Sudanese Catholic Information Office
P.O.Box 21102 - Nairobi - Kenya
Tel. 00254 - 2 - 562247
fax. 00254 - 2 - 566668
SCIO, May 15, 1999
Sudan Monthly Report
May 15, 1998
2. Epidemic now identified
3. Government reneges on promise to the Nuba
April 17: Peace talks between Sudan's Islamic junta and rebels from
the mainly black south are scheduled to resume in Nairobi on April
20, Kenyan officials said. The negotiations, under the auspices of
the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development
(IGAD), are expected to end on April 25.
17: Presidents of Sudan and Eritrea have sat down together for
their first meeting in years, apparently in an attempt to ease tension
between the two east African countries. Libyan leader Col.
Muammar Gaddafi participated in talks in Tripoli, the Libyan
capital, Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported.
20: Sudan's government has decided indefinitely to postpone peace
negotiations with the SPLA, which were due to open in Nairobi on
April 20. The decision was due to the "murder by the SPLA of four
Sudanese working with the Red Cross last month'', according to an
unidentified government source cited by Al-Anbaa daily.
20: Sudanese assistant president Riek Machar said both parties had
agreed to postpone talks for two weeks for "more consultations for
bringing their viewpoints closer." Mr. Machar, chairman of the
South Sudan Co-ordination Council, added that the IGAD
committee chaired by a representative of Kenyan president Daniel
arap Moi would make contacts with the government and SPLA for
"narrowing the gap" between the rival sides.
21: The SPLA has said it was greatly disappointed by the
government's decision to postpone peace talks. Khartoun decided
to postpone the negotiations with the SPLA, because the rebels had
"murdered" Sudanese Red Crescent workers and refused to hand
over their bodies to the government.
23: Sudanese authorities freed a prominent anti-government lawyer
from jail only to promptly put him back behind bars when he
refused to sign a pledge of good behaviour , a Khartoum newspaper
reported . The lawyer , Ghazi Suleiman, who is also leader of the
opposition National Alliance for the Restoration of Demcracy, was
originally jailed for 15 days for taking part in an illegal assembly
outside the Khartoum Bar Association, the official Sudanese News
26: Sudan has renewed a partial cease-fire in the southern Bahr
el-Ghazal region to allow relief teams to cope with a devastating
famine and reiterated a call for a comprehensive truce. At the same
time, Sudan rebels are claiming victory against Khartoum
government but their military advance has slowed dramatically,
according to observers of the conflict.
26: Sudan rebels are claiming a series of mini-victories in their
struggle against the Khartoum government but their military
advance has slowed dramatically, according to observers of the
conflict. The SPLA is boasting about recent success close to the
Ethiopian border but is making almost no progress towards its main
target, the southern city of Juba, hundreds of kilometres further
26: The SPLA has reacted warily to reports from Khartoum of a
new mediation effort by former vice-president Abel Alier. Sudanese
foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said Alier had met SPLA
leader John Garang in London and Uganda , and had also been in
contact with the government, state radio reported.
26: Col. Gaddafi met a delegation from the Sudanese opposition
National Democratic Alliance in Tripoli. Former Sudanese prime
minister Sadeq al-Mahdi whose government was overthrown in a
coup by president Bashir in 1989 led the delegation
27: Over 4,00 returnees are facing food shortages in the Liethnon
area of Bahr el Ghazal state, according to World Food Programme.
In its latest weekly report, the UN food agency said around 4,800
returnees could no longer depend on kinship for their food needs.
30: More than 180 people have died of cholera in southern Sudan's
Akobo area since April 6 when the first cases were cited,
humanitarian workers in the region said. A doctor with the New
Sudan Council of Churches, Margaret Ito, said many of them died
because they could not make it to the hospital in Akobo.
30: Sudan will resume peace talks with southern rebels in Nairobi
next month, a government official said in Khartoum. The official,
who asked not to be named, said the talks, originally scheduled for
April 20, were likely to start on May 10, now that the government
had heard the proposals of former vice-president Alier, trying to
mediate in the conflict.
May 3: The Sudanese government has rejected a peace initiative
from Alier, Sudan's minister of state for culture and information
Amin Hassan Omar has said. "The government cannot and will not
accept confederal proposals," Omar said in the pro-government
Alwan newspaper, adding that Alier's proposals ignored the
Khartoum peace agreement and violated the constitution.
3: Sudan's president arrived in the Qatari capital Doha where he is
expected to meet his Eritrean counterpart in a Qatari mediation bid
in the conflict between the two African countries. Omar el-Bashir
arrived in Doha one day after Eritrea's president Isayas Afeworki
held talks with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
4: A top Sudanese politician is holding peace talks in Geneva with
an exiled opposition leader whose party is working with Sudan's
biggest rebel group to oust the government, the party said. It is the
first meeting between parliament speaker Hassan Turabi and former
prime minister Al-Mahdi since he fled Sudan in 1996.
4: The International Red Cross has described as "furious" the
spread of meningitis in the seven worst-affected states in eastern
Sudan where more than one million people are at risk of catching
the disease. The worst-affected states are white Nile, Gezira,
Sennar, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile and Red Sea Province.
5: Sudan wants a joint committee with Eritrea to meet within a
month to try to resolve security and political disputes, the
Khartoum daily newspaper, Al-Anbaa said. The pro-government
paper quoted Hassan Abdin, under-secretary at the foreign ministry
as saying Sudan had proposed dividing the committee into two- a
political committee and a security committee.
5: A Sudanese government plane bombed the compound of an
NGO Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL) in Yei, wounding one
person and destroying property worth over $10,000. A UNICEF
press release said six bombs fell on the compound injuring one of
25 trainees who were attending an awareness workshop organised
by UNICEF and OSIL
6: Asmara had denied that its forces shelled a Sudanese village
along the countries' joint border. A report in a Sudanese
government-owned newspaper Al-Anbaa, said the attack took place
in Rasai region, but the BBC quoted an Eritrean government
spokesman as saying the report was totally false and made no sense
in the wake of a reconciliation accord.
6: Khartoum has sent out the first batch of "protectors of oil
Brigade" mujahadeen (Islamic volunteers ) to defend the industry,
army spokesman Lt..Gen. Mohammed Osman Yassin said on
Sudanese TV. He accused the SPLA "and those who supply them
with funds and equipment" of wanting to deny the Sudanese people
their resources." Sudan is building a 1,000 mile oil pipeline from
southern oilfields to Port Sudan and plans to export its first
shipment of crude oil by June 30.
6: The death toll from a meningitis outbreak has risen to nearly
1,500 in the past week, the Sudanese health minister told
parliament. Mahdi Babour Nimir said more than 20,000 people
have been infected since the outbreak in December, according to
the Akhbar Al-Youm daily.
6: Sudan said today it hoped the United States would pay
compensation after unfreezing the assets of the businessman whose
factory it bombed last year over chemical weapons charges. "The
American decision confirms the baselessness of the charges against
Sudan and the faulty attack on Al-Shifa medicine factory on the
allegations that it was making chemical weapons," said Mr. Ali
Abdel -Rahman Nimeiri, a state foreign minister.
6: Sudan has accused Eritrea of shelling a village along their border
after the two countries signed an accord to try to improve relations,
a newspaper reported.
7: Sudanese pro-government militias were quoted on Thursday as
saying they had clashed with the army in a battle for control of oil
fields in the south of the country. The pro-government newspaper
Alwan quoted the leader of the Southern Sudan Defence Force
group of militias Riek Machar as saying there had been skirmishes
this week between the two sides in the Kabah area of the Unity
7: The NDA said its forces killed 64 government troops and
captured 83 others in fighting in eastern Sudan's Kassala state. The
troops were killed or taken prisoner when they tried to re-capture a
garrison in Rasai region in northern Kassala, the NDA said in a
message received by AFP in Cairo.
7: Al-Turabi said in remarks published that Al-Mahdi would return
home soon after a self-imposed exile that began in January 1997.
Mr. Turabi, who met Mr. Mahdi in Geneva earlier, said Sudan
would soon see the fruits of his talks with the former premier.
11: More than 250 southern rebels and some 800 civilians have fled
to government-controlled areas in southern Sudan, state-run radio
reported. The 253 members of the SPLA and 840 civilians fled to
the town of Kapoeta, 1,200 kilometres south of Khartoum, the
11: Al-Mahdi said after meeting Egyptian foreign minister Amr
Moussa that political efforts were under way to solve his
strife-racked country's problems. "I believe steps are being taken
towards a political solution to the problems facing Sudan," he said.
10: The leaders of Sudan and Ethiopia held talks in Djibouti to try
to improve the cool relations between the two countries, Sudanese
state Radio Omdurman said. It said presidents Al-Bashir and Meles
Zenawi of Ethiopia met on the sidelines of inauguration of
Djibouti's new president, Isamil Omar Guelleh.
10: Armed Sudanese have taken 23 oil experts captive during
nearly a week of battling the government in the southern town of
Bentiu, a southern rebel spokesman said. The 23 hostages
apparently were working for the Chinese National Petroleum
Company. It was not clear whether all were Chinese nationals or
precisely when they were taken captive.
10: Peace talks scheduled in Kenya between southern Sudan rebels
and the Sudanese government has been postponed indefinitely, a
rebel spokesman said. "The talks have been officially postponed by
the convenors," said Samson Kwaje
12: Sudanese rebels have accused government forces of bombing
two civilian relief centres in southern Equatoria state, killing two
men and two women and wounding three children. The SPLA said
in a statement issued in Nairobi that an Antonov flying at high
altitude dropped the bombs on the Loka and Lainya centres on the
road between the towns of Juba and Yei.
12: The WFP "pipeline" of food aid in Sudan will dry up
substantially in August, at the peak of the hunger gap when supplies
of locally-produced foods are unavailable, with the level of funding
currently available, a situation report from the agency warned. The
agency reported that while the overall nutritional situation has
improved in many parts of southern Sudan, that could easily be
reversed by a deterioration in the security situation.
12: Sudan's defence minister Gen Abdel Khetin has claimed that
forces in Uganda are "poised for an assault" on southern Sudan.
Speaking at a meeting of the parliamentary defence and security
committee, Khetim said there were "hostile gatherings in Uganda
posed for an assault on the southern front".
12: The promised return to Sudan of former president Gaffaar
Nimeiri brought thousands of supporters onto the streets of
Khartoum, media sources in the capital reported. Nimeiri, who has
lived in Cairo since his overthrow in 1985, was quoted as saying he
hoped to return to Sudan between May 17 and 24.
12: President El-Bashir has cancelled a planned meeting in Cairo
between his top deputy , first vice-president Ali Osman Mohammed
Taha and Mohammed Osman Al-Mirghani, chairman of the
opposition NDA , claiming that its disclosure by the media led to
the decision . "There are foreign hands and ill-intentioned people
who do not want a detente and resolution of differences among
people of Sudan," he said.
12: A meeting of the Technical Committee on Humanitarian
Assistance (an offshoot of the IGAD process), which was
postponed in April, has been rescheduled for May 25-26 in Oslo.
13: Sudan has played down media reports that the 1997 peace
agreement has been under severe strain by recent fighting over the
control of oilfields in the state of Unity, and that the United
Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) wants the pact revised.
2. Epidemic now identified
Investigations by an international team in March/April have
confirmed the epidemic that has ravaged Rumbek County since last
year as louse-borne relapsing fever. Consequently, a plan of
outbbreak control has been constituted in consideration of the local
circumstances. The action plan is "based on local surveillance,
tiered responses by primary health care personnel and community
health workers supported by NGOs," according to a preliminary
report of the investigation team. The team comprised Rumishael
Shoo, M. Ryan and P. Tharmahornpilas from the World Health
Organisation (WHO), D. Dennis, K. Orloski and D. O'Leary of
Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and M. Kiruga from Operation
Lifeline Sudan (OLS).
The fatal malaria-like epidemic is characterised by high fever,
headache, chills, severe joint pains and prostration, often
complicated by jaundice and bleeding. The report defines relapsing
fever as a severe febrile disease usually lasting 2-3 weeks. The
complication, the report goes on, is caused by Borrelia recurrentis,
a bacterium and is transmitted by body lice. Relapsing fever's
incubation period is about a week and about 20 per cent of
untreated cases die. In southern Sudan, medical facilities are far and
wide and the few in existence are often ill-equipped and with
inadequate qualified personnel. An effective treatment
recommended by the report is a single dose of simple antibiotics
(erythromycin, tetracycline of doxycycline). Preventive measures
include improvement of personal hygiene and elimination of
transmission agents by the use of insecticides. An earlier
investigation conducted in January by six NGOs had confirmed an
outbreak of a mysterious epidemic throughout the Sudanese county
and suspected a viral cause. However, laboratory results proved
negative for viral fevers.
As the epidemic continued to wreak havoc, WHO and OLS stepped
in, sending a small team to carry out a preliminary investigation and
to collect further laboratory specimens. Extensive testing of the
samples was carried out at the Kenya Medical Research Institute,
Nairobi, and at the National Institute of Virology in South Africa. A
number of the samples were positive for Borrelia sp which causes
the relapsing fever.
This month (April) a combined WHO, CDC and OLS team was
formed to carry out an epidemiological investigation to confirm the
cause of the outbreak, identify effective surveillance and control
measures and assist the NGOs to put in place effective surveillance
and control measures.
Though accurate statistics on the number of lives claimed by the
epidemic are not readily available, it is believed to have caused
hundreds of deaths. The situation in southern Sudan, says the
report, presented major challenges in carrying out a rapid and
extensive control programme because;
-the cases were scattered over wide areas and occurring in many
places at once
-health care coverage is far from complete and water for personal
hygiene is scarce and
-the logistics of moving around are difficult as there are no roads,
vehicles are few and there is insecurity
Sudan has been at war since 1983 with the mostly Christian and
animist south rising up against domination by the Arab-Muslim
north. The civil strife has claimed an estimated 1.9 million lives and
displaced thousands of others.
The final report on the deadly epidemic will be available in two to
three weeks. The Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek,
Monsignor Caesar Mazzolari, said in Nairobi early this year that in
the month of January alone, the epidemic claimed 580 lives.
3. Government reneges on promise to the Nuba
The government of Sudan is yet to live up to the promise it made
last year to allow relief aid into the parts of the Nuba Mountains
controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
Consequently, the food situation in the affected areas remains a
matter of grave concern.
According to a recent report on the region, despite the relatively
good rains of last year, over 30, 000 people (about 10 per cent of
the population) were at a risk of severe food shortages from the
beginning of this year. This figure, the report pointed out, was
bound to rise with time as military action continues to destroy
villages and household grain stores.
Of much concern, the report states, "is the fact that due to the
constraints imposed by military action and the denial of
humanitarian access, it will be near impossible to respond to the
relatively modest requirements of those at risk this year".
To further confirm that they had reneged on the promise made to
the UN secretary-general Koffi Annan in Khartoum in May last
year, the Islamic government has recently attacked the Nuba
people's umbilical cord- the bush airstrips through which the SPLA
and the few dare-devil relief agencies and missionaries replenish the
The report titled Food Security in the Nuba Mountains-Existing
Realities and Trends, was compiled following a one-day workshop
attended by a range of agencies and individuals with interest and
knowledge of the central Sudanese region.
Among the agencies represented at the talks held in Nairobi were
Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Society (NRRDS),
Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), Christian Aid
and Concern World Wide.
For the Nuba people remaining in their homelands in Southern
Kordofan, the report says, food security has been steadily
deteriorating since the start of the war.
The Sudanese military regime of General Omar Hassan el-Bashir,
which came to power in 1989, has resorted to isolating the Nuba in
order to deny the SPLA their (Nuba) support.
Consequently, the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and the other
relief and Christian agencies operating in Sudan have not been
allowed to extend their operations to the Nuba Mountain areas
under the SPLA control.
The resultant desperation has seen thousands of Nuba people
relocate to the government side and other areas in their fight for
In addition, thousands of the Nuba have been forcibly uprooted
from their villages to the government's "peace camps''. In the
camps, they are forced to abandon their culture, they are used as
slaves, and men are forcibly conscripted into the government forces
and women and girls given to the Arab soldiers as concubines. The
latter further serves to ensure that the next generation is more Arab
Those who have remained in their homeland have been forced to
abandon their traditional farming lands on the fertile plains and
move en masse into the mountains, which act as natural fortresses
with only few access routes. The routes, which are unlikely to be
known to the enemy, are under strict surveillance of the Nuba
Today, all the Nuba subsistence farming depends on cultivation off
shallow stony soils on steep slopes with the inevitable paltry
The situation has further been compounded by lack of access to
new crop types and varieties or appropriate technologies to deal
with the new challenges.
Labour availability continues to be weakened by poor health and
the additional constraints imposed by a weakened natural resource
base, with more and more time having to be spent collecting water
The transfer of labour from the agricultural sector to the military
has not made things any better. This, says the report, has left the
innumerable women and female headed households particularly
The report also paints a gloomy picture of the environmental
degradation in the Nuba Mountains. It expalins: "Even with the
high level of out-migration, the effect of the remaining Nuba
population on their immediate environment has been pronounced.''
The extensive clearance and cultivation of steep mountain slopes
for a decade has initiated a dangerous trend of spiralling natural
resource degradation. With only limited experience and skills of the
soil and water conservation techniques required to ensure
sustainable production systems, Nuba farmers are inadvertently
provoking serious erosion of top soil, soil nutrient depletion and
damage to soil structure and water holding capacity. The problem is
exacerbated since the areas available for cultivation are limited ,
both because of topography and military action.
The Nuba are a collection of about 50 language groups. Though
centrally placed in Sudan, they have chosen to be part of the south
in the protracted civil war. The definition of their homeland, an
area of about 48,000 square kilometres, remains one of the most
contentious issues in the Sudanese peace talks under the auspices of
the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development
Originally numbering about 2 million people, the Nuba population
has since slumped to under 400,000 courtesy of massive
out-migration prompted by perpetual food shortages and general
When Khartoum made the promise to Mr. Annan last year, the
Nuba people greeted it with scepticism. The SPLA governor of the
Southern Kordofan, Commander Yusuf Kuwa dismissed it as a
desperate attempt by a besieged government to paint itself in better
He said: "I highly doubt whether the Sudanese government has
suddenly become more humane. For the last 10 years, we have
unsuccessfully advocated for this and so have OLS and numerous
other concerned parties."
Contacted for a comment on what became of the promise to Mr.
Annan, OLS spokeslady Gillian Wilcox said Khartoum insists the
UN assessment team will only be allowed to the Nuba Mountains
after the IGAD technical committee meeting earlier scheduled to be
held early May.
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.562247 - fax +254.2.566668 -
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.562247 or 569130, fax 566668