Christian Solidarity Worldwide on Sudan: Proved Wrong Again

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Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), and particularly its president Baroness Cox, have had a disturbing track record of making unfounded claims about Sudan.

CSW’s president, for example, has previously been described as "overeager or misinformed" by reputable human rights activist Alex de Waal, with regard to claims about slavery in Sudan. (1) Baroness Cox’s claims that Sudan was involved in chemical weapons have been denied by the British government and UNSCOM. (2) Her claims about genocide in Sudan were contradicted by the British government. (3) Even a very sympathetic biography of Cox records that full-time humanitarian aid workers in Sudan "feel she is not well-enough informed. She recognizes a bit of the picture, but not all that’s going on". (4)

In yet one more recent example of "overeager" misinformation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide repeated and disseminated claims made by Servant’s Heart, an American church group working in Sudan, that Sudanese government forces had murdered 59 civilians in attacks on ten villages in southern Sudan. It was also claimed that government soldiers had abducted ten children and six women. CSW also reported that Presbyterian minister Jacob Gadet Manyiel was burned to death together with his wife and four children. (5)

Sudan has been at war, off and on, since 1955. The Sudanese conflict has been marked by a vicious propaganda war. A peace process heavily influenced by the American State Department has resulted in a ceasefire throughout southern Sudan for the better part of a year. The sorts of claims made by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Servant’s Heart have been made at a critical moment within this peace process, reinforcing prejudice, mistrust and hatred regarding Sudan – especially within political and Christian constituencies in the United States.

Previously, many of the claims made against the Government of Sudan had been taken at face value. For the first time since the war began, however, there is now an independent mechanism in place able to investigate the allegations that have been levelled at the combatants.

As part of the peace process former US Senator John Danforth was instrumental in ensuring that both the Government and rebels signed an Agreement to Protect Civilians from Military Attack. This established the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) to investigate any allegations of attacks on civilians. The team became operational at the end of November 2002. The CPMT is funded by the United States Government, and consists of an international team of experienced professionals serving as monitors. It is headed by a United States army brigadier-general.

The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team was able to investigate the claims made by Servant’s Heart and disseminated by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Findings of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team

The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team conducted on-site field investigations in the areas of the incident from 6-10 June and 12-13 June 2003, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses in Kosti, Adar, Bolgok, Pagak, Daga Post, Buong, Longochok and its surrounding villages, and Wan Tau. The CPMT "determined the allegation that the [Government of Sudan] lead militias forces launched an attack on 27 May 2003 is unsubstantiated. The claim that 59 persons were killed as a result of this attack is also unsubstantiated. Finally the claim that the [Government of Sudan] abducted 16 persons was also found to be unsubstantiated."

The CPMT interviewed with the representatives of Servant’s Heart who had made the allegation. It reported that "The alleger stated that he received the information third hand from Pastor John Wiyul. Neither he, nor Pastor John Wiyul had been to Longochok, Wan Tau or any of the villages that were attacked to verify the details with the remaining residents." (6)

With regard to the death of the Presbyterian pastor, the CPMT concluded that "the body of evidence… strongly suggests that it was the SPLM/A and an element of the Fellata not the [Government of Sudan] or its militia that contributed to the death of Pastor Jacob Manyiel as well as indeterminate number of people, the displacement of civilians, and the destruction and looting of civilian property. Although it could not be conclusively proven that the SPLM/A or the Fellata were respectively responsible for all of 59 civilians reported to have been killed, there is eyewitness testimony supporting that each is responsible for an indeterminate number of the deaths." (emphasis added by CPMT). (7)

It was also ascertained that the Pastor’s wife and children were alive and well, and that his house had not been burned. Pastor Manyiel had died of gunshot wounds.

The CPMT called on the rebels and their allies to "refrain from targeting or intentionally attacking non-combatants civilians. [Furthermore] they should take all precautions feasible to avoid the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and danger to civilian objects." (8)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s claims about the Longochok incident were wrong on several counts. Any civilians that may have been killed in any attacks on villages in the area were killed by the rebels or nomads – not government forces. CSW’s sensationalist claims that Pastor Manyiel and his family were burned alive were burnt alive by government forces was untrue. Pastor Manyiel was shot to death by rebels or nomads. His wife and children were not killed: they are alive and well. The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team revealed that CSW’s allegations were made on the basis of third-hand claims that both it and Servant’s Heart had not taken the trouble to verify.

The fact is that Servant’s Heart and Christian Solidarity Worldwide made baseless claims about Sudanese government forces. The motivation for such claims has been independently questioned. It was reported, for example, that CPMT investigators were privately very critical of these claims. A CPMT member was said to have referred to its claims about Longochok as "a pack of lies" and implied that it had been designed to "derail the peace process in Sudan". (9) It is true that Servant’s Heart’s allegations – allegations which certainly cast the Khartoum government in a bad light – were made at key phases during the Sudanese peace process, and may have been designed to adversely effect Sudanese-American relations. Baroness Cox, the president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, used the claims in a similar way, stating that the allegations had raised "serious questions about the NIF regime’s sincerity of commitment to genuine peace".

With regard to the claims made by Servant’s Heart the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team made the following recommendation: "That all sources carefully screen future allegations for credibility, source of information, accuracy, and the feasibility of such an allegation being truthful so as to cautiously avoid inflaming the situation and reality on the ground." (10)

The same clearly equally applies to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Appendix

THE CIVILIAN PROTECTION MONITORING TEAM

Khartoum, Sudan – 30 June 2003

Executive Summary
The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area

On 30 June 2003, The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team released to the International Community, the Report of Investigation: Longochok Area. This investigation was conducted and distributed in accordance with the "Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to Protect Non-Combatant Civilians and Civilian facilities from Military Attacks".

Executive Summary

Allegation:

On 22 May 2003, Government of Sudan (GoS) backed militia forces attacked the village of Longochok and nine nearby villages resulting in the deaths of 59 persons, wounding of an indeterminate number of individuals, abduction of 16 persons and destruction by burning of an unknown number of homes (tukuls) in the ten villages

Conduct of Investigation:

Upon receipt of the allegation, the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) commenced an investigation. The preliminary investigation was conducted from Khartoum and consisted of gathering information related to the allegation. Additional interviews were conducted with persons in Khartoum and via the telephone to sources in the Eastern Upper Nile Region reported to have knowledge of the alleged incident.

On-site field investigations were conducted 6 – 10 June and 12-13 June 2003. During this phase of investigation, the CPMT deployed to the areas of the incident, collected evidence and interviewed witnesses in Kosti, Adar, Bolgok, Pagak, Daga Post, Buong, Longochok and its surrounding villages, and Wan Tau.

Results of the Investigation:

The CPMT determined the allegation that the GoS lead militias forces launched an attack on 27 May 2003 is unsubstantiated. The claim that 59 persons were killed as a result of this attack is also unsubstantiated. Finally the claim that the GoS abducted 16 persons was also found to be unsubstantiated.

Based on the body of evidence the CPMT strongly suggests that it was the SPLM/A and an element of the Fellata not the GoS or its militia that contributed to the death of Pastor Jacob Manyiel as well as indeterminate number of people, the displacement of civilians, and the destruction and looting of civilian property. Although it could not be conclusively proven that the SPLM/A or the Fellata were respectively responsible for all of 59 civilians reported to have been killed, there is eyewitness testimony supporting that each is responsible for an indeterminate number of the deaths.

A formal report was prepared and submitted to the parties. The CPMT continues to investigate additional allegations of incidents reportedly occurring in the Longochok area. Further Information: Persons or organizations wishing a full copy of the Report of Investigation: Longochok Area, may download the report from the CPMT web site: http://www.cpmtsudan.org or may request a copy through: CPMT Operations Center, Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Grand Holiday Villa Hotel, Suite 238, Khartoum, Sudan.

Notes:

[1] De Waal was formerly a co-director of African Rights. Before that he had worked with ‘Africa Watch’. He is an acknowledged expert on Sudan.

[2] ‘House of Lords Official Report’, 19 March 1998, cols. 818-820.

[3] ‘House of Lords Official Report’, 10 December 1998, Written Answers, column 103.

[4] Andrew Boyd, ‘Baroness Cox: A Voice for the Voiceless’, Lion Publishing, Oxford, 1998, p.324.

[5] See, for example, "Latest News from Sudan", Christian Solidarity Worldwide website http://www.csw.org.uk and claims in "Christian Leader Burned to Death with Wife and Four Children as 59 People Killed", News Article by Assist News Service, California, 5 June 2003.

[6] ‘The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area’, Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.

[7] Executive Summary, ‘The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area’, Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.

[8] ‘The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area’, Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.

[9] Comments reported in "Three Abductees Killed in Government of Sudan Captivity", Press Release by Servant’s Heart, 11 June 2003.

[10] ‘The Report Of Investigation: Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji, And Yawagi Villages’, Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 19 June 2003.

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