Sudan: News Briefs, 5/4/99

Sudan: News Briefs, 5/4/99

SUDAN: IRIN News briefs, 4 May

SPLM not ready for talks next Monday

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has yet to receive official word about the reconvening of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) peace talks in Nairobi, but has said it would have difficulty in starting next Monday as has been mooted. The SPLM said it could not comment on Khartoum's reported agreement to hold the recently postponed IGAD talks next Monday (10 May) because it had not been notified of any scheduled talks by the Kenyan mediators, its spokesman Dr Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Tuesday. He said the selection of a date for talks could not be up to Khartoum but must involve all the parties involved.

His response comes in the wake of a report on Tuesday in the 'Al-Rai al-Aam' daily in Khartoum that the government had agreed to hold talks in Nairobi next Monday and that the weekend's reconciliation agreement between Sudan and Eritrea would "provide a strong push for finding a peaceful solution to the south Sudan problem."

Sudan-Eritrea reconciliation "means little to SPLA"

Commenting on the reconciliation between Sudan and Eritrea - and specifically on their agreement to stop supporting each other's rebel movements - Kwaje said the SPLM "respected the decisions of the leadership and people of Eritrea".

He said the deal would make little difference to the SPLA because it did not have a force in Eritrea, but might affect the National Democratic Alliance - an umbrella group of opposition Sudanese parties, of which the SPLM is a member.

SPLA warns oil companies

The SPLM/A on Tuesday warned oil companies against investment in the industry while the war lasted, saying it considered them legitimate targets. A statement by SPLM/A spokesman Dr Samson Kwaje said oil investments would not be of economic benefit to the Sudanese people but would rather escalate the civil war against the people of southern Sudan, "from whose soil the oil is being vandalised".

The statement said the Khartoum government and its main partner, Talisman Energy Company of Canada, were putting out false propaganda about the safety of investments but the SPLA said it could strike at any time and considered oil works, "including personnel and assets", as legitimate military targets.

Opposition "to work for reconciliation"

Khartoum has secured an agreement with former prime minister, Sadeq al-Mahdi - leader of the opposition Umma party, a member of the NDA - to work with the government for national reconciliation, news organisations reported on Monday. The deal, brokered between al-Mahdi and parliamentary Speaker Hassan al-Turabi, committed the two "to work to find a mechanism aimed at reaching a Sudanese political agreement able to solve all issues in dispute", AFP said.

The SPLM spokesman in Nairobi, Dr Samson Kwaje, told IRIN on Tuesday: "We consider it is just one party of the NDA talking to the NIF (National Islamic Front). We have no problem with Umma talking to the government about general principles and hope that what Umma is doing is not going to compromise the principles of the NDA in general."

Government accuses rebels of violating cease-fire

Khartoum on Monday accused southern rebels of violating a ceasefire by attacking an army convoy. Rebels ambushed the convoy in the southwestern Bahr al-Ghazal province, General Mohammed Osman Yassin told the state-run Omdurman Radio. He did not mention casualties or say when the clashes took place. In the second ambush, the Umma Liberation Army attacked a government army convoy on Saturday, just east of Kassala town (250 miles east of Khartoum) and took three officers prisoner, a statement by the military leadership of the opposition National Democratic Alliance said.

Meningitis outbreak "outstripping all previous epidemics"

The current meningitis outbreak in Sudan is "outstripping all previous epidemics" and the current hot, dry weather means it will probably continue to spread rapidly, putting more than a million people at risk. "The current need is for vaccine; we need donors to cover an extra 1,370,000 vaccine doses for the extension of the operation", IFRC spokesman John Sparrow told IRIN on Tuesday. A meningitis task force, coordinated by federal and state ministries of health, is fighting to contain the epidemic in White Nile, Gezira, Sennar, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile and Red Sea states. "Conditions are still very conducive to the spread of meningitis. We will hopefully see it wane within weeks but at the moment there is no let-up", Sparrow said.

Potential impasse over NGO operations averted

Intense negotiations have managed to avert a potential impasse between the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association and NGOs over the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding for relief operators in south Sudan, according to reports from Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).

On 22 April, NGOs received a letter from the executive secretary of the SRRA - the humanitarian wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - informing them that all NGOs should sign the attached MOU by 30 April or leave SPLM-held areas of south Sudan. OLS management and donors have negotiated the removal of the deadline, allowing ongoing discussion around "three clusters of outstanding issues".


Date: Tue, 4 May 1999 18:00:36 +0300 (EAT) Subject: SUDAN: News briefs [19990504]

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

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