SCIO Sudan Monthly Report Dec 1999

  1. Chronology
    November 17: The UN has officially transmitted a report on the findings of its humanitarian mission in the Nuba Mountains to the Government of Sudan and the leadership of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Following this mission, for the first time ever, the UN humanitarian programme for Sudan will next year include multi-sectoral assistance for populations in the Nuba Mountains, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

17: The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, Leonardo Franco, has reported some progress on the country's rights record, but said "the population was still being devastated by the low-level civil war in which neither side respected human rights or humanitarian law". At a UN meeting on human rights issues, Franco welcomed the 1998 constitution and Sudan's stated commitment to democracy and humanitarian law.

18: Children in Southern Sudan have been subjected to abuses during the 16-year war, they told a conference in Nairobi. The children were speaking during an Unicef-sponsored conference.

18: The European Community has proposed renewing a dialogue with the Sudanese government, cut off in 1996 amid alleged human rights abuses, in order to promote peace, democracy and human rights. The Finnish foreign ministry's Africa and Middle East director Tuunanen Heikki, leading a four-day mission to Khartoum, noted "some encouraging actions" by the government and said that, through dialogue, the EC could get to know how the government would implement measures it had taken to meet its declared objectives. Washington pushes for "humanitarian access" in Upper Nile

18: Khartoum has agreed with a visiting South African delegation that peace in Southern Sudan depends on the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) process and a complementary Egyptian/Libyan initiative, and that "there was no military solution to the problem." The South Africans, led by deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad, met foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and speaker of the Sudanese Assembly Hassan al-Turabi among other senior officials during a four-day visit to discuss the economic and political situations in South Africa and Sudan, and to consolidate relations between the two, according to a joint statement reported by the South African Press Agency.

18: Sudan has said it is prepared to accept an offer by Canada to hold peace talks in Ottawa with Southern Sudanese rebels in an effort to end the 16-year civil war, Radio Canada International reported. Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, who proposed the talks last month, has also invited SPLA leader John Garang but it is not known whether he will accept the invitation, the radio added.

19: Over 400 Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda over the past few days, a UNHCR spokesman said. The refugees reported fleeing clashes between the Dinka and Didinga ethnic groups in southern Sudan, he said. Another 210 refugees had arrived from Sudan to the Kakuma area of Kenya between November 7-13, the spokesman added.

19: Sudanese parliament has backed a motion to debate proposals amending the constitution to reduce the powers of President Omar El-Bashir by creating a prime ministerial post answerable to parliament and allowing direct elections of the governors of Sudan's 26 states. The decision of parliament, which voted that the debate should go ahead despite Bashir's request that it be postponed, is seen as a victory for Turabi in his power struggle with the president.

19: Police in Khartoum arrested 17 people, including two journalists, on public order charges as they gathered for a telephone press conference with Garang, news agencies reported. The opposition Democratic Forces Front (DFF) leader Ghazi Suleiman had arranged the conference with Garang, who was in the Eritrean capital Asmara for a meeting with partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the future of Sudan.

19: UNICEF and OLS are to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child November 20, by hosting a non-political conference by stakeholders from various parts of south Sudan to "sculpt the future for Sudanese children". At a conference earlier, children themselves mapped out their own vision of their future.

19: Sudan's external relations minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has told the national assembly that the government was following up the movements and activities of US Special Envoy to Sudan Harry Johnston "without taking any hasty position of rejecting or accepting him". He would still be allowed to visit Sudan "to get first-hand information about the country from the real sources" if he made an official request to do.

19: Ismail told reporters in Khartoum that the US had influenced Canadian policy towards Sudan, particularly in relation to Ottawa's concern that the 25 per cent stake of Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc. in a south Sudan oil consortium may be prolonging the Sudanese war. "The statement about Talisman didn't start from the Canadian government, it started from (US Secretary of State) Mrs. Albright, and then the Canadian government made its statement," Reuters news agency quoted Ismail as saying.

19: Talisman chief executive Jim Buckee has disputed parts of a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, Franco, who said the government had been forcing people out of southern oil-producing areas in order to help clear them of suspected saboteurs. "At least two of the facts are wrong," Buckee told the Canadian National Post newspaper.

30: The Sudanese government charged that an attack on an oil pipeline was launched from a neighbouring state and aimed at undermining a new government agreement with an opposition party. Information minister Ghazi Sala Eddin Atabani, quoted in As-Sahafa daily, did not name the state but he was understood to mean the attack was mounted from Eritrea, where the opposition is based.

30: Sudan has urged all opposition leaders to follow in the footsteps of the opposition Umma Party and make peace with the Khartoum.

Representatives of the government and Umma Party, the biggest opposition group intialled a "declaration of principles" after a meeting between president El-Bashir and Umma leader Sadeq al Mahdi in Djibouti.22: 30: Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to improve relations after a period of strain dating from 1995, when Sudan was accused of complicity in an attempt to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak inside Ethiopisa. The Ethiopian government said that two days of talks in Addis Ababa between El-Bashir and Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi had been held in a spirit "that characterise the historical bond of friendship'' between the two nations.

30: WFP has warned of a "looming humanitarian crisis" in Southern Sudan because humanitarian agencies were being denied access to vulnerable populations by government restrictions on humanitarian flights and inter-factional fighting. Humanitarian agencies could not get access to many areas of Western Upper Nile in October and November, "and 140,000 targeted and vulnerable people could not get their emergency food assistance", the WFP representative in Sudan, Mohamed Saliheen, said..

30: One of the IGAD members, Eritrea, will not be attending the organisation's next summit meeting because it claims the host country, Djibouti, "has been making all sorts of accusations against it", its Nairobi embassy spokesman Kidane Woldeyesus told IRIN. Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh warned of deteriorating relations between his country and Eritrea, and said there was "almost a state of war" between the two.

31: The UN General Assembly has expressed concern at the impact of the conflict on human rights and the situation of the civilian population, especially women and children. It passed a resolution urging all parties to the conflict in Sudan "to grant safe and unhindered access to international agencies and humanitarian organisations" so that they could deliver assistance to civilians.

December 1: Many of the people who fled Bentiu when fighting erupted in July have returned, and CARE has resumed emergency programmes in the town, including supplementary feeding. However, about 10,000 people are still living along the route between Bentiu and Rubkona, OLS reported.

1: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has launched its Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the year 2000, appealing to donors for US $125.6 million - with US $67 million of that sum earmarked for food security. The appeal is divided into six main sectoral programmes, aiming to assist human rights protection and peace-building, while supporting food security and ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to basic services in health, water and sanitation, and education.

2: The humanitarian situation in Sudan improved during 1999, particularly in the areas affected last year by famine in Bahr el Ghazal, the appeal said. A good harvest and relative stability had enabled humanitarian organisations to carry out both "life-saving operations and activities aimed at reinforcing local coping mechanisms and self-reliance". 3: The national department of malaria director

Omar Zayid Baraka said an acute increase in malignant malaria in the Kordofan state capital of Obayid was due to exceptionally heavy rainfall of 650 mm, not seen in Kordofan in 50 years. He said the strain of malaria was particularly virulent - bringing spasms, coma, fracturing of red corpuscles and jaundice, among other complications, news organisations reported.

4: President El-Bashir has had a meeting in Djibouti with the Umma Al-Mahdi, Sudanese television reported. El-Bashir and other heads of state in the regional IGAD were in Djibouti for a summit meeting, during which the conflicts in Sudan and Somalia were expected to dominate the agenda.

4: The third round meeting of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (TCHA) is scheduled to be held on December 14-15, 1999 in Geneva. Among the meeting's concerns will be policy and programme issues for agencies working in Sudan, including access to vulnerable populations, security and the continuation of humanitarian cease-fires, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

8: Sudanese opposition groups met in Kampala to review the progress of the various groups in Sudan, in the fight against Khartoum government. Mr. John Andruga Duku, the representative of the SPLA in Nordic countries said they were reviewing progress of the opposition groups in their fight against the Khartoum regime and charter new strategies of "advancing the struggle''.

8: President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya will chair talks between presidents El-Bashir and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni in Nairobi. The talks, which are brokered by Carter Centre headed by former USA president Jimmy Carter, are designed to find a lasting solution to the friction between the two countries.

9: Uganda and Sudan have signed a historic 10-point peace treaty in Nairobi. It seeks to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. Museveni and El-Bashir signed the treaty after negotiations organised by the Conflict Resolution programme by the Carter Centre chaired by Moi and mediated by Carter.

9: Uganda and Sudan are to resume full diplomatic relations at the end of February next year following the signing of a peace agreement in Nairobi. The agreement compliments the IGAD peace process.

9: A surprise deal between El-Bashir and the man he ousted as prime ministerin a 1989 military coup has split the opposition ranks, but seems unlikely to bring an early end to a 16-yearl-old civil war. Diplomats said the "declaration of principles'' agreed by El-Bashir and Al-Mahdi in Djibouti last month had blown apart the fragile unity of the NDA.

14: President El-Bashir has dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency in preparation for a national legislative election. The general election authority, according to a presidential decree broadcast will set voting day for a new national assembly by the state television after an announcement by the president.

14: Sudan's president, appearing in full military uniform in his first news conference since declaring a state of emergency, said he acted to control a power struggle with the country's influential parliament speaker. The capital was quiet; a day after the president declared a three-month state of emergency. Extra troops guarded key government posts.

15: The streets of Sudan's capital were largely deserted during a tense political showdown between El-Bashir and Turabi, witnesses said. President El-Bashir, who installed a Turabi-guided Islamist government after a military coup in 1989, tossed a political bombshell at the nation by declaring a three-month state of emergency and dissolving the parliament.

15: President El-Bashir appeared to be consolidating his grip on power after striking out against his former ally, Turabi. Bashir dissolved parliament and declared a three-month state of emergency to pre-empt moves by Turabi, who dominates the ruling National Congress Party, to pass a constitutional amendment slashing presidential powers.

15: President Mubarak of Egypt flew unexpectedly to Libya for talks with Muammar Gaddafi that are expected to focus on the political turmoil in Sudan, officials said.

2. Plea for peace on the dawn of new millennium

Dear Leaders in the Bahr El Ghazal Region,

On the eve of Christmas and of the Jubilee year 2000, I greet you all in the name of our merciful and loving God on my part and that of the members of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.

I welcome all of you, chiefs and traditional leaders, civil leading servants and military commanders and all your constituents, active servants and population on the occasion of our Reconciliation Celebration and Christmas Festivities with the Diocese of Rumbek.

The year 2000 is being acclaimed and celebrated in many different ways by everyone in the world. We, the churches want to make the celebration of the year 2000 a Holy Year. Namely; a year of Reconciliation, Renewal and practical commitment to being involved as church with every branch and aspect of life in the Sudanese community in dedicated quest for Justice and Peace in the Sudan.

1. Chiefs and Traditional Leaders

During the year 2000, the Bishop of Rumbek and his church leaders will work with the chiefs and traditional spiritual leaders in quest for Unity. As written in the last letter of the Sudanese Bishops (August, '99): "We will encourage and urge all tribal leaders and elders to use their traditional methods of conflict resolution as a valid contribution on their part to the peace process in the Sudan".

2. Civil and Humanitarian Leaders

The Diocese will co-operate in the work of development of services for the people of its area in response to the orientation taken by the bishops of Sudan (letter of August, '99): "We will strengthen and improve our existing social, educational and health services, and make them available to as many more people as possible. We will place greater emphasis on services that educate people for life."

3. Military Leadership

The Diocese of Rumbek in its '99 Pastoral Guidelines": Recommends the introduction of a priest and/or catechist chaplain to visit regularly the army to instruct the soldiers on catechesis, the moral and social teaching of the church, sanctity of life and an awareness that they are fighting a just war that demands respect for human dignity. "In the Jubilee and Centenary year 2000, DOR will prepare to make a commitment to be available to offer courses of catechesis and lead Sunday prayers among soldiers in our mission areas either through our priests or prepared catechists. Furthermore the Bishop and his consultors will look into the possibility of training prepared catechists to do chaplaincy service among the SPLA/M militants" (DOR Consultors' meeting, September 18-19, '99).

It is in this spirit of involvement with every person in all branches of life that the church wants to begin the New Century. The church wants to lead all the people of Sudan to the light of God, our Father in spirit of Unity, Justice and lasting Peace.

As we celebrate Reconciliation, we ask the Lord to forgive the wrongs we have done as individuals and as groups against God and against one another. We also commit ourselves to undo the culture of war that defies our traditional moral tenets and many Christian moral principles. As we reconcile, we must decide to make a new beginning by restudying our moral traditions, Christian and Biblical teachings and coming to pray more as communities with our spiritual leaders.

Today we ask for your full co-operation in the effort to re-establish the observance of the commandments of God, His law of love and especially respect for the human rights of every individual in the heart of each person in Sudan. Work with your constituents to achieve this goal in spirit of harmony with all people regardless of their race, creed or colour.

Have a Blessed Christmas and a great Year 2000 while we wait for peace in Sudan.

Cordially in Christ,
Bishop Caesar Mazzolari

3. Caritas team tours Southern Sudan

A two-man Caritas Italiana team has completed an extensive tour of Southern Sudan aimed at identifying ways and means in which the Italian NGO can help alleviate the suffering of the thousands of civilian victims of the civil war.

The pair, whose visit lasted four days, comprised Mr. Paolo Cereda, who is Caritas Italiana's Great Lakes Region area manager and Mr. Davide Invernizzi, who is the organisation's programme manager in the Eastern Africa region. The Bishop of Rumbek, His Lordship Caesar Mazzolari, accompanied them in their tour of the war-ravaged state.

Prior to proceeding to Sudan, Messrs. Cereda and Invernizzi visited the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, which serves as a home to an estimated 83,000 people who have fled their countries for war-related reasons. Upto 60 per cent of the refugees in the camp established in 1992 are Sudanese. Others are from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire), Rwanda and Burundi.

In Southern Sudan, the Caritas team visited Tonj, Bararud, Angangrial, Rumbek, Mapourdit, Aleel Deer, Ara Mwer, Akot and Yirol, in Bahar el-Ghazal region.

Bahr el Ghazal, situated about 1,000 kilometres south-west of Khartoum, suffered the most during Sudan's famine of last year. The famine, rated as the worst in a decade, affected an estimated 2.6 million people and claimed at least 200,000 lives.

The Caritas team visited villages, schools, hospitals, churches, camps run by other NGOs and administrative offices to get a better understanding of the consequences of the world's longest running civil war. They shot motion and still pictures and held discussions with various personalities in all the places they visited.

Mr. Cereda described the tour as of immense importance to his organisation since it was the first one of its kind. "This is the first time Caritas Italiana has sent any representative to Sudan although we have supported the churches working in the area for the past 20 years,'' he said. He hoped that their visit would go a long way in helping Caritas Italiana make positive decisions regarding their future involvement in the region, since there are times, when like other people/organisations outside Sudan, they have had to contend with many, sometimes conflicting views about the state of affairs in the troubled state.

He said theirs was not really an assessment of the situation on the ground but largely a familirisation tour. "To qualify to be an assessment mission, I would need to spend at least a month here," said Cereda.

A former colony of the British, Sudan has been at war since her emancipation from the colonial yoke. The only hiatus came in 1972 to 1993 following a peace deal signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the Jaffar Numeiry government and rebels. The current phase of the war together with its attendant consequences, have claimed an estimated 1.9 million lives. Thousands have been driven out as refugees while equally large numbers languish in squalid conditions as internally displaced people.

Charles Omondi

4. Taking the Gospel to the barracks

Plans are underway for Catholic priests to be visiting Sudan People's Liberation Army barracks once every month to preach the gospel, the Bishop of Diocese of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari has said.

The Bishop expressed the sentiments on November 21, 1999 while presiding over the first graduation ceremony for Sudanese teachers and the sending out of catechists at the Blessed Josephine Bakhita Formation Centre in Kitale, Kenya.

Bishop Mazzolari said Christians have an obligation to reach out to everybody in need of spiritual nourishment.

"It is not enough to merely condemn evil in the society. You and I have to begin to enter into the world and begin to change it,'' the Bishop told the young Sudanese.

He pointed out that some of the soldiers had asked him to make arrangements for his priests to visit the barracks since some of the evils the soldiers were accused of committing were as a result of lack of spiritual guidance.

In addition to the monthly visits by the priests, the soldiers will benefit from additional visits by catechists and they will be free to request for the services of a priest whenever need arises.

Like their government counterparts, the SPLA soldiers, who have for the last 16 years been engaged in a civil war with Khartoum, have been accused of committing atrocities and other evils against civilians.

The Bishop further reiterated the Church's commitment to the development of education in southern Sudan.

Since the current phase of the Sudan civil war began in 1983, education in southern Sudan has suffered a great deal. Schools have collapsed in their hundreds. The ones that exist today are few and far apart. They are poorly equipped and are under the care of people with little or no training at all.

The Kitale institution, which is at the exclusive service of the Sudanese, was inaugurated in 1996 and offers courses to potential catechists, teachers, seminarians and an induction course on Dinka language and culture to missionaries assigned to serve among the Sudanese.