SUDAN NEWS & VIEWS - 23
SUDAN NEWS & VIEWS
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
|'Sudan News & Views' is an independent electronic Newsle
working to advocate peace, human rights and humanitarian aid
for the Sudan.
Editor: Dr. Yasin Miheisi
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In this issue:
SUDAN GOVERNMENT FACES A MAJOR OPPOSITION CHALLENGE
The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), along with the National Democratic Al
liance (NDA), launched its first combined major offensive on Jan. 12.
In a surprise attack, which started 5.30 a.m. Sunday 12 Jan., the SPLA forces ,
deploying heavy weaponry, captured Kurmuk and Gaissan, two key garrisons on the
border with Ethiopia.
Simultaneously, a joint force of the NDA under a joint military command composed
of the Umma Party, the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), the SAF (Sudan Alliance
Forces), the Beja Congress, and the Tana Brigade of the SPLA, managed to captur
e the army garrisons at Yakuru, Babsheer and Menza in the northern Blue Nile are
In less than a week, the opposition joint forces had advanced to within 30 km o
f the key eastern town of Damazin, site of the main hydroelectric dam which supp
lies Khartoum with most of its power. En route, the NDA forces managed to seize
several towns and garrisons in the Blue Nile area which also include Al-Kali, Da
im Mansour, Shali al-Fil, Ora, Abu Shanena, Maban, Kotneb, Togan, Yarda and Darf
On a separate front, NDA forces attacked along the Eritrean border near the town
of Kassala. and captured the army garrison of Godamayeb.
According to NDA statements, their forces managed to destroy four Sudan army bri
gades, and they now control around 1,500 square miles, or 15 per cent of Blue Ni
The government only admitted to losing the towns of Kurmuk and Gaissan
Garang, speaking by satellite telephone from near Kurmuk on the Ethiopian border
, told reporters that, in addition to killing 1,260 government soldiers, rebels
seized a large quantity of weapons, including tanks, artillery pieces and ammuni
tion. He, however, had lost 92 fighters.
A communiqué circulated on 23 Jan., and signed by Dr. John Garang, chairman of t
he NDA Joint Military Command, said they captured 12 T-55 tanks, eight 122mm how
itzer guns, nine 120mm mortar bombs, three 12-Matra 107mm rockets, six 106mm ant
i-tank guns, fifteen 82-mm mortar bombs, forty nine rocket-propelled grenades, f
our American-made bazookas, thirty three DSHK machine guns, thirty four PGM guns
, 677 AK-47 rifles, 212 G3 rifles, 20 lorries, 12 field communication radio sets
and a huge quantity of assorted ammunition and a quantity of anti-tank and anti
The advance of the opposition forces was met with little resistance from the gov
ernment army, which seems to retreat infront of the NDA advance. The only instan
ce of resistance occurred at the town of Keili, 100 km south of Damazin where th
e government sent an army detachment to try and block the opposition advance tow
ards the dam. In a fierce battle that took place, 150 government troops were kil
In Maban garrison the government troops fled from the area beforehand.
More than a thousand members of the government army militia, the Popular Defence
Forces (PDF) had surrendered and are now fighting along opposition forces.
Initially, it was reported that the objective of the offensive is to pressure th
e Khartoum government and pave the way for a popular uprising. It was also indic
ated that an objective on the northeastern front was to cut communications betwe
en Khartoum and Port Sudan, the country's only big port.
Following these initial successes, the NDA forces seem to have lost their moment
um and the situation on the eastern border remained calm for the past few weeks
. The opposition's stand, however, is to continue the war until the regime of Om
ar al-Bashir is overthrown.
The offensive was a big blow to the regime, which had always dismissed the oppos
ition as ineffective and could not pose a military challenge. Although, proved w
rong by the recent developments, the Khartoum government insisted on maintaining
the same line and accused Ethiopia of invading the Sudanese territory.
The government announced a general mobilization and called for a jihad to fight
the 'invaders.' For two weeks, hundreds of trucks of army recruits and voluntee
rs, including students and women, have been heading to the front.
Several demonstrations were held in the capital in support of President Omar el-
Bashir's call, but the turnout was small with only several hundred people attend
ing each rally.
'What is going on in the eastern front is a Zionist, imperialist plot being impl
emented by Eritrea and Ethiopia aimed at setting up a secular African state in S
udan instead of the present state,' said Bashir addressing a rally of supporters
waving axes and copies of the Koran in the air. Bashir promised to liberate eve
ry inch of the homeland and drive the invaders out. 'The army now has the initia
tive on all fronts and the next few days will witness the complete destruction o
f the Tigrean (Ethiopian) troops,' he added.
The government media began to publish vague reports of army victories, which had
been denied by opposition sources who described them as 'blatant lies designed
to boost the low morale of its forces'.
'The armed forces have made a big advance at the battle fronts,' said the govern
ment newspaper al-Sudan al-Hadith.
'They have confined the Tigrean (Ethiopian) forces to a narrow area to the
west of the towns of Kurmuk and Gaissan, forcing the Tigrean forces to retreat t
o rear positions.'
The Sudanese government-owned al-Ingaz al-Watani newspaper said Sudanese forces
killed 63 Eritrean soldiers and seized a large amount of arms in the eastern sta
te of Kassala. It did not say when.
Although the president and his ministers vowed that celebrations of Eid al-Fitr
(marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan) will be held in Kurmuk, the Eid p
assed (8-11 February) without the promised counterattack by the government takin
g place. The media had even been instructed not to refer to this promise. The on
ly action from the government was dropping several off-target bombs from high-al
titude Antonov warplanes on areas lost by the army.
The focus of preparations for the army's counterattack has been Blue Nile capita
l Damazin, where thousands of recruits were amassed in the small town. In additi
on, more than 30,000 thousand displaced by the fighting, sought refuge in Damazi
n, causing severe strain on the town's limited resources. Thousands others were
also reportedly crossing over into Ethiopia to escape the fighting.
Continuing his call for everyone in the country to support the government in it
s military efforts, the Sudanese leader requested all federal and state ministe
rs, governors and the directors general of national corporations to go and lead
the Mujahedins in the war.
'I want all ministers, governors, and directors to be in the front lines. Th
ey are the first to die,' he said.
So far, about 10 out of the country's 26 governors, and several ministers, ha
ve reported to Damazin.
Unsure of the army officers' allegiance, the government is heavily relying on th
e PDF. This was highlighted by the appointment of a civilian, Omar Abdel Marouf
al-Majzoub, as minister of state for defence. Majzoub was a popular defence and
national service coordinator and also a member of the National Islamic Front.<
The opposition's hope for a popular uprising had not materialized either. A few
incidents of protests however were reported.
Students at the University of Sudan demonstrated on campus on Jan. 15 and 16 in
support of the NDA but were dispersed by the riot police. During the demonstra
tions, the students carried placards calling on the government to step down. 'W
elcome (SPLA leader) Col. John Garang, down with the Islamic government,' read
All universities were closed on Jan. 15 to allow students to participate in the
holy war. Only 250 students from the University of Khartoum answered the call.<
Leaflets also appeared in the streets of Khartoum criticizing the government's r
ecord since it seized power in 1989 and calling for mobilization against it. The
leaflets were in the name of the old trade unions.
The state security forces arrested hundreds of politicians, trade unionists and
students in major towns all over the country.
Although under extreme pressure to liberate the occupied areas, the government s
eems to be hesitant to risk launching a counterattack. The wait is probably for
arms shipments from Iran and China to arrive.
A confrontation in a decisive battle between the government and the opposition f
orces is now inevitable.
SUDAN AND ETHIOPI
The Sudanese government has accused Eritrea and Ethiopia of involvement in 'a Zi
onist and imperialist plot' to overthrow the regime.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs however, denied the allegation adding
that, 'No one knows better than the Sudanese authorities themselves that the a
ccusation has no basis and that Ethiopia has no hand in what is obviously a mil
itary setback suffered by the authorities in Khartoum. Sudan is trying to exter
nalize its internal military debacle ' The statement issued by the ministry 14
Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia deteriorated following the assassination at
tempt against Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in June 1995, in which Sudan is impli
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified 8 January all Sudanese diplo
mats in Addis Ababa that they were no longer allowed to go outside the city.
The move came in response to a 'provocative and malicious' statement made by Mr
. Ali Hassan Ali, the Sudan Charge d'Affaires to Somalia.
In its letter to the Sudanese government, the ministry accused Mr. Ali of havin
g, 'Urged Somalis to take up arms and fight Ethiopia in a Jihad (holy war) to c
ounter the recent operation by Ethiopian armed forces against the fundamentalis
t Al-Ithad Al- Islami group'.
The letter noted that the statement made by Mr. Ali was seen as 'a hostile act
directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and as s
uch would like to request the Government of the Sudan to disassociate itself fr
om the provocative statement by its diplomat in Mogadishu.'
The war of words between the two countries continued unabated, and Sudan threate
ned to activate the tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans who live in Su
dan and are opposed to their respective governments.
'Inshallah (God willing), we are not going to keep silent. We will respond badl
y to those regimes which are plotting in Asmara, Kampala and Addis Ababa,' the
Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al Bashir, said.
'We will give arms to their opposition leaders,' said the Sudanese leader on
When Hassan al-Turabi was asked by al-Quds newspaper reporter whether they will
supply the Ethiopian and Eritrean opposition with weapons to change the regime i
n their countries, he answered 'Yes. The opposition is already armed'.
Justice Minister, Abdel Basit Sabdrat, repeated Sudanese government charges that
Ethiopia and Eritrean forces were behind the fighting.
'There is an Eritrean plan to set up a state including parts of Sudan, Djib
outi and the three islands (disputed with Yemen),' he said. 'And Ethiopia is a t
horn in the Arab community of the Red Sea.'
Sudan's ambassador to Britain, Omer Bareedo, added the United States and Israel
to the list and accused them of encouraging neighbouring countries to attack it.
Bareedo said some 20 tanks and 6,000 soldiers took part in the offensive, using
'the tactics of a regular army not a guerrilla war.' 'The magnitude of the op
eration is not available to the guerrilla movement,' he said. 'The attacks are q
The Foreign Minister, Ali Osman Taha, on a radio interview said, when asked whet
her he has evidence to prove charges of Israel's involvement, 'The plane that we
nt down some weeks ago off the Comoro Islands coast - an Ethiopian plane with a
number of Israeli experts on board - was direct evidence of this presence'.
Despite the heated Sudanese rhetoric, and Bashir's statement that all political
and diplomatic channels to Ethiopia had been closed and the only thing left now
was the power of the gun, reliable sources revealed that Sudan had send a high-l
evel delegation, led by Qutbi al-Mahdi, Minister of state for Security Affairs a
nd a former ambassador to Iran, in a secret visit to Addis Ababa on the end of J
TENSIONS WITH NEIGHBOURS
Under pressure, as a result of the opposition's attack on the eastern border, Su
dan had turned to its enemy, Egypt, for support. The Sudanese regime tried to pl
ay on Egyptian concerns over the Nile waters, by claiming that 'the foreign inva
sion endangers Arab security and Sudan's neighbours, especially Egypt'.
On Jan. 18, two days after receiving Vice President Zubair Mohamed Saleh, the E
gyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, publicly rejected Khartoum's claims of foreign
invasion. He said there was no Ethiopian or Eritrean attack on Sudan, but all S
udan's troubles are internal. Mubarak also ridiculed contradictory behaviour by
Sudanese leaders. 'The Vice-president is here asking for financial and military
help, while Hassan al-Turabi is insulting us in the newspapers at the same time.
The opposition NDA welcomed, with relief, Egyptian neutrality.
The situation with the southern neighbour, Uganda, is however more explosive and
is set to deteriorate even further. The Sudanese officials and media accused Ug
anda of preparing for war with Sudan. Government newspapers reported, on a daily
basis, a military build-up by Uganda along Sudan's southern borders. It claims
that at least 3,000 troops, backed by 20 heavy armoured vehicles, are massed in
the Agoro area inside Uganda, waiting to attack the towns of Torit, Kaya and Kaj
okaji in southern Sudan.
Sudan, extremely nervous of the Ugandan moves, asked both Iran and Kenya to medi
ate with Uganda, in an attempt to prevent opening another front in the south.
The tensions, however, escalated when Uganda accused Sudan of bombing areas in n
orthern Uganda on Feb. 14., in which one woman was killed and six wounded.
President Museveni told reporters that the solution for the problems with Sudan
will be in the 'battlefield'.
Meanwhile, a war of accusations has also erupted between Sudan and its western
Libya has officially requested for Sudan to hand over 12 Libyan Islamic extremi
sts hiding in the country. The Libyans are believed to be hiding in Sudan to es
cape prosecution for killing Libyan security officers last year.
Libya has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Sudan over the issue, accordin
g to reliable sources, who added that Sudan has promised to hand over the 12, b
ut failed to do so.
ARAB AND INTERNATI
Despite its regional and international isolation, the Sudanese government embark
ed on a frantic effort to muster support against what it described as 'foreign i
The Foreign Ministry summoned Arab ambassadors in Khartoum, the day after the of
fensive in the eastern border started, and asked for assistance from the Arab s
tates to help Sudan.
Khartoum has also sent high-level ministerial delegations to Egypt, Saudi Arabia
, Yemen, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Li
bya Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco, appealing for help.
Khartoum's envoys failed to obtain the support of most of the Arab states. The s
tock response of most of the Arab countries was that they oppose Sudan's partiti
on and call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
However, Sudan has apparently received pledges of help from Yemen, Jordan, Iraq,
Qatar and Iran. The opposition says that Iran is airlifting tanks and weapons t
o Khartoum, and Qatar had raised $200m, including $100m in cash, to finance the
purchase of weapons and ammunitions from China. The NDA also said that Osama Bin
Laden, the Saudi millionaire who backs terrorism, sent 400 fighters, from his s
upporters in Sudan, to a special camp near the areas of operation in southern Bl
Sudan also called for the Arab League, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU),
and the Security Council to intervene in order to stop the aggression along its
eastern border. The SC discussed Sudan's allegations of aggression by Ethiopia,
but took no action pending further information.
'Those countries who control the United Nations and Security Council are using i
t to bring down the government,' Bashir said. 'It is part of the foreign plot in
the region to undermine the Arab world.'
A statement by the U.S. embassy, widely circulated in Khartoum, called for the r
elease of those detained, since the offensive began in the east.
'Sudan's claims of foreign involvement in its civil war are an attempt to d
istract the Sudanese people and the international community from what is essenti
ally a domestic political crisis,' the statement said.
SUDAN'S ARMED FORCES
According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, the str
ength of the Sudanese army and its adversary, the SPLA are:
- Total manpower of 89,000 officers and men, including 20,000 conscripts.
All but 4,000 serve in the army; the rest in the navy and air force.
Another 15,000 men, plus 60,000 reservists, belong to the paramilitary People's
- Most of the 280 armored vehicles are T-54 and T-55 tanks. The army also has
70 light armored vehicles, 230 reconnaissance vehicles and 426 armored troop car
- Artillery consists of 600 pieces, including 105-mm, 122-mm, 130-mm and 155-m
- Self-powered artillery units have six 155-mm guns, complemented by 400 107-m
m and 30 122-mm multiple rocket launchers, 150 mortars (mainly 81-mm types), fou
r anti-tank guns and 425 anti-aircraft guns.
- Air defences also include SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, but their numbers ar
e not known.
- With 1,000 officers and men, the Sudanese navy is based at Port Sudan and Fl
amingo Bay, both on the Red Sea, and in Khartoum where the Blue and White Nile r
ivers converge. It has only seven vessels, of which four are river boats.
- The air force, with 3,000 personnel, has 38 fighter-bombers, including nine
US-supplied F-5 jets, plus nine MiG-17s, nine MiG-19s and 11 MiG-21s - all Sovi
et designs. It also has 25 transporters,
3 helicopters and 20-odd training aircraft.
- Since 1984 the Sudanese armed forces has been battling the Sudan
People's Liberation Army, which is estimated to have 50,000 guerrillas, split be
tween four units, each organized in battalions.
Its main equipment consists of light weapons, plus 60-mm mortars, 14.5-mm anti-a
ircraft guns and SA-7 surface-to-air missiles. It is also thought to have heavy
 The IMF said Sudan defaulted last year on $5.5 million a month in repayments
and might face 'compulsory withdrawal' - expulsion.
'Concerning payments, the Sudan authorities were not able to commit anything for
1997. This is a point of major concern for the board,' an IMF alternate executi
ve director, Jose Pedro de Morais said. 'We think that Sudan is not able at all
to commit $5.5 million a month to pay the fund.'
 Arakis Energy Corp. said it has discovered a third 'major oil find' in the Su
dan. In a press release, the company said the well El Nar 2a has been drilled an
d indicated producing rate in excess of 10,000 barrels of oil a day based on pro
Despite the company's announcement of the drilling success, shares in Arakis Ene
rgy Corp were stuck at their recent price range. This was a direct result of the
tensions between Sudan government forces and opposition rebels and the intense
fighting reported along the Ethiopian border.
 Sudan was exempted from a law barring U.S. corporations from doing business i
n countries that support terrorism. The exemption will allow the California-base
d Occidental Petroleum Corp. to negotiate with the government in Khartoum in the
development of its oil fields. Occidental was excluded from the Arakis developm
ent consortium by the Sudanese government, apparently in retaliation to reports
that the United States was providing military aid to neighboring countries.
SHORT NEWS ITEMS
- Despite the Islamic and Arab rhetoric adopted by the Sudanese government and
its call for a jihad (holy war) against the enemies of Arabs and Islam, two sou
thern Sudanese rebel leaders had vowed to fight with the government troops again
st their former allies.
Both Riak Machar, leader of Southern Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) and Kerb
ino Kwanyin Bol, leader of the Bahr el-Ghazal wing of the SPLA, who signed a pea
ce agreement with Khartoum in April last year, announced that their forces will
fight alongside government troops against the 'aggression' on the eastern border
' Kerbino visited Damazin and was shown on the state-run television in the compa
ny of government military commanders in Damazin. Reliable sources also report ex
tensive SSIM troop movements in southern Sudan.
- A joint press release by the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugee
s (UNHCR) and the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), state
d that 4,128 Sudanese refugees had settled in Western Ethiopia (near Kunche vi
llage at Tongo Wereda in Benishangul-Gumuz Region), starting Tuesday, 7 January
1997. On average, a further 80 persons arrive in Kunche every day. Local Autho
rities report that another 15,000 Sudanese were on the border with Ethiopia, re
ady to make their way to Benishangul-Gumuz region.
- At a news conference in Geneva, Gaspar Biro, the special investigator for th
e UN Human Rights Commission, said he was compelled to leave Sudan soon after ar
rival in January when the prosecutor-general, Abdel Rahman Ibrahim, told him his
security could not be guaranteed.
Biro, a 39-year-old Hungarian law professor, said Ibrahim asserted that he had b
een named at an official anti-rebel rally in Khartoum earlier in the day as part
of 'an international conspiracy' against the country.
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar