SCIO, October 15, 1997


  1. Chronology
  2. Church grows against countless odds


September 17: Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir has begun a tour of his country's eastern provinces including Halaib, a border territory whose ownership is disputed with Egypt, the Al Anbaa daily reported today. The Halaib province straddles latitude 22 degrees north which Cairo considers to be its frontier with Sudan.

18: Ugandan officials today could neither deny nor confirm reports early this week that the rebel leader Joseph Kony had fled Uganda for Kenya after being expelled by Sudan which has provided sanctuary to the Lord's Resistance Army rebels. Press reports in Kampala on Monday said that the rebel leader's captured intelligence officer revealed that the embattled Kony was trying to force himself into Kenya with help of agents of the priestess Alice Lakwena, who has been in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

19: Southern Sudanese rebels on Thursday said they plan to take part in a regional ministerial meeting on Sudan's civil war to be held in Kenya next week.
A spokesman for the SPLA said in Nairobi that the organisation will send a "ministerial level" delegates to the talks.

19: Khartoum today sent Federal Affairs Minister Mohammed and Riek Machar, who chairs a council responsible for southern Sudanese issues, to negotiate with the leader of another splinter faction from SPLA, Dr Lam Akol. Officials in Khartoum said Mr Mohammed and Mr Machar headed today with a government team for Fashoda in Upper Nile state, 750 kilometres south of the capital, to meet Dr Akol, who recently declared a unilateral ceasefire in his own war with the government.

20: The Sudanese Trade Union Federation today demanded a 30 per cent wage increase for the workers, threatening to call a strike if the government does not ante up. The Sudanese Higher Council for Wages and Salaries, a council comprised of workers, businessmen and bureaucrats, had earlier recommended that salaries be increased in six month increments to cope with price hikes.

21: Egypt and Sudan's foreign ministers held talks today aimed at improving ties strained over a long-standing territorial dispute and accusations of Sudanese involvement in an attack on President Hosni Mubarak. Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Osman Taha said the meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Mr Amr Muossa, "has resulted in the possibility of resolving the problems between the two countries in a bilateral framework".

22: Manute Madut Bol, the US-based Sudanese basketball star and political activist, left a Kampala hotel without paying a bill of Ush32,299,060 ($32,000). The charge was for accommodation, meals and car hire between October 24, 1996 and September 5, 1997. There was no indication of the whereabouts of the 35-year-old, 7ft 7in athlete, who last week told the BBC he had switched his southern Sudanese political allegiance from Col Garang to faction leader Machar.

23: Sudanese peace talks that stalled three years ago will resume in Nairobi on October 28, the Khartoum government and the SPLA agreed yesterday. The two parties said in a joint communiqu, that they agreed to provide chief negotiators and negotiating teams of not more than six people each. They also pledged to "fully co-operate" in the search for a negotiated solution to their conflict.

23: The government has signed a peace accord with a southern rebel group in a move that will help secure the oil fields of Upper Nile state from insurgent attacks, the official Sudan News Agency reported yesterday. The agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-United faction late Saturday was signed in the town of Fashoda, some 660 kilometres south of Khartoum. Led by Lam Akol, the SPLA-United is the seventh small rebel group to make peace with the government. 24: Analysts tracking the long civil war in southern Sudan portrayed the outcome of talks in Kenya this week as a victory for Col Garang and a significant retreat by the government. The two sides agreed in a joint communiqu, yesterday to start negotiations in earnest in Nairobi on October 28.

26: Col. Garang today praised a decision by the military junta to return to negotiations to end the country's 14-year-old civil war. The decision is the "start of reason," said Col. Garang. In a television link-up with a press conference in Nairobi, Col. Garang said Khartoum's change of heart was the result of the military offensive launched by the SPLA and its allies in January.

26: Exiled opposition leader Mr Sadek al-Mahdi said today a new round of peace talks between the military junta and the SPLA has little chance of success. He said, "everything indicates that the Khartoum regime is not serious in the search for a complete solution".

27: Sudanese state-owned radio announced last week that President el-Bashitr is to meet his Ugandan counterpart , Yoweri Museveni, in South Africa on October 5. The talks in Pretoria are part of President Mandela's peace initiative to mend relations between the two neighbours.

28: Col. Garang has appealed for international food aid to tackle an "acute food shortage" in the southern region, IPS reported. Garang said in Nairobi that the rains had failed this year due to the "El Nino effect".

29: Islamic and traditional courts in Sudan have decided to impose higher fees on people seeking divorce because more and more women are trying to leave their husbands. Heavier fees will discourage women from suing for divorce according to Sultan Deng Ring, a traditional chief from Southern Sudan whose court is located east of Khartoum.

30: Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Osman Mohammed Taha is believed to have had recent talks with former premier al-Mahdi in Cairo, a Khartoum newspaper said today. The daily El-Sharee el-Syasi, quoting an unidentified source, said that messages from "important government personalities" had been taken to Mr al-Mahdi.

October 1: Taha was quoted today as saying the US was fuelling conflicts in Africa by increasing military aid to its hostile neighbours Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda. "Increasing military aid falls in the category of increasing conflict in the region, it doesn't help solve anything," the Foreign Minister was quoted in the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat as saying.

1: A former Sudanese envoy in Malaysia has alleged the embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been co-ordinating arms deals with east Asian suppliers and reached an agreement with a Malaysian company to covertly ship weapons to Sudan. The ex-attache, Abu al-Aziz Kattab, resigned and defected recently to the NDA. He claimed that Khartoum was planning to buy "heavy weapons" from China, Indonesia and the Russia mafia.

2: An embarrassed State Department conceded that it acted prematurely last week in announcing that US diplomats would return to Sudan after an absence of almost two years. Spokesman Mr James P. Rubin acknowledged that the administration had failed to take into account sanctions legislation before the Congress aimed at tightening existing sanctions against Sudan's Islamic government.

3: International Rescue Committee (IRC) has reported an influx of returnees to Mading in the Upper Nile region. Of the 650 returnees identified, 242 were from Khartoum and 408 from Ethiopia. Some of the returnees indicated that there had been several deaths along their journey. Possible investigations to assist this group are being investigated.

3: Planning for National Immunisation Days (NIDS) activities in southern Sudan have begun. Meetings have been held between the Centres for Disease Control representative (CDC) and the medical co-ordinators of RASS, SRRA and NGOs implementing health programmes. The goal of NIDS is to vaccinate all children in southern Sudan against polio within a short period.

7: Some 63,000 Sudanese students have undergone military training, and many are to be sent to fight in the civil war in the south. The Akhbar Al-Youm reported on Monday that the students have completed the first phase of training. Being sent to the South is considered "advanced training" by Sudan's chief of staff General Ibrahim Suliman.

8: Sudan's Defence Minister has justified the deployment of high school students in battle against southern rebels on the basis of a shortage of regular troops, the media reported in Khartoum today. Amid criticism of the Khartoum junta for enlisting youths, a government spokesman meanwhile said high school students had indeed stood up to a rebel attack and destroyed a number of tanks.

9: A Sudanese government aircraft bombed the rebel-held town of Yei, killing one civilian and injuring three others, aid officials said today. The plane bombed the outskirts of Yei town at around 4 pm local time yesterday, according to a Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) official in contact with Yei by radio.

11: Information Minister Brigadier el-Tayeb Kheir has called for talks with Egypt to resolve disputes between the two countries, a Khartoum daily Akhbar Al-Youm reported yesterday. It said Sudan was keen to resume talks.

11: Sudanese rebels said today they were in a better position to capture Juba than at any other time in the 14-year war. On the front line around Juba, the Khartoum government army and the SPLA squared off and mounted daily attacks ahead of peace talks in Nairobi, starting at the end of the month, rebel officials said.

14: Thousands of Sudanese are fleeing Juba, complaining of food shortages and accusing the government of persecuting Christians and other southerners. Juba is threatened by guerrilla forces, and has to be supplied with food and other requirements by air, they say.

14: Sudan's military junta has denied a claim that the SPLA captured a strategic garrison town, Belinia, in South Kordofan Province. Army spokesman Mohammed Al-Sanousi Ahmed said that the rebels had simply carried out "looting operations on a post far away" from the provincial capital, Kadugli, in a reference to Belinia, which he did not name as such.

15: The United Nations is sending emergency food supplies by barges to Juba which urgently needs food, a spokesman said today. A convoy of barges loaded with 2,700 tonnes of food is due to arrive in Juba in mid November, World Food Programme spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told a Geneva briefing.

Church grows against countless odds

"The attitude of the Government of Sudan (GoS) towards the church, particularly the Catholic Church, is negative, to say the least," the Arch-bishop of Khartoum, Gabriel Zubeir Wako, has said.

Arch-bishop Wako expressed the sentiments in a paper he presented on the occasion of the Sudanese Catholic Bishops Conference in Rome, Italy, last month.

All the Sudanese Catholic Bishops, except Rudolph Deng Majak of Wau, made the month-long visit which commenced on August 24. Bishop Majak chose not to leave his people at the time of the Conference, which was in accordance with the Catholic Church tradition in which every five years each conference of bishops goes to visit the Holy Father, the Pope and the Sacred Congregations.

Arch-bishop Wako said that the latest manifestation of the government's negative attitude towards the church has taken the form of systematic demolition of Christian schools and multi-purpose centres. "The reasons given so far to justify the demolition are not convincing. The policy behind them does no justice to the government's oft repeated declaration that the Sudan respects and recognises every religion,'' the paper further says.

It goes on to point out that for the last 30 years, the Islamic regime has not granted the church any permit to construct decent places of worship. "Moreover, the Sudanese school syllabus is nothing but Islamic indoctrination for the children,'' says the paper.

The Sudanese Bishops on September 16-18 were received by Pope John Paul II, who spent sometime with each one of them. They celebrated the Eucharist with him and also had their plenary meeting with the Holy Father.

The Pope reassured the Bishops of his and the Church's continued support to them in the face of all their difficulties. Said he: "The Sudan still finds itself in the midst of great turmoil. The turmoil of a civil war which has brought untold misery, suffering and death especially in the south, continues to afflict the land and to drain the life and energies of your people. Your communities are deeply affected by a breakdown in the good relations which should exist between Christians and Muslims. Despite your people's poverty and their resulting weakness by worldly standards, the Lord will not forsake you."

Together, the Sudanese bishops re-affirmed their commitment to serving their people in the face of their miseries occasioned by many years of civil strife.
"Despite our fears and the clear awareness of our inadequacy, weakness and poverty, we repeat the commitment we made at our Episcopal ordination. We will go wherever the Lord sends us. We will do whatever he commands us to do. For we know that He, true to his promise, has given us the Holy Spirit," they said in a joint communique

"After the example of the Word of God, who became Emmanuel, that is God with us, we will continue to live with our suffering people wherever they may be, to share their joy and hope, grief and anguish, until the fulfilment of the Salvation God has promised to those who place all their hope on Him," said the Bishops.

Accordingly, the Bishops set before them the vision of a Sudan devoid of war, oppression, ethnic animosity, injustice and discrimination because of religion. "According to this vision," they said, "the Sudan should become a country in which basic human freedoms are fully respected, defended and promoted not only by law but also in practice."

The Catholic bishops spelt out their pastoral priority, proclaiming the Good News of salvation with renewed vigour and zeal, intensifying their efforts for the ongoing Christian and Spiritual formation of their people and helping better understand the real nature of the Church and of her role in society.

Besides Arch-bishop Wako others in attendance were the Arch-bishop of Juba, Paolino Lukudu Loro, Bishop Joseph Gasi Abangite of Tambura-Yambio, Bishop Vincent Mojwok Nyiker of Malakal, Torit's Paride Taban, Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid, Bishop of Yei, Erkolano Lado Tombe, the Apostolic Administrator of El Obeid, Antonio Menegazzo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum Daniel Adwok Kur and Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, who is the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese.

Charles OmondiP

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