Sudan Monthly Report
- Subject: Sudan Monthly Report
- From: "SCIO" <SCIO at maf.or.ke> (by way of Enrico Marcandalli <ramalkandy at iol.it>)
- Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 09:45:33 +0200
Attached is the Sudan Monthly Report for June.
Sudan Monthly Report
A monthly production by Sudan Catholic Information Office (SCIO)
June 15, 2001
2. Wedge widens despite Igad peace summit
May 16: Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin has said Ethiopia is determined to strengthen its relations with Sudan. Seyoum made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting Speaker of Sudanese Parliament, Ahmed Ibrahim El-Tahir.
17: Ten Sudanese students have obtained scholarships to continue higher studies in the field of petroleum at the Malaysian Petronas Technological University, Sudan News agency reported. The Malaysian National Oil Company (PETRONAS) presented the scholarships in Khartoum. The Managing Director of PETRONAS in Sudan, Azhar Nural-Din, explained that the scholarships were aimed at bolstering bilateral relations and mutual understanding.
18: The SPLA said they had overrun two government garrisons in Bahr el Ghazal province. The group said that its forces had overrun Alok and Kubri Kuom in northern Bahr el Ghazal.
18: Shell oil company has promised that its aviation fuel will not be used in military aircraft launching bombing raids in southern Sudan. The company’s chairman, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart who also said that Shell’s 60 retail outlets in Sudan did not refuel military jets, made the commitment. He however admitted it was possible some supplies were being diverted.
20: The European Union has approved a grant of US$15 million to assist Sudan overcome the effects of an acute food and water shortage. Out of the grant, US$13 million will be used to provide food while US$2 million would be spent on water projects in drought-affected regions.
21: China's Harbin Power Station Engineering Ltd has signed a US$140 million power plant construction contract with the Sudan State Power Company. The project is expected to take 32 months to complete and will require a 100 km transmission line and a new transformer station.
22: Sudan has obtained a loan of US$10 million from the OPEC Development Fund to rehabilitate infrastructures of the Gezira Irrigation Scheme in central Sudan, said the Minister of Finance, Abdulraheem Hamdi. Early this year, OPEC loaned Khartoum another US$22 million to finance the rehabilitation of the same project.
22: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it was resuming flights in Sudan, two weeks after the fatal shooting of one of its co-pilots. “The decision to resume flights was made on the basis of information indicating that the dramatic incident was the result of a fatal combination of circumstances and not a deliberate attack targeting the Red Cross,” read a statement for the ICRC.
22: UNICEF has reported that the Government of Sudan aircraft dropped two bombs on the town of Akuem in Bahr el Ghazal. The bombs landed in the vicinity of the non-OLS NGO compound.
22: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted a ban on livestock imports from Sudan. According to Mohammed Salih Jabalabi, Under-Secretary of Animal Resources, the UAE had decided to lift the ban after a report by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) showed that Sudan was free from Rift Valley fever and other livestock diseases. Livestock and beef imports from Sudan and other East African countries were instituted in September last year after the outbreak in Saudi Arabia and Yemen of Rift Valley fever that killed scores of people.
23: A Sudanese court has turned down a prosecution request to extend the detention of jailed opposition leader Hassan Turabi, and set a trial date for May 27. Judge Mutasim Tajulsir Mohammed of Khartoum North Court said he was not convinced by prosecution’s arguments that it needed more time to interrogate Turabi, who has been in detention since February 21 on charges of a conspiracy to overthrow President Omar el-Bashir.
23: The Carter Centre and its partners have begun to blanket Sudan with nine million pipe filters to cut the risk of contracting Guinea Worm disease. Addressing an international news conference in Nairobi, Health and Development International Executive Director, Dr Anders Sein, said Sudan is the final great challenge to the eradication of the disease.
23: Sudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail delivered a “special message to President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya from his Sudanese counterpart, President Omar el Bashir. The message reiterated that President Bashir would attend an IGAD summit that Moi has offered to organise in a bid to end the war.
23: Canada has expressed its "concern over the tragic situation in Sudan" and called for a stepping up of the peace process. In a statement issued by the Foreign Minister, John Manley, and Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, David Kilgour, the ministers "expressed concern over the tragic situation in Sudan and restated the urgent need to re-energise the peace process under the auspices of the Igad"
24: A Japanese oil firm, Mitsui Company, is the latest entrant in Sudan’s volatile oil industry. The company expressed desire to invest in oil and gas exploration in the country when its officials visited Sudan’s Energy and Mining Minister Dr Awad Ahmad al-Jaz.
24: Lawyers defending Turabi have condemned the rejection by the prosecution of a request for visiting him and three of his colleagues in jail. In a statement faxed to AFP, the lawyers claimed that the prosecution had denied 10 of their colleagues from visiting the defendants in Kober Prison on grounds that the investigations in the case were still incomplete.
24: Government troops pelted Tonj in Bahr el Ghazal region with 14 bombs, as Khartoum announced a cessation of air raids on rebel positions in south Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. A Catholic priest at Tonj, Fr James Pulickal, said the bomber aircraft struck in the morning and in the afternoon.
24: Sudanese Minister for Information Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani was quoted by the country’s state news agency, SUNA, as promising that the government had decided to ‘cease’ air raids effective May 25. This, he said, was “in pursuance of the state’s set policy for achieving peace and stability, bolstering the reconciliation process and continued call by the state for a comprehensive ceasefire.”
24: The External Relations Committee at the Sudanese National Assembly has condemned Israel for carrying out aggressive activities against Palestinians. In a statement, the Committee called for international protection of the Palestinian people and on the Arab and Islamic governments to adopt a stance toward these aggressions.
25: Unexpected and ferocious assaults by Sudanese government forces swept through the Nuba Mountains on May 24 and 25 sending church people working in the El Obeid Diocese fleeing to the bush. The operation seemed determined to cut off all exists from the areas around Kauda and Gidel. Bishop Macram Gassis of the Diocese who at the time of the attack was in Canada appealed for “all people of good will, whatever their religion, to pray for the people and my personnel in the Nuba Mountains.”
25: The SPLA has claimed that it forces killed more than 300 government soldiers in fighting in Blue Nile province. “SPLA forces have repulsed attacks by government forces in the Chali region, downing helicopters, and scattering the government troops after killing more than 300 soldiers,” SPLA spokesman Yasser Erman said
25: The US State Department has reached an agreement to supply US$3 million in logistical support to a Sudanese opposition alliance that includes the SPLA. Under a contract with DynCorp, a Reston government and defence contractor, the Bush administration will provide funding for office space, equipment, radios, vehicles, staff and training in an effort to enhance the political effectiveness of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
25: Riot police used teargas to disperse thousands of demonstrators in Khartoum protesting against the killing of an opposition activist. An official of the Popular National Congress (PNC) told AFP that the killing of Ali Ahmed al-Bashir was not an accident but was "an act of liquidation".
25: The Algerian ambassador in Khartoum, Ahmad Bin Flese, has expressed the wish of his country to invest in the Sudan in the domains of oil and gas exploration. This was after he met the Minister of Energy and Mining Dr Awad Ahmad Al-Jaz in a meeting held to discuss the bilateral relations between the two countries.
25: A delegation from the British Broadcasting Corporation is set to arrive on May 26 to launch transmission of an FM frequency in Khartoum and Wad Madani in Al-Jazirah State. The transmission will be a joint transmission between the BBC Arabic service and Sudanese Radio.
25: The Sudanese Communist Party has accused the SPLA of secessionism. A statement by the party’s Central Committee, said the SPLA had violated its commitment to the unity of Sudan as provided for in resolutions of the NDA to which both the Communist Party and SPLA are members.
25: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the announcement by Khartoum to halt aerial attacks in southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains, saying he hopes that the positive move will be conducive to peace in the African country. In a statement, issued through a spokesman, Annan, said he hoped that “ this positive step will help reduce the sufferings of the people in these areas and will also enhance the prospects for peace."
26: US Secretary of State Colin Powell has called for reconciliation between Sudan's warring parties, and indicated the US may take a more even-handed approach to the conflict than did the previous administration.
26: The Sudanese army claims to have retaken nine localities from the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains, said state Omdurman Radio. The radio quoted the Armed Forces General Command as saying its troops had managed to "liberate" nine localities in the Nuba Mountains after inflicting heavy casualties on the rebels. The recaptured localities named by the statement included Tangaru, Kamu, Um Dartu and Kajama. However, no details were given on the dates of the operations.
26: Sudan slammed the decision by the US to give US$3 million in aid to the NDA warning that the move will lead to further bloodshed. “It violates all efforts under way to achieve a just and peaceful solution to the problem of southern Sudan,'' said a statement issued by the Sudanese embassy in Qatar.
26: The Sudanese civil war was said to be one of the main topics that Powell hoped to discuss with Kenya’s President Daniel arap Moi, Nairobi’s Daily Nation reported. President Moi is the current chair of the regional IGAD, which is trying to end the 18-year-old conflict.
27: The US has agreed to send emergency food aid to Sudan to help both the government-controlled north as well as rebel held south. This is despite Washington's tense relations with Khartoum. Andrew Niatsos, US humanitarian coordinator for Sudan said the 40,000 tonnes of food for Sudan is aimed at meeting emergency needs.
28: President Bashir and SPLA leader, John Garang have promised to attend the regional peace summit aimed at ending the country's 18 -year-old planned for Nairobi on June 2. This is according to Justin Arop, a senior official of the SPLA. El-Bashir and Garang have never held direct talks.
28: The SPLA and the Sudan People's Defence Forces (SPDF) have agreed to unite in their fight against the Khartoum government. The new union between the two largest rebel groups in Sudan comes a few days before the rebels are due to hold peace talks with the government in Nairobi under the auspices of IGAD. The new joint group will operate under the banner of the SPLA. Dr. Justin Yaac Arop and Prof. George Bureng Nyombe signed on behalf of the SPLA while their counterparts from the SPDF were Commanders Taban Deng Gai and James Kok.
28: A Khartoum based Islamist opposition group has accused the government of beating and shooting dead one of its members in front of his family. The Popular National Congress (PNC) and the Cairo-based Sudan Human Rights Organisation (SHRO) said security forces had deliberately killed 34-year old Ali al-Bashir on May 24.
28: Sudan's Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail has welcomed America’s greater involvement in ending the civil war, but as long as Washington adopted a neutral stand in the conflict. Ismail said this during a two-day visit in Norway to meet top leaders, ahead of a June 2 peace summit in Nairobi.
29:Sudan Government troops burnt down 14 villages in the Nuba Mountains destroying about 5,000 homes, reported the AFP from Cairo. According to a statement to the news agency by the SPLA, Khartoum had employed a “scorched earth policy” after failing to rout rebels from fortified positions in the mountainous region in Central Sudan during the weeklong operations.
29: More than 400 government soldiers were killed on May 29 in three battles with SPLA troops, the rebel group claimed. According to SPLA spokesman, Yasser Ermane, who is based in Eritrea, the group killed the soldiers in the battle over Deim Zubeir in western Wau. He said that five vehicles transporting government troops sent as reinforcements to the Wau region were destroyed in an ambush laid by the SPLA.
29: A senior official of the SPDF has denied claims of a merger between the SPDF and the SPLA. He was reacting to an announcement made a few days earlier in Nairobi that the two rebel groups had agreed to merge and operate under the banner of the SPLA. Simon Kun Puk said that the declaration of unity was "premature", adding that the member who signed on its behalf "was not authorised by the leadership".
29: Fifty humanitarian organisations and emergency relief groups have launched a campaign to freeze the activities of oil companies in the Sudan. Among the European oil firms in Sudan are Austria's OMV, Britain's BP and Sweden's Lundin. France's TotalFinaElf also possesses a block for exploration, but it remains in development limbo due to the war.
29: The Sudanese government said its troops had successfully driven back a rebel offensive on the southern front line according to Al Tayeb Mustafa, a government spokesman. He said that the SPLA attacked government troops in Bahr al-Ghazal province but had been repulsed.
29: The Sudanese government has dismissed the recent merger of the SPDF and SPLA claiming that the two groups had long been coordinating operations. "There is nothing new about the agreement ...it was only a declaration of an existing situation," said an army spokesman, Mohamed Beshir Suleiman.
29: The World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed the US donation of food aid worth more than US $60 million to help Sudan. The group said that the donation would be used to relieve the suffering of nearly three million drought- and war-affected communities throughout the country. The 40, 000 metric tonnes donation will be distributed in the hardest regions of Darfur and Kordofan.
29: Syrian Prime Minister Mohamed Mustafa Miro arrived in Sudan for a three-day visit for talks on bilateral cooperation in politics, economy and culture. Miro said that several agreements would be concluded during his tour.
30: Detained Turabi has been moved from jail to precautionary arrest in a government house in a Khartoum suburb, his wife told AFP. Wisal al-Mahdi said that her husband was brought from Khartoum's Kober Prison to the house in Khartoum North's Kafouri estate.
30: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni will meet his Sudanese counterpart Bashir in Nairobi during the IGAD peace talks on Sudan in a bid to improve relations between the two countries. According to Museveni's press secretary, Hope Kivengere, the two leaders will meet and discuss relations between Uganda and Sudan in the light of the recent moves to get closer diplomatically.
30: Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail arrived in the French capital, Paris for a one-day visit as part of his European tour. The minister is expected to meet with the French minister of cooperation and Francophone and also hold a press conference to review the political developments in Sudan.
30: The SPLA has claimed that its forces have captured the garrison town of Sopo, where remnants of a government forces had fled after losing the battle for Deim Zubeir, another key town in the Bahr el-Ghazal province. During fighting for Sopo, says the SPLA, its forces had destroyed a full battalion with a few survivors fleeing towards, Raga, 40 kilometres away.
30: European oil companies operating in Sudan could face tough questions on their investments there, after the European Union selected a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses in that country. The move came after human rights groups called on the EU to impose a temporary ban on investments by European companies in the Sudanese oil sector and to close its borders to Nile Blend crude until peace is restored in the country. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly will fly to Sudan on June 26 and June 27.
30: The World Bank and other donors are to finance new development projects in countries that share the River Nile. According to Senior Water Resources advisor for the Africa region, David Grey the Bank had established a trust fund and invited donors to fund whatever projects are agreed on.
30: Japan signed off US$2.2 for a UNICEF campaign to eradicate polio in Sudan. According to the Japanese Ambassador to Sudan, Akira Hoshi, the aid was in response to an appeal by the UN agency. Thomas Ekvall, the UNICEF representative in Sudan, said the vaccination campaign was difficult because of the size of the country and the war.
June 1: Opposition leader Turabi has termed his transfer from jail to house arrest as a government trick to keep him locked up. He said that the move was a plot by the government to outwit the judiciary, which has so far refused to extend his detention in jail.
1: Sudanese opposition leader Sadeq al-Mahdi, who was due to travel to Washington, said that he would push the Bush administration to urge both sides in his country’s civil war to make peace and create a true democracy. In an interview with Reuters, Mahdi said that the US could play an important role in pressuring both sides to reach a just peace through political talks, not warfare.
3: The Sudanese government denied claims by the SPLA that rebel forces had captured Raga, a state-owned newspaper said. The Sudanese daily al-Anbaa quoted a government spokesman as saying government forces and pro-government militia drove back an SPLA attack on a military post in Raga.
3: Peace for Sudan is still elusive after the SPLA announced that it couldn’t reach an agreement with the government. This was at the end of an IGAD summit that is seeking to end the war. “We have agreed to disagree and then proceed from there,” said President Bashir also attended SPLA leader Garang at the end of a meting that.
3: President Bashir has expressed his disappointment in the failure of the IGAD meeting to find a solution to the civil war engulfing his country. Speaking on arrival from Kenya, Bashir said that the summit didn’t reach the expected results.
5: The Canadian oil firm, Talisman Energy has vowed to stay in Sudan despite the charges that its operations were fuelling the war. During a three-day tour of Sudan, the firm’s President and CEO, Jim Buckee, said that Talisman could do more to improve the situation of human rights abuses in Sudan by staying there rather than quitting.
6: The Sudanese government has called on the international community to pressure the SPLA to agree to a ceasefire. This was four days after SPLA forces captured Raga. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chuol Deng said the rebel group had launched the offensive in Bahr so as to disrupt a peace summit aimed at ending the war.
6: The WFP has expressed its concerns to the Sudanese government about a security incident in Barurud, northwestern Bahr al-Ghazal, in which bombs dropped from an Antonov aircraft narrowly missed a WFP relief plane. The incident forced the WFP aircrew to immediately abort the food drop.
6: Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has admitted that the SPLA had captured Raga and Deim Zubeir, the 'Khartoum Monitor' newspaper reported. Ismail called for intensive mobilisation of government-allied forces to recapture the areas, stating that the government would adhere to "the agenda of war" being practised by SPLA leader.
6: Two leaders of Turabi’s Popular National Congress visited Paris during which they met with representatives of the French foreign and defence ministries. Ali al Haj, a former minister currently living in Germany, and Al Mahboub Abdelsalam are among some of the party’s leaders who signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the SPLA in February.
7: The Sudanese cabinet has announced the beginning of a campaign of alert in the country and to mobilise all potentials in order to confront the attack launched by the SPLA. This was declared after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Bashir in which he said that the armed and people defence forces will not give up the unity of the country's territories, nor stability and security of its citizens.
8: The US State Department has expressed concern over reports that Sudan launched aerial strikes against civilian targets in the south. If the reports were true, it would be a violation of Khartoum's May 25 pledge to end the bombings of civilian targets, department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
8: The European Union has called for the Government of Sudan and the SPLA to immediately stop hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere for negotiations to end the war. It also encouraged Kenya, in its capacity as chair of the IGAD committee for Sudan, to press ahead with its fellow IGAD members to reinvigorate the peace process, which has not made much progress so far.
9: The SPLA claimed that its forces had killed 244 Sudanese government troops during a raid in an oil-prospecting region, northeast of Wangkei, in the southern al-Wihda province. According to Asmara-based spokesman, Yasser Erman, "244 Sudanese soldiers were killed in fighting which lasted over five hours".
11: The current fighting in western Bahr el Ghazal has displaced 30, 000 people, creating the ideal conditions for a humanitarian crisis, said UN Emergency Relief Co- ordinator, Kenzo Oshima. According to the official, the recent offensive by the SPLA has brought about a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the area and also threatens aid deliveries to hundreds of thousands of affected people.
11: Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has said the situation in Sudan is "regrettable and dangerous," Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Moussa made the remarks after talks with visiting Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, calling for implementing an Egyptian-Libyan peace initiative aimed at ending the war.
11: The Sudanese government announced that its armed forces will resume air strikes in the south, a move which was “suspended” last month, to defend itself in the light of the SPLA’s current military onslaught.
12: The US State Department expects to complete by September of this year a programme of resettling approximately 3,800 Sudanese children and young adults from Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya. The project that began in November last year involves boys and young men, who have come to be known as the "lost boys" of Sudan. They were among an estimated 17,000) who were separated from their parents and to Ethiopia.
13: A US parliamentary committee has said Uganda is not involved in the Sudanese conflict as claimed by Khartoum. The report by US House committee on international relations and dated June 8 also recommended to Congress to pass the Bill for enactment of the Sudan Peace Act that would give authority to President George Bush's administration to take measures to end what it described as "the longest running civil war in the world."
13: The EU has registered its concern over the renewed military activity by the SPLA, particularly in Bahr al-Ghazal and Khartoum’s resumption of aerial bombings in response to this offensive. The EU has called on both parties to halt their military activity in order to create an environment conducive to negotiations and the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected civilian population.
13: Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has said that his government was ready to share oil revenues with the SPLA if they stopped their armed struggle. "The government offers dividing oil (revenues) between the north and the south to be used for development and peace which will come when the rebel movement halts its military operations," Ismail told reporters after meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.
13: The US House of Representatives condemned human rights abuses committed during the Sudanese war, moved to aid the peace process and punish foreign companies engaged in oil and gas production in the country. On an overwhelming 422-2 vote, House members approved legislation that authorises the president to make US$10 million available to the SPLA. The House also approved an amendment that would prohibit foreign companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges if they engage in oil exploration in Sudan.
13: President Bush's administration is seeking to split Sudan into two by supporting the southern rebels, President Bashir claimed "The goal of the Bush government is to split the country into two," Bashir said in an interview with Al-Ahram Hebdo, an Egyptian government weekly.
13: Sudan's Supreme Court has ordered the continued detention of Turabi and five colleagues pending consideration of legal motions in their cases, the official SUNA news agency reported. Turabi and other PNC officials are charged with attempting to overthrow the government by force in collaboration with an armed opposition for concluding last February a memorandum of understanding with the SPLA.
13: Canada's Talisman Energy Inc., the most prominent firm producing oil in Sudan, said it did not expect to be affected by a US bill seeking to punish foreign companies operating in the country. House of Representatives members approved legislation that included an amendment that would prohibit foreign companies from being listed on US stock exchanges if they engage in oil exploration in Sudan.
14: More than one-third of Sudan's 29.5 million people cannot read or write after many literacy campaigns failed for lack of financing, according to an official report made public. The independent Al Rai Al Akher daily quoted a report by the National Council for Literacy and Adult Education (NCLAE), which put at 11,500,642 the number of illiterate people in Sudan.
2. Wedge widens despite Igad peace summit
Even before June 2 summit met in Nairobi to discuss peace for Sudan, pessimism was already in the air that no peace deal would be signed.
The doubts were not misplaced as the warring parties not only failed to reach a consensus, but also left Nairobi further part after President Omar el Bashir refused to meet personally with the leader of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), John Garang. Bashir claimed that Garang had snubbed him on three previous occasions.
During the meeting, the two parties sat in separate rooms while the regional leaders sat in another with Bashir and Garang only communicating through the four-man mediating group set up by the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), that has been mediating the parties since 1994.
It can only be hoped that by the time they meet again in Nairobi in July, the Sudanese leaders will have narrowed their differences and created an environment for a compromise. Khartoum and the SPLA have agreed to set up permanent teams to the IGAD secretariat to ensure continuity of the negotiations.
But observers note that might not be enough. Samson Kwaje, SPLA’s spokesman asserts: "A handshake between Bashir and Garang is not going to bring peace… The only thing that will help is the resolution of serious and long-standing differences between the two sides." These issues are the sharing of the country’s wealth, the type of constitution-whether secular or Islamic and whether the south should remain part of Sudan or secede all together.
The differences have proved too wide to bridge and Garang didn’t shy from stating during this year’s SPLA Day on May 16 that he would continue the military campaign ‘since Khartoum is beyond reform.’ “The National Islamic Front regime cannot be reformed, it is too deformed to be reformed, it cannot be improved, it is too impoverished to be improved. The NIF regime cannot be reformed or improved, it must be removed,” he said.
The roots of the failure of June 2, however, lie in both the present and past. Since IGAD took up the Sudanese issue, it has never made a breakthrough with its summits turning to be more of talking shops than a stage for reconciliation. The nearest the body came to success was in July 1997 when the parties agreed to put the southern question to a referendum. But the deal collapsed after Khartoum reneged its side three months later. That has been the status quo and the current military status on the ground, in which the government is on the defensive, only complicated matters during the talks.
In the weeks preceding the meeting, government troops had lost to the SPLA a number of strategic positions. But it is the outcome of the battles in western Bahr el Ghazal that left Khartoum on the edge.
Shortly before the start of the summit, SPLA forces captured the key garrison town of Raga in the region, leaving the government with only two major towns in the expansive, area. Two days before, two other towns, Deim Zubeir and Yabulu near Wau had fallen to the rebels. Now fears are rising that the SPLA would attack Wau. Such an attack would be costly on both sides since the town is heavily defended by government troops.
In Nairobi, Kenya’s President Daniel arap Moi, had pleaded with Bashir and Garang to "engage in sustained negotiation with greater determination". But minds had already been set and Khartoum was definitely not going to agree to Moi’s call that it makes a "definite commitment to the separation of religion and state within an appropriate federal constitutional framework." The fusion of religion and politics is the pillar upon which the Islamic generals derive their power.
Any reconciliation was further ruled out by Moi’s other pleas-a referendum on the issue of self-determination, the type of government to be installed during an interim period and the sharing of resources. These are issues Khartoum has never been comfortable to talk about and left no indications that it was ready to do so. It wasn’t surprising that SPLA delegates had earlier accused Khartoum of not being interested in peace, but only seeking a breather from the fighting. "The government is not serious. It wants to use the meeting as a publicity stunt,” said Hatem al-Sir Ali, a spokesman for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). a union for the north and southern opposition.
Khartoum lived to that billing, insisting on a cease-fire and arguing that there had to be one if any negotiations were to proceed. Bashir, who in April rejected a cease-fire offer by the SPLA, indicated that he wouldn’t compromise until a "comprehensive cease-fire " was in place. His Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, agreed saying that anything short of a cease-fire was tantamount to a failure.
But the SPLA not only ruled out a truce, but also stuck to its demand telling Bashir that there will be no negotiations until the government ceased the development, exploration and exporting of oil. That is not what Bashir wanted to hear since it hits him where it hurts most. Since August 1999 when Sudan started oil exports, his government has been comfortable in waging the war using the US$400 million it earns per year from the oil exports. But that has not delivered victory.
Analysts agree, saying that the government desperately wants a pause to the fighting not to explore peace avenues but to reorganise its forces and militias especially around the oil fields in Unity State. This was more so now that the SPLA and its rival, the Sudan People's Defence Forces (SPDF) have signed a declaration to merge the two groups. Though this deal is dogged by controversy, all indications are there that the merger threatens the security of the oilfields where both rebel groups have troops. A worried Khartoum has therefore seen to it that all its southern militia factions are united under Paulino Matip, a Nuer warlord in its payroll. In addition, Bashir has brought in the Popular Defence Force (PDF), who together with radical students of the Sudan Students Union, believe that the war is Jihad (holy war) which they are already to fight.
To give his troops morale, Bashir is amplifying and distorting the religious angle of the war, accusing the SPLA of seeking to create an oil state in Bahr el Ghazal, which borders the oil fields.
Portraying the war, as a Jihad is a tactic that has worked in the past and so on June 7, Bashir announced that the time had come to fight since Islam was under siege. "Man can die for several reasons but a good death, martyrdom, is what we are looking for….We will go ahead on the road to Jihad and martyrdom and will never allow separation of religion from the state," he said.
Armed with emergency powers granted to him by the parliament, and vowing that his "soldiers will teach the rebels an unforgettable lesson," Bashir has also announced the resumption of the air strikes “suspended” on May 25, 2001. His anger came after the government lost another town, Boro, near the border with Central African Republic.
At the moment, the SPLA controls Warab area, which separates Wau from Unity State, and so the rebels know that by capturing Wau they will be in a better position to disrupt the oil installations. Analysts argue that if Wau falls, then the oilfields are gone. Bashir has vowed never to give up the fields saying his "forces will fight for oil until death."
For inquiries, contact
The Editor, Sudan Catholic Information Office (SCIO)
E-mail: SCIO at maf.or.ke
Tel. 254-2-577616 577949/ 577595