Sudan Monthly Report

Current issue
December 15, 2000


  1. Chronology
  2. Chat with Bishop of Yei
  3. Traditional sacrifice graces National Eucharistic Congress


November 16: East African leaders plan to meet in the Khartoum to discuss the next round of Sudanese peace talks. Hamad Bashir, the IGAD executive secretary, told journalists that the meeting in Khartoum would review an IGAD proposal on solving the problems in southern Sudan and ending the armed conflict.

16 The governor of Kassala State, eastern Sudan, said more than 1,000 southern rebels carried out the attack on Kassala. Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid said in an emergency session held by the legislative council of Kassala State that there had been a total of 52 military and civilian deaths, according to the official news agency, SUNA. The many wounded in the attack had received treatment at a number of hospitals.

16 Sudanese minister of national defence Bakri Hasan Salih has visited the Red Sea area and met officers and troops. Travelling with a delegation from the general command of the armed forces, the minister praised the forces for ridding the area of "aggressors", Sudanese state television said.

17 The Sudanese government has asked nongovernmental relief organisations to temporarily suspend activities in Kassala. The state minister of relief, Chol Deng, was reported by the state media as saying the move was necessary for security reasons.

17 Sudanese authorities are investigating the attack on Kassala, in which more than 130 people were killed. The commissioner of Kassala Province, Muhammad Yusuf, said on state television on November 9 that 52 civilians and soldiers had been killed in the fighting. State media reports said 80 fighters from the SPLA had also been killed, and state television showed bodies of the rebels.

17 Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir has vowed that his government would conquer his country's rebels before undertaking any negotiations. "There will be no negotiation with the rebels before defeating them on the battlefield, only then will be they resigned to reconciliation," Bashir was quoted as telling a military rally in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state in western Sudan.

17 The Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a genocide alert for Sudan and launched an exhibit of photographs and findings on the suffering in the southern part of the Horn of Africa country and in refugee camps farther north. This is the first time the museum has presented a display about a situation outside of Europe.

17 Somalia will take up its seat on IGAD for the first time in 11 years. Somalia's interim President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan had been invited to attend an IGAD summit meeting in Khartoum, sources close to the president said.

17 Sudan reportedly has the largest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world, with estimates of about 4 million. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said in a report that the 30-year-old conflict in Sudan had gone through several phases and had created a complex IDP situation with different causes of displacement in different regions of the country.

17 Former Sudanese prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi plans to return to Sudan. He announced his plans to foreign journalists in Cairo, Egypt. However, he said he would not participate in next month's parliamentary and presidential elections, which he called "a one-team football game".

17 The governor of Kassala State said more than 1,000 southern rebels carried out the attack on Kassala. Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid said in an emergency session held by the legislative council of Kassala State that there had been a total of 52 military and civilian deaths, according to the official news agency, SUNA.

18 Military forces of Sudan's Umma Party crossed the border from Eritrea and returned to Sudan's Kassala region in fulfillment of an accord the party reached with Khartoum in late 1999, a senior party official said. Abdul Rasoul el Nur, a leading Umma Party figure, told reporters in Kassala that the returning troops would be moved to a camp in Fao region, west of Kassala.

18 The United States, which accuses Sudan of sponsoring terrorism, has again postponed discussion in the Security Council of a draft resolution to lift limited sanctions against the country, officials said. The Security Council was supposed to have taken up the resolution, but the United States successfully persuaded Sudan to wait until a new American administration is in place, US officials said.

18 The ruling National Congress party in Sudan has refused proposals made by the leader of the Umma Party Sadeq al-Mahdi on postponing presidential and parliamentary elections due to be held in December. The party's secretary general Ibrahim Ahmad Omar said in press statements issued in Khartoum that the return of al-Mahdi, which is due on November 23, comes following extending the period of nomination for the presidential elections.

18 Moved by the accounts of freed slaves, a senior US official pledged America's diplomatic, humanitarian and moral support to the people of southern Sudan caught up in a 17-year-old civil war. Dr Susan Rice, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said their problems; " including abductions, slavery and air strikes" have captured the sympathy of Americans.

20 Sudan s ruling party has nominated president Bashir to run again in next month s presidential elections, government radio reported. President Bashir called for parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year in an attempt to resolve the country s political deadlock, and in recent months has made several overtures toward opposition parties, though many have announced that they will boycott the upcoming elections.

21 The governor of the Sudanese Central Bank left Khartoum for Abu Dhabi in a bid to reschedule a US$400 million debt with the Arab Monetary Fund, Egypt's official news agency said. The Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted governor Saber Mohamed Hassan as saying he would discuss a Sudanese proposal to cancel or freeze interest payments and reschedule the rest of the debt in long-term installments.

21 Talisman Energy Inc., Canada's biggest global oil producer, will soon drill three new exploration wells in Sudan that could double its reserves in the African country, the company said. The Calgary company has been subject to intense scrutiny from activists who say its activities in Sudan are prolonging an 18-year civil war pitting the mainly Christian and traditionalist black African south against the Arabised north.

22 The United States is deeply concerned at the flagrant human rights abuse in southern Sudan by the current government, Dr. Rice has said. The US meanwhile has announced that it has urged the international community to exert pressure on Sudan to force reforms demanded by rebels.

24 President Bashir used a six-nation regional summit in Khartoum to accuse the United States of interfering in its internal affairs by supporting rebels in a 17-year-old civil war. Sudan has already barred American officials from Khartoum in protest of a visit earlier by Dr Rice.

24 Five gunmen kidnapped the deputy Sudanese ambassador to Kenya and terrorised him for an hour before releasing him. The incident occurred at around noon along Nyerere Road in Nairobi. The gunmen had trailed the envoy, Mr. Dirdeiry Mohammed-ahmed from a bank.

27 The Sudanese government will protest to the UN Security Council over the recent violation of its territory by a top United States official. Sudanese minister for foreign affairs Dr. Mustafa Ismail said the tour by Dr Rice to Marial Bai, in southern Sudan , without seeking a visa from Khartoum was a provocation of the highest order.

27 Former Sudan prime minister Sadeq al-Mahdi held talks with president Bashir, the man who ousted him in a 1989 military coup, on how to end Sudan s devastating civil war, a Khartoum newspaper reported. Also present at the talks was Djibouti president Ismail Omar Geuelleh, the privately owned Akhbar al Youm said.

28 The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) has hailed Dr. Rice, for her courageous visit with survivors of slavery in Sudan. AASG president, Charles Jacobs, called on President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush, to follow suit by publicly condemning slavery in Sudan.

29 Sadeq al-Mahdi, who returned from four years of exile to a spectacular welcome from tens of thousands of his followers, has an important role to play in the search for an end to Sudan's political crisis, Sudanese commentator Abdelwahhab al-Effendi said in pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi. Over the past four decades, he notes, Mahdi has faced an astonishing array of adversaries, some from within his Umma Party and Ansar religious sect, and many from without.

29 Sudanese air force planes unleashed a deadly attack on a Catholic school in the village of Panlit in southern Sudan's Bahr al-Ghazal region, according to officials of the diocese of El Obeid, which sponsors and administers the school. Eyewitnesses report that the November 24 bombing raids over Panlit village began at 1100 AM, at a time when the maximum number of the Panlit Missionary School's 700 students would be attending classes. Early reports from aid workers in the area indicate that many children are in a deep state of shock.

December 1 President Bashir said he is ready to give a share in power to Sadeq al-Mahdi, a newspaper reported. We are ready to go along with Sadeq al-Mahdi till the end of the road. I mean he will fully participate in power, Mr. Bashir was quoted by the independent Al- Ayam daily as saying.

4 The governor of Kassala Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid has denied the existence of Eritrea's military buildup on the Sudanese borders, stressing that these buildup on the eastern border of the province are for the rebellion and the opposition forces. In statements issued by the Sudanese dailies, the governor explained that the Sudanese forces, the forces of the people's army and the security forces are observing these build ups and security measures were taken to counter these forces which include the rebel movement, led by John Garang and other opposition forces aboard.

4 Sudan has complained to the United Nations over a visit to southern areas by a senior US official, state radio said. It said Sudan had written to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan protesting at last month's visit by Dr. Rice to highlight the controversial issue of slavery in Africa's largest country.

4 The UN General Assembly has told Sudan to should stop the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, torture of prisoners and the abduction of women and children. The vote on a resolution criticising rights abuses in Sudan as well as complimenting the government for improving civil liberties was 85 in favour, 32 against and 49 abstentions.

4 The UN General Assembly has told the SPLA to stop indiscriminate artillery shelling, the planting of landmines, arbitrary executions and, the forced recruitment of children as soldiers and the rape of women. Most affected are the Didinga populations in Eastern Equatoria province, thousands of whom have fled to Kenya.

5 Sudan government planes have carried out two more bombing raids in Bahr al-Ghazal, southern Sudan. Humanitarian sources said that two villages northeast of Yirol were hit, in an area not previously targeted. In the first raid, on a village about 15 km from Yirol, three bombs were dropped, killing two people and injuring three others. The second raid targeted a village about 18 km from Yirol.

5 The State of Qatar has resumed imports of meat from Sudan. The importations have been resumed after a regional ban was imposed by the Gulf States due to Rift Valley fever. The undersecretary of the Sudanese Ministry of Livestock, Dr Muhammad al-Jabalabi, said that Sudan was continuing its meat exports to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Sudanese television said on December 1.

5 Anti-slavery campaigners in the US have challenged America's next president to publicly condemn slavery in Sudan, and challenged President Clinton to end his "mysterious and tragic silence on the black slave trade" before he leaves office in January.

5 Atrocities continue in Sudan, according to John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International, a Swiss-based organisation that has helped campaigns to free more than 38,000 enslaved Sudanese, mostly children, since 1995. In mid-November, President Bashir encouraged 12,000 troops in a western town that serves as a centre for the slave trade to continue their jihad in the south.

6 Sudan's relations with Ethiopia are moving towards wider horizons of strategic cooperation in the political and economic fields. This view was expressed by Uthman al-Sayyid, the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, during an interview with the Sudanese News Agency, Suna. The ambassador said that, during their meeting on the fringes of the recent IGAD summit in Khartoum, presidents Umar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had agreed that work should begin on drafting a programme to strengthen bilateral relations in the political, economic and commercial fields.

6 Court officials in Sudan said the Supreme Court would consider a suit filed by the opposition alliance demanding the postponement of this month's general elections, the BBC reported. A lawyer for the opposition National Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, Ghazi Suleiman, said the suit argued that the General Election Commission (GEC) could not conduct the forthcoming elections in the absence of a parliament, as it was answerable to both the parliament and the president. Parliament was dissolved on December 12, 1999 by president Bashir.

6 An 11-member delegation from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), led by the organisation's former secretary-general, Ambassador Pascal Gayama, is due to arrive in Khartoum to observe the presidential and parliamentary elections. This was reported to the Sudanese News Agency, Suna, by the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Uthman al-Sayyid.

7 In an address to mark Human Rights Day, president Clinton singled out Sudan as being guilty of human rights atrocities, news agencies reported. Clinton, who also criticised Afghanistan and China in his speech, paid tribute to human rights activists "who have done so much to publicise the atrocities of Sudan".

7 An eight-person observer team from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) arrived in Khartoum to monitor the presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place from December 11-20, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. It said Ambassador Gayama led the team.

8 Sudan has ordered a US diplomat to leave the country within 72 hours after he allegedly met with opposition leaders accused of plotting a popular uprising. The government has decided to expel the political officer in the American embassy, regarding him as persona non grata, and he has to leave the country within 72 hours, Foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said. Sudanese authorities said earlier they arrested seven leading opposition figures during a meeting in Khartoum with the diplomat , Mr. Glenn Warren.

9 Uganda is ready to normalise relations with the Sudan as soon as Khartoum stops supporting terrorist acts against Uganda and returns the abducted girls from Aboke College, regional cooperation State minister Amama Mbabazi has said. The minister was responding to the report of the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs on the Uganda Human Rights Commission report for 1997, presented to Parliament.

9 A Canada-sponsored plan to free thousands of kidnapped, brutalised children from rebels in southern Sudan has bogged down, with only a handful of youngsters sent home and key talks postponed indefinitely. The plan, heralded as a breakthrough in September by former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, aimed to get a steady stream of Ugandan children released from the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. But so far, the only abductees sent home under Canadian auspices are a group of 16, several of them adults, who escaped on their own from LRA camps.

9 An armed Muslim fanatic shot dead 21 persons and wounded 55 others, some seriously, over a religious dispute. Police said Abbas el Bagir Abbas had attacked Muslims performing the Esha (night) prayer at Jarrafa Mosque in Omdurman, twin-city of Khartoum across the White Nile, with a machine gun. Patrol police passing nearby heard the shooting and engaged the assailant, who hurt a policeman, until the force finally overcame and killed him.

9 Sudan and Eritrea have agreed not to escalate stances and to maintain the process of normalising relations between the two countries, following the visit made by president Bashir to Asmara and the visit of president Asyas Afeworki to Sudan. A high ranking Sudanese official told the Sudanese daily al- Khartoum issued that contacts were made between Asmara and al-Khartoum at the level of foreign ministers that stressed the need of attempts made by the two sides to eliminate all reasons that obstruct the breakthrough in the relations between the two countries.

9 The Sudanese economy grew by 7.2 percent in 2000, according to the country's finance minister, Mohammed Khair Zubair. Reading his budget speech in Khartoum, Zubair said the growth rate was higher than the originally projected 6 percent. He attributed the high growth rate to improvements in the industrial sector that grew by 39.4 percent, up from 11.4 in 1999.

9 The American Anti-Slavery Group has hailed President Clinton's condemnation of the black slave trade in Sudan, and called upon the outgoing -- and in-coming --administrations to put these words into action. The president's remarks at a ceremony commemorating Human Rights Day, focussed on "the scourge of slavery in Sudan" and said countries engaged in slavery "cannot join the community of nations."

11 The first day of voting in Sudanese presidential and parliamentary elections has been postponed to December 13, election officials said. The two-day postponement was necessary due to a decision by the General Election Commission, the election watchdog, "to extend the electoral campaign for two days, to close on Tuesday," GEC member Chagai Matet said.

10 A gunman who killed 20 worshipers in a mosque in Sudan had a long-standing grudge against their Islamic sect and had threatened its members, a police chief said. Police shot dead the gunman, Abbas Baqer Abbas, after he walked up to the Sunna Mohammediyya mosque in the village of Garaffa and fired an automatic rifle through its window.

10 Sudanese authorities detained a leading human rights activist, two days after he strongly condemned the detention of an American diplomat and seven opposition leaders, one of his assistants said. Ghazi Suleiman, a lawyer who heads the Sudanese Human Rights Group, was taken from his house in Khartoum by police just after midnight, said Mohammed Zein Mahi, a member of the rights group.

14 Polling booths opened a t the start of a 10-day election that Sudan s incumbent Islamist military leader Bashir and his ruling party look set to win amid a massive opposition boycott. Few voters in Khartoum appeared to be heading to polling stations, which were scheduled to open at 9 am Sudan time, although some opened as much as an hour late.

Chat with Bishop of Yei

His Lordship Erkolano LoduTombe is the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Yei in Southern Sudan, an area that was on November 20, 2000, the scene of one of the bloodiest civilian target bombing incidents in the country s 17-year-old civil war. Charles Omondi interviewed him in Rumbek, Bahr el-Ghazal. Excerpts

Briefly describe what happened in the latest bombing incident in Yei

The latest bombardment of Yei by the high altitude Anotnov aircraft took place on November 20, 2000. That was between 2 and 3 pm Sudan time. The aircraft went over the town three times, each time dropping a bomb. The third bomb fell right inside the market killing at least 15 people on the spot and wounding several others. The wounded were rushed to the local civil hospital, which is ill equipped for such a tragedy. The bodies that could be collected were removed to the mortuary. It was a terrible site as human flesh was scattered all over the place, blood was flowing like river water as all and sundry wailed uncontrollably. The casualty rate was high because the third bomb fell as people came out of hiding thinking that normalcy had returned.

What is the situation like now?

People are totally demoralised and traumatised. These people are civilians and not military personnel who may be accustomed to such scenes that may be commonplace in a war situation. Every aspect of their life, both social and economic, is now disrupted. Education has come to a standstill, markets are closed and so are the schools. There is a lot of weeping and funerals are taking place in every direction.

Are you in a position to verify whether the death toll has risen?

Soon after the incident, I visited the mortuary where there were already 18 bodies. Of the 18, those that were identified were immediately taken away for burial, as the mortuary has no facilities for preserving bodies. There were more than 50 people admitted to the emergency ward three of whom died on that very night. I must point out that these figures may still fall below the actual numbers since of those who died on the spot, some were dismembered beyond recognition. There were pieces of flesh all over the place. A Local medical assistant, Mr. Ilarione Lubulu, and NGO personnel in the area informed me yesterday (November 22) that the toll had risen to at least 40 people and was bound to rise further because of the hospital s inability to cope with the situation. I have no doubt about this because the sight at the hospital was overwhelming with some people almost cut into two, others wailing uncontrollably while others just lay helpless in apparent excruciating agony.

Yei has probably been bombed more times than any other place in the SPLA territory. What is the possible explanation for this?

It is difficult to guess with precision why the government of Sudan is so fond of Yei in its bombing crusade. Possibly it is because the region was previously a thriving commercial centre especially for coffee trade. Now that the government is no longer in control of this lucrative business, it feels envious and would rather destroy it completely than let other people especially those it perceives as enemies, benefit from Yei s riches.

What is the church doing to bring life to normal for the traumatised people?

When I visited the hospital the people were overwhelm and wept even more. I wept with them in silence and they could see tears flowing down my cheeks as I walked from bed to bed. Our presence as church with these people at these darkest moments in their lives brings hope to them. It is difficult for us to do anything to counter the Antonov. If we had the power, however we would insist on a no-flying zone for military aircrafts in southern Sudan to let the people live in peace.

Are there any international NGOs still working in Yei in view of the bombing incidents?

There are some NGOs working there especially church-related ones. We have Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Maltser from Germany, Church Ecumenical Association in Sudan (CEAS) and our friends Norwegian People s Aid (NPA).

In your opinion, what would be the most effective way to counter these bombing incidents?

One of the solutions would be to have an opportunity to tell the international community about our suffering so that they can put pressure on Khartoum to change its ways. What is happening in Sudan is a very inhuman way of waging war. This is a war against civilians and the victims are very angry and this anger must find its way into the international media so that the international community knows that we are being decimated. One of our biggest handicaps is the world s indifference to our tragedy. In Yei for instance we have been bombed since 1997, sometimes twice a day and sometimes at night. By telling the world that such things are happening, Khartoum may be forced to change her ways. It is hypocritical of the international community to think of trying Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leonean rebel leader) while maintaining a studious silence on the genocide in Sudan. President Omar el-Bashir should be tried in the international court of justice for cutting his people into pieces using the Antonov.

In view of all the atrocities committed by the government against the southern civilians, do you see any possibility for meaningful reconciliation in Sudan?

Sudanese people are people of reconciliation. Their immense bitterness at the moment is because Khartoum wants to impose what it considers good on the people. If the regime and other forces in the Sudanese conflict embrace the tenets of justice for all, reconciliation will not be difficult. The present trend to impose whatever is Islam and Arabic on the entire Sudanese population is unacceptable and cannot bring reconciliation. The government must change its way of running public affairs then the people will appreciate it as their own. A government that killings its own people will always be resented.

Do you have faith in Igad and the pace at which it is conducting its affairs?

Igad is trying its best but it is probably becoming too bureaucratic. Igad is taking too long in discussing Sudan conflict. It has become something political and insensitive to the consequences of the long running war on the civilians. It organises high profile and costly meetings that last for only a few days and which end up making no tangible progress. Igad process must be expedited.

Traditional sacrifice graces Eucharistic Congress

One by one, they arrived and meticulously took their seats besides the Church altar under the giant tree. Directly in front of them was their own small traditional altar.

With a deafening silence, probably a mark of their wisdom, they followed the proceedings as a battery of bishops and priests conducted the mass. A stranger to the goings-on would have mistaken them for a lot long lost in a jungle and not with an idea of how to extricate themselves from the labyrinth. Their embellished attire and an assortment of traditional regalia was a sight to behold.

The calmness of a white ram and a similar coloured chicken firmly in their custody was astounding.

They were the Dinka traditional spiritual leaders and their specific brief was to offer a traditional sacrifice, as an aspect of enculturation marking the climax of days of celebrations.

When their turn came, the traditional spiritual leaders acted fast and with the precision of a seasoned surgeon. Only those exceptionally keen witnessed one of them cut off the neck of a white chicken whose two body parts went ricocheting before settling motionless in death.

With equal dexterity, the white ram s throat was slit and blood let to flow on the bare ground. In the twinkling of an eye, its belly was cut open and the heart removed, washed with oil and lemon juice before being dipped in cold water in a giant gourd. The bloody water was sprinkled on the people.

Like the heart that had been made tender with the oil then cooled with water, the troubled hearts of the Sudan society members were expected to undergo the same process and open up for reconciliation.

For a society that has been at war for decades, nothing could be more consoling.

For nearly one week, four Catholic Bishops operating in the rebel-controlled parts of Sudan, had led their faithful, well-wishers and curious onlookers in celebrating the National Eucharistic Congress at Rumbek, about 1,200 kilometres south of Khartoum.

Bishop Caesar Mazzolari was the host of the November 20-27, 2000 ceremony held once in five years. Alongside the Italian Comboni clergy were bishops Paride Taban of Torit, Erkolano Lodu Tombe of Yei and Johnson Akio Mutek, who is the auxiliary bishop of Torit.

Missing the grand occasion were bishops Joseph Gasi Abangite of Tambura Yambio and Max Macram Gassis of El-Obeid, both courtesy of ill health. Whereas Tambura Yambio enjoyed a generous representation, El-Obeid was not represented, most probably because of the immense difficulty that characterises any kind of travel in the area. Their region, Nuba Mountains, that forms the divide between the demographically heterogeneous southern and northern Sudan, has for decades been a no-go zone for the international community. A journey to or from the nearest airstrip can last several days of hard walk.

Prayer sessions, a workshop on justice and peace, inauguration of a church refurbished from ravages of gun fire and neglect, traditional dances and a four-kilometre long procession had marked the celebrations. All the time, the mood was upbeat and everybody within the vicinity wanted to be party to the celebrations.

In every speech, the theme of justice, peace and reconciliation featured prominently. But perhaps to send a message that the government did not share similar ideals, bombardment of civilian targets were reported in Eastern Equatoria near the border with Uganda, even as the celebrations went on.

Just a day before the fete, Yei town in Western Equatoria, also near the border with Uganda, had been struck in one of the bloodiest aerial raid on civilians. At least 14 people perished on the spot with more than double the figure dying in the days following the tragedy.

In apparent gesture to appreciate that it exists in a political environment, the church leaders did not leave out their political counterparts.

The most prominent of political figure at the celebrations was the commissioner of Rumbek Country, Mr. Isaac Makur. He took the opportunity to thank the Catholic Church for overcoming many odds to serve the Sudanese. We are particularly thankful for the role of the Catholic Church in providing medical care and education, he said.

Without the church, education would be long dead and buried in many parts of our territory, Mr. Makur added.

Ideally, the Eucharistic Congress should have been held in one location for all the Sudanese Catholic. However, Sudan being what it is, parallel celebrations had to be held in Khartoum for those residing in the government-held areas.

When all came to an end, the locals retreated back to their villages as others dispersed by various means. But one message had sunk deep and clear Sudanese society desperately needs a break form the protracted civil strife.

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