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Congressional Research Service

 

98043: Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and

U.S. Policy

Updated September 4, 1998

 Ted Dagne

Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division

  

CONTENTS

 SUMMARY

 MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

 BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

 

The Humanitarian Crisis

Peace Talks

The IGAD Peace Process

Is IGAD Still A Viable Option?

Sudan and Its Neighbors

Eritrea

Ethiopia

Uganda

CAR, Chad and Libya

Egypt

Sudan and Terrorism

The Mubarak Assassination Attempt and the Role of Sudan

The U.S. Missile Attack

The United States and Sudan

 

LEGISLATION

Sudan and Terrorism

SUMMARY

Sudan, geographically the largest country in Africa, has been ravaged by civil war intermittently for four

decades. An estimated one million people have died over the past decade due to war-related causes and

famine, while millions have been displaced from their homes. The most recent alarms of a humanitarian

crisis began to be sounded in November 1997. Currently, an estimated 2.6 southern Sudanese are at risk

of starvation largely due to civil war, drought, and government restriction on relief flights. The

government of Sudan barred relief flights to affected areas from February through the end of April 1998,

and only lifted the ban after intense international pressure.

 

The relief operation is being coordinated by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), established in 1989 in

response to the 1988 humanitarian crisis in which over 200,000 people died of starvation. The OLS, a

consortium of United Nations agencies and three dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs),

operates in both government and rebel-controlled territories.

 

The 15-year civil war has been and continues to be a major contributing factor to recurring humanitarian

crisis. There have been many failed attempts to end the civil war in southern Sudan, including efforts by

Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, former President Jimmy Carter, and the United States. To that end, the heads

of state from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Uganda formed a mediation committee under the aegis of the

Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and held the first formal negotiations in March

1994. The basis of these talks is the Declaration of Principles (DOP), which include the right of

self-determination, separation of religion and the state (secularism), and a referendum to be held in the

South with secession as an option. Although the National Islamic Front (NIF) government reluctantly

accepted the DOP in 1994, the government in Khartoum has repeatedly resisted secularism, walking out

on peace talks in September 1994 and returning in July 1997 after a series of military defeats.

 

Relations between the United States and Sudan continue to deteriorate because of Khartoum's human

rights violations, its war policy in the south, and its support for international terrorism. Unless the NIF

regime implements sweeping reforms, the policy of isolation and containment is likely to continue for the

foreseeable future, according to Administration officials. The President's policy enjoys strong bi-partisan

support in Congress and is backed by Sudan's neighbors in the Horn of Africa. In November 1997, the

Clinton Administration imposed comprehensive sanctions on the NIF government after an exhaustive

policy review. In July 1998, the Senate passed S.Res. 267 by unanimous consent. The resolution

expresses concerns about the humanitarian conditions in southern Sudan and calls on the Administration

to assist the OLS and to assist groups outside the OLS umbrella.

 

On August 20, 1998, U.S. Naval forces struck a factory in Sudan allegedly involved in the manufacturing

of precursors for chemical weapons in retaliation for terrorist bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. More

than 250 people, including 12 Americans, had been killed in the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi and

Dar es Salaam. The government of Sudan condemned the attack, denied involvement in making chemical

weapons, and called for an investigation into the U.S. military strike.

 

 

MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

 

An estimated 2.6 million are at risk of starvation in southern Sudan. The current humanitarian crisis

began when government officials banned relief flights into affected areas and because of renewed

conflict between government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The United States

has contributed over $70 million in humanitarian aid and has pledged to do more. Meanwhile, peace

talks between the government and the SPLA collapsed in early August due to differences on the role of

religion in politics and the territorial definition of southern Sudan. On August 20, 1998, U.S. Naval

forces struck a suspected chemical weapons facility in Sudan as well as targets in Afghanistan in

retaliation for terrorist bombings in east Africa. More than 250 people were killed in the terrorist

attack on the U.S. embassy in Kenya, including 12 Americans. The government of Sudan has requested

an investigation into the U.S. missile strike. The Organization of African Unity and the Arab League

have expressed support for an investigation, although U.S. officials have stated that an investigation is

not warranted.

 

 

BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

 

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In 1956, Sudan became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa independent from Britain and Egypt. For

almost four decades, the east African country with a population of 29 million people has been the scene of

intermittent conflict. An estimated one million people have died from war-related causes and famine in

southern Sudan, while millions more have been displaced. The Sudanese conflict, Africa's

longest-running civil war, shows no sign of ending. The sources of the conflict are deeper and more

complicated than the claims of political leaders and some observers. Religion is a major factor because of

the Islamic fundamentalist agenda of the current government, dominated by the mostly Muslim/Arab

north. Southerners, who are Christian and animist, reject the Islamization of the country and favor a

secular arrangement. Social and economic disparities are also major contributing factors to the Sudanese

conflict.

 

The abrogation of the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, which ended the first phase of the civil war in the

south, by former President Jaffer Nimeri in 1983 is considered a major triggering factor in the current civil

war. Although the National Islamic Front government, which ousted the democratically elected civilian

government in 1989, has pursued the war in southern Sudan with vigor, previous governments, both

civilian and military, had rejected southern demands for autonomy and equality. Northern political leaders

for decades treated southerners as second class citizens and did not see the south as an integral part of the

country. Southern political leaders argue that under successive civilian and military governments, political

elites in the north have made only superficial attempts to address the grievances of the south without

compromising the north's dominant economic, political and social status. In recent years, most political

leaders in the north, now in opposition to the current government, say that mistakes were made and that

they are prepared to correct them. But the political mood among southerners has sharply shifted in favor

of separation from the north. The current government seems determined to pursue the military option.

The war is costing the government an estimated $1-2 million a day. Economic conditions have

deteriorated significantly, and millions of southern Sudanese are at risk of starvation due to a serious

humanitarian crisis, partly caused by the government's decision to ban United Nations relief flights.

 

The Humanitarian Crisis

 

The current humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan is considered one of the worst in Sudan in decades.

The most recent alarms were sounded in November 1997 when officials of Operation Lifeline Sudan

(OLS), which is the U.N. coordinated relief effort, announced a shortfall in funds and relief aid by 50% of

the projected need for 1997. Aid agencies announced in late 1997 that crops in Bahr el Ghazal were likely

to fail after a second year of drought, and then issued warnings of famine conditions approaching in

March 1998. The estimated number of civilians at risk of death from starvation rose from 350,000 in

February, to 700,000 in April to 1.2 million in May. The U.N. announced in June that the crisis qualifies

as a famine in parts of the South, primarily in the Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile regions.

 

The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 2.6 million people are in need of emergency aid as of

July, including 1.2 million in rebel-held areas in the South and 1.4 million in government-held areas of

southern Sudan, the transitional zone, and northern Sudan. The most severely affected areas include the

Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria Regions. The numbers of people affected in each region are

701,000, 344,000 and 181,000, respectively.

 

The OLS was established in 1989 in response to the death of 250,000 people due to starvation in the

southern Sudan. The OLS is a consortium of UN agencies and 35 non-governmental organizations

(NGOs) that provides emergency relief for civilians living in drought and war-affected areas. UNICEF is

the lead agency that coordinates all humanitarian activities, and the WFP manages the overall logistics

including the airlift operation. Independent relief organizations that operate outside the OLS manage

supplemental feeding centers, sometimes in areas which the OLS has deemed unsafe or the government

has declared inaccessible.

 

The fifteen-year civil war, drought, and raids by government-backed militias and rebel groups have

disrupted the distribution of food aid and obstructed assessments of need in severely affected areas. The

crisis has escalated dramatically since the beginning of 1998. In January, the SPLA and Khartoum began

fighting in the major towns of Wau, Awiel and Gogrial, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. The

scorched-earth techniques used by militias have decimated fields and homes and forced tens of thousands

of people to flee the war-torn areas.

 

The government of Sudan (GOS) declared a ban on relief flights to the South from February to April,

which immobilized relief efforts. Many relief centers and hunger-stricken areas were inaccessible by

ground transportation because roads were destroyed, did not exist or were impassible due to rain and

mud. This cessation in food aid severely exacerbated food shortages, impeded the distribution of

desperately needed seeds and tools during the planting season, and left hundreds of thousands of people

without assistance. Under pressure from donor countries and anticipating the peace talks held in May,

Khartoum lifted the ban in late April, which enabled aid agencies to deliver only a quarter of the food

needed. Many critics assert that the OLS has not taken a pro-active stance toward the GOS and has failed

to secure safe access to areas in which hundreds of thousands of people have been on the verge of

starvation.

 

The GOS announced at the peace talks in Nairobi in May 1998 that it would no longer obstruct relief

operations. In June, the U.N. gained access to all of Sudan, with the exception of the Nuba Mountains, to

which the GOS continues to deny relief groups access. Slowly Khartoum has given clearance for

additional aircraft, with a total of 13 cargo aircraft approved as of July 5. The aircraft cleared include 4

C130s and 2 Buffalo aircraft through Lokichokio, Kenya, 1 C130 and 1 Buffalo through El Obeid

(Sudan), 2 Ilyushins through Khartoum, and 3 Ilyushins through Nairobi. OLS officials reported that

5,953 tons of food were distributed to 820,000 beneficiaries in the South in June, which was an increase

relative to the 3,860 tons delivered in May as a result of the increased number of airdrops permitted.

 

The WFP held a Donor Briefing on June 25 during which it announced that increased international

assistance was needed. The WFP needs 99,579 tons of food or US$137.6 million for July 1998 through

April 1999. Donors have pledged a total of 37,376 tons valued at US$59 million, leaving a shortfall of

62,203 tons valued at US$78.6 million. The WFP estimates that thousands of starving Sudanese are

arriving in government-held towns to escape fighting, with some 2,500 people arriving daily in Wau, the

second-largest government-held town in the South, as of mid-July. UNICEF reported that surveys in 12

SPLA-held locations in Bahr al Ghazal found that 51% of children were malnourished, with the highest

rates in Panthou, Pakor and Wau towns. With over 2.6 million people in need of aid and an estimated

60% suffering severe malnutrition, the WFP estimates that 10,000 tons of food is required each month in

rebel-held areas in the South.

 

To further exacerbate the situation, the government and the militias it sponsors continue to attack relief

workers, bomb feeding centers and destroy entire towns. According to press reports, on June 10, a GOS

plane dropped 6 bombs around an emergency feeding center run by World Vision Relief and

Development (WVRD) in Gogrial County. Bombs have also been dropped on Ikotos, Eastern Equatoria,

and Paluer and Panyagor, Upper Nile/Jonglei in July, wounding civilians. In early June, three relief

workers were killed and three others wounded. Twenty-five relief workers were evacuated in early July

from a children's feeding center in Leer in western Upper Nile province. Fighting forced NGOs to

discontinue relief operations in western Upper Nile in late June, and the compounds and feeding center

were looted, with relief supplies for 25,000 people stolen.

 

Government-backed militias have carried out violent raids in Aweil West, Twic and Gogrial counties in

Bahr el Ghazal/Lakes Region, killing many civilians and forcing thousands to flee. Many observers cite

the scorched-earth techniques as a means to destroy entire communities in the South and destroy any

semblance of civil society. Reports of abductions and forced enslavement accompany many raids by

government-sponsored militias. Many families' crops were destroyed prior to the August harvest, and

thousands more were displaced during the planting season, the two months of the traditional hunger gap

during May and June. Unable to plant this year, the food shortage and the need for food aid will continue

until the next harvest in August 1999.

 

On July 14, the SPLA declared a three month long cease-fire in the Bahr el Ghazal province and parts of

the Upper Nile Region, following talks with British foreign office minister Derek Fatchett who was

negotiating on behalf of major donor nations for the establishment of safe corridors for the delivery of aid.

The GOS also agreed to the cease-fire proposal. The OLS welcomed the SPLA initiative. The rebel

leaders had refused the cease-fire offered in February by the government fearing it would allow the GOS

military to strengthen its forces. The cease-fire does not apply to militias sponsored by the government.

 

The United States and the United Kingdom are the top two donors. The United States has contributed

nearly $700 million to OLS since 1989. In response to the current crisis, Washington has contributed $70

million as of July. The United States pledged an additional 9,300 tons of food valued at $16 million. In

late July 1998, Senator Bill Frist introduced S.Res. 267 to express the sense of the Senate about the

humanitarian crisis in Sudan. S.Res. 267 calls on the President to "encourage and assist Operation

Lifeline Sudan and the ongoing efforts to develop relief distribution networks for affected areas of Sudan

outside of the umbrella and associated constraints of Operation Lifeline Sudan." The resolution also calls

on the President to provide development aid in areas outside the control of the government of Sudan.

 

Peace Talks

 

Peace efforts to end the civil war in Sudan have not succeeded in part because of irreconcilable

differences on fundamental issues between the "Arabized" north and southern rebels. The strong belief by

the NIF regime that it could resolve the conflict through military means has been and continues to be a

major impediment to peaceful efforts. Another major obstacle is NIF's inflexible position on the role of

religion in politics and government. The government seems to show interest in talks when it is weakened

militarily or to buy time to prepare for another military offensive.

 

On June 30, 1989, the pro-NIF military faction ousted Prime Minster Sadiq Mahdi, in part to abort a

peace agreement reached between the SPLM and the civilian government in Khartoum. In early 1989, the

ruling parties of the civilian government, Umma and DUP, had reached an agreement with the SPLM.

The SPLM had begun a dialogue with northern political parties in 1986 in Koka Dam, Ethiopia. In 1988,

the SPLM signed an accord with one of the major political parties, DUP, which was later endorsed by all

of the parties, except the NIF. The SPLM declared a cease-fire on May 1, 1989, and a constitutional

conference was to follow in late June. The government for its part suspended the Islamic laws on June

29, 1989, which were imposed in 1983 and triggered the civil war. Following the suspension, a delegation

from Sudan was to meet with SPLM representatives in Ethiopia to finalize the agreements. Prime

Minister Mahdi himself was scheduled to travel to Ethiopia to meet with SPLM leader John Garang in

early July in Ethiopia.

 

In August 1989, the SPLM and the NIF-government met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The talks collapsed

after the government rejected the SPLM demand for a national unity government and the suspension of

Islamic laws, which were reimposed by the new regime. The government also rejected a national

constitutional conference, and instead called its own meeting of supporters as a substitute. A follow-up

meeting took place in December 1989 in Nairobi, Kenya under the chairmanship of former President

Carter. The NIF government presented a peace plan, the Final Report of the meeting it sponsored earlier.

The government's proposal endorsed a federal system and an Islamic constitution. The SPLM for its part

reiterated its call for a national unity government and a secular constitution. According to Carter, neither

side was ready to take the necessary steps to resolve the conflict.

 

The military situation escalated in early 1990 with the SPLM capturing more towns in the south. With

Juba, the regional capital, under siege, the NIF government sought Washington's mediation in part to

secure a cease-fire agreement. The Washington plan, based on information that some within NIF were

prepared to let the south go its way, proposed the withdrawal of government troops from the south to be

followed by a formal cease-fire and a reciprocal assurance by the SPLA not to move militarily. A

constitutional conference was to be held to sort out issues between the parties. The Bashir government

rejected Washington's proposals, arguing that they were unacceptable. The SPLM supported the

Washington initiative and saw the disengagement proposal as a good opening for negotiations. A

watered-down version of the proposal was later offered personally by the former Assistant Secretary of

State for Africa, Herman Cohen, which was rejected by the SPLM. With Sudan siding with Iraq during

the Gulf war, relations between Khartoum and Washington deteriorated and the peace effort ended.

 

In 1991, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) mandated General Ibrahim Babandiga of Nigeria,

then-chairman of the OAU, to mediate the Sudan conflict. In August 1991, a major split within the

SPLM delayed peace talks. The split coupled with the loss of support from Ethiopia weakened the

movement and contributed to the government's belief that the war could be won militarily. The NIF

government also began to manipulate the split by entering into a secret dialogue with the splinter group

then-known as SPLM-Nasir. In May 1992, with factional fighting raging and a major government

offensive on SPLM positions, talks began in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. The Abuja talks focused on

four major issues: national identity, religion and state, self-determination, and interim arrangements. After

two rounds of talks, the Nigerian effort failed to bridge the gap between the government and the SPLM.

The government of Sudan rejected the separation of religion and state, the definition of

self-determination, and the duration of interim arrangements. The government offered the SPLM a

federal arrangement and exemption from Islamic laws in the south, which were rejected by the SPLM.

 

The IGAD Peace Process

 

Alarmed by the deepening crisis and multiple failed attempts by outside mediators, members of the

Inter-Governmental Authority for Drought and Development (IGADD), later renamed the

Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), formed a mediation committee consisting of two

organs, a summit committee of heads of state from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Uganda, and a standing

committee composed of their mediators. Preliminary talks were held in November 1993 and January

1994, and formal negotiations began in March and May of the same year. Presented at the May meeting,

the Declaration of Principles (DOP) included the following provisions: the right of self-determination with

national unity remaining a high priority, separation of religion and state (secularism), a system of

governance based on multiparty democracy, decentralization through a loose federation or a confederacy,

respect for human rights and a referendum to be held in the south with secession as an option. The NIF

government initially resisted the DOP, particularly self-determination and secularism. The SPLM accepted

the DOP and the government was later persuaded by the mediators to accept the DOP.

 

The IGAD peace process began with the view that the Sudan conflict was having serious repercussions

not only in the country but also in the region, and sought to deal with the root causes of the conflict.

Conditions were ripe for talks since both sides were exhausted from years of fighting and some members

of the IGAD committee were seen by Khartoum as allies. Relations between the NIF government and

members of the Sudan mediating countries were good, except for Uganda. The ruling parties in both

Ethiopia and Eritrea received significant military assistance and political support from the NIF government

during the struggle against the Mengistu regime. The government of Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia had signed

a series of agreements with the NIF government, including security arrangements. Earlier the two had

cooperated militarily to eject SPLA forces from the border area. Similarly, relations with Eritrea and

Kenya were good. The SPLM accepted the mediators, although it believed two out of the four were

closer to Khartoum, with Kenya seen by both as neutral. The SPLM saw the DOP as constructive and a

good framework for negotiation.

 

In 1994, relations between Eritrea and Sudan began to deteriorate largely due to Sudan's support for an

Eritrean opposition group, the Eritrea Islamic Jihad. Meanwhile, serious opposition to the DOP began to

emerge from the NIF government. The most contentious issues were secularism and self-determination,

which the Khartoum government refused to concede. In July 1994, the polarization of the two sides

intensified after the Khartoum government appointed a hard-line NIF member to its delegation. The

Khartoum delegation professed the government's commitment to Islamic law as part of a religious and

moral obligation to promote Islam in Sudan and throughout the continent, and refused self-determination

as a ploy to split the country. In September, President Moi of Kenya convened a meeting of the

committee's heads of state, Sudan's President al-Bashir and the leader of SPLA. The Khartoum

government walked out of these peace talks, rejecting the DOP.

 

The military situation intensified with government forces losing ground in 1995 to the SPLA forces.

Meanwhile the government began to look for other mediators in an effort to undermine the IGAD peace

process. The NIF argued that the mediators were hostile toward Sudan. No further negotiations were

held by IGAD until the Khartoum government returned to the peace process, once again embracing the

DOP in July 1997. Loss of military ground and intense international pressure forced the government to

the negotiating table. The return to the IGAD process was also, in part, in recognition of its failed effort to

attract other mediators. Both parties signed a joint communique in September stating that they would

accept the IGAD framework for peace negotiations.

 

Further meetings in 1997-1998 sought to narrow divisions between the two sides. The Khartoum

government agreed to negotiate the DOP at the October 1997 meeting, but both sides were bitterly

divided. The SPLM/A demanded an end to Islamic law and the establishment of a confederation. The

Khartoum delegation appeared willing to compromise on some issues but would only accept a federal

system in which power would remain in the capital. The second round of talks scheduled for April 1998

was canceled to allow more time for the parties to resolve their differences. The government, eager to

secure a cease-fire agreement, came with positions it had earlier rejected. But the NIF attempt to establish

a cease-fire was rejected by both the SPLM and IGAD as insufficient. The third session was held in

Nairobi from May 4-6, 1998. With Juba, the regional capital under siege, and increased military pressure

in the east along the Eritrea-Sudan border, the NIF accepted for the first time self determination for the

south.

 

At Nairobi, the parties disagreed, however, on which territories were considered part of the south. The

Khartoum delegation defined the south as the three provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Upper

Nile recognized at independence in January, 1956 and outlined in the 1972 Addis Ababa Accords. The

SPLM/A argued that Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile and other marginalized areas were part

of the south. The duration of the interim period and issues relating to interim arrangements were shelved

by the mediators in part to avoid failure. The question of religion and state remained unresolved. While

both parties agreed to facilitate free and unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance to the areas affected

by the famine in south Sudan, the SPLM/A refused to agree to a cease-fire outside of separate

negotiations.

 

The United States and the European Union touted the Nairobi agreement on self-determination. However,

some observers see the agreement on self-determination as a small step in the right direction after years of

stalled efforts. The most contentious and difficult issues are yet to be tackled by IGAD mediators,

including religion and interim arrangements. Some observers believe that it is too soon to judge if the

concession on self-determination represents a change in Khartoum's position or a tactical move to buy

more time. A follow-up meeting between the parties took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in early August

1998. The talks collapsed due to differences on the role of religion in politics. The parties also disagreed

on the territorial definition of southern Sudan for the purpose of referendum.

 

Is IGAD Still A Viable Option?

 

With the NIF's poor relations with three of the four mediators, some analysts are pessimistic that IGAD

will succeed. But this assertion implies that the membership of the mediating committee of IGAD is the

principal obstacle to a negotiated settlement. While on the surface this viewpoint seems to have merit, the

obstacle to peace in Sudan is NIF's refusal to accept a secular arrangement and self determination for the

south. Earlier efforts by others, including Nigeria and the United States, indicate that the NIF has been

consistent in its opposition on these two issues. The NIF government's Islamic agenda is incompatible

with the proposed secular arrangement for a new Sudan. Therefore, observers argue, even if IGAD is

declared a failure and others undertake its role, without a reversal on these two issues, prospects for a

negotiated settlement are slight.

 

What is important, observers assert, is the commitment of the parties, especially Sudan, to resolve the

conflict peacefully. The role of a mediator can be only marginal in this context. The first agreement

between Sudan and southern rebels in 1972 was secured by Ethiopia, a country considered then by

Khartoum as an ally of southern rebels. That agreement lasted until 1983 when the military junta in

Khartoum imposed Islamic laws in violation of the 1972 agreement. Clearly, the poor state of affairs

between Khartoum and some members of IGAD raises serious questions, but few consider it as the real

obstacle to a negotiated settlement.

 

The belief by the government of Sudan that it can defeat the SPLM militarily has been and continues to

be another major obstacle to peace in Sudan. The NIF leader, Hassan Turabi, strongly believes that the

situation in Sudan is the beginning of a new revolution--the revival of Islam--and sees Sudan at the

forefront, and a model of, this revolution. Since it took power in 1989, the NIF has purged the

bureaucracy and the military and replaced personnel with its own cadres. Opposition from other religious

and political groups is in large part due to its fundamentalist Islamic agenda. NIF's poor relations with its

neighbors, Ethiopia and Eritrea, are due to its support for Islamic extremist groups such as the Eritrean

Islamic Jihad. Since the very foundation and character of the NIF is shaped by its Islamic agenda,

observers argue, it would be political suicide for NIF to accept secularism as demanded by the SPLM and

IGAD mediators.

 

A further complicating factor in the search for peace is the spread of the conflict to the north. Opposition

to the NIF regime is widespread and most northern political groups are fighting the NIF regime. In June

1995, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convened a conference in Asmara, Eritrea to discuss the

future of Sudan. The conference was attended by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Umma

Party, the Sudan Communist Party, the Union of the Sudan African Parties, the SPLM, the Legitimate

Command of the Sudan Armed Forces, the Sudanese Allied Forces (SAF), the Beja Congress, Sudanese

trade unions, and independent national personalities. The conference debated a number of issues,

including the right of self-determination and the relationship between religion and politics. Although the

NDA was formed earlier by some of the current members of the group, it did not function as a cohesive

organization until the Asmara conference.

 

At the conference the NDA resolved that the group would continue "the struggle by all means available to

uproot the repugnant NIF regime." The "Asmara Declarations" affirmed the right of self-determination as

a basic "human, democratic and people's right which may be exercised at any time by any people." On the

relationship between religion and the state, the NDA stated that "the state shall acknowledge and respect

religious pluralism in the Sudan." The Asmara Declarations prohibit the formation of political groups on

religious bases. The conferees agreed on interim arrangements after the ouster of the NIF regime and

agreed to form a joint military command to conduct the armed struggle. Some members of the NDA see

negotiation between the SPLM and the NIF regime as a violation of the Asmara Declarations. The SPLM

argues that, since these talks began before the declarations were adopted, the SPLM cannot abandon

these talks.

 

Sudan and Its Neighbors

 

Since the early 1990s, Sudan's relations with its neighbors have deteriorated significantly. Although

successive regimes in Sudan have had cool relations with Ethiopia, the ouster of the Mengistu regime in

1991 paved the way for better relations with the new governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The liberation

movements of these two countries benefitted from the support of successive Sudanese governments,

including the current military regime. But relations began to deteriorate by 1993, first with Eritrea and

later with Ethiopia. At the core of this tension was Sudan's support for terrorist and extremist groups

actively engaged in the destabilization of secular, pro-American governments in the Horn of Africa.

 

Eritrea

 

Reports indicate that the NIF regime has been assisting at least two Eritrean rebel groups: The Eritrean

Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) led by Abdalla Idris. The NIF reportedly

provides material support and facilities for training to the EIJ. (Arab Press Service Organization, May 6,

1996.) In late 1994, Eritrean government forces killed dozens of Sudanese-backed Jihad militants inside

Eritrea, and captured several others. The Sudan-based Jihad is believed responsible for placing dozens of

land mines and for terrorist attacks inside Eritrea since late 1996. Eritrea severed diplomatic relations with

Sudan and invited Sudanese opposition groups to set up offices in Asmara in retaliation. Sudan points to

Eritrea's support for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a coalition of opposition groups, and

criticizes Asmara for handing over the Sudanese embassy building to opposition groups.

 

Ethiopia

 

Relations with Ethiopia began to deteriorate beginning in late 1994 and worsened after the assassination

attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in June 1995 in the Ethiopian capital. Ethiopia accuses

Khartoum of providing support to several Ethiopian opposition groups. The NIF regime is believed to

provide financial and material support to the Islamic fundamentalist group, el-Itahad and to the Islamic

Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO). The Somalia/Ethiopia-based el-Itahad has claimed

responsibility for the terrorist hotel bombings in the Ethiopian capital in 1997. El-Itahad was reportedly

responsible for the attempted assassination of the Ethiopian Transportation and Communications Minister

last year. El-Itahad bases along the Ethiopia-Somalia border are being used by international terrorists as

safe haven. In response, Ethiopian forces took preemptive measures inside Somalia, attacking these

training camps twice in 1997, and capturing many el-Itahad, as well as members of extremist groups from

the Middle East.

 

Uganda

 

Relations with Uganda have long been strained. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an extremist

Christian fundamentalist group operating out of southern Sudan with the support of the Sudanese army,

has been terrorizing civilians in northern Uganda for the last several years. The NIF government

reportedly arms, trains, and protects the LRA and other anti-Ugandan government groups in an effort to

oust the regime of President Yoweri Museveni, viewed as pro-American by the NIF regime. The situation

in northern Uganda is increasingly unstable and there is concern for widespread instability in the country.

The State Department has called northern Uganda a "disaster zone". The NIF government uses the LRA

to fight the SPLA in southern Sudan. In late 1995 and early 1996, the SPLA reportedly captured

hundreds of LRA members in southern Sudan. The NIF regime also reportedly backs the Zaire-based

West Nile Bank Front (WNBF), an anti-government group operating along the Zaire-Uganda border. The

NIF regime and some observers have maintained that the Ugandan government supports the SPLA in

southern Sudan and allows use of Ugandan territory for military purposes.

 

CAR, Chad and Libya

 

Sudan's relations with Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), and Libya are cordial. Relations with Chad

and CAR are warm in part because of Khartoum's ties with Paris. After the handover of Illich Ramirez

Sanchez, better known as "Carlos the Jackal," to French security personnel in Khartoum in late 1994,

cooperation between Paris and Khartoum reportedly expanded. (Journey's End. The Middle East.

October 1994.) In 1994-95, French officials in the Central African Republic (CAR), where France

maintains a military presence, reportedly facilitated the use of CAR territory by Sudanese forces to attack

SPLA positions. According to one account, French representatives also provided satellite photos of SPLA

positions and military assistance to the NIF regime. (Sudan, France and The Carlos Affair. The Middle

East International, September 23, 1994. p.19). At the United Nations, French officials often put up

obstacles to the passage of Security Council resolutions aimed at isolating the NIF regime, according to

U.S. officials.

 

Egypt

 

Sudanese-Egyptian relations became strained partly due to Sudan's Islamic fundamentalist agenda.

Relations were further strained in 1995 after the assassination attempt on President Mubarak by an

Egyptian group with ties to the government in Khartoum. While Cairo is unhappy with the NIF

government in Khartoum, Egypt's relations with Sudan are tied to its broader national interests in the

Horn of Africa, particularly its interest in the Nile and its tributaries. Egypt's policy toward the NIF

government is complicated by Cairo's mistrust of some of the NIF regime's opponents and fear of a

possible partition of Sudan. Egypt's Sudan policy seeks to balance its desire for a united Sudan and to

contain NIF's extremist agenda. In recent months, the two countries have been engaged in talks to resolve

their differences. But in August 1998, Egypt hosted Sudanese opposition groups in Cairo and leaders of

the groups met with senior Egyptian officials, including President Mubarak.

 

Sudan and Terrorism

 

Sudan is considered a rogue state by much of the world community because of its support for

international terrorism. The State Department's 1996 Patterns of Global Terrorism report said that Sudan

"continued to serve as a refuge, nexus, and training hub in 1995 for a number of international terrorist

organizations." The United States placed Sudan on the list of states that sponsor terrorism in August 1993

after an exhaustive interagency review and congressional pressure. In announcing the decision, the Clinton

Administration said Sudan "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism and allows the

use of its territory for terrorist groups." Both the Bush and Clinton Administrations had repeatedly warned

the NIF government about the activities of groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Abu Nidal, and the

Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Khartoum does not deny the presence of these groups on its territory, but

rejects Washington's description of them as terrorist organizations.

 

Sudan has also been a safe haven for major terrorist figures. A particularly noteworthy example is the

Saudi-born financier of extremist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, Osama bin

Laden. He used Sudan as a base of operations until he returned to Afghanistan in mid 1996, where he

had previously been a major financier of Arab volunteers in the war against the Soviet occupation of

Afghanistan. The GOS claims that it expelled bin Laden from Sudan due to pressures from the Middle

East and the United States. In August 1996, the State Department said bin Laden is "one of the most

significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today." According to the

Department of State, bin Laden, who was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994, "had begun financing

at least three terrorist training camps in northern Sudan by 1994," and his construction company worked

"with Sudanese military officials to transport and provision terrorist training in such camps." bin Laden

reportedly moved to Sudan shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and remained there under the

protection of the NIF government until mid-1996.

 

The Mubarak Assassination Attempt and the Role of Sudan

 

In June 1995, members of the Gama'a Islamiya, an Egyptian extremist group, tried to assassinate

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The eleven-man assassination team had

been given safe haven in Sudan to prepare for the attempted assassination of the Egyptian President. The

team was divided into two groups: nine were sent to Ethiopia to carry out the assassination; and two,

according to a statement issued by the Ethiopian government, remained in Sudan to plan and direct the

assassination of Mubarak. The weapons used in the assassination attempt were flown into Ethiopia by

Sudan Airways, according to U.S. and Ethiopian officials, although the government of Sudan denied

complicity in the foiled attempt. The passports used by the terrorists were also prepared in Khartoum,

according to a United Nations report. (See Report of the Secretary General of the United Nations

Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1044, 1996.)

 

The attempt on Mubarak's life was foiled when Ethiopian security forces killed five of the assassins and

captured three several days later. One of the accused assassins escaped to Sudan on Sudan Airways,

where he joined the two alleged conspirators who had remained in Sudan. The government of Sudan did

not deny or confirm the presence of the three suspects when confronted by Ethiopian officials in late

1995. In an effort to close the case without acknowledging complicity, the Sudan government dismissed

its Minister of Interior and reassigned some in the security services. Ethiopia's effort to settle the matter

bilaterally failed due to Khartoum's lack of cooperation on extraditing the three suspects. Ethiopia brought

the case to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in an effort to resolve the matter regionally. With

Sudan's continued intransigence, Ethiopia brought the case before the United Nations Security Council.

Although the three suspects are now believed to have left Sudan, Ethiopia, the OAU, and the U.N. insist

that it is the responsibility of the government of Sudan to hand over the suspects. Meanwhile, the other

three suspects, who had been in detention since June 1995 in Ethiopia, were sentenced to death in

September 1996. In late March 1997, Ethiopia's Federal High Court upheld the sentence.

 

The United Nations Security Council has passed three resolutions demanding the extradition of the three

suspects to Ethiopia last year. In January 1996, the Security Council passed Resolution 1044 calling on

the government of Sudan to "undertake immediate action to extradite to Ethiopia for prosecution the

three suspects sheltering in Sudan." The same resolution called on the government to "desist from

engaging in activities of assisting, supporting and facilitating terrorist activities and from giving shelter and

sanctuaries to terrorist elements." In April 1996, in the face of non-compliance by the government of

Sudan, the Council imposed a series of sanctions, including the reduction of embassy staff of Sudan and

the banning of senior officials from visiting member countries. In August 1996, the Council once again

imposed additional sanctions on the government. Resolution 1070 banned Sudan Airways from flying

outside Sudan, but called for 90 days suspension before implementation. The Council postponed

imposition of the ban again in December 1996. In early March 1997, the Council was considering

implementing the ban, but the United States and France were deadlocked over time-limited sanctions.

France is opposed to open-ended sanctions and would like the Council to review compliance periodically.

 

The U.S. Missile Attack

 

On August 20, 1998, U.S. Naval forces struck a suspected chemical weapons facility in Khartoum and a

terrorist training camp in Afghanistan in retaliation for the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania . More than 250 people were killed in the attacks, including 12 Americans. The

missile strike destroyed the al-Shifa Pharmaceutical plant and partially damaged a candy factory in the

area. The National Islamic Front government condemned the attack and called for an investigation into

the U.S. action. Pro-government groups took to the streets of Khartoum in protest of the U.S., and angry

mobs stormed the U.S. embassy, closed since 1996 due to security concerns, and destroyed U.S.

property. The Organization of African Unity and the Arab League have expressed support for an

investigation of the U.S. missile strike.

 

U.S. officials said that they have soil evidence taken from the al-Shifa facility, linking the facility with the

production of precursors for chemical weapons. Analysis of the soil taken from the facility, according to

Administration officials, contain a substance called EMPTA, a precursor for the nerve gas agent VX.

Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering argued that the substance found in the soil "is not used in

commercial applications. It does not occur naturally in the environment, and it is not a byproduct of

another chemical process." According to a report in the Los Angeles Times (August 26, 1998), "Iraq

supplied the formula and much of the know-how for the Sudanese plant's alleged work on chemical

weapons." Administration officials also point to ties between officials of Iraq's chemical weapons program

and officials of the al-Shifa plant. Emad Ani, considered the father of Iraq's chemical weapons program,

reportedly has visited the al-Shifa plant.

 

The government of Sudan accuses the United States of aggression and is lobbying to build support in

Africa and the Middle East. Some European observers have also expressed doubt about U.S. allegation.

Sudan has recalled its envoys from Washington and London. The government has received strong

support from Iraq and Libya and a Sudanese delegation was warmly received in the Libyan capital in

early September. Iraq's vice president also paid a visit to Khartoum and toured the destroyed al-Shifa

facility. The new owner of the al-Shifa facility, Saleh Idris, a Sudanese businessman, who reportedly

holds a Saudi passport, has rejected claims that his facility produced or stored precursors for chemical

weapons. According to an article in the New York Times (September 2, 1998), U.S. officials strongly

suspect a link between Idris and Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, Sudanese officials continue to argue that

Washington attacked the facility to divert attention from President Clinton's personal problems at home.

 

The United States and Sudan

 

Relations between the United States and Sudan continue to deteriorate because of Khartoum's human

rights violations, its war policy in the south, and its support for international terrorism. In 1967, Sudan

broke diplomatic relations with the United States because of American support for Israel in the Arab-Israel

war. In 1973, the U.S. Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission were assassinated in Khartoum by

members of the Black September group, who were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in Sudan.

Relations were further strained when Sudanese President Nimeri commuted the sentences of the

assassins. In response, Washington recalled its new ambassador. In the mid-1970s, in the face of Soviet

expansion in the Horn of Africa and the fall of Ethiopia into the Soviet sphere of influence, relations with

the Nimeri regime began to improve. Nimeri's support during Operation Moses, in which an estimated

7,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel through Sudan, further strengthened U.S.-Sudanese

relations, but later contributed to the ouster of Nimeri from power. Relations became strained once again

when the democratically elected government of Sadiq el-Mahdi was ousted in a military coup in 1989.

 

Since the military takeover, human rights abuses by the military junta have become a major source of

tension between the two countries. The United States has repeatedly condemned the Khartoum

government and in some cases the SPLA for human rights abuses. But American complaints have had

little success in convincing the government to improve conditions. According to the 1997 report,

Government security forces "regularly tortured, beat, harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and detained

opponents or suspected opponents of the Government with impunity." The SPLM/A "was responsible for

extrajudicial killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, forced conscription, and occasional arrests of foreign

relief workers without charge." For its part, the government has consistently denied any participation or

sanction of slavery or other human rights violations in Sudan. In March 1998, Congressman Donald

Payne introduced H.Con.Res. 234 to express the sense of Congress about human rights conditions in

Sudan, including the practice of chattel slavery.

 

The war in the south has also been a thorny issue in U.S.-Sudanese relations. Although the civil war in the

south has its root in pre-NIF governments, Washington has been frustrated with Khartoum's intransigence

concerning this issue. The Clinton Administration has been at the forefront in support of peaceful efforts

to end the civil war.

 

Another issue in U.S.-Sudanese relations is Sudan's role in support of international terrorism. Some

Members of Congress have been instrumental in pushing a tougher Sudan policy and played a key role in

the decision to put Sudan on the list of states that sponsor terrorism and to appoint a special envoy for

Sudan. The State Department rejected congressional calls for a special envoy in December 1993. The

Department argued that a U.S. special envoy would undermine regional and former President Carter's

peace efforts. In a December 6, 1993 letter to Members of Congress, the Administration said the

appointment of a special envoy "would send the erroneous impression that the U.S. is becoming directly

involved, since Khartoum has made it clear that it rejects a role by the U.S. in the peace process."

However, persistent pressure by some Members of Congress led to a reversal of State's position in early

1994, at the insistence of the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House.

 

U.S. policy toward Sudan as articulated by President Clinton in a 1996 letter to President Isaias of Eritrea

supports regional efforts and seeks to isolate the NIF regime for its "wanton" disregard for human rights,

devastating war policy in the south and support for international terrorism. The President's policy enjoys

strong bi-partisan support in Congress and in the Horn of Africa region. U.S. policy seems to have

pressured the NIF regime to make some token reforms in recent months. Although Washington does not

call for the forceful removal of the NIF regime, its support to the "frontline states" (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and

Uganda) is seen as supporting the removal of the NIF regime.

 

In May 1996, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, reportedly called Sudan

"a viper's nest of terrorism." The United States closed its embassy in Khartoum in February 1996 and

moved the remaining embassy personnel to Nairobi because of security concerns. Moreover, the U.S.

government has imposed a series of sanctions on the NIF regime over the years. Washington suspended

its assistance program after the NIF-led coup in 1989, placed Sudan on the list of states that sponsor

terrorism in August 1993, and supported United Nations Security Council sanctions on Sudan. The

Clinton Administration expelled one Sudanese embassy official, who had been based in New York, for

suspected links to an alleged plot to bomb the United Nations. (Goshko, John. Sudanese Envoy at U.N.

Ordered to Leave U.S. The Washington Post. April 11, 1996. A17.) Another Sudanese diplomat, who

was a suspect in the plot, left for Sudan.

 

On November 22, 1996, President Clinton announced the Administration's decision to ban senior

Sudanese government officials from entering the United States as called for in Security Council Resolution

1054. The Administration has been active in support of allies in the region that are affected by an

NIF-sponsored destabilization campaign. The United States has provided an estimated $20 million in

surplus U.S. military equipment to Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The non-lethal military assistance such

as uniforms and communications equipment to the "frontline states" was intended to support them in

fending off NIF's campaign of destabilization. Observers interpret Washington's support to these countries

as a measure to contain, punish, and facilitate the downfall of the fundamentalist government in

Khartoum.

 

In November 1997, the Clinton Administration imposed comprehensive sanctions on the NIF government

after an exhaustive policy review. The sanctions restrict imports or exports from Sudan, financial

transactions, and prohibit investments. In making his case for the sanctions, President Clinton stated that

"the policies and actions of the Government of Sudan, including continued support for international

terrorism; ongoing efforts to destabilize neighboring governments; the prevalence of human rights

violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom, constitute an usual and extraordinary

threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." (Text of the Executive Order can

be found by using "sudan"at the White House Executive Order Search:

http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/search/executive-orders.html.)

 

Senior officials in the Clinton Administration have reportedly come to a conclusion that the NIF

government is incapable of reform, although Washington continues to support the IGAD peace process.

Efforts to convince the so-called "moderate" elements within NIF to take negotiations seriously have

failed in large part due to NIF's continued intransigence and refusal to discuss the role of religion in

government. Peaceful resolution of the civil war in Sudan has been and continues to be an important

factor in U.S. policy toward Sudan. But resolution of southern problems will not bring an end to

Washington's other concerns. Most important is NIF's support for international terrorism and terrorist

organizations. NIF's destabilization campaign of neighboring countries is also a contentious issue in

U.S.-Sudanese relations. Khartoum's poor human rights record and its fundamentalist agenda are also

major area of concerns, according to some Clinton Administration officials. Without significant reforms in

these areas, change in U.S. policy seems unlikely at this juncture. The recent conflict between

Washington's allies in the region, Ethiopia and Eritrea, could necessitate a review of U.S. policy since it

has damaged IGAD solidarity and thus could work to the advantage of the NIF.

  

 

LEGISLATION

 

H.Con.Res. 234 (Payne, D.)

Expresses concerns about human rights situation in Sudan and Mauritania. Introduced March 4, 1998;

referred to the subcommittees on Africa and International Operations on April 22, 1998.

 

S. Res. 267 (Frist)

Expresses the sense of the Senate about humanitarian conditions in Sudan. Introduced and passed by

unanimous consent on July 31, 1998.

 

H.R. 2431 (Wolf)

Freedom of Religious Persecution Act. To establish an Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring; to

provide for the imposition of sanctions against countries engaged in a patter of religious persecution, and

for other purposes. Passed the House amended on May 14, 1998; placed on the Senate calender July 7,

1998.