Sudan: June 8, 2001


: On June 6 a Khartoum government aircraft bombed the town of Baraut in Bahr el-Ghazal province. 12 bombs reportedly struck the town. Khartoum airstrikes were also reported on the towns of Akol and Turaley. Western news sources said a World Food Program (WFP)spokesman confirmed the air raid on Baraut. A WFP airplane was airdropping food to civilians on the ground when the air strike took place. On June 8, the US State Department said that reported air attacks launched by the Khartoum government would be a violation of Khartoum's May 25 pledge to end the bombings of civilian targets. (No kidding.) The State Department said that it was seeking confirmation on the bombing reports. Strategypage has found that NGOs operating in south Sudan are the best sources for confirming (or disputing) rebel and Khartoum government claims. The problem is, the NGOs are often slow to report (slow to talk with wire service reporters, slow to put the information out via the internet and other media). There are three big reasons for the often slow pace of NGO-sourced information: (1) even in the age of satellite phones and internet access, communications in areas like the southern Sudan can be iffy and sporadic. (2) Sometimes NGO workers hear of firefights in their own immediate operational areas days (if not weeks) after the wire services pick up rebel and government press releases touting the combat action. The NGO workers get their information the old fashioned way, via word of mouth, when refugees, the wounded, and the starving troop into an NGO field station and describe the events. (3) NGOs dont like to publicly admit this, but many NGO leaders have very good reason to believe their organizations risk both political and physical reprisal if they are viewed as extra eyes for reporting on military operations. They are thus reluctant to say much for the record, unless their own operations come under fire or are cut-off by combat. That being said, most NGO pros in the field know that journalists and news organizations are often the NGOs own first line of defense. International media presence means threatening or attacking NGO activities draws immediate coverage and therefore international political protection. (Austin Bay)




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