Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
May 15, 1998


  1. Chronology
  2. Famine ravaging Nuba Mountains


April 16: A district in southern Sudan's El Buheyrat state is threatened with famine, governor Mr Nicanor Mager has said. Mr Mager warned of "the existence of a famine threat due to an acute shortage in food and medicine" in Aliab district, the state's Yirol province.

16: Sudanese army spokesman Abdul Rahman Siral Khetim has said that "heavy casualties " had been inflicted on the rebels in "extensive mopping-up operations" conducted in the past two days.

18: The human rights situation in Sudan is deteriorating, and hundreds of thousands are going hungry because of government obstacles to humanitarian aid, a UN rapporteur has said. "Representatives of humanitarian agencies and NGOs working in southern Sudan agree that this situation is a purely man-made disaster," said Gaspar Biro of Hungary.

20: With Christian southerners arriving in Khartoum at a rate of 1,000 a day, Sudan's capital is fast becoming less Arabic. Khartoum was once a distinctly Arab town where most people looked north to Egypt or Saudi Arabia for their cultural roots and where most common dress for men was long white tunics and turbans.

20: Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir has denied accusations that the military guards shot and killed any of the more than 50 student recruits who died early this month in what the government maintained was a boat capsize. "These are mere defamatory rumours," he said in response to the accusations that the recruits were shot while trying to flee from a military training camp.

20: Sudan's chief justice has announced that the punishment of flogging won't be ordered against women and the elderly in most cases, a pro-government daily reported. Alwan newspaper said chief justice Obeid Hajji Ali issued the directive.

20: The government has appealed to humanitarian organisations to supply food and medicine to parts of southern Sudan facing famine. The appeal came three days after the UN's food operation in southern Sudan accused the government of hampering efforts to feed some 350,000 people in the state of Bahr el-Ghazal.

21: The World Food programme has received a donation of 2,000 tonnes of relief supplies worth more than $3.2 million for the famine stricken southern Sudan. A statement from the UN relief organisation said food consignment, donated by the US, is expected on board the MV paragon.

22: The UN food agency has warned of a catastrophic famine in Bahr el-Ghazal unless it receives permission from Khartoum to triple relief flights to the region. "The situation in Bahr el-Ghazal has reached a critical and frightening level," the WFP's director for southern Sudan, Mr David Fletcher, said.

22: Young Sudanese army conscripts will be allowed to leave the front lines in the civil war against rebels to take high school examinations, press reports said today. The decision applies to those among the conscripts fighting the SPLA who failed their examinations last year, a military official told the government daily Al Gamhouria.

23: Uganda is to review its diplomatic links with Sudan and will also look at the visa issues within the COMESA region, President Museveni told a news conference at State House, Kampala today. Museveni also said that the recent bomb blasts in the capital, Kampala, were linked to Sudan.

24: The Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese, southern Sudan, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, has appealed to the international community to act expeditiously to save the Sudanese from mass starvation. Monsignor Mazzolari said in Nairobi that the situation was already pathetic but the worst could be on the way unless aid arrives soon.

27: Peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLA will be postponed to May 4 from April 30, a Sudanese minister said today. The official news agency, Suna, quoted foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail as saying his government received word of the new date from Kenya, host of the peace talks.

27: The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has appealed to the international community for agent food aid for war victims in southern Sudan. UNICEF executive director Eastern and Southern Africa Region Carol Bellamy said food, seeds, tools, medical supplies and shelter items were needed to reach an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 "vulnerable" people in Bahr el-Ghazal "to avert humanitarian tragedy."

27: Famine and civil strife have taken their toll on the people of Southern Sudan with a new famine threat looming large. The World Food Programme warned in a statement issued in Nairobi of "catastrophic famine" in the Bahr el-Ghazal region.

28: A delegation of Sudanese government officials led by the assistant president of the Southern Sudan Co-ordination Council, Dr Riek Machar, has held talks with president Museveni at his countryside home in Rwakitura, Mbarara, Western Uganda. The meeting was also attended by Dr Metri Siddiq, the presidential adviser on peace, Mr Joseph Nyok Adiel, minister of South Sudan Co-ordination Council based in Juba and other Sudanese officials. No details were given.

28: Egyptian negotiations aimed at recovering properties confiscated by Sudan have failed, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported today. The London-headquartered daily said 10 days of the talks failed to produce results when it became apparent that Sudan was willing to return only some of the 33 schools, 16 guest houses and buildings of the Cairo University Campus to Egyptian control.

29: Sudanese rebels have released around 400 government soldiers from a jail at western Equatoria province, an aid official said yesterday. The SPLA released the prisoners from a jail at Yei town in a ceremony on Sunday morning, according to Mr Dan Eiffe, liaison officer for the Norwegian People's Agency.

29: WFP has described the humanitarian situation in southern Bahr el Ghazal state as one of "sheer desperation". A WFP spokeswoman, who last week visited Majakaliet county, said only 30 per cent of some 25,000 people who came to the UN food distribution centre there could be fed.

29: The SPLA has denied claims by Khartoum that it is planning a major offensive in southern and eastern Sudan. A Nairobi-based SPLA spokesman, George Garang, said the organisation was defending its positions in eastern Sudan which had come under attack from government troops for the last three years.

29: Sudanese defence minister Lieutenant-General Ibrahim Sulayman has said it was "mandatory to call up all young people" for military service to enable them to fight alongside the army, Sudanese television has reported.

30: Sudan's government is blocking emergency aid from reaching its own people, thousands of whom are at risk from starvation, Britains's international development minister said yesterday. "The government of Sudan is deliberately preventing the food getting through, it is deliberately inflicting this starvation on these people for its own ends," Clare Short said in A BBC radio interview.

30: The UN food agency yesterday called on the international community to pressure the Sudanese government into allowing more famine relief flights into the strife-torn southern state of Bahr el-Ghazal. "Our relief workers there are asking how many must die before the international community reacts," said WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.

30: The SPLA said yesterday that it would not countenance a meeting between SPLA leader Garang and Riek Machar. Mr Machar had proposed the meeting with Col. Garang on Saturday.

May 1: Sudan government has accused southern rebels of hindering aid to hundreds of thousands of starving people and urged the world to help, but no end to conflict and famine was in sight. "The rebel movement has always placed hurdles before relief delivery operations," foreign minister Ismail told European Union ambassador on Wednesday, according to Daily Al-Anbaa.

4: A Sudanese government delegation, headed by the foreign minister instead of the first vice-president as planned, was flying to Nairobi today for peace talks with the SPLA, officials said. Khartoum's security and defence council chaired by president el-Bashir, decided in overnight talks that its team for the session starting in Kenya would be headed by foreign minister Ismail.

5: Peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLA ended in Nairobi on Wednesday with a pledge to hold a referendum on the right to self-determination in south Sudan. A statement read by Kenyan foreign minister Bonaya Godana said the talks, under the auspices of IGAD, had made progress despite a failure to reach agreement on state and religion.

5: WFP has announced the start-up of the first additional C-130 aircraft which began airdropping food supplies to 50, 000 southern Sudanese in the towns of Ajak and Akon in Bahr al-Ghazal state. In a news release, WFP said the operation followed the Sudanese government's agreement last Sunday.

9: Sudan's warring parties took a tiny step this week on a path that could eventually bring an end to their long war. But a long list of obstacles stands in the way of peace, including deep-rooted mistrust between north and south.

11: An agreement on a referendum in southern Sudan to be supervised by foreign monitors and a concession by Khartoum to lift its controversial ban of flights ferrying relief food to the troubled region were some of the highlights of the latest round of peace talks held in Nairobi last week.

12: The Sudanese opposition has accused Khartoum of deliberately sowing hatred of the Dinka among the Arab tribes of central Sudan to enlist their support against SPLA. The military government had deliberately "sown discord between the Arab tribes and the Dinka in order that the Arab tribes mobilise and fight alongside" government troops.

13: Sudan is taking steps to allow UN relief flights to the Nuba Mountains, which is reportedly on the verge of famine, Sudanese foreign minister has announced. Mr Ismail said the government was making arrangements for the OLS to include the Nuba region in its distribution of food and medical supplies.

Famine ravaging Nuba Mountains

There is severe famine in the Sudan and appeals are being sent far and wide by all the concerned parties to the international community to act expeditiously to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Bahr el-Ghazal region. How about the neighbouring Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan? Why isn't this central Sudanese region getting any mention yet the situation there is equally bad if not worse?

According to a recent Southern Kordofan Emergency Assessment report, conducted by members of USAID and Concern (an Irish NGO), at least 20,000 people face a 70-80 per cent food deficit over the next five months (between April and August). This, the report says, calls for urgent external intervention if the population is to be kept alive and productive in their present homes.

"The war-affected and displaced people of Um Dulu Payam of Nagorban County and Erre Payam of Heiban County are in serious need of food relief to enable them make it up to the 1998 harvest."
The report points out that, "though there is relief food available for the people in the Nuba Mountains, it is only in the government-organised and UN-supported relief camps".

"To access this food," explains Kevin Ashley, a member of the assessment team, "people must completely abandon their homes and livelihoods, which is tantamount to acceding to the Sudan government's intention to culturally re-orient them, and later use them to fight their own brothers."

Other members of the team that conducted the assessment between February 2 and March 16, 1998 were Paul Murphy and Luka Biong. Counterpart staff were Philip Neroun and Mohammed Kambal of Nuba Relief and Rehabilitation Development Services.

Ever since the Nuba took up arms on May 16, 1986 to fight against the Khartoum government alongside the southerners, the government has used the tactic of cultural re-orientation as a means to denying the Sudanese People's Liberation Army their (Nuba) contribution. To this end, thousands of the Nuba have been rounded up and re-located to peace camps (read concentration camps), where Arabic has become their lingua franca and Islam their religion. They are a pool of cheap/free labour, women and young girls are turned into sex slaves and young men forcibly conscripted into the government army.

Alternatively, near impossible conditions for their survival have been created in several parts of their homeland, claiming the lives of thousands and forcing many more to surrender themselves to the peace camps in desperation. These have included mining villages, raiding and setting ablaze houses, farms and food stores and driving away livestock.

In the face of all these, the Khartoum government authorises no flights to the Nuba Mountain areas under the control of the rebels. Reason...Nuba mountains is geographically not part of southern Sudan which is bearing the brunt of the internecine civil strife, now in its 15th year.

But the report asserts that since the combatants in the south are the same ones in the Nuba Mountains, the UN should seek to gain access to the war-affected people of the Nuba Mountains on both sides in order to meet urgent humanitarian needs.

"The rural people of Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) have suffered greatly over the past 10 years as a result of the combined effects of war, drought, dwindling trade opportunities and lack of access to humanitarian assistance,'' says the assessment report.

"Ten years of continuous insecurity, causing migration and death, reduced the rural population from an estimated 1 million to between 350,00-400,00 people," it adds.

The Nuba are a collection of about 50 tribes with over 10 distinct language groups. Though centrally placed in Africa's most expansive state, the Nuba have chosen to be part of Southern Sudan in their struggle against the northern-based Arab/Islamic government.

They are both crop and livestock farmers. However, much of the livestock in Nuba Mountains is not kept as a food source but for trade option for grain, for marriage or as a status symbol. There is a great tradition of generosity among the Nuba, which takes many forms. It is common, for instance, for people to share up to 10 per cent of their harvest with needy relatives and friends.

In all parts of Nuba Mountains, dura (sorghum) is the backbone of the food economy. It is invaluable as an assortment of meals, madida, asida, kisira and marissa, and it is preferred to all other cereal crops.

The scantily document history of famine in the area in the last one decade, ranks 1997-98 year the worst as a result of delayed rains, widespread displacement and losses of 75% of the cattle in raids. The frequent government raids and bombings, the report says, have over the years forced huge chunks of Nuba population to move higher up the mountains, which, though not vulnerable to attacks, are incultivable. To supplement their dwindling food resources, says the assessment document, the Nuba have resorted to wild fruits found along stream beds both in the valleys and in the hills. "Access to fruit is dependent on whether a household has a claim to a tree(s). Most fruit trees in the Nuba Mountains are either owned by a household or a specific community, and are not accessible to the general public."

To guard against future food insecurity, the report calls for, among others, provision of seed and tools to about 4,000 households in the region. It also recommends that there be constant monitoring, by the UN, journalists and other parties, of the affected communities so as to continue keeping the international community informed about the situation on the ground.

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