[Documents menu] Documents menu

From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Sun Aug 27 15:24:18 2000
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 22:53:27 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: RIGHTS-SUDAN: Sudan’s Protracted War
Article: 103528
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Sudan’s Protracted War

By Judith Achieng’, IPS, 25 August 2000

NAIROBI, Aug 25 (IPS)—Their life is one of constant fear.

Always straining their ears to catch the sound of a Russian-made Antonov hovering in the sky, a sound whose meaning they know only too well.

The planes are used frequently by the Islamic government of Sudan, to drop bombs in areas controlled by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebels fighting for self determination in the southern past of the country.

When they hit the ground, the bombs explode into shrapnel, scattering all around and destroying everything in their path.

The people of southern Sudan have known no peace since independence in 1956. However their problems worsened when the current war broke out in 1983, after the government imposed Islamic Sharia law throughout the country.

When government planes are not bombing their homes, churches and schools, armed Arab militias on horseback spread terror throughout the villages, killing men, raping women and taking away their domestic animals.

The conflict in Sudan is one in which all known rules of war have constantly been violated. And, in which, more than two million civilians have died, both directly, and from war induced starvation.

The hope among Sudanese refugees of returning to homes has been replaced by despair. Most are convinced that the world has turned a blind eye to the conflict in their country, which has reached genocide proportions.

Genocide, is described as the policy of deliberately killing a nationality or ethnic group—a definition which fits the description of violations carried out in Southern Sudan.

Comparisons have been drawn between Sudan’s war and the ethnic wars in the Balkans, to which the international community acted swiftly.

Yet, the Sudanese conflict remains the least highlighted in the international media.

We have been left on our own for too long. We know we have been sacrificed for historical convenience, regrets Thomas Taban, a Sudanese exile in Nairobi.

Systematic killings and organised elimination of people, is a fact most of us have grown up with. (Only) now it has become bold, someone can go (in)to the air and rain bombs and still get away with it, he says.

Taban particularly points an accusing finger at Britain, Sudan’s former colonial power, which, he says, has taken no interest in the conflict, yet is directly responsible for the conflict, by creating division between the North and the South.

Britain is not talking about Sudan, yet they know what they did there. They treated the South and North as two separate countries, and suddenly brought them together, he regrets.

Independent observers, too, are convinced that the military regime in Khartoum is on a more deadly mission, besides fighting the rebel group, clearly describing it as a policy of genocide.

Last year Tom Osanjo, a Kenyan journalist, travelled to Southern Sudan and described what he saw.

On the day I was there, an Antonov passed, it did not drop bombs, but people took off into shelters. If you don’t run, you get hit. Even children know the holes very well, he says.

Besides the bombs, according to Osanjo, the planes deliberately poison fresh water sources, upon which villages depend, for their domestic use.

Sometimes they see a pond from far and they drop chemicals to poison it, he told IPS.

Besides the bombing, Khartoum has frequently banned relief flights, whose timing have often resulted in humanitarian disasters in the region.

Last year, the SPLA sent out an alert that Khartoum was using chemical weapons in some rebel held towns in the South, a call largely treated as cry wolf.

The UN humanitarian office in Nairobi, which sent a team of experts to the south, dismissed the claims after investigations, despite reports that a number of people had developed respiratory complications and died after inhaling the chemicals.

Anybody who has had a glimpse of the scenes of bombardments on a television screen would find it difficult not to sympathise with the SPLA, notes Charles Omondi, who works for the Nairobi based Sudan Catholic Information.

People of goodwill, out of sheer frustration, have wondered aloud why the international community cannot help the rebels acquire anti-aircraft missiles for self defence.

Aerial bombardments have recently increased in intensity, with relief centres, compounds and planes belonging to international humanitarian agencies becoming new targets.

The attacks intensified soon after Khartoum announced that all relief operations to the south should operate from Khartoum, instead of their usual operating base in northern Kenya, in breach of a tripartite agreement signed with the UN in 1989.

NGO’s operating under the UN umbrella, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), have protested against the attacks.

The SPLA claims that the bombing of relief centres and frequent flight bans, are a part of president Omar El Bashir’s genocide campaign to drive out humanitarian workers and let the southern people starve.

These terrorist acts are intended to disrupt humanitarian operations in the New Sudan so as to create hunger and starvation as part of the war strategy, a statement from SPLA says.

The use of food, as a weapon of war, as well as targeting of civil population must not be tolerated, the rebel spokesperson in Nairobi, Samson Kwaje, said.

By using starvation as a method of war, the NIF government is declaring a war on the civil population instead of fighting SPLA as an armed opponent and the main protagonists.

General Bashir should know that there is no war between his regime and NGOs. The war is between NIF and army and the SPLA.

A regional initiative to resolve the conflict, under the Inter Governmental Authority on Drought (IGAD), the body charged with mediation, has been frustrated by the Islamic government’s new interest in an initiative brokered by Arab allies, Egypt and Libya.

Khartoum has openly expressed its discomfort with IGAD, and feels that the regional body is not sufficiently neutral to undertake genuine and impartial mediation among Sudanese belligerents.

The government takes the lion’s share of the blame for the failure of the IGAD peace process.

Khartoum has appeared particularly evasive on the touchy issue of separating the state and religion when it is all too apparent that this holds the key to ending the stalemate, Omondi recently noted in a commentary published by the Daily Nation independent newspaper in Kenya.