Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
March 15, 1998


  1. Chronology
  2. Human rights situation worring
  3. Woes of Sudanese professionals in Egypt
  4. Book Review


February 17: An official Sudanese report published today said 19 people including Sudan's vice-president were killed and eight were still missing after a military plane crashed last Thursday. The report, the first issued by the government on the crash, was published in the private Al-Rai al-Amin daily. Earlier reports put the death toll at 13.

18: Sudan's foreign minister has been named to replace first vice-president Zubair Mohammed Saleh, who died in a plane crash last week, the official news agency has reported. President Omar El-Bashir issued a decree giving foreign minister Ali Osman Mohammed Taha the new post, Suna said. Mr Taha's job will go to the minister of state for foreign affairs, Mustafa Osman Ismail, Suna said.

18: In the latest sign of warming relations, Egypt and Sudan yesterday opened discussions on how they can maintain a water-sharing agreement for the Nile. In recent meetings, Sudan has hinted that it wants to revise the agreement, a possibility suggested by Ethiopia.

19: Former rebel factions which signed a peace agreement with the government last year have been ordered to hand over their arms to prevent disturbances, a Sudanese newspaper reported today. Al-Usbua said the order came from Mr Riek Machar, who heads the Southern Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) under which the rebel factions united after they signed a 1997 peace agreement with the Khartoum government.

19: President El-Bashir has appointed Mr Ismail as Sudan's foreign minister, state television reported today. Mr Ismail replaces Mr Taha, who was sworn in yesterday as first vice-president. Mr Ismail, 43, has been minister of state for foreign affairs since April 1996. He is also secretary-general of the official International Council for People's Friendship.

20: The United Nations today appealed for US$109.4 million for emergency humanitarian aid for more than four million people suffering from the effects of war and famine in Sudan. "A deadly combination of intensified fighting and widespread drought is threatening to displace hundreds of thousands of Sudanese from their homes and put entire communities at risk of severe hunger and life-threatening diseases," said the inter-agency appeal.

21: Britain said today it will grant Sudan four million pounds (about $6.66) through UN agencies to help Sudanese civil war victims. A press statement from the British High Commission in Nairobi said the grant pledge to the 1998 UN Appeal for Sudan will help more than four million displaced Sudanese in the south and those living in refugee camps in Khartoum.

26: The World Food Programme has delivered more than 100 tonnes of relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in southern Sudan. The supply was the first relief effort to reach Bahr el Ghazal by road from Uganda, and was transported over 900 kilometres over a period of three weeks.

27: Aid agencies today said the Sudanese government had allowed them to resume flights to six locations in the southern state of Bahr el-Ghazal, where a flight ban was imposed early this month. Relief flights to those locations were scheduled to resume later, said Ms Gillian Wilcox, spokeswoman for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), which groups UN and Non-Governmental Organisations.

March 4: Armed bandits opened fire on a police patrol in western Sudan, killing four policemen before escaping into the mountains, a Sudanese newspaper has reported. Police are now combing the mountains area, looking for the culprits who are believed to be members of a tribe that recently moved into North Darfur state from the neighbouring North Kordofan state.

4: Eight men were this week sentenced to death by hanging after they were convicted of armed robbery by a special tribunal in Nyala, capital of South Darfur. Al-Gamhouria Daily said the tribunal found the eight men guilty of committing an armed robbery on a highway in South Darfur last November, killing two men and wounding several others.

6: A quiet epidemic is sweeping parts of Southern Sudan, a region where war and famine are the habitual killers. A 1997 survey showed that about 20 per cent of the population- approximately 12,000 people - has sleeping sickness. Without treatment, all will die.

6: A Sudanese air force plane bombed a hospital in a rebel-controlled town in southern Sudan, killing seven patients and injuring 48 others, an aid official said. The bombing occurred at Yei, about 140 kilometres south-west of the main southern town of Juba.

8: Ten patients have been flown to safety from southern Sudan to Kenya after the hospital bombing incident. The 10 were flown to Kenya by Norwegian People's Aid.

9: A Sudanese foreign ministry official said in remarks today that Sudan and the United States should work on improving diplomatic relations. Mr Hassan Abdin, foreign ministry director of foreign relations, made the remarks after a meeting of the ministry's advisory council.

10: Ethiopia's prime minister Meles Zenawi, a key player in regional efforts to end Sudan's long running civil war, said that Khartoum was exporting an "ideology of intolerance". Zenawi, in an interview with Reuters, held out little hope of breakthrough when the National Islamic Front government resumes talks with the SPLA in Nairobi in April.

10: President El-Bashir has carried out a major cabinet reshuffle, removing his defence minister and changing many other ministers. In a decree read on state television, Gen. Bashir named retired Lieutenant General Ibrahim Suleiman as defence minister, replacing Lt-Gen Hassan Abdel-Rahman Ali.

10: President El-Bashir has sacked 12 members of the 37-strong cabinet. All but three were given other government jobs. The president gave no reason for the changes.

11: A Khartoum court has convicted an Eritrean of possessing large amounts of liquor and jailed him for three years with three million Sudanese pounds (US$1,760) fine, local papers have reported. Police arrested Gebru Ishak at his Khartoum home last week and found that he had stashed away 1,313 bottles of Scotch whisky and Eritrean-manufactured gin worth an estimated 180 million pounds (about $106,000).

11: President El-Bashir has mixed his Islamist-dominated cabinet with former rebels and southerners in an apparent attempt to set the scene for peace talks and a vote on a new constitution. Islamists still control the top posts after Sunday's cabinet reshuffle, but analysts interpreted some appointments as an attempt to send right messages to southern rebels.

12: East African heads of state will meet to discuss developments in troubled Somalia and Sudan next Sunday and Monday at a summit in Djibouti, organisers announced. The executive secretary of the IGAD, Mr Tekeste Ghebray, said that the regional leaders would discuss a mediation bid to end Sudan's civil war, as well as national reconciliation in Somalia.

Human rights situation worrying

Mr. Johannes Jor Akol Ajawin is a Sudanese human rights lawyer and a member of the advocacy group, African Rights. Charles Omondi interviewed him on the human rights situation in Sudan..

What is your background?

I was born in 1954 in Malakal in southern Sudan. I graduated from the University of Khartoum with a Law degree in 1978 then joined the judiciary. I became an advocate in 1984 and a Member of Parliament from 1986 to June 30 1989, when a military coup occurred in Sudan. I was sent to prison for nearly one year under the new government of President Mohammed el-Bashir. I then left the country and pursued a Masters degree course at Kings College in London in 1991/92. I then embarked on human rights advocacy, joining African Rights in 1995, a group I have worked with to date. I am the co-author of : The Nuba: Facing Genocide. I have also written or co-authored many articles and reports on human rights in Sudan.

What circumstances led to your going to parliament and then to prison?

I went to parliament following the fall of the dictatorship of Jaffar Numeiry. I was a human rights activist and soon after Numeiry's overthrow, we formed what was known as Sudan African Congress, a political party based in the south, as we sought a comprehensive solution to the issues in Sudan. I contested the Great West parliamentary seat and won. Most of the seats were won by the ruling National Islamic Front candidates. While in parliament, we formed what we called the Sudan African Block, a union of Sudan African Parties (USAP). I became the USAP spokesman for three and a half years. When Gen el-Bashir's coup came, we were part of the government by virtue of our affiliation to National Reconciliation Government--a conglomeration of all parties with the exception of NIF. We were pushing for peace and for dialogue with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), we were also vocal against the Islamic laws. So the coup organisers felt that we were a threat to their Islamic agenda, hence their decision to send us to jail.

How would you describe the human rights situation in the Nuba Mountains?

It is disastrous. The government, despite our alerting the international community in 1995 about the impeding genocide and ethnic cleansing, continues to burn down villages and create peace (read concentration camps). Though the government claims that there is peace in the Nuba Mountains, nothing could be further from the truth. The only encouraging signal is that the will of the Nuba people to survive the government oppression is very strong.

How about Sudan as a whole?

It is just as bad! While talking about the Nuba Mountains we should not forget people in other areas. Even in the north, reports about people disappearing mysteriously, being detained without trial and even forced conscription of young people are commonplace. There is neither the freedom of association nor expression. In the main towns of war zones, the story is not any different. To date, there is no meaningful attempt by the government to improve the human rights situation. The apparatus of tyranny is the only thing governing Sudan.

Has the international community risen to the challenge of safeguarding human rights in your mother land?

It is not enough for the UN to monitor the situation from a distance in Geneva. Time has come when international human rights monitors have to be stationed everywhere in Sudan. It is painful to see the UN commission on human rights meet every year to reiterate condemnation without taking any action on the ground. The Sudan government should be taken to task over human rights abuses and a solution should be sought with the security council . If a more affirmative action does not come soon, then the disintegration of the country is imminent. However, a host of Non-Government Organisations have done some commendable work. The UN seems to have fallen victim to the government's ploy of linking the fight against human rights abuses to fighting Islam.

How easy is it to give judicial training to people in the Nuba Mountains?

It is not easy at all but with the will of the people, we have tried our best to make the few people with formal education to be trainers of other trainers. We have succeeded to make them comprehend the judicial aspects of their situation. We have further been favoured by the fact that most of the courts apply the traditional law and they are headed by the Nuba elders. We can assure the rest of the world that our two years of training have not been in vain. Soon, the Nuba Mountains will become the role model for other liberated areas. The education provided by the Nuba Relief and Rehabilitation Society (NRRS) has also been a major boost to our efforts. We can now talk proudly that we have a judiciary with more than 20 people and the training programme continues. With the support of all people of goodwill, we are destined to really go far.

How do you finance the training activities?

We get assistance from several friends but not from any government so far. We accept assistance from anybody so long as there are no strings attached. We also rely a great deal on the proceeds from our publications.

It is also apparent that the ethnic animosity is taking its toll on the human rights situation in Sudan. What do you have to say about this?

That is quite true and to this end, we have a two-dimension approach. We monitor the violations by the government through our own personnel who follow the day-to-day activities of the government. Regarding the ethnic animosity, we put emphasis on the training of the judiciary. We feel that with independent and strong judiciary, abuses arising from ethnic differences can be resolved amicably, for instance, through a competent court where all people can go to seek justice. We also monitor the violations by the SPLA in the Nuba areas. On the wider context, we appeal to the international community to exert pressure on the government to stop it from exploiting ethnic differences to perpetuate its stay in power.

The IGAD peace process has been around for quite a while, and ... without much success. Do you see any hope in this process?

I feel that IGAD is a very positive step towards bringing peace to Sudan. Resorting to other initiatives will just not do much. The problem with IGAD is the mediators. They should rise to the challenge of telling the world who is the obstacle to the attainment of peace. The Declaration Of Principles (DOP) was a comprehensive solution. There can be no better alternative that can tackle the root cause of the civil strife better than IGAD. The next round of talks must seek a compromising position between the two parties. I do not agree with the idea of expanding the forum to have an Islamic/Arab dimension. This is like playing into the hands of the government which has all along been looking for an alternative forum. I feel that if IGAD has to fail, then the next alternative should only be UN Security Council. I can only suggest that IGAD should have a permanent secretariat to monitor the situation on day-to-day basis.

What is you position on the division of Sudan into two states?

I am strongly for a united Sudan but only one that recognises the rights of all its citizens. I feel the confederation offered by the SPLA is the only means to a lasting peace for Sudan. However, if the government rejects it and the war has to continue...then we should have two Sudans; Sudan of the marginalised and Sudan of the privileged.

What are your concluding remarks?

I still call upon the friends of Sudan and in particular the friends of the south and the Nuba Mountains, to continue their support to the people. The people are grateful indeed for whatever assistance they have received so far. I also call upon all the peace-loving people of the world to see to it that 1998 marks the end of the civil strife in Sudan. There is no any other reason for the war except the fanatical attitude of some people in the government.

Woes of Sudanese professionals in Egypt

Nationals of Sudan and Egypt have for many years enjoyed strong traditional ties. For instance, Egypt, in a bi-lateral educational programme, offered scholarships to several southern Sudanese to study in Egypt.

Once they completed their studies, most of them returned home to take up different positions. However, since the war broke out in Sudan in 1983, this state of affairs has changed. The imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) has only served to worsen the situation.

Southern Sudan has been marginalised by consecutive governments and is today characterised by complete absence of infrastructure worth talking about. Few children, if any, go to school, let alone the university. Only on rare occasions do a few lucky ones get a chance to study either in Khartoum or outside the country.

Over the last 10 years, many southerners have been forced into exile. Thousands of others have been displaced internally. Those who study abroad are no longer enthusiastic to return home in the south. But they can neither go to Khartoum mainly for two reasons: Khartoum is not their home and they are not comfortable with the sharia and the racial discrimination. How they can live in a country which does not recognise their Christian and African beliefs is something many cannot come to terms with.

The Sudanese government considers the country an Arabic and Islamic state. But, Sudan is a multi-racial and a multi-religious country. There are over 300 African tribes with different beliefs and traditions in Africa's largest country. Christianity was introduced in Sudan before Islam. For many years, followers of the two religions and the traditionalists lived together in harmony. The introduction of sharia law in 1983 was a turning point in the relationship. Today, the relationship is that of hostility and mistrust between the different communities. The Arab/Islamic north, which controls the government, wish to perpetuate their dominance. The southerners have said no and have resorted to an armed struggle.

For the southern Sudanese professionals in Egypt, the ultimate goal is to go back home. But they cannot return to the government-controlled areas nor are they ready to see their many years of academic achievements go to waste in the south. Years of hard work and study cannot be wasted, reckon the many teachers, doctors, lawyers, agriculturalists, pharmacists, business-study and computer graduates.

"I graduated in 1990 and I have been working as a shopkeeper," said an agriculturist. "I want to introduce my people to new farming techniques that are more sustainable," he added. "I am from south Sudan and I know the people, their culture and traditions," said a teacher who completed his studies in 1994. "I don't' mind being with them. I will manage to live there easily as I can grow some vegetables and build a little hut while teaching children at schools for a living. That is all I want."

Their number one drawback in as far as going back home is concerned is their inability to afford air fares. The stringent and bureaucratic visa regulations have only made the situation worse. To be able to make it to southern Sudan, one has to travel via Kenya or Uganda. It is approximately US$700 per return ticket (one needs to purchase a return ticket for visa-acquisition purposes), a figure that most of these graduates find unaffordable.

On average, those who are employed earn an equivalent of $70 per month, an amount that can hardly keep them going till the second week of the month. The writer saw upto four families cramped up in a two-bedroom apartment in an attempt to make ends meet.

Generally, it is virtually impossible for any one to find work in his field of specialisation. The Sudanese graduates are stranded and cannot do much about changing this situation. Many are trying to move elsewhere under resettlement plan, a UN-assisted programme which gives opportunity for refugee families to settle in Western countries.

"I have no intention to go to America of Australia. I have been alienated all my life in my country, treated as a second class citizen, not equal under the laws of Sudan with the northerners, just because I am a black. No! I don't want to go anywhere but my homeland in southern Sudan. I can help my people get to their feet, the war will not be forever," said a pharmacist.

South Sudan is in dire need of all manner of qualified personnel. Most people in the south are illiterate. Thousands of children are out of school, famine is still prevalent in most areas and many children and adults alike continue to die because of lack of medicine and doctors. It is high time something was done to help professional southern Sudanese in exile go home to serve their people.

by Suzanne Samson

Book review

BARSELLA GINO and AYUSO MIGUEL, "Struggling to be Heard. The Christian Voice in Independent Sudan 1956-1996", Paulines Publications Africa, Nairobi, 1998, 128 pp.

As members of the global village, we are living today in a continuous process of globalization that reaches all fields of life: Social, economic, political and religious. Religiously, the process is being carried out through the inter-religious dialogue among the different beliefs. This globalization is leading to religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the different beliefs of the global village.

This is not the case of the Sudan. In fact, it is impacting, in a world walking together towards globalization, to know about the intolerance shown by Khartoum's fundamentalist government towards Christians, non-Christians and Muslims alike.

"Struggling to be Heard", it is a challenging book that presents the Christian Voice in Independent Sudan (1956-1996). It tells about the Christian presence in Sudanese politics during the past 40 years, beginning with the unfulfilled promises of the Arab-Muslim North towards the Christian-Traditionalist South at the moment of Independence (1956), the first civil war and the military solution of Ibrahim Abboud's military regime (1958-1964) that aimed in the 1960s to attain unity in the country only through forced Islamization of the South, that logically led to the failure of unity for the Sudan. The rise of Numeiri's regime (1969-1985), although led to a fragile peace between North and South during the 70s, it ended with a new failure and even worse; the imposition of the Islamic Law in the 80s, that marked the beginning of the second civil war (1983-1998). Since then, and besides a lost chance for democracy (1986-1989), there has been a continuous escalation in the process of Arabization and Islamization of Southern Sudan under the present regime, the Revolution of National Salvation, that took power in June 1989. The regime intends to unify Sudan in the name of Allah, through the Holy War (jihad). This has put the non-Muslims in a climate of real religious persecution.

It is in this context that the book stresses the efforts made by non-Muslims in Sudan to struggle for justice and peace in defence of the most basic human rights and particularly freedom of religion.

Christian churches are struggling to be heard so that true peace through justice may come to the Sudan. Christians are struggling to promote justice, peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance. Just the same values that the present government claims to be promoting through the Holy War launched against the Southern non-Muslims. Something unacceptable in a world seeking for globalization.

In a thrilling narrative, the book proposes the respect of other's beliefs and to work together in the great enterprise of replacing evil with good and good with better. Unfortunately there is still much to struggling to be heard.

by 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:

SCIO Homepage Africanews Homepage
PeaceLink 1998