12 February 2003

Sudan: Washington Condemns Targeting of Civilians

Nairobi — The US government, having studied a report by the Independent Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) operating in Sudan, on Tuesday condemned what it termed "unconscionable attacks and abuses against civilians" by the government there.

Richard Boucher, spokesman for the US Department of State in Washington DC, said government and allied militia forces had "deliberately targeted and displaced civilians" during operations in the oil-rich western Upper Nile (Wahdah State) region of southern Sudan in December and January

Last week, the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) committed themselves to "effect the immediate voluntary return" of civilian populations displaced in western Upper Nile to their homes. A joint communique said the new measure would include those displaced within western Upper Nile, those displaced from there to neighbouring Bahr al-Ghazal, and all other civilians who had been displaced since the signing of the 17 October 2002 memorandum of understanding on a cessation of hostilities.

Boucher told reporters that the US "expects the government of Sudan to pursue peace in good faith" by adhering to the provisions of the 4 February addendum to the October 2002 cessation of hostilities agreement.

"The specific actions the government must take are clearly and unambiguously set forth in this addendum," he said, "and preliminary reports indicate that the government may be taking some steps to act in accordance with those provisions."

A preliminary report issued by the CPMT on Sunday said civilians had been targeted by the government and allied militia groups in a series of attacks around Mayom, Mankien, Tam and Leel in western Upper Nile.

Civilian men and boys had been abducted for military purposes, while women and children were taken to government-controlled towns, such as Mankien, Mayom and Bentiu, the report said.

Multiple interviews with escaped abductees, both men and women, had revealed that the children had been held captive and the women forced to provide manual labour and sexual services.

The US-led CPMT was given its mandate to monitor such attacks by the 31 March 2002 agreement between the government and the SPLM/A to protect non-combatant civilians and civil facilities from military attack.

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