SCIO, June 15, 1997


  1. Chronology
  2. Aid yet to arrive at Rumbek
  3. Italian team tours Marial Lou
  4. Catechists attend course
  5. Mapourdit: Quest for education


June 17: Sudanese authorities have ordered Khartoum residents originating from South Sudan's Bahr el-Ghazal region to return to defend their home states against attacks by the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), media reported in Khartoum today. The Akhbar al-Yum daily said mobilisation chief Adil Awad had criticised Bahr el-Ghazal people of being "reluctant to participate in defending their homeland."

24: The Sudanese Government expects foreign forces preparing for a new offensive on some strategic areas of the Red Sea State, the region's governor, Mr Bedewi al Khair Idris said today. Anti-government forces are currently occupying border towns of Aqeg, Qarora and Itairbah.

25: The Sudanese government yesterday denied reports from a Canadian religious group and other Western sources that a brisk slave trade was taking place in Sudan. The Toronto-based Crossroads Family of Ministries said in April that it had bought 319 Sudanese slaves, most of them children, from traders in Sudan and then set them free.

25: Eritrea yesterday accused the Sudanese regime of President Omar el-Bashir of mounting an assassination plot against Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki. The Khartoum regime sent "one of their external security forces to Eritrea on November 14, 1996, to infiltrate the ranks of the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to carry out this abominable act," Foreign Minister Haile Wolde Tensai told a press conference in Asmara.

25: The Sudanese government has denied involvement in an attempt on the life of Eritrean President Afeworki. "This is a sheer fabrication with which the Eritrean regime is trying to dissociate itself from a recently uncovered plot for undermining installations and political assassinations in Sudan," SUNA quoted the Sudanese State Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail as saying.

26: Sudanese rebels have advanced 800 kilometres in southern Sudan since March and the military situation there is "very favourable," rebel leader John Garang told AFP today in a telephone interview from Asmara. Garang declared that the regime of El-Bashir "cannot be improved, but removed."

27: Ugandan rebels supported by the Sudanese government in Khartoum are still fighting southern Sudan rebels to open routes to northern Uganda, a senior Sudanese rebel official said today. "They are a very serious problem to us," said Mr Salva Kiir, the number two in the SPLA. The claim could not be independently verified.

28: President Yoweri Museveni said today that Uganda will continue holding the 114 Sudanese prisoners of war captured last month as long as Khartoum keeps holding the 35 school girls abducted by the LRA rebels in northern Uganda. President Museveni said: "The Sudanese government has been playing tricks on Uganda and these answer those who believe that we can engage in dialogue with Sudan."

July 1: Sudanese rebels said today they captured a White Nile river port town, gaining control of barge traffic to and from Juba, southern Sudan's largest town still controlled by the government. Shambe, about 270 kilometres north of Juba on the river's west bank, was captured yesterday, said George Garang, a spokesman for the SPLA.

2: President El-Bashir says Khartoum is willing to hold talks with outlawed political parties, but the government will not consider giving up Islamic sharia laws, press reports said yesterday. President El-Bashir, who took power in a coup in June 1989, has up to now vowed not to allow the former political parties back onto the scene, and this announcement was the first time he had declared a willingness for dialogue.

3: SPLA leader Col. Garang said today a former Sudanese army chief officer, Lieutenant-General Abdulrahman Saed, was appointed his new deputy to step up rebel operations in eastern Sudan.

3: A refusal by Col. Garang to attend an African summit on the civil war next week will not damage the peace process, a Sudanese government official said today. Col Garang has reportedly rejected an invitation from Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who chairs the African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to attend the summit next week in Nairobi.

8: Sixty-two people were killed and 30 seriously hurt in a highway pile-up south of Khartoum, Sudanese state-run television reported late yesterday. It said a pickup truck tried to overtake another car near Kamlin but collided with a passenger bus and a lorry travelling in the opposite direction. The truck and the bus caught fire.

8: President Moi has called for a quick solution to escalating conflicts in eastern and northern Sudan. He urged the parties involved to pursue peace to avoid continued loss of lives. President Moi was opening the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting in Nairobi.

9: The SPLA today ruled out face-to-face meeting between, Col. Garang, and President El-Bashir during the regional summit in Nairobi today. "Bashir has in the past been reluctant to meet Garang, why should Garang meet him now,?" asked SPLA spokesman Mr George Garang in a telephone interview with AFP.

9: The head of one of Sudan's largest churches said today the government had demolished three churches in Khartoum state and was trying to take away some land from his parish. "On January 8, 1997 an organised armed force commanded by police captain came to Thoura area (in Khartoum state) and indiscriminately demolished all three churches," the Rev Bulus Idris Tia, of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Sudan, told Reuters. The damage was worth more than U$11, 000.

10: The sixth extra-ordinary summit of the IGAD heads of state and governments came to a close yesterday with the regional leaders giving President Moi the mandate to speedily organise the resumption of negotiations over the Sudanese crisis. The two-day summit expressed grave concern over the long drawn-out conflicts in Southern Sudan and Somalia.

11: The United States yesterday welcomed Sudan's decision to abide by peace principles reached with rebels and expressed hope for a long term treaty, the State Department said. "We urge that negotiations begin immediately and in good faith so that a just and lasting peace can be established in Sudan and throughout the horn of Africa," spokesman Mr Nicholas Burns said.

11: President El-Bashir told a news conference in Nairobi yesterday that his government had reversed an earlier decision to disregard the 1994 principles because they represent "only a basis for negotiation". But President El-Bashir said a peace deal reached in April between southern Sudanese rebel factions would be used as the "term of reference" for negotiations with the main SPLA.

11: A top Sudanese political official called for a partnership with Iran to lead the Islamic world in a united front against the West, newspapers in Khartoum reported today. "The Sudan aspires to unifying the Muslim nation, with Sudan and Iran being the nucleus of that unity, for confronting powers of arrogance," Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani told a visiting Iranian delegation yesterday.

13: Initial hopes of an agreement in Sudan on the basis of talks at the recent IGAD summit faltered on Wednesday when President El-Bashir declared that the framework for the starting point for negotiations was not binding. In response the SPLA refused to start talks unless the agreement was binding on both parties.

13: Col. Garang said today he had rejected a ceasefire request by Sudan government and that gains made in the rebels' most recent offensive were irreversible. He told Reuters that he would not accept a ceasefire before agreeing with Khartoum on a broader framework for negotiation.

Aid yet to arrive at Rumbek

Returnees to the south-western Sudanese town of Rumbek are yet to receive humanitarian assistance from the international community, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, has reported.

Speaking in Nairobi on arrival from Sudan, Monsignor Mazzolari, on his second visit to the town in a decade, described the state of the people as desperate and appealed for urgent intervention by the international community, "to avert a major human disaster".

"Rumbek is now accessible all the way from northern Uganda by road," said the Comboni Missionary, who has been in charge of the see since 1990.

When he visited Rumbek in May this year, the Catholic clergy sent a passionate appeal for aid, saying: "As soon as possible, the international humanitarian agencies must become involved for the nourishment and health of the people flocking back to Rumbek town. Lack of immediate concern could degenerate easily into severe famine and some epidemics.'

Rumbek, formerly a strategic military garrison for the Sudanese government, fell to the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on April 30. Consequently, it has experienced an influx of returnees from the government controlled areas, who have been eager to re-unite with their relatives and to escape the oppressive rule by the government of Sudan.

"The people are not only hungry, but are also in dire need of shelter," said Monsignor Mazzolari, who took several pictures of emaciated and scantily dressed adults and children.

Monsignor Mazzolari was accompanied by SPLA officials Abraham Makou Bol, a Civil Administrator, Commander Keresit Makuac and Paul Puoric, who is in charge of air services when he toured the Sudanese town.

In the mean time, Rumbek Diocese has relocated Fathers Mario Riva and Benjamin Madol from the newly established Adior Centre in Bahr al Ghazal region to Rumbek.

The move, Monsignor Mazzolari said, was meant to help revitalise church activities at the diocesan headquarters. "As of now, there is no resident priest in Adior but we will help from time to time," he added.

Adior Centre was established early this year as a follow up to one of the resolutions passed during the Rumbek Diocesan Assembly held at Mapourdit from February 4-8.

The two priests have considerable experience in pastoral work in Sudan. The 69-year-old Fr. Riva from Italy, first came to Sudan in 1954. Fr. Madol, a Sudanese aged 48, was ordained as a priest in 1981.

Charles Omondi

Italian team tours Marial Lou

An Italian delegation comprising two missionaries and two government officials, on July 9 visited Marial Lou, Rumbek Diocese in southern Sudan to evaluate the medical progress attained so far as a result of Italian assistance.

Foreign Affairs Ministry officials Dr. Giuseppe G. Masala and Mr Francesco Rosa, and the missionaries Fr. Mariano Manzana and Fr. Bruno Morandini were accompanied on the one-day visit by Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek, and Fr. Raphael Riel, who is the vicar general of the diocese.

During their tour, the team visited the local healthcare unit where they met some of the Sudanese laboratory technicians, who recently completed a six-month course, courtesy of Italian aid. The technicians underwent their training at the Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre, in Kitale, Kenya (about 400 kilometres northwest of Nairobi).

The visiting team saw victims of leprosy, guinea worm and a host of other maladies that are a commonplace in southern Sudan, all seeking medication at the healthcare unit. The unit is fully funded by APS, an Italian NGO which works closely with the government.

Having gone through the laboratory procedures, Dr. Masala and Rosa expressed their satisfaction with the organisation at the healthcare unit and pledged further medical assistance to the Sudanese. In particular, they promised to provide more equipment for the identification of various harmful viruses.

At another function, the members of the Italian delegation met about 15, 500 displaced people from the neighbouring Gogrial. As a welcome gesture, the emaciated and scantily dressed people waved leaves from bush plants, currently serving as their staple food.

Monsignor Mazzolari said the food situation at Marial Lou, like in most other areas in southern Sudan, was worrying.

Catechists attend course

Sudan's Rumbek Diocese from June 16-27 conducted a two-week journalism seminar for Sudanese catechists currently undergoing training at the Kenya-based Blessed Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre.

The course was aimed at equipping the catechists with basic skills in information gathering and dissemination, to enable them assist the Nairobi-based Sudan Catholic Information Office (SCIO) increase its input from Southern Sudan.

SCIO is the press office of the Sudanese Catholic dioceses operating in the non-government controlled areas of the country. It was established in 1995 and operates under the direct leadership of Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese.

In the recent months, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has enlarged the territory under its control, hence a tremendous increase in the region covered by SCIO. Among the areas that the John Garang-led SPLA has captured from the government since the beginning of this year are the Catholic diocesan headquarter towns of Rumbek and Yei.

With virtually no infrastructure in existence, southern Sudan remains an isolated area which the world only hears of when there is a disaster big enough to attract the attention of the international news agencies.

Twelve catechists took part in the seminar which was conducted by Fr. Kizito Renato Sesana and Charles Omondi from SCIO, Albert A. Wandu, who is a Sudanese journalist based in Kampala, Uganda, and Augustine Okwahi, a Sudanese who graduated from the National University of Lesotho and is now back in his country.

The catechists, who are due to complete their one-year course in October, will, in addition to spreading the word of God, be expected to write and send news stories for possible publication in SCIO's publications. SCIO currently produces three publications, namely; The Speaking Drum, Renewal and the Sudan Monthly Report. Whereas the former is distributed mainly in southern Sudan, the latter two are mainly circulated to readers outside Sudan. Sudan Monthly Report is circulated by e-mail only.

The catechists will be expected to focus mainly on church-related activities, human interest stories and positive developments, so that their reporting can be a source of hope for the readers, in contrast with the usual media reporting which tends to highlight war and devastation.

Mapourdit: Quest for education

In the novel "Lord of the Flies" William Golding tells the story of English schoolboys stranded on a Pacific Island. Golding describes a situation in which the children, unsupervised by adults, revert to uncivilised, violent behaviour. His point is that children are less reasonable than adults.

I disagree.

For the last two weeks I have heard child after child in Mapourdit, Sudan, tell me stories about their heroic quest for education. Many walked from Western Sudan to Ethiopian refugee camps, almost a thousand kilometres to the west, in search of education. They chose to remove themselves from the world of war, from the irrationality of violence, and trek to the place where Reason was honoured.

Whatever Golding or anyone says, I know now that children have more faith in Reason than we adults. While the adults were marching to war, the breakdown of Reason, the children were marching to what they describe as a promised land --Primary School -- where they would learn to think.

To which does tomorrow belong? The gun or the book?

An old man in Nyeri (Kenya) once told me a story which answers the question -- to whom does the future belong.

Once upon a time, there was a very old chief. The chief knew that he would die soon and decided to make one of his three sons the next chief. To test them and choose the best, he told his sons to climb to the top of Mount Kenya and bring him what is most precious.

The first son climbed to the top of Africa's second highest mountain and after three days, returned and handed his father a diamond that he had found there. The father said, "Thank you son, this is precious."

The second son climbed to the top and after three days, returned with an emerald. The father received it and said, "Thank you, son, this is precious."

The third son climbed to the top and after three days, returned with nothing in his hands. Perplexed, the father asked him, "What have you brought us?"

And the third son said, "Father, when I reached the top of the mountain I looked over to the other side, and there, spread out before me, I saw a vast plain -- green and fertile -- if we went there with out people and cattle we would flourish".

The father chose his third son to be the new chief saying, "You have brought us what is most precious: "A vision of the Future."

Forget about diamonds, forget about emeralds (forget about petroleum). The most precious jewel in South Sudan is the hope its children place in education.

If there'll be a tomorrow, it'll belong to the book, to bookreaders, to those who have not despaired of and the Human Mind.

The Book of Proverbs says, "Without Vision a People Perishes".

Brother Peter Daino
11 July 1997

Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya 
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668 
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail:


PeaceLink 1997