May 17: Successive bombings of the Bahr el Ghazal villages of Akak and Nyamlell have provoked concern among humanitarian agencies working in the area. Humanitarian agencies said 24 bombs were dropped in Akak and another six a few kilometres from Nyamlell. In the former incident, a 10-year-old girl died and a boy was injured.
17: Eritrean President Isayas Afeworki has denied reports that Asmara was evicting the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from Asmara in an effort to improve relations with Khartoum, but admitted that Eritrea was looking for "practical and realistic ways of resuming diplomatic ties" with Khartoum. Sudanese media reports said the Eritrean government had ordered the NDA out of the Sudanese embassy, which it has occupied since Eritrea broke off diplomatic ties with Khartoum in December 1994.
18: UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has expressed concern over fighting between government troops and rebels in southern Sudan and particularly its potential impact on humanitarian operations in the area. A statement from the secretary-general's spokesman said Annan called on both sides to "respect fully" the cease-fire agreed upon in April, and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance.
18: An estimated 1,275 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) have recently arrived at Khor camp, Ad Da'ein, in south Darfur, according to a report from the UN Humanitarian Co-ordination Unit in Khartoum. They are reportedly arriving at a daily average of 35 families and entering via Safaha and Mairam from parts of northern Bahr el-Ghazal and Gogrial.
20: Unidentified assailants attacked a Nile River boat bringing relief aid to southern Sudan, killing the co-pilot of the barge, the UN announced in Nairobi. WFP spokesperson Brenda Barton said 21 people aboard were wounded; a Kenyan working for the WFP was shot in the leg and a Sudanese crew member was shot in the back.
21: The Sudanese opposition has warned the government over the expected return to Khartoum of former president Gaafar al-Numeiry, slamming the presidential pardon which paved the way for the “butcher” to come back. The NDA issued a statement saying that the agencies arranging for the return of “the butcher” to Sudan would “bear the responsibility of the resulting consequences”.
22: The main political body in south Sudan has accused Khartoum of violating a peace accord reached in April 1997. “Repeated violations of the peace agreement and failure by the government to abide by (its) provisions “will be the focus of a forthcoming meeting between the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) and Khartoum officials.
23: Numeiry has returned to his homeland after 14 years in exile and pledged to work for peace and democracy. “The government has given political pluralism a chance by passing the Political Association Law,'' he said in a statement to state television.
24: Sudanese police were out in force as Numeiry landed in Khartoum amid threats of protest demonstrations by the opposition, news organisations reported. Presidential affairs minister Bakri Hassan Salih led the government welcoming party. Numeiry
was later met by President El-Bashir who hoped his return would"support the process of construction and development".
24: A Sudanese opposition leader has warned of legal action against Numeiry for “crimes he committed” while in power, a day after he was welcomed back home by president El-Bashir. Mr. Numeiry returned to Sudan ending a 14-year exile in Egypt and was greeted at Khartoum airport by government officials and thousands of supporters who earlier formed a political party Numeiry is expected to lead.
25: The authorities in Khartoum last week demolished two Christian church buildings and two schools at Hayy Barakah, a suburb of Khartoum, in what displaced southern Christians claim is religious victimisation, the BBC reported. The two schools owned by Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) and the Presbyterian Church, had a combined roll of 1,440 students. Four other Catholic schools in the area, with a roll of about 2,500 pupils, were also served with a final notice of demolition on 27 April, the BBC said.
25: The Sudanese legal authorities have turned down the first complaint made against Numeiry on grounds he was granted a presidential amnesty. According to Khartoum newspapers, Khartoum attorney Islam Abdel Qadir rejected a lawsuit filed by lawyer Mahmoud Shaarani, who was sacked by Mr. Numeiry from his position as a judge, claiming damages for dismissal.
25: A prosecution council set up by the NDA has announced it is presently considering applications it has received from individuals for filing lawsuits against Numeiry, including one by the family of late army officer Hassan Hussein, who was executed on orders by court-martial following an abortive coup detat in 1975.
26: Sudan government told Numeiry before his return home that he had been granted amnesty from prosecution, a government newspaper reported. Al-anbaa said the amnesty had been granted in May 1998 for crimes or alleged crimes Numeiry committed between seizing power on May 25, 1969 and his overthrow on April 1985.
26: The Sudanese army and allied militias have said they destroyed a number of camps belonging to the SPLA in the southern state of Unity and "secured the oil area". They also claimed to have damaged Nhial Boi airport in the state, denying the SPLA supplies "from foreign organisations", and freed four Sudanese and one Chinese oil workers kidnapped by the rebels, according to media sources in Khartoum.
26: The opposition Umma Party has denied a report in the London-based Arabic-language Al-Hayat daily which said party leader Sadeq al-Mahdi, a pillar of the NDA, had reached a secret deal with speaker of parliament Hassan al-Turabi. "The Umma Party completely denies the existence of such an agreement", a statement reported by Reuters said.
26: The official spokesman of the armed forces staff Lt-Gen Mohamed Osman Yassin, has reported on Sudanese radio that government troops were again in full control of the Adok area, between Malakal and Juba in southern Sudan, where last week's attack on a food aid barge took place. He added that troops had "secured the waterway for navigation."
27: A conference is currently underway in the capital of Western Darfur state, al-Junaynah, to try and end years of conflict between the African Masalit people and Arab tribesmen, the BBC reported. Drought and desertification, which have made grazing land scarce, are blamed for the tribal clashes in Darfur, although the Masalit, who are farmers, claim the nomadic Arabs simply want to drive them from their land.
June 1: A Sudanese party formed by former rebel factions has accused a rival southern militia of detaining 75 government officials in the oil-rich Unity State. Both sides are supposed to be fighting alongside forces of the Islamist-led government in Khartoum against the SPLA mainstream.
3: The SPLA and the Kenya government have both denied that the June 16-17 had been set as a date for a long-delayed round of Sudanese peace negotiations in Nairobi. In Khartoum, the official Sudanese Al-Anbaa daily reported those dates had been decided by the warring parties and the Kenyan government on behalf of IGAD.
3: Christian Solidarity International , a non-governmental organisation involved in a controversy over Sudan's slave trade, said it had freed almost 1,400 slaves in May. CSI has liberated a total of 9,112 Sudanese slaves since the start of its campaign in 1995.
5: Fifty Sudanese troops, including six officers, were killed when a military plane crashed near Khartoum, the army said. A military transport plane was flying Kassala in eastern Sudan to Khartoum when it suffered technical problems, according to the statement from the Sudanese armed forces general command.
5: Sudanese rebels said they killed more than 3,000 government soldiers in this year's dry season battles of the 16-year-long civil war. SPLA and the NDA carried out the offensive in three provinces in the centre and east of the country- Southern Kordofan, Southern Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan, the SPLA said in a statement released in Nairobi.
5: Riek Machar, the head of southern former rebels now allied to Khartoum, is facing an internal challenge to his leadership. Some members of the South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF), which groups six faction which made peace with Khartoum in 1997, said they had deposed Machar as SSDF leader and president of the co-ordination council supposed to rule the south.
6: A Sudanese aircraft bombed a town held by rebels in northern Congo, killing 24 civilians and wounding 19 others, a rebel leader said. Mr. Jean Pierre Bemba, leader of the Congolose Liberation Movement, one of two main rebel groups fighting to oust President Laurent Kabila, said the Sudanese air force Antonov aircraft bombed Binga , about 300 kilometres northwest of Kisangani, a port on the Congo River.
8: Sudanese rebel commanders believe only a series of battleground victories will push the government into serious peace talks but say they need anti-aircraft missiles to tip the war in their favour. Based in the strategic town of Yei, “capital'' of rebel-held territory in southern Sudan, the military chiefs said diplomatic efforts to broker a peace deal were bound to fail without rebel gains on the ground.
8: Sudanese security forces held 11 opposition politicians for several hours and charged them with organising an illegal gathering before freeing them on bail, their spokesman said. Outspoken lawyer Ghazi Suleiman said that he and other opponents of the regime were holding a press conference in Khartoum's twin city Omdurman to announce the foundation of the new political party, the Democratic Forces Front, when security agents burst in.
8: Three US Congressmen visiting war zones in southern Sudan have said they would push for financial assistance to rebels fighting the Islamic government in Khartoum. The three- two Republicans and a Democrat- said the United States needed to help the SPLA and demanded an end to government bombing raids against civilians in the south.
9: Sudan's foreign minister has indicated the time is right for dialogue with the United States, signalling a slight shift in the hostile relationship between the two nations . Mr. Mustafa Osman Ismail said Sudan has been adopting realistic policies toward the US that are “now in the stage of dialogue,” the official Al –Anbaa daily reported.
10: Sudan has denied a report by Congolese rebels that its planes bombed two towns in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a newspaper reported. The independent Al-Rai al-Aam daily quoted military spokesman General Mohammed Osman Yassin as saying no Sudanese planes had carried out any such air strikes and Khartoum did not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
10: Two army convoys in Sudan that attempted to recapture the eastern town of Togan from the NDA have mutinied, rebel sources said. A statement in Nairobi by the SPLA said that the convoys, code-named Al-Shahid al-Tahir and Al-Gubush, rebelled after sustaining a major defeat at the hands of the NDA forces on June 3.
11: A privatisation programme adopted by the Sudanese government in 1992 will result in some 200,000 workers losing their jobs by the time it is fully implemented in three years, a trade union official said. Mr. Hashim Ahmed Al-Bashir, the secretary of work relations at the Sudanese Workers Trade Unions Federation, said the studies show that the privatisation will force the dismissal of some 10 per cent of the work force in the country.
11: Sudan is ready to cooperate with the United States to ensure that it is not engaged in acts that could be construed as supporting terrorism, president Bashir was quoted as saying. The remarks appeared in this week's Lebanese magazine al-Hawadith.
13: The directors of a hospital in Yei ordered the roofs of the pediatric and outpatient wards to be painted forest green. It was a decision they believe could save many lives. Until last month, both roofs featured a large Red Cross on a white background- a paint job intended to tell government bombers that this was a hospital and should not be targeted, but which was having exactly the opposite effect.
14: A Sudanese opposition conference in Eritrea will not hamper the normalisation of Khartoum's ties with Asmara, Sudan's foreign minister said ahead of a meeting with Eritrean counterpart in Doha.The NDA meetings in Asmara are “a violation of the Doha agreement'' between El-Bashir and Eritrean leader Issayas Afeworki, Mustafa Othman Ismail told state television.
15: The foreign ministers of Eritrea and Sudan have signed an agreement to advance the normalisation of their ties, their Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani announced. They agreed to establish a joint reconciliation commission to oversee the implementation of the reconciliation agreement signed on May 2 by the Sudanese president El-Bashir and Eritrean president Isayas Afeworki.
15: Al-Turabi has left for a visit to Iran, an official at the Iranian embassy in Khartoum said. The government-owned Al Anbaa newspaper said Mr. Turabi would attend meetings aimed at setting up a union of parliaments in the Muslim world.
15: Sudanese opposition leaders want democracy restored to the country as a condition of opening a dialogue with the government, one of them has said. “For a dialogue to be fruitful, it's necessary to return to democracy and freedom of expression,” communist Party official Tigani al-Tayeb said from Asmara.
Nuba people determined to fight isolation
A journalist with an Italian monthly publication was this year part of the foreign team that joined the Nuba people in celebrating the SPLA day. He gives his impression of the region that has, for over a decade, remained isolated from the rest of the world. He has requested for anonymity for security reasons.
Nuba Mountains remain isolated; but the Nuba people continue fighting not to be isolated.
Last month (May) the troops of the Khartoum government launched several attacks in the area. Their military targets, according to the SPLA commander and governor of Southern Kordofan, Mr. Yusuf Kuwa, were the airstrips, the only link between the Nuba and the rest of the world.
Had their heinous dream been realised, Khartoum would have gone to the Nairobi Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace talks (supposed to have been held in Nairobi in mid May but postponed) in a stronger position.
The definition of the Nuba Mountains remains one of the most contentious issues in the IGAD talks. Though geographically not part of the south, the Nuba people have chosen to be part of southern Sudan in the protracted civil strife. Khartoum insists the Nuba must remain part of northern Sudan.
But Nuba soldiers are now used to the machinations of Khartoum and have so far kept the enemy in check.
Sometimes the Khartoum troops come close enough to bombing the airstrips forcing the Nuba to open alternative ones and igniting sustained hard fighting for a long period.
The war in the isolated region can be traced back to July 1985 but it intensified a little later with the official introduction of the SPLA.
In 1995, a human rights organisation, African Rights, published a report that identified the war in the Nuba Mountains as genocide and blamed it on the isolation of the region. Since then, not much has changed.
Nuba Mountains are still excluded from the Operation Lifeline Sudan's mandate, which is responsible for the provision of relief aid in the war-affected southern South Sudan.
Only a handful of Non-governmental organisations take relief to the Nuba, of course at their own risk.
The foreign NGOs work closely with a local one, the Nuba Relief and Rehabilitation Society.
Not even journalists can access the Nuba Mountains easily to report about this forgotten war.
Despite all the difficulties, the month of May is a period for celebration in the liberated areas of the Nuba Mountains. On the 16th of the month each year, thousands of people gather to commemorate the birth of the SPLA.
Official speeches, songs, dances and traditional Nuba wrestling usually mark such celebrations. Several meetings are also held to deliberate on peace, food security and general education of civil society.
It is the occasion when the Nuba express their culture that has made them famous the world over, courtesy of the daring cameramen who have worked in the region. While maintaining strong links with the SPLA, the Nuba are also determined to retain their identity.
As journalists and other guests walked to the airstrip from this year's celebration, they heard sounds of bombing and gunshots… Khartoum's ugly reminder that “we are aware that you sneaked in once again”.
Attacks on relief workers worrying
Attacks on non-military targets in southern Sudan have become more rampant in the recent past.
What is most disturbing, however, is the fact that the attackers seem to be particularly keen on relief agency personnel and their positions.
Equally worrying is the fact that the raids are coming at a time when both the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government have committed themselves to a continued cease-fire to facilitate the delivery of relief aid to the thousands of Sudanese still counting their losses from the devastating famine of last year.
In the month of April, some four Sudanese working with the Red Cross were murdered at Leer in Unity State, allegedly by the SPLA. Besides other things, the incident was later to become one of the causes of the failure of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks schedule for Nairobi later the same month.
Weeks later, two civilian relief centres in southern Equatoria state were bombed by government forces. Two men and two women reportedly lost their lives during the raid.
Days later, government planes dropped 24 bombs on the small town of Akak in Bahr el Ghazal province, killing at least one child. Six other bombs were dropped just outside the town of Nyamlell. Soon after, unidentified assailants attacked a Nile River boat bringing relief aid to the war-ravaged region, killing the vessel's co-pilot.
In a war situation, anything can happen. But there are universally set rules that combatants in any situation should abide by and one of them is steering clear of non-military targets.
In the case of the Sudanese civil war, the protagonists have been at it for nearly two decades now. One thing they should have mastered by now is the situation on the ground- which are the military targets and which ones are not.
For the hundreds of the foreign humanitarian workers in the war-ravaged country, the motivation should be seen to be much more than the financial emoluments that anyone in gainful employment is entitled to. There is definitely something of a call…a need to empathise with fellow humans in an extremely difficult situation.
The least these selfless and courageous people can expect from the perpetrators of the Sudanese civil strife is some semblance of an enabling environment for their operations. After all, of what threat is a humanitarian worker on a mission to distribute food to a gun-wielding soldier, be he from the south or the north?
The likely consequences of this unmitigated aggression does not need a genius to guess, and none other than the UN secretary general, Mr. Koffi Annan, has said as much.
UN agencies, missionaries and non-governmental agencies have continued to assist thousands of victims of a severe famine in southern Sudan thanks to a humanitarian cease-fire in Bahr el Ghazal agreed to by both the government and the SPLA.
Are these forces now convinced that the truce has outlived its useful? The answer may not be readily available but many that are well versed with the situation on the ground would agree that the opposite is the case.
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