LETTER FROM DR. RIEK MACHAR TO PRESIDENT OMAR HASSAN AHMED EL BASHIR
(undated but after July 4, 1998)
The Co-ordinating Council of the Southern States Office of the President
Brother Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed El Bashir, President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
May peace, compassion and blessing of Allah be upon you.
SUBJECT: Threats to the Khartoum Peace Agreement
My Dear President,
As you are aware, the state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal witnessed in the past few days extremely dangerous and bloody events perpetrated by some armed elements of the government.
1. These armed elements of the central government executed 13 officers, NCOs and men of the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF) who were giving protection to governor Kwac Makuei Mayar who was recently elected by the State Assembly by a democratic majority in implementation of the Khartoum Agreement. The strange thing about this sad incident is the fact that the 13 innocent persons who were killed in cold blood were among the heroes and strong believers in the Peace Agreement who fought courageously in Aweil against Garang=s forces that launched a savage attack on the town. They were able to repulse the attack and liberated the town and recaptured the tank which the SPLA had captured from the government army.
2. In the handling of that incident, we noticed sadly, the undermining of the role of the Co-ordinating Council. I should have been kept in the picture as soon as it happened in my capacity as the executive and political authority in the South. But what happened is that I only heard about the incident very late after the formation of an investigation committee. However, despite the bitterness and sadness I felt about the incident, my meeting with you about the incident and your stern instructions for the immediate solution of the problem and to restore the situation to normality, helped again to rekindle good feelings in me and contributed to the elimination of the uncertainty and doubts which surrounded the incident. The atmosphere was clear again.
But the other unfortunate thing again is the fact that the investigation committee failed to travel to Aweil for unknown reasons. My own firm conclusion is that the government is condoning and supporting those who committed the crime and not showing any seriousness in finding the solutions which are expected by everybody. The governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal has concrete evidence showing that he was the one who was deliberately targeted for assassination. The strange thing about the present serious security situation is that the investigation seems to have been called off or suspended without my knowledge. I do not therefore know what the next step is supposed to be.
3. Apart from the events of Aweil, the situation in Unity state constitutes another area of concern. Since September 17, 1997, Unity State has been the theater of a criminal war. Paulino Matiep is waging an aggressive and destructive war against the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF) and innocent civilians resulting in the destruction of homes, property, and services infrastructures. In his last attack, Paulino Matiep burnt and destroyed the hospitals at Nhial Dieu, Kok and Duar as well as Ler main hospital. The first three hospitals are specialized hospitals for the treatment of kala azar. The destruction is estimated at 350 million dollars. Paulino Matiep also stole cattle, burnt and destroyed villages and school buildings at Rub Nyagai, Nhial Dieu, Chotbiel, Kok, Buau, Ngorny, Tut Nyang, and the headquarters of the province, Ler. The value of property destroyed is estimated at 50 billion Sudanese pounds. It is to be noted that those areas affected are areas that have never witnessed any kind of destruction during the whole period of the civil war.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this situation is that the victims of this senseless destruction are the very people who have been singing and praising the new era of peace ushered in by the Khartoum Agreement. Now their reward is the destruction of their lives and property. At this juncture, may Your Excellency allow me to remember with appreciation and admiration the loyal son of the Sudan, the Martyr Al Zubeir Mohamed Saleh who exerted strenuous efforts to stop bloodshed in Unity state through reconciliation and compromise which bloodshed was instigated by Paulino Matiep against his own peaceful people and against the security, stability and development of the area.
4. From the surface the problem appeared to be the failure of Mr. Paul Lilly to secure election to the post of governor of Unity state. Paul Lilly was the favored candidate of Paulino Matiep. But the successful candidate was Mr. Taban Deng Gai. The election of Taban Deng Gai was received with open hostility by Paulino Matiep who declared that he would not co-operate with him [Taban Deng Gai].
Since then, I have considered Paulino Matiep one of my officers in the SSDF subject to my orders. All my contacts with the Sudan army were limited to asking the army not to supply Paulino with ammunition and other military hardware in his fight against SSDF. To my great surprise I was informed recently by the Minister of Defense that in fact Paulino Matiep is a general in the Sudan army and enjoys all the rights and privileges of a general. If this is the case, the question to be asked is, in whose interest does the Sudan army fight against the SSDF which is its ally? It would have been understandable for Paulino to defect from the SSDF to join Garang=s movement. But we cannot understand why Paulino defects from the SSDF to join the Sudan army and then turns into an enemy of the SSDF and fights it with the military resources of the Sudanese state to which we all belong, instead of supporting and co-operating with it in facing the dangers and challenges to peace and stability in the area.
5. We stood very firmly with Mr. Arop Achier the present governor of Warab state although he was elected with only a majority of two votes (against the candidate who was put up by Major General Kerubino Kuanyin to oppose Mr. Arop Achier=s election) because ministers in the state who were not members of the state assembly were allowed to participate in the voting. So, if the current crisis is caused by competition over the position of governor, why cannot we all support the governors who have been elected by the majority vote in the legislative assemblies of Aweil and Bentiu? Why do we use double standards in these two cases to the extent that some of us have taken a stand that is contrary to all documents and agreements to which we in the various southern factions have committed ourselves, thereby causing the actions and omissions disunity rather than unity?
6. Among the things we hear but which we are not able to believe is an assertion that the Sudan army is totally opposed to the provision of the Khartoum Peace Agreement which allows for the formation of a military force in the South, the SSDF. The Army=s rejection of the SSDF is very evident from some of the issues we have raised above. This is also clear from the repeated refusal by the Army to supply the SSDF with ammunition, weapons, uniforms, and other military materials to the degree that the SSDF has become unable to maintain security and stability or protect the Peace Agreement.
We do understand at this early age of the Peace Agreement that there are doubts and reservations about the SSDF. But the question is, what interest will these doubts and reservations serve given that we have decided to make peace our destiny and a major historical achievement which we must protect? We have through our voluntary and free will promised and committed ourselves to implement the provisions of the Peace Agreement in the hope that there will be reciprocal commitment so that we can build bridges of confidence and unity, and provide chances for better understanding, co-ordination and co-operation between the SSDF and the Sudan army.
7. My dear President,
The historic Khartoum Agreement is now being put to a serious test and is facing a real danger because of some wrong calculations by some military leaders and shameful divisive tactics of those who are opposed to peace and stability in the country.
But at this very critical moment in which the survival of the Peace Agreement is being called into question, the genuineness of the National Salvation Revolution and its commitment to live up to its promises remains to be the only remedy and hope for us and the people. We consider the Peace Agreement as one of the major achievements of the National Salvation Revolution of which it should be proud and preserved.
The major events which our country witnessed, beginning with the signing of the Khartoum Agreement and the translation of its provisions into reality on the ground, have no doubt improved the image of the Sudan in the international community and among the people of Sudan in both North and South. History will record with great appreciation and praise such great historical events witnessed by our country like the Revolutionary Congresses, the election of the governors of the Southern States by the State Assemblies, the formation of the Co-ordinating Council and governments of the Southern States and the promulgation of the Permanent Constitution which enshrines the Khartoum Peace Agreement as one of its fundamental principles.
8. One of the functions of the Co-ordinating Council under the Peace Agreement is the responsibility for security in the South. It is our view particularly after the events of Bentiu and Aweil that if the responsibility for security is not fully handed to the Co-ordinating Council and the governors in their states, the Peace Agreement as a whole will be threatened and will be rendered empty of its content and therefore meaningless.
9. One other threat to peace which is by no means less dangerous than the ones mentioned above is the total lack of financial resources for the Peace Agreement=s implementation. Since its establishment the Co-ordinating Council has been experiencing serious shortage of finance. It is a fact that the Council in the last four months received something less than 2% of its budgetary allocations. This has had very negative effects on the performance of the governments of the Southern states and the Co-ordinating Council at its headquarters in Juba.
My dear President,
You are the captain of our brilliant ship. We have great trust in your abilities and great leadership. We believe that with your wisdom and clear vision our country will overcome all these difficulties and tribulations with the help of Allah.
Accept your excellency my great thanks and appreciation.
Dr. Riek Machar,
Assistant to the President of the Republic
President of the Co-ordinating Council for Southern States
1. Memo from governor of Unity state on the security situation in his state. It was discussed in an emergency meeting of the Co-ordinating Council on July 4, 1998. The Council resolved the following:
a) Declare the provinces of Rup Kotru and Ler as disaster areas.
B) Formation of a committee to assess the damage caused by the fighting.
2. Fighting still continues in Unity state.