Sudan Update Vol 9 No 6

Sudan Update Vol 9 No 6


Famine / Seeds / Darfur / Clinton-Uganda / Anti-Multi-Party Demo / NDA summit /

Displaced in East / Phones cut / Catholics join IGAD talks / Dollar rising /

Mosque robbery / No NIF - Taha


AGENCIES WARN OF FOOD INSECURITY: The population in Bahr al-Ghazal is facing severe food shortages, while relief flights are limited by the Sudanese government to only four SPLA-held locations, reports the UN's International Relief Information Network (IRIN), citing World Food Programme (WFP) sources. `Displacement caused by recent fighting in Wau and Aweil has compounded the problems facing people who have suffered two consecutive bad harvests due to drought and insecurity.

`Thousands of people from Gogrial and Twic counties are walking for up to four days to reach Pakor - one of the four authorised sites - to collect relief food. This concentration is adding to the pressure on already vulnerable local communities and the limited food supplies. In Pakor, WFP has distributed food to 43,460 beneficiaries but many are still waiting to be served. MSF has set up a therapeutic feeding programme after a survey showed that 17.9% of under-fives were suffering from severe malnutrition.'

Malnutrition in Thiek Thou and Panthou continues to rise. `In Twic County, people have reportedly "turned into the ground" - excavating ant hills and sifting through the dirt to find any grains of wild rice. This process, which takes hours, usually yields about one cup of edible food. Rivers and pools are low due to drought and fishing has been poor. People have begun to slaughter animals for food much earlier in the year than usual. All of these factors are cause for concern, as the area has not yet entered the traditional "hunger gap" months, when natural resources are lowest...'

Food distributions and deliveries are ongoing in Lunyaker and Pakor. Non-food items are being distributed in Adet, Thiek Thou and Lunyaker, primarily supplied by Save the Children Fund-UK and World Vision International - mainly blankets, supplementary food and displaced kits. Some seeds and agricultural tools will be sent to the area within the week.

Coordination of water intervention has been passed from UNICEF to Save the Children Fund-UK, who have a permanent presence on the ground and will work closely with World Vision International.

Polio immunisation will proceed during March in Bahr al-Ghazal; the campaign will not significantly interfere with the emergency response. (IRIN Update No. 377 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 18/Mar/98)

NO SEEDS FOR PLANTING: WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said at least 350,000 people in SPLA-held areas urgently need food aid. "Cases of malnutrition are increasing. If we don't react rapidly it will be too late in three to four months time," she said. "People are eating leaves which they cook for six to eight hours to make them edible. But many have stomach problems and are already very weak."

The local population has no seeds for the forthcoming planting season. "If seeds aren't supplied rapidly it will be a catastrophic year for local people." (WFP / AP 18/Mar/98)


MASALIT UNDER ATTACK: In Darfur Arab tribesmen attacked three villages of the non-Arab Masalit tribe near Geneina. Akhbar al-Yom quoted two parliamentary deputies from West Darfur, Abdallah Nur al-Din and Habib Omar Imam, as saying that in a series of attacks the attackers had burned down some 57 villages and made over 3,000 families homeless. More than 23 people have been killed.

The deputies attributed the latest eruption of violence to a failure by the local authorities in addressing the situation, and requested "immediate assistance" by the central government in Khartoum to help restore order and security "in this strategic border region." They also demanded compensation for people affected by the attacks. (Akhbar al-Yom / AFP 26/Mar/98)


N.D.A CLAIMS THREE DISTRICTS: The National Democratic Alliance said in Addis Ababa on 17 March that it had taken Gezirat, al-Fazra and Karima, near the Ethiopia border, in February and March. It denounced the "appalling conditions" endured by inhabitants of government-held zones and accused Khartoum's troops of carrying out atrocities against civilians, as well as arresting people held to be opposition sympathisers. (NDA / 17/Mar/98)

GOVERNMENT GAINS - THOUSANDS DISPLACED: The Sudanese army claimed major gains

over rebels in the east .. but parliamentary deputies said that authorities were doing nothing to help at least 100,000 displaced villagers.

Military spokesman Abd al-Rahman Sirr al-Khatim said that government forces had won a "devastating victory" by capturing Abigo in Kurmuk province from the SPLA. He said that back in the army's hands, Abigo was "a strategic position which impairs movements of the rebels".

"This victory is the beginning of ... liberating Kurmuk and Qeissan and other occupied territories" in Blue Nile State, al-Khatim said after a visit to the area. Thirty-five rebels were killed and 10 government soldiers died while 28 were wounded, the state security committee said.

Parliamentary representatives ... reported that shelling from neighbouring Eritrea had led more than 150,000 people to flee their homes in the Red Sea and Kassala states, according to a Khartoum daily.

One deputy, Musa Hussein Dirar, attacked the Red Sea state government for "totally neglecting the villages displaced by the intensive artillery shelling across the border from Eritrean territories", al-Rai al-Akher said. Dirar... complained that "the government of the [Red Sea] state has not even asked the voluntary organisations to provide aid to the displaced".

Muhammad Ahmad al-Atta of Kassala state said that more than 50,000 were "scattered in temporary camps in the forests". Atta also charged that landmines, which he said were laid by Eritrean troops, had "caused numerous casualties among civilians" and demanded the removal of the devices.

Dirar called on the United Nations to "intervene quickly to

save the displaced... (who) are now facing difficult living circumstances and are lacking in shelter, food, water and health services in addition to spreading malaria and other epidemic diseases." (SUNA, al-Rai al-Akher / AFP 26/Mar/98)


N.D.A SUMMIT: "We are at the last stage before the ousting of the Sudanese regime," Pagan Amun of the Sudan People's Liberation Army told al-Hayat, and the coming National Democratic Alliance summit would consider "the strengthening of military action and the implementation of plans ... to oust the government and reach Khartoum."

`"We shall also decide what we're going to do once we have entered Khartoum, including the formation of a government, the preparation of a transition period and the drafting of a constitution," Amun said.

AFP in Cairo notes: `SPLA chief John Garang would not be present at the Asmara meeting because "fighting is under way in southern Sudan and Colonel Garang is busy there," Amun added, denying claims that the rebel leader was avoiding the NDA meeting because of concern over differences on the future of the south. (al-Hayat / AFP 18/Mar/98)

TUHAMI CLAIMS RAPPROCHEMENT WITH SADIQ: Contacts between the Sudanese government and exiled opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi should soon bear fruit, SUNA quoted Irrigation Minister Sharif al-Tuhami as saying on 26 March. The contacts "have passed the stage of negotiation and are expected to score an achievement in the coming period," he said.

Mahdi said in January that a Sudanese press report that he was holding talks in Libya with Khartoum government representatives was "devoid of any foundation." A Sudanese newspaper said the talks were expected to lead to the return home of the exiled former prime minister...

Tuhami was an official of Mahdi's outlawed Umma party but has never joined the opposition. He is a member of parliament and has recently been appointed minister of irrigation. He said he was not representing the Umma party in the government but was ... appointed because he was "a nationalist with qualifications that enable me to join public work." (SUNA / AFP 26/Mar/98)

CATHOLIC CHURCH TO JOIN PEACE TALKS: The Archbishop of Sudan, Gabriel Zubeir Wako, met President Bashir on 26 March and expressed the Catholic Church's wish to participate in the IGAD talks, reports InterPress Service.

Sudan TV said the church's request was granted, and explained that Bashir had promised to include Catholic representatives in Khartoum's delegation to the talks. It quoted Wako as justifying the Catholics' decision to participate in the IGAD talks by saying that peace was the demand of the people and that the church worked for the people; the church had opted to narrow the gap between the rebels' views and those of the government.

Opposition members told IPS that the decision taken by the Catholics should be supported by as many politicians as possible in Sudan and abroad.

`A leading member of the Umma party who declined to be named said the party backed the Catholics' participation in peace talks but not as part of the government delegation. "The church should go with its own agenda for peace which the government and rebel delegations should accept or reject," he said.'

The Umma, Democratic Unionist and Communist parties want to participate in the upcoming talks between the government and the SPLA. `The Umma politician said they planned to approach IGAD leaders... to press for their involvement...

`"If we are allowed to share the responsibilities of this country, nobody will take up arms and fight," he argued. "We are fighting simply because we are ignored and our rights to political pluralism are rejected." He said without the political parties' involvement in talks, IGAD would never achieve peace in Sudan.' (IPS 27/Mar/98)


ANTI-MULTI-PARTY DEMONSTRATION: On 17 March, in `a move welcomed by some assembly members, Moslem scholars, preachers and imams handed parliamentary speaker Hassan al-Turabi ... a memorandum stating that a return to multiparty politics would "spark a social conflict".

`The demonstrators burst into the parliament building during a debate on the draft constitution, the official al-Gamhuria daily reported, adding that some MPs took up slogans such as "No to partisanship, no to sectarianism, 100 percent yes to Islam!"

`Other MPs, however, expressed anger at the move, notably the outspoken Abd al-Latif Hilali, who declared that the demonstration was "a rejected means for pressuring and influencing the deputies", adding that it "constitutes a violation of the immunity of members of parliament".

`Another deputy, Salah al-Ghali, who was also quoted by al-Gamhuria, said that since the Islamic demonstration had been permitted, "other people should be allowed to express their opinion in the same manner." (AFP 17/Mar/98)

AMBIGUITY OVER POLITICAL ASSOCIATION: On 23 March `the Sudanese parliament voted down a proposed amendment to the draft constitution which would have provided for the reintroduction of multi-party politics,' says AFP.

`Defending the proposed amendment, Isam Ahmed al-Beshir, a Moslem scholar but not a member of Turabi's theoretically banned National Islamic Front, said that "international conventions and agreements, to which the Sudanese government is party, guarantee the freedom of political association and assembly." He added that such rights were provided for in the April 1997 peace pact...

`Instead of the amendment, the assembly chose, by 120 votes to 80, to retain an ambiguous provision allowing for some political affiliation. This constitutional clause is believed by some members to be have been designed to limit the exercise of political activity to the existing national congress.

`Beshir said that the unamended clause renders the position of the government towards political pluralism "unclear..., particularly in view of a reported tendency of permitting political organizations as forums within the national congress." (AFP 23/Mar/98)

SOUTHERNERS DEMAND SENIOR POSTS: In a memorandum to speaker Hassan al- Turabi,

the parliamentary caucus of deputies from the south called for the office of first vice-president and other key jobs to be reserved for southerners. It also urged that Southern politicians `be given one-third of posts in the council of ministers, including two portfolios relating to national sovereignty.

Spokesman Mango Ajak said the demands had been provided for in the Khartoum peace agreement but were not included in the country's draft constitution, al-Rai al-Akher reported. (al-Rai al-Akher / AFP 23/Mar/98)

COORDINATION COUNCIL SETS UP H.Q. IN JUBA: Hassan Zaid Abdallah of the South Sudan Coordination Council (SSCC), set up by Khartoum to rule south Sudan for the next four years, said the council would set up operations in Juba "in the coming days" to oversee the transition period leading to a referendum. It is also recommending that former fighters be integrated into police forces in the south. (AFP 24/Mar/98)

DRAFT CONSTITUTION ENDORSED: Sudan's parliament approved the draft constitution on 28 March. `All 298 members of the National Assembly who were present voted to endorse the document. The remaining 102 members were absent. (AP 28/Mar/98)

TAHA DENIES EXISTENCE OF N.I.F: Sudan's First Vice-President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha has denied the existence of the National Islamic Front (NIF), seen as the power behind the junta, arguing that the armed forces and people now guard the regime.

In an interview published by the private Akhbar al-Yom, Taha contended that the NIF, of which he was number two before a military coup brought General Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, had become a broad-based Islamic movement.

The interview was published a day after the parliament set up by the junta, which has banned all political parties, passed a draft constitution after more than three weeks of debate.

The deputies unanimously endorsed each of the 140 articles of the draft, except an ambigiously-worded one providing for political association, which was adopted by 261 votes for, 26 against and 11 abstentions. This clause was highly contentious...

Taha's interview was partly a bid to defend the clause on the grounds that it allowed for political and social association, under "arrangements of our own", rather than "available alien experiments".

However, he welcomed the "Entebbe declaration" made by President Bill Clinton and several African leaders in Uganda early during the US head of state's current tour of the continent, since the text ruled out a single blueprint for democracy...

In a reference to Clinton's apparent endorsement of effective one-party rule in Uganda and other new African systems, Taha said: "Although it is an attempt to bestow acceptability and legitimacy on some regimes in the region, this constitutes a new development." Taha said Beshir had sent a message to Clinton before his tour, asking him to contribute to peace processes on the continent.

The constitutional controversy in Khartoum, which led to cynical remarks in papers and questions as to whether parliamentary members understood what they were doing, was the use of the term "tewali" in the key clause. Taha said that "the freedom of `tewali' (literally, `succession') and of organisation is an attempt to find a sytem for political devolution in "arrangements of our own, rather than founding in on the available alien experiments". "Tewali," he argued, "is an original word which implies not only political but also social association."

He said that the now defunct NIF, led by parliamentary speaker Hassan al-Turabi, had backed the "salvation (junta) from the beginning ... and got influenced by the accomplishments of the revolution."

Asked whether the government was serious about permitting pluralism, Taha said that although it wanted "unity of a national rank of a community of believers with common objectives, this does not imply that the freedom of association is not guaranteed to everyone who wants to keep out of the national congress."

Pressed on whether political parties would be allowed to operate once again, he stated that: "Everyone who manages to arrange his affairs within the law will have the right to form a party." (AFP 29/Mar/98)


EGYPT TIES "IMPROVING": On March 20 Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the London-based al-Hayat that he was coming to Cairo for talks with his counterpart Amr Moussa. "If we find the time is suitable, we will also propose a summit meeting [between President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Lt-Gen Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan]," he said.

`Ismail said two main issues remained to be solved, namely the Halaib triangle border dispute and the question of confiscated Egyptian property in Sudan. Bashir this month told his irrigation and education ministries to ``take urgent measures to address the matter of Egyptian property in Sudan.'' Moussa welcomed what he called the Sudanese president's decision to return the property.

Ismail said last month's resumption of shipping services between the two countries in Lake Nasser for the first time since September 1994 was another sign of improved relations. He also mentioned exchanges of visits by Egyptian and Sudanese trade and irrigation ministers as well as a visit to Khartoum by an Egyptian security delegation. (All-Africa News Agency 30/Mar/98)


"STUPID" SUDAN "NOT A BIG PROBLEM": President Yoweri Museveni told AFP in Gulu, northern Uganda, that he expected to address Sudanese "terrorism" with the US president. He said that Sudan was "not a big problem" to regional security. "They are just stupid," he said. "They have done all the destabilisation they can do. But we have defeated them, and we shall defeat them even more if they continue with their schemes. If we work with America, it will be because of our own interests. Our interests may coinicide with theirs, but they will not be using us." (AFP 19/Mar/98)

RORIC LASHES CLINTON: Sudanese state minister for foreign affairs Bishop Gabriel Roric described the upcoming visit of US President Bill Clinton to Uganda as a sign of hostility toward Sudan by both the United States and Uganda itself, according to al-Usbu.

Bishop Roric said the omission of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo from countries on Clinton's African tour "will raise a big question about the intention of the American administration toward the two countries."

Bishop Roric left Khartoum for the Kenyan capital Nairobi to take part in a meeting of the World Council of Churches, scheduled for March 23-26. (al-Usbu / AFP 20/Mar/98)

GARANG TO MEET CLINTON - OR NOT? On March 22 the US denied that President Bill Clinton planned to meet with SPLA leader John Garang while in Africa. "There are no plans for any such meeting," said White House spokesman Barry Toiv. "It's not under discussion, to my knowledge."

Uganda's state-owned Sunday Vision had reported that Clinton would meet Garang during his visit to Uganda on 24 and 25 March. The SPLA in Nairobi told the paper, "Our request to meet him has been granted." (AFP, Sunday Vision 22/Mar/98

CLINTON TOLD TO BOYCOTT GARANG: Ugandan `multipartyists have appealed to visiting US President Bill Clinton to shun holding talks with Col John Garang, warning that [SPLA] will never win a war against the Khartoum regime,' says New Vision.

In a message to Clinton, the president of the National Democrats Forum, Mr Chapaa Karuhanga, said the civil conflicts in northern and western Uganda have been heightened by the Uganda-Sudan conflict and the US should not promote it.

Islamic leaders in Uganda also said Garang should not be allowed to meet Clinton. They told the Ugandan Islamic community that the USA `aims at defeating Islam', and that Garang was fighting an Islamic government in Sudan and so deserved no support. (New Vision 23/Mar/98)

SUDAN "NOT SURPRISED" BY MEETING: A Sudanese government envoy in Nairobi said that his government is not astonished by a scheduled meeting between the US president and Sudanese Opposition groups...

"We are aware of all deals between the United States government and Sudanese opposition groups. USA is doing more than mere talking with the rebels", he said. "Sudan does not expect any invitation from a meeting organized by USA or

where USA is involved." (New Vision, Africa News Service 25/Mar/98)

UGANDAN ENVOY TO KHARTOUM? Sudan officials have said that Uganda sent an envoy to Khartoum on a mission related to exchange of prisoners of war and release of the abducted Aboke schoolgirls.

Sadiq Ali, the Counsellor/Press Attache in the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi Saturday confirmed that contact between the two neighbouring countries had been going on at what he called "a top and minor level."

"The Ugandan envoy was to discuss with authorities in Khartoum," Sadiq said in reply to a question about the condition of the two Ugandan intelligence officers held as PoWs in Khartoum.

The New Vision has, however, reliably learnt that the Second Deputy Prime Minister, Brig Moses Ali, returned mid last week from a five day visit to Khartoum. But efforts to contact Moses Ali were fruitless yesterday. But the First Deputy Prime minister, Eriya Kategaya, said that the government had not sent any envoy to Khartoum.

He also denied reports of normalisation of relations between the two countries. "Sudan government officials are unreliable. No envoy was sent to Sudan. If they want to restore diplomatic relations, our condition is simple; we want the release of our children," Kategaya said. (New Vision 23/Mar/98)

DIRECT TELEPHONE ACCESS CUT BY UGANDA: Citing fraud, Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UPTC) has cut off direct telephone access to Sudan, India, Mali, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Senegal. UPTC said it was "compelled to remove the automatic dialing access service to these destinations pending further investigations to establish culprit and also putting in place a technical mechanism to ensure non reoccurrence of the same."

Some Ugandan papers `reported that calls to Sudan were cut off, apparently because of President Bill Clinton's visit to Uganda.' But UPTC `said the countries were not cut off as such, but they can now only be accessed through operator assistance.' (New Vision / Pan-African News Wire / Africa News Service 25/Mar/98)


WHAT HAPPENED AROUND WAU? When the SPLA briefly captured Wau in Bahr al- Ghazal

with the help of Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, it `claimed to have killed nearly 1,000 government soldiers and that nearly 500 government soldiers had deserted to the rebel side, in addition to over 1,800 policemen, prison officers and game wardens. If these claims are true, then it is hard to see why the SPLA failed to hold on to Wau.'

SPLA sources say the government army and its militia, as soon as they recaptured the town, turned on its Dinka residents and butchered hundreds of them. More that 150 students of Wau University were rounded up and marched away, never to be heard of again. About 80,000 of the town's residents fled to the surrounding countryside. The SPLA says that Wau remains surrounded by rebels forces led by Kerubino Bol. The government, however, claims that food and supplies are nonetheless reaching Wau.

Coinciding with the attempt to capture Wau, another SPLA force, commanded by Paul Matong Awan, attacked Aweil, on the railway line about 150km NW of Wau. Although the rebels were able to enter the town they failed to defeat the soldiers manning its garrison, whereupon they moved along the railway line to capture Ariath station, 60 km further to the north. The SPLA says that government forces are trying to recapture the station. (All-Africa News Agency 30/Mar/98)


DOLLAR RATE RISING: Sudan's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Abd al-Wahab Uthman said his ministry will take measures to contain the rising exchange rate of US dollar against the Sudanese pound. The ministry will increase the supply of US dollars by encouraging exports and by closing the gap between the official prices of dollars offered by state banks and exchange centers and the black market ones, the minister added.

The exchange rate of the US dollar against the Sudanese pound is rising steadily in the black market, reaching 2,030 pounds for one dollar, the highest ever in 20 months.

The minister denied that the government has entered the market as buyer of US dollars, causing a rise in the exchange rate. The government did not buy dollars over the past 20 months, he said.

Undersecretary of State for Finance and Economy Hassan Ahmed Taha attributed the rise in the exchange rate to the increasing demand for the dollar and to the present decrease in revenues from exports. (SUNA / Xinhua 23/Mar/98)


SHOE THEFT IN MOSQUES: Thefts of worshippers' shoes and some assets of mosques - particularly in Khartoum - have reached alarming proportions, al-Wan reported on 24 March.

An Egyptian lost both his shoes and a travelling bag which he had left by the entrance of the Farouq mosque in Khartoum. The same mosque had ... its sound system stolen... At Ombada township west of Khartoum the Imam had his prayer mat, microphone and water taps stolen. Shoe theft was also common at Khartoum University and the Republican Palace mosques...

A shoe maker next to Omdurman mosque said he had to open a wing for selling sandals to worshippers... The Imam of Farouq mosque said some kind person had donated slippers made out of old car tyres to be used by theft victims.

A graduate of Omdurman Islamic University, Adam Abd al-Karim, told the paper that one way of avoiding theft at mosques was to keep the right and the left sides of the shoes in different places. Alternatively, he suggested, worshippers should place their shoes in plastic bags and hang them on their shoulders or tie them onto their belts while they pray. (al-Wan / DPA 24/Mar/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 6

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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