May 16: United Nations has welcomed the decision by the government of Sudan to permit relief flights into rebel-held areas in the Nuba Mountains that are reportedly in danger of famine. Human rights groups have accused President Omar el-Bashir's government of hindering relief supplied to the area in central Sudan out of fear that the aid would go mainly to rebels .
16: The governor of a key oil-producing area in southern Sudan says he wants to see the country remain a unitary state even if his people would like to secede. Governor Taban Deng said the two million people of Unity were solidly behind southern desires for secession from Khartoum. Unity straddles the Bahr el-Ghazal river in Upper Nile Province.
16: Annual heavy rains have forced the UN World Food Programme to air drop relief food to hundreds of thousands of starving people in southern Sudan, the agency has announced. In a statement from its operations base at Lokichoggio, Kenya, near the Sudanese border, WFP said an average of 70 per cent of the dirt airstrips in the province of Bahr el-Ghazal are waterlogged and temporarily unusable.
16: Egypt has stopped issuing visas to Sudanese nationals and has turned back several Sudanese travellers in a further sign of deteriorating relations between the two neighbours. Officials at the Egyptian consulate in Khartoum said they have been ordered to stop granting entry visas to Sudanese nationals "until further notice for security reasons," but they declined to elaborate.
19: Sudanese rebels said on Sunday they killed four government soldiers during an ambush on an army convoy, their second attack since Thursday. The Sudan Alliance Forces said in a faxed statement it had attacked the convoy on Saturday on the road linking the eastern town of Kassala and Khashm el-Girba, 32 km (20 miles) further south. They said they seized an army truck and weapons.
19: President Bashir has hailed 3,500 students back from controversial military service in the south, where some conscripts said they were not sent into the frontlines. A ceremony in Khartoum's Green Square was attended by top military and civilian officials of Gen. Bashir's regime, relatives of the students and other conscripts, who were flown back to the capital from the far south Equatroria region on Friday and Saturday.
20: The Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek Diocese, Southern Sudan, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, has commended the way the international community has reacted to the food crisis in Sudan in the recent weeks. Speaking in Nairobi on arrival from the Bahr el-Ghazal region, the Comboni cleric said the world had awoken to the reality of the food crisis in Sudan.
20: Fighting between government troops and rebels is making the shortage of food in drought-hit southern Sudan even worse, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has said. It said early signs for the main 1998 harvest were "not encouraging" and warned that another poor harvest this year could cause widespread starvation.
21: Britain's major aid agencies have decided to launch a joint appeal for southern Sudan despite the fact that they were said to be seriously divided over the issue. Leading church-based aid agencies such as Christian Aid and CAFOD have for some time been urging a joint agency appeal for the people of southern Sudan but others such as Save the Children were not originally convinced that a famine was in progress.
22: WFP has said that the total number of people requiring humanitarian food aid throughout southern Sudan had gone up from 700,000 to 930,000. The agency said that it would now target some 595,000 people in Bahr el-Ghazal.
22: Aid workers returning from south Sudan have reported that government cavalry had launched brutal attacks on rebel villages, looting and burning homes and killing civilians. They said dozens of civilians, mainly from Dinka tribe, had been killed in the raids which began in early May in Bahr el-Ghazal and continued until last weekend.
22: Sudanese rebel movements have become serious rivals in conquered territory along the Ethiopian border, posing a threat to their joint military campaign against the Khartoum government. Around Menza and Qesan in the Blue Nile area, leaders of the Sudanese National Alliance (SNA) have harsh words for their supposed allies in the SPLA, claiming that they are carrying out atrocities against civilians.
23: The Sudanese government has put on trial more than 70 people for conducting what it called unauthorised military training, the official Al-Anbaa has reported. Security forces rounded up the group, which included two women, as it was training in the Souyba District, south of Khartoum, the newspaper said.
23: The first WFP relief food convoy this year has arrived in Juba after a five-day journey along the Nile River, the WFP has announced. UN spokeswoman Ms Michele Quintagile said that during a journey from southern Nile port of Malakal, the convoy of seven barges dropped off urgently-needed food supplies to tens of thousands of hungry Sudanese.
23: Fighting between government troops and rebels has intensified in southern Sudan where international aid agencies are struggling to avert a hunger crisis, aid agencies and government sources have said. An offensive by government militia into rebel-held territory in northern Bahr el-Ghazal forced aid workers to evacuate relief centres in the area, leaving tens of thousands without urgently needed food.
23: Ugandan rebels reneged on a promise to release kidnapped schoolgirls in exchange for 42 Sudanese soldiers held in Uganda for more than a year, President Museveni has said. He said the exchange had been worked out by San Egidio, a Roman Catholic lay community based in Rome that is active in conflict resolution in Africa.
25: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has warned that Uganda will hit back at Sudan if the Sudanese government does not dissociate itself from Lords' Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. Speaking at the northern Ugandan town of Gulu, Museveni said: "It's up to Sudan to see lack of wisdom in what they are doing."
25: Sudanese deputy president Riek Machar, a former rebel leader from the south, has demanded a halt to the current trial of 67 people for undergoing unlicensed military training outside Khartoum. Machar, who heads the South Sudan Co-ordination Council (SSCC) set up by the Islamic junta, telephoned judicial officials on Sunday to insist that the defendants be released immediately, the official press reported.
26: Baroness Cox, a human rights and aid charity leader, has condemned the Islamic-backed Sudan government for the genocide of the Dinka people. Returning from the Bahr el Ghazal province, she said she had seen hundreds of corpses strewn in villages that had been raided within the past few weeks. She feared that the number of the dead could rise to thousands.
27: An airport in central Sudan will be ready next month to receive the first international aid flights for famine-stricken areas in the south, officials have said. Government and United Nations officials were inspecting the work being done at the El Obeid airport, the officials were quoted as saying.
27: Seventy-two Sudanese prisoners of war detained in Kampala barracks have complained that they are being kept in crowded rooms and given unwholesome food, a local newspaper reported today. The POWs, who were today visited by the defence attach, at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi, Colonel Ali Adam Nagi, said they were crammed in small rooms with poor ventilation, the state-owned New Vision said.
27: Sudan has released two Ugandans taken prisoner a year ago while they were fighting in military operations in southern Sudan, an army spokesman was quoted saying. The government newspaper al-Anbaa quoted Lt. Gen. Abdel Rahman Sir al-Khatim as saying the move was in response to Uganda's release last week of 42 Sudanese prisoners of war.
28: Sudan officially launched work on an oil refinery and pipeline project to refine domestically produced oil and take it to a Red Sea port for export, at a ceremony yesterday attended by President el-Bashir. A consortium of multinational companies are engaged in oil operations in central and south Sudan, from where the crude will be pumped through 1,610-kilometres from Hijieg in West Kordofan to a new port at Bashair south of Port Sudan.
28: Sudan is discussing prospects for a nuclear power station in Khartoum state with investors from Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and Germany, press reports said. A visiting multi-national delegation also investigated other electric power investment possibilities in Sudan with the power in the capital, whose inadequate system causes regular blackouts lasting for some eight hours a day.
28: Sudan's opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has opened a round of unprecedented talks in the Egyptian capital to examine ways of launching "an intifada," or uprising, to topple the Khartoum government, NDA spokesman Mr Faruq Abu Issa said. "The agenda of the talks will focus on how to promote our action inside Sudan in order to reach an intifada," to overthrow the Islamic-led government of president el-Bashir, Mr Abu Issa said.
29: Sudan's chief justice has freed 827 inmates from a women's prison after 16 children living there died because of poor conditions from overcrowding, the independent daily al-Jamhuria said today. It said Obeid Haj Ali's order took place yesterday after Minister of interior major General Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein inspected the prison in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum.
29: Egyptian government officials have met Sudanese opposition leaders openly for the first time in what the rebels see as a sign that Cairo supports their cause. Under a portrait of Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, deputy prime minister Youssef Wali sat beside NDA leader Mohammed Mirghani at the talks at Egypt's ruling party headquarters in Cairo.
30: SPLA leader Colonel Garang has called on his old comrade-in-arms Dr. Riek Machar to re-think his alliance with the government and return to rebel ranks. Col Garang made the call during a meeting with Kerubino Kuanyin Bol at Yei near the Sudan-Uganda border, spokesman Yasser Erman announced.
30: Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin arrived in Sudan today on the latest leg of his tour of Arab and Muslim nations. Sudan's parliament speaker Dr Hassan Abdallah al-Turabi welcomed Sheikh Yassin, saying he "represents the pulse of the Islamic jihad for restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people".
30: A Sudanese woman judge, Ms Farida Ibrahim, is a pioneer of sorts in the Arab legal world, waging a relentless campaign against taboos that have kept women from becoming judges in most Arab countries. "Arab women must be allowed to prove their competence in this area and dispel the illusions in Arab society that both a woman's indulgent nature and the sharia (Islamic law) prevent her from becoming a judge," said Ms Ibrahim, who will be 50 in October.
30: President el-Bashir made a surprise visit to a war-torn southern province yesterday and vowed to end the country's 15-year southern rebellion by negotiation or war, the official news agency reported. The SPLA claimed to have seized the capital of Bahr el-Ghazal province in January but a week later it became clear that the government controlled the city of Wau.
June 1: The recent decision by the Sudanese government to allow relief flights into the rebel-held areas in the Nuba Mountains has been received with scepticism by the local people. While many see it as a welcome move which was long overdue, they doubt the Khartoum government's sincerity.
2: The authorities in Sudan plan to recruit 655,000 civilians into the military by the end of the year 2000 with 250,000 conscripted during the course of this year. National military service co-ordinator Usama Abdallah said that the students who had just sat their high school final examination would join military training.
3: The Sudanese General Elections Commission has received the results of the constitutional referendum in all 16 northern states and is expecting to receive the results from the 10 southern states by the end of the week. Commission head Mr Abdel Monim al Zain al Nahas said that, after receiving the results from south Sudan and from Sudanese embassies abroad, the commission would finalise a report on the overall result for submission to the president of the republic later this month.
3: The Sudanese government and aid agencies launched an airlift today to deliver badly needed food to southern Sudan, a Sudanese official in charge of relief operations said. Two flights a day will transport supplies from north Kordofan in central Sudan to Wau, capital of south Sudan's western Bahr el-Ghazal state, Mr Hassan Osman Dehewi, minister for social planning told a news conference .
4: Sudanese rebels captured the garrison town of Ulu, on the road to a dam that provides most of Khartoum's electricity, a spokesman said today. The rebels defeated two government brigades in a day-long battle yesterday for Ulu, 455 kilometres south-east of the capital, said Mr George Garang, spokesman for the SPLA in Nairobi.
4: SPLA representative in Cairo Mr Daniel Kodi Angelo said the rebels' next target was a government oil exploration operation at Khor Adar, 83 kilometres west of Ulu. In Khartoum, the military forces issued a communiqu, saying that "fierce battles are currently going on in Ulu area".
5: More than 100 government troops have been killed in two days of battles against rebels in the southern Blue Nile state, the Khartoum government's leading Islamic figure has admitted. Another official, however, denied a claim by the SPLA that it had taken control of the Oulo locality in the region, as the Islamic-backed regime mobilised against the rebels.
6: Sudan is harbouring three Muslim militants wanted in the 1995 assassination attempt against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying. The comments were the toughest accusation against Sudan since the two countries began last summer patching up relations that plummeted after the attack against Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
6: Egyptian interior minister Mr Habib al-Adli has accused Sudan of refusing to hand over three suspects wanted in connection with a bid to kill president Mubarak. "They (Sudan) are saying that the three terrorists are not in Sudan now that they don't know where they are," Mr Adli told the Al-Hayat daily published in Cairo and several Arab capitals.
8: The WFP said today it has started urgent food deliveries for thousands of hungry people in Bahr el-Ghazal region from El-Obeid in north Sudan. The statement said it was the first time WFP had airdropped food from this location.
9: Sudanese rebels said today they killed 15 government soldiers over the weekend in central and eastern Sudan. A statement from NDA said 12 government soldiers were killed in a battle near Ulu and three near Kassala.
11: Three Sudanese aid workers employed by the WFP and the local Red Crescent were shot dead during a mission in Sudan yesterday, the United Nations said today. "The workers were travelling in a WFP vehicle from the villages of Arie to Hadab in Kadugli province when they were attacked, shot at," UN information co-ordinaor Ms Trudy Witbreuk told Reuters.
12: A Sudanese rebel faction said today it killed 20 government soldiers in a battle at a mountain camp in eastern Sudan. A statement from Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF) said the attack took place at the camp about 42 km (26 miles) south of Sudan's main north-eastern town of Kassala.
13: The UN representative for children in armed conflict heads to Sudan today in hopes of securing the release of youths abducted by Ugandan rebels. Mr Olara Otunnu told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council yesterday that he would ask Sudanese authorities to use their good offices to help obtain the release of children reportedly held by the LRA.
14: Southern Sudan rebels said they have captured a strategic town in the Blue Nile province and warned foreign oil companies it will not honour their exploration concessions there. If true, the capture of Mabaan near the Ethiopian border by the SPLA would open the way to Melut and Renk, putting the rebels on the eastern banks of the White Nile river and threatening the government's barge traffic.
15: Sudanese rebels said today they had captured most areas in the eastern Blue Nile province and that their forces were closing in on strategic road linking Khartoum to Sudan's only port. Mr Yassir Arman, Cairo-based spokesman of the SPLA, said the rebels were 15 kilometres away from the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway and that the SPLA forces were advancing on Damazine town in the Blue Nile state.
Clergy in plea to the world
The Apostolic Administrator of Diocese of Rumbek, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, has urged the international community not to relent on their efforts to combat famine in southern Sudan.
Speaking in Nairobi last month, on arrival from the famine-stricken Bahr al-Ghazal region, the Comboni clergy observed that the reaction of the world community to the current food crisis in Sudan had began bearing some fruits.
He said: "South Sudan was undoubtedly on the brink of a colossal famine similar to the one in Somalia in 1992. Things are changing for the better with the dropping of food by World Food Programme (WFP) in several areas.''
WFP resorted to air-dropping the relief food following the heavy rains which rendered most of the dirt airstrips in the affected region unusable.
"The international community has exercised its advocacy power with the government and brought large amounts of food to the worst hit areas. We are grateful, on behalf of the people of southern Sudan, to the international community for having restored some hope to the Sudanese."
Monsignor Mazzolari listed some of the places he visited as Tonj, Thiet, Marial Lou, Wulu, Rumbek, Agangrial, Akot and Mapourdit.
The world, said the clergy, must not relax yet as the worst could still come. "The stage of starvation is so advanced in many children and the elderly that it will take all the people of goodwill until next Christmas to guarantee the survival of some of the ill-nourished people of today in Sudan."
He pointed out that the number of people in need of food aid was well above any recorded in any previous famine in the region. "The number of the hungry in southern Sudan is distressingly large," he said.
The Comboni clergyman suggested that better methods of distribution be adopted in order to reach as many deserving people as possible, adding that the Church was willing to give its full support towards the attainment of such a goal.
Some women who are expected to collect relief food at the distribution points sometimes have to walk for miles with babies on their backs, he said, adding that they sometimes end up not finding anything at the centres.
Besides the protracted civil war, the current famine in Africa's largest country has been attributed largely to the failed rains last year, caused by the el nino weather phenomenon. Additional delays in the on-set of the long rains this year further compounded the situation. Lack of seeds and tools for cultivation have not made the situation any better.
The current phase of the Sudanese civil strife dates back to 1983. It has pitted the Arab/Islamic northern government against the mainly Christian and traditionalist south. The war and its consequences have claimed not less than 1.3 million lives. Thousands have been forced into exile while many more remain displaced internally.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) recently seconded Malone Miller, the group's assistant country representative Haiti Programme, to assist the Diocese of Rumbek implement their relief efforts in Sudan.
Ms Malone visited Rumbek, Mapourdit and Agangrial to assess the situation on the ground. She failed to go to Marial Lou because of the inaccessibility of the road due to heavy rains.
During her tour, she oversaw the distribution system of the relief food, made suggestions to the concerned parties and was also briefed on the general distribution programme.
Malone, who once served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire), commended the Diocese for their good work and urged all its members to put in more efforts.
"It is a fact that relief is not a lasting solution, but we need it now," she said, pointing out that, "before we can arrive at a lasting solution, we have to keep the people alive.''
"Currently there is a lot of hunger. People are all over searching for food, especially the returnees who have no way to support themselves currently, "Malone said.
Nuba mark 15th year of SPLA struggle
Sudan's Nuba community on May 16 held a major ceremony to commemorate the 15th year of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) struggle against the government.
The ceremony, attended by virtually all major world news agencies, was held at the Nuba Mountains headquarters, Southern Kordofan region, about 600 kilometres south of Khartoum. It was presided over by the SPLA's Southern Kordofan governor, Commander Yusuf Kuwa.
The celebrations were marked by traditional Nuba songs and dances, military demonstrations, Nuba wrestling and speeches.
Addressing the gathering, Commander Kuwa asserted that his people would not lay down their arms before the Sudanese government recognises all their rights as citizens. "Today, we consider the restoration of the Nuba dignity and confidence as our greatest achievement in the struggle," he said. "In the past, we were made to believe that being an Arab was superior, we were made to feel ashamed of being Nubas and everybody aspired to behave like an Arab."
Ever since the Nuba took up arms to fight alongside the southerners, the Islamic government of Khartoum has used the tactics of isolation and cultural re-orientation to deny the SPLA their (Nuba) contribution.
Nuba country under the SPLA has for the past one decade been declared a no-go area to any outsiders. Thousands of them have been rounded up and re-located to special camps- peace camps- set aside by the government. In the camps, Arabic is imposed on the people, women and young girls are given to soldiers as concubines, young men forcibly conscripted to fight their own brothers and all and sundry are used as a source of cheap or free labour.
Near impossible conditions for survival have been created in several parts of the Nuba country, forcing thousands to surrender to the government in desperation. These have included mining the villages, raiding and setting food stores and farms ablaze as well as driving away the Nuba livestock.
According to a recent Southern Kordofan Emergency Assessment report, conducted by members of USAID and Concern (an Irish NGO), at least 20,000 of the Nuba population faced a 70-80 per cent food deficit between the months of 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 the Khartoum government Nuba mountains is geographically not part of southern Sudan and cannot be treated as such with regards to relief support.
A more popular opinion, however, holds 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.
Early last month, the government declared its intention to allow relief into the Nuba Mountains. A UNO team was consequently supposed to move in to assess the needs of the people.
Diocese of Yei workshop held
The Diocese of Yei (DOY) recently held a two-day workshop at the Christ The King Catholic Centre (Nakuru, Kenya) to review and examine pastoral, organisational and administrative functions and prepare the Diocese to undertake strategic plan.
The Bishop of Yei, His Lordship Erkolanu Lodu, organised the workshop in which all the diocesan clergy, head catechists and some Christians participated.
The participants said that the workshop gave them opportunity to re-affirm their commitment and dedication and define the vision mission, core values and the goals of DOY.
In the group discussions the participants encountered many challenges and identified the barriers, root causes and their effects to the community.
It is against this background that the participants went further and pointed out the need for DOY to resolve leadership issues, establish and share organisational structures and policies, improve communication, ensure proper resource distribution and management, make regular pastoral programmes and strengthen social work.
The DOY is one of the youngest in Sudan. It was founded in 1986 and was immediately put under the leadership of Bishop Lodu.
Due to the Sudanese civil war, a lot of diocesan members suffered displacement with some crossing the borders to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as refugees.
Following the capture of Yei in March last year by Sudanese People's Liberation Army, most of the refugees have returned home.
The process of re-construction is already in place in the see that comprises Yei, Kajokeji and Mundri counties.
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
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@MAF.Org