Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
August 15, 1998


  1. Chronology
  2. Relief agencies, rebels trade accusations
  3. The woes of displaced Nuba people
  4. Kerubino defends SPLA soldiers
Southern Sudan Map


July 16: The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has declared a unilateral three-month cease-fire to help the flow of aid to areas facing starvation. Mr Justin Yaac, the SPLA representative in Nairobi, said the cease-fire started at midnight (2100 GMT) on Tuesday and applied to Bahr el-Ghazal and parts of Upper Nile province. He said the area could be extended.

16: A British foreign office minister has held talks with Sudanese rebels and proposed a truce to allow aid to reach more than two million hungry people. The proposal came as the SPLA claimed another victory against government forces. Minister Derek Fatchett proposed a limited cease-fire in parts of southern Sudan at his meeting with the SPLA in Nairobi. He was due to fly to Khartoum for meetings with government officials later.

17: Aid agencies were gearing today to take advantage of a cease-fire between the main belligerents in Sudan's civil war, but warned that bandits were active. "It's like the Wild West," said Mr Gillian Wilcox of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), the umbrella organisation for most of the relief agencies trying to counter a famine threatening more than a million Sudanese.

18: The Sudanese government has agreed to extend its one-month cease-fire for a further two months to help aid operations, its foreign minister said yesterday. Mr Mustafa Osman Ismail, speaking after a meeting in Khartoum with Mr Fatchett, said the measure was to help aid reach famine victims.

18: With a cease-fire in place, the UN says it is ready to bring desperately needed relief to thousands of starving people in southern Sudan. The World Food Programme (WFP) said it would begin delivering food to the Bahr el-Ghazal province where more than 700,000 people are facing famine, the UN agency's resource director, Tun Myat, said in Khartoum.

18: The UN has expressed the hope that the Sudanese cease-fire would be extended to other regions. Deputy emergency relief co-ordinator Mr Martin Griffiths and Mr Myat told a news conference in Khartoum that the temporary cease-fire in Bahr el-Ghazal is "warmly welcomed" by the UN.

21: The Sudanese government has stepped up security at strategic sites around Khartoum following recent bomb blasts in the capital, the state-run press reported. The decision was taken during a meeting of government ministers with first vice-president Ali Osman Mohammed Taha.

21: Nearly 50 people died in fighting between two rival pro-government groups in Sudan's al Wihda state, 800 kilometres south of Khartoum, officials said. Riek Machar, the leader of the South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF), said breakaway forces under Paulino Mateb had set fire to a number of villages in the region.

21: Sudanese Islamic-backed junta has called for more relief aid as well as the prolongation and broadening of a cease-fire with SPLA currently in force in famine-stricken Bahr el-Ghazal. Minister for social planning major-General Hassan Dhahawi has asked the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to contact the UN and donors to ensure provision of relief supplies in the south, press reports said.

22: Thousands of civilians who fled to a government-controlled province in central Sudan reported fighting in southern Al Wihda state and in the Nuba Mountains, press reports said. The daily Akhbar Assaa, reporting from Southern Kordofan, said that authorities in the state were taking in large numbers of people displaced by fighting in the two zones.

22: Much of the relief food going to more than a million famine victims in rebel-held areas of southern Sudan is ending up in the hands of the SPLA, relief workers said. The SPLA denies receiving any relief food at all, but the aid workers affirm that a "tax" system is in place, and that many people donate food voluntarily although they are starving themselves.

24: The Ugandan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are pressing ahead with plans to integrate around 145,000 Sudanese refugees into local communities, officials said. The government met UNHCR representatives yesterday to discuss the refugee problem in north-western Uganda, in a meeting also attended by local politicians and officials of the World Bank, other UN agencies and local non-governmental organisations.

24: Up to 50 people are dying of hunger every day among the thousands of Sudanese who are fleeing rebel-held areas in southern Sudan for Wau, the largest town in Bahr al-Ghazal region. The Sudan news agency quoted state minister Hassan Dhahawi as saying the dead were among up to 2,000 people a day leaving SPLA areas for Wau where fighting displaced about 45,000 in January.

27: The SPLA killed 93 government troops in a nine-hour battle in southern Blue Nile state, near the Ethiopian border, the SPLA radio, monitored in Nairobi, reported. The radio said five SPLA guerrillas were killed and 25 wounded in the fighting.

27: The Sudanese army has threatened stern action against journalists who report on issues of national security and the army's operations without clearance. An army spokesman, Gen. Abdel Rahman el Sir Al Khatim said the army had told all Members of Parliament, politicians and governors to stop giving information about security situation in the country to journalists.

28: Revelations by aid workers on the ground make it clear that international agencies are effectively feeding two opposing armies in Sudan, along with hundreds of famine victims. This is an eternal dilemma for the agencies, torn between saving lives and prolonging conflicts.

28: The trial of four leaders of Sudan's Ansar religious sect of the outlawed Umma Party has been adjourned for a week after the defence counsel asked for consultations with clients, press reports said. The trial began under tight security at a criminal court in Khartoum's twin city Omdurman, where a large number of Ansar followers gathered outside and chanted in Arabic to declare that "god is the greatest and gratitude goes to him."

28: United Nations has welcomed the co-operation between government of Sudan and the SPLA in maintaining open access and providing clearance for aircraft bringing in relief supplies. In a joint communiqu, issued recently, UN aid agencies WFP, OLS and UNHCU say that the announcement of a cease-fire will help in speedy and uninterrupted disbursement of relief to thousands of displaced persons.

29: The head of UNICEF acknowledged criticism of inefficiencies in the massive UN relief operation for famine-stricken Sudan but defended the United Nations against criticism that it hadn't stressed the scope of the crisis in time. Ms Carol Bellamy said she took seriously rebel claims of corruption within the UN Sudan mission and said she would personally look into them. She said she made that pledge in Sudan last week with the rebels.

31: The international food delivery programme to bring aid to victims of war, drought and famine in Sudan will be the largest in history, exceeding the Berlin Airlift, a senior US official has said. Assistant secretary of state for African affairs Ms Susan Rice told a congressional hearing that the programme, known as Operation Lifeline Sudan, would provide 15, 000 metric tons of food a month to victims of the famine in southern Sudan.

August 3: A Sudanese official in charge of relief operations in south Sudan has described the situation in Bahr el-Ghazal province as "horrendously catastrophic." Humanitarian aid commissioner Mr Hussein al-Obaid, who has just visited the southern province, said thousands of starving people were swarming to prospective food distribution centres to escape death. 3: The United States has vowed to continue its efforts to force the government of Sudan to "change fundamentally its behaviour," especially in regard to Khartoum's support for the Lord's Resistance Army and other groups fighting to destabilise countries in the region. Rice told Congress last week that Washington will maintain its economic sanctions against Sudan while providing $4 million in aid to areas in the south of the country controlled by the SPLA and other rebel groups.

3: The Clinton administration is "actively supporting" the Sudan peace process initiated by the IGAD. Rice warned that Khartoum is encouraging other sets of negotiations in order to "delay, confuse and undermine the IGAD process, which she termed "the only viable route to ending the civil war," in Sudan.

4: The Sudanese government has declared a unilateral cease-fire to take effect in all parts of famine-hit southern Sudan. The Sudanese Council of Ministers, in a statement read by information minister and official spokesman Mr Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani at a press conference, said the government would observe "a unilateral, full and comprehensive cease-fire in all parts of south Sudan ."

4: The main Sudanese rebel group charged that the government's announcement of a unilateral cease-fire in the famine-hit south was a manoeuvre. "It's a manoeuvre because if Khartoum were serious about restoring peace in Sudan, it would have decreed a total cease-fire throughout the country," said Suleiman Bekhit, head of the Cairo office of the SPLA.

5: World Vision's centre relief operations in southern Sudan are threatened due to a shortage of cargo space on aircraft. Currently, aid agencies operating under the OLS umbrella have access to two buffalo cargo planes.

5: Clashes have broken out despite an announced cease-fire between pro-government southern Sudanese factions near oilfields in Al Wihda state, a Khartoum daily reported. Al Rai al Aam quoted Mr Elija Hon, chief of staff of the South Sudan Defence Force, as saying that the forces of a breakaway faction backing Mr Paulino Mateb launched an attack on SSDF forces in the southern state's capital Bentiu.

6: A senior US aid official has called for a broadening of the relief effort in southern Sudan to include the provision of seeds and tools as a long-term measure to end famine in the region. "We have become caretakers for a society in extremes," Mr Roy Williams, the director of foreign disaster assistance in the US Agency for International Development (USAID), told a news conference in Nairobi, after a 10-day tour of southern Sudan.

6: Peace talks aimed at ending Sudan's protracted civil war resumed in Ethiopian capital yesterday against a backdrop of famine in south Sudan. Kenyan foreign minister Bonaya Godana appealed to the warring parties to set aside controversial issues which could impede efforts to find a solution to the 15-year-old civil war.

7: Police fired teargas at stone-throwing Sudanese students protesting over the death this week by a police beating, witnesses said. They said about 1,000 students marched from Khartoum University's main campus into the streets. Police fired teargas and the students responded by throwing stones and chanting anti-government slogans, the witnesses said.

8: In Addis Ababa, peace talks between the rebels and the Sudanese government failed to make headway. At issue were a ceasefire, the boundaries of southern Sudan, the role of Islam and a referendum on self-determination for the non-Muslim south.

9: The SPLA has blamed the collapse of the peace talks on the Sudanese government. SPLA deputy leader Salva Kiir said in a press release that the government had maintainted, throughout the talks, a rigid and uncompromising attitude on almost every item of the agenda.

10: Col Garang arrived in Cairo today for a meeting of Sudanese opposition. Col Garang, who heads the SPLA, is to meet with former prime minister Sadiq el-Mahdi and Mr Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, who heads the National Democratic Alliance. The NDA is an umbrella group for Sudanese opposition bodies.

12: The UN WFP has imported more than 15,000 tons of relief food for the starving population in southern Sudan and the Great Lakes Region. Part of the consignment which arrived at the port of Mombasa, Kenya, is being loaded onto Kenya Railways wagons for onward delivery and another load of 12,500 tons on board a WFP chartered ship is expected at the port.

13: Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak met with Sudanese opposition leaders and stressed the need to keep Sudan united. President Mubarak met with Col. Garang, Sadiq el-Mahdi and Osman al-Mirghani. The opposition leaders began a three-day conference in Cairo at the request of the Egyptian government.

13: An ecumenical prayer was held today at Comboni Playground in Khartoum for two Sudanese Catholic priests, Frs. Lino Sebit and Hillary Boma who were arrested respectively on July 28 and August 1. The press release from the Archdiocese of Khartoum affirms that "we want to send a strong message to government authorities at all levels that Christians, while rejecting violence, stand firm in the defense of sanctity of life and the respect of the dignity of each individual human being".

14: Sudan has criticised Egypt for allowing Sudanese rebel groups trying to topple the islamist government in Khartoum to meet in Cairo for the first time. Egypt's move was "against the Sudanese people, its constitutional institutions and legitimate setup" state owned al-Anbaa Khartoum daily quoted a senior official as saying.

14: The United Nation Commission on Human Rights today named several human rights investigators, including one for Sudan. Leonardo Franco, an Argentinian expert who headed the UN human rights mission in Guatemala, replaces Caspar Biro, who resigned last April after serving for five years as UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan. In his final report to the UN, Biro denounced violations mainly by security forces but also by the rebels.

Relief agencies, rebels trade accusations

Whether or not soldiers should have a share of relief aid in case of famine in war zones, is an eternal dilemma aid agencies. have to contend with.
Four years ago, the agencies faced the dilemma in Rwanda and now they are facing it in southern Sudan.

"Soldiers are also part of the affected population and either directly or indirectly, have to benefit from food aid in case of famine," says Joseph Mabior, a Sudanese resident in Kenya. "The soldiers, for instance, have relatives who when given food aid, share it with them" In Mabior's opinion, under such an arrangement, there is absolutely nothing wrong. However, he points out, if a soldier uses his position to apportion unto himself more than his fair share, then there is everything wrong.

Here is a question that seems to beg for an answer: If under 'normal' circumstances, soldiers have to be fed by others as fighting is their full time occupation, how then can they provide for themselves in times when even those directly involved in farming cannot cater for their own needs?

As the efforts to stem the current famine in southern Sudan continue to have little, if any impact, aid agency officials and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels continue to trade accusations on whether or not the disproportionate allocations to the soldiers was aggravating the crisis.

"The civilians are living skeletons, dragging their way with the aid of staves to feeding centres where workers, paid with extra food, dig graves for those who do not survive," says Hugh Nevill of Agence France Presse, adding that, "soldiers, both governmental and rebel, are in good physical shape."

To Mr Pagan Amun, a spokesman for the SPLA, it is the inefficiency and corruption in the ranks of the relief agencies that is fuelling the fire.
"It is, therefore no surprise that the response to humanitarian crisis and famine in Sudan, especially Bahr el-Ghazal, is not showing the desired results," Mr Amum told a Press conference in Nairobi.
Sudanese war-lord Kerubino Kwanyin Bol has also defended the soldiers. He says: "The soldiers are fighting for the people and it is therefore their interest to safeguard the welfare of the civilians at all costs" "The main problem is the that the food reaching the famine-stricken region is not enough. If it was enough, there would be no such claims," Kerubino said in an interview in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. "I am a soldier and a commander and I am 100 per cent sure that the soldiers are not taking food meant for civilians."
Kerubino, who recently re-defected to the SPLA mainstream, asserted that he had recently had an extensive tour of the affected region in the company of relief workers and was well versed with the situation on the ground.

While acknowledging the possibility of inefficiency on the unprecedented relief operation, the head of UNICEF, Ms Carol Bellamy, defended the UN against accusations of corruption saying the rebels have so far failed to provide information to back their claims. "I believe we have to take this seriously, but I have not, at this point, been shown any information to back up...the allegation of corruption," Ms Bellamy told a news conference.
"This is an operation that is so big and multi-faceted, that I think we have to almost do somersaults to try to keep looking for ways to make this more efficient," she added.

Ms Bellamy also acknowledged the existence of a "food tax" system instituted by the rebels, and "problems" on the government side, and announced that the relief agencies were setting up a task force with the SPLA to oversee that no relief food is diverted to the rebels or other fighting groups.
The current relief operation in Sudan has been ranked the world's largest ever. It targets 2.6 million people, now feared to be dying at the rate of 120 per day. The figure is more than triple the 380,000 that had been reported earlier in the year.

To effectively deal with the situation, at least 15,000 tons of food per month are needed. The UN World Food Programme is air-dropping 9,500 tons per month, at the cost of US$30 million.
The current famine, largely attributed to prolonged drought in Africa's largest state, has been aggravated by the Sudanese civil war now in its 15th year. The war, together with its consequences, have so far claimed an estimated 1.3 million lives. Thousands of others have been displaced internally while equally large numbers live in exile as refugees The protracted civil strife pits the mainly Arab and Islamic north against the mainly Christian and traditionalist south.

Charles Omondi

The woes of the displaced Nuba people

Elmulfa Mirra is not exactly sure of his age. However, he recalls vividly the events of the fateful Wednesday morning last year that saw him and all his village-mates reduced to either captives or refugees in their own country.
"A helicopter arrived and bombarded our village at Nocta, Nuba Mountains, Southern Kordofan (about 600 kilometres south of Khartoum), sending people scampering in every direction for dear life,'' he recalls. "We ran to the hills from where some of us watched helplessly as the government soldiers fired shots indiscriminately, ransacked the entire village, looting and setting ablaze whatever they could not carry with them.

"After about two hours, they were through with their operations and our village was no more," remembers the Muslim father of 12, who believes he is in his sixties. "We returned to the village hoping to salvage a few things to keep us going but all we found were corpses and ashes."
Mirra now lives on the hills of Merewi as a displaced person. Also exiled at Merawi is former chief of Nocta Hussain Amdaballa.
Those not lucky enough were captured or killed. One of the captives, James Karama, 57, has since found his way out of the infamous peace camps. Though the torture he underwent cost him his left arm, Karama is full of determination to fight on.
"Though life is difficult here because of poverty, I am happier than my days in the peace camps where I was denied all basic rights," Karama says.

"The exact number of the displaced people here is not known as there are no designated locations for refugees," says Amar Amoun, the Nuba Relief Rehabilitation and Development Society (NRRDS) programme manager. "However," he adds, "they are quite many since the raids in the villages in the valleys and the areas close to the government's strongholds are commonplace."
For the Nuba, like their counterparts in southern Sudan, raids by government soldiers is the norm rather than the exception. During the raids, those not killed are captured and sent to the government-controlled peace camps.
For displaced people, movement is made harder by fighting. Distances are huge and by the time a displaced person manages to walk to a relief centre, if any, he is well on the way to becoming one of the stick people now a common feature on television screens the world over.

"When we arrived here, we were welcomed and shown where to cultivate," says the former chief, who adds that life has never been the same again. "Our main problem is that having come from the valleys, we are not used to cultivating the hilly terrain here, thus we are now victims of famine."
"Soon after we were displaced, we would sneak into our former village at night to harvest wild fruits. However, word soon reached the enemy forces who have now laid all manner of traps including mining the village roots."

In April, recalls the chief, at least five people were killed when they attempted to get food from Nocta.
According to a recent Southern Kordofan Emergency Assessment report, conducted by members of USAID and Concern (an Irish NGO), at least 20,000 Nuba people were considered under the threat of a 70-80 per cent food deficit between the months of April and August this year. The report appealed for urgent external intervention to keep the people alive and productive in their present homes.
Ever since the Nuba took up arms 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 has for the last one decade authorised 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.
However, observers have dismissed the argument as hollow insisting 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 May, the Khartoum government announced its intentions to allow relief operations in the Nuba Mountains but most Nuba were sceptical about this change of heart. They feared that the government could easily frustrate attempts to bring them aid.
Three months down the line and it is like the fears have become a reality. A UN team that was supposed to move into the Nuba Mountains to assess the situation on the ground, is yet to make the trip. "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,'' points out 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. Their home is geographically in central part of Africa's most expansive state.

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.

Kerubino defends SPLA soldiers

Southern Sudanese war lord Kerubino Kwanyin Bol has denied claims that much of the relief food was going to the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers as opposed to the starving civilians.
Speaking in Nairobi on July 24, the former Khartoum government ally said that the main problem was the inadequacy of the relief supplies. "It is not true that the soldiers are taking food meant for civilians," he said.

"The soldiers are fighting for the people and it is therefore their interest to safeguard the welfare of these civilians. The main problem is that the food reaching the famine-stricken region is not enough. If. it was enough there would be no such claims," Kerubino said.
"I am a soldier and commander myself and I am 100 per cent sure that the soldiers are not taking food meant for civilians."
He said that he had recently toured the affected region in the company of a number of NGO personnel and was well versed with the situation on the ground.

Aid workers have reported that much of the relief food was ending in the hands of the SPLA while government troops and splinter groups were also seizing huge amounts of the same.
Kerubino described the current famine in Sudan as a natural misfortune which has been aggravated by the military regime's intransigence. "Now people are dying in their thousands though relief agencies and the Christians are trying their best to improve the situation. The Sudan government continues bombarding the safe havens, making the relief efforts completely difficult."

He urged the international community to exert more pressure on the General Omar el-Bashir-led regime to abide by the ceasefire that has been declared to ease relief operations.
The Sudan government and the SPLA have declared a ceasefire to assist relief operations. Following the declaration, the World Food Programme immediately launched a major air drop food aid to Wau, the largest town in the famine-hit Bahr al-Ghazal region.
Kerubino, who had risen to the rank of `Lieutenant Colonel in the Sudanese army, claims to have fired the first bullet that triggered off the current phase of the Sudanese civil war in 1983. Together with other disenchanted southern Sudanese soldiers, they formed the SPLA.
He later fell out with the SPLA leader, Colonel John Garang, and was thrown into detention. He broke out of jail in September 1992 to form his SPLA Bahr el Ghazal faction that collaborated with military regime.

He is reputed to have unleashed unmatched terror on fellow southerners during his four-year collaboration with the government. However, he dismisses all these terming them "one sided claims".
He said: "Such accusations have been completely one-sided. When I led my faction, I lost my men just like all those who fought against us. We are all to blame but now we have realised the folly of our divisions and resolved to work as one people with a common destiny South Sudan is facing its most severe crisis in 10 years. Needs in Bahr el-Ghazal became acute following massive displacement in early February due to outbreak of fighting in the region. Flight suspension throughout February and March prevented the delivery of urgently needed assistance. Total flight clearance to the area was finally given on March 31.

It is now estimated that 2.6 million people are threatened by famine. Earlier reports had put the figure at 380, 000 people.

Charles Omondi



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

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