Some Notes on
Bill Turnbull W.F.
The present war in the Sudan
began in 1983 but became worse in the late 1980s when the Sudan People's Liberation
Army (SPLA) gained strength and intensified their campaign. Over two million
people have died in the civil war since then - 90% of them were civilians. The
Government exploited ethnic rivalries by creating tribal militias. As the war
intensified more civilians were displaced - internally displaced people (IDPs)
and refugees - especially Southerners who fled the fighting and sought refuge
in various towns such as Juba, Malakal and Wau. 1989 brought the National Islamic
Front (NIF) coup and further escalation of the war.
In the early 1990s there
were splits within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA),
inter-ethnic fighting between Southerners and military offensives by Government
resulted in more people being displaced. The South Sudan Independence Movement/Army
broke away from the SPLA in 1991. In 1992 the Government's Popular Defence Force
(PDF) army, which is made up of various ethnic militias, resumed attacks on
the civilian population in Bahr al-Ghazal when they reopened the railway between
the north and south of Sudan. The Government offensive which followed in 1993
removed the SPLA from several areas.
Displaced People (IDP)
Last year, 1999, there were
about 4.5m. IDPs in the Sudan - the largest number for any country in the world.
(1) The population of the country, especially in
the South, has been targeted by all the factions/forces which are involved in
the civil war. (2) As happens in many wars the civilian
population is caught between the Government troops and the various opposition
groups. These all rely on the people for support, including that of food, and
if it is believed that they support the opposition then retaliation is taken
on them - 'scorched earth policy'.
In the South the inter-factional
fighting has intensified these actions and where, according to some estimates,
up to 1.5m. people are displaced. This has all disrupted the production of basic
food crops in the war zones and when there are natural disasters, such as drought
and flooding, then the situation is worsened. When humanitarian relief and medical
facilities are denied to the people then there is little hope left. The result
is that people attempt to move away from the war zones to find safety. There
has also been the forced relocation of the population by both sides and even
the deliberate demolition of displaced settlements. Food has become a weapon
of war in the Sudan - in 1998 2.6m were on the edge of starvation. (3)
In March, 1999, there were
about 1.8m displaced people, from Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, in
the official camps and the squatter settlements around Khartoum - about 40%
of Khartoum's population, according to a UN estimate. The official camps were
created by the Government in 1991. The people have to rely on labour for wages
to buy their food as they do not have any land to cultivate. 30% of the IDPs
do not have access to medical services and many have no safe drinking water
or sanitation. Between 50 and 70% of school age IDP children do not attend and
they also make up a large percentage of Khartoum's 10,000 to 15,000 street children.
Those who live in the squatter
camps have an even more precarious life than those in the official camps. They
are liable to have their shelters demolished by the Government, under the relocation
policy which began in the late 1980s. This entails destroying the 'informal
settlements' and relocating the people in temporary camps on the city's outskirts.
Between 1992 and 1998 three quarters of a million people have been forcibly
removed from the Khartoum area. The policy has been intensely enforced since
the 'National Displaced Conference', held in February, 1990, when the Government
said it would clear the city of all unauthorised settlements.
The Government defined the
legal situation of IDPs in Khartoum in 1987. Then a distinction was made between
'squatters' and 'displaced' people with 1984 as a watershed. Those who arrived
in Khartoum before 1984 were defined as 'squatters' and they had the right to
settle. Three resettlement camps - known as 'Dar es Salaam' or 'Peace Villages/Cities'
- were created for them in Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman. Those who
arrived after 1984 were known as 'displaced' people and they had no right of
residence, to build permanent shelters or to own land in Khartoum. Later 'peace
camps' were also created for the 'displaced'. The term 'displaced' was later
redefined in May, 1990, and became to mean those who had arrived in Khartoum
The concept of 'Peace Villages'
has been employed by the Government in various parts of the Sudan since 1991.
They are part of the 'Comprehensive National Strategy' to promote 'peace from
within' and to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. For example, there
are an estimated 72 'Peace Villages', with a total population of 173,000 (1999),
in South Kordofan State which is mainly under Government control. 60% of the
people in these 'villages' are thought to be Nubians. Food production, health
services, water and sanitation are inadequate in the villages and 41 of them,
with a population of 105,000, are considered 'vulnerable' by the UN.
Since 1992 the Government
have been clearing the population of the Nuba Mountains. This has been done
by blockading the mountains, which stops the Nuba people getting out and relief
agencies getting in. Government forces then capture the people and forces them
to live in the 'Peace Villages'. These are often situated close to Government
garrisons and intensive agricultural schemes - the people are controlled by
the former and used as cheap labour in the latter to produce export crops. The
people who remain end up leading a nomadic life in danger of starvation.
Many of the internally displaced
people are helped by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). OLS is an organisation
made up of the UN (4) and various international NGOs. It is
the main means by which humanitarian aid reaches people in the Sudan. The OLS
is officially one unit, managed by the UN from Khartoum, but in practice it
is divided into two sectors the Northern (Government controlled area, UN managed
from Khartoum) and Southern (area controlled by opposition forces, managed from
Nairobi). It negotiates with the various sides to allow the humanitarian agencies
to distribute aid in the war zones.
The OLS began in March,
1989, after a UN-sponsored conference on relief operations held in Khartoum.
It was formed in response to the need to assist the IDPs and after the 1987-88
famine which claimed the lives of about 0.75m people. It grew out of basic work
which was done by the Government and especially the UN after the latter arrived
in September, 1988. Gradually OLS has built up a framework for its activities
and both the Government and the SPLA have agreed to establish 'corridors of
tranquillity' for safe passage of OLS relief. In its second phase the OLS expanded
more into the South at the end of 1992.
The South Sudan Independence
Movement and several smaller factions from the south concluded 'the Khartoum
Agreement' with the Government in April, 1997. 1999 saw more peace initiatives.
There was a new round of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
(5) talks in Nairobi, 19-24 July, 1999, but they
ended without any breakthrough. It was then announced, on the 5th. August, that
they would observe a seventy-day cease fire. The Government and SPLA then extended
this by declaring a cease fire of three months on 15th. October 1999. This was
generally respected in Bahr al-Ghazal and Lakes, but there were reports of violations
in other parts of the country.
There have also been other
peace initiative on Sudan such as a joint Egypt-Libya attempt and talks involving
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki. In early December, 1999, Sudan and Uganda
agreed not to support rebel groups which have bases each other's countries,
and to respect their territorial integrity. The two Presidents, Omar Al-Bashir
(Sudan) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) signed an agreement to this effect during
talks in Nairobi, Kenya, which were mediated by Jimmy Carter, the former American
Parts of the accord include
returning prisoners of war, the locating and repatriation of refugees and people
who have been abducted, an amnesty for combatants who renounce the use of force,
the disbanding and disarming of the rebel groups, and opening of diplomatic
missions in each capital.
Uganda broke off diplomatic
relations with Sudan in 1994. The situation between the two countries was caused
when Uganda accused Sudan of aiding the 'Lord's Resistance Army' and the 'Allied
Democratic Forces' who are trying to overthrow the Government of President Museveni.
In turn Sudan accuses Uganda of supporting the 'Sudan People's Liberation Army'
(SPLA) which is fighting for the autonomy of the southern part of the country.
- The Africa Policy Information
Center (APIC), Washington DC., USA; United Nations Agencies; US Committee
for Refugees ( USCR); Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; Vigilance
Soudan; Voice of America; The Independent; information on IDPs at http://www.idpproject.org/sites/idpsurvey.nsf/wcountries/Sudan
(1) The figures in plain text
are from USCR, those in italics from UNHCR, and those within brackets are
the people helped by UNHCR. At the end of 1998 the estimated number of Sudanese
refugees, a total of 350,000, in neighbouring countries was as follows: 34-35,000
[34,000] in Central African Republic, 8,700-10,000 [8,600]
in Chad, 30-31,200 [22,000] in D. R. Congo, 1,900-2,000 [1,900]
in Egypt, 48,200-60,000 in Ethiopia, 45-48,200 [48,000] in Kenya,
and 170-189,800 [169,800] in Uganda. Many more Sudanese exiles live
in the various countries but do not have official refugee status. In its turn
the Sudan is host to about 360,000 refugees from surrounding countries, the
estimates are as follows: 4,400-5,000 from Chad, 330-3,000
 from D. R. Congo, 320-342,300 [147,300] from Eritrea, 30-35,600
[11,900] from Ethiopia, and 2,000 from Uganda. Return
Sudanese Army (Popular Defence Force [PDF]), the SPLM/A, SPLA (SPLA, SPLA United,
Concern was expressed by many when the US government passed a law to supply
separate aid to the Rebels in Southern Sudan. Return
OLS coordinates work between various UN agencies such as WFP, the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
IGAD includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Return
This article appeared in "White Fathers - White Sisters" (UK),
issue 351, of April-May, 2000.
The article may be published freely with due acknowledgements
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