Sudan News & Views (No.20)


Issue No 21 November 1996
'Sudan News & Views' is an independent electronic Newsletter working to advocate peace, human rights and humanitarian aid for the Sudan.
Editor: Dr. Yasin Miheisi
  • Distribution is free of charge.
  • Reposting and reproduction are allowed (with acknowledgement).
  • Comments and Subscription Requests To:

In this issue:


Our guest writer for this issue is Dr. Ahmed Akasha Ahmed, a Sudanese businessman living in the Netherlands. He was educated at the Institute of Social Studies and Leiden University. He wrote numerous articles on various Sudanese issues, in particular on the politics and economics of Sudan. Please note that articles by guest writers express the writer's views which do not necessarily coincide with the editor's.

By: Dr. Ahmed Akasha

The civil war in Sudan had been raging for 28 years out of the 40 years of independence. The war has caused great loss of lives and immense destruction of the socio-economic fabric of the south. Although there is a lot of talk and optimism for peace and national reconciliation, my view, looking at the present political and military situation, that the civil war will spread to engulf the whole of Sudan, probably leading to the complete ruin and disintegration of the country.
Perhaps little is known, so far, about the raging civil strife in some parts of northern Sudan; the part which remained stable and peaceful throughout the years of post-colonial rule. Recently, this has changed. The SPLA forces had captured areas in south-eastern parts of the Blue Nile area. Also recently, clashes were reported between the Sudanese Allied Forces (elements discharged from the Sudanese national army) and the Popular Defence Forces (NIF supporters). As a result, some areas in eastern Sudan are in fact out of the government's control. Also it is worth noting the fact that the military movements battling, at present, the Sudanese Islamic regime, enjoy some international support, safe havens in neighbouring states and arms shipments, etc... Also these military and political movements enjoy a great deal of domestic political support.
In view of what is stated above, it would be quite justified to consider the prospects of the civil war spreading into northern Sudan. That war has already begun.
Is such an escalation inevitable and can it not be avoided?
In answering this question, one has to point out the following: All these are crucial forces for war and peace in the Sudan. The regime did not pay any attention to them and to their role, and no contacts aiming at national reconciliation were made with them. Instead, contacts were limited to the leaderships of traditional parties at home and abroad. The regime is in fact disinterested in reconciling these forces and prefers to join hands with the 'religiously-inspired' traditional political leaderships.
Obviously, there are many factors which do not pertain to a 'national reconciliation' and, hence, avoidance of a civil war in north Sudan. That war has long ago became inevitable in view of such factors as: the stubbornness of the NIF and military leadership (their insistence on repression, abuses and failed policies); the economic decline which impoverished the population and scrapped the dream of a modern Sudan.
The failure of the Sudanese to amicably resolve these contradictions, will lead to a large scale civil war. That war can still be averted if the forces, who are so far excluded from any national reconciliation effort, are consulted and made party to any national dialogue.
The escalation of the civil war will no doubt be a great calamity. It will result in more death and displacement and will lead to the complete disintegration of the country. For this, it has to be avoided, not by all means or at any cost. It has to be avoided by democratization of the country's political life and a genuine national dialogue.


The US government decision to send nearly $20 million of military equipment to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda, which is reportedly to help the 'front-line' states, most likely through the Sudanese opposition, to overthrow the Sudanese regime, reflects the US administration's growing concern and anger at Khartoum.
US officials denied that the military aid, described as 'non-lethal' including radios, uniforms, boots and tents, was targeting Sudan. But observers believe that the aid is meant to be channeled to Sudanese opposition fighting groups, especially the SPLA and the Sudanese Allied Forces (SAF). There were also hints that the aid could be expanded to include rifles and other weapons.
Top administration officials met several times over the last year to discuss policy towards Sudan. President Clinton was involved in some of these discussions
Although some US officials are still in favour of the policy of constructive dialogue and exerting pressure on Khartoum to change its policy with regard to the civil war and its support of international terrorism, others, especially in the Pentagon and the CIA support a tougher approach. They consider Sudan to be second only to Iran as a staging ground for international terrorism. They believe that the regime in Khartoum is weak, and exerting more pressure through the opposition and neighbouring countries will cause the regime to collapse under its own weight.
The CIA Director, John Deutch, made a 3-day visit to the Ethiopian capital in April. He said that funds had been significantly increased to pursue a more activist policy that could include preemptive strikes against terrorists and their sponsors.
SNV had obtained reliable information that several Operational Detachments-Alpha (also called A-Teams) of the US army are operating in support of the SPLA. These troops are on an open-ended deployment, according to the sources.

U.S. pressure so far has resulted in the expulsion of some extremists and closing of some camps. But U.S. officials described those gestures as 'cosmetic' or 'tactical,' taken to avoid further UN sanctions. Sudan had simply reorganized the 'closed camps' into smaller, mobile centers to avoid detection by overhead U.S. satellites.
CIA sources say that the Saudi businessman, Osama Bin Laden, whom it described as 'one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today', has flown back to Sudan, four months only after it was announced by the Sudanese authorities that he had left the country for good.

The authorities in Khartoum staged several demonstrations against the US, describing it as the 'big Satan'. The authorities said it will raise $20 million for arms purchases to counter the US aid to its neighbours. The money will be collected from the public to 'demonstrate that the Sudanese accept the challenge and are able to resist their enemies'.
Meanwhile, the head of the foreign relations committee of the parliament, described a recent order by president Clinton to ban Sudanese government officials and military men from entering the United States as 'ill-advised and reveals the hostile intentions and imbalance in the American policy'.
Some members of parliament called for the closure of the US embassy in Khartoum and banning all Americans from entering Sudan.


Eastern Sudan is increasingly becoming a scene of escalating instability. There have been several reports over the past few months of cross-border attacks staged by Sudanese opposition based in Eritrea, and of growing military build-up on both sides of the border.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella organisation of opposition political parties, had recently said it plans to intensify its military campaign against the government along Sudan's borders.
In an attempt to unify its fighting factions, the NDA, in its recent meeting in Asmara, formed a Higher Coordination and Supervision Committee, a four-member committee headed by NDA leader Mohammad Osman al -Mirghani. It also includes as members both Gen. Fathi Ahmed Ali, leader of the Armed Forces Legitimate Command, and NDA Secretary-General Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi. Militarily, the committee is the highest body supervising military operations.
In addition, a Joint Military Command, headed by SPLA leader John Garang, and including a representative from the Sudanese Allied Forces and the Beja Congress, was formed to plan and carry out military operations against the Khartoum government.
The command carried out its first joint attack against a military garrison in Tukan, 100 km from Aroma on October 8, killing 15 Sudanese government soldiers.
The Sudanese Allied Forces (SAF) said, in a statement issued in mid-November, that they carried their fifth successful military operation against the government troops 45 km southwest of Kassala town. The operation resulted in the killing of nine government soldiers and the destruction of one vehicle fitted with a Doshka machine gun.
The government, on the other hand, said its troops fought off the attack by the opposition forces in the east of the country, killing at least two with no casualties on the government side.

Apart from the opposition's military attacks, there were several reports of vehicles and food supplies being stolen from government stores in major eastern towns and smuggled across the border to Eritrea. A government newspaper report said three people were arrested trying to smuggle sewing machines and military style uniforms to opposition groups in Eritrea. Police also said they had captured a truck loaded with some 120 sacks of lentils intended to be smuggled outside Sudan

With the recent news of the US military aid to its neighbours, the Sudanese government-controlled media started beating the war drums. It reported that troops from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda are poised to invade Sudan across its southern and eastern borders with aid from the United States. It said that more than 1,200, mostly Eritrean troops were assembled on the eastern border, awaiting imminent delivery of heavy arms and armour, adding that 'joint forces' had been assembled on the border with Uganda since September.
Reliable sources report that Sudan is actively preparing for war on the eastern front. Army divisions are being moved from the south to the east. These have been replaced by the re-deployment of forces of Riak Machar and Kerbino Bol. The plan is to let southerners fight each other, while the army protects the eastern border. There are also reports that Sudan has made a secret deal to buy Russian arms to the tune of $400 million. The deal was financed by an Arab businessman, who returned to Sudan recently after an absence of a few months, in exchange for 800 tons of sesame and part of Sudan's cotton produce.

U.S. officials estimate that more than 3,000 Sudanese rebels are training in Eritrea for a joint offensive that is expected to concentrate on cutting the vital road running from Khartoum to Port Sudan.
With intelligence reports that Sudan had also recruited and is training thousands of Eritrean Islamic Jihad, the eastern front is increasingly poised to become the battleground of an imminent bloody confrontation.


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is still negotiating the release of three of its staff detained in southern Sudan, and denied reports that they have been freed.
The ICRC plane was seized on November 1 in Geogrial Province in southern Sudan by the breakaway SPLA/Bahr El-Gazal faction led by Kerbino Kwanyn Bol, who, in April, signed a peace charter with the Khartoum government and is now fighting along the government side.
The Sudanese authorities said the plane was transporting SPLA fighters and ammunition, and ordered the suspension of all activities of the agency.
The ICRC denied carrying any arms and said the five people are wounded fighters on their way home in Ban al Bezab, after receiving treatment in a hospital in northern Kenya. Both the government and the SPLA knew in advance about the flight and the identities of its passengers.
The ICRC tried to negotiate the release of the plane and its passengers, who include a Canadian pilot, a Kenyan co-pilot and an Australian nurse.
Kerbino, who said in a televised broadcast that he would instruct his forces to shoot ICRC workers if they continue to support Garang, made a demand for $65 million ransom for the three ICRC workers. After extensive negotiations, Kerbino agreed to free them, but failed to honour two appointments for their release, because he became angry at negative reports he heard on the BBC radio broadcast.
It is now reported that Kerbino made fresh demands, which the negotiators refused to reveal for fear of jeopardizing the negotiations. According to reliable sources, the new ransom demand includes medical supplies, ambulances and vehicles.


Sudan and Uganda signed, earlier this month, a memorandum of understanding and agreed to hold the next round of talks in Uganda in December.
Sudan and Uganda held talks in Tehran in early October to follow up on a September pact, mediated by the Iranian President Rafsanjani on his trip to Khartoum and Kampala, under which the two states agreed to halt their activities in the border area. Under the pact, the two governments also agreed to stop hostile propaganda campaigns, move all refugees and rebels at least 100 km inside the border and encourage the voluntary repatriation of refugees from the two countries
Although the GOS hailed the agreement and proclaimed its commitment, Uganda seems to have no faith in the current negotiations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told journalist that the Ugandan government 'unwillingly agreed to participate out of respect for Iranian President Rafsanjani.'
During the course of the Iranian-brokered negotiations, there were many incidents that reflect the fragile nature of the agreement and the difficulty of achieving normal relations between the two states.
During the signing ceremony in Kampala, the Ugandan Foreign Minister declined to shake the hand of his Sudanese counterpart, despite some urging from the Iranian Foreign Minister.
Only two weeks after the September agreement, GOS warplanes dropped about 10 bombs on the northwestern Ugandan town of Moyo. Sudan initially denied the bombing, but later admitted with an apology.
The Ugandan minister of defence was quoted as saying: 'It is surprising that even before the ink dries on the agreement we signed they are bombing us. We shall not sit back and watch while our territory continues to be violated. We shall soon respond appropriately.'
Uganda had decided, at the time, to pull out of the negotiations on the grounds that the Sudanese side are not respecting the September agreement.

Additionally for Uganda, and despite the September pact, the security situation in northern Uganda continue to deteriorate rapidly, as rebels of the West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have both stepped up their activity in the West Nile region, which hosts around 200,000 Sudanese refugees.
The WNBF had attacked a refugee camp at Invepi on Nov. 8. The camp, 60 kilometers from the Ugandan-Sudanese border, is home to 9,300 Sudanese refugees. Although no casualties were reported, the rebels burned and looted the camp. The UNHCR lost radio equipment and two vehicles.
The WBNF, said to be backed by Sudan, warned the Sudanese refugees living in Uganda to vacate their camps or face more attacks.
The WBNF has staged two previous attacks on a refugee camp in Palorinya on Oct. 16 and 18 killing 16 and seriously wounding five. Several huts were looted and burned by the attackers and many refugees fled.
The LRA, headed by Joseph Kony, killed more than 100 Sudanese, mostly women and children, when it attacked a refugee camp at Acholi Pii in northern Uganda in July. The rebels burned 300 huts at the camp displacing more than 2,000 refugees and 45 families were abducted.
Due to the increasing insecurity in the area, some refugees are said to be moving south into Uganda, where there is no rebel activity. Between 10,000 and 17,000 refugees have reportedly returned to Sudan, following a visit by John Garang to camps in Koboko in northern Uganda, where he urged the refugees to return to Sudan.


The UN Security Council last week delayed for a month a decision on implementing an air embargo against Sudan for failing to extradite three men wanted for an attempt to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa last year. The secretary-general's report, based on the findings of the UN special envoy, al-Akhdar al-IBrahimi, showed no change in the situation.
When the council discussed the report, France, Egypt and Russia called for a 30-day delay in deciding on a date for the air embargo, to allow time for a report on the humanitarian impact of the sanctions.
Although Sudanese officials used to maintain they had no knowledge of the three suspects, they are now providing information on their whereabouts. Sudan's Interior Minister, Bakri Hassan Salih said that 'the first accused, Mustafa Hamza, had fled to Afghanistan, and another one, Izzat Yassin, was assassinated in Kenya, after entering via Sudan, while the third drowned in the Red Sea.'
In preparation for the looming air sanctions, the Sudanese authorities said they are conducting negotiations with foreign airlines to compensate for the stoppage of Sudan Airways. They said the Dutch airline, KLM, had agreed to increase the number of its flights to Khartoum. The KLM, however, stated that its Khartoum route, being unprofitable, will be scrapped altogether. It is also reported that NIF businessmen, jointly with an Arab company, are setting up a new airline company in Cyprus to take over Sudan Airways international routes.
Sudan Airways, on the other hand, was forced to stop its flights to Europe, even before the ban takes effect. Two of its leased Airbus planes had been withdrawn by the French Airbus Aviation Company. Airbus had detained one plane at London airport last month and another last week at Cairo airport, making it impossible for Sudan Airways to operate flights to Europe.
The Sudanese Embassy in London issued a four-page statement accusing the US, Egypt and Ethiopia of using sanctions to overthrow the government in Sudan. 'The aim was either to change the policy of, or to abolish, the Sudanese regime,' the statement said.
The statement also added that Sudan is 'a land devoid of political prisoners, and where political opponents enjoy freedom of expression.'


'The Road to Bor' is a book by El-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohamed Khair (Seikha) published recently. The author is the NIF doctor, who held several ministerial positions in al-Bashir's government. He was Minister of Presidential Affairs, the Interior, Administrative Reform and now is Minister of Culture and Information.
The book, of which an excerpt, accurately translated, follows, portrays a Sudanese army operation against the SPLA in which the author took part as a military doctor.
This piece illustrates how captives are treated by the Sudanese army, and why, after 13 years of war, the Khartoum government cannot produce one single POW, Alive!

'..... At dawn, on Monday the 29th of Muharram, and while the men were preparing their only meal of the day, Major David [of the government army] took a group of his column to search the area of the defeated ambush. He returned, with his men, carrying some household utensils which belonged to the rebels. The also brought with them one of the rebels. He was wounded; his leg was broken halfway up to the thigh. He had spent a hellish night in the midst of mosquitoes, the pain and the rain....until Major David found him in his search.
The rebel cried out 'His excellency David!'
Yes! He had recognized David. This rebel had been working as a butcher belonging to Battalion 116, serving in Juba. That was how he was able to recognize David. The wounded captive was then brought to the camp amidst the men's chants, the firing of ammunition and Allahu Akbar recitations. Some of the men were carried by zeal and hence they would jump and land blows on the captive's face. That is, until he reached headquarters.
There, the crowd of men were dispersed. The captive was given a glass of water and a cup of tea, and his interrogation began. He said in his Juba-Arabic tongue 'I am not Anyanya. I am a butcher. Officer David knows me. I have come here to buy cows for slaughter.'
He says that while wearing a civilian pair of trousers and a Khaki shirt. Despite all this, he insists on his silly statement that he is not an Anyanya.
It is then that people conducting the interrogation became enraged, after despairing of him. They brought a hemp rope to tie him from the legs and drag him behind one of the vehicles, so that he would die after tasting the most bitter form of torture. He went on saying and repeating 'you better kill me altogether, you lot'. He repeated that many time while wriggling because of the pain caused by tying his two broken legs with ropes, in preparation for dragging him.
It was then that I approached brother Major Seif el-Din, the intelligence officer. I said to him 'better to have him killed now, because dragging him is torture, which is banned by our religion'. Those present insisted that 'those rebels had harmed us and wounded our brothers and must be treated with this or more severity'.
It was here that a discussion took place about the matter, after I had put it across from a religious point of view; for our religion, Islam, incriminates the torture of prisoners of war.
Some of the brothers interpreted my position as that prompted by the mercy of a doctor, the messenger of human compassion. But it was actually the teachings of Islam, our tolerant religion, which must be applied in all circumstances.
Everyone then agreed that he should be killed where he was, after despairing of him, and especially that he was wounded and his weakness was evident.
So, he was dragged from his place, a distance of about 15 steps away. He was then shot by two group rounds of ammunition. He died.
With this we conclude the account of Vanuyell battles and we proceed to the events and battles of Firyak.'


[] Sudan has awarded the Chinese company Dong Ling a concession to prospect for gold in northeast Sudan. Mining in the Sholai area of the Red Sea state was expected to start next year. The total Chinese investment in the project is $24 million. A quarter of it is in the form of economic aid to Sudan.
Sudan and China had also signed a health protocol. According to the protocol, 32 Chinese doctors and experts will be dispatched to work in Sudan over the coming period.

[] In mid-November, fuel prices had been increased only a few weeks after the last price increase. The gallon of Benzene has gone up to 2,800 S.P. from 2,500 S.P., Kerosene to 2,000 S.P from 1,500, and a Butane gas cylinder to 6.000 S.P.
Inflation hit 163 percent in the year to the end of July, from 83 percent in January, according to the central statistics office. The statistics office said inflation rates at the end of each month this year were: January 83 percent, February 95, March 102, April 117, May 122, June 166 and July 163.
According to the same source, Sudan's money supply has grown to 700 billion pounds this year from 26 billion in 1989. The government's policy of continuously borrowing from the central bank to pay salaries and to finance projects was to blame for the high inflation rate and the marked deterioration of the Sudanese currency.
Izz al-Din Ibrahim, minister of state for finance, told a seminar in Khartoum that the government's battle against inflation was going nowhere and asked the audience for explanations.
Ignorant of the real causes of the problem, the authorities in October jailed more than 50 people and closed eight foreign exchange houses. A court had imposed prison terms ranging from six months to three years for hard currency brokers and sellers. Officials have also seized 250 million Sudanese pounds worth of foreign currencies since August
In a bid to contain widespread protests, the government has agreed to extend electricity subsidies. Costs for 300 kilowatt-hours, monthly consumption for a typical household, will fall to 25,000 pounds from 37,000 pounds, and for 500 kilowatt-hours to 49,000 pounds from 61,000 pounds.