Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
October 15, 2000


  1. Chronology
  2. Igad talks fail to make breakthrough
  3. Bakhita now a Saint


16: Students in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan attacked government buildings and set vehicles ablaze in a second day of protest against higher school fees, a Khartoum newspaper reported. The independent newspaper al-Rai al-Aam said students were protesting at an increase in primary and secondary school fees of almost 200 per cent.

17: The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has released seven Sudanese detainees to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An ICRC press release said the detainees had been handed over by the SPLA in Kurmuk, southeastern Sudan, on the border with Ethiopia.

17: The Sudanese news agency, Suna, monitored by the BBC, carried a statement by the secretary-general of the Peace Advisory Office, Muhammad Ata, welcoming the release as a "positive indicator" for the peace process. He said it would promote the peace efforts expected to be exerted during the peace talks due to be held in Kenya under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

18: Violent clashes rocked Sudan for the third time in less than 10 days when students rioted in Kosti, a strategic railhead 280 km south of Khartoum, and capital of White Nile State. Students protesting against military service, burned government buildings and banks during clashes with security forces, AP reported. With at least two dead and several injured, the council of ministers called on the ministry of internal affairs to apply all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of citizens and property.

18: The SPLA announced that they had captured Nhialdiu in Western Upper Nile, after a battle on September 13. In a press release, Samson Kwaje, the SPLA spokesman in Nairobi, said the town was strategic in its proximity to neighbouring oil fields.

18: Canadian oil company, Talisman came under heavy criticism recently in Canada. According to a recent report in Toronto's Globe and Mail, former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis said in a speech before delegates of the International Conference on War-Affected Children in Winnipeg that, with regard to the Canadian government, "Talisman Energy remains a terrible cross of dishonour.

19: A Sudanese government aircraft destroyed a Catholic medical dispensary when dropping 15 bombs on Narus in southern Sudan. One person was killed, and at least five wounded, including two children, humanitarian sources said. Narus, which is 45 km from the Kenyan border town of Lokichoggio.

19: Sudanese government security forces have arrested large numbers of people belonging to opposition groups in different towns in Sudan after accusing the Popular National Congress (PNC) of inciting riots. A press release by the Sudanese Victims of Torture Group (SVTG), a Sudanese human rights body based in London, named 58 male detainees.

19: John Garang, leader of Sudan' biggest rebel group, said he is ready to meet president Omar el-Bashir to try and end the country's 17-year-old civil war. Garang's comments follow last week's conference in neighbouring Eritrea of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella for Sudanese opposition groups including Garang's SPLA.

19: Informed Sudanese sources in Cairo said that "it is expected that the Sudanese president will arrive soon in Asmara to meet the Eritrean president Isaias Afeworki, expecting that a similar meeting would take place between Bashir and head SPLA Col. Garang. The meeting will be the first of its kind, yet diplomatic sources in Cairo did not confirm it.

20: Sudanese government spokesman said recent statements by the leader of the SPLA, Garang, were encouraging for a peaceful solution. The minister of culture and information, Dr Ghazi Salah al-Din Atabani, was reported to have said by Sudanese state television, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that the fact that Garang had expressed readiness to take steps towards a peaceful solution indicated "a new language".

20: Sudan urged the United Nations to pressure Sudanese rebels to halt military operations in order to facilitate the distribution of relief aid and help prevent another disastrous famine in the south of the country. The rebels continue to violate a partial cease-fire agreement, creating obstacles in the distribution of humanitarian relief in the Bahr al-Ghazal region of southern Sudan, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the UN General Assembly's ministerial meeting.

20: Police used baton charges, tear gas and warning shots to disperse anti-government protestors in two demonstrations in the east and west of Sudan, the press in Khartoum said. In Nyala in the west, police charged students who had gathered to protest the arrest of 17 members of the opposition, including members of the Popular National Congress, who were accused of participating in other protests.

21: A Sudanese government aircraft bombed a rebel-held town in southern Sudan close to the Kenya an border killing one person and damaging a laboratory and pharmacy at a Roman Catholic Church health centre, rebel spokesman said. The lone Antonov aircraft dropped 18 bombs on Narus , 25 kilometres (15 miles) northwest of the Kenyan border, killing one person and injuring 12 others, George Garang of the SPLA said in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

21: Sudan's government and rebels fighting for the self-determination of the southern region will resume peace talks in Kenya, Khartoum's deputy ambassador in Nairobi said. Ahmed Dirdeiry said negotiations between the government and the SPLA will take place in the Lake Bogoria Hotel in west Kenya Rift Valley district of Baringo.

21: After months of relentless divestment pressure, all 186,000 shares of Talisman Energy in the pension plan accounts of New York City have been sold. This dramatic divestment comes in the immediate wake of New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi's impassioned speech on Sudan before a crowd of thousands in New York City's UN Plaza on September 9, 2000.

23: The Sudanese government has declared a two-week ceasefire in all parts of southern Sudan to coincide with peace talks with southern rebels, state radio announced. "The ceasefire has been decided to create an atmosphere conducive to reaching peace and stopping the bloodshed among the Sudanese people," said a statement from information minister Ghazil Salah Eddin Atabani.

24: Six Ugandans abducted as children and taken to Sudan by Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army have left for home, Unicef said. The six Ugandans were seen off by officials of several embassies and by a representative of the Ugandan government.

24: More than 14,000 Belgian children have signed a petition to Sudanese President, Omar el Bashir, to release children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) since 1986. The children signed the petition in reaction to the facts written by Belgian writer Els De Temmerman in her new book The Children of Aboke.

25: While the Aids epidemic and malaria are killing thousands of people everyday in most of Africa', in most areas of south west Sudan , it is sleeping sickness that is causing distressing mortality figures. As many as 10, 000 people are said to have the disease.

27: President Bashir began talks with the NDA in Eritrea, the first since the formation of the opposition alliance about eight years ago, sources said. Bashir earlier held talks with president Afeworki who is trying to mediate between the two sides.

28: The London-based Sudanese human rights organisation, Sudan Victims Torture Group, has called for the immediate release of an opposition delegate arrested at Khartoum airport on September 20. A press statement said that Adam Muhammad Ahmed, member of the political bureau of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was arrested at the airport on his return from a general opposition conference held mid-September in the Eritrean port town of Masawa.

28: Khartoum has asked Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi to intervene following reports of clashes between Libyans and African expatriates, including many Sudanese nationals, the BBC reported. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir sent a message to Gadaffi, asking for his intervention, after the Sudanese independent newspaper 'Akhbar-al-Yom' reported 50 people were killed in recent clashes between the nationals of Sudan and Chad.

28: President Bashir met with leaders of the Sudanese opposition coalition, the NDA, in Eritrea. The meeting between Bashir and opposition leader Mohamed Osmane al-Mirghani in Asmara was the first time the two men had met since 1989 when Bashir seized power in a military coup supported by Islamic "fundamentalists".

28: Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il has expressed his hope that the meeting in Asmara "would be a step towards unifying ranks and boosting the efforts of peace and national accord". He added: "the government will spare no efforts to realise peace and national accord," in pursuing a solution to the 17 year-old civil war, the report said.

28: Government officials have banned the Sudanese press from reporting on the September 21 alleged assassination attempt on a pro-government journalist there, AFP reported. The National Press Council issued the memorandum to editors under orders from the attorney general office, saying media coverage would undermine the case and its investigation.

28: Sudanese authorities announced that they had closed the border with Kenya in an effort to prevent Sudanese livestock from being infected with disease after a recent outbreak of Rift Valley Fever this month in Saudi Arabia. Khartoum took the measure after Saudi Arabia banned imports of sheep and other livestock from Yemen and several African countries, including Sudan.

29: Parliamentary and presidential elections in Sudan that were scheduled for next month have been delayed until December. Voting in the 26 provinces will begin on December 11 and continue for 10 days. Final results will be announced on December 24, a statement issued by the general election committee said.

30: The US has jolted the annual campaign to fill five of the 15 UN Security Council seats, pursuing a late and intensive effort to remove Sudan as the chosen African candidate and promote a rival instead. Sudan, which is under UN sanctions, has denounced the US intervention. Other nations have questioned it. The action has forced an unexpected vote for the African seat on October 10, when the General Assembly selects five new countries to join its top decision-making council for two-year terms.

30: A Sudanese teen delegate at the recent international conference on war-affected children is preparing to file a refugee claim and wants to stay in Canada. "He retained me yesterday and we have filled out an application to at least give notice of our attention to file a claim," his lawyer, David Langtry, said. Mr. Langtry is representing Jiel Gatcak, 16, who has been in a Winnipeg hospital since the conference ended two weeks ago.

30: Sudan is planning to send a plane to Iraq in the coming days carrying food and medicines for Iraqis suffering from "an unfair blockade," an official for a non-governmental body said. The chairman of the Popular Organisation for Supporting the Iraqi people (POSIP), Fathi Khalil, said his group was preparing to send a plane loaded with "humanitarian assistance" for the Iraqi people.

30: More than 100 members of a breakaway faction of Sudan's ruling Islamist party have been arrested, at least half of them accused of formenting a wave of anti-government protests, faction members said. Yassin Omar Imama, a senior official with Hassan al-Turabi's PNC faction, said half were being held in eastern and western Sudan in connection with September riots.

October 2: Foreign ministers from Egypt, Libya and Sudan arrived in Uganda for talks to help improve ties between Kampala and Khartoum. "We will be discussing how to disarm the (Uganda rebel) Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as well as instituting a mechanism for the normalisation of relations between Uganda and Sudan Government," said Amama Mbabazi, minister of state for foreign affairs in charge of regional cooperation.

2: The US is intensively lobbying Kenya and other key African states to reverse their support for Sudan's bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council. Sudan was nominated as the sub-Saharan region's candidate for the seat at the organisation of African Unity 's (OAU) summit in Togo in July.

2: Sudan has obtained a loan of 23 million US dollars from OPEC development fund for the rehabilitation of some of the country's irrigation facilities. The finance minister Mohammed Kharir Zubair announced that the loan agreement was signed on the sidelines of the recent joint board meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

2: Sudanese peace talks ended in Kenya with an agreement by both parties to hold another meeting this month. The talks, held under the auspices of the regional IGAD, failed to overcome major differences between the delegations on issues of state and religion, and self-determination for the South. A statement released by IGAD said there had been extensive consultation and discussion on the relationship between state and religion, but "divergences on the issue could not be reconciled".

2: The SPLA has rejected the Sudanese president's nomination of himself for a further presidential term. Official spokesman Yasir Arman said in Asmara, Eritrea, that the president's self nomination, announced to the ruling party's general congress, showed a "lack of seriousness" to reach a comprehensive political agreement.

2: Efforts by; the SPLA to obstruct a rail convoy heading for Bahr al-Ghazal, southern Sudan, have been thwarted by government forces. A statement issued by; the general command of the Sudanese armed forces on September 29 said efforts by the SPLA to prevent the convoy from reaching Aweil, southern Bahr al-Ghazal, had been repulsed by the armed forces and People's Defense Forces (PDF).

3: Peace talks aimed at ending 17 years of war in Sudan have collapsed over stumbling blocks including the role of Islamic sharia law, the SPLA said. The talks, which were held in a hotel on the shores of Lake Bogoria in Kenya's Rift Valley, ended with the Islamist government in Khartoum still insisting that sharia be included in the country's constitution, the SPLA said in a statement.

3: An opposition party led by Hassan al-Turabi said it would boycott upcoming elections, the privately owned Alwan newspaper reported. "PNC announced its boycott of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections due to what it called an unsuitable political climate," the pro-PNC daily said.

4: As the United Nations General Assembly prepares to vote on granting Sudan membership in the Security Council on October 10, 2000, Freedom House's Centre for Religious Freedom will hold a comprehensive briefing on Sudan's brutal human rights record, hoping to generate momentum toward denying the country a council seat..

4: Meat prices in Sudan have fallen sharply over the past week after Gulf countries banned livestock from Sudan and other African countries, residents said. An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in the south of Saudi Arabia and Yemen last month led Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar to ban livestock imports from a number of African countries, including Sudan.

4: Libya and Egypt are to deploy military observers at the Uganda-Sudan border, the minister for the presidency Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda told The Monitor newspaper. Rugunda said a technical team from Uganda is to travel to the Sudan capital Khartoum to discuss the modalities of the deployment at a meeting.

6: Human rights campaigners and a former Sudanese slave strongly backed a US campaign to deny Sudan a seat on the UN Security Council, saying that granting the country a seat would be like giving Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot or Slobodan Milosevic representation in the world's top peacemaking body.

6: At a briefing attended by officers of United Nations missions from Asia, Europe and Africa, Freedom House, an American non-governmental organisation that promotes democracy and civil liberties worldwide, denounced the Sudanese regime for flagrant human rights abuses and systematic acts of religious persecution against its traditionalist, Christian and other minority populations.

6: Rebutting Sudan's claim that it is the consensus choice of African nations for a UN Security Council seat, the US State Department said that Mauritius has the backing of 15 countries on the continent. Department spokesman Richard Boucher reaffirmed US support for Mauritius in the contest, touting it as a "vibrant democracy" which has played a positive role in African regional institutions.

6: The chairman of the Sudanese governmental delegation to Igad has described the last session of the talks with the rebels as having been held in a better atmosphere of less tension, despite the fact that only little progress was achieved. The advisor for the Sudanese president Ahmad Ibrahim al-Taher said that these negotiations, which have started since 1993, under the auspices of the Igad, which includes seven states in East Africa will be resumed by the end of October in Kenya, yet differences are still there concerning future condition in Southern Sudan.

6: The opposition Sudanese Umma party has decided on the return of its leader El-Sadek El-Mahdi to Sudan and moving its activities to inside the country while keeping limited external offices for diplomatic and informational work. The party froze its activity in the preparatory meeting urged on by the gove

7: Sudan has announced that negotiations which took place in Kenya between the delegation of the Sudanese government and the rebellions led by John Garang have realised a relative progress and the two sides agreed to continue the dialogue until the end of the current month. Sudanese minister of state Mutrif Saddiq said in a statement upon the return back of the negotiating governmental delegation from Kenya that the fourth round of talks came as an extension to previous rounds and achieved a progress, adding this round is considered a success, due to the spirit which prevailed during the discussions that increase the possibility of rapprochement in the view points between the two sides.

8: The Umma party has started preparations for convening its general congress in al-Khartoum and three preliminary committees were formed to this effect on the constitution, preparation and party programmes.

8: An Islamist lawyer has been arrested in western Sudan for defending dissident Islamists involved in recent anti-government riots, a human rights activist said. Ahmed Kamal Eddin was arrested while leaving court in Nyala, south Darfur, where he was helping to defend followers of dissident Turabi's PNC party, the activist said.

8: The first of some 3,000 traumatised Sudanese returned home from western Libya where a wave of violence targeted expatriate Africans, newspapers reported. Ninety-six Sudanese landed at Fashir airport, capital of North Darfur state, in western Sudan and 3,000 more were expected to return from Libya in the coming days, As-Sahafi Ad-Dawli daily reported.

9: University students chanting anti-government slogans in downtown Khartoum opened fire at riot police trying to disperse them, injuring four policemen, an interior ministry statement said. The injured policemen underwent surgery and were in intensive care, the statement said.

11: Sudan ended in August its first year of exporting raw petroleum produced by Sudanese, Canadian, Malaysian and Chinese companies. The exported oil volume from three fields in south west of the country reached 64 million barrels, which produced revenues worth 1.16 billion dollars.

11: The UN General Assembly held four rounds of voting for filling the seat of Africa in the Security Council as Mauritius won the seat. Sudan permanent envoy to the UN Ambassador Al-Fatih Irwa told SUNA that America had exerted intensive efforts to deprive the Sudan from obtaining the seat, pointing that Sudan had played a considerable role.

11: Some 255 Sudanese have fled home from Libya, the first of several thousand expected to return after a wave of violence against migrant workers, the privately-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper reported. Thousands of expatriate labourers from sub-Saharan Africa have fled Libya after a series of recent attacks. The violence began late last month after Libya's top legislative and executive body ordered a crackdown on employing foreigners.

11: A leading member of Sudan's largest political party was attacked and sustained a head injury, sources in the party said. They said Omar Nur al-Deim, deputy head of the opposition Umma party of former Prime Minister al-Sadeq al-Mahdi, was attacked by Umma party activists who had returned to Sudan shortly after Deim himself returned to Khartoum from exile in April.

11: The southern Sudanese town of Ikotos, eastern Equatoria, was bombed. Humanitarian sources told IRIN the government bombing took place while a food distribution by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was underway and six dwellings were destroyed. CRS is an NGO operating under the UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline Sudan relief operation.

13: A senior Sudanese official said the rioters who shot and injured police in a university demonstration would be dealt with harshly. National Congress party secretary-general Ibrahim Ahmad Umar said the security organs would "not be lenient towards any organisation supporting these acts," Sudanese newspaper 'Al-Ra'y al'Amn' reported.

Igad talks fail to make breakthrough

After about 10 days of talk at serene and almost secluded Kenyan hotel, the protagonists in the Sudanese protracted civil war have come up with nothing worth celebrating. For almost the umpteenth time, the government and the main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), reached a stalemate raising fresh fears about the viability of the Igad-brokered peace initiative.

The Igad process, no doubt, has good intentions and enjoys more goodwill from around the world than any other initiative aimed at ending the conflict now in its 17th year. The regional Igad is further credited with spelling out most clearly, the major sticking points in the world's longest running civil war. This, it has done in the Declaration of Principles (DOP). What it finally achieves, however, will much depend on how committed both the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the SPLA are to its ideals.

In a move that came as no surprise to analysts, the government side refused to yield an inch on the touchy issue of separating state and religion at the latest Igad meeting. Sudan, the government insists, must remain a theocracy with Islam as the state religion. And as expected, the SPLA refused to let the government get away with this uncompromising stance, forcing the talks held on the shores of Lake Bogoria on the floor of the Rift Valley, to collapse the same way the previous ones had done.

A statement released by IGAD said there had been extensive consultation and discussion on the relationship between state and religion, but "divergences on the issue could not be reconciled". This is distressing, to put it mildly. The SPLA, said mediators from the IGAD, had suggested a two-tier approach whereby most laws at national level would be secular and laws at the level of individual provinces could be based on religion. However, GOS objected to this proposal, which would have been a breakthrough in the Sudanese conflict.

One does not need to be a constitutional expert or genius for that matter to know that a position as intransigent as the one taken by the GOS is untenable in a multi-religious state. Though Islam is and has always been the religion of most of the political power wielders in the vast African state, there are thousands of Christians and followers of traditional religions and whose right to belong to those faiths is inalienable. To insist that all and sundry be governed by the Islamic law, "sharia", is a sure recipe for trouble. Perhaps, nothing has demonstrated this more clearly than some recent developments in Nigeria. Decisions by some overzealous Islamic governors to introduce sharia in their states in the northern part of Africa's most populous nation have ended up in violent clashes that have claimed hundreds of lives. Unfortunately, the skirmishes have often transcended the state boundaries with deadly acts of revenge and counter-revenge erupting as far south as the Niger Delta region. As it is now, Nigeria's very existence as a nation is threatened, her immense wealth and numerous achievements on the world stage notwithstanding. To a lot of people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, Sharia, as advocated by some fundamentalists, is synonymous with intolerance and persecution and must therefore be resisted by all means possible.

Any genuine democracy must embrace the freedom of worship as a fundamental human right contained in the UN charter. The most a government can do is to ensure that each and every citizen enjoys this freedom, like all other freedoms, without infringing on the rights of others.

Coming after several postponements (the talks were first set for April 19, 2000), occasioned by intense military manoeuvres, the September 20-29, 2000 talks were expected to yield a lot more. The long duration, many had hoped, would have given the warring factions ample time to do thorough homework and come up with mutually acceptable ideas. Why this never happened, is difficult to tell but it tells a lot about the protagonists' commitment to a peaceful solution to the Sudanese crisis.

Aware that previous stalemates were largely attributable to the same issue of state and religion, one would have expected the warring parties to adjust their positions in a manner that would have solved the matter once and for all.

It has been suggested in some circles that because of its sensitivity, the issue of state and religion be put on hold to pave way for what are perceived to be softer areas. However, such a strategy would do no more than create a deceptive sense of accomplishment. First, religion is central to the Sudanese conflict to the extent that nothing about the war can be discussed to its logical conclusion without touching on religion. Secondly, it would be tantamount to setting bad and an extremely dangerous precedent. Supposing the next item on the agenda also turns out to be "difficult"! Would it be suggested that it be put on hold to pave way for another item? The same may recur again and again, until Igad process is reduced to a shell with nothing to discuss. The issue of the definition of Sudan's internal borders, for instance, is already causing jitters among the negotiating parties.

Several years of talks have made little progress in ending a war, which, together with its attendant consequences, have claimed an estimated 2 million lives. Thousands have been condemned to living away from home as refugees while equally gigantic numbers have been reduced to eking a living at home as Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs). All these are attributes that no state can take pride in. Sudan government, as a candidate for a seat at the UN Security Council, would have been expected to grab the opportunity of the Igad deliberations to prove to its critics that it was committed to putting its house in order. After all, its candidature had already sparked off objections from many quotas because of Khartoum's less than impressive human rights record.

Both the government and the SPLA continue to impress upon the world their commitment to Igad without making any progress on the issues that the forum stands for. Mere rhetoric will neither amuse nor help anybody. Furthermore, the warring parties must now be wary of donor fatigue. Each and every round of talks is an expensive affair, whose expenses are shouldered by some taxpayers somewhere. The talks cannot drag on indefinitely and the sooner they are concluded the better.

Charles Omondi

Bakhita now a saint

Christians everywhere now have a model of sanctity in a former Sudanese slave who has become a "brilliant advocate of genuine emancipation," John Paul II said on the day he canonised Josephine Bakhita on October 1, 2000.

Born in Sudan in 1869, she was kidnapped and enslaved at seven by Arab traders. The name Bakhita, which means "fortunate," was given to her by her captors. She was bought and sold five times before 1882, when she was bought by an Italian consular agent and taken to Italy. She worked as a nanny, heard about Christianity, and eventually was baptised in 1890. Three years later she entered the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters, and lived in their convent in Schio in northern Italy, doing menial tasks. While there, her fame for sanctity grew.

She died on February 8, 1947, and for three days, an uninterrupted line of mourners filed passed her coffin. According to the Pope, the example of this "humble daughter of Africa" reminds the world of the urgency to work effectively "to liberate girls and women from oppression and violence and restore their dignity in the full exercise of their rights."

The Holy Father's thoughts were with the Sudanese, where slavery continues to be a reality in the south of the country, because of the Islamisation promoted by the north. Sudan is "lacerated by a cruel war," the Pope added. The war has gone on for 17 years.

"Once again," John Paul urged, "on behalf of suffering humanity I appeal to those responsible: Open your hearts to the cry of millions of innocent victims and begin on the road of negotiation. I ask the international community: Do not continue to ignore this immense human tragedy."...


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