Scottish Churches' Sudan Group Newsletter No. 8, May '94

Scottish Churches' Sudan Group Newsletter No. 8, May '94

Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 14:26:20 -0400 From: Faraz Fareed Rabbani Subject: SCSG Newsletter 8 Comments: To: African News & Information Service

Editor's Note: remember the source in the context of the Sudanese "problem"...


[The information reproduced below consists primarily of news items which have appeared in the Newsletter. Unless otherwise noted, it is copyright Scottish Churches' Sudan Group and permission MUST be requested if you wish to reproduce it in any form (permission will normally be freely given provided full acknowledgments are included). If you would like to subscribe to the Newsletter, please see the notes at the end of the document. If you have any comments or would like to contribute to the Newsletter, please write to us - all correspondance welcome!]


Issue No. 8 MAY 1994

NEW ADDRESS ... NEW ADDRESS ... Please note that our new address is as follows: Scottish Churches' Sudan Group c/o 21 Grosvenor Crescent Edinburgh EH12 5EE Scotland, UK tel: +44-(0)31 225 6357 fax: +44-(0)31 346 7247 email: (THIS REMAINS THE SAME)


Our March Newsletter reported that John Garang hoped to hold a national convention in areas held by his Sudan People's Liberation Army - Mainstream faction. AH reported that the convention, which concluded on 11.4.94, had taken place: an estimated 1000 delegates from South Sudan, the Ingessina Hills, the Nuba mountains and South Darfur attended, all areas with SPLA sympathies. SPLA sources in Nairobi said there would be a "new administrative and political entity" in the liberated areas of the South called "New Sudan", with possible leadership changes in the rebel movement. The convention, called partly in response to persistent criticisms of John Garang's autocratic style, appears not to have included his rivals from SPLA-United and thus does not represent the full range of current Southern political thinking. Indeed, an SPLA source of AH source said that Southern secession was "not a priority at present", a position at variance with the SPLA-United's enthusiastic advocacy of Southern independence. The two SPLA factions agreed to a common agenda in January 1994 but they are not yet a united force.

In his convention speeches, Garang appeared to speak of the future of the whole of the country, calling, as before, for a new democratic secular Sudan. He called for a decentralised power structure, a confederation which could hold a referendum on self-determination for the South and other marginalised areas, such as the Nuba mountains. However, the phrase "new administrative and political entity" which has been bandied about by SPLA spokesmen seems to imply separation. The Sudanese foreign minister scorned Garang's separatist aspirations: how was Garang hoping to secede the narrow border strip he controlled from Sudan? he wondered.

Egypt's foreign ministry reacted angrily to the national convention. The "new political and administrative entity called New Sudan" and the "forming of a parliament" were dangerous intimations of Southern seperatism, it argued. Egypt has long been fiercly opposed to Southern self-determination, because a seperate South will greatly complicate the crucial question of Nile water rights. In fact the Egyptian government has been making common cause with Khartoum at the Arab League this past month, attempting to kill off the possibility of a seperate South (this in spite of Egypt's very frosty relationships with Sudan's Islamists).

The SDG (5.1994), which tends to support Garang, declared the conference a "resounding success". It argued that Garang was now moving towards a separation of political and military structures, an essential step on the path to the restoration of civil society in the South, one of the most militarised areas of the world. News of the convention is still coming in and we hope to bring further reports in the next Newsletter.


The rainy season is due in the South this month, bringing the end of the Sudanese governement's current dry season offensive. Church sources in South Sudan report that all government advances have been contained by the SPLA. Khartoum's well-equipped but inexperienced troops have suffered heavy losses. The regime's strategy to cut off John Garang's Ugandan supply lines has not succeeded, most reports say. A sudanese military source predicted on 24.4.94 the imminent capture of the border towns of Nimule and Kajo Kaji, but this does not seem to have happened (AH).

The government's aerial bombing campaign (reportedly carried out with the help of South African experts) has had some military value in that it has forced tens of thousands of people into flight, causing logistical havoc in rebel areas. In April 1994 government planes carried out daily bombing runs on displaced persons feeding centres at Lobonok, Oma, Korperto, Nyarbang and Aswa (SDG 5.94), but the intensity of the bombing is reduced (CS) , and the SPLA has obtained Stinger ground-to-air missiles from Israel to use against the bombers (AH 15.4.94)

The Sudanese army fronts which pushed out from government-held Juba into East and West Equatoria have been repulsed., In one battle, on the old Captain Cook Road north of Torit, the brother of Hassan al Turabi (spirtitual guide of Sudan's Islamists) was killed. Both Turabi and the president have vowed that the capture of Nimule will be the price of this young man's martyrdom. Some clans of the Nuer tribe in Eastern Upper Nile have been badly hit by drought in their tribal lands. This has led to several weeks of inter-clan fighting for grazing rights, with Nuer displaced over the Ethiopian border coming back to join in. Relief operations in Nasir and Ulang have been abandoned; security in the Akobo area is tenuous (CS 25.4.94).


The Sudanese Embassy in London confirmed on 12.5.94 that the next round of peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLA factions will go ahead in Nairobi on 16.5.94. The talks are sponsored by a regional grouping called the Inter-Governmental Agency for Drought and Desertification (IGADD). The last round of these talks, held in mid-March 1994, were inconclusive, closing with no agreement on an agenda.

A government sponsored conference of Southern leaders was due to be held in Juba, capital of South Sudan, from 9.-12.5.94. African and Western diplomats agreed to attend but the two SPLA factions rejected government guarantees of safe passge to the government-held town.


GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS: Sudan's unelected parliament, the Transitional National Assembly, is made up of government appointees, and President Beshir chose three new members on 19.4.94. Anjelo Beda, a Southerner, was made Assembly vice-chairperson, replacing Aldo Ajou, who defected to the UK in January 1994. Other appointees were Ahmed Abdel Halim and John Anjol, another Southerner. [AH 21.4.]

DEMONSTRATIONS AROUND KHARTOUM: The London Arabic press reported a number of demonstrations in Khartoum and neighbouring Central Region in the week from 20.-27.4.94. On one day alone, 3 people were killed in clashes between citizens and the security forces in Wad Medani, a city 100 miles south of Khartoum. The disturbances, a protest against the dire economic conditions, were also reported in Al Kamilain, Hilaliya, Hassa Heisa in Central Region; Omdurman (part of the capital), and Atbara in Northern Region. The government responded by re-affirming its commitment to Islamic law and putting the police on full alert. [AH, ASaA]

SOME FOOD FOR GOVERNMENT AREAS IN THE SOUTH: barge loaded with 600 tonnes of relief food unloaded part of its cargo at Kaka and Malut, government held towns on the White Nile. The barge was due to sail as far as Kodok, from where some supplies would be sent overland to Wau. Two more barges are due to go to government towns further south on the White Nile, between Malakal and Juba. The aid shipment seems to have been co-ordinated by Khartoum's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. [AN 13.4.94]

NO FOOD IN REBEL AREAS: Dr Belario Aloy Ngong of the SPLA-Mainstream's relief agency appealed for food to save millions facing starvation in South Sudan. Some areas have received no food since December 1993. Both the SPLA and the government accuse each other of rejecting an emergency food programme in the South. [IPS 13.4.94, AH 27.4.94]



In our last issue we reported the arrests of Sadiq al Mahdi, former Prime Minister, and of two Ansar al Sunna leaders. They were soon released, but AI says [14.4.94] that the government is continuing its "pattern of harrassment of government critics known to be devout Muslims. The authorities, who seek to characterise critisicisms of the government as attacks on Islam, are particularly sensitive to opposition from members of Muslim [sects and parties]." The publisher of Al Sudani Al Dawliyya newspaper, Sudan's only independent title before its banning on 3.4.94, is still in prison. Sara Nugdallah and Abdel Rasoul al Nur, both of the banned Umma party, were also arrested (AI 14.4.94) and Sid Ahmed al Hussein, Secretary General of the banned Democratic Unionist Party was arrested on 20.3.94 (AI 20.4.94).

The government's sensitivity to its Muslim critics is linked to its campaign against a damning report prepared by Gaspar Biro, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Sudan. The report was accepted by 35 of the 53 governments represented at the 50th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights meeting in February and March 1994 in Geneva. Dr Biro wrote of grave and widespread violations by all parties in the Sudan, affecting almost all categories of the population. His report also pointed out that some of the Quran-inspired provisions of the 1991 Sudan Criminal Act were incompatible with the obligations of the Sudanese government under international law - for example, the Act permits the execution of minors in certain cases.

The Sudanese government picked up this remark in fury, accusing Dr Biro of blasphemy in criticising the Quranic source of the law. "Biro is worse than [Salman] Rushdie," said one Khartoum newspaper, and Sudan's justice minister flew to the Geneva meeting breathing threats against Dr Biro should he ever return to Sudan.

[SU 30.3.94, AI 14.4.94 & 20.4.94]



Here's a story doing the rounds in Khartoum. Ahmed Mahjoub Hajj Nur, a well- known High Court judge, was preaching the Friday sermon recently in one of the capital's mosques. He spoke of the need to restrain and conquer the desire for unaffordable luxuries in these times of economic woe: this struggle was "a minor jihad [holy war]." The worshippers at the mosque were surprised, however, when one of their number asked permission to address the crowd. He said he was an ordinary Sudanese, monthly salary around #S4500 (approx. #6 sterling), who had been troubled by his son's entreaties for a chicken to eat - chicken was a forgotten taste in his house. He decided to please the insistent child and splash out on a chicken, whatever the cost. But when his chicken was weighed at the grocer's, he found the cost would eat up two week's wages. He left the shop with no chicken, begging God and His Prophet for the patience to thole his plight, when he suddenly noticed the next person in the queue paying his bill - which came to #S65,000 (approx. #85 sterling). The fortunate customer was none other than Judge Ahmed Mahjoub, now preaching to him on the mortification of desire.

Economic conditions are now so bad in Khartoum that government functionaries acknowledge it in their sermons. The present Government of National Salvation came to power with the US$ at #S12; it is now heading towards #S600 [AK 2.5.94].

(Note: since this was written, the government claims the rate is now #S300 to the US$, but since it claims this is down from #S400, there is no guarantee this is in any way reliable. However, our figures are black market rates which will be different to the official figures. (Government press release, 10.5.94)

Khartoum prices: kg. beef #S700 doz. eggs #S1,000 lb. milk #S70 kg. ghee #2,900 kg. flour #S175 ful bean sandwich #S75 cup of tea #S100 blackmarket petrol #S1,500 (#S750 = #1 sterling approx.) Source: AW

FACTS AND FIGURES: This regime's first Economic Salvation Plan ran from 1990- 92, aiming at liberalising trade and pricing policies and agricultural self- sufficiency. It was not a success: the IMF suspended Sudan's membership in summer 1993 for non-payment of interest on loans of $14billion. Subsidies remain: #S6.6bn on petrol, #S3bn on bread, #S1.1bn on medicines. The much- vaunted self-sufficiency policy is stumbling - from 1990 the government encouraged wheat farming (presumably to cut wheat imports) at the expense of gum-arabic and cotton production (which are Sudan's main foreign currency earners). Even the head of the parliamentary Economic Committee, Badr al Din Suleiman, admits that the wheat priority policy "has destroyed the Sudanese economy and has led to the scarcity of hard currency." Another major source of foreign currency, receipts from Sudanese expatriates, has been hit by a law forcing them to convert their dollars into near-worthless Sudanese dinars. Mr Suleiman describes this as "one of the worst laws the government has enacted." At the end of April 1994 the government was holding discussions with the IMF to renew its membership, with rumours circulating of a further devaluation of Sudanese currency.

According to AW magazine, the government-defined poverty line is #S30,000 a month (#40 sterling), but even in the government's new national pay structure only the most senior public servants would get that - at present a doctor gets #S6,000 a month (#8 sterling). Meanwhile, the weight of a loaf has been cut by 20%, but the bakers will be lucky if they fool 2% of the population with this move.

TAX: Taxes are on the increase in Sudan. Revenues from direct taxation have trebled in the five year life time of this regime, and the regime now employs a new Islamic taxation system based on the zakat, a Quranic tax on capital assets and agricultural products, varying from 2.5% to 10%, used for religious and charitable purposes. The new taxes were celebrated at an international conference held in Khartoum on 25.4.94, where the vice-president of the republic said the zakat strengthened humankind's relation to God. But this does not seem to be the view on the streets, according to AW's correspondent, Afaf Zayn. At the end of March 1994 meetings were held between the zakat office and industrialists and farmers. Some of the latter complained that zakat was a major cause of "the industrial slump and agricultural disaster." Small workshops in Omdurman are closing down and some farmers are on their way to debtors' goals.

CROCODILES AND PILLS: The crocodiles, that is, the rackateers, are smiling still. Often the black marketeers are senior National Islamic Front supporters who have bought up privatised industries from the state. They have a monoploy of pharmaceuticals; the medicine situation terrifies the Sudanese. "Live" vaccines are sold on the pavements outside hospitals: a new syringe costs #S75 (used ones are also available). The whole health system is in danger of collapse: 1000 doctors in a country of 25 million people. Doctors are now banned from travelling overseas (except for conferences) and they cannot treat most patients, just diagnose them. Some of the crocodiles may have been riled by suggestions of government corruption printed in Al Sudani al Dawliyya (Sudan's sole independent newspaper, banned on 3.4.94). The paper pointed a finger at the son of Hassan al Turabi, spiritual guide of Sudan's Islamists, as well as addressing a complaint to Al Osman Muhammed Taha, Social Planning Minister and (rumoured) political boss of the NIF.

EVEN MORE TROUBLE: It is difficult to imagine a more catastrophic economic situation. But one doesn't have to travel very far from Khartoum to find one. A World Food Programme official reports that tens of thousands of people in Western Sudan have been displaced by drought related famine, and conditions in the South are even worse. Westerners and Southerners are queuing up for a chance to stay in the consumer paradise that is Khartoum. (Sources: AW 25.4.94, AH, SU)

On a related topic, a letter from a contact we have in Khartoum dated 3.5.94 comments on the rents being charged for residential accomodation, particularly for Southerners, in Khartoum:

The Islamic Fundamentalist government of El Beshir has influenced landlords in Khartoum to take adverse action against their Southern tenants. Nearly all property in Khartoum belongs to affluent Northerners. Previously, Southern tenants were welcomed by these landlords as good tenants in comparison with Northerners, but now the tide has changed. Rocketing inflation coupled with Southerners political aspirations have led to difficulties in landlord/tenant relationships.

Rents also vary: in extreme cases, the same house costing #S2,000 to #S3,000 a month with one or two month's rent as a deposit for a Northerner will be let at #S10,000 a month with six months deposit to a Southerner. For the few who could afford to buy a house, it is becoming increasingly difficult as the seller risks problems from the government should a sale take place. Consequently, many Southerners have been forced out of their houses and are having to stay with friends and relatives. The other alternative is attempting to find a place to live in the camps of displaced people around Khartoum.



Pray for the ongoing attempts to work towards peace in Sudan, that the leaders will seek to cooperate and enable the war to stop. Pray for the ordinary people of both North and South suffering under the dire economic policies of the government. Remember aid workers seeking to alleviate some of the hardship caused by the war.



The following is an excerpt from a letter written by an aid worker after visiting Kakuma refugee camp. This camp is in north-western Kenya, about 75 miles from the border where 40,000 people, mostly Sudanese, live. After six weeks with the people there he wrote the following:

... Song and prayer pervade the ECS compound in which I was hosted amidst a maze of mud and thatch houses and coarse, brush fences. In January Stephen Dit Makok, compiler of the new Dinka Bor songbook, had begun a class with 50 young evangelists and Chritstian leaders, teaching, among other things, the 662 compositions of the new volume. Each night, from 7:00 to 9:30, they surrounded the house in which I stayed ("The Right Rev. Bishop's House" scrawled above the door), saturating its mud walls with their contagious rhythms, occasionally breaking into dance. Later in the quiet night darkness came the plaintive sound of a solitary lyre, marvellously constructed from cat gut, goat skin and a soldier's military helmet. On several nights I was awakened at 2:00 or 3:00 am by the songs of folk gathering to minister to some ailing soul. And again, the pre-dawn darkness carried the low rumble of young male voices. Dispossessed of the rhythms of their homeland, a people mark out time in patterns which, I believe, are essential to their survival. Their song, ever straining toward homeland and heaven, affirms the divine presence, assuages pain, and gives meaning to their communal journey. This is not to disregard the complex social and political currents which surge through Kakuma, nor the ethnic, cultural and generational tensions, inherent in so diverse a community. Their great sacrifices required for military victory and political ascendancy are constantly in the air: hearts and minds are frequently turned toward the war zone. Religion is, then, but one aspect of refugee life, but an exceedingly important one. I came to believe that there are but two institutions which hold the passions of Sudanese in exile: one comprises the varied political- military structures of the SPLA/SPLM. The other is the unifying ethos of the churches. Only these two have sprung directly from the Sudanese soul, and are sustained by them alone. Only these two will be carried back to Sudan when exiles return. Alongside them all else is secondary.

The NGOs and related agencies (among them, UNHCR, Lutheran World Federation, and Swedish Save the Children) must be commended for the diverse services they provide at Kakuma, encompassing food, water, and housing, health and education, feeding centres for children and therapy for amputees. Essential as these services are, however, they are temporary. Developed and sustained by 'aliens,' they do not, by and large, arise from the impulse of Sudanese. Even the schools, so greatly valued, and so important for the formation of young minds, are less potent than the two forces which presently drive the psyche in exile. Given the sustenance which most Sudanese derive from the church, I was saddened to hear some NGO staff denigrate the religious expressions of refugees as transient and superficial, a product of boredom. In some quarters there was enthusiastic talk of the 'psycho-social activities' provided for troubled 'minors,' but little willingness to recognise that the most dynamic systems for social, psychological and spiritual well-being are those which refugees themselves create and sustain. It is in the churches that souls well up in prayer, retelling and relieving the trauma of the past. Here hostilities of clan and tribe diminish as a surrogate family affirms its common vision. Here exiles cast themselves upon a God who transforms suffering through love.....

When, at dusk, I'd sit on the edge of the riverbed, boys would gather round. Occasionally I'd ask what has made them who they are. Most had experienced the rigors of cattle camp in their early years. The SPLA organised them in groups and appointed caretakers; most have been under military discipline. But their responses pointed elsewhere. One said, "we've left our parents and our land and have gone to the bush. Our lives are in the hands of God. He has given us the Bible to guide us." Soon after their arrival at Pinyudu, "the camp of children" in Ethiopia, two Sudanese pastors went to live among them. During 1988 the lads, most having come from rural Nilotic life, sought baptism, three and four thousand entering the church in a single service. Today, many draw upon the Gospel and the biblical narratives to articulate their identity, to explain their pilgrimage, and express their hope for the future....



For the first year of its existence, the SCSG has been fortunate to have a part-time worker at the Church of Scotland who was effectively seconded to the SCSG, and who was paid for by the Church of Scotland. As a result of recent changes in staffing in the World Mission department of the Church of Scotland, this funding was cut at the end of April, and the Sudan Group is now having to seek new ways of doing its work. We would like to record our thanks to the Church of Scotland for supporting us in the first few months of the SCSG's existence.

Now we are looking to continue and develop the work. We are seeking support from various sources to help pay for a part-time post as before, and have had some success in some of these areas. For example, the Scottish Episcopal Church has very kindly provided us with office space from which to work (hence the new address). We are seeking core funding for a salary from some larger organisations, but are not yet sure of what the outcome of any of these applications might be. We plan to continue developing the work so that we are able to spend more time carrying out direct lobbying work on Sudan and build up more contacts between Sudan and Scotland.

If you think you might be able to help us find additional funds, or would like to ask any questions about the Group's future, then please get in touch with the Secretary at the address below. Another way you might like to help us is by passing on details of other potential subscribers - we welcome new subscriptions and are keen to make the Newsletter as well-known as possible. We will keep you informed of any news on the funding issue through the Newsletter, which we plan to continue producing regardless of whether funding for a post is made available or not.


Key to sources used

AH - Al Hayat, AI - Amnesty International, AK - Al Khartoum, AN - African News, ASaA - Al Sharq al Awsat, AW - Al Wasat, CS - church sources, IPS - InterPress Service (Third World News Agency), SDG - Sudan Democratic Gazette, SU - Sudan Update



Please note that we would be keen to have names and addresses of potential new subscribers! Please send us postal or email addresses and we will follow this up - thank you!


If you would like to subscribe, there are two ways you can do this. Email subscriptions are free and contain only selected news items as above. If you would like the full Newsletter, containing other information including details of events etc. we hear about in Scotland/UK, please send a cheque or postal order payable to ''Scottish Churches' Sudan Group'' for 10 UK pounds sterling to the address below, and it will be sent to you by post.

Scottish Churches' Sudan Group, c/o 21 Grosvenor Crescent Edinburgh EH12 5EE Scotland, UK tel: +44-(0)31 225 6357 fax: +44-(0)31 346 0182 email:


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific