Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
July 15, 1998


  1. Chronology
  2. Insecurities forces missionaries out of Leer
  3. Relief aid distribution method needs to be improved


June 16: Sudan's Islamic government has urged the United Nations to press the SPLA to end the war in the south for the sake of the children. First vice-president Ali Osman Mohammed Taha made the appeal in a meeting in Khartoum with Mr Olara Otunnu, the UN envoy for childrenin war zones, Radio Omdurman said.

17: US representative Tony Hall, one of Congress' most outspoken advocates for the hungry, has called for an internationally monitored cease-fire in Sudan to prevent more people from dying of starvation.

18: The Sudanese government has shown willingness to cooperate for the release of Ugandan children believed to be held inside Sudan by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a UN envoy has announced. Mr Otunnu told a press conference in Khartoum he had asked the Sudanese government to use its influence with the LRA for the release of Ugandan children who, he said, "maybe'' inside Sudan.

18: Sudanese government forces have killed 100 rebels and wounded 180 in south-eastern Blue Nile state near the border with Ethiopia, the pro-government daily Alwan has reported. Backed by the popular defence militiamen, the government soldiers "inflicted a heavy defeat on the rebels...on the way to Kurmuk," a spokesman for the Blue Nile state government was quoted as saying, implying that the government was planning an offensive to retake Kurmuk.

20: The Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) said today its forces had launched two attacks on government-held areas near Sudan's eastern border with Eritrea, killing at least five army soldiers. Lieutenant-General Abdel Rahman Saeed, spokesman for the NDA's armed forces said combatants from the Fatah wing had killed five government soldiers in an ambush which took place nine kilometres east of Kassala town.

24: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on Khartoum today to keep its "promises" and work to normalise relations with Cairo. "I hope that relations with Sudan are good, I hope that (the Sudanese keep their promises," minister of information Safuat al-Sherif quoted President Mubarak as saying during a meeting with MPs from his National Democratic Party.

26: Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin will fly to Egypt on June 29 for medical tests before heading to Gaza, a Sudanese newspaper has reported. The militant group leader has been in Khartoum since May 29.

26: A Sudanese official has said that the draft constitution was approved by a majority of 96.7 per cent of voters in a referendum that took place last month. Mr Fatah Alraham Nasas, head of the Sudanese National Election Commission, told the official news agency Suna that of the 11.9 million registered voters, more than 10.9 million voted, or a turnout of 91.9 per cent.

27: A leader of Sudan's ruling party has said the country's new constitution, endorsed in a referendum by more than 96 per cent voters, has cancelled almost all previous constitutional decrees. The official daily al-Gamhoria quoted Mr Ali al-Hajji, deputy secretary general of the National Congress, Sudan's only legal political party, as saying the only exception was Decree 14, incorporated as an annexe in the new constitution.

27: Two members of the Southern Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) were killed and three wounded in a shootout among rival groups within the SSDF in Khartoum. Mr Lawrence Lual, deputy secretary of the National Congress and representative of the SSDF within the ruling party, announced the casualties.

29: Faced with growing food shortages in Sudan, a UN agency said it planned to double its aid deliveries to the area. The Rome-based World Food Programme said the Sudanese government, which has been fighting rebels since 1983, had recently given permission to fly over virtually the entire country for air drops. The government had been enforcing several no-fly zones.

29: Hassan Al Turabi, has resigned as speaker of the national assembly to play a more active role in politics. According to a report in Al Rai Akhbar, quoting an official government source, Al Turabi resigned to enable him to spend more time as secretary-general of the newNational Congress, which will replace the National Islamic Front.

30: A heated debate on forming political parties is dominating Sudanese politics after the approval by referendum of a new constitution providing, in ambiguous terms, for the right to establish political organisations. The new constitution, approved by 96.7 per cent of voters according to the official results, comes into effect on July 1, 1998. It automatically invalidates earlier presidential decrees, including a ban on political parties.

30: The Sudanese government says its forces have defeated an armed opposition group in a battle in Kassala state, in eastern Sudan bordering Eritrea. The official Al Anbaa daily, reporting from Kassala said the government army and popular defence militia resisted an attack on the Khandaq locality by "a group of outlaws" who had infiltrated from across the border.

July 2: President el-Bashir has signed a new constitution into law, after calling on opposition members in exile to return home and participate in national construction. Gen Bashir signed the constitution at a ceremony on the Republican palace lawn on the ninth anniversary of his seizure of power in a coup d'etatthat ousted an elected civilian government.

2: A regional official under Sudan's military junta has blamed the opposition Umma Party for a series of armed raids targeting civilians in eastern Kassala State bordering on Eritrea. State governor Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid charged that the "outlawed" Umma Party "is responsible for all of the sporadic incursions which are aimed at intimidating innocent civilians", according to Al-Usbu daily.

2: Army spokesman Gen Abdel Rahman Siral Khetim has stated that planes of an unknown identity had been dropping food and other supplies to rebels in the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan, central Sudan. General Khetim said his forces had managed to "besiege and isolate rebel elements that infiltrated the Nuba Mountains by disconnecting their supply routes from Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile" in the south.

3: Sudan's Islamist government has accused its opponents of planting bombs in Khartoum to disrupt the anniversary of the coup d'etat that brought it to power. An interior ministry statement said "opposition elements backed by quarters outside Sudan" had placed bombs in key installations in and around the capital. Targets included the Friendship Hall in central Khartoum, power stations in and around the city and oil reservoirs in its southern suburbs, the statement said.

3: Sudanese security forces have detained several opposition politicians and trade unionists, apparently for suspected links with bomb blasts this week in Khartoum, press reports said. An official in the Islamic backed regime's national congress, Mr Mohammed Adam Haqwab, said that an unspecified number of opponents had been arrested but did not say precisely why, the Akhbar al-Youm daily reported.

3: An oil depot was damaged in one of the Sudanese bomb incidents in Khartoum, timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the present regime, the interior minister said. The bomb at the Alshajarah oil depot in the southern part of the Sudanese capital was the only one that exploded, causing "limited damage that was contained," the ministry said.

3: A Sudanese official was quoted as saying Egyptian forces were harassing Sudanese citizens and beating up tribal chiefs in the disputed Halaib border triangle on the Red Sea coast. The independent Khartoum daily Al-Usbou quoted Mr Nafie Ali Nafie, commissioner of Halaib Province as saying Egypt's actions in the area were a form of pressure on Khartoum.

6: Famine in Sudan's southern Bahr el Ghazal region has worsened, according to a press release by Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, Apostolic Administrator of Rumbek, who has just come to Nairobi after a two-week stay in Rumbek Diocese in Bahr el Ghazal.

6: Sudan has tightened security in Khartoum after 15 people were arrested for allegedly planting bombs in the capital, residents and a Sudanese newspaper said today. The privately-owned al-Rai al-Aam newspaper said ministers met on Saturday to discuss the security situation in Khartoum after explosives in and around the capital.

8: Relief agencies pulled out southern Sudan's Western Upper Nile region on June 29, leaving more than 750 children without vital food, Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF) has disclosed. An MSF statement said the withdrawal came as a result of fighting in the region, and that in the town of Leer, buildings had been burned down and agency compounds looted, including its own.

8: Sudan's Islamist government has shown on state television the alleged perpetrators of a bombing campaign last week in and around Khartoum. On Monday, the television showed about 20 people it said were involved in planting bombs. A Khartoum newspaper said seven of 16 bombs had exploded causing little damages and no casualties.

9: The SPLA has reportedly agreed to a cease-fire with the government as proposed by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which has been sponsoring a peace initiative for south Sudan . press reports in Khartoum quoting an informed south Sudanese source said the rebel movement had expressed acceptance "in principle" of a cease-fire at a meeting with IGAD delegation in Nairobi,Kenya last week.

10: Sudan government will start criminal proceedings for the extradition of foes abroad, considered as "terrorists'' behind recent bomb attacks in Khartoum, press reports said. Information minister Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani pointed out that Sudan is a signatory to international anti-terrorism conventions and "can therefore seek assistance by International Police (Interpol) for extradition of those involved in incidents from countries offering them haven, the Al-Anbaa said.

11: United Nations aid agencies have expressed deep concern over fighting in southern Sudan which is hampering efforts to bring food and other life-saving supplies to 2.4 million people. The UNICEF said a nutritional survey recently conducted among 4,000 children under age five in Bahr El-Ghazal showed that 50 per cent were malnourished.

14: Sudan's President has vowed to crush a strong 15-year-old uprising by force, arguing that his new constitution gives southern people the rights they fought for. In an unannounced six-hour visit to Juba, President el-Bashir told a rally of army officers and troops that his government planned to wipe out the rebels this year.

15: Sudan's southern rebels have been fighting for a week against the pro-junta South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) in the east of the country, the SSDF leader has said. SSDF chief Riek Machar, a former ally of rebel leader Colonel John Garang, who now sides with the Islamic-backed Khartoum junta, reported fierce battles in Upper Nile State near the Ethiopian border.

15: The SPLA said today it had repulsed a big government offensive on the town of Ulu in Blue Nile province. SPLA representative in Nairobi Mr Justin Yaac said the SPLA had killed 273 government soldiers and lost 40 of its own forces during the three-day battle, south-west of the strategic government-held town of Damazin.

Insecurity forces missionaries out of Leer

In the region of Leer, Western Upper Nile, a little publicised but lethal rebellion is going on against the government-appointed Southern Sudanese deputy president Dr Riak Machar.

The Khartoum government, which is working in cahoots with Dr Machar, is reportedly fully aware of the rebellion but has chosen to remain aloof, perhaps, to let the Nuer people bear the brunt of terror unleashed by one of their own. It could also be a question of the northern Islamic junta seeking to exonerate itself from the long -held belief that it is the main perpetrator of terror against the southern Sudanese

The man behind the revolt is commander Paulino Matick and his bone of contention is Dr. Machar's failure to elevate him to the position of governor when he (Matick) felt the time was ripe in the middle of last year.

A former rebel leader, Dr. Machar, who controls Nuer country, last year led a group of southern rebel factions in signing a peace deal with the Islamic military regime. The deal, widely condemned by the mainstream Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army as an act of opportunism, has since seen a host of former prominent rebels land government appointments.

In one of the latest developments, all the missionaries and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) personnel in Leer have been forced to evacuate to save them the wrath of Matick. Hot on the heels of their pullout, which is bound to have devastating consequences on the local civilian population, was the looting and razing down of all structures at the settlement.

Concerned about the deteriorating security situation, the NGO personnel and the missionaries had on June 28 gathered to brainstorm on the disturbing trend. However, before their meeting could commence, news arrived that Leer was in great danger as Matick's forces were about to strike.

The local commissioner told the foreigners to prepare to be evacuated within the shortest time possible. The local Christian community soon came to express their solidarity with these foreigners who had done so much to improve their material and spiritual well-being, but that was as far as they could go.

"The position that the Khartoum government has taken in this conflict remains a mystery,'' said one of the missionaries who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons. "The government forces are just watching the unfoldings without taking any action." The missionary said that days before the invasion, a government force comprising southern Sudanese and the Nuba, had been dispatched to a nearby location yet they did nothing to assist Dr. Machar's forces stem the tide.

When the evacuation plane arrived at dawn on June 29 and the missionaries expressed their desire to stay in Leer despite the imminent danger, they were told to make a commitment in writing that they would henceforth divorce the UN-OLS from their security responsibilities. They had no otherwise but to leave. The missionaries feared that by refusing to leave, they would have not only spoiled the relationship between the OLS and the Diocese of Torit (DOT), but would have also jeorpadised the DOT projects under OLS in other areas of southern Sudan.

The evacuation saw a total of 29 expatriates leave Leer. Besides the missionaries, there were employees of Medecines San Frontiers (MSF), COSV, Norwegian Church Aid, ACROSS, RADDAR-Barnen and UNICEF. The missionaries evacuated were Sister Giovaninna Zucca, Sr Maddalena Vergis, Sr Lorena Morales, Seminarian Aldrin Janito, Brother Raniero Iacomella and Fr. Fernando Gonzales Galarza. Fr. Antonio La Braca was left behind as he had travelled about 200 kilometres from Leer to visit Christian communities at Nyal and Ganyliel.

The missionaries have since settled temporarily in Kenya from where they are monitoring the situation in Leer closely. Their eventual desire is to go back and start from the scratch again. They are particularly anxious about the girls' education programme which they were running. "Some of our girls are being targeted to be taken away as wives," said one of missionaries.

Following the attack on Leer and the surrounding villages, the local populations have been displaced and are now settled in several camps including Mayindit, Kom, Chow and Nyal. At least 100 people were taken captive by the raiders who used them to ferry their loot. In the meantime, Leer is now in dire need of humanitarian attention. One group that is bound to suffer most is the children formerly under the care of MSF. MSF said it had been providing life saving supplementary and therapeutic food to 751 children, and that the pullout had also brought its kala azar, tuberculosis and mobile clinic programmes to a halt.

"Insecurity is seriously hampering the delivery of urgently needed food assistance to southern Sudan,'' a statement released by MSF in Nairobi said. "Peace is essential if humanitarian assistance is to prevent more starvation."

Charles Omondi

Relief aid distribution method needs to be improved

A most effective way of combating the current famine in southern Sudan must involve a change in the method of distributing the famine relief, missionary sources have observed.

Speaking in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on arrival from a two-week stay in Sudan, the Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, southern Sudan, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, noted that some problems in the relief distribution had greatly reduced the effectiveness of the current humanitarian efforts. "Besides some victims finding it hard to reach the distribution centres because of their age or state of health, there have been some instances of abuses by some people involved in the distribution", Monsignor Mazzolari said.

"A way must be found out of reaching the sick, the elderly and the children who can hardly walk to the distribution centres" said the Comboni clergy, adding that, "sometimes people walk long distances to the distribution points only to find all food finished. I witnessed dramatic cases of starving mothers with their children collapsing on an airstrip after walking all night and finding that the food distribution had ended."

He suggested increased airdrops to the most marginalised areas The UN-Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) has conceded that despite the ongoing massive humanitarian operation, the situation in Bahr el-Ghazal continues to deteriorate. A recent set of nutritional surveys conducted by UNICEF in 12 rebel-held locations, for instance, found that on average, 50.9 per cent of the children were malnourished.

The survey further revealed that whereas the OLS agencies are currently feeding approximately 14, 000 children in 19 feeding centres, upto 38, 000 were in need and could only be served effectively by increasing the feeding centres to 38. "More families have suffered a complete breakdown in their livelihoods and have no means of feeding themselves. Wild foods, on which people have been surviving for the last few months, have been almost used up and the rains, on which so much is depending, are late and erratic," says UNICEF deputy chief of operations Ted Chaiban. Monsignor Mazzolari said that earlier reports had grossly underestimated the number of people in need of urgent famine relief. "The Catholic Church alone fed 7,000 people per day in the month of June.''

Whereas earlier reports had put the number of those in need at 380,000 in the Bahr el-Ghazal region, it is now estimated that up 2.6 million people in southern Sudan are in need of emergency food aid. "Overall," said Mazzolari, "the World Food Programme has done a commendable job but the problem is far from over. At least 10, 000 metric tonnes will be needed per month in the next two to three months.''

Appealing for more support, he said that western governments in particular needed to get more actively involved in the Sudanese crisis. "The level of famine in Sudan has surpassed what the world had previously considered as the worst crisis," he said. The worst famine in Africa in the recent times was witnessed in Sudan's eastern neighbour Ethiopia in mid-1980s. The disaster, attributed to drought in the marginal Horn of Africa region, claimed at least a million lives.

On feelings that relief aid was not a lasting solution to the Sudanese crisis, Monsignor Mazzolari said: "Whereas relief aid is not a lasting solution, things must be done in stages and what is required now is relief aid, to save the many lives that are in great danger. We can then go to the next stage of supplying the people with seeds, farm tools fishing lines and fishing hooks to enable them produce their own food."

He further stated that the Catholic Church would not allow negative press reports and criticism, emanating from some people based in Europe, to distract it from doing all within its means, to assist the suffering Sudanese "The Church has a clear policy that governs all its activities and we shall always adhere to this in serving the people,'' he asserted.

Monsignor Mazzolari also appealed to the Sudanese government to stop bombing rebel-held areas in southern Sudan, as this was hampering the relief organisation and terrorising the people.

Besides prolonged drought, the current food crisis in Africa's most expansive nation has been blamed on the protracted civil war. The war, whose causes are deeply rooted in Sudan's colonial past, pits the Islamic and Arab north against the traditionalist and Christian southerners. Its current phase, which began in 1983, has so far claimed an estimated 1.3 million lives. Thousands have been forced into exile as refugees, while equally large numbers have been displaced internally.

Efforts to bring an end to the crisis through the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have so far been unsuccessful.

Charles Omondi



Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya

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