SCIO Sudan Monthly Report Aug 1999

Report
from Sudanese Catholic Information Office
Published on 15 Aug 1999
1. Chronology
July 16: The next round of peace negotiations between the Khartoum government and the SPLA will be held in Nairobi from July 19, the government has said. Junior foreign minister Gebriel Rorec said he was notified of the two days earlier by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which sponsors mediation between the government and SPLA.

16: The Sudanese government welcomed Egyptian mediation between Khartoum and the opposition in an effort to end the country's civil war, press reports said. President Omar el-Bashir praised his country's improved ties with Egypt whose president Hosni Mubarak was reported to have offered to host a national dialogue conference for the Sudanese government and the opposition.

18: Talks on ending 16 years of fighting in southern Sudan will resume in Nairobi on July 19 with both Sudanese government and southern rebels expressing hope for a break-through. "We are always hopeful for a settlement," Mr. Samson Kwaje, a spokesman for the SPLA, said.

20: Peace talks aimed at ending a long civil war in Sudan re-started in Nairobi with the rebels immediately declaring they would extend a partial cease-fire. The SPLA said it would extend a cease-fire in the vast southern provinces of Bhar el-Ghazal and Upper Nile.

20: Donors have warned that it would be difficult to continue humanitarian assistance operations in southern Sudan if the current round of talks did not achieve progress. At the opening session of the talks, a group of donors under the IGAD Partners Forum said funding would not go on indefinitely.

20: US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has announced that President Bill Clinton would "soon" appoint a special envoy to Sudan. The envoy's job would be to "focus on reducing human rights abuses, improving humanitarian responses and revitalising the regional peace effort led by Kenya," a statement from the US Information Agency said.

20: Sudan's foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has said his government would "study" the US decision to appoint an envoy, news agencies reported. "Our evaluation will be based on the principle of dialogue and keenness to normalise ties with the United States and the person proposed to implement the resolution."

20: A rural development project to assist close to 700,000 people in Sudan's western provinces of Um Ruwaba and Bara will be financed through a US$ 10.5-million loan provided by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). "The overall goal of the seven-year North Kordofan Rural Development project and the target communities is to assure their food security and enhance the resilience of their way of life to drought and natural disaster," an IFAD statement said.

20: Results of a nutrition survey conducted in several counties of Bahr el Ghazal in April/May indicate an average of 22 per cent global malnutrition, according to OLS. "This figure indicates a significant improvement in contrast to the situation last year, but pockets of serious malnutrition remain," OLS said.

21: The Khartoum state authorities have announced plans to relocate some 230,000 displaced people in the vicinity of the capital, humanitarian sources said. The announcement was made to aid organisations by the Humanitarian Aid Department (HAD) in Khartoum, in keeping with the government's decision to continue with the re-planning of Greater Khartoum.

21: Faction fighting which has been raging in the oil-rich Unity State, appears to be spreading, the BBC reported. It said clashes between the South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) of Riak Machar and the splinter SSDF-United - both of which have made a peace deal with the Sudanese government - had now moved to Upper Nile State.

21: The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, said heavy fighting in the western Upper Nile region was preventing a measles vaccination campaign from reaching tens of thousands of children. In a press release, UNICEF said nearly 50,000 children under-five were unreachable in the towns of Baw, Duar, Koch, Leer and Nhialdiu.

22: Sudan's former military dictator returned from exile on a state-owned plane to a hero's welcome- to become just another politician. In an interview, Fatihi Ahmed Khalil of the ruling National Council party brushed off suggestions Gen. Gafaar Numeiry would be signed on by the government to act as a roving statesman for his troubled country, a role his aides had once said he expected to play.

23: The Sudanese government and rebels have agreed at peace talks in Nairobi to set up a standing body to conduct peace negotiations, rebels said. The talks aim to end a war that has devastated Africa's largest state and led to death, through war and famine, of more than 1.5 million people since 1983.

26: A civil administration workshop aimed at training county level administrators on local government procedures has began in Akot, Rumbek County in Bahr el Ghazal. The workshop has been organised by SPLM/SRRA with support from UNICEF and is funded by USAID.

26: The fourth round of Sudan peace talks ended in Nairobi with "little progress" after the Sudanese government and the SPLA failed to achieve a breakthrough in any of the substantive issues. Apart from procedural issues for further talks, the two parties were unable to agree on the issues of self-determination for the south, defining a border, religion and a comprehensive cease-fire, news organisations said.

26: The chairman of the peace committee in Khartoum's national assembly and a member of the delegation to the recent Igad talks, Abdullah Deng Nhial, has accused the SPLA of presenting a "new map" of southern Sudan which added the northern towns of Sinjah and Rusayris to south Sudan. SUNA news agency quoted him as referring to "foreign influence" over the movement.

26: Operation Lifeline Sudan has warned that the failure of the Sudanese government and rebel SPLA to agree on extending the humanitarian cease-fire in southern Bahr al Ghazal state or extend it to other parts of the country "threatened to imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of children". In a statement, OLS also expressed fear that renewed fighting could trigger "massive displacement" in region already weakened by the 1998 famine.

27: The NGO, CARE-Sudan, has expressed disappointment over the outcome of the last peace talks between the Sudanese government and SPLA. "It would be nice if a strong peace process could be pursued which would forge ahead and stop the war," CARE Assistant Country Director Ann Morris said.

27: Some 140 people have died in the past month following outbreaks of waterborne diseases, especially diarrhoea, in the Nile River state of northern Sudan, the BBC quoted Sudanese health ministry officials as saying. Over 1,300 people have been infected since the rains started in June, although the total number of people infected throughout the country stands at 6,500.

27: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will inaugurate a new emergency ward in its Lopiding field hospital in Lokichoggio, northern Kenya, on the border with Sudan. In a statement, ICRC said the ward has 20 beds and a five-bed intensive care unit and will be manned by two doctors and 12 nurses.

28: "A flight ban Khartoum imposed on an eastern region of Sudan this month could provoke a humanitarian catastrophe, the UN's World Food Programme warned in Nairobi. The ban, announced on July 14, renders most of Western Upper Nile region inaccessible to the WFP and other relief agencies trying to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to 150, 000 people affected by civil war.

29: A senior Khartoum official is to ask Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi to act as mediator between south Sudan and Uganda, a spokesman said. Sudanese assistant president Riek Machar, who has defected to the Khartoum Islamic regime from the southern rebel movement, was due to meet president Moi, said Mr Makwac Teny Youk, spokesman of Machar's United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF).

August 2: More than 250, 000 people in Sudan's Bahr el-Ghazal region face the prospect of famine due to continued drought, missionary sources have said. Monsignor Caesar Mazzloari, the Catholic Bishop of Rumbek Diocese in the affected region said: "There are undeniable signs of hunger in the counties of Yirol West, Rumbek and North Tonj as a result of a severe drought."

3: Over 10, 000 children from Slovakia, Kenya and Austria have sent letters to president El-Bashir and Col. Garang expressing their hope for peace in Sudan. The Slovakian children belong to ERKO, a Catholic movement that champions the rights of under-privileged children in the developing world.

3: Sudanese opposition leaders ended a strategy session in Libya with a call for more political freedom in their homeland, according to a statement faxed to the press. In the statement, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) said its members discussed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's offer to mediate in Sudan's war.

4: Donors will find it difficult to continue the current level of humanitarian aid to southern Sudan if there is no progress in peace talks to end 16 years of fighting, the Italian ambassador to Kenya said. Mr. Alberto Balboni chairs the committee of western nations known as partners of the regional seven-member Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

5: Col. Gaddafi has arrived in Egypt for talks with president Hosni Mubarak on the Middle-East peace process and efforts to end the war in Sudan, officials said. Gaddafi crossed the desert border post at Sallum in a motorcade headed for the nearby Mediterranean city of Marsa Matruh, where he was to meet with president Mubarak in a hotel that belongs to the defence ministry.

5: Floods have killed at least 15 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in and round the Sudanese capital newspapers reported. The reports, which said 2,000 homes had been destroyed, predicted waterborne diseases would be the next crisis caused by recent heavy rains.

6: Sudan is ready for any "impartial" investigation into allegations that it used chemical or biological weapons in its war against rebel-held territory, the foreign minister was quoted as saying. Foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail's statement was apparently in response to a UN announcement that it is sending two medical teams to two towns in southern Sudan to investigate the allegations.

6: Two Sudanese planes were used in the deadly air raid carried out by government forces against rebel positions in the northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, a rebel leader said. "The two planes were of the type Antonov-12, registered in Sudan," said Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Uganda-backed Congo Liberation Movement.

7: Colonel Garang has rejected a 70-day cease-fire declared by the government in the strife-torn south of the country, saying Khartoum was insincere. "They (government) are not serious, they do not mean it, they are lying, it is sadistic,'' Col. Garang said.

7: A team of medical doctors sent by the United Nations to treat hundreds of civilians suffering from severe infections allegedly caused by toxic chemical weapons, arrived in the southern Sudanese towns of Lainya and Kaya, on the border with Uganda. Mr. Sharad Sapra, spokesman at the UN humanitarian office in Nairobi, said the team would determine the cause of the disease and provide treatment for the affected persons.

7: The Sudanese government has gained a diplomatic advantage by announcing a unilateral cease-fire in its war with the southern rebels, analysts said. The declaration of a two-month cease-fire across Sudan was immediately rejected by the SPLA, which termed it a trick and said it was observing its own limited humanitarian cease-fire.

8: The Sudanese military spokesman, Mohamed Osman Yassin, has denied a DRC rebel claim that Sudanese military aircraft were helping President Laurent Kabila in his war against them. "These are false allegations that are part of a plot for finding excuses for an act of aggression against Sudan," journalists quoted him as saying..

8: Sudan said it is committed to a comprehensive cease-fire declared in its conflict with rebel fighters, an independent newspaper said. "The cease-fire announcement comes from a position of strength as the army is in control of the situation in all theatres of operations, in the south and the east," the deputy chief of staff Yassin, was quoted as saying by the independent Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper.

10: President El-Bashir has praised a Libyan initiative aimed at reconciling his government with the NDA, the Khartoum press said. "Libya was the only country that has offered a beneficial initiative," President El-Bashir said at a public meeting in El Obeid, capital of North Kordofan State in central Sudan.

11: In the wake of their recent summit, Egypt and Libya have set the ball rolling for a peace conference involving the Sudanese government and opposition, a Sudanese opposition spokesman said. The two countries set up a joint committee to build international support for such a conference and formed another one to work out organisational details, Umma Party spokesman Hassan Ahmed al-Hassan told journalists.

12: No churches will be built in any part of the Sudanese capital without the approval of the government if the decree being drafted by the ministry of social planning comes into force in a few days' time, Al-Rai al-Aam daily reported. The director of church administration at the ministry of social planning, Mr. Abdal-Jabar Osman, told the daily that a number of makeshift churches have mushroomed in shanty townships in the Sudanese capital without approval from the government.

13: Heavy rains followed by floods have destroyed more than 100 houses, swept away over 1,000 livestock and left some 278 families homeless throughout Sudan, the daily Alwan reported. In a report from Sodary, some 750 km west of Khartoum, the pro-government newspaper said the floods and rains destroyed some 110 houses, the prison and four schools in the town.

2. Famine ravages Southern Sudan

At least 250, 000 people in Sudan's Bahr el Ghazal region are threatened with starvation, the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Rumbek, Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, has said.

Speaking in Nairobi on July 29, Bishop Mazzolari said: "There are undeniable signs of hunger in the counties of Yirol West, Rumbek and North Tonj as a result of a severe drought."

"Even though the local people have planted twice or thrice since April, no harvest is expected due to failed rains."

Bishop Mazzolari, together with his counterparts from Sudan, were attending the 13th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conference at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi.

The meeting that brought together 208 Catholic bishops, was officially opened by Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi on July 26.

The Comboni clergy said the cattle were equally affected due to lack of pastures and risked dying en masse.

Mainly the Dinka, who are mostly pastoralists, populate the affected areas.

Mons. Mazzolari appealed to NGOs and the international community at large to send food monitors and agricultural experts to the affected counties to conduct thorough assessment with a view to saving the lives of the affected populations.

The Diocese of Rumbek pleads with the World Food Programme to continue their assessment of the food situation and hunger crisis fast developing in Eastern Bahr el Ghazal in general and then alert the international community about it," Bishop Mazzolari said.

He said that his diocese was prepared to respond in a supplementary way to the impending hunger crisis but pointed out that "the people affected by hunger are many and will need the active involvement of WFP and other capable NGOs."

"Delaying action and involvement may generate a crisis more severe than 1998," Bishop Mazzolari warned.

"This is indeed a matter of great urgency if we want to save the people of Southern Sudan despite all the obstacles on the way."

He said the international community did a commendable job to save lives in Sudan last year and expressed confidence that with commitment, they could do even better this year.

Last year, the worst famine in a decade in the war-ravaged African State affected at least 2.6 million people, and claimed thousands of lives.

General efforts to combat famine may, however, be hampered by the restrictions imposed on flights to some of the affected regions by the Khartoum government. Khartoum has imposed a flight ban on some eastern regions of Sudan since mid last month.

The ban, announced on July 14, renders parts of western Upper Nile region inaccessible to the WFP and other relief agencies trying to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to the people affected by civil war.

Charles Omondi

3. Britain has moral obligation to help Sudan

Instead of admitting that slavery exists in the Sudan and trying to address it as one of the fundamental problems facing our nation, the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi has shamelessly attempted to downplay it as mere "incidents of tribal clashes".

The northern intelligentsia seem to be drawing their pride and superiority from slavery which tends to legitimise their present dominant position in the country as "superior race."

Slave trade does exist and the government plays a significant role in sustaining it. It is true, the Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal and the Arab tribes, known collectively as Baggara (literally cow), had occasionally engaged in inter-tribal feuds at water points before the breakout of the current civil war in 1983. But the degree of destruction of the Dinka traditional life style is incomparable to the present wanton havoc.

In the past, the Dinka were able to resist more effectively the Arab tribes' incursion into their territory than today. However, the Sudanese government has been arming the Arab tribes to fight the Dinka, who are considered as the second column of the SPLM/A.

Having acquired modern firearms, the Arab tribes have been launching devastating raids against the Dinka who still use traditional weapons, such as spears, clubs etc. The Sudanese security forces are reported to have been taking part in these raids. As a result of this firearm superiority, substantial numbers of Dinka women and children are abducted and taken into slavery in the north.

Two University of Khartoum professors first brought the atrocities committed by the Arab tribesmen and the Sudanese army in the South to light in 1987. Professors Mohammed Ushari Suleiman Asli Baldo conducted well-documented and comprehensive research on slavery in Southern Sudan. The two were subsequently dismissed from the university and sentenced to imprisonment on treason charges.

In spite of its historical responsibility for the current political turmoil in the Sudan, the British government is not prepared to take drastic measures against the National Front Islamic regime over its policies in the South. The campaign against the slave trade in the Sudan is a tip of the iceberg and it does not even receive an echo in Britain.

Instead of blaming others continuously, the Sudanese people, especially the ruling northern elites, must accept a simple fact that Sudan is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country. Time has come now to end the destructive war in the South.

I might be pessimistic, but I believe Northerners and Southerners will never create a united nation-state because the two warring parties have opposite values and visions. Our history is full of bitterness and the prospect of co-existence is bleak. The international community, led by Britain and the United States, can help to bring the creation of two sovereign states.

As the former colonial power, Britain has a moral responsibility to stop this genocidal war in the south. At the end of the day, it will be the interest of the Sudanese people to resolve this conflict peacefully rather than continue "investing" in the enterprise of death.

Riak Gok Majok
Nairobi.

This article was first published in Kenya's Daily Nation's opinion column.

4. Human Rights Watch publishes book

Human Rights Watch has published a new book on the devastating famine that ravaged Sudan last year.

The book, Famine in Sudan, 1998: The Human Rights Causes, gives a detailed account of the causes, progression and consequences of the disaster that prompted the hitherto unprecedented UN relief operation.

It also gives recommendations to the chief protagonists in the Sudanese civil strife and the international community on what can/should be done to avert a repeat of the calamity of Biblical proportion.

Human Rights Watch began in 1978 with the founding of its Europe and Central Asia division (then known as Helsinki Watch). Today, it also includes division covering Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. Its headquarters is in New York, USA.

In addition, it includes three thematic divisions on arms, children's rights and women's rights.

Human Rights Watch conducts regular, systematic investigations of human rights abuses in some 70 countries around the world.

The book on Sudan was researched and written by the organisation's counsel and Sudan researcher Jemera Rone. Ms Rone conducted research in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains and Southern Sudan, and in Kenya and Uganda in October 1997 and April-May 1998.

Famines in Africa's most expansive state last year put about 2.6 million out of 27 million people at risk of starvation.

"Nobody knows how many people have died in Sudan's most recent famine or how many remain at risk - one reason the famine in 1998 was not recognised sooner as the catastrophe it was", Rone says in the in the introductory pages of the book.

"But the United Nations estimated that as of July 1998 there were 2.6 million people at risk of starvation in Sudan, out of a total population of about 27 million".

She asserts: "This famine was caused and is being perpetuated by human rights abuses by all parties to the civil war, now in its 15th year".

The 1998 famine had one natural cause: A two-year drought brought about by the El Nino phenomenon. This led to massive crop failure in many parts of the war-ravaged country.

However, says the book, the situation was compounded by "human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict.

"Government militias and army forces conducted scorched earth campaigns against civilians, including displacing or capturing them for slavery in the Bahr el Ghazal region, and blockading all relief and resettling them in peace camps in the Nuba Mountains. The main rebel army and government authorities both diverted food".

"The rural Dinka communities were also assailed by raiding and looting by the government-backed forces of former rebel commander Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, himself a Bahr el Ghazal Dinka, from 1994 until late 1997, further reducing the population's capacity to survive".

Charles Omondi

For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.577595 - fax +254.2.577327 -
e-mail: SCIO@MAF.Org

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