SUDAN: IRIN News Briefs [19991119]

SUDAN: IRIN News Briefs [19991119]

SUDAN: IRIN News Briefs, Friday 19 November


Refugees flee ethnic clashes to Uganda, Kenya Average or better crop production forecast in four regions ICRC finds reasonably good situation in Bow, western Upper Nile Lou Nuer people agree peace covenant Parliament to debate curbs on president's powers Garang press conference disrupted NDA to seek common stance on peace efforts Conference bids to map out "a shared vision for children" Foreign minister explains Sudan's stand on US special envoy Sudan alleges US behind pressure on Talisman oil operations Talisman disputes UN claims of oil-related abuses

Refugees flee ethnic clashes to Uganda, Kenya

Over 400 Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda over the past few days, a UNHCR spokesman said on Wednesday. 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 7-13 November, the spokesman added. In May there was an influx of abut 400 Sudanese refugees fleeing similar fighting.

The semi-official 'New Vision' newspaper in Uganda reported the recent fighting as factional clashes within the ranks of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and quoted a Didinga refugee as saying most of his compatriots were from Lotukel and Chukudum. SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Thursday he was awaiting details of the reported refugee movements and armed clashes. He had no knowledge of "full clashes" between the Dinka and Didinga within the SPLA, he said, but acknowledged there had been "some unease and incidents" in recent months.

Average or better crop production forecast in four regions

Preliminary analysis by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) has suggested that crop production estimates ranged from average to above-average in most areas of Western Equatoria, Bahr el-Ghazal, Lakes and Jonglei regions, the latest OLS report stated. However, poor and erratic rainfall are reported to have caused crop failure in sizeable areas of Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei.

In most areas of western Upper Nile, insecurity had caused displacement and interruption of the cropping cycle likely to reduce harvests, as well as preventing routine field assessments, OLS stated. The government has denied flight clearance for Duar, Ganyiel, Akop and Leer in Upper Nile throughout November, in addition to Mankien, Nhialdu and Gumriak which were already denied, it added.

ICRC finds reasonably good situation in Bow, western Upper Nile

An ICRC mission, meanwhile, has found that people around Bow, 40 km south of Bentiu in western Upper Nile, were able to stay in their villages and cultivate crops despite intense fighting in the region in the past few months, an ICRC report stated. Thanks to abundant rainfall this year, the coming harvest is expected to be good and "economic security has generally improved since April", it said, while cautioning that this might not hold true for the entire Upper Nile region. With the onset of the dry season, the populations visited will move into nearby swamps with their cattle for the next four to five months, it said. ICRC distributed fishing equipment and mosquito nets to 6,000 households of 13 different Nuer sub-clans to help ensure an adequate diet and protect health.

Lou Nuer people agree peace covenant

The Lou Nuer, from areas wracked by conflict between rival militia groups in and around Waat, Akobo, Yuai and Langkein in Upper Nile, have concluded a six-month initiative by reconciling at a peace and governance conference in Waat, the New Sudan Council of Churches reported on Friday. A "people-to-people peace process" started in June brought together military, political and community leaders to agree the Waat Lou Nuer Covenant, signed on 6 November. The document pledged peace among the Lou and the formation of a Peace and Governance Council to rebuild civil administration, establish a police system and revive the traditional court system of chiefs. The conflict in the area has caused the collapse of civil government and withdrawal of almost all humanitarian agencies, it added.

Parliament to debate curbs on president's powers

Parliament on Wednesday backed a motion to debate proposals amending the constitution to reduce the powers of President Omar al-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 Speaker of the Parliament Hassan al-Turabi in his power struggle with the president, AFP news agency reported.

Bashir on visit to Ethiopia

Meanwhile, President Bashir travelled to Addis Ababa on Thursday for a working visit during which he was due to hold talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and senior government officials. Bashir was expected to return to Khartoum on Friday, after meeting OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, Ethiopian Radio reported.

Garang press conference disrupted

Police in Khartoum on Wednesday arrested 17 people, including two journalists, on public order charges as they gathered for a telephone press conference with SPLA leader John Garang, news agencies reported on Thursday. 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. Garang said the NDA had entered "a decisive moment" and urged its members to remain united at a time of "crisis within the regime", AFP news agency reported. The NDA leadership agreed in Asmara "to step up the NDA's struggle in the fields of popular uprising and military operations" while also intensifying the search for a political and negotiated settlement.

NDA to seek common stance on peace efforts

The issue of whether the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) peace process should be pursued alone or somehow merged with the Libya-Egypt peace initiative for Sudan will feature highly at a scheduled meeting of the leadership council of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Monday, SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Thursday. "We think the IGAD imitative should be given a chance in its own right, with no parallel initiative, while our partners in the NDA think it should be merged with the Libya-Egypt initiative, so there will be some difficult negotiations," Kwaje said.

Conference bids to map out "shared vision for children"

UNICEF and OLS are to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November, 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 this week, children themselves mapped out their own vision of their future. This will be developed into "a shared vision for the children of Sudan". The children's conference called for peace in Sudan and highlighted particularly the Nuer-Dinka conflict as a cause of concern.

Foreign minister explains Sudan's stand on US special envoy

External Relations Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail on Tuesday 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 so. Johnston was appointed by President Bill Clinton in August in what the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has described as a hostile climate, particularly in the US Congress, to Sudan. Johnston's appointment is aimed at pressing for improvements in the human rights situation in Sudan - especially on alleged support for slavery and persecution of Christians - while seeking ways to end the war.

Washington has also announced an extension from three to five years of its Sudan Transitional Assistance for Rehabilitation (STAR) programme that provides "democratisation training" to opposition and other groups in southern Sudan, while so far resisting pressure from Congress to supply the SPLA with direct logistical and military aid, the EIU reported on Monday.

Sudan alleges US behind pressure on Talisman oil operations

Meanwhile, Ismail told reporters in Khartoum last week that the US had influenced Canadian policy towards Sudan, particularly in relation to Ottawa's concern that the 25 percent 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.

Talisman disputes UN claims of oil-related abuses

Meanwhile, Talisman chief executive Jim Buckee on Tuesday disputed parts of a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, Leonardo 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. He called the UN report "hearsay" and disputed claims that 1,000 to 2,000 people were forced from their homes in May when the Sudanese army attacked and burned villages in Helig, where Talisman has drilling rigs. Talisman are currently taking journalists and economic analysts to look at their Sudanese operations.


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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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