arm of the IGAD peace process. It is tasked by the IGAD Special Envoy and the Memorandum of Understanding Channel of Communications Committee to verify, monitor and report compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) as specified in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 15 October 2002 by the Parties; the Extension to the MoU signed on 18 November 2002; the Addendum to the MoU signed on 4 February 2003; and any subsequent extensions to the MoU.
- The MoU requires both Parties to retain current military positions; refrain from any offensive military action by all forces; cease laying landmines; refrain from occupying new areas; cease supplying all areas with weapons and ammunition; refrain from any acts of violence or other abuse on the civilian population; and freeze media wars and propaganda against one another.
- The Addendum to the MoU states that the Parties are to allow a Verification and Monitoring Team (VMT) which may include, in addition to the two parties, personnel and aircraft from an expanded Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT), IGAD, AU, Observer Nations, i.e, Italy, Norway, UK and the US, and any other nation that may be agreed to by the Parties. Members of both Parties shall have the right to participate in Verification Monitoring missions. The MoU goes on to state that the Parties must permit free access to such VMT to travel in and around areas where a complaint had been filed by any of the parties.
- The VMT’s role is to assist in the successful evolution of the peace process across south Sudan through the involvement of all factions and parties. The VMT has been operational in south Sudan during the cessation of hostilities. It will remain deployed in the field after the signing of a comprehensive peace accord and until the end of the pre-interim period specified in the Machakos Protocol signed by the Parties on 20 July 2002. A United Nations monitoring mission will then be deployed.
- The VMT has a headquarters in Nairobi and a liaison office in Lokichoggio, northern Kenya. It has field bases at Leer in Western Upper Nile and at Malakal in Northern Upper Nile. The VMT is staffed by representatives of ten countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, the Sudan, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- VMT patrols typically consist of four people: an international leading the patrol, a GoS monitor, an SPLM/A monitor and a monitor from an IGAD member state.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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