Sudan Update Vol. 6 No. 9, (06/01/'95)

Sudan Update Vol. 6 No. 9, (06/01/'95)

SUDAN UPDATE VOLUME 6 NUMBER 9 - DATELINE 1 JUNE 1995 Sadiq, Umma, Ansar and trade unionists detained / Lafon Declaration / US Statement / Ambassadors / Abyei: states galore? / Beja / Currency deals / New

Northern Dam



STATE: The South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM/A) claimed on 23 May that the Khartoum government had launched a new offensive in three parts of Latjor State, and alleging that this brought the total of government violations of the Carter-mediated cease-fire to 21.

`The NIF forces from Maban launched a massive offensive from 15th to 19th May 1995, in the area of Chotbura, resulting to the burning of 377 homes of the Thiang Cieng Kang and Cieng Lony and displacing many people. The SSIM/A forces killed 25 enemy soldiers and captured 15 AK47 rifles. Our forces repelled the attack,' says the SSIM press release.

`In the second front the NIF forces attacked our position near Ulang along the Sobat River on the 20th May 1995, five enemy soldiers were killed.

`On the 21st May 1995 the NIF forces opened a third by attacking SSIM/A forces at Kor Manyang 20 miles east of Nasir. 21 enemy soldiers were killed, 15 AK47, 4 G-3 rifles and quantities of AK47 and G-3 ammunitions were capture by SSIM/A forces.

`The NIF is making a desperate attempt to dislodge the SSIM/A from Latjor State at the end of the cease- fire brokered by President Carter. These attacks tally the 21 violations of the cease-fire by the NIF in the SSIM/A areas. This is an indication that the NIF is not at all serious about the cease-fire . What is the need for extension of the cease-fire as being proposed by President Carter? It is worth mentioning that the NIF has denied relief flights clearance to Mading, Longachuk, Maiwut, Pagak and Chotbura and in actual fact this is where it is concentrating its present offensive. `We call on the international community, the IGADD, Friends of IGADD and the Carter [sic] to condemn the NIF for its continuous violations of the cease-fire and obstructing humanitarian relief assistance and the eradication of Guinea Worms, prevention of river blindness and immunization of children against polio and other diseases prevalent in South Sudan.' (SSIM 23/May/95)


`Following the first rebel victory in years [on 31 March], when troops of Riek Machar's SSIM captured intact a government armoured convoy at the town of Lafon, in April both rebel factions [SPLA and SSIM] signed a peace and reconciliation accord called the Lafon Declaration,' reports the New Statesman. Ex-US president Jimmy Carter's mediation of a cease-fire between the rebel forces and the government at the end of March was a `breakthrough', although `Carter's ambition of a total dry season cease-fire was never entirely realistic, as it is the only time the government can use its armour in the southern swamps: the day after the cease-fire was announced, Khartoum captured the strategic town of Nasir. But Carter's initiative greatly assisted confidence building measures among local commanders on the ground, resulting in local cooperation and a bottom-up peace initiative that the leadership could no longer ignore.' SSIM spokesman Majok Gunjong is quoted as saying, "News of the cessation of hostilities has been welcomed by all sides. The formation of cease-fire committees in the border areas of the two southern movements has been welcomed by the majority of Southern Sudanese which they see will lead to the unity of common purpose between the two movements and among the Southern Sudanese at large." `Disagreement still remains over some aspects of interpretation of the Lafon Declaration,' says the New Statesman. `SSIM says it is only the beginning of the reconciliation process, while the SPLA claims unity has already been achieved. At stake are the war aims and future political programme of the rebel movement: Garang and the [SPLA] Mainstream leadership are still holding out for the original programme of "a united, secular Sudan", whilst the dissident grouping want all-out independence for the South. SSIM points out: "Unity cannot be achieved overnight. After four years of hostility between the two movements we have to go slowly and surely to build confidence among the troops. We need the objective to be very clear. The right of self-determination for the people of the South must be the main objective of the liberation struggle."

`The undoubted strength of the grass roots movement for reconciliation means that soldiers on both sides of the rebel divide are now unlikely to resume interfactional fighting. It has long been clear that the war that the war can only be ended either by dividing Sudan between the Arab North and African South, or by abandoning the country's Islamic constitution. Until now, Khartoum has refused to discuss either possibility, instead exploiting the divisions in the armed opposition. If the rebels stop fighting between themselves, the government will eventually be forced to come to a compromise solution, and an end to the war may finally be in sight.' (New Statesman 26/May/95)


The SSIM/A defeat of the government convoy at Lafon on 31 March marked another turning point in the fortunes of the rebel movement, according to Sudan Update sources. William Nyuon Bany, who was sacked earlier this year by SSIM/A leader Riek Machar, was sent out from the government garrison at Magiri with ten armoured vehicles to rescue the captured convoy, but instead joined forces with the rebels. He and Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, who was also dismissed earlier this year, were subsequently reinstated in their posts with the SSIM/A. Both commanders are early key members of the rebel movement, but personal animosities among the leadership and the failure to control the excesses of inter-tribal feuding caused severe damage to the rebel forces' effectiveness. Several rebel commanders, including Kerubino, William Nyuon and Arok Thon Arok [of Lam Akol's Western Upper Nile grouping], have at various times cooperated with government forces and have been accused of treachery. Khartoum benefited greatly from these divisions and did its utmost to add to the confusion. For the present, however, differences between Riek, William and Kerubino appear to have been muted in the name of Southern Sudanese solidarity.

Sudan Update sources in Nairobi report that the initiative for the Lafon declaration came not from the faction leaders but from the local commanders, including SPLA/M Cdr Oyai Deng Ajak and SSIM/A Cdr Gatdor Kiec Wuor, whose names as chairs of their respective factions' committees appear first on the document. William Nyuon appears to have re-established his position as Chief of Staff of SSIM/A by virtue of his strength in the field.

Meanwhile, differences exist in the interpretation of the declaration. Cdr John Garang, whose stated aim remains the establishment of a united secular Sudan, and who has recently undertaken agreements with the northern Sudanese opposition to undertake joint attacks on northern targets, regards the move as a "return to the fold" for the dissident faction. The SSIM/A, as well as the SPLA-United faction of Cdr Lam Akol, still holds to the aim of independence for the South. Sources in Southern Sudan suggest that popular dissatisfaction with the behaviour of the leaders has acquired a momentum of its own. (SU 24/May/95)


UNITY: Lino Rol Deng, chair of the Supreme Council for Peace and a negotiator in peace talks with the Southern rebels, said on 17 May that he doubted whether they could unite against the government. He was commenting on the attempted reconciliation between the SPLA Mainstream of Col Garang and the dissident factions.

Deng, himself a Southerner, told the government newspaper al-Inqaz al-Watani that no power on earth could overcome the differences between the factions, according to Reuter. "The reconciliation attempt is a response to pressure from the United States on the rebels, as a condition for helping them militarily," he added. (Reuter / Al-Inqaz al-Watani 17/May/95)


NEW AMBASSADORS: `The recent appointment of ambassadors to various capitals - the biggest dispatch since the National Salvation Revolution came to power six years ago, has placed prominent names in embassies which the Sudanese government appears to hold in high regard such as Washington, London, Pretoria, Rome, Bonn and Riyadh,' reports Sudan Focus, a pro-government publication in London.

`In the light of the appointment of Ali Osman Mohammed Taha as Foreign Minister and Dr Ghazi Salahul Din [Attabani] as state minister at the foreign ministry, the latest list of ambassadors, to assume office on July 1, endorses the argument that Khartoum is desperate to improve the performance of its foreign service.

`Four of the ambassadors: Ahmed Abdul Halim (Vienna), Mahdi Mustafa al-Hadi (Rome), Al-Fatih Erwa (Washington) and Suleiman Mohammed Suleiman (Damascus), come from outside the foreign ministry, which indicates they might be assigned specific missions...' Sudan Focus goes on to list the 18 new ambassadors and their backgrounds. (Sudan Focus 15/May/95)


`The government is tackling its problem of international isolation with a list of new ambassadors it hopes will polish its image. Two of the new envoys were once stalwarts of President Ja'afar Nimeiri's regime, and are not seen as Islamists: Ahmad Abd al-Halim (Vienna), who has worked with the National Islamic Front since it seized power in 1989, and Mahdi Mustafa al-Hadi (Rome), best known as the Khartoum governor who ordered the closure of the capital's brothels,' comments Middle East International.

`But the most surprising and perhaps most optimistic proposal is that of Fatih Erwa for the Washington slot. Since the United States put Sudan on its list of "terrorist states" in 1993, relations have continued to sink and Washington is now believed to be actively helping the Sudan People's Liberation Army (Mainstream). It is unclear how Major Fatih is likely to change this. He has caused much speculation by surviving, as a non- Islamist, in key security positions in the government; he has been a key adviser on African affairs, particularly for the Horn of Africa...

A highly professional intelligence officer, in the early 1980s he was the key man in the US-financed operations to move Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan, and forged strong ties in the US, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Then in the post-Nimeiri treason trial of former vice-president Omar Muhammad al-Tayib, who headed the operations on the Sudanese side, he turned state witness, ensuring General Omar's conviction.

`He then worked in a top-secret Saudi security office for the Horn, before returning home to play a key role in maintaining the NIF government's cosy relations with Addis Ababa and Asmara. When Eritrea broke diplomatic relations earlier this year, accusing Khartoum of destabilisation attempts, and began helping the Sudanese opposition with Washington's blessing, many wondered what Fatih would do now that his empire had apparently collapsed. It is now being assumed that he has convinced Khartoum that his US and international experience will enable him to improve its relations with Washington, on the "I know these people" basis, just as NIF boss Hassan Turabi was able to do with France.

`A different approach is being tried, though with the same aim, in London, where Omar Barido has been proposed as ambassador - a post vacant since Khartoum threw out the British ambassador in January 1994 and Whitehall replied in kind. At a time when Sudan embassies are dominated by young Islamists parachuted into the foreign ministry, Barido brings the gravitas of a 56-year old career diplomat. He was an ambassador to the UN in the democratic period and latterly foreign ministry under-secretary. Though not a high-profile NIF man, he has been known as a sympathiser since his student days.

`The leading candidate to succeed him at the foreign ministry is Qudbi al-Mahdi, who heads the key Iran embassy. Qudbi is not a career diplomat but a long-standing NIF official who organised NIF activities in Montreal (a major Islamist centre) in the years when the NIF was out in the cold. He has permanent residence in Canada and in fact Sudanese law, which was strict on nationality regulations, was changed to allow him to join the foreign ministry. Turabi and other NIF leaders used to visit him regularly in Quebec...' (MEI 12/May/95)


Foreign Minister Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha took part in the ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement which began on 26 April in Bandung, Indonesia. (SEB 26/Apr/95)


Edward Brynn, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, made a key statement on 22 March 1995 to the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on International Relations concerning US policy towards Sudan. [The response of the Sudan government was published in SU Vol.6 No.8]. Extracts from his testimony: `Our policy toward the largest country in Africa is one of the most difficult accounts in the Africa Bureau's portfolio. Sudan is a tragedy, a country beset by problems which pre-date the current National Islamic Front (NIF)-led regime and which past governments have either failed to address or, particularly in the case of the current NIF regime, exacerbated.

`...The NIF-led government is unpopular with most of the Sudanese people. On several occasions during the past two years, economic frustrations boiled over into civil disturbances which, though quickly suppressed, were troubling to the regime. It is unlikely, however, that popular discontent with the NIF will result in political change in the forseeable future.

`There is presently no credible political alternative to the ruling National Islamic Front. Sudan's political opposition groups are weak, divided amongst themselves, and suppressed by Government security services. Opposition leaders frequently exaggerate their ability to effect political change in Sudan.

`Perhaps most importantly, the political opposition is generally discredited in the eyes of many Sudanese, having been associated with past governments which, like the NIF, mismanaged the economy, prosecuted the civil war, allowed the humanitarian crisis to develop, and showed little respect for human rights.

`The southern rebels also have little to offer the Sudanese people. John Garang's Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and Riak Machar's South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) are fractioned and factioned, both internally and against each other. The SPLA and SSIM have poor human rights records. A number of Riak's commanders have allied themselves with Khartoum.

Longstanding inter-tribal conflict makes other commanders quick to switch sides and turn their weapons on each other. Forced conscription of boys by rebel militias has also been a problem. Finally, both the SPLA and the SSIM regularly loot, harass, and obstruct international relief efforts for needy southern Sudanese...

`In September of 1994, in response to repeated Sudanese requests for evidence of Sudan's support for terrorism, we gave Khartoum solid, incontrovertible information about the location of a military facility north of Khartoum at which training, including small arms familiarization, had been provided to non-Sudanese extremists.

`On human rights, we have led the international community at UNGA and in the U.N. Human Rights Commission in condemning human rights violations by both the Sudanese government and the southern rebels. Our Embassy in Khartoum has worked hard to monitor human rights abuses and to bring to public attention the regime's blatant disregard for the human rights of the Sudanese people...

`Unfortunately, I must tell you that both the Khartoum regime and the southern rebels have been unresponsive to our concerns. Khartoum rejected our information on the terrorist training facility out-of-hand and continues to harbor elements of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Abu Nidal Organization, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and other groups. Both Khartoum and the rebels continue to brutalize the Sudanese people and to attack civilian populations and obstruct or loot relief convoys. Finally, while the southern rebels have been somewhat more forthcoming in the IGADD talks, and there was limited agreement on some ways to facilitate humanitarian relief, Khartoum stalemated the talks in September by refusing to cooperate in substantive discussions.

`In short, while we have been successful in keeping attention focused on Sudan, we have been unable to effect change in those regime policies and practices of most concern to us. We will maintain bilateral and international pressure on Khartoum. We have not and will not stop looking for ways in which to bring about changes in Khartoum's behavior.

`The Sudanese Government must understand that those same policies and practices which we find threatening and objectionable will eventually cause its downfall. If the regime continues on its present course, and when a credible political alternative to the NIF emerges, we believe the Sudanese people will take the steps necessary to restore their legitimate political and human rights, end their suffering, and end Sudan's status as a pariah state in the world.' (US House of Representatives 22/Mar/95)



The government will not hesitate to establish more states and provinces if it finds it necessary, Vice- President Maj-Gen al-Zubeir Muhammad Salih told a delegation from Abyei province, West Kordofan State, on 19 April.

`He called on the state government and local authorities to play their proper role in settlement of the problems facing Abyei area,' according to Sudan News, which says the Vice-President told the delegation that Abyei State had been established `in response to the citizens' aspirations and in the context of ensuring more power to the people.' Salih said the federal government was ready to offer support towards rehabilitating the province. (SEB 26/Apr/95)


`On 6 May, the [armed opposition] Sudanese Allied Forces led by Brigadier Abd al-Aziz Khalid Osman, who are well seen in Eritrea, signed a coordination agreement with the Beja tribes, as represented by the Beja Conference, re- formed last year,' reports Middle East International. `Using John Garang's term of a "New Sudan", they agreed "to get rid of the NIF ... by all means, including armed uprising". The fundamental relationship of religion to the constitution was not mentioned.

`The Beja, who live in the Red Sea areas and across the Eritrean border, have a warrior tradition and spirit of independence that have troubled Sudan's rulers since colonial times, when Osman Digna's fighters broke the British square. A number of recent clashes have been attributed to a "Beja army", believed several thousand strong. Beja people are particularly angered by the 1992 execution of Beja officer Brigadier Mohamed Osman Hamid Karrar.' (MEI 12/May/95)



Restrictions on foreign exchange dealings in Sudan are to be lifted, and private moneychangers will be allowed to set their own rates, reports Reuter. Applications from prospective currency dealers would be accepted from 17 May, and new exchange shops could open from 1 July, the start of the new financial year, according to SUNA. The Governor of the Bank of Sudan, Sabir Muhammad Hassan, told SUNA that exchange rates would be completely liberalised and that his bank would play no part in setting them for the private dealers. He explained that the purpose of the move was to provide a legal public service, stabilise the rates and narrow the gap between official and black market rates.

Private money changers were closed down after a period of legality in the 1980s, blamed for the steep decline in the value of the Sudanese pound, notes Reuter. In recent years only banks have been permitted to change currency, and the penalty for illegal transactions during the early years of the Bashir regime was death. At least three people were hanged for currency offences between 1989 and 1991, including the Coptic Sudan Airways pilot Giorgis Yustus. When he was executed in February 1991, thousands of people, Muslims as well as Copts, attended his funeral, according to Human Rights Watch/Africa. The law was changed less than a year later. Until the latest change of policy the maximum penalty has been three years' imprisonment.

Nonetheless, the black market remains active, offering about 625 Sudanese pounds to the dollar compared with about 525 from the banks. The black market rate has recently fallen from a peak of 725 Sudanese pounds to the dollar in March. Reuter attributes this to the return of Sudanese migrant workers from the Gulf for the Eid holiday, with foreign currency to spend.

The Governor said the new currency shops will require capital of some $600,000 each, and will be entitled to technical assistance from the Bank of Sudan, which will offer guidance on accounting systems, setting of rates for buying and selling, and how to announce the rates. (Reuter 17/May/95; HRA 10/Feb/93)


A delegation from the Russian Institute of Hydro-electricity meets the chair of the committee for the Kajbar Electricity Project, Transport Minister Dr al-Fatih Muhammad Ali, at the end of April. Sudan News reports that the delegation intends to conduct a study based on the Russian institute's offer for implementing the Kajbar hydro-electric dam in northern Sudan. It notes that the Russian institute has previously designed several dams including the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the Hamadab dam in Sudan's Northern State. (SEB 26/Apr/95)


The regime in Khartoum has arrested over a hundred suspected political opponents in Khartoum, Kosti, Port Sudan and Gedaref, reports the Sudan Human Rights Organisation. Fifty-five were transferred from Kober prison in Khartoum North to prisons in Al-Obeid, Kosti and Wad Medani on 26 May, says SHRO: `this indicates that more detentions ... are expected.'

One target has been the leadership of the Umma Party and the Ansar sect. Two detainees are signatories of a memorandum of protest from the Ansar sect patrons' committee to the government after the detention of Sadiq al- Mahdi. Detained Umma/Ansar figures include: Tebira Idris Habani, ex-MP Ali al-Umda Abd al-Majid, ex-MP Abd ar- Rasoul an-Nour, ex-governor of Kordofan Fadlallah Burma, ex-minister of state for defence Abd al-Mahmoud Haj Salih, ex-MP, ex-Attorney-General Sara Nuqdallah, university lecturer, Umma Party Secretary for Women's Affairs Dr Abd an-Nebi Ali Ahmed, ex-governor of Darfur Dr Ali Hassan Taj ad-Din, ex-member, Supreme State Council Abd al-Mahmoud Abu, Secretary-General, Ansar Sect Patrons' Committee Tirab Tendel, prominent Ansar member Hussein Adam Salama, Secretary of Umma Party HQ (SHRO 26/May/95)


At least 21 workers and trade unionists have been detained in Port Sudan since mid-May, according to SHRO. Among them are: Abdallah Musa, trade unionist Haj Musa, trade unionist Ali al-Khattib, trade unionist Suliman Khalafallah, engineer Abd ar-Rahman al-Amin, insurance company director Sa'eed Ashaiqir, teacher Faqiri Abdallah, Sudan Ports Corporation employee Galal Ismail, businessman Khalil Osman Khalil, businessman Mahjoub az-Zubeir, prominent trade unionist Imad Ali Dahab, manager, Bohain Hotel Mahir Mekki, Sudan Ports Corporation employee, newspaper correspondent Muatasim Siam, engineer Hassan Hussein, merchant, football coach Abd al-Azim Abdallah, Sudan Ports Corporation employee (SHRO 29/May/95)


The Umma Party held a press conference in London on 31 May to draw attention to the recent detention of its leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, and more than 200 members of the Umma Party and Ansar religious sect. A statement issued on behalf of the Sudanese opposition by Bona Malwal, editor of Sudan Democratic Gazette, expressed concern for the personal safety of the former prime minister `and for the dangerous political situation which his detention clearly represents for the people of Sudan':

`On 16 May the military dictatorship of the NIF arrested Sayed Sadiq el Mahdi for the fifth time in as many years... We are told that this time, the previous psychological mistreatment has been even upgraded to physical mistreatment. Sayed Sadiq el Mahdi is reported to have been subjected to physical torture. One such physical mistreatment is that he was made to stand up in the hot sun of Sudan in temperatures of nearly 40 degrees centigrade because he refused to answer questions intended to implicate him in a crime only the regime and its security agents are guilty of. Sayed Sadiq el Mahdi has said that he would only answer questions before a properly constituted judicial system, which this regime does not have.

`Furthermore, almost the entire top leadership of the Umma Party, the largest political party in Sudan, and of the Ansar Islamic Movement of the legendary Mahdist revolution, have been detained - more than 200 of them within the last two weeks. This is a situation which brings the northern part of the country dangerously close to another civil conflict of the type the regime has already inflamed out of control in Southern Sudan.

`Sayed Sadiq el Mahdi, in particular, as well as a large number of his party and Ansar leadership have not been seen since they were detained. El Mahdi has been denied even a change of clothes and visits by any member of his immediate family, doctors or lawyers. We are very concerned for his safety because of these developments and because of the criminal character and usual behaviour of the regime. Our concern for his safety is justified by what the regime is well known for - torture to death in ghost houses and extra-judicial execution of political detainees.

`Two weeks is too long for a person of the political calibre of Sadiq el Mahdi to stay in the jails of such a rogue regime without being witnessed by outsiders. We therefore call upon the international community, represented by the various governments that still maintain diplomatic relations with the regime,; the United Nations; and the international human rights groups, to mount a sustained campaign in support of the freedom and safety of Sadiq el Mahdi. It is necessary for the press to be allowed to visit Sayed Sadiq el Mahdi to reassure all the people of Sudan that he is safe and alive, and then to bring pressure to bear on the regime for his release. We also demand the release of the entire leadership of the Umma Party and of the Ansar who are under detention for no reason...' (Press Statement on behalf of the Opposition Sudanese Democratic Movement, London 31/May/95)

SUDAN UPDATE is an international media review, published twice monthly, recording news and comment on Sudanese affairs from all quarters to promote dialogue and education.

Reports quoted in SUDAN UPDATE represent a variety of published sources, often contradictory, and do not represent the views of the editorial board. Readers should always refer to the original sources for complete versions. Information added by the editors is signalled by square parentheses [SU]. SUDAN UPDATE can accept no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the original reports nor for any claim for defamation or infringement of copyright arising out of their publication. As a non-profit-making body with minimal resources, we welcome donations and offers of assistance.

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Sudan Update, BM Box "CPRS", London WC1N 3XX England Tel/Fax: +44-1422- 845827 E-mail:

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 1995 19:19:07 BST
From: Peter Verney sudanupdate@GN.APC.ORG
Subject: Sudan Update Vol 6 No. 9

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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