REPORT FROM ESPAC.ORG
On 23 June 2003, Nat Hentoff wrote an article on Sudan, published in
'The Washington Times', entitled "The Fight Against Genocide and
Slavery". This article focused on claims made by Servant's Heart, an
American Christian fundamentalist group present in southern Sudan.
Echoing these claims, Hentoff alleged that "government of Sudan-led
military forces attacked the village of Longochok (in Southern Sudan),
and nine nearby villages in a night assault.... Many of (the 59
villagers) killed were burned alive in their homes as they hid from
government-led forces." Hentoff claimed that in addition to having
"massacred" 59 civilians, government forces abducted ten children and
six women. He also alleged that Presbyterian Pastor Jacob Manyal was
burned to death by government soldiers, and that two of his children
were killed in captivity. Hentoff's article also asserted that the
villagers were "victims of jihad".
Furthermore, Hentoff asserted that Sudanese government forces
additionally killed "3,000 civilians in Liang and surrounding areas" in
These were clearly very serious allegations but they are typical
equally sensationalist claims made by Hentoff about Sudan.(1) The
seriousness of such changes is magnified by the extent of their
dissemination. Hentoff's column in 'The Washington Times', for example,
is syndicated to 250 newspapers within the United States.
Sudan has been at war, off and on, since 1955. It has been
marked by often vicious propaganda, and as a result perceptions of
Sudanese affairs have often been grotesquely distorted. However, for the
first time since the war began, 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 initiated by former Senator
John Danforth, the United States Department of State 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 was 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.
Those interested in accuracy in media reporting on Sudan are
as the claims made by Hentoff in this instance were extensively
investigated by the CPMT.
The Findings of the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team
The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team conducted on-site
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
With regard to the death of the Presbyterian pastor, the CPMT
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). (2) 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 pointedly called on the SPLA to "refrain from
targeting or intentionally attacking non-combatants civilians." (3)
With regard to the allegations made by Hentoff that 3,000
been killed by government forces in Liang, The CPMT investigation
concluded: "The claim...that up to '2,500 people were killed' has not
been substantiated." (4)
"Inflaming the Situation"
It is worth noting that having thoroughly investigated the
by Servant's Heart - and repeated by Hentoff - 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." (5) That these words of caution apply equally to Nat
Hentoff and his writing on Sudan is clear.
Hentoff's claims about the Longochok villages were proven
to be false.
Any civilians that may have been killed in the area were killed by
rebels or nomads - not government forces. Hentoff's sensationalist
claims that Pastor Manyiel and his family were burnt alive by government
forces was untrue. Pastor Manyiel was killed by rebels or nomads. His
wife and children are alive and well.
The fact that the very serious claims about Sudan made by
Heart and Hentoff were subsequently shown to be baseless is disturbing
enough. The motivation for such claims has, however, also been
questioned. A CPMT investigator referred to the Longochok claims as "a
pack of lies" and implied that such claims had been designed to "derail
the peace process in Sudan". It is true that Hentoff's allegations -
allegations which sought to cast the Khartoum government in a bad light
- were made at a key phase in the Sudanese peace process, and may have
been designed to adversely effect Sudanese-American relations and the
peace process. There was also what appears to be an anti-Islamic motive,
with Hentoff's article asserting that these attacks were an example of
"black Sudanese Christians" being "murdered or enslaved" as part of a
It is also noteworthy that Servant's Heart was not the only
fundamentalist group that Hentoff has relied upon for questionable
articles on Sudan. He has, for example, regularly repeated lurid claims
made by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) about Sudan - a group
described by Western diplomats as having "zero credibility" amongst non-
governmental organisations and the United Nations. (6) CSI's claims of
"slavery" and "slave redemption" in Sudan (said by the much more
credible Anti-Slavery International to fuel anti-Arab and anti-Muslim
prejudice) have been comprehensively exposed as inaccurate and deeply
questionable where not simply fraudulent. (7)
Fact Checking, Hypocrisy and Double-Standards
Mr Hentoff's reliance on grave and patently inaccurate claims
Sudan is particularly surprising given that he has himself repeated
demanded of others that their work be accurate and that they check their
facts. (8) He has been very critical, for example, of book publishers
stating that "most of them are chronically irresponsible when it comes
to checking the accuracy of the product they send to bookstores..." (9).
He has also been quick to complain about "the laziness" of journalists
in making claims "without doing their own reporting". (10) Yet he is
guilty of precisely this behaviour. Hentoff has also criticised reliance
upon second-hand claims or hearsay, defining "hearsay" as including
"rumors, gossip, and statements that cannot be verified". (11) The CPMT
reported that Servant's Heart had received the claims at "third-
hand".(12) Hentoff's 'Washington Times' claims were based therefore on
It would appear at face value that Mr Hentoff believes that
there is one
set of journalistic standards and ethics for Americans and other, less
exact, standards for reporting on Sudan. Uncorroborated hearsay evidence
is undesirable for Americans but acceptable for Africans.
Mr Hentoff is said to be a legendary journalist. This article,
was an appallingly inept piece of journalism. Hentoff has made
elementary mistakes in his writing on Sudan, not least of which not
checking his sources, their reputation and the reliability of their
claims. And despite his own reputation as a noted liberal, Hentoff's
articles have echoed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice. Two questions
arise. How many of Hentoff's other sensationalist claims about Sudan
have been similarly skewed or inaccurate? And will Hentoff notify the
250 newspapers that carried this article that he was wrong?
Civilian Protection Monitoring Team Release
Khartoum, Sudan - 19 June 2003
The Report Of Investigation: Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawagi Villages
On 19 June 2003, The Civilian Protection Monitoring Team released
International Community, the Report of Investigation: Liang, Dengaji,
Kawaji and Yawagi Villages. 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
In late April, 2002 GOS Troops from the Boing/Mabaan Garrison,
by Brigadier General Ibrahim Saleh, attacked unarmed civilian villages
of Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji, and Yawaji, resulting in the massacre of up
to 2,500 civilians 21 September 2002, the SPLM/A abducted 45 civilians
from the resettlement village of Umbalayil (known as Todag to the Dinka
inhabitants), looted personal property and cattle.
Conduct of Investigation:
Upon receipt of the allegation, the CPMT commenced an investigation.
preliminary investigation was centered on Mabaan and surrounding areas
and consisted of gathering information related to the allegation. In
February, at least five aerial reconnaissance flights were conducted of
the surrounding area and the villages in question, per coordinates
provided in the allegation. Additional interviews were conducted with
persons in Khartoum and via telephone to sources in the Eastern Upper
Nile Region reported to have knowledge of the alleged incident, but who
may not have been eyewitnesses to the event.
A team was deployed by land as far as Jammam via Renk, within
approximately 20 miles of the alleged incident site, on 15 April 2003.
Numerous interviews were conducted with persons of knowledge of the
alleged atrocity site during the timeframe in question. The interviewees
are actual leaders of the GOS supported militia that allegedly committed
the attack in question.
Two on-site field investigations at the coordinates given
on 21 -22 May and 29 May - 1June 2003. During the conduct of the on-site
field investigations, both villagers and SPLM/A personnel of the areas
interviewed confirmed that attacks had occurred in the late April time
frame. They stated that approximately 20-30 persons were killed,
including civilians and combatants. It was also stated that the attacks
in the alleged timeframe were related to "some cattle and sheep raids"
which are common in the region.
Results of the Investigation:
The CPMT determined that the allegation that elements supported
GOS launched an attack in April 2002 is substantiated. There is evidence
that approximately 20-30 people were killed in the area of the alleged
attack. Evidence of human remains, numbering 4-5 were found at the
coordinates of N9° 53.105, E33°37.789. Another 4-5 remains were found at
a location the team was led to that was some 2 miles away near the river
at N9° 54.348, E33° 38.016, but at this location evidence of a prior
military battle was very much in evidence, including trenches, various
fighting positions, numerous spent munitions as large as 152mm
artillery, and the foundations of some permanent brick structures which
were destroyed. It is highly likely that the human remains at this
location are those of combatants who fought at this site.
The CPMT found that GOS supported militia forces (Pastoral
possibly some Falata) conducted military operations that resulted in the
killing of between twenty (20) to thirty (30) civilians in April 2002.
These actions may have occurred in response to actions by the SPLM/A in
the killing of two (2) civilians, looting and robbery of cattle and
sheep in the Basholi area in early January and February 2002. The claim,
therefore that up to "2,500 people were killed" has not been
substantiated. Nevertheless, similar raids over the years of conflict
have undoubtedly led to the deaths of untold numbers of innocent
Finally, it is obvious, that both sides conducted military
the region cited in this investigation and those military operations
resulted in civilian deaths, destruction of civilian property, and
A formal report was prepared and submitted to the parties.
Persons or organizations wishing a full copy of the Report
Investigation: Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawagi Villages, 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
1 See, for example, Nat Hentoff, "Gang Rape in Sudan",
Voice', 13 February 2001.
2 Executive Summary, 'The Report Of Investigation: Longochok
Area', Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.
3 'The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area', Civilian
Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.
4 'Executive Summary, The Report Of Investigation: Liang, Dengaji,
Kawaji and Yawagi Villages', Civilian Protection Monitoring Team,
Khartoum, 19 June 2003.
5 'The Report Of Investigation: Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji, and Yawagi
Villages', Civilian Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 19 June 2003.
6 "Baroness Faces Anger Over Sudan 'Slave Scam'", 'The National
Post' (Toronto), 20 April 2002.
7 See, for example, "Ripping Off Slave 'Redeemers': Rebels Exploit
Westerners' Efforts to Buy Emancipation for Sudanese", 'The Washington
Post', 26 February 2002; "Sudan Rip-Offs Over Phony Slaves",
'International Herald Tribune', 27 February 2002, and "The Great Slave
Scam", 'The Irish Times' (Dublin), 23 February 2002
8 See, for example, Nat Hentoff, "Blurring Nonfiction and Fiction.
Can You Trust What You Read?", 'Village Voice', 15 December 1999
9 Nat Hentoff, "The Accuracy That's Owed to Readers", 'Jewish
World Review', 2 November 1999.
10 Nat Hentoff, "The Ordeal of Charles Pickering. Are Times
Editorials Fact-Checked?", 'Village Voice', 17 October 2003.
11 Nat Hentoff, "Spinning the Military Tribunals", 'Village Voice',
25 March 2002.
12 'The Report Of Investigation: Longochok Area', Civilian
Protection Monitoring Team, Khartoum, 30 June 2003.
By William Wallis in Naivasha
Financial Times; Oct 17, 2003
John Garang, the head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
(SPLM), and Ali Othman Taha, vice-president in the Khartoum
government, arrived in Kenya yesterday to take charge of a critical
phase in US-backed peace talks.
Samson Kwaje, SPLM spokesman, said the two sides were "65 per cent of
the way" towards a settlement of Africa's longest civil war. Most
contentious issues, however, had been left for the two leaders to work
out, he said.
Among western diplomats and regional negotiators hopes for peace in
Sudan have been fuelled by a change in the chemistry of
negotiations. "For the first time they are talking to each other face
to face, with an apparent will to overcome the obstacles," said an
official close to General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, the Kenyan mediator.
One of Mr Garang's advisers is Mansour Khaled, a former foreign
minister in Khartoum and one of the first northern Muslims to join the
southern, mostly Christian and animist rebel movement. He described
the negotiations as "the first time since independence that we are
discussing the major issues".
The mission entails in effect the recreation of Africa's largest
country, torn apart by 20 years of fighting in which 1.5m people are
thought to have died. Analysts say it will also require the
participation at some point of regional groups so far excluded from
Recent discussions have centred on the make-up of a national unity
government and its financial relations with a separate southern
administration: Sudan produces more than 250,000 barrels a day of oil,
most of which is in the south but controlled by the north.
Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenya's foreign minister, told the FT he
expected "some very quick movement" on these issues.
SPLM delegates were buoyed by a breakthrough last month when the
Islamist government agreed to their demand for a separate army in the
south for six years, leading to a referendum on southern independence.
They are now pushing for a separate central bank and currency.
But delegates said the trickiest issue was the status of three areas
that have also fought the Islamist government in Khartoum but whose
geographical and religious status is disputed.
"Any agreement will hinge on the issue of the three areas. They have
been fighting with us. They are our comrades. So we can't let them
go," Mr Kwaje said.
Analyst says Turabi's release due to confidence at home
NAIROBI, Oct. 16, 2003 (IRIN) -- The release of Dr Hassan al-Turabi, a
key Islamist leader of the Sudanese opposition, is due to electoral
confidence at home and not outside pressure, according to John
Prendergast of the advocacy organisation, International Crisis Group
"It demonstrates the government's level of confidence in its future
role in Sudan, that the principal threats it perceived itself to face
in the political landscape have diminished," said Prendergast, ICG's
co-director for Africa.
Turabi, who was freed on Monday along with other detainees, said his
release was ordered because of a combination of national and
international pressure for greater political freedoms and peace in
Sudan. But the government's political adviser, Dr Qutbi Mahdi, issued
a swift denial saying the decision was not made because of
any "pressure", rather because there was "no reason to continue
Prendergast told IRIN the US administration had not pushed for
Turabi's release. The decision was an "internal calculation", he
He added that the government was "very confident" it would remain in
power if elections were held early within the six-year interim period,
following the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement with the
rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). "Because of
its delivery of a peace deal and oil revenues, there's a confidence in
its electoral prospects," he said.
The government would now systematically try to "lure" the opposition
parties - Turabi's Popular National Congress (PNC), as well as the
Ummah and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - into an alliance,
Since his release, Turabi has urged the government to include
opposition parties in any alliance formed with the SPLM/A.
Prendergast said Turabi's party, which has about five percent hardline
support among the electorate, might choose to campaign on specific
issues that are relevant to the peace process, such as the issue of
Sharia in the capital, or the territorial integrity of Sudan.
But, he added that the PNC would have its "finger in the wind",
assessing which way it was blowing and "how to use it to its
Turabi backed the 1989 coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to
power, but was ousted from key political positions in 1999 after a
power struggle. He was then arrested in February 2001 - but never
brought to trial - and charged with offences related to "crimes
against the state".
The presidential decree leading to his release reportedly allows the
PNC to reopen its headquarters and to publish its newspaper.
By Andrew Harding
BBC East Africa correspondent
A newspaper has been launched in war-torn southern Sudan - the first
for a generation.
The Sudan Mirror will try to reach tens of thousands of people across
the region, which is now daring to hope that 20 years of conflict may
The people of southern Sudan have been starved of information, left to
suffer in the dark as their villages have been bombed, their homes
raided, their families whittled away by famine.
But this week the Sudan Mirror is finally hoping to break the spell.
The first 20,000 copies are already heading into the south, flown in
by the many aid agencies working across this vast, inaccessible region.
The paper's first headline reads: "Peace in our Time" - a reference to
the remarkable progress now being made at talks between the southern
rebels and Sudan's Islamic government.
A ceasefire is already in place; many commentators believe a final
deal could be just weeks away.
The Mirror has the potential to play a crucial role in the south as
this devastated country tries to pick up the pieces after so many
years of conflict.
Within six years the south is supposed to vote in a referendum on
whether to remain part of Sudan; the civil war looks set to be
replaced by an information war.
In its first editorial, the Mirror insists it will be completely
independent and dedicated to exposing injustice and promoting
Its journalists are Sudanese; most of the funding comes from western
The paper's managers know they face an uphill struggle.
The Islamic government, which for years has imposed ruthless media
censorship in the north, has already tried to scupper the Mirror.
Just before the launch, Khartoum brought out its own, almost identical
version - a spoiling tactic which seems to have failed.