Sudan: Sanctions Take Effect, War Spreads

by the Africa Faith and Justice Network
Washington, DC - On April 26, 1996, the UN Security Council voted - 13 to 0 with Russia and China abstaining

  • to impose diplomatic sanctions against the Sudan. Sudan had passed the deadline for handing over three suspects in the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Mubarak; Sudan is allegedly harboring the suspects. The sanctions included reducing the number of Sudanese diplomats in a country, departure of terrorist groups with headquarters in Sudan and banning of international conferences in the Sudan.

The sanctions were milder than the U.S., Britain and Ethiopia had hoped for. Egypt, who at first had pressed for harsher sanctions, backed down in the end, saying economic sanctions would make the Sudanese suffer and an arms embargo would endanger the unity of the Sudan. Egypt would not like to see an independent Southern Sudan controlling the waters of the Nile on which Egypt is so dependent.

The Security Council gave the Sudan two weeks to turn over the suspects. After this the sanctions went into effect, to be reviewed in two months' time if the suspects are still not handed over. This will be early July.

Russia and China abstained because they feel sanctions on the Sudan is one embargo too many. They, plus others, including Iran, and Syria, have stated they will not adhere to that part of he sanctions which asks governments to reduce the number of Sudanese diplomats in their country.

Sudan has said the sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. It has also said it will screen foreign organizations based in the Sudan.

The Civil War

1. The war can no longer be called "the war in the South."

It has spread to the Nuba Mountains for some time now. And there are recent reports that the Sudan Allied Forces (SAF), one of the military wings of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has launched attacks in the North, near the town of Kassala. The SAF is a splinter group of former Sudanese army troops who escaped Sudan after the '89 coup. 2. Several of the SPLA factions (headed by Riek Machar, Kerubino Kwanyin Bol,) have signed a "political charter" with Khartoum; it is supposed to be the initiation of a peace process.

Most analysts are not taking the charter seriously. It has been denounced by Garang as a "sell-out". (Garang has been joined by another splinter faction, headed by John Luc.) surprisingly, the charter has gained support from Joseph Lagu, a former vice-president under Nimeiri, who had been living outside Sudan for the last three years. He still commands some support in the South, especially his home region of Equatoria. He has just returned to the Sudan. 3. The situation in the Nuba Mountains continues to worsen. It is not considered the "South" and is therefore not eligible for OLS (Operation Lifeline Sudan) relief. Reports of atrocities continue - villages burned and looted, people rounded up into "peace camps"which are more like concentration camps, land taken over by mechanized framing - but because very few people have access to the Nuba Mountains, hard evidence is difficult to come by.

One issue which perhaps needs more emphasis and which affects the Nuba, the SPLA and the northern opposition is the question of land.

For ordinary people in the South and the marginalised areas of the North, one of the main reasons why they are fighting is because of land. People became fed up with government officials and merchants seizing their ancestral lands; they took up arms to defend what was rightfully theirs.

Even before the recent atrocities, there has been a history of land confiscation. And to make matters worse, the land is being confiscated by rich merchants who use mechanized farming. It is well documented that mechanical cultivation rapidly degrades the topsoil, making the land vulnerable to wind erosion. Commercial farmers (mostly NIF supporters) are given 25-year leases on the land; the farmers exploit the land ruthlessly so that after a few years the land is so degraded that it is unusable. This has happened already in the North.

The government has been redistributing land to reward its followers.

The issue of land, along with the issues of sharia law and self- determination, will have to be dealt with in any peace negotiations.

IMF Relations

In early May an IMF team spent a week in the Sudan. A report will be issued later on Sudan's economy in the period between January and April.

Relations with the IMF have been difficult for a decade because of Sudan's failure to pay arrears which have now reached $1.7 billion.

Relations took a turn for the better last year when Khartoum began to make a token payment of $4 million per month as a sign of good will.

The talks ended without a debt arrears pact. The IMF is expected to discuss its relations with Sudan at a meeting in August.

For more information, contact the Africa Faith and Justice Network, a group of people of faith working towards positive change for the peoples of Africa, at PO Box 29378, Washington DC 20017; telephone 202 832 3412; fax 202 832 9051; e-mail

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