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Sudan: News & Views, 23
Sudan: News & Views, 23
Date Distributed (ymd): 970224
Document reposted by APIC
SUDAN NEWS & VIEWS
Issue No 23, January 1997 (Excerpts)
'Sudan News & Views' is an independent electronic Newsletter
working to advocate peace, human rights and humanitarian aid
for the Sudan. Editor: Dr. Yasin Miheisi. Distribution is
free of charge. Reposting and reproduction are allowed (with
acknowledgement). Comments and Subscription Requests To:
All issues of SNV, and a variety of additional information on
the Sudan, can be obtained from the following web site:
Excerpted here: Sudan Government Faces a Major Opposition
Challenge, Sudan and Ethiopia, Tensions with Neighbours
Not included here, but available in full issue: Arab and
International Reaction, Sudan's Armed Forces, Economic
Pointers, Short News Items
SUDAN GOVERNMENT FACES A MAJOR OPPOSITION CHALLENGE
The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), along with the
National Democratic Alliance (NDA), launched its first
combined major offensive on Jan. 12.
In a surprise attack, which started 5.30 a.m. Sunday 12 Jan.,
the SPLA forces , deploying heavy weaponry, captured Kurmuk
and Gaissan, two key garrisons on the border with Ethiopia.
Simultaneously, a joint force of the NDA under a joint
military command composed of the Umma Party, the DUP
(Democratic Unionist Party), the SAF (Sudan Alliance Forces),
the Beja Congress, and the Tana Brigade of the SPLA, managed
to capture the army garrisons at Yakuru, Babsheer and Menza
in the northern Blue Nile area.
In less than a week, the opposition joint forces had advanced
to within 30 km of the key eastern town of Damazin, site of
the main hydroelectric dam which supplies Khartoum with most
of its power. En route, the NDA forces managed to seize
several towns and garrisons in the Blue Nile area which also
include Al-Kali, Daim Mansour, Shali al-Fil, Ora, Abu
Shanena, Maban, Kotneb, Togan, Yarda and Darfa.
On a separate front, NDA forces attacked along the Eritrean
border near the town of Kassala. and captured the army
garrison of Godamayeb.
According to NDA statements, their forces managed to destroy
four Sudan army brigades, and they now control around 1,500
square miles, or 15 per cent of Blue Nile state. The
government only admitted to losing the towns of Kurmuk and
Garang, speaking by satellite telephone from near Kurmuk on
the Ethiopian border, told reporters that, in addition to
killing 1,260 government soldiers, rebels seized a large
quantity of weapons, including tanks, artillery pieces and
ammunition. He, however, had lost 92 fighters.
A communique circulated on 23 Jan., and signed by Dr. John
Garang, chairman of the NDA Joint Military Command, said they
captured 12 T-55 tanks, eight 122mm howitzer guns, nine 120mm
mortar bombs, three 12-Matra 107mm rockets, six 106mm
anti-tank guns, fifteen 82-mm mortar bombs, forty nine
rocket-propelled grenades, four American-made bazookas,
thirty three DSHK machine guns, thirty four PGM guns, 677
AK-47 rifles, 212 G3 rifles, 20 lorries, 12 field
communication radio sets and a huge quantity of assorted
ammunition and a quantity of anti-tank and anti-personnel
The advance of the opposition forces was met with little
resistance from the government army, which seems to retreat
infront of the NDA advance. The only instance of resistance
occurred at the town of Keili, 100 km south of Damazin where
the government sent an army detachment to try and block the
opposition advance towards the dam. In a fierce battle that
took place, 150 government troops were killed. In Maban
garrison the government troops fled from the area
More than a thousand members of the government army militia,
the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) had surrendered and are now
fighting along opposition forces.
Initially, it was reported that the objective of the offensive
is to pressure the Khartoum government and pave the way for
a popular uprising. It was also indicated that an objective
on the northeastern front was to cut communications between
Khartoum and Port Sudan, the country's only big port.
Following these initial successes, the NDA forces seem to have
lost their momentum and the situation on the eastern border
remained calm for the past few weeks. The opposition's
stand, however, is to continue the war until the regime of
Omar al-Bashir is overthrown.
The offensive was a big blow to the regime, which had always
dismissed the opposition as ineffective and could not pose a
military challenge. Although, proved wrong by the recent
developments, the Khartoum government insisted on maintaining
the same line and accused Ethiopia of invading the Sudanese
The government announced a general mobilization and called for
a jihad to fight the 'invaders.' For two weeks, hundreds of
trucks of army recruits and volunteers, including students
and women, have been heading to the front.
Several demonstrations were held in the capital in support of
President Omar el-Bashir's call, but the turnout was small
with only several hundred people attending each rally.
'What is going on in the eastern front is a Zionist,
imperialist plot being implemented by Eritrea and Ethiopia
aimed at setting up a secular African state in Sudan instead
of the present state,' said Bashir addressing a rally of
supporters waving axes and copies of the Koran in the air.
Bashir promised to liberate every inch of the homeland and
drive the invaders out. 'The army now has the initiative on
all fronts and the next few days will witness the complete
destruction of the Tigrean (Ethiopian) troops,' he added.
The government media began to publish vague reports of army
victories, which had been denied by opposition sources who
described them as 'blatant lies designed to boost the low
morale of its forces'.
'The armed forces have made a big advance at the battle
fronts,' said the government newspaper al-Sudan al-Hadith.
'They have confined the Tigrean (Ethiopian) forces to a
narrow area to the west of the towns of Kurmuk and Gaissan,
forcing the Tigrean forces to retreat to rear positions.'
The Sudanese government-owned al-Ingaz al-Watani newspaper
said Sudanese forces killed 63 Eritrean soldiers and seized
a large amount of arms in the eastern state of Kassala. It
did not say when.
Although the president and his ministers vowed that
celebrations of Eid al-Fitr (marking the end of the holy
month of Ramadan) will be held in Kurmuk, the Eid passed
(8-11 February) without the promised counterattack by the
government taking place. The media had even been instructed
not to refer to this promise. The only action from the
government was dropping several off-target bombs from
high-altitude Antonov warplanes on areas lost by the army.
The focus of preparations for the army's counterattack has
been Blue Nile capital Damazin, where thousands of recruits
were amassed in the small town. In addition, more than 30,000
thousand displaced by the fighting, sought refuge in Damazin,
causing severe strain on the town's limited resources.
Thousands others were also reportedly crossing over into
Ethiopia to escape the fighting.
Continuing his call for everyone in the country to support the
government in its military efforts, the Sudanese leader
requested all federal and state ministers, governors and the
directors general of national corporations to go and lead
the Mujahedins in the war. 'I want all ministers, governors,
and directors to be in the front lines. They are the first
to die,' he said.
So far, about 10 out of the country's 26 governors, and
several ministers, have reported to Damazin.
Unsure of the army officers' allegiance, the government is
heavily relying on the PDF. This was highlighted by the
appointment of a civilian, Omar Abdel Marouf al-Majzoub, as
minister of state for defence. Majzoub was a popular defence
and national service coordinator and also a member of the
National Islamic Front.
The opposition's hope for a popular uprising had not
materialized either. A few incidents of protests however were
Students at the University of Sudan demonstrated on campus on
Jan. 15 and 16 in support of the NDA but were dispersed by
the riot police. During the demonstrations, the students
carried placards calling on the government to step down.
'Welcome (SPLA leader) Col. John Garang, down with the
Islamic government,' read one placard.
All universities were closed on Jan. 15 to allow students to
participate in the holy war. Only 250 students from the
University of Khartoum answered the call.
Leaflets also appeared in the streets of Khartoum criticizing
the government's record since it seized power in 1989 and
calling for mobilization against it. The leaflets were in the
name of the old trade unions
The state security forces arrested hundreds of politicians,
trade unionists and students in major towns all over the
Although under extreme pressure to liberate the occupied
areas, the government seems to be hesitant to risk launching
a counterattack. The wait is probably for arms shipments from
Iran and China to arrive. A confrontation in a decisive
battle between the government and the opposition forces is
SUDAN AND ETHIOPIA
The Sudanese government has accused Eritrea and Ethiopia of
involvement in 'a Zionist and imperialist plot' to overthrow
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs however, denied the
allegation adding that, 'No one knows better than the
Sudanese authorities themselves that the accusation has no
basis and that Ethiopia has no hand in what is obviously a
military setback suffered by the authorities in Khartoum.
Sudan is trying to externalize its internal military debacle'
The statement issued by the ministry 14 January said.
Relations between Sudan and Ethiopia deteriorated following
the assassination attempt against Hosni Mubarak in Addis
Ababa in June 1995, in which Sudan is implicated.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified 8 January
all Sudanese diplomats in Addis Ababa that they were no
longer allowed to go outside the city.
The move came in response to a 'provocative and malicious'
statement made by Mr. Ali Hassan Ali, the Sudan Charge
d'Affaires to Somalia. In its letter to the Sudanese
government, the ministry accused Mr. Ali of having, 'Urged
Somalis to take up arms and fight Ethiopia in a Jihad (holy
war) to counter the recent operation by Ethiopian armed forces
against the fundamentalist Al-Ithad Al- Islami group'.
The letter noted that the statement made by Mr. Ali was seen
as 'a hostile act directed against the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Ethiopia and as such would like to
request the Government of the Sudan to disassociate itself
from the provocative statement by its diplomat in
The war of words between the two countries continued unabated,
and Sudan threatened to activate the tens of thousands of
Ethiopians and Eritreans who live in Sudan and are opposed to
their respective governments.
'Inshallah (God willing), we are not going to keep silent. We
will respond badly to those regimes which are plotting in
Asmara, Kampala and Addis Ababa,' the Sudanese President,
Omar Hassan al Bashir, said. 'We will give arms to their
opposition leaders,' said the Sudanese leader on national
When Hassan al-Turabi was asked by al-Quds newspaper reporter
whether they will supply the Ethiopian and Eritrean
opposition with weapons to change the regime in their
countries, he answered 'Yes. The opposition is already
Justice Minister, Abdel Basit Sabdrat, repeated Sudanese
government charges that Ethiopia and Eritrean forces were
behind the fighting. 'There is an Eritrean plan to set up a
state including parts of Sudan, Djibouti and the three
islands (disputed with Yemen),' he said. 'And Ethiopia is a
thorn in the Arab community of the Red Sea.'
Sudan's ambassador to Britain, Omer Bareedo, added the United
States and Israel to the list and accused them of encouraging
neighbouring countries to attack it.
Bareedo said some 20 tanks and 6,000 soldiers took part in the
offensive, using 'the tactics of a regular army not a
guerrilla war.' 'The magnitude of the operation is not
available to the guerrilla movement,' he said. 'The attacks
are quite systematic'.
The Foreign Minister, Ali Osman Taha, on a radio interview
said, when asked whether he has evidence to prove charges of
Israel's involvement, 'The plane that went down some weeks
ago off the Comoro Islands coast - an Ethiopian plane with a
number of Israeli experts on board - was direct evidence of
Despite the heated Sudanese rhetoric, and Bashir's statement
that all political and diplomatic channels to Ethiopia had
been closed and the only thing left now was the power of the
gun, reliable sources revealed that Sudan had send a
high-level delegation, led by Qutbi al-Mahdi, Minister of
state for Security Affairs and a former ambassador to Iran,
in a secret visit to Addis Ababa on the end of January.
TENSIONS WITH NEIGHBOURS
Under pressure, as a result of the opposition's attack on the
eastern border, Sudan had turned to its enemy, Egypt, for
support. The Sudanese regime tried to play on Egyptian
concerns over the Nile waters, by claiming that 'the foreign
invasion endangers Arab security and Sudan's neighbours,
On Jan. 18, two days after receiving Vice President Zubair
Mohamed Saleh, the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak,
publicly rejected Khartoum's claims of foreign invasion. He
said there was no Ethiopian or Eritrean attack on Sudan, but
all Sudan's troubles are internal. Mubarak also ridiculed
contradictory behaviour by Sudanese leaders. 'The
Vice-president is here asking for financial and military help,
while Hassan al-Turabi is insulting us in the newspapers at
the same time.'
The opposition NDA welcomed, with relief, Egyptian neutrality.
The situation with the southern neighbour, Uganda, is however
more explosive and is set to deteriorate even further. The
Sudanese officials and media accused Uganda of preparing for
war with Sudan. Government newspapers reported, on a daily
basis, a military build-up by Uganda along Sudan's southern
borders. It claims that at least 3,000 troops, backed by 20
heavy armoured vehicles, are massed in the Agoro area inside
Uganda, waiting to attack the towns of Torit, Kaya and
Kajokaji in southern Sudan.
Sudan, extremely nervous of the Ugandan moves, asked both Iran
and Kenya to mediate with Uganda, in an attempt to prevent
opening another front in the south. The tensions, however,
escalated when Uganda accused Sudan of bombing areas in
northern Uganda on Feb. 14., in which one woman was killed and
President Museveni told reporters that the solution for the
problems with Sudan will be in the 'battlefield'.
Meanwhile, a war of accusations has also erupted between Sudan
and its western neighbor Libya.
Libya has officially requested for Sudan to hand over 12
Libyan Islamic extremists hiding in the country. The Libyans
are believed to be hiding in Sudan to escape prosecution for
killing Libyan security officers last year.
Libya has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Sudan over
the issue, according to reliable sources, who added that
Sudan has promised to hand over the 12, but failed to do so.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
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