Eric Reeves, an English teacher at Smith
College in Massachusetts, has since 1999 set himself up as
a long-distance commentator on events within the Sudanese
oil fields, stating that he was opposed to the Sudanese oil
project and those foreign oil companies involved within it.
Dr Reeves' credibility as a commentator and researcher has
already been extensively questioned in "The Return of the
'Ugly American': Eric Reeves and Sudan".(1)
Supposedly at the heart of his concern has been the alleged
displacement of civilians from areas in or around the Sudanese
oil fields. Amongst other things Dr Reeves has claimed that
the Sudanese government has displaced populations around the
oil fields, "orchestrating a ferocious scorched-earth policy
in the area of the oil fields and pipelines." (2) He stated,
for example, in July 1999, that "[h]uge swaths of land around
the oil fields and pipelines are presently cleared of all
human life and sustenance". (3) While these claims have been
discredited and contradicted by detailed satellite analysis
of the areas in question, which showed migration to and not
movement from the oil fields, and by comments made by groups
such as the World Food Programme (4), the extent of Reeves'
double standards with regard to allegations of civilian displacement
within Sudan is now also all too clear
Despite his stated concern about displaced civilians, Reeves
has ignored the 60,000 civilians displaced by the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA) rebel offensive in Bahr al-Ghazal in
May-June 2001. This offensive has resulted in the massive
displacement of southern Sudanese civilians. On 8 June, the
International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the offensive
had led to the displacement of at least 20,000 civilians.
The Sudanese Catholic Information Office reported that most
activities within the region had been halted by the offensive:
"locations from Tonj northwards remain no go areas forcing
both church and humanitarian agencies to suspend their flights
to the region." (5) By 11 June, the United Nations estimated
that 30,000 civilians had been displaced within Bahr al-Ghazal.
(6) Two days later, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, Bishop
Mazzolari, reported that just under 60,000 civilians had been
displaced by the offensive, and that these civilians were
in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.(7) This offensive
followed the announcement that the United States was to provide
the Sudanese rebels with thirteen million dollars worth of
What is also evident is that this is not the first time that
Dr Reeves has studiously ignored irrefutable evidence of the
forced displacement of civilians by the SPLA rebel movement.
In March 2001, the Catholic Comboni missionaries stated that
SPLA forces displaced 15,000 civilians when they attacked
and destroyed the town of Nyal in westerner Upper Nile in
late February. (9) In August 2000 Reuters also reported that:
"An influx of displaced people into Bentiu, the capital of
Unity state in war-torn southern Sudan, has greatly strained
humanitarian and food aid in the town...World Food Programme
(WFP) official Makena Walker told Reuters about 20,000 people
displaced by recent fighting had reached Bentiu in the last
That is to say the refugees were fleeing into Government-controlled
areas. Reuters also stated that Sulaf al-Din Salih, a government
humanitarian aid commissioner, had said that displaced people
were arriving in Bentiu at a rate of 150 to 200 per day, with
the total number now running at 40,000. (10) In July 2000,
as yet another example of civilian displacement, Bishop Mazzolari
of Rumbek stated that thousands of civilians were fleeing
the southern town of Wau. Bishop Mazzolari said that this
massive human exodus was triggered by fears of a possible
rebel attack. (11)
All these deliberate displacements of civilians were ignored
by Dr Reeves, committed as he seemingly is to presenting one-sided
and distorted images of events within Sudan. Dr Reeves has
also claimed that
Sudanese oil revenues were fuelling the civil war. While this
claim has not been supported by any credible evidence, in
June 2001 the United States publicly announced that it had
given 13 million dollars to the Sudanese rebels. On this too
Reeves is silent.
What price credibility?
1 'The Return of the "Ugly American": Eric Reeves and Sudan',
European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, November
2 'Investors Fuel Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan', 'The Catholic
New Times', Toronto, 31 October 1999.
3 Eric Reeves, 'Silence on Sudan', 'The Chicago Tribune',
29 July 1999.
4 See, for example, 'Interview - Sudan Says Oil Drilling Causes
No Mass Displacement' New Article by Reuters on 14 February
2001 at 11:53:19 EST; 'Thousands More Flee Sudan's Oil-Rich
War Zone - WFP', News Article by Reuters on 23 February 2001
at 12:57:32 EST;'Talisman Energy Says Study Disproves Sudan
Allegations', Dow Jones Newswire, 18 April 2001 and 'Talisman
Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases Aerial Images',
'The Financial Post', (Canada), 19 April 2001.
5 'Civilians Flee Town Under Siege', News Article by Sudanese
Catholic Information Office, Nairobi, 8 June 2001.
6 'Tens of Thousands Displaced by Bahr al-Ghazal Fighting',
U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network, 11 June 2001.
7 'Fighting in Sudan's Bahr el Ghazal Leaves 57,000 Displaced:
Bishop', News Article by AFP on 13 June 2001.
8 See, 'U.S. House Backs Efforts to Aid Sudan', News Article
by Reuters on 13 June 2001 and 'Sudanese Rebels to Receive
Dlrs 3 Million in Assistance', News Article by Associated
Press on 25 May 2001.
9 'Sudan Rebels Raze Town, Comboni Mission', News Article
by Catholic World News on 15 March 2001.
10 'Refugee Flow Strains Relief in Sudan's Unity State', News
Article by Reuters on 7 August 2000 at 14:26:20 EST (-5 GMT).
11 'Thousands Flee Sudanese Town Fearing Rebel Attack', News
Article by Agence France Presse on 7 July 2000.