Khartoum bombs civilians and relief planes in Nuba Mountains

Koinonia Community Press Release
17 April, 2001

At 9 a.m. on April 16, 2001, a relief plane was on the ground and another one was about to land on the Kauda airstrip in the Nuba Mountains, an area controlled by the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA). Hundreds of civilians were gathered at the airstrip, either to bid farewell to their visitors or to prepare to carry the goods that had come. Suddenly, an Antonov bomber, the noise of which was masked by the plane about to take off, arrived unnoticed by the large crowd and started dropping bombs. The pilot of the approaching aircraft decided to abort the landing, and while the Antonov was coming back, the plane on the ground took off in a hurry with its passengers.

The Antonov came back twice, dropping a total of about 14 bombs. Three hours later, another aircraft was able to evacuate the remaining visitors, which included the two writers of this release and officials of Italian NGOs. The delegation's aim was to visit Koinonia Educational Centre, a centre that will provide education for 500 children and for 50 teachers every year. The relief aircraft was carrying educational materials, soap, salt, medicines, and seeds.

One person was killed and two injured in the attack, a surprisingly low death toll considering the large crowd on the ground when the attack took place.

Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu, the SPLA commander responsible for the rebel troops on the ground, expressed the opinion that the attack was aimed at destroying the military defence that the SPLA is stepping up around the airstrip.

The Khartoum government's bombing of an airstrip that is a vital link for civilians and the SPLA has to be seen in the context of a genocidal war against the Nuba and the idea of self-determination they stand for. We are no longer surprised that Khartoum carries out military attacks when and where civilian presence is very high.

What is totally unacceptable is the passive attitude of the United Nations. For a long time, relief organisations, human rights groups, and churches have been pushing to gain access to the Nuba Mountains to deliver food and other relief supplies. In spite of this campaign, the United Nations has not been able or willing to negotiate with the Khartoum government to set up an effective humanitarian access.

Moreover, when incidents such as this latest bombing take place, the United Nations never gives a word of protest.

The United Nations must ask the Khartoum government to stop such military actions against humanitarian intervention and must push for guaranteed humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains.

Fr. Renato Kizito Sesana, Comboni Missionary, President of Amani