Sudan Update Vol 9 No 10 (15 May 98)

Sudan Update Vol 9 No 10 (15 May 98)

Sudan Update Vol 9 No 10

15 May 1998


Dancing ban / Archbishop held / Lawyers detained / Famine: more aid flights /

Abyei accusations / Blue Nile clash / Referendum / Tewali? / Divisions after

Nairobi / Grain to Niger


BAN ON MIXED DANCING: The Sudan government has enacted a new law banning women from dancing with men or in their presence during folklore celebrations or wedding parties, al-Usbu newspaper said.

The new law also prohibits men from styling women's hair, while tailors need special licenses to make women's clothing. The law also bars men from using women's compartments in public coaches.

The new constitution states that it is the duty of the government to "liberate the woman from repression and encourage her role in family and public life." (all-Usbu / Arabic News 11/May/98)

ARCHBISHOP ARRESTED: Archbishop Gabriel Zubair Wako has been arrested and freed on bail. The Catholic archbishop, who heads Sudanaid relief agency, was detained on 1 May for 24 hours because the agency has not yet paid Sudanese trading firm Abu Huzaifah more than 660,000 dollars apparently owed for food the firm supplied in 1988-90.

`Sudanaid was in breach of a ruling made in December by a court in Omdurman,' but `the case was "a civil court dispute and has no political or religious implications,"' a judicial source told AFP on 4 May.

`A spokesman for the Comboni missionaries in Rome said Zubeir Wako had been taken to Erkowit east prison in southern Khartoum,' says Reuter.

Government sources said President al-Bashir had intervened to request the suspension of the arrest until May 20 to enable the archbishop to attend the Nairobi peace talks, but this had been ignored by the arresting authorities. Zubeir Wako had already been visited by the Papal Nuncio; some seven or eight people detained with him on Friday morning had been released. Freed on bail, Wako left Khartoum on 3 May for Nairobi.

`Sudanaid ... was unable to get the Omdurman civil court ruling overturned when it first went to the appeal court and then to a tribunal of five judges set up by the chief justice. Under the initial ruling, the Omdurman court ordered the freezing of Sudanaid's accounts with Citibank and the seizure of the relief agency's vehicles. The court ordered Wako's arrest after being informed by police that Sudanaid personnel had "resisted" the taking away of the vehicles,' says AFP. (AFP, Reuter 1/May/98)

85 OPPONENTS DETAINED: The government has detained 85 opposition activists including two lawyers. Ghazi Suleiman of the National Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (NARD), told journalists that the "forces of oppression and tyranny" had arrested lawyers Ali al-Sayyed and Khalid Abul Rus ... after searching their homes and offices. The two men were then taken away to "an unknown destination".

Ghazi said if the authorities refused to free the two, the NARD would alert international human rights groups and organise a "protest march" and a strike to secure their release. The NARD is one of the main internal opposition groups in Sudan. It is not part of the Democratic National Alliance...

83 other opponents have been arrested since the start of the referendum on the new constitution. `The opposition Moslem Brotherhood said on 6 May that one of its members, Ali Abu Saleh, an imam, had been detained for having criticised the draft constitution.' (AFP 8/May 98)


AID NOT REACHING 400,000: Aid agencies still have no authorised access to 400,000 people in the Nuba mountains, where 20,000 people face starvation after being forced out of their villages by recent attacks by government troops.

Kevin Ashley, a consultant on food security to the US Agency for International Development, told AFP that a few small agencies made some efforts to aid the 400,000 people in territory held by the SPLA, but ran high risks in doing so.

More than 300,000 other villagers had moved from SPLA territory to "peace camps" in government-held territory after attacks designed to deny support for the rebels, he said, adding that UN and other agencies were supporting the people in those camps.

"There would be nothing wrong with that if they had access to the people in SPLA territory as well," he added.

The Nuba people are a collection of about 50 tribes with more than 10 distinct language groups. The government raids have forced many to move high into the mountains to areas with no arable land... (AFP 5/May/98)

MINISTER PROMISES TO ALLOW AID TO NUBA: Sudan will allow the shipment of humanitarian aid to the Nuba region, foreign minister Mustafa Othman Ismail said on 9 May. He made the remark `in a spontaneous and brief interview as he met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan whose plane was forced by bad weather to land in Sudan on its way from Uganda to Eritrea,' says AFP.

`The minister gave no details' - but SUNA said Ismail and Annan `discussed how rescue work was proceeding in central and southern Sudan and the outcome of the peace negotiations in Nairobi.' (SUNA / AFP 9/May/98)


ASSEMBLY MEMBER DEFECTS TO OPPOSITION: The assembly member for Gallabat in eastern Sudan, Qamer Hassan al-Tahir, says he has defected to the opposition National Democratic Alliance. On NDA radio, based in Eritrea, he said he had joined the military wing of the Umma party.

Tahir blamed the government for worsening conditions in Sudan and urged increased armed resistance, saying the military-led regime was "about to fall".

Tahir `disappeared several months ago,' says AFP. `He was initially reported to have asked the assembly for permission to travel to Chad and Nigeria.

`Questioned by reporters some weeks ago, the national assembly's secretary general, Jalal Muhammad Ahmad, told

reporters he did not know where Tahir was.' (NDA Radio / AFP 4/May/98)

KHARTOUM SUQ RIOTERS CLASH WITH POLICE: `Sudanese security forces wielding clubs clashed violently with stone-throwing vendors in Khartoum's main marketplace, a pro-government newspaper said on 5 May.'

According to AFP, `Al-Wan said a confrontation on 4 May between police and unlicensed vendors and vagrants escalated into riots and police resorted to tear gas, in addition to the clubs, to disperse the rioters. Public and private cars were damaged and shops were looted until police ordered them closed.

An unspecified number of people fainted after a tear gas canister was "mistakenly" hurled into a passenger bus. (al-Wan / AFP 5/May/98)

CONSTITUTION REFERENDUM BEGINS: The government began its referendum on the draft constitution in the provinces on 1 May, although Khartoum - 20% of the electorate - will not vote until 9 May. The head of the election commission, Abd al-Munim al-Zein al-Nahas, said it will last for 20 days. Around three million Sudanese expatriates, mainly in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya, will also be able to vote. The referendum will cost 560,000 dollars to organise, the election commission says. (AFP 1/May/98)

AMBIGUITY OF RARE WORD: The text of the draft constitution `uses a rare Arabic word, tewali, for provisions on free political, cultural and professional affiliation. According to President Omar al-Bashir, the draft text authorises political parties on condition they pledge loyalty to the constitution, which would rule out the opposition which opposes it.' [The opposition has called for a boycott of the referendum - SU] (AFP 1/May/98) 


al-Munim Zein Nahas told the independent newspaper al-Rai al-Akhar, "I expect a weak turnout of voters in the country and abroad due to the non-registration of some voters for several reasons."

The government has set up 36 polling centres in Khartoum and its governor, Mazjoub al-Khalifa, expected a heavy turnout. "This is one of the most important events in the history of the country since independence in 1956. It is the real independence," he told Sudan Television on Thursday.

The draft document, debated by parliament for almost three weeks, states that Islamic law and custom are both sources of law and confirms Sudan's status as a 26-state federation... issues disputed by the SPLA. An appendix to the final text reiterated that the south has the right to hold a popular vote after a four-year period to decide whether it will remain part of Sudan.

`Hassan al-Turabi said [in April] that the constitution would give citizens the right to form political parties or groups. But analysts said it would only allow the formation of "political associations" that could not challenge government policies.'

The Bashir regime's military coup in 1989 dissolved an already existing committee which was drawing up a new constitution, to replace the one introduced by former president Jaafar Nimeri, scrapped after the 1985 popular uprising. ( al-Rai al-Akhar, Sudan TV / Reuter 8/May/98)


EUROPEAN UNION CALLS FOR CEASEFIRE: The European Union has called for an `immediate ceasefire' in Sudan `to enhance the chances of success of the [Nairobi peace] talks and to end the suffering of the Sudanese people,' says AFP.

`We urge all sides in the dispute to adopt a positive attitude and come to an agreement at the next session of the peace talks in Nairobi on May 2-5,' said a statement issued by the Foreign Office in Britain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. (AFP 1/May/98)

"BLOCKADE THE REGIME": The Democratic Unionist Party foreign relations spokesman Mohamed Mutasim Hakeem said: "The real solution to the Sudanese issue lies in blockading the regime, politically and economically, until it falls. (Reuter 4/May/98)

PEACE TALKS OPEN IN ACRIMONY: `Peace talks ... at a secret venue in the Kenyan capital's western suburb of Karen, opened in acrimony on Monday, when the SPLA accused Khartoum of using food as "a weapon of war," says AFP.

In Khartoum, meanwhile, President Omar al-Beshir renewed an amnesty offer to the rebels, urging them to lay down their weapons to help in national reconstruction. He made "a special reference" to rebels in southern Sudan's Bahr al-Ghazal region, a presidential statement said.

... As the talks opened, the SPLA declared in a statement signed by spokesman John Luk Jok that "hundreds of thousands of people are starving to death due to famine" and warned that it could not allow the situation to continue "without taking action." (AFP 5/May/98)

LITTLE OR NO PROGRESS: "There has been no progress at all on the question of religion and the state is because the government refused to move on the Islamisation of the state," SPLA spokesman John Luk said on 6 May. "There has been limited progress, not to be too optimistic, in that the government has accepted that there has to be the right of self-determination in an international context," he said. (Reuter 6/May/98)

"LET US LIVE AS GOOD NEIGHBOURS": `Sudan's foreign minister said on 7 May the government was fully committed to a referendum on self-determination in south Sudan and would be happy to see the south become a sovereign state.

`"If the south wants to secede and live as a sovereign state then let us live as good neighbours," Mustafa Osman Ismail told Reuters,' in an interview the day after peace talks ended. `Ismail and other government leaders gave an upbeat assessment of the talks at an earlier news conference.

`"We as the government delegation are happy with the results of the second round of peace talks," said Riek Machar, a former rebel leader and president of the government-backed Southern Sudan Coordinating Council (SSCC). He said self-determination rather than religion was the substantive issue dividing the government and the SPLA.

`"The government is saying `yes' to self-determination, `yes' to international observers and `yes' the referendum should be about unity or secession," he said. "The solution to the war has been reached... Let us go and work out the remaining interim arrangements."

`Peace talks under the IGAD forum should resume in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa within three months, the delegation said.

`Kenyan foreign minister Bonaya Godana said on Wednesday the two sides had agreed to an "internationally-supervised referendum at the end of an interim period." The SPLA says it wants a referendum on self-determination after a two-year interim period.

`Ismail, who led the government delegation, told Reuters after the Thursday news conference that the government was willing to negotiate the date of the referendum.

`"Let it be in 18 months if that is practical," he said, but added it would probably take a few years to organise a vote.

`Another issue dividing the two sides is the boundary between north and south. The government wants the boundaries at independence in 1956 to apply, which sees the south made up of Bahr al-Ghazal, Equatoria provinces and Upper Nile.

`The SPLA, however, says it wants to push the frontier north to include Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile provinces.

`Ismail said that suggestion would undermine any vote for secession and falls outside the boundaries of an IGAD

Declaration of Principles on which the talks are based.

`"Be logical," he said. "The populations of those (extra) provinces are equal to the people of the southern Sudan, but they are Moslem and they are Arab. So surely they would vote for unity. I wouldn't really mind if those extra three provinces would be in the referendum, but then why not let the whole of Sudan vote," he said. Ismail argued that Machar's SSCC was Khartoum's forum for an interim government before the vote and appealed to SPLA leader John Garang to join it.' (Reuter 7/May/98)

MIXED RECEPTION: The outcome of the peace talks `won a mixed reception in Khartoum,' Reuter reported on 7 May. `Leading Islamist politician Amin Omar al-Imam, a member of parliament, said it was a waste of time for the government to talk to the SPLA.

`"Garang's movement possesses neither the political will nor the right of decision-making in order to sign any agreement," the privately-owned al-Usbu newspaper quoted him as saying.

`Akhbar al-Yom newspaper, also privately owned, said that the limited agreement on self-determination could be transformed into a positive step for further talks.' (al-Usbu / Akhbar al-Yom / Reuter 7/May/98)


for southern Sudan agreed in talks between Khartoum and the SPLA will aggravate the civil war, not end it, former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi said on 9 May.

"I say openly that the secession by the south in current conditions will damage the north and the south, and will mean the continuation of hositilities," he told London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat.

"We must first establish confidence so that we can hold a referendum in a climate which permits of the possibility of union by consent so that if separation does take place, it does so between two friendly countries, as is the case today with Ethiopia and Eritrea." It was essential that "unity be given a chance of success."

He was extremely concerned to see "one side pronouncing the talks a success while the other says the opposite." They had reached "deadlock."

"Sudan no longer has the time for manoeuvres, games, failures to communicate or the postponement of talks for months at a time. We have got war and famine, ten different civil conflicts in Darfur and southern Sudan and the eastern borders are in flames..." (al-Hayat / AFP 9/May/98)


ABYEI - ACCUSATIONS REJECTED: Sudan's military government has deliberately "sown discord between the Arab tribes and the Dinka in order that the Arab tribes mobilize and fight alongside" government troops against the SPLA, said Umma party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi in Cairo on 10 May. The former prime minister denied government claims that the SPLA had been behind three raids in Abyei district of Southern Kordofan, according to AFP.

Al-Wan reported on 7 May that between 30 April and 5 May the SPLA had killed 23 persons and injured 15 others in areas politically considered as part of northern Sudan - Abyei and neighbouring districts.

The paper said the aim of the attacks was to restrict the movement of the Arab herdsmen from the north to the south during dry season in search of pasture.

SPLA leader John Garang had "denied any connection between the SPLA and these incidents," Mahdi said. He had also confirmed his desire to preserve peaceful relations between the different communities in the borderlands. (Al-Wan/DPA 7/May/98, AFP 10/May/98)

MILITIA CALL FOR ABYEI: `Lawmakers and other dignitaries from western Sudan say they want to form a new militia to ward off attacks allegedly by the SPLA on Arab tribesmen in areas bordering the south,' says Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

In al-Sharee al-Siyasi newspaper on 7 May, Amin Banani, an assembly member for a western constituency said that the militia force would be placed under the supervision of the army.

Banani said the SPLA was attacking areas inhabited by Arabs in an effort to dislodge them from the region, claiming that the region belonged to the south. (al-Sharee al-Siyasi / DPA 7/May/98)


WADEGA GARRISON CAPTURED: The head of the SPLA negotiating team, Nhial Deng Nhial, told the press on 6 May that on 2 May the Sudan government had launched a major offensive to recapture Kurmuk in southern Blue Nile. It was timed "in order to announce it as a victory during the peace talks." He added: "The SPLA has fought back and captured, on [5 May], the garrison of Wadega."

Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail Osman accused the SPLA of having "launched an attack in southern Blue Nile", adding that he could not confirm whether Wadega had been captured by the rebels. "These are also places where people are in need," he said, warning, "Fighting will disrupt assistance." (AFP, Reuter 6/May/98)


MORE FLIGHTS THAN FOOD? The Sudanese Ambassador to London, Omar Barido, said his government had approved all UN requests for aid flights since the end of March. But he told the BBC that few flights have actually taken place, because the international community has failed to provide enough food aid to fill them. (BBC 2/May/98)

MORE FOOD THAN ABLE TO DELIVER? "We believe we have all the food we need to meet the immediate needs of the population of south Sudan," said Brenda Barton, a Kenyan-based information officer for the UN's World Food Programme.

"All we need now is the ability to deliver this aid to avert what could easily become a major crisis," she said. (Reuter 2/May/98)


allow four more UN C-130 Hercules transport planes to fly relief supplies to southern Sudan, Social Planning Minister al-Tayeb Ibrahim Muhammad Khair said on 2 May. The four would be in addition to two planes already operating out of Lokichokio in north Kenya.

`Khair told reporters his government was "willing to respond to a request by the United Nations for permission for four additional planes to airlift food from Lokichokio and al-Obeid [in central Sudan] to affected areas in south Sudan to meet the urgent and dire needs of the people."

`The minister said 10,000 tonnes of sorghum were available in el Obeid and Kosti, and awaited transport to the south.' (AFP 2/May/98)

FLIGHT PERMISSION HAILED: Operation Lifeline Sudan issued a statement in Khartoum that the new flight permission would allow it to distribute some 6,000 tonnes of food per month. OLS coordinator Philippe Borel hailed the move. (AFP 5/May/98)


said in Addis Ababa he would focus on the Sudan conflict during his eight-nation African tour. He said the UN had appealed for US$109 million for relief efforts in Sudan, but received pledges for only 20% of that, says AFP.

On 1 May, says AP, WFP appealed for $65 million to deliver 90,000 tons of food to 2.5 million Sudanese for a year. Annan said "donor fatigue" is making it difficult for the UN to raise funds and said the agencies would have to push harder. (AP, AFP /May/98)

MORE PLANES FLY IN: WFP has put into operation the first of four additional planes allowed by the Khartoum government. The Hercules C-130 aircraft began dropping emergency supplies to 50,000 people in the towns of Ajak and Akon in Bahr al-Ghazal. The total number of aircraft run by OLS is now five Hercules and three Buffalo planes. (Reuter 7/May/98)

N.G.O. COUNCIL PLAYS DOWN FOOD NEEDS: `Famine threatening Bahr al-Ghazal region affects up to about 20,000 people and not the hundreds of thousands cited by international agencies, Abd al-Atti Abd al-Khair, the manager of the Sudan Council of Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA), told AFP. Nevertheless, urgent international assistance was still required.

`Khair said a survey conducted by UN and other relief agencies between last September and January put the number of people in both government and rebel-held areas at 185,000, of whom "not more than 10% are in need of relief". He called on the international community to provide assistance and contributions "in accordance with the actual needs and without politicising the humanitarian situation... The present food situation in Bahr al-Ghazal is not as critical as is now being reported by local and international media, and the number of people in need of food relief does not reach the reported over 300,000 people".

`His figure of 185,000 people, however, came from a survey before fighting was said to have displaced large numbers of southerners.

`The UN and Sudanese national agencies have recently delivered 1,000 tonnes of food by railway, road and air to the region's towns of Wau, Gogrial, Aweil and Raja, in addition to supplies sent through governmental and commercial channels.

`Khair said that these deliveries have brought the price of the staple sorghum down [to] 40,000 pounds (c.US$22) for a 100 kg bag: "This situation precludes the existence of famine in Bahr al-Ghazal."

`Apart from Sudanese organisations, SCOVA includes voluntary agencies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Britain's Save the Children Fund.' (AFP 6/May/98)

APPEAL TO ARABS TO AID `SOUTHERN BROTHERS': Sudan's Foreign Minister appealed

at a meeting with Arab ambassadors in Khartoum for all Arab nations to "contribute to relief, with transport, medicine and clothing for their brothers in the south". (AFP 9/May/98)

`HEALTHY BABIES CRY ... THESE WERE SILENT': WF Deedes reports from a feeding centre in Bahr al-Ghazal: `They sat there, awaiting a test on their babies... As well as the mothers and babies, there were some skeletal figures hanging around in hope. I could not bring myself to look at them, still less take pictures. Their ribs and legs brought back to my mind a day long ago when some of us stumbled into one of Nazi Germany's death camps.

`As for the babies, it struck me with grandfatherly intuition how eerily silent they were. Healthy babies cry. Here were a hundred or more babies, and only one was crying.' (Daily Telegraph 30/Apr/98)

`DEATH TRAP' AT PAKOR: `At Pakor village in north-western Gogrial, the OLS asked the famine stricken people of Aweil and Gogrial to congregate to receive food,' says Sudan Democratic Gazette. `OLS intended to make Pakor its main relief centre. Thousands of people who could ill afford to make the journey to Pakor did so under the impression that food would be available there. However, no food was prepositioned in Pakor ... and so the village very quickly became a death trap for people, further weakened by making the long journey to get there.' (SDG May 98)


ETHIOPIAN PILOT DEFECTS: Sudan has agreed to return to Ethiopia a military training aircraft used by an Ethiopian airforce pilot who defected, Khartoum newspapers said on 2 May. Khartoum said it would consider the pilot's request for political asylum. The unidentified air force captain reportedly took off from a base 40km SW of Addis Ababa on 30 April and landed in al-Hurqah, Gezira state, 200km SE of Khartoum. (AFP 2/May/98)

GRAIN DONATION TO NIGER: President al-Bashir announced a donation of 5,000 tonnes of sorghum to Niger to help it get over a difficult agricultural season, at the end of a three-day visit by Niger President Ibrahim Barre. He said Sudanese could not fold their arms while their brothers in religion were in difficulty: "Islam teaches us the principle of `takaful' (social interdependence) which we in Sudan adhere to." (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 6/Apr/98)

EGYPT DOUBTS KHARTOUM'S SINCERITY: `The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on 1 May that 10 days of talks between the Sudan government and an Egyptian delegation in Khartoum in April had failed to win agreement on the immediate return of property confiscated since 1992,' according to Reuter.

It said the team of water, education and foreign ministry officials had gone to Khartoum to receive the property. But the Sudan government's position "prompts questioning about the sincerity of what was proposed to us and brought to nothing the positive atmosphere created by the decision for the immediate return of the properties," it said. "Egypt has noticed the failure of the Sudanese government to implement its promises, especially cooperation in the field of combating terrorism by handing over the terrorist elements involved in upsetting Egyptian national security." (Reuter 1/May/98)

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

Peter Verney (


Date: Fri, 15 May 1998

From: (Peter Verney) Subject: Sudan Update Vol 9 No 10 (15 May 98)

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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