September 15 1996



August 16: The UN Security Council threatens to cut air links to Sudan to punish the Islam-inspired government for failing to hand over suspects in the 1995 assassination attempt against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.

8.17: The UN Security Council voted for an air embargo against Sudan. But in a resolution adopted here by 13 votes in favour, with Russia and China abstaining, the Council failed to set a date. The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has detained six Catholic missionaries for allegedly hindering its recruitment of members and for spying.

8.19: A four-day strike ended at Khartoum's main hospital after the ouster of security men who angered doctors by questioning women visitors to ensure their behaviour was properly Islamic, the daily Al-Ingaz al-Watani reported today. Witnesses confirmed reports in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that riots erupted and many people were arrested last week in Wad Medani over bread price increases.

8.21: The army has confirmed the arrest of a number of people whom it accused of planning to blow up installations in eastern Sudan, days after reports of an aborted military coup attempt in the area. Reports from Geneva say around 840 children are being held in inhuman conditions in a camp in the Sudanese desert, the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture said today. 8.22: Sudan is sending wheat and other food staples worth 1.3 billion Sudanese pounds ($963, 000) to the Red Sea province following reports of an anti-government plot centred in the province's main city.

8.23: The Sudanese authorities executed 11 officers and arrested 56 others for their role in an attempt to overthrow the government of Omar Hassan el- Bashir, an opposition party said today. The 11 officers were executed on Sunday by a firing squad headed by Captain Ibrahim Shamseddin, who is in charge of military security at Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

8.24: Two military helicopters attacked the southern town of Kotobi on Friday with machine gun fire and rockets, killing three people and injuring 33, an international aid organisation that operates in the area said.

8.26: The Sudanese military said yesterday it thwarted a recent coup attempt but denied a report that 11 officers involved in the attempt were executed.

8.29: The United States urged SPLA today to bring about the immediate release of six Roman Catholic missionaries held by a rogue commander for 10 days. "We remain very concerned for the safety of the American citizen and the other missionaries, and we call upon the SPLA to take all necessary measures to guarantee their safety and effect their immediate release," State Department spokesman Mr Glyn Davies said.

8.30: The missionaries were freed and 5 of them arrived in Nairobi in the evening. The arrival was covered by various media organizations.

9.2: Residents of the Sudanese capital rushed today to bakeries looking for bread but many returned empty-handed amid reports of huge shortages. 9.3: Two people were killed and seven injured in angry demonstrations that broke out in the Sudanese capital over a bread shortage, Sudan, Interior Ministry said today. The rioters also chanted anti-government slogans and wrecked several cars. Uganda has launched a diplomatic offensive in an attempt seen here as prodding the Khartoum government into talking peace. The Monitor newspaper in Kampala today carried a story saying Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Martin Aliker, left the country at the weekend for Khartoum.

9.9: Khartoum. To cheers of thousands, Iran's President arrived today to build better ties between his country and Sudan.

9.10: Sudan and Uganda have set up a framework for an agreement to mend diplomatic ties between the countries, ruptured since April 1995, on the sidelines of a visit here by Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. "We have reached agreement on a framework to implement the Iranian initiative," aimed at solving differences between Sudan and Uganda, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Osman Mohammed Taha said today.

9.11: Sudan and Uganda have agreed to clamp down on rebel activity on the border and set up a monitoring team of foreign observers, official Sudanese sources said today.

9.12: Iran yesterday dispatched 30 tonnes of tents, blankets and food to flood victims in Sudan, where at least 14 people have been killed and hundreds of homes destroyed, officials said. 9.13: A Sudanese official was today quoted as saying an opposition group backed by Eritrea had killed three policemen in an attack in eastern Sudan last week.

9.14: Floods have destroyed more than 2,600 houses in Sudan's Khartoum province, a Sudanese newspaper reported today. A US-based human rights group protested today against a secret trial at Sudan's army headquarters of 31 people accused of crimes punishable by the death penalty. Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the defendants were alleged to have been tortured to make confessions and called for exclusion of such statements from evidence at the trial which started last month.

9.17: Sudanese rebel leader John Garang may face deportation should he enter Uganda illegally, Defence State Minister Amama Mbabazi has said.

2. Missionaries imprisoned at Mapourdit

For 72-year-old Australian Sister Moira Lynch and her fellow missionaries at Mapourdit mission of Rumbek Catholic Diocese in southern Sudan, the morning of August 17, 1996 will for many years to come rekindle dreadful memories. It was the morning when the wardens turned poachers and harassed the very game under their care.

On the fateful date, Sister Lynch, her compatriots Sisters Mary Batchelor, 67 and Maureen Carey, 52, American Father Michael Barton, 48, Italian Brother Raniero Iacomella, 26 and Father Raphael Riel, 48-year-old Sudanese and Vicar General of Rumbek Diocese were taken prisoners by their supposed protectors, Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers.

The soldiers under the command of Major Marial Nuor stormed the mission compound at around 5 am. "I was already in the chapel for my morning prayers when I heard some commotion within our compound. I rushed out to establish what was happening and was met by the soldiers, who immediately ordered me to sit on the ground," Sister Lynch recalls.

Days before the invasion, a number of telling episodes had occurred at mission compound. Among them was the forced conscription of five teachers from the mission school by the SPLA. The school which was established in 1993 has a population of 1, 500 pupils.

The soldiers then proceeded to the other missionaries' room and ordered the occupants who were still in bed out. That was the beginning of what turned out to be a 12-day incarceration. The missionaries were to spend a greater part of the first day of their arrest separated from each other but within their compound. During this time, the soldiers literally turned everything at the mission upside down. They confiscated, among other things, several letters the nuns had written to their relatives and friends back home, and which were due for posting in Nairobi, Kenya, in the next few days.

Among other issues, the letters had information about the forced recruitment of Mapourdit school teachers by the SPLA, an issues which the soldiers picked on to brand the missionaries "foreign spies".

"We had all along suspected you people of working for the Khartoum government but now we have found the evidence," Sister Lynch remembers the soldiers saying regarding the information in the letters.

It was not until evening that the six were allowed to celebrate mass together before being whisked away in the mission car to an unknown destination. The destination later turned out to be Row Prison. Sister Carey and Brother Iacomella were moved back to the mission after only three days. They were kept under house arrest for what the soldiers described as "their own security". Meanwhile, Sister Carey was supposed to keep the mission dispensary running.

In the days following the arrest of the six missionaries, the Mapourdit mission which had just received an a assortment of supplies from Nairobi, was systematically looted by the SPLA soldiers, prompting speculation that the soldiers, hard pressed by their own deprivation, had to feign betrayal to justify encroachment on missionary supplies.

The charges against the captives, generally believed to have been arrested without the blessings of SPLA's top leadership, were stated as "hindering SPLA recruitment, being found in possession of documents proving that they are spies from foreign countries and working for the spread of Islam under the disguise of the Cross."

Sister Lynch said that they were not mistreated while in confinement though they felt greatly humiliated.

What exactly may have prompted the invasion of Mapourdit mission may never be established but one thing is certain: The episode dealt a serious blow to the image of the main Sudanese rebel movement, the SPLA, which controls most of southern Sudan. It also provided its adversaries with additional evidence with which to hit the John Garang-led movement even harder.

News about the invasion spread across the world like a bush fire and from nearly every direction, there was pressure on the SPLA to facilitate the unconditional release of the missionaries. Charles Omondi.


Nairobi, 13 September 1996
More than 160 Dinka boys will see their parents for the first time in at least three years this week, in the first family reunification from areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The reunification was coordinated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in cooperation with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) and Radda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children). Together, the organizations interviewed the boys to find out where they were from, whether their families were still there and wanted them home, and whether they wanted to go home themselves.

The boys were airlifted by a UNICEF-funded Buffalo cargo aircraft from Lokichokio -- the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) relief base in northern Kenya -- to their home areas of Akot, Adior, Thiet and Agangrial between Tuesday and Saturday. Aged from 10 to 18, the boys had been living in a camp for unaccompanied minors in New Cush since June 1995, where they arrived after an arduous two-year journey by foot to Uganda and back again.

Some left home in search of education, while others fled fighting in their home areas.

The greatest challenge for UNICEF will be to ensure that the education system in the home areas is functioning so the boys will not have to leave their families again.

For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 - e-mail:


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