SCIO, April 15, 1997


  1. Chronology
  2. Easter with the Nuba
  3. New mission at Adior


March 17: Sudan detained an airplane operated by a relief agency, along with all those on board, because the craft was used to aid southern rebels, a military official said today. The plane was seized after it landed without a permit at the town of Bor in southern Sudan, army spokesman General Mohammed al-Sanousi, told the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

March 18: The United Nations denied charges by Sudan that its chartered airplane seized by the government over the weekend was used to aid rebels. "We have very complicated procedures for our flights to southern Sudan and our understanding is that all of them were followed as far as this flight is concerned," said Sally Burnheim, a speaker for Operation Lifeline Sudan.

March 20: Sudanese rebels said today they had recaptured the town of Chali el-Fil near the border with Ethiopia from government forces that seized it at the weekend. Sampson Kwaje, spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), said SPLA forces on Monday recaptured the south-eastern town, shot down a helicopter gunship and seized arms and ammunition. He said the three-man helicopter crew died.

March 24: The Sudanese opposition said today it has killed thousands of government troops and captured more than 2,500 since it launched its January offensive, and plans to recruit prisoners to its cause. Opposition spokesman Faruq Abu Eissa said a military delegation of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would soon meet prisoners of war to examine the possibility of them joining the NDA.

March 24: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in Abu Dhabi yesterday that he had accepted a United Arab Emirates (UAE) bid to halt the civil war but rejected a key demand by the opposition for ending the one-party rule.

March 24: A member of the Sudanese Parliament who had joined the fight against southern rebels was killed during a battle in eastern Sudan, newspapers reported today. The Alwan daily reported that Dr. Mohammed Osman Hussein, a physician and Member of Parliament, was killed during fighting over the town of Shali in Blue Nile State. The town is some 600 kilometres south-east of Khartoum. The newspaper quoted Gen. Mohammed Oweida, head of the Parliament's security committee.

March 25: A pro-government south Sudanese faction says it has inflicted heavy casualties on the SPLA in fighting in Warab state in south Sudan. The independent Akhbar Al Youm newspaper on Monday quoted Faustino Gual Det, deputy commander of the splinter SPLA Bahr al-Ghazal group as saying his troops had killed over 300 and captured over 80 men of the mainstream SPLA faction in recent fighting in Wuruk area, north of Qoqriyal town in Warab state.

March 28: Tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians have fled towards the southern town of Juba from surrounding areas because of the fighting in the area between the army and the southern rebels, a local Member of Parliament said. Munir Somit, member for southern town of Yei, was quoted in the independent newspaper Alwan today as saying the displaced people were from Yei and from 18 villages and were in dire need of relief and medical assistance.

March 28: Sudanese rebels said today they had captured three more towns on the eastern border with Eritrea, and again denied any outside aid in the fighting to bring down the Islamic government in Khartoum. The National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of Sudanese opposition groups, said they had captured Karoka on the Eritrean border near the Red Sea coast, and nearby garrisons of Eterbe and Shebre.

March 28: UN agencies said today roads were open for the first time in many years from northern Uganda to the southern Sudanese town of Yei following a rebel offensive. OLS, which groups UN agencies in southern Sudan, said up to 20,000 people in Yei urgently needed food and medicine because of fighting since rebels seized it on March 12.

March 28: Nearly 10,000 refugees including Zairian and Ugandan nationals, have this month taken refuge in Juba, the main town in south Sudan, the official SUNA reported on Tuesday. It quoted Mr Fath el-Rahmanal-Gadi, the government's commissioner for humanitarian assistance, as saying "preparations are currently underway to send urgently needed relief and medical assistance to the town of Juba".

March 28: Government forces halted an advance by rebel troops near the southern town of Juba, press reports said on Tuesday amid claims by the rebels that they brought the border region between Sudan and Uganda under their control. The Alwan daily newspaper said government troops stopped the rebel advance 100 kilometres from Juba, and destroyed 12 tanks since the beginning of onslaught launched from Uganda by the SPLA.

March 30: A privately owned Khartoum newspaper said today Eritrean rebels had killed 83 of Asmara's soldiers and wounded more than 100 others in clashes on Eritrea's eastern coast. The daily Akhbar al-Youm quoted unnamed Eritrean sources as saying the rebel Eritrean Liberation Front had launched the attack on a military camp in Ariri, near the Red Sea coast. Ties between Sudan and Eritrea are strained over counter-claims that each country supports rebels fighting to overthrow the government.

March 31: The Governor of Sudan's Blue Nile State, Brigadier Babikir Jabir Kabalo, suffered minor injuries in a landmine blast that tore off the legs of his driver, the official SUNA reported today. Mr Kabalo's car struck the mine last evening as he toured the scene of recent fighting near the border with Ethiopia, the agency said. His bodyguard and a security official also were slightly wounded.

April 3: Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi said the Sudanese opposition was working for the unity of Sudan but did not rule out secession for the south as a solution to more than a decade of war. Mr Mahdi told a packed lecture hall at the American University in Cairo last night the Islamist government of President Omar Hassan el-Bashir, who toppled Mr Mahdi in a coup in 1989, had united the opposition as never before and the conflict in the south would tear Sudan apart if it lasted any longer.

April 3: A Sudanese newspaper said today that forces loyal to the Khartoum Government had repelled an attack on its positions by southern rebels. The private newspaper, Alwan, said the SPLA last week attacked the SPLA/Bahr al-Ghazal group's positions in Wun Rog, 150 kilometres north of Wau, the south's second largest town.

April 4: More than 800 refugees fleeing the fighting in southern Sudan have camped at the Kenyan border town of Lokichogio. The area District Commissioner, Mr Reuben Rotich, yesterday said the refugees were staying in the open. Mr Rotich said he had asked the UNHCR to provide the refugees with food and blankets and make arrangements for their resettlement at the Kakuma refugee camp.

April 5: Sudanese rebels said today they had seized a military garrison after a failed government counter-attack and were pushing towards the southern capital of Juba. A spokesman for the SPLA in Asmara said the garrison at Jambo, 80 km north-west of Juba, fell to rebel forces yesterday.

April 6: Rebels captured five more Sudanese army posts west of Juba, the largest town in the region still controlled by the Khartoum Government, a rebel spokesman said today. The SPLA "defeated two brigades of government troops and captured a lot of tanks, artillery, mortars and ammunition," spokesman Yassir Arkan said. Rebels captured garrisons at Liu, Goja, Baji, Majia and Laymi, all within 140 kilometres north-west of Juba, Mr. Arman said.

April 7: Sudanese rebel leader Garang says his seizure of the Western Equatoria region in Mid-March was "the turning point in the war for the south" and he is appealing for southern Sudanese refugees to return to the fertile region and cultivate the land. A spokeman of Norwegian People's Aid, said: "The emphasis in the past was on emergencies, emergencies, emergencies. Now with the government forced out of Western Equatoria, our emphasis will change to rehabilitation and development."

April 7: Sudan today warned UN relief groups to stay away from areas in the south where government troops are locked in battle with the SPLA. The official Suna quoted Minister for Social Planning Major-General Hassan Osman Dahawi as saying relief groups operating in such areas risked being considered supporters of the rebels.

April 7: The Sudanese government and two splinter rebel factions will conclude a peace agreement shortly, Sunday newspapers quoted Parliament Speaker Hassan Abdallah Tourabi as saying. Mr Al Tourabi made the announcement yesterday, telling a seminar that the parties that signed a political charter last April had agreed to sign a final peace agreement "very soon', the official Al Sudan al Hadith reported.

April 11: Sudanese President El-Bashir said today that he would sign a peace deal with four rebel factions in the south. Gen. Bashir was quoted by the official Suna news agency as saying that the agreement would be signed immediately after the April 16-20 Islamic festival of Kurban Bairam, and would be "a genuine beginning for reaching a comprehensive solution to the (south) Sudan problem".

April 13: Rebels in southern Sudan have destroyed a base belonging to an insurgency fighting the Ugandan regime, Ugandan Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi said today. The minister told AFP that the base, near the southern Sudanese town of Aru, was attacked by fighters of the SPLA on Wednesday and Thursday.

April 15: President El-Bashir left Libya by air yesterday in defiance of UN sanctions against Tripoli, after holding talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and government officials from Uganda, Libyan television said in a report monitored in London. The TV showed President El-Bashir boarding a plane at the airport in the coastal town of Sirte. Under UN sanctions, flights in and out of Libya are prohibited.

April 15: Sudan will sign a peace agreement on April 21 with two small southern rebel groups, a Sudanese government Minister said in Cairo yesterday. Mr Salah al-Din Mohammed Ahmed Karrar, said the peace accord would introduce a four-year cease-fire to be followed by a referendum on self determination for Southern Sudan.

Easter with the Nuba

I have just come back from the Nuba Mountains, in the heart of Sudan. With the local Christian community, we celebrated Easter in Amdrafi, Kerker, Komo Umdurdu and Kauda, moving on foot with the local catechists from village to village, stopping at every well to ask for water to drink, receiving at every place the warm hospitality of a people who still think that a visitor is a gift from God.

The Nuba people are victimised more than others in the war that devastates Sudan, and the treatment they receive from the present Khartoum government has been described as "creeping genocide". Currently, the regular troops are conducting an offensive against the civilians, causing displacement and famine, and their attacks effectively disrupted our Easter celebration.

Cross and resurrection are part of these people's life, as death and life are present in everyday life. On Good Friday at Kerker, we stood in the light of sunset on top of a hill where we had just planted a cross and all people, one by one, knelt in front of it, some spontaneously embracing it in a gesture of love. Some bore the scars and mutilation of war. The elderly catechist and father of the community, Paul Shalu, whispered: "We should plant a cross on top of every Nuba mountain, it is our heritage and pride."

On Easter night in Amdrafi, our cathedral had the star-studded sky as its vault, the mountain passes as its doors and the hot wind from the west, loaded with tropical scents, as its incense. We gathered in a great circle around a fire started in the traditional way, we lit a torch which could effectively overcome darkness for 50 metres all around, and, as I held it high above our heads, we moved to the place where the water for baptism had been prepared.

The words of the ancient celebration, translated in Arabic by the catechists, were answered by ululation of joy. Young strong bodies and old white hairs received the water, abundantly poured from a traditional gourd, as the catechists were calling the names of those ready for baptism. At the end of the celebration, when finally the moon came up, I was standing in a pool of mud.

Fire and water were indeed present not only as signs of the Easter celebrations. The fire of the shells and bombs heard in the distance and occasionally lighting up the sky, the fire set by the peasants to clean up the fields in preparation for the next rainy season. The scarce water drawn from muddy wells, enough for drinking, too precious to be used for washing.

The joy of Easter could not mean to forget the victims of violence. Not far from us at Amdrafi, a cluster of burned down huts bore grim witness to the war. Too happy and excited to sleep, after the celebration people sat down in groups and told each other recent events in their villages, praying for the dead and forgiving the living. Amdrafi villagers recounted how on March 5, at 4 am a battalion (about 600 men) of the government forces attacked them, setting ablaze 35 huts, looting cows, goats, sheep and everything else of value. The reaction of the local Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) drove them out of the village after four hours, following them for about 15 km. In the confrontation, seven government soldiers and one SPLA were killed. All the villagers rounded up by the soldiers were freed, only a lady was left in the hands of the soldiers. According to the local SPLA commander, Ibrahim Ousmane Ibrahim, SPLA radio has intercepted messages from a group of 15 soldiers who are lost in the hills an

Some of those present were displaced from Umdulu village. They narrated how on March 7 another battalion attacked and seized Regifi, Umdulu and Karkarai, a string of villages at the foot of the Lomon Mountains. All the villagers run away to the mountains. There were no casualties, but the villagers, about 3 000, lost almost everything and, if the situation continues, will be unable to start cultivating their fields in the coming rainy season. The church of Regifi (one of the only two in bricks in the whole area) was destroyed after removing the iron sheets and window and door frames. The churches of Umdulu and Karkarai, in local material, were set on fire.

On April 1, we moved to Kauda, where we were supposed to have a meeting and an Easter celebration with Catholics coming from the surrounding area. The catechists of Karga and Kuchama, two heavily populated rural areas surrounding Heiban, a big government garrison, arrived without their people because the previous day, March 31, the villages had been attacked by a battalion. Zakaria Noh and Boutros Alamin reported that in the early morning their villages were attacked by government troops, the church and five houses burned and property looted, before the SPLA reaction drove the attackers away. Only a soldier was wounded, but the villagers were still hiding in the higher hills. Boutros, 28, married with three children, a face with the noble and strong features one can see in the ancient Egyptian drawings, at the end of his report told the gathering: "They can burn our houses and crops, they can steal our cows and goats, but they cannot steal our faith.

These military actions against the civilian population of the Nuba Mountains have the purpose of forcing people to take refuge in the government garrison and in the "peace camps" where they are treated as cheap labour and mistresses by the soldiers, in conditions bordering slavery, and of isolating the SPLA.

It is worthy to record that in Kauda we were received by a delegation of Muslims who had prepared a great reception. Their joy in our acceptance to share the meal they had prepared using the best food available - meat, milk and honey, simsim and mangoes - was genuine and moving. They not only gave a lesson in what true religion is, they gave further proof that religious differences is not surely an issue for the Nuba. Hatred against the Christian, methodical destruction of churches, hunting down of Catholic catechists, is a policy fostered by the government but not shared by the majority of people.

It might seem futile to celebrate Easter, the feast of the resurrection, of joy, of victory over death, in an environment of war. Joseph Aloga, one of the catechists who accompanied me during all the time of my peregrination with the Nuba, thinks differently. "Easter - he told me one early morning while we were walking towards the distant airstrip where a plane would come to take me back to Nairobi - means that we are greater than ourselves, that we have the possibility of overcoming all the evil inside us and around us".

Fr. Renato Kizito Sesana


Rumbek Diocese has established a mission centre at Adior as a follow up to one of the resolutions passed during the Rumbek Diocesan Assembly held at Mapourdit from February 4-8.

The Adior centre, located in Bahr al Ghazal region, brings to four the number of missions in Rumbek Diocese, currently headed by Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari. The other missions in the diocese are Mapourdit, Agangrial and Marial Lou. Monsignor Mazzolari said that the Assembly felt that the Diocese of Rumbek was financially capable of running another mission in an attempt to bring the gospel and development within the easiest reach of as many people in Sudan as possible. But the Combonis are not strangers at the new centre. Way back in 1858, the founder of the Christian faith in Sudan, who later became the first bishop of Khartoum, Daniel Comboni, had set foot there with the objective of evangelisation. Together with fellow Italian missionaries, Comboni spent nine months at Holy Cross, a location on the bank of the river Nile, during which time they set up a mission centre and won a number of converts. However, the mission failed the severe test of time as hostile climatic conditions and tropical diseases took their toll on the Europeans. Holy Cross is only forty kilometers away from Adior.

This time round, said Monsignor Mazzolari, we have done our groundwork thoroughly well and we remain optimistic about the survival of the centre.

"We have held talks with the local people and the civil authority in the area and we have been assured of security in the course of our pastoral work in Adior," Monsignor Mazzolari said with confidence.

Adior is a densely populated area with a people who have demonstrated encouraging enthusiasm in embracing Christianity. Further, the mission centre, unlike some areas in the Bahr al-Ghazal region, is at a safe distance from the floods of the mighty river Nile during the heaviest rainy seasons. The area is also credited with having a good airstrip that is useable throughout the year. With such a facility, the missionaries and the Christians at Adior do not stand a risk of being isolated.

To set the ball rolling, two priest, Father Benjamin Madol, 48, Sudanese and Father Mario Riva, 69, Italian, have been posted to the area. Both the priests have considerable experience in pastoral work in the Sudan.

Fr. Riva, a veteran in pastoral work in hardship areas, first came to Sudan in 1954. He is today a fluent speaker of the local Dinka language, an attribute that makes him really suited for his new responsibility.

Fr. Madol, a priest since 1981, said he was quite prepared for the new challenge. "I am quite prepared for my new responsibility as Sudan is my home and I am ready to serve anywhere and in any capacity as may be the wish of the Almighty God." As to whether the posting of the two clergymen would cause a shortfall in other areas within the Diocese, Monsignor Mazzolari said: "Not quite. We have experienced a tremendous growth in terms of personnel. Rumbek Diocese today boasts a total of 31 priests, sisters and brothers.

Besides spreading the gospel, the Comboni missionaries hope to assist in running a local dispensary which was established by emergency doctors from Europe. by Charles Omondi

For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail:


PeaceLink 1997