Sudan Update Vol 10 No 10 1 June 99

Sudan Update Vol 10 No 10 1 June 99

Sudan Update Volume 10 Number 10 ISSN 13520393 1 June 1999 Tortured... / Tito Biel / Demolition of churches and schools / Nimeiri returns / Geneva fallout / Oil optimism / Talisman protest / Slavery new committee / Asmara Embassy / Pipieline protectors / Prices soaring / Egypt...


JOURNALIST FREED: Mohamed Abdel Seed, the Sudanese correspondent of Asharq alAwsat, the Saudiowned Londonbased newspaper, was released on 24 May, SUNA said on 25 May. He was detained on April 14 on suspicion of spying for a neighbouring country, widely believed to be Egypt. "He was released without charge or trial,'' said one of several journalists who visited Abdel Seed at his home in Kalakala, Khartoum. He said Abdel Seed, in his mid50s, had been tortured in detention, but would resume work soon.

SUNA quoted alNur Ahmed alNur, secretarygeneral of the Sudanese Journalist's Union, as saying a union delegation had met Abdel Seed and was "assured of the steps that have been taken in his case.'' On 18 May Justice minister Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin had called on the security forces to release Abdel Seed. AlRai AlAam newspaper reported that security services had assured the minister that the journalist would be freed once they had finished their enquiries, and that he was in good health and had been well treated. (AFP 18/May/99, Reuters/SUNA 25/May/99)


ADOK `SECURED': Armed forces spokesman LtGen Mohamed Osman Yassin reported that government troops were again in full control of the Adok area, where last week's attack on a food aid barge took place. He added that troops had "secured the waterway for navigation."

A spokeswoman for World Food Programme said on 27 May it had halted one of its food barges at Bor and suspended barge convoys to southern Sudan until it had completed a reassessment of the security situation. WFP has requested a government investigation of the incident, she added. (IRIN 27/May/99)

DEFECTOR BIEL `HIJACKED BARGE': The army has confirmed that an allied militia leader, Tito Biel, has defected to the SPLA and said that he hijacked a food cargo vessel. SUNA reported on 28 May that Biel, a top officer in the South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) led by Assistant President Riek Machar, defected with his men on May 3.

On May 11, Biel's forces hijacked a Nile barge loaded with sorghum and took it from Leer to Panglel, a town held by the SPLA, SUNA said. The army monitored a radio transmission in which Biel told SPLA leader Garang he had commandeered the vessel and was ordered to move it to Shambe in alBuhayrat (Lakes) State. However, Khartoum's government troops and "friendly forces" retrieved the tugboat and secured the stretch of the river between Leer and Adok in AlWihda (Unity) State.

The source also accused Biel of carrying out hostile acts at petroleum sites in the state from April 29, killing three oil guardsmen and carrying out "subversive activities" in Koch town. The SPLA said on 19 May it was not involved in the assault on a Nile river boat in Upper Nile. "Forces of the government and its allies .... were responsible and in particular the forces of Riek Machar," SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told AFP. "We don't have forces in that area," he added. (AFP / SUNA 28/May/99, AFP / SPLA 19/May/99)

AIRPORT `DAMAGED': Lt Khalid Ahmed alBashari, commander of Pariang military area, told alAnbaa that all SPLA camps that threatened the oilfields in Unity state had been destroyed. The army also damaged the Nhial Boi airport in Unity state. Bashari said the destruction of the airport had denied the SPLA air supplies "from foreign organisations.''

AlWan newspaper said the army freed four Sudanese and a Chinese engineer, who were working in the oilfields area and were seized recently by the SPLA. (Reuters 23/May/99)


DEMOLITION OF SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES: The authorities have torn down two schools and two Christian churches in a camp on the outskirts of Khartoum for people displaced by its civil war, residents said. An official at the Ministry of Engineering Affairs confirmed it had ordered the buildings in Haj Yousif camp destroyed because they were in "unzoned" areas which the government had not approved for development.

The official said the two demolished schools and four others belonging to the Catholic church in the area were served with a notice on April 27 of the planned action.He said crews went to tear down the schools on May 3 and 10 but changed their plans because there were children in them. Residents say Catholic, Protestant and other denominations' churches in Sudan have been demolished in the past seven years by authorities who say they were erected without permission.

One of the schools and one of the churches destroyed belonged to the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS); the other school and church were run by the Presbyterian church. Policemen and bulldozers had appeared at the schools, "chased away the children and then demolished the school," said a teacher. A priest at the ECS church who objected was taken away and has not been heard from since. The 20yearold ECS primary school had 12 classes for 1,200 boys and girls, and employed 28 teachers. Khartoum had not provided alternatives for the six schools and 4,000 students.

Two senior members of the two churches are ministers in the government. Bishop Gabriel Roric of ECS is the state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, while Makuac Youk of the Presbyterians is state minister for national development. (Reuter 19/May/99.


OFFICIAL OPTIMISM: Oil reserves in Heglig are expected to reach 1.2bn barrels by the end of the year from the current 650mn barrels, Energy and Mining Ministry official Ali Ahmed Othman told the Congress of the National Union of Youth, and the reserves were proven 60% successful, the highest in the world. Sudanese oil was heavy crude, 98 99% of which were hydrocarbon elements and less than 1.1% were sulphur; thus its damage on machines and environment was very limited. (Xinhua 30/Apr/99)

MORE OPTIMISM: "All construction is completed. The pipeline is all underground and has been tested," Hassan Eltom, director general at the Energy and Mining Ministry, told Reuters. He said testing of pumping stations should be completed within seven days.

"We hope to have oil at the marine terminal by June 30. We may start pumping at 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) and reach 150,000 bpd in a few weeks," Eltom said, adding that he expected this to rise to 200,000 bpd later. Initial sales would be spot or shortterm contracts until the best buyers and markets had been identified, and customers had had a chance to test Sudanese crude in their refineries. "We are still working with our partners on the mechanism of marketing the oil." Eltom said the [SPLA's] threats had not disrupted work at the Unity or Heglig fields, where he said thousands of Sudanese and hundreds of expatriates were employed.

He said Sudan would at first consume most, if not all, of its production share of about 68,000 bpd. It would process 50,000 bpd at a new refinery in Khartoum due to be completed by the end the year and 15,000 at an existing refinery on the pipeline route at El Obeid. Production that had been running at 10,000 bpd, with oil trucked to the El Obeid refinery, has been suspended until the pipeline comes into operation.

Eltom said proven, recoverable reserves now stood at about 800 million barrels, up from about 450 million estimated in September, thanks to discoveries in the Unity and Heglig fields. Exports of Sudan's 40 percent share of the oil are likely to be marginal for the first four years, but the project will save the government the cost of imports, about $250 million a year at current oil prices.

Eltom said the government's production share would rise to 75 or 80 percent once the consortium partners have recovered their costs over four to five years. He said Sudanese crude cost a competitive $3 to $4 to produce, including investment and operating costs. "We are now opening doors for promotion of new areas and negotiations," he said, adding that completion of the export infrastructure had made Sudan more attractive. Sudan was likely to open up the Red Sea, Blue Nile Basin and even remote northwestern areas near the Libyan border for exploration, Eltom said. "We are open for U.S. companies, but it is difficult for them to come because of sanctions," he added. (Reuters 22/May/99)

2,500 PIPELINEPROTECTING MUJAHIDEEN: Some 2,500 Sudanese volunteers headed to SW Sudan on 27 May to protect an oil pipeline that rebels have threatened to blow up, Radio Omdurman said, adding that the volunteers, mostly youths and students, were seen off by Defence Minister LtGen Abd alRahman Sirr alKhatim as they left Khartoum. The volunteers will be stationed along the pipeline, due to begin transporting Sudan's first oil export on June 30. The volunteers were the second group sent to the area. The broadcast did not say how the volunteers will guard the pipeline and if they will be armed. (Radio Omdurman 27/May/99)

TALISMAN MEETING FACES PROTESTS: Talisman Energy Inc., the largest independent Canadian oil and gas producer, reported a 32% drop in firstquarter net income, but "With oil prices recovering from record lows and Talisman's successful growth strategy intact, 1999 is now looking like it will be a great year,'' President and CEO Jim Buckee said. Capital expenditures in the period rose to C$294.2 million from C$263.2 million, partly as a result of Talisman's acquisition last autumn of Arakis Energy Corp. and its southern Sudan concession, reports Reuters.

Buckee `delivered a glowing report at Talisman Energy's annual shareholders' meeting. Especially about the progress of its 25%stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project. Oil from the 1,610km pipeline project is expected to flow heavily by September,' says theCalgary Sun.

`Outside the hotel, about 30 demonstrators most Southern Sudanese, many who fled the NIF's welldocumented campaign of genocide handed out chocolate kisses and held signs.

`Said one sign: "Stop the killers. Stop fuelling the war." And another: "Talisman's shame. Partnering with a criminal junta." Earlier, many shareholders who flocked in waved aside pamphlets demonstrators tried to hand them.

`Back inside the ballroom, Peter Jola, declaring himself a former "freedom fighter" in southern Sudan, glowingly praised all Talisman is doing for his people. The Ontario resident blamed his own for "aggravating" the brutal civil war in Sudan. He blamed the churches for "fuelling" the war by taking sides. He asked Buckee if Talisman was giving money to the NIF to buy weapons. Buckee gave his one direct answer ... and said "absolutely not."

`Is it just the cynical who think meetings of this sort are perhaps a bit contrived? When I asked Jola if Talisman flew him here, he refused to answer. A suit who said he was with Talisman muscled in and snapped it was none of my business. Later, Buckee admitted Talisman did indeed pay Jola's way. No, no one else's, just his. How thoughtful.

`On April 30, the French Press Agency reported Hassan alTurabi said the NIF would use oil export earnings to finance the war, costing the cashstrapped NIF about $2 billion a year: "We are currently building several factories to produce our needs in weapons, and we plan to manufacture tanks and missiles to defend ourselves against conspirators," he said. Buckee said he asked about that and was told alTurabi's Arabic was simply mistranslated. But Buckee says Talisman is building there, too. Roads, hospitals, helping out an orphanage, providing clean water. He says he's been assured by NIF officials that Canadian money pouring in will benefit all in the land.'

Talisman, `a stock market darling in Calgary for its rapid international growth and respected management, was condemned inside and outside the meeting by church leaders and some shareholders for partnering with Sudan's bloody regime,' says Claudia Cattaneo in the Financial Post / National Post.

"Mr. Buckee has been duped," said shareholder Merv Shafer, adding that "Talisman is out of its depth" in Sudan. Demonstrators said Talisman should leave the country until it's represented by a democratically elected government. "Talisman is contributing to genocide in Sudan," said a Sudanese refugee living in Calgary. "The victims are displaced from their land to drill oil."' Bob Thomson, speaking for a coalition of Canadian and U.S. churches, said "...We are firsthand witnesses to the devastating situation ... and to the close connections between the economic situation and the political conflict there." Talisman's assurances

that all's well are "insufficient" given "the ongoing violence that necessitates the company maintaining its facilities under armed guard."

Thomson wondered why Talisman refused to circulate a shareholder proposal by the coalition, saying it "deprived" all shareholders of a chance to consider their concerns about the plight of people in Sudan. (Reuters 4/May/99, Calgary Sun 5,6/May/99, National Post 5/May/99)


GOOD INTENTIONS GONE AWRY? `Many groups have condemned slave buybacks. UNICEF... warned that the humanitarians with their foreign dollars were fuelling the arms trade in the impoverished [Bahr alGhazal] region. In a oneweek period, they poured close to $90,000 into a village with an average annual income of $200. Alex de Waal ... told LA Weekly Offbeat that by paying large sums to free slaves, the Swiss charity was undercutting local villagers who do the same work for a fraction of the cost. Christian Solidarity, which has no permanent staff on the ground in the Sudan, concedes that its members do not follow up to see if the villagers are recaptured.

`"It was the best of intentions gone awry," warned executive director Jim Jacobson of Christian Freedom International, which ended its own slave buyback program. `Charles Jacobs, president of the American AntiSlavery Group, said that certain groups did an aboutface on slave purchases because they blew their own buybacks. "They spent money and risked lives and didn't buy slaves back from the right people. They were not authorized slave retrievers," Jacobs charged. OffBeat asked Jacobs when he had last examined the situation firsthand. "I have never been to Sudan," Jacobs said.' (LA Weekly Offbeat 7 13/May/99)

ABDUCTIONS COMMITTEE: The government is to set up a highpowered committee to try to stamp out abductions of women and children for forced labour that some call slavery. "We see this as a positive step,'' Thomas Ekvall, representative of UNICEF in Khartoum, told Reuters. ``There have been committees established in the past to look into the issue, but this one is qualitatively different. It has extensive powers.''

Sudan has previously rejected claims by human rights investigators that civilians in the south were being seized as slaves. Justice Minister Ali Yassin issued an order on May 15 setting up the body, with himself as chairman of the Advisory Council for Human Rights, and including representatives of the public prosecutor, interior ministry, military, security forces, parliament, bar association, women's union and concerned tribes. Its mandate is to ensure the safe return of abducted women and children to their families, bring to trial suspected abductors and recommend ways to eradicate the practice.

The committee will have powers to arrest, investigate, search and bring criminal cases to trial. It will also ``consult, cooperate and coordinate with the international community in carrying out its mandate.''

Ekvall said UNICEF would take part in a workshop with the government later this month to discuss all aspects of the problem of abductions, including its own strategy paper. (Reuters 24/May/99)


PRICES SOARING: Prices of basic items are soaring, according to Reuter, citing Akhbar alYom. "The government is finding it increasingly difficult to deal with inflation.," said a Khartoum banker... Life has become more of a struggle for many Sudanese.

"Prices were steady for the whole of last year. Some prices, such as that of meat, actually dropped, but this year prices are on fire," one housewife lamented. In the past four months, sugar has gone up 20% and meat more than 60%. Cement prices have risen 20% in the past month. Electricity prices have also rocketed.

The government has given no reason for the price surge. One economist blamed it on public and private sector pay rises of least 27% which the government approved in January under pressure from the trade unions. The workers had demanded a 100% wage increase. The government has promised to review pay every six months.

The Sudanese pound has weakened steadily to its current rate of 2,491 to the dollar from 1,540 in June 1997. The government is also believed to have increased military spending to reverse any successes by the SPLA and NDA. Businessmen say the government has also spent freely to complete a project to enable oil exports to start by June 30. AlRai AlAkher newspaper quoted Energy and Mining Minister Awad AlJaz as saying electricity charges had gone up after subsidies were cut to 60 billion pounds ($24m) pounds a year from 72 billion. (Reuters / Akbar alYom / AlRai AlAkher 4/May/99) DAM REPAIR: The Islamic Development Bank has signed an agreement to provide Khartoum with US$8 million for repairing the power generator at Roseires power station. Kuwait News Agency notes Sudan has already received US$278m from IDB for development and infrastructure projects in agriculture, irrigation, roads and airports. (Xinhua / KNA 2/May/99)

CHINESE PUMPS: First VicePresident Ali Osman Mohammed Taha announced a decision of the Presidency to purchase farms at Sundus, a 110,000acre agricultural scheme at Jebel Awlia, at the cost of LS two billion `for the purpose of helping the poor categories in the society,' says SUNA.

He was addressing a celebration organized by Eastern JabalAwlia Company Limited at the Railway Station in Khartoum, for the arrival of 12 irrigation pumps built by a Chinese firm.

Taha called upon businessmen from Sudan, the Arab and Islamic world and friendly countries to invest in Sundus. (PANA 18/May/99, SUNA 22/May/99)


Former dictator Gaafar Nimeiri returned from 14 years in exile on 22 May.' Says AP, `Nimeiri stepped out of his plane, waved to the crowd and descended the stairs to kneel in prayer on a little carpet on the tarmac.' He was welcomed by a few dozen of his former ministers, party members and relatives. Presidential Affairs Minister Gen Bakri Hassan Salih headed a government delegation. Says Reuter, `He did not speak to reporters scuffling with security men amid chaotic scenes outside the VIP lounge. He was later driven away past hundreds of supporters waiting outside the airport....

"The aim of my return is to contribute with my brothers who chose me as the leader of a political organization," he said, referring to the Alliance for the Working Forces that his supporters formed in anticipation of his arrival.

But `Nimeiri has been quoted as saying he was sure he would be president in two years. A founding member of the alliance, Faize Kordofani, told Associated Press he expects Nimeiri to run successfully for president in 2000.' `Nimeiri had previously said he would not go back to Sudan until democracy was restored. His return is seen as a propaganda coup... He is expected to stay in Sudan for about two weeks to prepare for a permanent return. He will address a rally in Khartoum

and attend festivities marking the May 25, 1969, coup in which he came to power as a young colonel.'

The government has renovated a house for Nimeiri and has plastered the walls of Khartoum with 5,000 posters of him, the progovernment newspaper alWan reported.

Prodemocracy activists have demanded his arrest and promised to stage protests to remind people about conditions during his 16 years in power. Opposition lawyer Ghazi Suleiman said the return of Nimeiri, whom he called a "butcher," could only have been organized by the present regime as "a dictatorship protects a dictatorship." Suleiman said his National Alliance for Restoration of Democracy had set up a council of lawyers to take legal action against Nimeiri for "crimes he committed" while in power.

In an exclusive interview with alRai alAkhar, a senior member of the Umma party, WaliEddin alHadi alMahdi, said the party was studying the amnesty granted to Nimeiri by the state with the view of challenging it in court. At a rally on May 27, Nimeiri called for comprehensive political, economic and societal ``integration'' with Egypt, the Cairo stateowned alAhram reported. (AP, Reuters 22/May/99, dpa, AFP 23/May/99, alAhram 27/May/99)


SUDAN TO RETURN 20 PROPERTIES TO EGYPT: The government has agreed in principle to return 20 irrigation works and residences in Khartoum to Egypt, provided Egypt reimburses Sudan for work carried out on them, Egyptian newspapers reported. Officials will meet at the end of May to discuss details and the possible handing over to Egypt of the Khartoum branch of Cairo University. Egypt and Sudan are set to sign a security agreement in June following a highprofile visit to Cairo by Foreign Minister Mustafa Otham Ismail. The agreement, which will be concluded by the two countries' interior ministers, will require the two governments to refrain from hosting a person wanted by the other for a security question, alWan daily said. But the accord will not oblige the Egyptian government to expel Sudanese

opposition groups based in Cairo, the paper said. Cairo will instead be required to broker a reconciliation between Khartoum and the northern and southern opposition. (AFP, Bloomberg / alAlam alYom 19/May/99, AFP / alAhram alAkhbar 24/May/99)

EMBASSY INS AND OUTS: The Sudanese opposition denied it had been ordered by the Eritrean government to leave the Sudanese embassy in Asmara and said it was still using the building as its headquarters in exile. AlRai alAam reported that Eritrea issued the evacuation order two days after a visit to Asmara by a Sudanese technical team led by an unnamed senior army officer. It said the mission, the first of its kind since diplomatic ties were severed in 1994, flew to Asmara aboard a private plane, and talks centered on recent crossborder attacks on Sudanese military posts northeast of Kassala and on the KassalaPort Sudan highway in east Sudan.

On May 16, says Reuters, `Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki denied that the NDA had been evicted but said his country was working to restore diplomatic ties with Khartoum. On May 19, BBC News said Eritrea had agreed to hand the embassy back to the government `in what President Afewerki said was a demonstration of goodwill.' (AFP / AlRai alAam 16/May/99, BBC 19/May/99)

TAHA AND MIRGHANI DON'T MEET IN LIBYA: Libya's Col Gaddafi held talks with Sudanese DUP and NDA leader MO alMirghani, Libyan state television reported on 28 May. Mirghani met Gaddafi at Sirte as Sudan's First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamad Taha and Egyptian Foreign Affairs minister Amr Musa also arrived there. There has been no reported meeting between Taha and Mirghani so far. (Reuters 28/May/99)

SWISS SWIZZ? The Umma Party on 27 May denied a report in the Londonbased Arabiclanguage newspaper 'AlHayat' which said party leader Sadeq alMahdi had reached a secret deal with Speaker of Parliament Hassan alTurabi. "The Umma Party completely denies the existence of such an agreement", a statement reported by Reuters said, adding that Umma "believes that national issues cannot be solved except through a comprehensive agreement that encompasses all parties and resolves all issues". NDA leaders are to meet in Asmara in early June to discuss a political solution for Sudan, the Umma statement said. According to alHayat newspaper's sources, an agreement was made between Sadiq Elmahdi and Hassan alTurabi in Geneva on 2 May, to: work to establish `a political leadership body' to coordinate activities of the Ansar Mahdist sect and the groups supporting the Islamist movement alTurabi leads. This body will push for `a peaceful solution to the ongoing armed conflict' in Southern Sudan with the SPLA.

review the [1997] agreement that the regime previously held with some Southern groups, in order to accommodate the [SPLA.] convene "a national conference," not a constitutional conference, to discuss the issue of national identity with a view to create a common concept for all Arab and nonArab ethnicities.

review the federal system. `The provinces would be redivided to make a geographical and population balance between North and South...' review the constitution and "alTewali" political system, and `straighten' some foreign policies e.g. with Egypt and Libya. cancel prosecution claims regarding former or recent mistakes by the two agreeing parties. `This should stop any political hostility that might stretch over to all parties. On the basis of this cancellation the way was paved for the return of Nimeiri.'

`The agreement came as a result of the previous contacts between Sadiq and Turabi for 6 months,' says alHayat. `A year ago, internal scuffles included civilian and military personnel inside the regime. The Sudanese Islamic regime was not able to provide a successful model as hoped. There must be a way to make it successful.... to provide a strong workable base. For this purpose, Turabi was mandated to make contacts with Sadiq...' (Reuter/Umma, AlHayat 27/May/99)

AROUSING DISAGREEMENT? `We regret the statement Sayed Sadiq Elmahdi issued as it will arouse more disagreements inside the NDA. We regret it came at this particular time in which our country is passing through a dangerous turn that had been further escalated after the Geneva meeting while the NDALC meeting is just on the way! Finally, let our will unite to dismantle the NIF regime instead of dismantling the NDA. Let our lines unite to lead our country to safety.' (Sudan Communist Party 15/May/99)


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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