Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
May 15, 1999


  1. Chronology
  2. Epidemic now identified
  3. Government reneges on promise to the Nuba


April 17: Peace talks between Sudan's Islamic junta and rebels from the mainly black south are scheduled to resume in Nairobi on April 20, Kenyan officials said. The negotiations, under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), are expected to end on April 25.

17: Presidents of Sudan and Eritrea have sat down together for their first meeting in years, apparently in an attempt to ease tension between the two east African countries. Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi participated in talks in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported.

20: Sudan's government has decided indefinitely to postpone peace negotiations with the SPLA, which were due to open in Nairobi on April 20. The decision was due to the “murder by the SPLA of four Sudanese working with the Red Cross last month'', according to an unidentified government source cited by Al-Anbaa daily.

20: Sudanese assistant president Riek Machar said both parties had agreed to postpone talks for two weeks for “more consultations for bringing their viewpoints closer.” Mr. Machar, chairman of the South Sudan Co-ordination Council, added that the IGAD committee chaired by a representative of Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi would make contacts with the government and SPLA for “narrowing the gap” between the rival sides.

21: The SPLA has said it was greatly disappointed by the government's decision to postpone peace talks. Khartoun decided to postpone the negotiations with the SPLA, because the rebels had “murdered” Sudanese Red Crescent workers and refused to hand over their bodies to the government.

23: Sudanese authorities freed a prominent anti-government lawyer from jail only to promptly put him back behind bars when he refused to sign a pledge of good behaviour , a Khartoum newspaper reported . The lawyer , Ghazi Suleiman, who is also leader of the opposition National Alliance for the Restoration of Demcracy, was originally jailed for 15 days for taking part in an illegal assembly outside the Khartoum Bar Association, the official Sudanese News Agency reported.

26: Sudan has renewed a partial cease-fire in the southern Bahr el-Ghazal region to allow relief teams to cope with a devastating famine and reiterated a call for a comprehensive truce. At the same time, Sudan rebels are claiming victory against Khartoum government but their military advance has slowed dramatically, according to observers of the conflict.

26: Sudan rebels are claiming a series of mini-victories in their struggle against the Khartoum government but their military advance has slowed dramatically, according to observers of the conflict. The SPLA is boasting about recent success close to the Ethiopian border but is making almost no progress towards its main target, the southern city of Juba, hundreds of kilometres further south-west.

26: The SPLA has reacted warily to reports from Khartoum of a new mediation effort by former vice-president Abel Alier. Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said Alier had met SPLA leader John Garang in London and Uganda , and had also been in contact with the government, state radio reported.

26: Col. Gaddafi met a delegation from the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance in Tripoli. Former Sudanese prime minister Sadeq al-Mahdi whose government was overthrown in a coup by president Bashir in 1989 led the delegation

27: Over 4,00 returnees are facing food shortages in the Liethnon area of Bahr el Ghazal state, according to World Food Programme. In its latest weekly report, the UN food agency said around 4,800 returnees could no longer depend on kinship for their food needs.

30: More than 180 people have died of cholera in southern Sudan's Akobo area since April 6 when the first cases were cited, humanitarian workers in the region said. A doctor with the New Sudan Council of Churches, Margaret Ito, said many of them died because they could not make it to the hospital in Akobo.

30: Sudan will resume peace talks with southern rebels in Nairobi next month, a government official said in Khartoum. The official, who asked not to be named, said the talks, originally scheduled for April 20, were likely to start on May 10, now that the government had heard the proposals of former vice-president Alier, trying to mediate in the conflict.

May 3: The Sudanese government has rejected a peace initiative from Alier, Sudan's minister of state for culture and information Amin Hassan Omar has said. “The government cannot and will not accept confederal proposals,” Omar said in the pro-government Alwan newspaper, adding that Alier's proposals ignored the Khartoum peace agreement and violated the constitution.

3: Sudan's president arrived in the Qatari capital Doha where he is expected to meet his Eritrean counterpart in a Qatari mediation bid in the conflict between the two African countries. Omar el-Bashir arrived in Doha one day after Eritrea's president Isayas Afeworki held talks with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

4: A top Sudanese politician is holding peace talks in Geneva with an exiled opposition leader whose party is working with Sudan's biggest rebel group to oust the government, the party said. It is the first meeting between parliament speaker Hassan Turabi and former prime minister Al-Mahdi since he fled Sudan in 1996.

4: The International Red Cross has described as “furious” the spread of meningitis in the seven worst-affected states in eastern Sudan where more than one million people are at risk of catching the disease. The worst-affected states are white Nile, Gezira, Sennar, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile and Red Sea Province.

5: Sudan wants a joint committee with Eritrea to meet within a month to try to resolve security and political disputes, the Khartoum daily newspaper, Al-Anbaa said. The pro-government paper quoted Hassan Abdin, under-secretary at the foreign ministry as saying Sudan had proposed dividing the committee into two- a political committee and a security committee.

5: A Sudanese government plane bombed the compound of an NGO Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL) in Yei, wounding one person and destroying property worth over $10,000. A UNICEF press release said six bombs fell on the compound injuring one of 25 trainees who were attending an awareness workshop organised by UNICEF and OSIL

6: Asmara had denied that its forces shelled a Sudanese village along the countries' joint border. A report in a Sudanese government-owned newspaper Al-Anbaa, said the attack took place in Rasai region, but the BBC quoted an Eritrean government spokesman as saying the report was totally false and made no sense in the wake of a reconciliation accord.

6: Khartoum has sent out the first batch of “protectors of oil Brigade” mujahadeen (Islamic volunteers ) to defend the industry, army spokesman Lt..Gen. Mohammed Osman Yassin said on Sudanese TV. He accused the SPLA “and those who supply them with funds and equipment” of wanting to deny the Sudanese people their resources.” Sudan is building a 1,000 mile oil pipeline from southern oilfields to Port Sudan and plans to export its first shipment of crude oil by June 30.

6: The death toll from a meningitis outbreak has risen to nearly 1,500 in the past week, the Sudanese health minister told parliament. Mahdi Babour Nimir said more than 20,000 people have been infected since the outbreak in December, according to the Akhbar Al-Youm daily.

6: Sudan said today it hoped the United States would pay compensation after unfreezing the assets of the businessman whose factory it bombed last year over chemical weapons charges. “The American decision confirms the baselessness of the charges against Sudan and the faulty attack on Al-Shifa medicine factory on the allegations that it was making chemical weapons,” said Mr. Ali Abdel –Rahman Nimeiri, a state foreign minister.

6: Sudan has accused Eritrea of shelling a village along their border after the two countries signed an accord to try to improve relations, a newspaper reported.

7: Sudanese pro-government militias were quoted on Thursday as saying they had clashed with the army in a battle for control of oil fields in the south of the country. The pro-government newspaper Alwan quoted the leader of the Southern Sudan Defence Force group of militias Riek Machar as saying there had been skirmishes this week between the two sides in the Kabah area of the Unity State.

7: The NDA said its forces killed 64 government troops and captured 83 others in fighting in eastern Sudan's Kassala state. The troops were killed or taken prisoner when they tried to re-capture a garrison in Rasai region in northern Kassala, the NDA said in a message received by AFP in Cairo.

7: Al-Turabi said in remarks published that Al-Mahdi would return home soon after a self-imposed exile that began in January 1997. Mr. Turabi, who met Mr. Mahdi in Geneva earlier, said Sudan would soon see the fruits of his talks with the former premier.

11: More than 250 southern rebels and some 800 civilians have fled to government-controlled areas in southern Sudan, state-run radio reported. The 253 members of the SPLA and 840 civilians fled to the town of Kapoeta, 1,200 kilometres south of Khartoum, the report said.

11: Al-Mahdi said after meeting Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa that political efforts were under way to solve his strife-racked country's problems. “I believe steps are being taken towards a political solution to the problems facing Sudan,” he said.

10: The leaders of Sudan and Ethiopia held talks in Djibouti to try to improve the cool relations between the two countries, Sudanese state Radio Omdurman said. It said presidents Al-Bashir and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia met on the sidelines of inauguration of Djibouti's new president, Isamil Omar Guelleh.

10: Armed Sudanese have taken 23 oil experts captive during nearly a week of battling the government in the southern town of Bentiu, a southern rebel spokesman said. The 23 hostages apparently were working for the Chinese National Petroleum Company. It was not clear whether all were Chinese nationals or precisely when they were taken captive.

10: Peace talks scheduled in Kenya between southern Sudan rebels and the Sudanese government has been postponed indefinitely, a rebel spokesman said. “The talks have been officially postponed by the convenors,” said Samson Kwaje

12: Sudanese rebels have accused government forces of bombing two civilian relief centres in southern Equatoria state, killing two men and two women and wounding three children. The SPLA said in a statement issued in Nairobi that an Antonov flying at high altitude dropped the bombs on the Loka and Lainya centres on the road between the towns of Juba and Yei.

12: The WFP “pipeline” of food aid in Sudan will dry up substantially in August, at the peak of the hunger gap when supplies of locally-produced foods are unavailable, with the level of funding currently available, a situation report from the agency warned. The agency reported that while the overall nutritional situation has improved in many parts of southern Sudan, that could easily be reversed by a deterioration in the security situation.

12: Sudan's defence minister Gen Abdel Khetin has claimed that forces in Uganda are “poised for an assault” on southern Sudan. Speaking at a meeting of the parliamentary defence and security committee, Khetim said there were “hostile gatherings in Uganda posed for an assault on the southern front”.

12: The promised return to Sudan of former president Gaffaar Nimeiri brought thousands of supporters onto the streets of Khartoum, media sources in the capital reported. Nimeiri, who has lived in Cairo since his overthrow in 1985, was quoted as saying he hoped to return to Sudan between May 17 and 24.

12: President El-Bashir has cancelled a planned meeting in Cairo between his top deputy , first vice-president Ali Osman Mohammed Taha and Mohammed Osman Al-Mirghani, chairman of the opposition NDA , claiming that its disclosure by the media led to the decision . “There are foreign hands and ill-intentioned people who do not want a détente and resolution of differences among people of Sudan,” he said.

12: A meeting of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (an offshoot of the IGAD process), which was postponed in April, has been rescheduled for May 25-26 in Oslo.

13: Sudan has played down media reports that the 1997 peace agreement has been under severe strain by recent fighting over the control of oilfields in the state of Unity, and that the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) wants the pact revised.

Epidemic now identified

Investigations by an international team in March/April have confirmed the epidemic that has ravaged Rumbek County since last year as louse-borne relapsing fever.

Consequently, a plan of outbbreak control has been constituted in consideration of the local circumstances. The action plan is “based on local surveillance, tiered responses by primary health care personnel and community health workers supported by NGOs,” according to a preliminary report of the investigation team.

The team comprised Rumishael Shoo, M. Ryan and P. Tharmahornpilas from the World Health Organisation (WHO), D. Dennis, K. Orloski and D. O'Leary of Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and M. Kiruga from Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).
The fatal malaria-like epidemic is characterised by high fever, headache, chills, severe joint pains and prostration, often complicated by jaundice and bleeding.
The report defines relapsing fever as a severe febrile disease usually lasting 2-3 weeks. The complication, the report goes on, is caused by Borrelia recurrentis, a bacterium and is transmitted by body lice.

Relapsing fever's incubation period is about a week and about 20 per cent of untreated cases die. In southern Sudan, medical facilities are far and wide and the few in existence are often ill-equipped and with inadequate qualified personnel.
An effective treatment recommended by the report is a single dose of simple antibiotics (erythromycin, tetracycline of doxycycline). Preventive measures include improvement of personal hygiene and elimination of transmission agents by the use of insecticides. An earlier investigation conducted in January by six NGOs had confirmed an outbreak of a mysterious epidemic throughout the Sudanese county and suspected a viral cause. However, laboratory results proved negative for viral fevers.

As the epidemic continued to wreak havoc, WHO and OLS stepped in, sending a small team to carry out a preliminary investigation and to collect further laboratory specimens. Extensive testing of the samples was carried out at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, and at the National Institute of Virology in South Africa. A number of the samples were positive for Borrelia sp which causes the relapsing fever.

This month (April) a combined WHO, CDC and OLS team was formed to carry out an epidemiological investigation to confirm the cause of the outbreak, identify effective surveillance and control measures and assist the NGOs to put in place effective surveillance and control measures.

Though accurate statistics on the number of lives claimed by the epidemic are not readily available, it is believed to have caused hundreds of deaths.
The situation in southern Sudan, says the report, presented major challenges in carrying out a rapid and extensive control programme because;

  • the cases were scattered over wide areas and occurring in many places at once
  • health care coverage is far from complete and water for personal hygiene is scarce and
  • the logistics of moving around are difficult as there are no roads, vehicles are few and there is insecurity

Sudan has been at war since 1983 with the mostly Christian and animist south rising up against domination by the Arab-Muslim north. The civil strife has claimed an estimated 1.9 million lives and displaced thousands of others.

The final report on the deadly epidemic will be available in two to three weeks. The Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, said in Nairobi early this year that in the month of January alone, the epidemic claimed 580 lives.

Charles Omondi

Government reneges on promise to the Nuba

The government of Sudan is yet to live up to the promise it made last year to allow relief aid into the parts of the Nuba Mountains controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Consequently, the food situation in the affected areas remains a matter of grave concern.

According to a recent report on the region, despite the relatively good rains of last year, over 30, 000 people (about 10 per cent of the population) were at a risk of severe food shortages from the beginning of this year. This figure, the report pointed out, was bound to rise with time as military action continues to destroy villages and household grain stores.

Of much concern, the report states, “is the fact that due to the constraints imposed by military action and the denial of humanitarian access, it will be near impossible to respond to the relatively modest requirements of those at risk this year”.

To further confirm that they had reneged on the promise made to the UN secretary-general Koffi Annan in Khartoum in May last year, the Islamic government has recently attacked the Nuba people's umbilical cord- the bush airstrips through which the SPLA and the few dare-devil relief agencies and missionaries replenish the Nuba supplies.

The report titled Food Security in the Nuba Mountains-Existing Realities and Trends, was compiled following a one-day workshop attended by a range of agencies and individuals with interest and knowledge of the central Sudanese region.

Among the agencies represented at the talks held in Nairobi were Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Society (NRRDS), Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), Christian Aid and Concern World Wide.

For the Nuba people remaining in their homelands in Southern Kordofan, the report says, food security has been steadily deteriorating since the start of the war.

The Sudanese military regime of General Omar Hassan el-Bashir, which came to power in 1989, has resorted to isolating the Nuba in order to deny the SPLA their (Nuba) support.

Consequently, the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and the other relief and Christian agencies operating in Sudan have not been allowed to extend their operations to the Nuba Mountain areas under the SPLA control.

The resultant desperation has seen thousands of Nuba people relocate to the government side and other areas in their fight for survival.

In addition, thousands of the Nuba have been forcibly uprooted from their villages to the government's “peace camps''. In the camps, they are forced to abandon their culture, they are used as slaves, and men are forcibly conscripted into the government forces and women and girls given to the Arab soldiers as concubines. The latter further serves to ensure that the next generation is more Arab than African.

Those who have remained in their homeland have been forced to abandon their traditional farming lands on the fertile plains and move en masse into the mountains, which act as natural fortresses with only few access routes. The routes, which are unlikely to be known to the enemy, are under strict surveillance of the Nuba soldiers.

Today, all the Nuba subsistence farming depends on cultivation off shallow stony soils on steep slopes with the inevitable paltry returns.

The situation has further been compounded by lack of access to new crop types and varieties or appropriate t5rechnologies to deal with the new challenges.

Labour availability continues to be weakened by poor health and the additional constraints imposed by a weakened natural resource base, with more and more time having to be spent collecting water and fuel.

The transfer of labour from the agricultural sector to the military has not made things any better. This, says the report, has left the innumerable women and female headed households particularly vulnerable.

The report also paints a gloomy picture of the environmental degradation in the Nuba Mountains. It expalins: “Even with the high level of out-migration, the effect of the remaining Nuba population on their immediate environment has been pronounced.''

The extensive clearance and cultivation of steep mountain slopes for a decade has initiated a dangerous trend of spiralling natural resource degradation. With only limited experience and skills of the soil and water conservation techniques required to ensure sustainable production systems, Nuba farmers are inadvertently provoking serious erosion of top soil, soil nutrient depletion and damage to soil structure and water holding capacity. The problem is exacerbated since the areas available for cultivation are limited , both because of topography and military action.

The Nuba are a collection of about 50 language groups. Though centrally placed in Sudan, they have chosen to be part of the south in the protracted civil war.

The definition of their homeland, an area of about 48,000 square kilometres, remains one of the most contentious issues in the Sudanese peace talks under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Originally numbering about 2 million people, the Nuba population has since slumped to under 400,000 courtesy of massive out-migration prompted by perpetual food shortages and general insecurity.

When Khartoum made the promise to Mr. Annan last year, the Nuba people greeted it with scepticism. The SPLA governor of the Southern Kordofan, Commander Yusuf Kuwa dismissed it as a desperate attempt by a besieged government to paint itself in better colours.

He said: “I highly doubt whether the Sudanese government has suddenly become more humane. For the last 10 years, we have unsuccessfully advocated for this and so have OLS and numerous other concerned parties.”

Contacted for a comment on what became of the promise to Mr. Annan, OLS spokeslady Gillian Wilcox said Khartoum insists the UN assessment team will only be allowed to the Nuba Mountains after the IGAD technical committee meeting earlier scheduled to be held early May.

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