Sudan Update Vol 10 No 4 (21 Feb 99)

Sudan Update Vol 10 No 4 (21 Feb 99)

21/Feb/99 Militia havoc / Press warned / Book-burners / Tripoli 2? / Kampala conference / Green party? &more


FRESH CLASH IN DARFUR: `Eight soldiers have been killed and another nine injured in an armed clash, the official al-Anbaa newspaper reported, when a group launched an assault on a Zaghawah village in Darfur. The report described the attackers only as outlaws,' says the BBC. Western Darfur state has seen three weeks of `tribal clashes'. `Correspondents say ...there had been a lull in the incidents.' (BBC / al-Anbaa 6/Feb/99)

SITUATION `STABILISED', CABINET TOLD: Federal Relations Minister Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir told the Sudanese cabinet on 14 February that the security situation had stabilised in and around Geneina, capital of Western Darfur state, the privately owned Al-Rai al-Aam newspaper said. Tahir flew to Geneina, 1,100km W of Khartoum, on 11 February with two other cabinet ministers and Lt-Gen Mohamed Ahmed al-Dabi, President Bashir's special envoy. `He said both parties in the conflict, African Masalit farmers and Arab nomad herdsmen, wanted reconciliation,' says Reuter. `The government delegation drew up a plan for the return within 10 days of displaced people. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people are reported to have taken refuge in Geneina and 40,000 to have fled to neighbouring Chad.' Al-Anbaa says some 1,500 families have fled to Chad and another 3,750 families have been displaced from their homes. At least 76 villages have been burned and 23 completely destroyed, the paper said on 13 February. Sudan TV on 12 February showed villages reduced to ashes and scores of villagers living as refugees in Geneina. (Reuter / Al-Rai al-Aam 15/Feb/99, AP / Al-Anbaa 13/Feb/99 /Sudan TV 12/Feb/99)

SPECIAL COURTS TO TRY LEADERS: Sudan has set up special courts to try leaders of the clashes in Darfur, SUNA reported on 13 February. It quoted the chief justice of Western Darfur, Babiker Atteni, as saying charges against the accused include waging war on the state and premeditated murder, both capital offences, as well as possessing unlicenced weapons and illegal wearing of military uniforms. The report did not say how many people were detained. Violence in Western Darfur began on 19 January after Arab nomad chiefs were killed by gunmen while on their way to settle a dispute over dwindling grazing lands with Masalit tribesmen. The Masalit say at least 400 of their people were killed by paramilitary Arab horsemen from Northern Darfur state. Government figures show 131 persons died, 85 were wounded, 115,000 internally displaced and 7,000 took refuge in Chad. `Analysts said the charges against those arrested appear to reinforce unofficial reports that the conflict was not a racial one but a rebellion against the government,' says DPA: `The government was forced to send extra troops and other security personnel from Khartoum and Fasher to contain the situation, indicating that this was not just a spontaneous communal conflict.' (Deutsche Presse-Agentur / SUNA 15/Feb/99)


U.N. ENVOY ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO VISIT: The U.N. special envoy on human rights in Sudan makes his first visit to the country and to Kenya from 2-14 February to meet government officials and rebel representatives. Leonardo Franco, an Argentine human rights lawyer, is expected to report his findings to the upcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva from March 22 to April 30. Franco, who was appointed special envoy last August, intends to travel to Khartoum, Wau and possibly Juba at the invitation of the government, said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva. He plans to meet government officials, voluntary organizations and private individuals. He also plans to visit prisons and other places of detention, as well as camps for people displaced by the civil war, Almeida said. In Nairobi, Franco plans to meet UN officials from Operation Lifeline Sudan and representatives of the SPLA. Franco, who is a professor of law at the National University of Lanus in Argentina, will also hold talks with IGAD representatives. (AP / UN 11/Feb/99)

`POLITICAL PRISONERS RELEASED': The Sudanese government has released all political prisoners in line with a recommendation by the Sudanese Human Rights Council and the provisions of the new constitution, the Sudanese embassy in London announced on 4 February, saying the releases were declared on 3 February in Khartoum. Council chairman Ahmed al-Mufti said the recommendation was made on 5 December 1998, when it reviewed the cases of all 41 detainees then being held under the National Security Act. It called on the government to look again at the cases, take legal action against those who faced criminal offences and release the others. Mufti did not say how long the political prisoners had been held. (AFP, SEB 4/Feb/99)


MILITIA HAVOC IN BAHR AL-GHAZAL: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on 12 February that since last month its expatriate staff have been displaced at least twelve times because of militia raids in Bahr al-Ghazal and Jonglei. It has halted operations in five sites out of ten in Bahr al-Ghazal state and one in Jonglei and evacuated at least 40 foreign aid workers. After visiting Sudan in January, Tom Eric Vraalsen, the UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs, said he had asked the government to `contain' People's Defence Force militia activities in Bahr al-Ghazal, says AP on 11 January. Wau is controlled by the government; rebels hold the countryside and the affected villages. The worst raid occurred on 29 January when 60 militiamen on horseback attacked the village of Bararud, NE of Wau, killing 10 civilians, one of them an MSF employee. The militiamen also destroyed agency shelters and looted medicine and food, MSF said.

On 15 January the SPLA and the government agreed to a three-month extension of a cease-fire to permit delivery of aid in Bahr al-Ghazal,' notes Associated Press. "We are very concerned about the vulnerable population in the locations where we do not have access due to insecurity," MSF said in a statement, adding: "There are still enormous humanitarian needs and the population is in a fragile state." (AP / MSF 11/Jan/99, AFP 12/Jan/99)

CALL FOR MILITIA DISBANDMENT: One of the oldest Southern Sudanese political parties, the Sudan African National Union (SANU), has called for the disbanding of all the militias be they private or belonging to the government. Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the provisional chairman of the party, Dr Toby Madut, accused the militias of committing atrocities in southern Sudan because they lacked military discipline. He was particularly critical of the western Sudanese militiamen known as the "Murahelin" who had been marauding Southern Sudanese villages killing innocent people and robbing their cattle and other valuable belongings. `Dr Madut blamed last year's famine in Bahr al-Ghazal largely on the destabilising activities of the western Sudanese militiamen and the government instituted Popular Defence Force otherwise known as "Mujahedin". `He said the role of defence should be entirely the work of the regular army that was known for its high discipline and had never committed any atrocities against the civilian population. `Dr Madut is also against the division of Southern Sudan into 10 federal states with no social services to the people: "We want the south to have only one government consisting of three provinces namely Bahr al-Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria in the transitional period leading to lasting peace," he told dpa. `Madut has applied to register SANU as a party. Other southern based parties have declined to register, arguing that the law does not allow full democratic practice...' (DPA 2/Feb/99)


MILITARY COURTS MAY TRY CIVILIANS: Sudanese civilians may be tried by military courts for crimes involving firearms, explosives, espionage, and military secrets, SUNA said on 11 February. "If the army commander-in-chief and state prosecutor agree, civilians suspected of these crimes may be judged by the armed forces tribunal, responsible for the national interest and its citizens' security," a military source said; those convicted could ask for a retrial by a military appeals court, which then must submit its verdict to the president. (AFP 11/Feb/99)

ARMY HEAD AND FIVE DEPUTIES STEP DOWN: The head of Sudan's armed forces and five of his six deputies stepped down from their posts on 14 February after their mandates expired, handing over their positions to senior officers. Chief of staff Gen Sidahmed Hamad Siraj handed over to Gen Abbas Arabi at a ceremony held in the armed forces headquarters. (AFP 14/Feb/99)

RIEK RESIGNS BUT KEEPS POST: Assistant President Riek Machar has tendered his resignation from the National Congress (NC) party and kept his government posts after forming his own political party. Machar, who also chairs the South Sudan Coordination Council, was an ex-officio member of leading organs in the ruling NC - the Shura, or consultative authority, the leadership council and the leadership executive bureau. Khartoum papers of 7 February said he addressed his resignation to NC chairman President al-Bashir and handed it on to Hassan al-Turabi. A number of other officials from southern Sudan who had been NC members but have now joined the United Democratic Salvation Front Party (USDFP), followed suit. (AFP 5/Feb/99)

"SUDAN GREEN PARTY": The vice-chancellor of the University of Juba, Prof Zakaria Bashir Imam, has applied for permission to set up the "Sudan Green Party". However, he declared that it has no political agenda. "We are just a social agency that seeks to raise environmental awareness at the national and regional levels," he told reporters in Khartoum on 14 February. "We will not compete with the political parties. We will, instead, strive to help them ... maintaining and developing the country's vast potential of natural and human resources," he said. Imam says 14 years of civil strife in Southern Sudan has resulted in wide scale environmental degradation in the country, urging all Sudanese "to strive to stop the war and give dialogue a chance." (PANA 14/Feb/99)

EX-COMMUNIST PARTY MEMBERS FREED: Members of a breakaway faction of the outlawed Sudanese Communist Party who were arrested as they held a press conference on 1 February were freed the same day after government officials intervened, reports AFP. `Among those detained was Warraq Sidahmed, leader of the Modern Democratic Forces Movement (Haq), a splinter faction of the Communist Party, who was making his first public appearance after 10 years in hiding. `Haq has now renamed itself the Cultural Enlightenment Society, apparently to avoid being dubbed a political party, and called the press conference under this new name.' Police arrested everyone at the press conference in Omdurman, including more than 20 reporters. The journalists were freed shortly afterwards after the intervention of presidential security advisor and Deputy Secretary-General of the Press and Publications council, Sadik Bakheit. The police said they arrested the members because they had no permission to hold the conference, and the society was not registered. Omdurman Provincial Commissioner Mohamed Mohi Eddin al Jimaiabi, who was instrumental in securing their release, said he considered the reappearance of Warraq "a score in favour of the political Tewali legislation." He called on Warraq to complete the formalities of registering his society, under the new law - which allows for the creation of political parties but with strict restrictions - and even to resume his political activity in public. "I am prepared to introduce Warraq to the public myself," the commissioner said. Warraq, in a prepared statement he was planning to deliver at the press conference, said the Tewali legislation was "a defeat for the dictatorship but not a victory for democracy", and called for "a continued civilian struggle for full restoration of full democracy. (AFP 2/Feb/99)


JOURNALISTS WARNED TO TOE LINE: Sudanese journalists working with foreign media have been told by the State Minister for Culture and Information, Amin Hassan Omar, not to use information from political parties that have refused to register. Any who did not heed his directive would be considered as accomplices of the parties, says DPA. "If we feel you have somewhat gone beyond the limit, we may call you and ask you to correct your steps," the minister said and warned that repeated "mistakes" would make journalists liable to prosecution and trial. "We have a constitution and laws which both politicians and journalists must obey," Omar told the correspondents. `The parties which have refused to be registered are not recognised by the government, are not allowed to engage in political activities and must not have access to the media. Some of them, among them the Umma Party and the Communist Party, have been trying to hold rallies and press conferences but the government has been preventing them. `Omar said the government did not want the multi-party era to be characterised by political chaos.' InterPress Service says that `barely two months after introducing multi-party democracy,' the regime `has imposed

a news blackout on opposition political parties.' About 18 journalists were invited to the ministry by the Minister of Culture and Information. He told them government was prepared to cooperate with them under specific conditions. "To be frank," he said, "we want to cooperate with you but within the limits of the Sudanese laws." `The minister said "freedom of expression doesn't mean the government should leave things unchecked." Omer denied the ban amounts to censorship and warned that any media institution that refuses to toe the official line will be closed. `Sudan's restrictive Press and Publication Act bans journalists from covering the movements of the army, unregistered groups, gay activities, sodomy or defamation, as well as blasphemy. `To "ease" the situation, a top government spokesman has been entrusted to "check" news concerning the Islamic regime before publication, according to a Sudanese official in Khartoum. `The campaign against journalists heightened after the dreaded secret police stormed the offices of the Al Haqaq Cultural Society, arresting about 20 journalists and organizers at a news conference... `The journalists have been released on bail and will be arraigned in court this week for "attending an illegal meeting organized by an anti-government group." `"It was wrong for Al Hagag to hold a political conference to discuss Sudan's political system," a senior government official told IPS. `Sarah Nugudalla al Mahdi, wife of former prime minister Sadiq al Mahdi, said journalists were turned away from a press conference they called last week. `Sudan's more than 15 independent publications have criticized the ban. Al-Rai al-Aam, the largest private newspaper in the country, said there was no freedom of expression in the Sudan, after the paper was shut down for three days for publishing a statement by a renowned Sudanese lawyer, Ali Hussinien ... that the government was not serious about the idea of multi-party democracy. The paper said it lost about 240 million Sudanese pounds (US$1=,Sud2,300) following the incident. And some journalists have now resorted to self-censorship for fear of being arrested by the secret police.' Toby Madut, leader of the Sudan African National Union (SANU), strongly condemns the restriction on journalists. `"We will tell government officials that we want freedom of the press, if political parties are to operate in the Sudan," he said. "Each of us will launch a party newspaper and we want press laws to be discussed by all parties." `Madut urged Sudan's political parties, including the 28 registered last month, to unite and challenge the restrictions. "If we are to survive as politicians under this system, we need strong coverage, the media must be free to check corruption, human rights abuses and defend democracy."' (DPA, IPS 3/Feb/99)


CHRISTIAN UNITY AGAINST DISCRIMINATION: Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey agreed in the Vatican on 13 February that the Catholic and Anglican churches should work together to bring peace and fight discrimination against Christians in Sudan. (AP, Reuter 13/Feb/99)

BOOK-BURNERS ATTACK CHRISTIAN EXHIBITION AT UNIVERSITY: The University of Khartoum was tense the day after a clash in which a student group calling itself "Islamic Movement" burnt Christian books on exhibition on the campus. On 6 February the two sides had `exchanged a hail of bricks and stones, before police dispersed them,' says AFP. At least seven people - four Christians and three Muslims - were injured and taken to hospital, adds AP. University Vice Chairman al-Zubair Bashir Taha blamed the Christians for provocation and said they "insisted on organising a cultural week, with a Bible exhibition, despite the university's decision to delay the event to avoid religious friction with other students," Tahal said in a statement on 7 February. Says DPA, the "Islamic Movement" `claimed that a mosque within the campus had been defiled by infidels and non-Moslems and that the university administration was to blame for the humiliation to which Islam was being subjected by allowing the "cross" [Christianity] into the university. Their statement `did not explain what they meant by the mosque being defiled, since Christians never enter the mosque.' Next day, other Moslem students belonging to the Democratic Front and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had also set up stalls on the campus, issuing statements condemning the attack. The DUP blamed the intolerance of the Islamic Movement on government policy that favoured only one religion. (AP 6/Feb99, AFP, DPA 7/Feb/99)


REGIME "KILLING EVERYONE, MUSLIM OR NOT": Thirty groups including opposition political parties and armed groups, human rights bodies and other civic organisations, have said at a key conference that they will intensify the struggle against human rights abuses in Sudan. A hundred delegates attended the conference on "Human Rights in the Transition in Sudan" in Kampala from 8-12 February. It was opened by Uganda's security minister, Muruli Mukasa, and hosted by the Pan African Movement (PAM), whose Secretary General, Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, facilitated the meetings, reports New Vision. [The joint organiser was the Committee for Human Rights in the Transition in Sudan - SU.] Sheikh Umar Mohammad Tahir Abedha of the Beja Congress and Mrs Nadia Mustafa, the secretary for women affairs in the Sudan Alliance Forces, told of the destruction of mosques, schools and villages and torture of women and children, says Deutsche Presse-Agentur. `They said the Khartoum regime is repressive and destructive against people living in areas outside of its control. Brandishing a partly burnt Koran, Sheikh Umar said "The regime claims to be Islamic but burns down Koranic schools and occupies others."' "We're going to fight until there is no religious discrimination and there is justice, peace and equality in Sudan," Yousif Kuwa Mekki, the SPLA field commander of the Nuba Mountains [`governor', according to New Vision] told the press. "Beshir says that his government is Islamic but we do not believe him because he is killing everybody, Moslem or not. We want the regime to leave power by all means," he said. (DPA 10 Feb/99, New Vision 11/Feb/99)


WAR "PUTS MINISTERS BELOW POVERTY LINE": Sudan's war costs the government half its budget and has caused widespread misery, President Bashir was quoted as saying by al-Rai al-Aam newspaper on 3 February. "The government is not able to provide the minimum limits for survival for the Sudanese because of the spending on the war... This puts even ministers and government officials below the poverty line." Past reports suggest the government spends US$1 million a day on the war. Bashir, speaking at a sugar factory in the south, also rejected foreign attempts to end the war: "We reject any foreign solution because they want to serve their own interests and not Sudan's," he said, `apparently referring to Egyptian and Libyan attempts to mediate between the government and the SPLA,' says AP. (AP / al-Rai al-Aam 3/Feb/99)

SUGAR PLANT PLANS: Sudan is planning to build a $500 million sugar production facility in the White Nile region, reports Dow Jones Newswires on 5 February. The White Nile Sugar Co. plans to develop its own cane plantations and sugar mill, becoming the country's second sugar exporter, Mohammed Bashir El Wagie, its general manager, said. Commercial production is due to begin in 2003, when the company plans to export 75,000 metric tons of sugar each year from total production of 150,000 tons. Exports will mainly go to neighbouring East African countries and the Middle East. The project's financing is still under discussion. As it stands, `White Nile Sugar Co.'s main shareholder will be the Chinese government, which will hold a $90 million equity stake and will provide another $160 million in the form of a loan through one of China's major national banks. `The Sudanese government will hold a $50 million equity stake in the project while private Sudanese investors will take a $6 million stake... The rest, around $194 million, is expected to come from the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development and from private investors in nearby countries such as Qatar, said Wagie. "We expect everything to be finalized within the next three weeks. Until now everything is on paper," he said.' Sugar output in Sudan in 1998-99 is expected to be 585,000 tons. Exports are around 185,000 tons each year and are carried out by the Khartoum-based Kenana Sugar Company. (Dow Jones Newswires / SUNA 5/Feb/99)


SECOND TRIPOLI MEETING PROPOSED: SPLA officials are to meet government officials in Tripoli this month for talks organised by Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, Akhbar al-Yom newspaper reported on 2 February. It said Assistant President Riek Machar and Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail met in Tripoli last January with SPLA officials Nyal Deng and Yassir Arman. An un-named southern Sudanese government official was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Col Garang's SPLA representatives at that meeting stressed their willingness for peace. They said their movement was waiting to see what happens following the new political laws. The chairman of the peace committee in the national assembly, Abdallah Deng Nyal, said that he expects the date of the next IGAD peace talks to be set at an IGAD ministerial meeting in Djibouti this weekend. (AFP / Akhbar al-Yom 2/Feb/99)

TURABI ATTACKS EGYPT: On 12 February the Egyptian presidential political advisor, Osama El-Baz, referring to attempts to "set traps and make pranks and conceal facts to deform" the strong fraternal and strategic ties between the two states, confirmed that Egyptian-Sudanese relations are `very special,' says Arabic News. He was referring to press statements made by Hassan al-Turabi on 9 February in which Turabi alleged that the Egyptians `call the Sudanese people barbarians' and accused Egyptians of being `jealous of the Sudanese people.' Claiming that the Egyptians want to occupy Sudan, Turabi said the Halaib territorial dispute `is a trick because the borders were drawn by the Egyptians with the British 100 years ago, and they cannot find out now that it was a mistake.' `El-Baz stated that Turabi's opinions have no influence except inside the Sudanese National Islamic Front, while all political parties and forces are against the hostile trends of Turabi.' (Arabic News 9,12/Feb/99)

DELEGATION TO ETHIOPIA TO NORMALIZE TIES: Sudan and Ethiopia are to normalize their relations, Assistant President Riek Machar said on 9 February. He said a sizeable Sudanese delegation was headed to Addis Ababa "in the coming days." Al-Rai al-Aam said the delegation would also discuss the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia, estimated by UNHCR to number 76,000. (AFP / Al-Rai al-Aam 9/Feb/99)

IRAQI F.M. VISITS: Iraq's foreign minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, on a tour of Arab nations including Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, is bringing a personal message from Saddam Hussein to President al-Beshir, SUNA said on 13 February. He will brief him on `the situation in the Arab world' following January's meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, and meet his counterpart Mustafa Osman Ismail. (AFP / SUNA 13/Feb/99)

KABILA DROPS IN: Congo (DRC) President Laurent Kabila arrived in Khartoum for an unannounced visit and discussions with President el-Beshir, al-Rai al-Aam said on 16 February. (AFP / al-Rai al-Aam 16/Feb/99)

IN HIS OWN IMAGE? "We want to Islamize America and Arabize Africa" Hassan al-Turabi told the Cairo Times. (Cairo Times 9/Feb/99)

Slavery / Al-Shifa / Oil impact / Polio / Malaria / Sugar / "Lost boys" / Nuba &more...


`PUMPING PETROLEUM BY END OF JUNE': The Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company has announced that it will begin to pump Sudanese petroleum for export on 30 June, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the coup d'etat of 1989. On 15 February Sudanese newspapers reported its statement that the multinational consortium is ready to pump 150,000 barrels of petroleum daily from the Muglad Basin, Sudan's largest petroleum field, in East Kordofan. (SUNA 15/Feb/99)

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF OIL: The Sudanese government has set up a panel to examine possible environmental hazards from the imminent commercial exploitation of the country's crude oil reserves, says the Pan-African News Agency. `The panel's creation was apparently prompted by ceaseless warnings by environment protection activists who feared that the oil extraction process by foreign firms could cause environmental degradation in parts of the country. `The construction of a 1,160 km pipeline capable of carrying 100,000 barrels of crude per day is underway from the oil fields in the South and West of the country to Port Sudan harbour on the Red Sea. `At the same time a 50,000 barrel oil refinery is being built at el Jaili village, some 20km north of Khartoum. The facilities are being constructed by companies from China, Malaysia, Canada, Britain, Germany and Argentina, each doing a portion of the work within its specialisation. Informed sources in Khartoum said the pipeline and refinery will be completed by July this year. `The complaint of local ecologists is that each of the six contracted companies was working in complete isolation of the others. `"There should be coordination between these firms, otherwise the environment of the areas concerned will be affected," said Dr Assim el Maghrabi, an outspoken activist of the Sudan Environment Protection Society. Maghrabi said a careful study of possible environmental damage as a result of this work should have been conducted in advance and the necessary precautions taken. `"The risk of pollution and environmental degradation as a result of the oil exploitation, transport, refining and use are of colossal proportions," Maghrabi told PANA. `"A good example of such mismanagement and environmental degradation was that of Nigeria which prompted the poet (Ken) Saro Wiwa to launch a campaign of protest two years ago that finally led to his execution," he recalled. `The ecologist criticized the processes the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is following in the extraction of oil from the oil wells. `"They simply pump water in the oil well and pump out the mixture which is then transported a distance of 160km to the oil collection terminal. The water is separated from the oil and pumped into evaporation ponds. This contaminated water will surely seep back into the underground waters of the rich Nubian Sandstone Basin below," he said: the CNPC had completely ignored the warnings of the Environment Protection Society on the ecological hazards this process would certainly cause. `He said the correct process is to apply air or gas pressure to force oil out of the ground as most companies in other parts of the world do.

`The ecologist also criticised local oil planners, saying they did not take into consideration that the pipeline would block scores of water streams and valleys, thus affecting livestock, agriculture and wildlife natural habitats and migration routes. `The refinery in Jaili, a stone's throw from the River Nile, may contaminate the river water if overspills occur. He feared that the possible uncontrolled dumping of oil waste at this close distance from the river would certainly pose a pollution threat. `A Malaysian company has been assigned to supervise construction work on the oil facilities. But Maghrabi said the Malaysian firm was doing its work in the absence of local expertise, which casts doubts on the safety of the entire process. `"We have lots of qualified cadres who should not have been ignored while approaching such a vital project," Maghrabi said, adding that "we should bear in mind the Sudanese scientists' noteworthy contribution to the oil industry in the Persian Gulf states." `Another ecologist, Dr Mustafa Babiker, who has visited the oil fields in Hijlij area, complained that local people hired by the foreign firms as casual labourers "are living in makeshift housing facilities which are uncomfortable and unhealthy." `Babiker, a lecturer at the University of Khartoum's Institute of Environmental Studies, added that the employers had failed to adhere to the Sudanese labour laws and were denying the workers a lot of their basic rights in medical payment. In the wake of such complaints, the government panel has been a given a wider mandate beyond the issue of environmental effects of oil exploitation...' `Its chairperson, Labour Minister Agnes Lokudu, said: "The panel will also consider the social and economic aspects of the emerging oil industry." Lokudu said her panel will seek the advice of specialists in wildlife, pastures and water. The minister is expected to report the panel's findings to the Council of Ministers soon...' (PANA 1/Feb/99)


UNICEF INVITED TO REPORT: The Sudan government has asked UNICEF to head an investigation into the existence of slavery, the agency announced on 5 February. Last month Swiss aid agency Christian Solidarity International (CSI) said it had "bought back" a total of 5,066 slaves in Sudan over the last four years. The parliamentary human rights commission last week asked UNICEF to compile a report on the charges of CSI, which had repeated an appeal for action against slavery to the United Nations. "The government of Sudan has opened the door to UNICEF in a very encouraging manner because this NGO had an impact on opinion," UNICEF spokeswoman Marie Heuze said. UNICEF is seeking involvement of other groups in the project, notably local and international organizations, Heuze said. "In Sudan, the authorities have always denied the existence of this problem and do not even accept pronouncement of the word `slavery'," Heuze said. In 1990 Sudan ratified the convention on the rights of the child. A report on measures taken in this respect was handed over in 1997 to the UN body overseeing treaty compliance, but the text has never been approved or published, Ms Heuze said. "Slavery in Sudan exists. You can use any terms you wish. It also exists elsewhere," such as in west Africa and Asia, she added. Although welcoming the publicity CSI gives to the scourge, UNICEF criticised its tactics. The organization could never support the "absolutely intolerable" measure of buying back a human being, Heuze said, arguing that this strategy supported trade in human trafficking. "It serves to feed arms trafficking in the civil war in southern Sudan. Any time the traffickers get hold of cash, particularly dollars, it is spent on arms," she said. (AFP, Reuter 5/Feb/99)

SAME PRICE AS A GOAT: `John Eibner has just completed a transaction with the Sudanese slave trader. Dressed in chinos, hiking boots, and a T-shirt, the unlikely American slave buyer from Christian Solidarity International (CSI) addresses those he has just liberated,' reports CBS. `"I am pleased to report that my negotiations with the trader were successful and that you are all free to go home to your loved ones," Eibner tells them. `Through a translator, the group listens as Eibner regales them with the story of an American teenager who sold his car and gave the money to CSI so that they could be freed. Similarly, a schoolteacher in Aurora, a Denver suburb, has raised more than $50,000 for slave redemption. Eibner explains that some American students were studying slavery and emancipation in school when they read a newspaper article on slavery in Sudan.

`"The children raised money by washing cars and helping their mothers," Eibner says. "Some of the money that Barb Vogel and her students raised paid for the freedom of you here today." `Most of the information seems to wash over the dirty, tired group. Even in the shade, the temperature under the hot African sun hovers at around 85 degrees, and there is no water in sight. `Most of the women and children look scared, confused, unsure of whether they are allowed to begin their journey home. So they sit quietly listening to Eibner... `According to reports from the State Department and the United Nations, Khartoum encourages soldiers to take slaves as payment for combat. `A diplomat, speaking to CBS News on the condition of anonymity, suggests that CSI's cash has helped fuel the slave trade even as the group has tried to stop it. `In just two days, CBS News watched CSI purchase freedom for more than 1,000 slaves. The total cost was around $60,000, the most the group has ever spent. At $50 per head, the slaves are sold for about the same price as a goat. `CSI has made more than a dozen trips to the area since 1995. With each trip, the number of slaves increases...' (CBS 2/Feb/99)

AMERICAN OUTRAGE: Sam Brownback, Republican Senator for Kansas, said at a news conference on 3 February that tens of thousands of non-Muslim Sudanese live as slaves and are "branded, beaten, starved and raped at their masters' whim." With him was Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who said the Clinton administration "has done zip ... nothing" to ease the plight of repressed Sudanese... "This cannot be allowed to continue into the next millenium," said Wolf, who has visited Sudan a number of times. `Brownback spoke before a photographic display portraying the sorrowful faces of people he said were Sudanese slaves. Brownback said he will introduce legislation to challenge what he called the "famine-inducing practices" of the Sudanese government, but he did not give specifics,' according to AP. Much of Brownback's information on the situation was based on a visit to Sudan [in December 1998] by staff members. Baroness Caroline Cox... told the news conference that the ruling National Islamic Front in Sudan "is committed to an explicit policy of jihad (holy war)." (AP 3/Feb/99)

HIGH-LEVEL ACCUSATION: Today American students from 60 colleges are commemorating Abraham Lincoln's birthday with a campaign against slavery and religious genocide in the Sudan, reports the Washington Times on 12 February. `The students are holding prayer vigils and protest rallies coupled with a mass e-mail campaign to Congress to decry the 1.9 million Sudanese who have been killed ... with 600,000 of those deaths in the last five years. The students ... are also protesting tens of thousands of Sudanese abducted from southern villages by Muslim militias, the human rights organization Freedom House said. `"It was orchestrated from the very top," said CSI representative John Eibner, about the slavery practice. "In recent months, in borderland areas, the leaders have been holding jihad rallies, mobilizing for the dry season events... Very senior officials in the government are involved," he said...' However, Tarig Bakhit, the First Secretary to the Mission of Sudan for the United Nations told The Washington Times that television footage of the freed Sudanese slaves shown last week on CBS was "done to distort the image of Sudan." `He said there were "tribal clashes" and "hostage taking" practices that took place in areas held by the rebels - as distinct apparently from slavery.' Marco Atak Kuac Kuac, a Christian teenage boy from Majok Akon, gave this testimony during Mr Eibner's visit: `"When the Arabs came, I tried to run away. But I was surrounded. About eight men grabbed me. They all wore uniforms ... Every night they tied my hands and legs together and put me in a small outhouse without windows." `Another 15-year-old Christian girl from Marin said: "Many times each day, he [Musa, the leader of the soldiers] would say he would shoot me or cut my throat if I tried to escape ... Musa used me as a concubine. I am now about five months pregnant." `... As Abraham Lincoln put it: "That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy another's desires."' (Washington Times 12/Feb/99)


MALARIA INITIATIVE: Sudanese working in Saudi Arabia have launched a fund to help combat malaria in their country. At least 40% of patients attending Sudanese hospitals suffer from malaria with cases of chloroquine-resistant malaria registering alarming proportions, says PANA. The expatriates, led by a number of doctors working in the Arabian kingdom's western area, said the objective of their initiative was to boost the efforts being made by the government in Khartoum to combat the spread of the disease. Under the arrangement, each of the 500,000 expatriates working in Saudi Arabia will be obliged to donate five US dollars annually to the fund. The money will mainly be targeted at preventing mosquitos from breeding. The funds will also be used to provide malaria drugs. The fund's chairman, Dr Mohammed Yousif Sukkar, says he plans to set up a centre for malaria research that will study and provide data and statistics for malaria control. The organisation plans to hold a conference on malaria control in Khartoum on 26 February. The Director of the National Administration for Malaria, Dr Omar Zayid, described the fund as "a pioneering and important popular initiative." At least four million Sudanese work in the oil producing Arab states, the US and Europe. (PANA 3/Feb/99)

POLIO VACCINATION CAMPAIGN: A campaign aimed at vaccinating five million children aged below five years against polio and Vitamin A deficiency was launched on 10 February by President Bashir, who vaccinated the first baby at a ceremony in Omdurman. "We are resolved to completely eliminate polio by the year 2000," said Bashir. His government is planning to make the vaccination of children compulsory. Minister of Health Mahdi Babu Nimir said UNICEF provided Vitamin A doses worth one million US dollars and was backing the current campaign. (PANA / ANS 10/Feb/99)

AGENCY TOLD TO STOP FAMILY PLANNING: A US agency operating within a UN-sponsored maternity health centre in northern Sudan's River Nile State has been ordered to halt family planning activities. In the state capital Atbara, al-Wan said the action was taken because family planning operations are banned in the state. The name of the agency was not clear. The paper quoted Abdel Latif Khamis Chuol, the state health minister, as saying that it had "illegally distributed contraceptives" in the centre, adding that the local health authorities confiscated the goods. Chuol said his ministry learned that the agency was not registered on the list of the humanitarian aid organisations operating in Sudan, had no documents showing that it was related to the UN Population Fund Centre and that its staff had "infiltrated into the state as tourists." (AFP / al-Wan 16/Feb/99)

GUM ARABIC CURE FOR KIDNEY FAILURE? Doctors in Khartoum have started using natural gum arabic as a cure for renal failure, a potentially fatal disease arising from acute renal inflammation or kidney stones, hyper-sensitivity or diabetic complications. They said they had obtained encouraging results with a group of 35 chronic renal failure patients aged between 20 and 60 years. Each was given a daily dose of 50g of gum. Dr Mohammed Hamdouk, Resident Doctor of the Khartoum Dialysis and Kidney Transplant Centre, said "we have noticed an improvement in the general well-being of all 35 patients, after two months of the treatment. We have also found that all the patients' daily urine output has increased, which is a sign of improving kidney functioning." Dr Hamdouk said results of the experiment have been sent for publication in British and American specialised magazines. (PANA 17/Feb/99)

KIDNEY DOCTOR "UNAUTHORISED": The Sudan Medical Council (SMC) has dismissed Captain Dr Hisham Abdul Aziz Mohammed Fadl of Omdurman Military Hospital, who last October wrongfully removed a working kidney of a patient. It said the doctor, as a general practitioner, was not authorized to perform such an operation and "should have left the job for an authorized surgeon. Dr Fadl had failed to correctly assess the case of the patient, despite coloured x-ray and ultra- sound reports..." The patient, Shama Mahmoud, a widowed mother of five, developed kidney failure soon after the surgery and had to be rushed to Ibn Sina Hospital for dialysis. She had also developed acute anaemia and needed frequent blood transfusions. Khartoum press and legal circles pressed for the mistake to be remedied, says PANA. The patient had appealed to President Bashir to help her to travel abroad for kidney transplant. Her eldest son of 15 had volunteered to give her a kidney. The SMC said in its statement that it was complying with appeals by the media and legal circles: "The Council has obliged the Omdurman Military Hospital, as employer of the doctor, to pay for the patient's medical treatment including the cost of dialysis, drugs and kidney transplant." (PANA 27/Jan/99)


SALAH IDRIS DEMANDS COMPENSATION: The Sudanese-born Saudi businessman Salah Idris has demanded that the US government compensate him for the destruction of the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant and release $23 million in assets frozen by US officials in an account at the Bank of America in the United Kingdom, says the Washington Post. `Idris, who purchased the El Shifa plant in April 1998, has hired the Washington law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld to pursue his interests at the White House and on Capitol Hill and indicated that he would file a lawsuit... `Idris's attorneys met on [1 February] with four staff members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to rebut claims repeated last week by a senior administration official that Idris is linked to [Usama] bin Laden and that substances used to manufacture the nerve gas

VX had been found at El Shifa.' Idris has said he paid $12 million for El Shifa and agreed to assume $18 million in debt. `No U.S. official has provided any evidence to date linking Idris to bin Laden, nerve gas production or terrorist activities. But David C. Leavy, a White House spokesman, said, "We remain confident of the evidence that El Shifa was engaged in chemical weapons-related activities." One senior administration official, who asked not to be quoted by name, said the administration had "compelling" evidence tying El Shifa to the Sudanese military and to Iraq's chemical weapons program, both of which have ties to bin Laden... `"Akin, Gump ... should think twice about the kinds of clients they are representing," the official said. `A senior Akin, Gump partner responded that the firm "doesn't represent Sudan." It represented Idris, a Saudi citizen, for some time prior to his acquisition of the pharmaceutical plant," The Washington Post adds. `The law firm has a long-held reputation of influence in Democratic circles with partners like Robert Strauss, the former Democratic Party chairman, and Vernon Jordan, a close friend of President Clinton,' comments the New York Times. But the firm's lawyers `have been flatly rebuffed in their efforts to present their findings to the White House, National Security Council or the Justice, Treasury and Defense Departments. `"We've been confronted with the problem of proving a series of negatives - that there was no Empta at the plant and that Idris was not a terrorist," said Mark MacDougall, a partner at the law firm. "We think we've done that with evidence that can be admitted in court. But to date responsible officials, including at the White House, have flatly refused to look at the facts." `The lawyers have not yet decided whether they will sue the government, in what would probably be complex litigation with an uncertain outcome. Nevertheless, MacDougall said Idris wanted to clear his name.' (Washington Post 4/Feb/99, NYT 9/Feb/99)

IDRIS WANTS AL-SHIFA SITE RETURNED: Salah Idris wants the Sudan government to return control of the Shifa factory site to his company, Reuter said on 18 February, quoting Khartoum newspapers as saying he was unhappy that the government was still controlling access to the site and arranging visits to it without informing the company. "Responsibility for any action on the affairs of the site has not yet returned to the company," Idris said. "We are considering taking all measures that preserve the rights of the factory to prevent it from being harmed." Idris reportedly added he had only learned from the media about a recent visit by Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh to the ruined factory. Both Idris and the Sudanese government have demanded compensation for the US missile attack. `Idris has vowed to rebuild the plant himself, telling the government to stop collecting contributions for this purpose. He said in an interview with ABC News last week that Washington had a legitimate right to "go after terrorists" but insisted that his factory was "not the right target."' (Reuter 18/Feb/99)

HIRED INVESTIGATORS EXAMINE EVIDENCE: Chemists who examined soil, sludge and debris samples from the Shifa plant `found no traces of chemical weapon compounds, according to a scientist hired by the owner of the plant,' says the New York Times. `The findings, though prepared privately for lawyers for the owner ... raise new questions about the government's reliance on tests of soil samples from the site obtained clandestinely by the CIA.' Thirteen samples were taken from the wrecked plant and its grounds late in October 1998. `The sampling project was designed and supervised by Thomas Tullius, chairman of the chemistry department at Boston University.' The samples were "analyzed by one of the top laboratories in the world for this kind of work," Tullius said. "To the practical limits of scientific detection, there was no Empta or Empa, its breakdown product." `Clinton administration officials said they stood by their decision to strike the plant ... noting that the samples were taken long after the United States obtained its soil from the site and long after the bombing and rains could have dispersed incriminating evidence... `Several ground locations at the plant were surveyed, along with interior sites in the plant that were covered by debris and partly protected from rain. One location, a septic tank, was found intact and provided what Tullius said was a historical record of the chemicals flushed through the plant drains... `Empta, Tullius said, breaks down within days, but Empa remains in the soil, and even in small quantities would be detectable for weeks or months after contact with the ground. `An international security company, Kroll Associates, was hired by Idris' lawyers to conduct a detailed review of the Shifa controversy. They found no evidence of a direct link between Idris and bin Laden. `In interviews with Western consultants to the factory, employees and others, the Kroll investigators said they had found no evidence that the plant had been heavily guarded or that there had been secret areas in the factory off-limits to outsiders, where chemical weapons might have been produced or stored. The report concluded that the plant produced only veterinary medicines and pharmaceuticals for human consumption. While Al Shifa did export to Iraq, Kroll found no evidence of a chemical weapons link to Baghdad. `But the Kroll investigation did provide new details about Idris and confirmed his commercial links to Sudan's Military Industrial Corp., the government entity that produces weapons for the Sudanese army. The United States charged that the industrial corporation was also responsible for chemical weapons production in the country, and that bin Laden had provided financing for the agency.' `The Kroll report determined that Idris had links to the military corporation through his other business interests in Sudan, but not through Al Shifa. Kroll investigators said the industrial corporation was a powerful military-based organization that reaches into many parts of the Sudanese economy, including Idris' business empire.' (New York Times 9/Feb/99)

Q.E.D? `Kroll Associates ... set its own terms for the inquiry and acted independently,' asserts the Independent. `Kroll's credentials are unimpeachable. Many of its employees are former intelligence and law enforcement officials of the British and American government, and it has also been hired by several governments, including the US...' `The US was said to have suspected that some of Mr Idris' friends and the manager of the Al-Shifa plant were colleagues of Mr bin Laden. Kroll ... found no evidence of any contact or relationship between Mr Idris and Mr bin Laden, though a previous part-owner of the factory had conducted one business transaction with him... `Britain supported the US strikes - in public. In private, British officials are sceptical. While Mr Idris is banned from entering the US, he has few problems entering or leaving the UK to visit his flat off the Edgware Road in central London. `In Egypt, he maintains an apartment in Cairo, and visits at will. Yet the US says he is suspected of links with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group against which the government in Cairo is fighting a war. He has also visited Saudi Arabia, of which he remains a citizen.' (Independent 15/Feb/99)

UNRELIABLE INFORMATION: An ABC News report on 10 February said that the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency had held a secret review and concluded that the decision to strike the Shifa factory `was built on bias and unreliable intelligence information,' says Arabic News. Pentagon Deputy Spokesman Capt Mike Doubleday categorically denied that the DIA, which determines targets, had done such a review. Pressed as to whether such a review may have been done by an outside group of experts hired by the DIA or other US agencies, he said, "no analysis [was] done by the DIA on this subject." Asked if the CIA may have done such analysis, he referred the reporters to ask the CIA. (Arabic News 12/Feb/99 / ABC News 10/Feb/99)


LOST BOYS OF SUDAN LOOK WEST: At six years old, Gabriel Majok Bol, his parents and five siblings were scattered when his village in southern Sudan was burned to the ground. He hasn't seen his family for 11 years, and thinks they probably are dead. In neighbouring Ethiopia, Bol was lumped together with thousands of other boys, many from the Dinka and Nuer. Some also had been burned out of their homes; others were sent away by elders to seek an education and escape the civil war, says a Los Angeles Times report. These "lost boys of Sudan" became his family. `And with lives punctuated by long periods of inactivity, they have been running ever since - finally to another refugee camp... In the spring of 1992, about 10,000 ... boys straggled across the Kenyan border. Bol was among them. They were eventually sent to Kakuma, 80 miles from the border with Sudan... Now, as they reach manhood, the boys - and some aid workers - believe that their last, best chance is to move on again, this time to the United States or another Western country. They have few prospects in Kakuma... Estranged from their tribal cultures, they also lack the means to support themselves or establish their own families. Bol, now 17 and a "head boy" put in charge of 172 others, wants desperately to get an education and a fresh start. Many of his 4,797 "brothers" share his sentiments. Their wish might come true if the U.S. government signs off on a proposal to resettle them. A decision is expected sometime this year. But the issue has sparked a new debate over an age-old issue of emigration -- relinquishing family and cultural ties versus the possibility of a new and better life in a foreign land... Even in a camp that now houses 66,000 people from eight countries, the youngsters soon acquired a special status. Today, they range from 13 to 26 years old. About half the original number have left the camp, either trying to go home or seeking to make their way in the world. Almost 50% of those who remain are young adults over the age of 18... While some younger boys are anxious about the possibility of leaving surviving relatives in Africa, many of the older youths are eager to move on. "Life is not good here," said Bol in the stilted, bookish English spoken by many in the refugee camp. "We don't have parents to help us. If we want school things, we don't have a way to get them. If we go to somewhere else, things would be better." John Jol Amol, 18, is in his first year of high school, but, like many of the boys, he has aspirations. "If I am an educated person, I can do some good for my people," said Amol, a head boy in charge of 150 other youths. He would like to become a doctor - a prestigious profession in short supply among his people... A fear of many lost boys [is] that they will be forced to join the rebels instead of getting an education and a chance in life. Many said they would refuse to fight. "I'm having my own fight now," said Amol... "Trying to get education is also like fighting." (LA Times /Feb/99)


CANADIANS URGE ACTION ON NUBA: A consortium of Canadian agencies has written to urge that Canada take urgent action on the Nuba Mountains while Canada serves as president of the UN Security Council. `For over 10 years, the people of the Nuba Mountains have suffered..: Intentionally created famine; The confiscation of their lands by neighbouring ethnic groups at the encouragement of the Sudanese government; Violent and lethal raids on their villages by forces back by the government; The enslavement of their children by government-armed attackers; Forced relocation and resettlement; Forced religious conversion; The use of rape (targeting women and young girls) as a weapon of war; The bombing of civilian centers such as markets, villages and clinics with cluster bombs and other weapons of mass destruction. `Yet during all this time, the more than 400,000 Nuba living in opposition-controlled areas have been cut off from all outside assistance by the Sudanese authorities. The United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross, and all other humanitarian organizations have been denied access to this group of people. `In April of 1998, the Government of Sudan promised the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, that humanitarian agencies would soon be granted access to this area. This promise remains unfulfilled, and the area is currently the scene of intense military operations ... and ongoing attacks on civilian populations, many of whom are without food as a result of the fighting and the deliberate destruction of their crops and livestock. `... What is happening to the Nuba of Sudan amounts to "genocide by attrition". `Recently, after some 2,000 people in Kosovo were massacred in Europe, the Canadian government rightly acknowledged that Kosovans are victims of ethnic cleansing, and is prepared to commit ground troops under NATO auspices to stop the killing. More than 70,000 Sudanese Africans, many of them Nuba, were killed in the first six months of 1998 alone... An estimated 80 percent of the dead were women and children.... `Canada and the international community should address the systematic persecution of the Nuba in a manner comparable to the persecution of Kosovans, including swift action to stop the atrocities... `We .. call upon the Canadian government to use its influence and position on the UN Security Council... to: `1. Demand that the Sudanese government provide immediate and unrestricted access to all sectors of the Nuba Mountains (especially those in contested areas, and those under the control of opposition forces) to enable the UN (OLS), the ICRC, and other humanitarian agencies to begin critical humanitarian programs as soon as possible; `2. Conduct a comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation into the charges of genocide, slavery, and other crimes against humanity being waged against the people of the Nuba Mountains... `In this matter, time is of the essence...' (Steelworkers Humanity Fund / Sudan Inter-Agency Group 10/Feb/99)

SUDAN UPDATE is an international media review, published twice monthly to promote dialogue and education about Sudanese current affairs. It records news and comment from a broad variety of published sources, and presents a cross-section of views which are often contradictory. No claim is made for the accuracy of individual items. They do not represent the views of the editorial group, and readers should always refer to the original sources for complete versions.

SUDAN UPDATE can accept no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the original reports reviewed herein nor any claim for defamation or infringement of copyright arising out of their publication. Single quote marks `...' enclose source texts; double quotes "..." indicate direct speech. Information added for clarity by the editors is signalled by square parentheses [SU]. FREQUENT SOURCES: AC = Africa Confidential / AI = Amnesty International / HRA = Human Rights Watch Africa / ION = Indian Ocean Newsletter / MEI = Middle East International / MENA = Middle East News Agency (Egypt) / RSR = Republic of Sudan Radio / SEB = Sudan News (Sudan Embassy Bulletin) / SUNA = Sudan News Agency / SWB = Summary of World Broadcasts (BBC Monitoring Service)

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Sudan Update, PO Box 10, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6UX England Tel/Fax: +44-1422-845827 E-mail: ISSN 1352-0393

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