Sudan News & Views - 29


Issue No 29 September/October 1997


'Sudan News & Views' is an independent electronic Newsletter working to advocate peace, human rights and humanitarian aid for the Sudan. 

Editor: Dr. Yasin Miheisi
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In this issue:


The peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLA started on October 30, two days later than originally scheduled, in Nairobi. The agreement to hold direct talks was reached in early September at an IGAD ministerial meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two parties said in a joint communiqué that they agreed to provide negotiating teams of not more than six people each and also pledged to 'fully cooperate' in the search for a negotiated solution to the conflict'.
This agreement represents a reversal of Khartoum's position three years ago, when it walked out of the IGAD negotiations, refusing to discuss the Declaration of Principles. It is believed that Khartoum had been forced back to the negotiating table after recently suffering heavy military and diplomatic losses.
The government's delegation is headed by Foreign Minister, Ali Osman Taha, and includes Federal Rule Chamber Minister, Ali al-Haj Mohammed, Secretary-General of the High Council for Peace, Mohammed al-Amin Khalifa, and Riak Machar, who now heads the Coordinating Council of Southern Sudan States. State Presidency Minister, Gutbi al-Mahdi and Kerbino Kwanyn Bol are on the consultative team.

No breakthrough is anticipated by any of the participants or the observers. Some members of the government's delegation had voiced doubts about the outcome of the negotiations due to the fact that the SPLA delegation is not headed by. John Garang himself, but his deputy, Commander Silva Kiir, who Khartoum believes not to have the final say. Government media went as far as questioning his capabilities by referring to his education which it said was cut short before reaching secondary school. As one SPLA official put it, 'the Sudanese government wants just to meet with John Garang out of its belief that it will reach an agreement with him similar to the agreements it reached with the other factions.' There is also hope, within government circles, that the talks will split Garang's SPLA and thus weaken him both militarily and politically. Riak Machar revealed that there had been secret meetings between the government and members of Garang's SPLA to woo them over the government side.

The Sudanese opposition expressed the view that peace would not be achieved without the involvement of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in all future talks. An NDA delegation, headed by Omer Nur el-Dayem traveled to Nairobi to lobby IGAD nations to permit them to participate in the talks.
Despite the almost-complete news blackout on the talks progress, knowledgeable sources said that, after three days, there is no significant advance.


The US Administration retreated from its decision to re-staff the American Embassy in Khartoum, and described the announcement, made a week earlier, as premature.
The State Department's aborted plan was to send eight mid-level diplomats, but not the Ambassador, Timothy Carney, to Khartoum. US officials said restoring a diplomatic presence would allow the US  to investigate alleged human rights abuses, including religious persecution and slavery, and to ratchet pressure on Khartoum to end its support to terrorist groups.
The Administration's backtracking came as a result of pressure from Congress, whose members opposed opening the embassy and accused the Administration of rewarding the NIF government in Khartoum without any tangible evidence of reform.
The US Senate had also very strongly denounced Sudan's government. 'The humanitarian catastrophe driven by religious and ethnic hatred in Sudan is comparable in scope to the tragedies of Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia combined', said Senator Ashcroft, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee. 'It is not enough to be outraged by what has happened in Sudan, the US must be motivated to confront and isolate the rogue government in Khartoum responsible for inflicting untold misery on its citizens', he added.
'Sudan is presently the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that poses a direct threat to US national interests', said Gore Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights.

Sudan officials had hailed the US decision to send diplomats to Khartoum as the first step towards better relations between the two countries. 'Sudan is happy with the decision which the American Administration took', said Abdel Aziz Shiddo, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. 'This indicates that the ties linking America and Sudan are improving'.
However, Foreign Minister, Ali Osman Taha, was quoted as saying the US was fueling conflicts in Africa by increasing military aid to its hostile neighbours Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda. 'This is an act of aggression against Sudan that is absolutely unjustified', Taha said.

At least two pieces of legislation are now under consideration in Congress, which could impose sanctions on Sudan, on the grounds of religious persecution and support for terrorist groups. A number of US businesses and trade associations had written to congressmen pointing out that a ban on Sudan's Arabic gum, an important ingredient in high-quality confectionery and pharmaceuticals, would cause prices to skyrocket and, therefore, adversely affect these industries.
Ambassador Timothy Carney had been transferred to Haiti, and the US State Department said it had no intention of appointing a new ambassador in the near future.


Having notably failed to entice young people to volunteer to its call of mobilization and jihad, the Sudanese authorities had embarked on an aggressive campaign of enforced conscription of students and young people.
In June, President Bashir issued a decree that all boys, who sat for the Sudan School Certificate examinations, have to do between 12 to 18 months compulsory military service, before they are entitled to proceed to higher education. Those who fail to report are denied entrance to university and do not even receive their high school certificates.
After an initial two months of basic training, many of the 70,000 students who were conscripted, have been enrolled into army units, some of which have been sent to the combat zones in southern and eastern Sudan, without their parent's knowledge. This came to light when 72 students escaped from Khartoum airport, where they were about to be airlifted to the south. The incident triggered a national outcry. Parents protested and women took to the streets , where they staged angry protests for four days in the capital and other cities.

In a statement before the National Assembly, the Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Hassan Abdel Rahman Ali, justified the deployment of students on the basis of a shortage in the army. He said that 'all fit students, after undergoing training, have been attached to various armed forces units to make up for the manpower shortage and to create a reserve for the general command'.
After the National Assembly session, official government spokesman Brigadier Al-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohamed Khair told reporters that students have a role to play in defending their country and described them as 'mature soldiers'. He said one unit of high school students last August engaged a rebel force moving towards Terekaka in south Sudan, thwarted the advance and seized a number of 'enemy' tanks.

Speaking on national TV, State Defence Minister Omar Abdel Marouf, equally defiant, warned that no one in Sudan would escape military service. He said he plans to recruit more than 2 million before the end of 1997. He also warned parents not to hide their children. He said special forces have been set up to hunt for those who try to dodge the call-up.
The campaign had indeed been stepped up with roadblocks in most of the major towns, and officials patrolling the streets with loudspeakers urging parents to hand over their children. Young people were being seized on the streets and public places or pulled off from private cars and public transport vehicles and trucked off to military training camps without notifying their families.
'We made it clear to the parents that any student who does not report for military service will miss chances for going to university, going abroad or doing business in the country', Abdel Marouf said.

To add insult to injury, or more accurately, injury to insult, Justice Minister Abdel Basit Sadarat said at Khartoum University that it had 'offered more than 27 of its students as martyrs in a short period of time.' The deaths of the students , who had qualified for entrance into the university on completion of their military service, showed their 'love for martyrdom', the minister claimed. Education and Research Minister Ibrahim Ahmed Omar also addressed students, commending  their devotion to jihad. He said they had played 'a formidable role in victories achieved by the army and popular defence forces'.   'The students displayed great courage which astonished the aggressors in a battle 40 miles from Juba', he added.

The SPLA, on the other hand, issued a press statement, saying that its leader, John Garang, had instructed all commanders, officers and soldiers in the combat zones to provide conscripted schoolboys with safe passage to the 'liberated' areas, or across the border, if they so wish, to be able to continue their education somewhere else.

Another incident that also sparked wide publicity and protest, is the flogging of 15 female students from al-Ahfad university. Security men ordered a bus, carrying 40 students from the university to their homes, to the police station. A judge ordered 15 girls to receive 15 lashes each for wearing trousers.


Dr. Lam Akol, leader of the SPLA-United, has signed an agreement with the government of Sudan, in the town of Fashouda in the Upper Nile Province on September 20, 1997, after three days of negotiations, and has now returned to Khartoum. The government's negotiating delegation was led by Riak Machar, and included Minister for Federal Government, Ali al-Haj Mohammed, Minister of Animal Wealth, Musa Mek Kor and the military commander of the Upper Nile region, Gen. Osman Yousif.
Akol joined the SPLA in 1986, but seceded, with Riak Machar, in August 1991, as a result of differences with John Garang. He later parted company with Riak and formed the 'United' faction.
The SPLA-United forces, the third largest of the factions in southern Sudan, are mainly drawn from the Shuluk tribe. They control the area of northern Upper Nile, around Malakal, west and east of the Nile upto the area of Malut. It is about 6,000 sq miles, inhabitied by a population of about 100,000 people.
The talks were brokered by the Shuluk king, Reth Kwongo Dak Padiet, who wields absolute power over his subjects.
Akol's move came a few weeks after an agreement had been signed between his group and the Sudanese Allied Forces (SAF), led by Brig. Abdel Aziz Khalid, which was described as a strategic agreement of cooperation reached after a summit meeting of the two groups in early August 1997.
Analysts believe that Akol was left with no alternative due to his political isolation and military vulnerability.

The same situation led other smaller factions to either join the government or the SPLA main stream. In a press conference held in Nairobi in the beginning of September 1997, John Luk, Secretary of Information and Culture and official spokesman for the SPLA, welcomed back into the movement three officers, Dhol Acuil, Dr. Richard Mulla and Dr. Sabit Sendani.
Dhol Acuil is the leader of the group known as the Independents. He joined the SPLA in 1984 and served as secretary general of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, SRRA and represented the SPLA in southern Europe. He was, prior to 1983, Vice President of the last regional government in southern Sudan. Dr. Richard Mulla, who also represented the SPLA in London, left the movement in 1992. In 1995 he launched his own faction known as the South Sudan Freedom Front (SSFF).

Another high-profile defection to the government side was that of the international basketball player, Manute Bol, who had been known to sympathize with the SPLA. He arrived in Khartoum on September 14, from Kampala, leaving behind, according to SPLA sources, unpaid hotel bills of $57,000, for accommodation, meals and car hire. The former professional player in the US, who was also mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest living person (7ft 7in. tall), was immediately appointed Minister of Sports and Culture in the Sudanese government.


Despite expectations that the SPLA and the NDA might step up their military activities, and might even try to take Juba or one of the major towns ahead of the peace talks, little military advances were reported during the last two months.
In the beginning of September, the SPLA seized three districts, Karkarai, Umdulu and Regifi,  in the Nuba mountains region. In mid-October, SPLA forces advanced close to the town of Kadugli, the region's capital, and captured, on the way, the government garrison town of Belinia, killing more than 20 government soldiers in the attack.
At around the same time, SPLA forces set up an ambush for government troops near the town of Torit in southern Sudan, causing the government army heavy causalities and losses of equipment including tanks and trucks.
Despite official government denials, a pro-government daily, Alwan, had reported that more than 100 people were 'martyred' in military operations in western Equatoria, including the head of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), and two heads of security departments. It did not, however, say when the fighting took place and gave no details on the other causalities.
In another incident, a government Antonov bomber, which flew from Juba, bombed Yei on October 8. The bombs, dropped from high altitude, fell on a POW camp, killing three government soldiers and wounding four.

Meanwhile, the government is building up its fortifications in Juba, which remains under siege, with access only via Torit on the Nile's east bank, Terkaka to the north and by air. More than 100,000 troops are reported to be amassed to defend Juba, including forces of Riak Machar and Kerbino Kwanyn Bol.
Aid workers in the region say thousands, including government officials, have fled from Juba since June, reporting food shortages and persecution.

The situation in the eastern front remain calm. President Bashir made a tour of the eastern provinces, including Halaib and Tokar. He said he found the people in Tokar 'fully prepared for defending their region and for liberating the areas occupied by Eritrea'.
Back in Khartoum, he made a major reshuffle of the military leadership. Chief of Staff, Gen. Ibrahim Suliman Hassan was dismissed and replaced by Gen. Sidahmed Hamad Siraj. State minister for Defence, Gen. Mohamed Abdel Gadir Idris was also dismissed and replaced by Gen. Salah Mohamed Salih, whose former job as deputy chief of staff for Supplies will be taken over by Maj.Gen. Abbas Arabi who was promoted to a full general. The shake-up also shifted Gen. Mohamed al-Sanousi Ahmed from the position of deputy chief of staff for Moral Guidance and Spokesman to deputy chief of staff for Security and Intelligence. He is to replace Gen. Mohamed al-Radhi Nasr Eddin who has been named deputy chief of staff for Administration.
Former River Nile Governor, Abdel Rahman Sir al-Khatim who was a retired army brigadier, returns to active military service. He has been promoted to general and becomes deputy chief of staff for Moral Guidance and official Spokesman.


The Administrative Attaché at the embassy of Sudan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Abdel Aziz Ahmed Khattab, has issued a statement at the end of September 1997, announcing his defection to the opposition side, and claiming to have in his possession information and documents that testify to the political and moral corruption of the NIF leadership.
Khattab, who is now seeking political asylum in the Netherlands, claimed that the Sudanese embassy in Malaysia has been working diligently in coordinating and concluding arms deals between the Sudanese government and arms dealers in southeast Asia. He said that heavy armaments (aircraft, tanks and mortars) have been procured from China, Indonesia and the Russian Mafia. They were shipped to Sudan under the guise of petroleum exploration equipment, in the names of the Malaysian National Petroleum Company (Petronas) and the Chinese National Petroleum Company. A Malaysian government loan of $200 million and funds collected by Islamic charity organisations were used to pay for the arms.
The opposition's NDA spokesman welcomed Khattab and said it is an important victory for the opposition and a heavy blow to the regime in Khartoum.
Khartoum's reaction was to accuse Khattab of corruption. State Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, said Khattab was not a diplomat, but rather a 'low-level staffer, who committed financial and administrative irregularities and, in order to avoid accountability, has decided to join the opposition ranks'.


[]  Arakis Energy Corp., has announced the award of contracts for the construction of the pipeline to carry oil from western and southern Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. The 28 in. pipeline, which runs for 1610 km, will have a capacity of 250,000 barrels of oil per day. The successful bidders are China Petroleum Technology, which was awarded 1110 km, and the German Mannesmann Handel, which was awarded a section of 500 km. In an interview with the London-based New African Magazine, John Garang, leader of the SPLA, re-affirmed that the Canadian company will be a target for his military operation if it does not withdraw from Sudan.

[]  A Saudi investment group has applied to the Khartoum government for permission to invest in a new crocodile farming project in Sudan with an initial capital of 1 million dollars. The 2-million-square-metre farm is said to be sited in Jabal Awliya, 50 kilometres south of Khartoum, on the White Nile river. The project would begin by collecting 100 female and 50 male crocodiles to breed on the farm. The crocodile meat will be exported to Europe and the United States while the hides will be used for manufacturing bags and shoes.




Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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