SCIO, June 15, 1997


  1. Chronology
  2. Rumbek: Thousands face mass starvation
  3. Senior Secondary School opens in Mapourdit


May 15: Uganda will not exchange prisoners of war with Sudan until Khartoum hands over 35 schoolgirls abducted by Christian fundamentalist rebels in September last year, Rebecca Kadaga, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said today. Uganda is holding scores of Sudanese POWs caught last month fighting alongside its rebels, while Khartoum nabbed four Ugandans fighting alongside the SPLA.

15: The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-United faction yesterday dismissed the recently signed peace treaty between the Islamic military regime and seven Southern Sudanese rebel factions. The Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM-United, Dr Lam Akol, said the pact had a lot of loopholes which made the southerners" susceptible to the negative whims of the central government."

19: A health tax introduced by Sudan's government after committing much of its resources to the fight against rebels in the east and south of the country has drawn a great deal of criticism in Khartoum. The tax was introduced early this year by a government that had been finding it difficult to keep medical institutions running due to the war effort.

21: Sudanese rebels said they captured the southern town of Gogrial today and now controlled most of the Bahr el Ghazal region.

21: The Sudanese National Assembly has passed a peace agreement reached by the government and six south rebel groups last April, providing for self-determination for the region, the press reported today. According to the papers, the Parliament asked the head of state to arrange for the accord's implementation, including the appointment of a 25-member co-ordinating council.

26: President Omar el-Bashir has ruled out the return of political parties which he outlawed when he seized power in a 1989 coup. Speaking to members of the newly elected Press and Publishers Council, President el-Bashir said his government was committed to allowing more freedom of expression but that this would not mean a return to a multi-party system of government which he described as "corrupt."

26: United Nations officials are seeking to heighten diplomatic and economic pressure on Khartoum at a time when the regime is seen to be weakened by the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo. The new squeeze on Sudan coincides with the visit to Washington this week of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the prime minister overthrown in 1989.

27: A regional summit planned for this week to discuss the conflict between Sudan and Uganda has been called off, a Kenyan Foreign Ministry spokesman announced. The meeting, which would have brought together leaders of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), was scheduled to take place in Nairobi on Wednesday.

June 6: Thousands of people in the southern Sudan town of Rumbek face mass starvation unless humanitarian help reaches them quickly, Roman Catholic missionaries said on Tuesday. "As soon as possible, the international humanitarian agencies must become involved in the nourishment and the health of people flocking into Rumbek town," Comboni missionary Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari said after visiting the town.

9: Sudan has mobilised its forces to "maximum" levels and closed its border with Eritrea amid fears of an Eritrean offensive, official sources said in Khartoum today. Sudan has declared a "maximum state of mobilisation" in the region of Kassala in "anticipation of a possible offensive following a troop build-up on the border, the official Al-Anbaa newspaper said.

9: Thousands of high school students, including 80, 000 women, will be drafted in the Sudanese army, the Justice Minister said yesterday. Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat said the students will be drafted between June 21 and August 1. President El-Bashir had ordered the draft on May 29.

10: Sudan announced yesterday the arrests in Khartoum and three other towns of an unspecified number of opposition activists accused of "subversion" and conspiring against the Islamic fundamentalist regime. A government spokesman said the detainees would stand trial after investigations were completed.

10: Sudanese Islamic leader Hassan Abdallah al Tourabi has warned Eritrea that any invasion of its territory by Eritrean forces will lead to a swift counter-attack. Sudan has already declared a "maximum state of mobilisation" in the region of Kassala.

10: Sudanese rebels tortured and killed a senior government official when they seized the capital of southern Buhayrat state in April, the Al-Anbaa newspaper said on Monday. Retired Major-General Simon Mebior Melik was captured in the town of Rumbek along with the state governor.

11: A senior Sudanese Government official said yesterday that Khartoum had halted air relief flights into war-torn southern Sudan because aid agencies had violated their mandate in the region. Planning Minister Hassan Osman Dhahawe said in a statement the agencies had "failed to observe the authorisations they have been granted and have infringed Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) rules" under which they operated.

12: South African mercenaries the Executive Outcomes, are reported to have been hired by the Sudanese government to fight the SPLA. This is according to South African missionary groups operating in the war-torn areas of Sudan, where the government is alleged to be carrying out scorched-earth campaigns against villagers it believes are supportive of anti-government rebels. But Executive Outcomes spokesman Mr Nic van den Bergh has denied the allegations.

14: All relief flights to war-torn southern Sudan resumed this week after the government approved the June flight schedule presented by humanitarian agencies, a UN official said today. The flights from the north-western Kenyan border town of Lokichogio resumed on Wednesday, said World Food Programme spokeswoman Ms Brenda Barton.

Rumbek: Thousands face mass starvation

Thousands of returnees to the Sudanese town of Rumbek, about 1, 300 kilometres south of Khartoum, are threatened with mass starvation unless they receive urgent humanitarian relief, a Sudanese clergy who recently visited the town has reported.

Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese, said in Nairobi on June 3, on arrival from Sudan that famine was on the horizon for the coming two to three months unless assistance is sent to Rumbek.

"As soon as possible, the international humanitarian agencies must become involved for the nourishment and health of the people flocking into Rumbek town. Lack of immediate concern could degenerate easily into severe hunger, famine and some epidemics," said the Comboni clergy, who was visiting the town for the first time in 10 years.

"Medicine is not there at all and medical assistant Eli Ayel and a Dr Omar ( a Sudanese Prisoner of War) are hoping for basic drugs to be delivered in Rumbek soon. Cerebral malaria cases are now common among the population of Rumbek." Rumbek, an important military base for the Khartoum Government in the south, was on April 30, captured by the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of Dr. John Garang and has since experienced an influx of returnees from exile.

Msgr Mazzolari, in charge of the Sudanese see since 1990, said he was humbly joining the head of the Catholic Church in the world, Pope John Paul II, in his call to "stop hunger" in the world and especially in Sudan.

He was accompanied by the SPLA commanders who organised the attack and the capture of Rumbek from the government troops whose names he gave as - operational commander Atem Zakaria, air force commander Garang Deng Akok, Marial Anhiem, a civil administrator, logistical commander Santino Ajing and major Daniel Dut Manyiel, who is in charge of wildlife.

People from Akot, Bar Pakeny and villages near the Wau-Rumbek road are moving into Rumbek and are building their homes there, Msgr Mazzolari quoted the SPLA soldiers as saying, adding that Rumbek is home to people who for the past 10 years have been forced into exile. "Now they want, by all means, to be back in Rumbek."

Commander Marial, he said, predicted a large flow of people into the town by mid this month. "Maybe 10, 000 to 15, 000 people."

"The big concern of the governor of Rumbek," Msgr Mazzolari added, "is the repair of the roads so that humanitarian assistance can be brought by land to Rumbek all through the year. Some convoys are said to be on their way to Rumbek at the moment.

The SPLA has since 1983 fought a bloody war against the Sudanese Islamic regime aimed at the attainment of self determination for the southerners, most of whom are Christians and traditionalists. The war and its consequences are estimated to have claimed not less than 1.3 million lives to date.

Since the beginning of this year, the SPLA has scored a number of victories against the government both in the south and the eastern frontier. In the east, the SPLA is fighting along side a conglomeration of northern opposition under the auspices of National Democratic Alliance.

On April 21, the government signed an agreement with the rebel groups in the south, which the SPLA and the SPLA-United of Dr. Lam Akol rejected. The SPLA dismissed the pact as a sham and vowed to continue fighting.

Charles Omondi

Senior secondary school opens in Mapourdit

In an attempt to provide education to as many southern Sudanese as possible, Rumbek Diocese last month opened a senior secondary school at Mapourdit. The school which admitted the first group of 23 students, all boys, is conducting a four-year course based on a curriculum similar to one offered in Kenyan secondary schools.

"It is not our intention to make it a boys-only institution but the circumstances surrounding the admission of the first lot were such that no girl qualified for enrolment," said Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese where the school is situated. "The subsequent classes, beginning next year, will all have girls," he said.

Msgr Mazzolari also pointed out that the secondary school was not exclusively for the Dinka, but, being a non-boarding institution, it was only natural that it absorbed students from the local area which is inhabited by the Dinka. Heading the secondary school is Fr. Michael Barton, a Comboni missionary from the USA, who has been instrumental in educational development in the region. In his line-up of teaching staff are fellow priests and sisters, as well as qualified lay people.

"The learners,' said Msgr Mazzolari, "are very enthusiastic as they know that successful completion of their course will earn them a certificate with which they can land a job, or pursue further education."

Msgr Mazzolari is equally impressed by the student population so far. "The population is quite encouraging considering that Sudan is currently at war and most of the youth have committed their energy and time to fighting for the cause of their people."

The protracted civil strife in Sudan has disrupted practically every other aspect of life. Formal education in some areas, for instance, ground to a halt more than 10 years ago. Sudan is today among the world's poorest and least literate states. However, missionaries have been at the forefront in keeping the fire of enlightenment aglow by establishing a host of learning institutions in Sudan.

"The local community holds the Comboni school in high esteem as it is the first one of its kind in the area," says Msgr Mazzolari.

Already in place on the school compound are two main blocks which house a classroom, a laboratory, store, library and one large reading room. The buildings are made of sun-baked blocks with grass-thatched roofs. Plans for future expansion have already been drawn.

Besides their educational institutions in Sudan, Rumbek Diocese also provide formal education to Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. In August last year, they established Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre for Sudanese, in Kenya's Kitale town, about 407 kilometres north-west of Nairobi. The Centre aims at training young people from Sudan as agents of evangelization, education and development.

Charles Omondi

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


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