Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
February 15, 1999


  1. Chronology
  2. 14 school children perish in bomb attack
  3. Stand on south Sudan wrong


January 16: Eight Sudanese aid workers were killed in southern Sudan when their vehicle was attacked and burned near the border with Uganda, an official of Norwegian Church Aid said. The attack occurred about 7 kilometres (4 miles) from Parajok- about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from Ugandan border - said Eigil Larsen, NCA regional financial co-ordinator for Eastern Africa.

17: Save the Children, a Connecticut-based aid organisation, has joined most of the private and religion-based aid agencies that operate a US$1 million-a-day relief programme in Sudan in beginning to criticise US policy as one-sided in its hostility toward Khartoum government and insufficiently committed to promoting a just peace.

17: The SPLA has expressed concern over the killing of aid workers and said it had stepped up security in the area. "Most of the victims are our people, we know them by name," SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje said.

17: Individual consultations between the facilitators of the Sudan peace talks the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Khartoum government on one side, and the SPLA on the other, continued in Nairobi, Dr Kwaje said. "We have not started the face to face talks," he confirmed. Discussions are to continue on the Declaration of Principles (DOP) and the issues of self-determination for southern Sudan and the use of shari'ah.

18: A little-known opposition group has bombed a portion of an oil pipeline, which supplies Khartoum, a Sudanese government spokesman said. The attack damaged a three-metre section of the 1,600 kilometre pipeline, Mr Amin Hassan Omar, a top official at the Culture and information ministry said.

18: The Sudanese government has vowed to deal severely with those responsible for blowing up an oil pipeline in Haiya, some 170 km south of Port of Sudan, Sudanese television reported. "While successive steps are being taken by the government to realise the national consensus, some quarters which felt uneasy decided to practise violence and destruction against the gains of the nation and citizens," it said.

18: Both the rebel SPLA and the Sudanese government have extended their respective humanitarian ceasefires for three months. The SPLA announced the extension of a partial ceasefire in Bar el Ghazal, western Upper Nile (Bentiu and Panaru/Pariang areas) and Central Upper Nile (Bor, Fangak, Waat, Akobo and Pibor areas).

19: Peace talks aimed at ending Sudan's 17-year civil war have started in eanest after lengthy opening consultations, officilas said. The talks opened in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

20: Mediators in Sudan's ruling party have proposed a compromise solution to the country's month-old political crisis, a senior official was quoted as saying. The suggestion by a reconciliatory committee of the National Congress (NC) would see president Bashir assume executive power in the party while Turabi takes over other party duties, the official Al-Anbaa daily quoted committee member Mahdi Ibrahim as saying.

20: A Sudanese presidential visit to Eritrea underlines a warming of relations once strained by mutual accusations of supporting each other's rebels. Egypt's Middle News Agency reported today that president Bashir stopped unexpectedly in Eritrean capital a day before on his way back from a trip to Bahrain and Yemen.

21: Bulls were slaughtered and sweets distributed as Eritrea re-opened it's embassy in Khartoum, a day after Sudan's president made a surprise visit to Asmara. The ceremony in downtown Khartoum was attended by hundreds of Eritreans.

21: Sudan-based Ugandan rebels have freed eight girls kidnapped more than four years ago from a school in northern Uganda and handed them over to the UN Children's Fund in Khartoum, a UNICEF official said. UNICEF's Nans Webber said eight of the Ugandans had been handed over.

24: The Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has handed over 53 abducted Ugandans to the UN children's fund UNICEF, the agency said. All of the 53 abductees, 48 of whom are children, were handed over to UNICEF at Juba in southern Sudan.

24: The Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, which is the SPLA humanitarian wing, has issued an ultimatum to NGOs working in southern Sudan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or leave the area, Dr. Kwaje confirmed to IRIN. "It is true, we want to have a memorandum of understanding between us and the NGOs working in the area," he said.

24: The Sudan government and SPLA have issued a joint communique in which they reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their conflict. The communique, issued after talks in Nairobi under the auspices of the IGAD, said they agreed on self-determination for the people of southern Sudan.

24: The Sudanese government denied recently that it was using the southeastern airport of Hallij for military purposes, the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) reported. In a letter to his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il said the airport was being used for the civilian purposes of transporting equipment and employees of the oil companies.

25: President Bashir and Turabi have accepted proposals to end their six-week power struggle, a senior official of the ruling party said. The proposals, adopted by the ruling party's consultative council, appear to strengthen president Bashir's hold on power after he ousted Mr. Turabi as parliamentary speaker last month.

26: President Bashir fired his entire government and appointed a new cabinet in an effort to consolidate power in a long-simmering rivalry with his party-strongman. In the expected purge, Bashir fired 10 ministers and retained 15 others, including the foreign, interior and defence ministers to pack the government with loyalists.

February 2: Two supporters of Turabi are challenging in court president Bashir's appointment of new governors in the country's continuing political crisis, the pro-government Akhbar al-Youm newspaper said. Bashir cut short terms of serving governors to 25 of Sudan's 26 states in a government reshuffle.

2: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has expressed doubt over December 1999 Nairobi peace accord with Sudan. He has also ruled out normalisation of relations between Kampala and Khartoum until Sudan disarms and relocates rebels operating from its territory and also helps in the return of abducted children.

4: A Sudanese opposition leader has said opposition factions were awaiting an announcement from Khartoum on its negotiating stand to end the country's 17-year-old war. The head of Sudan's National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Mr Mohammed Osman el-Mirghani suggested a preliminary meeting with the government to pave the way for a wider one.

4: Sudan wants to implement its Nairobi peace deal with Uganda, a senior Sudanese official was quoted as saying. "Khartoum is keen to implement the Nairobi peace deal with Uganda," the official SUNA quoted Ali Nimeiri, state minister at the foreign ministry, as saying.

6: Dr. Riek Machar, the rebel leader who convinced six rebel factions to lay down their arms and sign a peace agreement with the Khartoum government in 1997, abandoned the agreement, throwing the peace process into confusion. Dr. Machar, who under the Khartoum peace agreement became the assistant president of Sudan and administrator general of Southern Sudan, tendered his resignation to president Bashir on January 31.

9: Negotiations for the release of four UN officials taken captive with their light plane by a south Sudanese militia in Upper Nile State have reached a deadlock, the UN chief official in Khartoum said. The four hostages, identified as a Kenyan, a South African, a US national and a Sudanese were seized on February 3, 2000. They were working with UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline Sudan.

10: Sudan said that the UN itself is to blame for one of its aid delivery planes being seized by an armed military in the south along with four occupants. In a statement, foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail suggested that the UN invited trouble when a plane on a WFP mission flight "transported military men" belonging to a militia on January 28.

10: Sudan and UN have agreed to work together for the release of four UN workers as well as pro-government Sudanese militiamen held by rebels, SUNA said. SUNA said foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and UN coordinator Phillippe Borel agreed during a meeting to cooperate to resolve the seizure of our UN workers by militiamen demanding the release of their men.

14: Upper Kauda Holy Cross School in southern Sudan was still in shock three days after a government air attack killed 14 children in a hail of shrapnel. The Antonov aircraft dropped four bombs that landed near the school building while an outdoor lesson was going on. A 22-year-old teacher also died and 17 students sustained injuries ranging from fractured limbs to severe wounds.

14: Two Kenyan pilots and an American official, held hostage by pro-government militia in the southern Sudan for a week have been freed and flown to safety in Kenya, the UN announced. But a Sudanese aid worker who had been held with them stayed behind after the release at Old Fangak, about 750 km south of Khartoum where they were held captive since February 3.

15: Anglican Church of Kenya Arch-bishop Rev David Gitari has urged the Synod of the Episcopal Church of Sudan to work for peace and reconciliation in their country. He said if achieved, peace in Sudan will be a benefit for the entire African region.

14 school children perish in bomb attack

The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Regional Conference (SCBRC) Justice and Peace Task Force has denounced the killing of 14 school children and their teacher in a latest bomb attack by Sudan government in the Kauda area of the Nuba Mountains.

The Task Force, formed following this year's SCBRC meeting in Nairobi, described the attack as a horrendous act and a perpetuation of genocide on innocent children. Bishop Johnson Akio Mutek, the Auxiliary Bishop of Torit, chairs the Task Force. The SCBRC brings together the Catholic Bishops working in the SPLA/M-controlled areas. They are; Mutek, Joseph Gasi of Tambura-Yambio, Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek, and Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei.

Others are Paride Taban of Torit and Max Macram Gassis of El-Obeid.
The raid on Holy Cross Primary School came just days after the latest round of peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, under the aegis of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) forum, and has raised serious questions about Khartoum's commitment to a peaceful solution to the Sudanese crisis. The 9 am (Sudan time) attack on February 8 left 14 pupils and one teacher dead. Scores of others were injured with 17 of them requiring treatment at the nearby German Emergency Doctors' dispensary. The raid further heightened the ever-present feeling of apprehension since nobody can tell when the next one will be. Unfortunately and as expected, the bad news did not reach the rest of the world till several days later when journalists based in Nairobi managed to sneak into the area for just over one hour. The Nuba Mountains remains one of the most isolated regions on earth.

Witnesses said the victims of the early morning raid were taking a lesson under a tree on the school compound on the fateful day. The bomb dropped just 10 metres from where the English lesson was being conducted.

Another school in Kauda was on July 17 last year, the scene of a similar aerial raid, which claimed the lives of eight school children, seven girls and a boy.

Why the attack?
What prompted this latest heinous act is a question many are still asking. Was it meant to revenge the earlier killing of a faithful government commander from the Nuba by the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains? Could it have been a message to the local Catholic Bishop Max Macram Gassis, that Khartoum was not moved by the awareness on the tribulations of the Nuba that he was creating the world over? Was it meant to strengthen Khartoum's position ahead of the next round of Igad talks or was it just the government's routine way of conducting the now 17-year-old civil war?

At the time of the bombardment, Bishop Macram was still in the USA where he was on February 2, 2000 presented with the 12th annual William Wilberforce Award from Prison Fellowship. He won the prize for his efforts to end religious persecution in Sudan.

The yearly award is given in honour of William Wilberforce, an 18th-century British parliamentarian who stood against his party and fellow parliamentarians in his campaign to abolish the slave trade. One thing that all seem to agree on is that the school was the intended target. Several eyewitnesses recounted how on February 5, another plane had surveyed the area flying at a relatively low height. And in any case, the makeshift school is in a fairly isolated area with no other visible structures in the vicinity.

Nuba Mountains: Scene of government oppression
The definition of the Nuba Mountains, at the geographical centre of the war-torn African state, remains one of the most contentious issues in the Igad deliberations. The Nuba live in an area that covers some 30, 000sqkm and speak more than 40 dialects.

After many years of subjugation characterised by cultural re-orientation, the Nuba made a bold move to determine their own destiny by joining the SPLA. The military regime of president Omar Hassan el-Bashir, has since retaliated without any mercy and with total disregard to any conventions that govern human relations even in a war situation.

For over a decade now, no relief agency has been allowed to operate in the region where aerial and ground raids on both civilian and military targets have become the norm. In fact it is illegal to go to the Nuba Mountains and those who go there do so at their own risk.

Thousands of the Nuba have been forcibly uprooted from their villages to veritable concentration camps, which Khartoum conveniently refers to as peace camps. In the camps, they are forced to abandon their culture and adopt Arabic ways. Women and girls are forced to become wives to the Arabs. In this way, the Nuba are not only denied a chance to contribute to the SPLA's liberation efforts, but the future generations are also expected to be more Arab in their looks and culture and hence with more allegiance to the north.

Man made famine
For a semblance of security, the Nuba people have had to abandon the fertile valleys for the top of the hills, which act as natural fortresses with only a few secret access routes. A handful of dirt airstrips remain their only link with the rest of world. However, these too have lately been targeted for frequent raids making the Nuba country more and more inaccessible. A vicious circle of famine persists in the Nuba Mountains as only minimal cultivation can take place on the rugged terrain. Their isolation also means inaccessibility to modern agricultural tools and viable seeds.

Unfulfilled pledges
In recent years, Khartoum has added anti-personnel mines to its armoury, mining those areas of the Nuba Mountains that it captures and cannot hold. Consequently, scores of civilians have suffered injuries that have prompted amputation in the handful of rudimentary first-aid clinics in the region. Several civilians whose villages, wells and fields have been turned into minefields have found themselves condemned to a life of permanent displacement, unable to return to their homes except at risk of life or a limb. Interestingly, all these acts of unprovoked aggression seem to be intensifying despite countless government pledges to the UN to the contrary.

After UN secretary-general Koffi Annan visited Khartoum in 1998, the government promised to allow relief flights to the Nuba Mountains. It was not until after a year's wait that a UN team was allowed to go the Nuba Mountains to assess the situation. By last December, the team had completed its findings and made recommendations on what should be done to ameliorate the bad situation. It is now the second month of the New Year, yet no known relief operations have been allowed to reach this region desperately crying for international intervention.

Solidarity with people in distress
The SCBRC Task Force sent a message of condolence to the bereaved families and thanked all the organisations and people who continue to risk their lives in showing solidarity with the Nuba people. The Task Force further condemned all other acts of violence against the civilian populations in the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan by conventional or chemical weapons.

Charles Omondi

Stand on south Sudan wrong

The opposition of some NGOs working in south Sudan to the US government's humanitarian gesture towards south Sudan as reported recently was a very unfortunate action.

While south Sudan appreciates any genuine humanitarian aid to its oppressed and hungry people, it, however, deplores any aid done mainly on self-interest and profit.

In any conflict the line between neutrality and involvement is very thin indeed. The south Sudan situation must be compared with Kosovo in the Balkans and East Timor in South East Asia.

For 200 years the people of south Sudan have always been under foreign oppression. The domination took place in three phases. One, people were humiliated and enslaved by the Turks, Arabs and some Europeans. Two, they were colonised by the British and Egyptian condominium. Three, they are being oppressed and dominated by Northern Sudan under the knowledge of the UN and the OAU. Domination is humiliation of the people, which causes much pain and suffering.

Today, south Sudan is the only region in Africa, which is still under foreign oppression and domination. It struggles for fundamental justice, that is freedom and human dignity just like any other human beings on earth. Its poverty is man-made and needs to be challenged.

The UN and OAU do not want to recognise south Sudan as a state. The people of south Sudan do not agree. In the Juba Conference of 1947, south Sudan rejected unity with north Sudan. The independence of Sudan on January 1, 1956 did not include South Sudan. The UN and OAU need to recognise the reality. The clause in the OAU Charter to preserve colonial boundaries in Africa was an unfortunate development in the freedom struggle.

The SPLM/A is de facto in charge of south Sudan. It needs to dialogue with those NGOs which seem not to understand the legitimate struggle of south Sudan for freedom and dignity. In case one is unsympathetic to the noble cause then one has no reason to work in south Sudan.

Thomas Oliha Attiya, Isiolo, Kenya
Re-printed from Kenya's Daily Nation

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