SCIO, November 15, 1997


  1. Chronology
  2. Landmines crisis in Sudan
  3. Sudanese catechist complete course


October 16: The Sudanese Red Sea port of Suakin is filling up with thousands of Sudanese expelled from Saudi Arabia, the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA), reported yesterday. The news agency quoted Taj Eddin Al Mahdi, secretary general of the bureau for Sudanese working abroad, as saying that thousands more deportees are expected to arrive in the coming days.

16: Lotteries have been banned by the Sudanese government as a type of gambling strictly prohibited by Islamic laws. The ban was ordered by Justice Minister Abdul Basit Sabdarat following a fatwah or Islamic decree of prominent Muslim scholars. Along with lottery prizes, contests organised by sports newspapers and other prizes offered by duty-free shops and biscuit companies, for example, have been declared illegal.

20: The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said its forces inflicted heavy losses on government troops in an ambush in southern Sudan last week. The rebel National Democratic Alliance (NDA) radio, broadcasting from Eritrea yesterday, said the SPLA forces laid an ambush near the town of Torit in eastern Equatoria last Monday.

20: A new series of books on the experience of the Church in Sudan will be launched at Nairobi's All-Saints' Cathedral this Friday. Pauline Publications Africa, the publishers of the series, say in a Press release that the publications are a product of an ongoing project into the history and experience of the Church in Sudan.

20: Arrangements have been made to repatriate 21,000 Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia and 28,000 others from central Africa, newspaper reports said on Friday. The independent daily Alwan said the refugees in the west Ethiopia Gambela region were from Nuer and Anwak tribes from south Sudan's Upper Nile region, while those in Central Africa were mainly of the Zande tribe of Equatoria, all fleeing the war in the south.

22: Sudan has launched a drive to enforce military conscription, residents and newspapers said yesterday. The campaign started on Sunday, when road blocks were set up in at least three states to catch men who had not done compulsory service. Residents said traffic was checked on roads into the capital Khartoum. Local newspapers reported similar checks in the nearby states of el-Gezira and Gedaraf.

22: UNICEF and the Mundri Relief and Development Association (MRDA) are currently conducting a two-week intensive English training course for women in Kotobi, Western Equatoria. A total of 47 women are participating and have been selected from Mundri County by women's group in conjunction with SRRA and MRDA field staff.

22: International Medical Corps (IMC) and CARE personnel have began treatment and control of sleeping sickness epidemic in Tambura County. IMC aims to decrease morbidity and mortality by initiating an immediate treatment programme and re-establishing a regional sleeping sickness surveillance/control programme to prevent the re-occurrence of the disease.

23: Sudanese military authorities are waging a campaign to round up two million youths for compulsory military service, including students who have run away from the army, newspapers reported today. State Defence Minister Omar Abdul Maarouf, told newspaper editors in a briefing on Monday that "implementation of the national service act will be strictly imposed and there will be no exceptions."

23: A group of Sudanese politicians has formed a team to work for reconciliation between Khartoum and the opposition ousted by the military. A delegation from the new Popular Organisation for National Dialogue, led by a former foreign minister who served both ex-premier Sadek al-Mahdi and the junta leader who ousted him, Gen Omar el-Bashir, was due to meet the current Foreign Minister, the independent daily Al-Rai al Akher reported.

24: Sudan's official spokesman was quoted today as denying a rebel statement that they inflicted heavy losses on Khartoum's forces in the south. The NDA radio, broadcasting from Eritrea on Saturday, said SPLA forces had killed government troops in an ambush near south-eastern town of Torit last Monday.

25: President el-Bashir has said that the Eritrean military concentrations on their common border will not affect his government's position. "The Eritrean concentrations on our border will only strengthen and cement our determination for achieving peace and development," the head of state was quoted today by newspapers as saying at a rally the previous day in Atbara, north of the capital.

26: The Sudanese government has completed its preparations for peace negotiations on Tuesday in Nairobi with the SPLA under the auspices of the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a senior Sudanese official said. Foreign Minister of State Mustafa Osman Ismail, quoted by the official daily Al Anbaa, said the government would participate "with sincerity required for achieving peace".

27: Sudan's government has started an intensive campaign to recruit more than four million youths into the national military service. Officials have been patrolling the streets of the capital with loudspeakers urging parents to encourage their children to sign up for the compulsory military duty.

28: Peace talks between the government and the SPLA have been postponed until Wednesday, the Kenyan foreign ministry announced. The talks had been scheduled to begin today, but the host, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, will only return home later in the week. He has been attending the Commonwealth summit in Scotland.

28: Two men, a policemen and a bandit, were killed and four bus passengers wounded when an armed gang attacked a bus in Darfur, West Sudan, the Al Anbaa daily reported today. The daily said the bandits stopped the bus with more than 40 passengers on board not far from Kutum town in north Darfur, shot dead an accompanying police escort, wounded four passengers including a woman, then fled with passengers' belongings in the incident last Wednesday.

28: The first lot of Sudanese students studying at the Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre, Kitale, graduated on Saturday. The 29 students, who were training to be catechists, were awarded their certificates in a ceremony presided over by Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Catholic Diocese in southern Sudan.

29: A Sudanese government peace negotiator said yesterday that a secular state - as demanded by rebels- would not guarantee an end to over 14 years of civil war. Federal Rule Chamber Minister Ali al-Haj Mohammed was speaking to Reuters before heading to Kenya for peace talks with the SPLA.

29: Self-determination for southern Sudan and secularism are expected to dominate peace talks in Nairobi today, a Sudanese diplomat said today. Foreign Minister Osman Mohammed Taha and presidential legal advisor Ahmed Ibrahim al Tahir arrived in Nairobi on Monday. The SPLA delegation is led by the movement's second in command, Salva Kiir.

30: Peace talks between the government and rebels aimed at ending Africa's longest running war were due to open in Nairobi today after a three-year break marked by increased fighting and significant rebel gains. Central to the talks between Sudan's Islamic government (NIF) and the SPLA will be the right to self-determination for the south, analysts said.

30: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Sudanese government leaders today, hours before talks aimed at ending Sudan's civil war were due to start in Nairobi. Ties between Sudan and Egypt have been soured by Egyptian accusations that Sudan helped Egyptian Islamists who tried to kill Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. Khartoum denies the charge. The neighbours are also at odds over a border dispute.

31: Peace talks aimed at finding a solution to Sudan's civil war started in earnest today, bringing the government and rebels together for the first time in three years. Talks between the government and the SPLA started behind closed doors at a secret location, Kenyan foreign ministry officials said.

31: Weary of more than 14 years of civil war, many Sudanese hope their government's peace talks with rebels will lead to a better life in Sudan. "Life is very difficult because of the war," said Mr Tijani Youssef, standing outside his shop in central Khartoum, trying to find news on the radio of the peace talks underway in Kenya.

November 1: Peace talks between the government and the SPLA entered a second day today with officials remaining tight-lipped on their progress. The talks aimed at finding a solution to one of Africa's longest wars began yesterday following a three-year break after the Khartoum government agreed in September to negotiate a declaration including self-determination for south Sudan.

3: A grenade brought by a Sudanese militiaman on a home visit killed a man and wounded two other people when it blew up in a tailor's shop in Khartoum, a police source said yesterday. The dead man was named as Nasir Ahmed Abdul Busher, who, reports said, was examining the hand grenade he had found in a bag in the shop when it exploded.

3: Opposition forces in eastern Sudan killed 11 government soldiers according to a statement from an alliance of opposition forces. The NDA forces ambushed the soldiers on Thursday south of the city of al-Gedaref, about 350 kms southeast of Khartoum.

4: Exploratory peace talks between representatives of Sudan's military junta and southern rebels resumed today, rebel sources said. The sources said the talks could continue indefinitely unless there were dramatic developments, adding that there had been no break-throughs so far.

4: Muslim fanatics wielding knives, killed two men and injured 10 others, four seriously, in an attack outside a mosque at Wad Medani, local officials said, according to newspapers on Monday. Two assailants, who stabbed worshippers, leaving the mosque after sunset prayers on Saturday, were members of the Islamic radical Tafkir wa al-Hijrah sect which considers other Muslims to be infidels, officials told the press.

4: Newspapers in Sudan have been ordered to bar from work journalists who are not licensed with the state-run press council, a Sudanese official said in a statement published today. The official news agency, Suna, quoted Osman Abu-Zeid, secretary-general of the National Council for Press and Publication, as saying he had instructed unlicensed journalists to "put their situation in order".

4: Sudanese authorities plan to privatise electric power generation in the country while maintaining state control over transmission and distribution, the head of the national electricity corporation said. "The corporation is presently considering new laws and arrangements to encourage investors into entering the field of generation and production of electricity," Yassin Haj Abdin told AFP.

5: Peace talks between Khartoum and SPLA are set to continue in Nairobi today, an official said. "The delegations are now preparing to resume the meeting at two o'clock," an official of the SPLA told AFP.

6: A group of Sudanese artists yesterday held an exhibition and sale of their works at a Nairobi hotel. The nine artists, all from the northern part of Africa's most expansive state, aimed at raising funds to be remitted to Sudanese Women's Association in Nairobi (SWAN), a non-profit making charitable organisation. SWAN engages in endeavours in favour of southern Sudanese refugees in Kenya.

6: The United States slapped an economic embargo on Sudan yesterday to punish the regime in Khartoum for its war against Christians in the south and its terrorists links. The sanctions were imposed "because the government of Sudan has failed to respond to repeated expressions of concern or to the imposition of lesser sanctions," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.

6: Sudan rebels have put tough new conditions to the government at peace talks on resolving the country's 14-year conflict. The conditions, in a document by the SPLA's political wing, set a two-year limit for a referendum on self determination for south Sudan.

7: Negotiations on ending the 14-year civil war in southern Sudan have stalled, and Kenyan mediators are seeking concessions from both sides, a source close to the talks said today. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said a team led by Kenya's Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka met separately with the delegation of the SPLA on Thursday morning and was to meet the government side in the afternoon.

8: The Sudan government yesterday denounced US economic sanctions imposed against the country as unjust and aimed at giving its rebel opponents the upper hand. The order signed on Monday by President Bill Clinton coincides with talks between the Islamic government and the SPLA in Nairobi aimed at ending the country's 14-year civil war.

8: Peace talks between the government and rebels aimed at finding a solution to the 14[-year civil war are progressing at a snail's pace, the rebel side said today. Mediator Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenya's Foreign Minister, continued separate talks with the leaders of the two delegations after plenary talks on Monday and Wednesday.

8: New US sanctions are a political blow to the morale of the government just when it is trying to bury the hatchet with its enemies. The sweeping economic sanctions imposed this week hand the SPLA a symbolic big stick in their first peace talks with the government in three years.

10: The latest round of talks on southern Sudan sponsored by IGAD appeared headed for stalemate in Nairobi last week. Sources close to the meeting said the major sticking points between the government and the SPLA concerned interpretation of a self-determination package and the length of time before a plebiscite is held on autonomy for the southern region.

10: The trade sanctions imposed on Sudan by the United States two weeks ago may not prove particularly painful to Khartoum. American officials are likely to exempt gum Arabic from the announced ban on imports, thus enabling Sudan to maintain close to half of its annual sales to the US. Sudan's yearly exports to the US total a modest $20 million, with gum Arabic accounting for an estimated $9 million share of that amount.

10: The Khartoum government and the SPLA did not agree on any of the issues discussed during 10-days of peace talks held in Nairobi, a source close to the conference told AFP today. "The talks can be considered deadlocked because no agreement was reached on any of the items put on the table, said the source, who asked not to be named.

11: Sudan's government has called for a federation between north and south in reply to rebel demands for confederation at peace talks which were drawing to a close today. The government and the SPLA were drafting a joint communiqu, today ahead of a meeting tomorrow with President Moi, a senior Kenyan foreign ministry official said.

12: Negotiations to end the 14-year civil war in southern Sudan were yesterday postponed until next year, without making any progress. The talks between delegations from the government and the SPLA were adjourned to allow the two warring parties to make further consultations.

13: The United States imposed sanctions against Sudan in an effort to topple President el-Bashir's Islamic government, senior Sudanese officials said today. The Sudanese officials spoke at a news conference the day after peace talks in the Kenyan capital with the SPLA.

14: Sudan's Foreign Minister Taha has expressed satisfaction with adjourned peace talks with the SPLA. Speaking on state television late yesterday, Mr Taha said a latest round of talks in Nairobi between the government and the SPLA had led to agreement on peaceful settlement.

14: Armed pro-government South Sudan Defence Force claimed on Thursday to have killed and wounded hundreds of SPLA troops during the recapture of two localities in the Torit area of south Sudan. SSDF chief of staff Paul Kong said in press statement that the movement had "seized Layrerni locality, about 25 kilometres away from Torit and captured a large quantity of weapons including an intact tank".

Charles Omondi

Landmines crisis in Sudan

According to the United Nations estimates, 9,600 people are killed by landmines every year. Another 14, 000 suffer injuries of varied degrees from the same weapons each year.

Among these, are the Sudanese whose woes hardly go beyond their villages. Even literature on the state of landmines in Sudan, especially in the isolated regions of the Nuba Mountains, Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Blue Nile, is not easy to come by.

The Nuba people, for example, says Fr. Renato Kizito, an Italian priest-journalist who has written extensively on the Nuba, "are victimised more than others by the war that continues to devastate Sudan. "Indeed," he adds, "the treatment they receive from the present Khartoum government has been aptly described as creeping genocide." Among the assortment of weapons taking their toll on the Nuba are Anti Personnel Landmines (APM). The Nuba Mountains, the victims' homeland, lie in the south of Kordofan Province. The climate of the area is largely arid with short summer rains. The region has three main language groups with numerous dialects. However, because of the Sudanese government's unbridled desire to culturally re-orient the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains, the lingua franca has gradually become Arabic. In total, about three million people live within the Kordofan Province which demarcates northern and southern Sudan.

Besides those who lose their lives in the vicious war, thousands of others are rounded up and taken to the so called peace camps where they live according to the wishes of the oppressive National Islamic Front regime. According to the December 1995 Scottish Churches' Sudan Group, "three quarters of the Nuba have been uprooted and resettled so that they become forever a part of the north Sudan".

Collins English Dictionary defines a landmine as; "an explosive placed in the ground usually detonated by stepping or driving on it".

Landmines come in different shapes and sizes. It is estimated that some 250 types of APMs have so far been produced. Some look like toys, most probably designed to attract children.

According to a survey conducted by Human Rights Watch in May this year, 36 countries currently produce APMs. They include USA, Cuba, Peru, Argentina, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine, Cyprus and India.

Others are Pakistan, Burma, China, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. Cyprus, Namibia, Philippines, Venezuela and Mexico have been identified by the US administration as APM producers but they deny ever having made these weapons.

Some major producers in the 80s such as Italy, Belgium and South Africa have now ceased production. Belgium in March 1995, became the first country to halt APM production. Spain is due to halt APM production at the end of this year.

Africa is the largest consumer of landmines with a total of 50 million in some 18 countries.

A single land mine can cost as little as US$3 to manufacture and nothing to lay down, but it will cost as much as US$1,000 to clear. The process is tedious and demands great deal of care from the very few personnel skilled in clearing them.

What makes landmines most lethal is the fact that they are active long after a war has been won or lost. David Hockwork, America's most decorated soldier says of land mines: "Of all the instruments of terror used on the battlefield, mines are the most inhuman. The war time casualties are young men whose lives are either snuffed out or ruined forever by crippling injuries. Even soldiers who escape from a minefield unscathed are haunted by the experience."

"Landmines don't just take lives. They take livelihoods," screams an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) advertisement against land mines, now common in major world publications. In war time, besides targeting lives of the enemies, mining farmland to cut off food supplies to the enemy becomes a common military practice in many parts of the world.

Upto 90 per cent of mines in Sudan, says September-November issue of The Women Today, a publication of New Sudan Women Federation, are concentrated around government-controlled towns. They are used to barricade military posts, harass local populations, weaken the local economies and depopulate villages. The mines also act to prevent civil populations in such towns from seeking refuge elsewhere.

It has come as no big surprise then that there has been an upsurge in the number of victims of landmines as people flock back to the newly liberated areas. Between May and July this year, the publication points out, 37 mine-related casualties were reported by the ICRC at their hospital at Lokichoggio in northwestern Kenya.

In Morobo near Sudan/ Uganda border alone, 27 civilian casualties have been reported since the area fell from the hands of the government early this year. On August 7, in Yei, a car was blown up by a landmine at the junction to a church, killing four people.

The paper, however, hastens to point out that no one can tell with precision the number of those killed or wounded so far by mines in the 14-year-old civil war. "Many victims," it explains, "die of excessive bleeding before they reach any hospital." This is particularly so due to the difficulty in transportation in a country where there is hardly any infrastructure worth talking about.

But the international community has not been totally apathetic to the plight of the Sudanese. The women's newsletter says that the response by the humanitarian agencies in the recent past has been commendable. However, "their efforts have been greatly hampered by dangerous road transport or by high costs of air transport".

The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) too has been active in trying to protect the civilians against these lethal weapons. To address the issue of landmines, the John-Garang rebel group has commissioned the Operation Save Innocent Lives-Sudan. (OSIL-SUDA), an indigenous Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). OSIL-SUDA works in close collaboration with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) and the New Sudan Council of Church (NSCC).

OSIL-SUDA is mandated to raise awareness amongst the international community about the need to deal with the problem of landmines in the liberated areas of south Sudan. It is also mandated to conduct a mine awareness and de-mining programme throughout the areas of southern Sudan.

However, the task is a Herculean one for SPLA, which, besides other things, has to cope with an excessively vast area. The SPLA also lacks enough trained personnel and neither does it have adequate equipment for the detection and destruction of mines.

Charles OmondiP

Sudanese catechists complete course

Clad in immaculate white shirts and dark trousers, with shoes to match, the Sudanese youth reached out one by one for a certificate, a Bible, a cross and a guide for the future role. After one year of training in a strange environment, thousands of miles from home, they were now ready to go and serve their people. The broad smiles on their faces and the ululation, clapping and cheers from the audience told it all. It was a really joyous occasion.

For the brains behind the Blessed Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre, October 25, 1997, was yet another milestone in their unwavering commitment to spread the gospel and bring development to the Sudanese. It marked the inaugural graduation ceremony at the Kenya-based institution offering various academic and religious courses.

The 29 young men were all catechist and the man awarding the certificates was Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, the Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Catholic Diocese, southern Sudan. Amid the mood of celebration, Msg. did not mince any words about the Herculean task ahead of the catechists.

"What you will find out there will not always be nice. You will find greed, hunger, conflicts, and above all, a lot of injustice," he said, quickly pointing out, "but if in your heart there is truth, justice and peace, then God will always work through you in whatever circumstances."

Msg. Mazzolari advised the young men to stick to their Christian faith even if the physical churches in their respective centres were destroyed. It is the church inside each individual that is most important, he said.

The Blessed Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre, located about 400 kilometres north-west of Nairobi, is an institution at the exclusive service of the Sudanese Catholic Church, with the goal of forming young people as agents of evangelization, education and development. It opened its doors to the first lot of students in October last year.

The institution was established in the Kenyan town because the present situation of civil war in southern Sudan is not conducive for the implementation of any consistent formation programme inside Africa's most expansive state.

In most parts of southern Sudan, the formal education system ground to a halt more than a decade ago. Many Christians have been left without a priest for 10 or more years, hence the urgent need for qualified catechists to assist in the evangelisation mission.

Sudan has for the last 14 years experienced a bloody civil war, pitting the northern-based Islamic regime against the southern rebels. While the northerners insist on a Sudan that is Islamic in religion and Arab in culture, the southerners are demanding a secular state that is devoid of discrimination on religious or ethnic considerations. The war and its consequences have so far claimed not less than 1.3 million lives.

Thousands of others have been displaced both in and outside Sudan. The catechists have been posted to serve in different centres in their motherland and at Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, which is a home to hundreds of Sudanese besides other nationals.

Among other things, the catechists will be expected to educate young people and adults in faith, prepare candidates and their families for sacraments of Christian initiation, preach to non-Christians and lead community prayers, especially on Sundays in the absence of a priest..

They will also be expected to train other catechists in special centres and guide volunteer catechists in their work, take charge of pastoral initiatives and organise parish functions, help the poor in various ways, and work for human development and justice.

The institution's Rector, Father Robert Tumwekwase said: "The current changes in southern Sudan give even more hope to BJBFC staff and students. The rewards of the liberation efforts are consistently assuring us that some day our people shall return to their homes."

"Consequently," Fr.Tumwekwase went on, " BJBFC has taken upon itself to prepare young and energetic people to go and prepare the way. They shall give hope to their people by educating them in literacy, religion, and ethical behaviour."

He advised the young catechists to be humble as they go about their business. "Do not assume that you know so much. Make constant effort to grow in faith through prayers, service to your church and devotion to Our Mother Mary by celebrating your rosary daily."

Others in attendance of the graduation ceremony were the institution's Spiritual Director Fr. Emmanuel Wafula, the Dean of Studies Sister Caroline Buhs, Fr. Silas Iragaba of Kakuma Camp and representatives of local civil authority.

The next lot of trainee-catechists is expected to report to the west Kenya institution in January next year. Like their predecessors, they will be duly selected from the most deserving areas and will be asked to give total commitment to their training. In addition, they will be expected to contribute, with their work, to the running of the Centre and the production of the food needed.

The institution, which also runs a secondary school programme for prospective seminarians, is also expected to start training teachers next year. The secondary school programme is based on the Kenyan 8-4-4 curriculum.

Charles Omondi

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