News and Views on Africa from Africa
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April 15 – May 14, 2003

Part I – Sudan
1. Briefs
2. June target too optimistic, say officials and observers
3. Jazz band brings hope to Kakuma’s residents

Part II- Northern Uganda
1. Briefs

Part III- Horn of Africa
1. Briefs
2. Light at the end of the tunnel for Somali talks?

Part 1 – Sudan

1. Briefs

  • April 15: An official in the U.S. State Department said that Sudan is unlikely to be hit with new U.S. sanctions when a six-month review of its cooperation with regional peace efforts is presented to lawmakers under the Sudan Peace Act. The legislation allows U.S. President George Bush to levy the sanctions if he finds Khartoum is not negotiating in good faith with the SPLM/A.
  • 15: The Umma Party, which led Sudan until the country’s military coup of 1989, held its first congress in 14 years. The conference, opened by Sadiq el-Mahdi, who was the democratically elected prime minister when the current president, Omar el-Bashir, seized power, urged the United States to move swiftly to enact free and fair elections in Iraq.
  • 16: Nhial Deng Nhial, leader of the SPLM/A delegation to the fourth round of peace talks being held in Machakos, reported that discussions between the SPLM/A and the Sudan government were stalemated over the issue of the national army. "The Khartoum government has insisted on having one national army while we wanted two armies during the interim period," he said.
  • 16: Sudan's government and the SPLM/ ended a 10-day round of peace talks in Nairobi without settling the key issue of military security arrangements during a six-year transition period. The government sought to integrate the SPLA into the national army, while the SPLM/A argued that there should be two separate armies during the interim period.
  • 16: A European Union-sponsored resolution appealing to the Sudan government to respect human rights and basic freedoms was voted down by 26 of the 53 members of the UN Human Rights Commission, with 24 in favour, and three abstaining. The resolution listed atrocities in Sudan, including summary execution, torture and amputation. Uganda abstained from the vote.
  • 18: Sudan has denied sponsoring Eritrean opposition groups to carry out operations inside Eritrea. The Sudanese embassy in Asmara said claims by Eritrea that Sudan was linked to the death of British geologist Timothy Nutt over the weekend were "completely unfounded.” The border between the two countries has been shut since October 2002.
  • 20: Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir appointed 14 new ministers and 13 advisers in the Southern States Coordination Council (SSCC), a body in charge of southern Sudan's local government that was created after the 1997 Sudan peace agreement. This beefs up the influence of the ruling party.
  • 21: Sudan president Omar el-Bashir said the United States must play a greater role in ending Sudan’s 20-year-old civil war and urged the U.S. not to enact legislation threatening sanctions against Sudan. He also said foreign investors would be attracted to Sudan once political and economic stability is achieved.
  • 22: Sudanese opposition groups, under the umbrella National Democratic Alliance (NDA), met in Asmara, Eritrea to discuss Sudan's peace process. Eritrean state media reported that senior NDA officials, including SPLM/A leader Dr. John Garang, attended the meeting.
  • 22: The Sudanese embassy in Damascus arranged with Syrian authorities to repatriate 700 Sudanese who were living in Iraq and were now stranded on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
  • 22: Sudan began quarantining arrivals from China in a bid to control the spread of the SARS virus.
  • 22: Sudan inaugurated an oil pumping station north of Khartoum that will boost oil exports to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the current level of 210,000 bpd, officials said. The new station, built at a cost of US$20 million, was opened in Jaily, site of Sudan's main pipeline and largest refinery, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the capital.
  • 22: Omar Haroun, the governor of West Darfur State, said Sudan government troops had driven Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) forces out of a stronghold in West Darfur and taken control of their abandoned camps.
  • 22: U.S. President George Bush said the Sudan government is negotiating in good faith with the SPLM/A to end the civil war and therefore U.S. will not impose sanctions against the Sudan government. Under the Sudan Peace Act, Bush is required to report on the peace process every six months and can apply sanctions against the Sudan government if it is found not to be negotiating in good faith with the SPLM/A.
  • 23: The Sudan government welcomed U.S. President George Bush's decision not to impose sanctions against it because of its good faith in efforts to forge a peace deal with the SPLM/A.
  • 23: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors without Borders) said that the food situation in east Aweil and Tonj counties in Bahr el-Ghazal is "alarming" and urged the UN’s Word Food Programme (WFP) to step up its food distribution there.
  • 24: Forty-four men were killed and 22 others wounded in a tribal clash in West Darfur State, western Sudan. The clash between Arab and Massaleit tribes erupted in the morning at Mulle village market-place about 35 km northeast of Ginaina, capital of West Darfur State.
  • 24: Sudan has asked the United States to strike its name off the list of states allegedly sponsoring terrorism and to lift economic sanctions that have been imposed on Sudan for more than six years.
  • 25: Mani Arkoi Minawi, leader of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), said his forces had taken control of al-Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur State in northwest Sudan.
  • 26: Adam Hamid Mussa, South Darfur's governor general, imposed a curfew from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am on the state's capital Nyala following an attack by rebel gunmen on al-Fasher, capital of the twin North Darfur state. He also ordered all members of the army, police and security forces to "immediately report to their units."
  • 26: Sudanese authorities prevented 72 Chinese nationals from disembarking at Khartoum's airport on the suspicion that they might be infected with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The Chinese passengers were forced to return on the same Gulf Air flight that brought them to Khartoum after other passengers were let out of the plane and into the country, said a source at the Gulf Air office here.
  • 27: A court in Nyala, southwestern Sudan, has found 24 Arab bandits guilty of killing 35 African villagers of the Fur ethnic group in a raid on Singata, a village near Nyala, last year, and sentenced them to be hanged.
  • 27: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese Ambassador to Uganda Sirajudeen Hamed Ahmed discussed the forthcoming summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), scheduled to be held in Kampala later this year.
  • 28: Swedish oil concern Lundin Petroleum AB (S.LUP) said it has signed an agreement to sell a significant interest in a Sudan oil field to Petronas Carigali Overseas Sdn Bhd for $142.5 million. The sale through wholly-owned subsidiary Lundin Sudan BV covers its 40.375 percent working interest in Block 5A, located in the Muglad Basin in Southern Sudan and contains the undeveloped Thar Jath field which contains gross proven and probable oil reserves of 149.1 million barrels (60.2 million barrels net to Lundin Petroleum).
  • 28: Southern States Coordination Council Chairman Riek Gai accused John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of sedition in Darfur, while North Darfur State Governor Ibrahim Suleiman accused both the SPLA and Israel of assisting the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) – particularly with arms – in a recent attack in al-Fasher, Northern Darfur.
  • 28: The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) captured Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Bushra and killed his four bodyguards in the Darfur town of Al-Fasher. No details were available on Bushra’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Amnesty International called for Darfur to be included in the human rights monitoring set up under the Sudan peace process. The SLA is not included in the framework of peace talks.
  • 29: Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail accused Eritrea of training Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels to carry out recent violent clashes in Al-Fasher, capital of west Sudan's North Darfur State. He also blamed the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance for the incidents.
  • 30: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met in Khartoum with Sudan president Omar el-Bashir on bilateral and regional issues such as the war in Iraq as well as Sudan's own stability and territorial integrity. The visit, expected to last only a couple of hours, was the first to Sudan by the Egyptian leader since el-Bashir seized power in a 1989 bloodless coup. The two also discussed economic integration between the two countries.
  • 30: Sudanese refugees housed in a makeshift camp at Kiryandongo, northern Uganda rioted to protest a government move to relocate 10,000 of them to Yumbe and Arua in northwest Uganda.
  • May 1: The government of Sudan said its continued inclusion on a U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism was "unjust" and unfair. The United States named seven countries - Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan - as sponsors of terrorism. The same countries were listed last year. U.S. President George W. Bush had said previously that the Sudan government was negotiating in good faith with the rebels, but should still try harder.
  • 3: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir went to Tripoli on a one-day visit to Libya. Bashir, accompanied by his assistant, Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, and Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail, discussed with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi developments in the Arab world following the Iraq war. The two leaders also touched on the security situation in west Sudan's Darfur region, which neighbours Libya.
  • 3: Sudan announced that it would bar people from the United States, Canada, Britain, China, Singapore and Vietnam from entering Sudan in an attempt to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
  • 4: During Sudan President Omar el-Bashir’s brief visit to Tripoli, Libya proposed a draft constitution for a tripartite union of Libya, Sudan and Egypt. According to Sudan Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail, Libyan President Moamer Kadhafi put forward for discussion with the Sudanese delegation headed by Bashir a draft constitution for unity of the two countries and Egypt.
  • 4: Radio Voice of Sudan reported that the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) captured Sudan’s pubic security intelligence officer Col Mubarak Muhammad al-Saraj.
  • 5: Officials said that the Sudan peace talks, set to resume May 7, would focus on power sharing between the south of the country, represented by the SPLA, and the government. Other issues include the distribution of wealth between the two, the presidency, sovereign ministries and the non application of Islamic (sharia) law in the national capital, Khartoum.
  • 6: Seventy-five Sudanese troops were killed and another 30 taken prisoner during an attack by "outlaws" in northwest Sudan late last month, Sudan Defense Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh was quoted as saying. The Sudanese army said previously that 32 Sudanese troops, including two officers, had been killed in the fighting in Al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur State.
  • 6: Sudanese authorities seized Tuesday's edition of the independent daily Al-Sahafa before they hit the newsstands, said editor Nureddin Medani. He said the authorities seized copies of the newspapers at dawn while they were stacked in cars awaiting distribution and gave no reason for their action.
  • 6: Talisman Energy Inc. reported a jump in its first-quarter profits to $573 million after booking a big gain on the sale of its Sudan oil interests and also announced it will fast track development of a new oil discovery in Malaysia.
  • 7: The Sudan government and SPLM/A started consultations with mediators ahead of another round of peace talks in Machakos, Kenya aimed at ending two decades of civil war in Sudan. Issues include: wealth sharing; power sharing; oil revenues, the central bank and Sudan's currency.
  • 8: Police have charged Nhial Bol, chief editor of The Khartoum Monitor, with inciting public disharmony and order following the publication of articles concerning religion in Sudan. The Monitor said Bol was questioned over articles published in April, including one entitled "Is Islam afraid of Christianity?" Bol was arrested on May 6 but released May 8 on bail.
  • 8: Lieutenant General Mohammed Basheer Sulieman, spokesman for the Sudan army, warned that independence for south Sudan would have a negative impact on neighbouring countries and Arab national security. He also claimed that Israel was providing support for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan (PMLS), a southern liberation movement.
  • 8: Two unidentified people of Sudanese origin belonging to the Dinka ethnic group were killed in Koboko in northwestern district of Arua. They were killed during an ethnic clash between Uganda' s Kakwa tribesmen and Sudanese settlers following the shooting to death of a truck driver from an oil company by a Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebel in Yei town, some 40 km from the Uganda-Sudan border.
  • 9: Sudan President Omar el-Bashir made major changes in regional governments in west Sudan's Darfur region, apparently as a result of recent rebels attacks there. Bashir sacked the governors of North Darfur and West Darfur states, General Ibrahim Suleiman and Omar Haroun respectively, as well as top security officials in North Darfur capital Al-Fasher.
  • 9: The World Health Organization announced that it would send a medical team to south Sudan to find out what caused the deaths of least seven people in a village near the Ugandan border. Reports from Kitgum district in northern Uganda indicated that as many as 45 people may have died in south Sudan from an Ebola-like viral hemorrhagic fever, and another nine were said to remain hospitalised.
  • 9: The Sudan government agreed to allow aid shipments to resume over river and land routes to regions in south Sudan. River shipments from Kosti, in central Sudan, to Juba in the far south, are to resume May 12. The two sides also agreed that aid be delivered by road through the southeastern Upper Nile state and southwestern Bahr El-Ghazal state.
  • 10: A court in Khartoum has ordered Sudan's independent daily, the Khartoum Monitor, to cease publication for two months and pay a fine for publishing three articles on the Islamic perspective concerning alcohol. Prosecutor for the Attorney General, Mohammed Farid, accused the Khartoum Monitor of propagating slavery in the country, abusing Islam by misinterpreting the Koran, and exposing Sudanese unity to danger, charges denied by the paper's acting chief editor, Nhail Bol. Ngor Kolang Ngor, lawyer for the Khartoum Monitor, said that he would file an appeal.
  • 10: The fifth round of peace talks between the Sudan government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) officially opened in Machakos, Kenya. Issues to be discussed include power and wealth sharing. The official SUNA news agency quoted Presidential Peace Adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani as saying that the Sudan government is committed to reaching a peace deal with the SPLM/A.
  • 10: The Sudan government arrested more than 150 people tied to the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) in west Sudan's Darfur region, said the rebel group's chief, Mani Arkoi Minawi.
  • 11: The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported that Sudan government forces crushed Sudan's Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) attacks in Maleith, a troubled town in Darfur. According to SUNA, rebels of raided a number of buildings in the town, including the police station, the bank and the customs headquarters.
  • 12: Samir Hosni, head of the 22-member delegation of the Arab League's Arab Cooperation Department that visited south Sudan for the first time in 50 years, said the Arab League is now seeking an active role in peace and reconstruction in war-torn Sudan. Analysts believe the visit signaled that the Arab League now considers the SPLM/A to be equals with the Khartoum government in negotiations of the peace process.
  • 12: A team of medical experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) arrived at Ikotos and nearby Imotong, south Sudan where an unidentified disease has killed 11 people and infected 178.
  • 12: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) resumed delivering some 4,300 tonnes of food aid to 485,000 people in Sudan along the Nile from Makalala to Juba, an operation that was suspended five years ago after a brutal attack in which three people were killed.
  • 13: The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WTO) appealed for funds to fight polio in Sudan and Somalia. "A total of 275 million US dollars global funding gap, to finish the goal by 2005, threatens the growing success of the initiative," said a statement.

2. June target too optimistic, say officials and observers

By Cathy Majtenyi

As the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) head back to the table for a fifth round of negotiations, participants and observers doubt whether a peace agreement can be reached by the end-of-June target.

In his opening remarks May 10 in Machakos, Kenya, Special Envoy to Kenya Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo referred to an earlier meeting between Sudan President Omar el-Bashir and SPLM/A chairman Dr. John Garang at which the two agreed that a “comprehensive peace settlement” should be reached by June 30.

However, both sides say that, given the amount still on the table, the June target is optimistic at best.

“Unless a miracle happens, I don’t see a breakthrough very soon,” a source close to the SPLM/A side, who declined to be named told Africanews. “It [the June target] was more of a wish than the realities on the ground.”

He said there were many issues to be worked out under the areas of power sharing, wealth sharing, and security arrangements that are being discussed in this latest round.

Regarding power sharing, one of the biggest hurdles is the presidency, said the source. The SPLM/A advocates that, during the six-year interim period that the two sides agreed upon in the Machakos Protocol signed last year, the position of president should rotate between a northerner and a southerner for three years at a time. The Sudan government maintains that the president must be a northerner.

Yet to be worked out are also the percentages of southern representation in the Cabinet, legislature, judiciary, and civil service, he said. The SPLM/A is also calling for Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to be free of Sharia (Islamic) law, something that the Sudan government cannot accept.

Wealth sharing – particularly how oil revenues are to be divided – is also up in the air. Arguing that most of Sudan’s rich oil fields are located in the south, the SPLM/A was arguing at one point that the south should receive 60 percent of the oil wealth, while the Sudan government was willing to offer the south 10 percent.

The biggest stumbling block under the area of security arrangements is the proposal by the Sudan government to merge the national and SPLA armies together into one army, an idea that the SPLM/A vigorously resists, he said.

There is also an SPLM/A proposal on the table to make the 12th parallel a “buffer zone” for peacekeeping. The national army would be confined to the north of the 12th parallel, while the SPLA would stay south of the 12th parallel, said the source.

“Ninety percent [of the issues] is still on the table,” Prof. Cirino Hiteng, a lecturer of international relations and politics at the United States International University – Africa Campus in Nairobi, told Africanews.

“The most important thing is to critique this assumption [June target] that comes from the outside,” he said, adding that a peace agreement might be reached “by the end of the year.”

The Sudan government had also said it was likely that the talks would go past the June target date. Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told AFP on May 14 that power and wealth sharing could be worked out by the end of next month, but the two sides would need more time to work out the issue of the armies.

John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group (ICG) agreed that the peace process should take at least another six months, saying that there a “dozen stumbling blocks” to overcome.

He said that the Sudan government and the SPLM/A have both taken a hard-line approach to a number of positions. “There will be significant trade-offs and compromises needed by both sides,” he told Africanews. “None of these issues, in my view, can’t be traded off.”

Prendergast said the “hardest to crack” for the SPLM/A would be the issue of harmonizing its army with the national army, while for the Sudan government, it would be to give up its jurisdiction of the three disputed areas of Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and Abyei.

The bottom line to the negotiation’s success, said Prendergast, is the government’s willingness to give concessions on power sharing. “It’s in the government’s hands.” He also said that the government would in no way accept the south to separate after its referendum.

“A sticking point for any agreement to be concluded successfully is the reluctance of the Khartoum administration really in their heart of hearts to accept the southern Sudanese as potentially viable partners in the political equation,” Dr. Moustafa Hassouna, lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, told Africanews.

He said the Sudan government considers the SPLM/A to be merely a “menacing factor,” he said, which might motivate Khartoum to think primarily of its own interests. However, the SPLM/A “overplayed its hand” by insisting that Khartoum be a secular entity, he said. The Sudan government is also under a certain amount of pressure to produce results, even though it scored “limited successes” when U.S. President George Bush recently declared that the Sudan government was negotiating in good faith, said Hassouna.

“The Bush administration is really pushing to find out whether the Khartoum government is truly and genuinely and sincerely pursuing peace, or whether they are pursuing peace theoretically on the table and are preparing forward,” he said.

3. Jazz band brings hope to Kakuma’s residents

By Cathy Majtenyi

Nairobi – Kakuma Refugee Camp, a hot, dusty, sprawling settlement in northern Kenya, seems an unlikely place for the birth of a 12-member band that fuses traditional melodies from southern Sudan with beats common in music blaring on modern-day East African radio stations.

Even more unlikely are the instruments – fashioned from cowhides, tree branches, the bottom part of a frying pan, and even bottle caps – that these musicians use. The sounds combined from this motley ensemble had a small crowd of Nairobi youth whooping with delight recently when the band, visiting from Kakuma, played for them.

“This is what we call adungu,” bandleader Marial Mark Awuok points out to Africanews. It consists of a rather large wooden box, covered with cowhide and having a hole in the middle. From the box on one side juts out a large, curved tree branch. Strings are wound around metal spikes that are drilled into the wood and are attached to the box. It is plucked – and looks and sounds – like a harp.

“And this is kochkoch,” he says. It is a wooden bench onto which are attached three rows of bottle caps and small pieces of metal strung together by a wire. Jutting out of the bench on both sides of the metal rows are two spikes that hold two flat, metal plates. Three drums sit in front of the bench. The musician hits the bottle caps, metal plates, and drums with sticks.

The rababa looks like a lyre. A metal plate is fused together with the bottom part of a frying pan. From this jut out two sticks that have a third stick attaching them at the top. Five plastic strings are strung from the top stick and are attached to the metal plate. This is also plucked.

Such is the resourcefulness and creativity of the Nazal Jazz Band of the New Sudan Youth Association in Kakuma Camp. Formed at the camp in 1992, the band and its four dancers perform for camp residents throughout the year and on festivals commemorating important days such as World AIDS Day and International Women’s Day.

But the band is not strictly about entertainment. “In Kakuma, life is very hard,” explains band member Charles Chan Kondok, who is originally from Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan. Many of the camp’s residents go for days without food and suffer from malnutrition and other conditions as they languish in the overcrowded, unsanitary, and sometimes violent camp.

Many camp residents have suicidal thoughts or even attempt suicide, he says. “Some people might say, ‘this is the end of our life.’ When we realized that these conditions are now facing so many people, [we] composed some songs of courage whereby we encourage them.”

In particular, the band tries to target youth. “Some people say that, in these conditions, ‘why should I bother going to school? I should just sit at home, or do other things’,” says Kondok. “We encourage them to join school and to work hard to build their future and change their lives.

“[We sing], your day will still come,” he says.

Through their music, band members also educate their audiences about HIV/AIDS prevention, the dangers of early marriages, and encourage parents to take their girl-children to school. Depending upon the audience – who are also refugees from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places – the band sings in English, Kiswahili, Arabic, or their native Dinka language.

Not only is the music meant to uplift the minds and spirits of Kakuma’s residents, but also is a survival tactic for the band members themselves as they cope with their own frustrations and traumatic pasts.

“The situation is the camp is very hard – you may face so many difficulties and become so discouraged,” says band member Dominic Mawut, also from Bahr el Ghazal. “What encourages us the most is our music.” He says they get great joy from singing with people and educating them.

That the members of Nazal Jazz Band made it to Kakuma Camp in the first place is itself a miracle. They were among the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan,” an estimated 10,000 children who, in 1987, fled their villages in south Sudan during a particularly fierce round of fighting between the Sudan government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, which have been at war with one another since 1983 over religion and access to oil, among other reasons.

The boys, having been separated by their parents, walked an incredible 1,000 miles in a five-year period from south Sudan to Ethiopia – where they lived briefly in refugee camps – and back to Sudan following the change of government in Ethiopia, then onto Kakuma Refugee Camp, where they arrived and have lived since 1992.

Along the way, many of the boys died of starvation, dehydration, violence from soldiers, and attacks by crocodiles and lions.

The band members met each other as they were fleeing Sudan. “We encountered many problems along the way,” says Mawut. “Because of these problems, people have to sing songs of encouragement.”

And that was the genesis of Nazal Jazz Band. Although they had no instruments at the time, the band members began to compose songs to motivate people to keep walking and to assure them that food would soon be on the way.

Once they arrived in Ethiopia, they formed a 24-member band and made instruments out of whatever materials they could find around their refugee camp. “People were very, very happy with what we were doing. [We] encouraged many people in the area,” recalls Mawut.

However, following the fall of Mengistu in Ethiopia, the boys had to flee yet again. Band members scattered about. The boys walked back to Sudan, then onto Kakuma Camp, where they met each other again and formed Nazal Jazz Band.

The band members were separated yet again when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. State Department began a special resettlement programme for the “lost boys” at the end of 1999. Throughout 2001 and into 2002, approximately 3,800 youth were to be relocated to the United States.

Half of the band members are now in the U.S. under this programme. The remaining members were also supposed to go, but are still in Kakuma. Mawut thinks that the terrorist attacks in the U.S. have slowed the programme down.

When those Nazal Jazz Band members were leaving for the U.S., the rest of the band wrote a special song for them, recalls Mawut. “We sang to then, don’t forget our country, Sudan.”

Part II- Northern Uganda

1. Briefs

  • April 16: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the abrupt expulsion of its Ugandan representative, Saihou Saidy, by the Ugandan authorities does not reflect any significant rift between UNHCR and government. Saidy was expelled following a disagreement over the relocation of Sudanese refugees from Kiryandongo camp in Masindi district to Madiokollo and Ikafi camps in the West Nile region.
  • 18: Northern Uganda’s Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI) – the sole mediators between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels – have urged both sides to give peace talks more time to work.
  • 22: Uganda President Yoweri Museveni officially tore up a limited ceasefire agreement that was offered to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents at the beginning of March. He ordered a full-scale resumption of Ugandan army operations against rebels in Lapul sub-county, Pader district, where the ceasefire was originally called.
  • 30: Uganda’s opposition parties reacted to Attorney General Francis Ayume’s comment that none of the would-be political parties operating in Uganda were recognised by the law because they had failed to register under the Political Parties and Organisations Act (POA). He said that if they tried to gather or hold rallies, “they risk being dispersed by police as this will be categorised as unlawful assembly.”
  • 30: UNICEF head Carol Bellamy expressed concern over the renewed abduction of children and women by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) following the recent collapse of a ceasefire in northern Uganda. She called on both sides to guarantee safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all of northern Uganda, where an estimated 800,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.
  • May 2: World Vision International suspended its relief operations in the Karamoja and Kapchorwa regions of eastern Uganda, following the death of its staff member Davis Chelangat, a World Vision coordinator in the Karamoja region, who was reportedly killed when suspected warriors ambushed and fired on the vehicle carrying him and others.
  • 5: Angry demonstrations broke out at Kiryandongo refugee camp in Masindi district, western Uganda over the Uganda government’s decision to relocate thousands of Sudanese refugees to two locations in the West Nile region of northern Uganda. Almost all the inhabitants – some 15,000 refugees - marched on about 70 Ugandan security forces, forcing them to flee the area.
  • 6: The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has resumed its humanitarian operations in northern Uganda, which were suspended earlier this year after its staff came under rebel attack. The URCS had begun distributing non-food items and providing health and sanitation services to displaced people in the north.
  • 7: The Kampala-based Refugee Law Project condemned the Uganda government's refusal to listen to Sudanese refugees at Kiryandongo camp in western Uganda, who are unhappy over plans to move them north to Madiokolo and Ikafe camps in West Nile region, which is closer to the Sudanese border. A statement said the Ugandan government had a "legal and moral responsibility to ensure the refugees’ security and to take into consideration their fears and experiences.”
  • 8: NGO officials said the number of children seeking refuge in Gulu town centre, northern Uganda, has dramatically increased following a spate of LRA attacks and abductions in the area.
  • 9: A two-day Northern Uganda Peace Workshop – a conference devoted to resolving the conflict in the troubled region – kicked off in the town of Gulu in an attempt to breathe life back into the flagging peace process. The conference, organised by the Gulu District Reconciliation Team, a group working for dialogue between the government and the LRA, brought together government officials, peace mediators, diplomats and international observers.
  • 12: Oduru Kuc – which in the northern Acholi language translates as “peace call” – was officially inaugurated at the conclusion of the two-day “peace workshop” in Gulu town. The new body, comprising of religious leaders, international agencies, MPs, local councillors, elders, women representatives and influential Acholis from the diaspora, joined a number of international relief agencies to draft a new resolution which it is hoped will restart peace talks between the government and LRA.
  • 13: The Ugandan army said it was still pursuing members of the LRA, who abducted 44 young people from a Catholic seminary in northern Uganda. On May 11, LRA fighters attacked the St. Mary Lacor Junior seminary in Gulu and abducted 44 out of the 136 students at the institution. One student was reportedly shot dead by the rebels.

Part III- Horn of Africa

1. Briefs

  • April 15: The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) clashed with the government over claims that 39 people “disappeared” after being held by the security forces more than five years ago. The group argues that the whereabouts of some 39 people who were held by security forces are unknown. But government officials described the findings in an EHRCO report as “extremely dubious.”
  • 15: The UN Security Council discussed better ways of implementing the UN arms embargo on Somalia. The council’s proceedings focused on an earlier report that said the embargo was consistently being breached. It recommended that the council send a clear signal that all future violators would face sanctions.
  • 15: The Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia has dismissed two ministers – Abdirahman Muhammad Nur Dinari, the Minister of Commerce, and Asho Ahmad Abdallah, the Minister of State for Disarmament and Demobilization – for "misconduct" because they failed to adhere to the TNG's position at the ongoing peace talks in Nairobi, said Ahmad Isa Awad, the director of the Office of the Prime Minister.
  • 16: Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin accused the independent Boundary Commission of “belittling” Ethiopia's calls for changes to the new border with Eritrea. Tension had been mounting following the latest announcement by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), stating categorically that the disputed village of Badme – where the two countries' border conflict flared up in 1998 – is in Eritrean territory.
  • 16: Authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland are due to announce the preliminary results of the April 14 presidential elections on April 18, according to the chairman of Somaliland's electoral commission, Ahmad Haji Ali "Adami."
  • 16: Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has said that as far as his country is concerned, the chapter of war with Ethiopia is closed. In an April 16 interview with Radio France Internationale, he described the two-year border conflict from 1998-2000 as "unnecessary" and an "unwanted development.”
  • 17: Timothy Nutt, a British national who was working for the Canadian Nevsun company that is mining for gold in western Bisha, Eritrea, was killed on the weekend of April 12, it was confirmed. A statement issued by Eritrea's foreign ministry blamed the radical Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) for the killing.
  • 17: The London-based rights group Amnesty International (AI) has called for human rights to be at forefront of discussions at the Somali peace conference now being held in Kenya. It said that, despite the Somali parties having signed a ceasefire agreement on October 27 2002, there had been numerous violations, with many crimes going unpunished due to the absence of "a system of justice and policing.”
  • 21: The main opposition party in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, northwestern Somalia, has rejected the results of last week's presidential elections. The presidential candidate for the Kulmiye (Solidarity) Ahmad Muhammad Silanyo, the main challenger to incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin, has reportedly said that he would not accept the results, because they were rigged. Silanyo said he would protest against the election’s results.
  • 22: Millions of children in drought-stricken Ethiopia are being “slowly starved” by the international community, leading charities warned. “We are appalled by the lack of full rations to food aid beneficiaries in Ethiopia, which amount to slow starvation for those without other sources of food,” said a statement issued by Save the Children Alliance, Action Aid, CAFOD, and Christian Aid.
  • 22: The Canadian mineral exploration company, Nevsun Resources Ltd, has said its activities in Eritrea will continue, despite the murder of its consultant Timothy Nutt last week.
  • 23: The Somali business community has demanded a role in the ongoing peace talks in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The call came during a two-day workshop for the Somali Business Council (SBC), held last week in Dubai, and jointly organised with the Center for Research and Dialogue (CRD), an affiliate of the War-Torn Societies Project International.
  • 24: Usman Abdillahi Egal, the head of the Hargeysa branch of Kulmiye (Solidarity) Party, said a recount of last week's votes in the Somaliland elections showed that its presidential candidate, Ahmad Muhammad Silanyo, was ahead of the declared winner, President Dahir Riyale Kahin, by 76 votes.
  • 25: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has launched a prototype community project in parts of the Somali capital Mogadishu which it hopes will be expanded to cover the entire city. The project, implemented by a local NGO, SAACID (Somali for 'To Help'), has employed 600 local people (300 men and 300 women) and hired private sector haulers to remove sand and garbage from the streets of Mogadishu.
  • 28: Ethiopia has appealed for more help to tackle its worsening food crisis amid claims that poor government targeting of aid is exacerbating the situation. The country's emergency arm, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC), says some 12.5 million people are now in need – a rise of 10 percent.
  • 29: In a open letter last week to Somali leaders attending the peace talks in Kenya, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, expressed "increasing concern about the often appalling conditions in which internally displaced persons in Somalia live.” The UN estimates that there are 350,000 IDPs throughout Somalia, most of them women and children.
  • 29: The prime minister of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia, Hasan Abshir Farah, has admitted there are "minor differences" between himself and the TNG president, but stressed this did not amount to a split within the interim administration. The differences concerned "the prime minister's wish to dismiss certain ministers, which the president has refused to agree to,” said a TNG source.
  • 30: Assefa Birru, the head of Ethiopia’s National Election Board, was arrested on charges of corruption and will appear in court. Assefa faces a single charge of abuse of power and also obstructing the work of the two-year-old Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. If convicted on both charges, Assefa could face a maximum of 25 years in jail and face a fine of 40,000 Ethiopian birr (US $4,600).
  • May 1: The opposition Eritrean National Alliance (ENA) says it has set up a military wing aimed at bringing down President Isayas Afewerki. General Secretary Hiruy Tedla Bairu said the 13 opposition groups that make up the ENA had agreed to set up a single military force at a key meeting in Khartoum early last month. He also revealed that the ENA was receiving funds from Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen.
  • 1: The Eritrean government has issued a statement on freedom of religion in the country amidst criticism by human rights watchers that it is restricting the right to worship. In a report on religious freedom in Eritrea, the U.S. State Department said this had "deteriorated" during 2002 and the government had closed religious facilities not belonging to the country's four main faiths - Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Catholic, and Evangelical Christian.
  • 2: A radical Islamic group has denied claims by the Eritrean government that it was responsible for last month’s murder of a British geologist. The armed Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) said it did not kill Timothy Nutt, insisting that it only targeted the government of the Red Sea state.
  • 5: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a four-man panel of experts to investigate violations of the arms embargo against Somalia. Members are: Edward Howard Johns of the United States, Mohamed Abdoulaye M'Backe of Senegal, Johan Peleman of Belgium (also the group's chairman) and Pavanjeet Singh Sandhu of India.
  • 5: Assefa Birru, the head of Ethiopia’s National Election Board has been released and charges against him dropped, said the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Hailu Berhe, who heads the investigation department within the commission, said that the charges had now been withdrawn after Assefa admitted to them.
  • 5: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) placed Eritrea on a list of the 10 worst places in the world to be a journalist. It said the country had been Africa's "foremost jailer of journalists since September 2001, when the government banned the entire private press and detained independent reporters.” However, the Eritrean government insisted that people are free to express their opinions as they wish.
  • 5: The Eritrean government has dismissed claims by the Eritrean National Alliance (ENA) that it has a military wing aimed at toppling President Isayas Afewerki as "good entertainment.” Eritrea's acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed described the ENA - which is backed by Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen - as "lifeless and non-existent.”
  • 6: Ethiopian President Girma Wolde Giorgis told a conference that lack of democracy and widespread poverty are at the root of the many conflicts that have ravaged Ethiopia. However, the conflicts now affecting the impoverished country were mere “home-bred squabbles” when compared to the past, he said.
  • 7: Ethiopia is one of the worst countries in the world to be a mother, according to a global study by the NGO Save the Children. In Ethiopia one in nine mothers will die in childbirth. Some 116 children out of 1,000 will die before they reach the age of one, said its report. Eritrea is ranked 14th from bottom of 117 countries, where fewer than five percent of women use modern contraceptives, it said.
  • 7: The regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) agreed on to set up a parliamentary union to help tackle crises in the region. Executive Secretary Dr Attalla Bashir said that a joint inter-parliamentary union could play a vital role in ensuring stability in the war-ravaged region.
  • 7: Dr Getachew Assefa, a lecturer at Ethiopia's civil service college, told a conference that Ethiopia's judiciary is failing to prevent widespread human rights abuses. He said within the various regions of Ethiopia, the situation was even worse with a catalogue of abuse and a lack of funding or skilled manpower to protect human rights.
  • 8: Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, held talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki on the peace process between the two countries. The U.N.’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) has recently expressed concern over the three-year-old peace process which is now at a critical stage.
  • 8: Medhane Tadesse, a senior Ethiopian academic, told a conference that religion is the new breeding ground for conflict in Ethiopia. He argued that the religious status quo in the country was being “dramatically eroded, incubating violent confrontation.”
  • 8: Talks are underway to end conflict in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, said Puntland's acting information Abdishakur Mire Adan. He said the talks, being held in the commercial capital Bosaso between his administration and "the armed opposition" led by General Ade Muse Hirsi, were "going very well.”
  • 8: The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that Eritrea is one of the most needy countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of food aid. "In Eritrea, food shortages are alarming as nearly two-thirds of the country’s population of 3.4 million people face severe food shortages due to last year’s drought," the FAO said. "Of these, an estimated 1.4 million need emergency food assistance."
  • 8: The U.S. counter-terrorism warship, the USS Mt Whitney, is to leave the Horn of Africa region as the operation moves into its next phase. A statement from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) said headquarters personnel and equipment were being moved ashore into facilities at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. The move was due to be completed by mid-May.
  • 9: The United Nations has welcomed a new initiative to support the development and export of Somali livestock and meat products. The initiative setting up a common Somali Livestock Board (SLB) was launched under the auspices of the Dubai-based Somali Business Council.
  • 9: Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal, the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, vowed that the crisis in Iraq would not disrupt her country's aid package to the drought-stricken Horn of Africa country. The U.S. so far has pledged over 755,000 mt of food – valued at more than US $342 million - to Ethiopia where some 12.6 million people are facing starvation.
  • 9: For the second time in recent months, a fire has destroyed the homes of thousands of Eritrean refuges in the Ethiopian camp Wa'ala Nihibi close to the two countries' common border. One-third of shelters at the camp near Shiraro in west Tigray were destroyed in the blaze, which occurred after flames from open fires caught the side of one of the straw houses.
  • 9: The organisers of Somali peace talks in Kenya said a plenary session will start next week to conclude the second phase of the conference. The recommendations of six technical committees would be submitted to the plenary for discussion.
  • 12: Eritrea has rejected any notion of a dialogue regarding the border issue with Ethiopia, saying the matter is closed and "hermetically sealed” according to Acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed. He said they will not talk about the border issue.
  • 12: The constitutional court of the self-declared republic of Somaliland confirmed the incumbent president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, as the winner of last month's presidential election.
  • 12: Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, the Kenyan mediator of the Somali peace talks, said a consensus is emerging on the controversial issue of a federal charter. He said the conference would soon receive a set of recommendations to pave the way for setting up new transitional institutions in Somalia.
  • 12: Authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have restored the broadcasting licence of the Somali Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) radio and television, based in the region's commercial capital, Bosaso, said Puntland's Acting Information Minister Abdishakur Mire Aden. The licence was withdrawn in May last year after the authorities accused it of having "a political agenda inimical to the Puntland state.”
  • 13: The Ethiopian government has announced it will boost aid rations to combat the worsening food crisis in the south of the country. It says it will increase cereal rations in the worst affected areas to the internationally recommended allowance of 15 kg per person per month.
  • 13: The first batch of 2,880 Somali refugees who have been accommodated at Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya began returning to Somalia, more than a decade after they fled their war-torn country.
  • 14: The European Commission has approved a major project to support the second phase of a nationwide landmine impact survey for Somalia. In a statement, the EC said it had allocated €1.5 million (US $1.73 million) to the project.

2. Light at the end of the tunnel for Somali talks?

By Cathy Majtenyi

Delegates of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference being held in Mbagathi, Kenya, are seeing the “dim light at the end of the tunnel” as they prepare for the third and final phase of their peace process, according to Kenya’s Special Envoy for Somalia.

At a colourful ceremony on May 14, which included dancing and poetry reading, Bethuel Kipligat noted that the launch of the “beginning of the end of Phase II of the process” was a “critical moment” in the long and complicated peace process, which began in Eldoret last October.

During the next three weeks, delegates are expected to harmonize and approve the reports of six committees: conflict resolution and reconciliation; federalism and provisional charter; disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration; land and property rights; economic recovery, institutional building and resource mobilization; and regional and international relations.

“You are all aware that this plenary represents a defining moment in your country’s history,” Kenyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Kalonzo Musyoka said before he received the reports. “On the one hand, you have to contend with the expectations of your people back home, and on the other, bridge the differences amongst yourselves.”

Once delegates accept the final harmonized report, the conference will then go into the third phase, during which delegates will select an interim president and parliament.

Already, presidential hopefuls are beginning their campaigns for the top position. Hussein Farah Aideed, co-chair of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) and chairman of the United Somali Congress (USC)/Somali National Alliance (SNA), was the first to officially launch his campaign. Dr. Abdirahma Jama Barre, the brother of Siad Barre and former foreign minister, had also announced his bid to run.

Controversies – ranging from the recent forced eviction of extra numbers of delegates to fistfights among participants to ceasefire violations – have dogged the conference from the beginning.

Musyoka told delegates that the problem of too many delegates has been sorted out. He also urged faction leaders, traditional elders, and civil society to “put your differences aside,” and called on absentee faction leaders currently in Somalia to return to the conference.

Musyoka condemned fighting that has rocked different parts of Somalia – particularly the capital Mogadishu – over the past four months, saying that faction leaders have repeatedly violated the cessation of hostilities agreement that they signed at the beginning of the conference.

He also announced that a “fact-finding mission” – to be headed by Major General Joseph Musomba – would travel to Somalia in the coming weeks. Sanctions against faction leaders who violate the ceasefire or “interfere with the process” will be implemented soon, and a conference of international donors will be held in the near future to raise money and other support for Somalia’s reconstruction, he said.

Despite the difficulties, the Somali National Reconciliation Conference has gained tremendous ground by showing the world that delegates “are worthy actors and players to be taken seriously,” Dr. Moustafa Hassouna, lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, told Africanews. “They have the political stamina to weather the storms of Somali politics.”

“Perhaps it [the conference] may not have been successful as a peace process, but somewhere it has created this ad-hoc interim structure whereby you can now not only talk about having presidential elections, you can actually have them,” he said.

The challenge now facing delegates is to be able to iron out contentious issues presented in the reports. Sharif Salah, chairman of the conference’s civil society group, told Africanews that a major issue will be to negotiate the form and logistics of federalism.

For example, the regional set-up “is a very delicate point,” he said. Delegates are divided on the number of states and regions Somalia should have: some say there should a system of regions and states, while others say the country should just have regions or states, and a few are even advocating a north-south division, he said.

The criteria to use when amalgamating regions and forming states is also in dispute, said Salah. “Is it economic criteria? Clan? Local traditions?”

The reports – copies of which were obtained by Africanews – contain a wide range of issues and recommendations concerning the six areas. These include measures such as:

* returning to their original owners land, facilities such as hospitals and schools, and other properties that had been grabbed or looted by colonists and warring factions;

* a Committee on Marine Resources to monitor and clean up wastes that have been dumped along Somalia’s coastline;

* a 27-member National Disarmament and Rehabilitation Commission (NDRC) that would collect weapons and store them in warehouses;

* camps where members of militias are to receive job skills training;

* a National Reconciliation Commission that would make policies on peace building, set up a Conflict Early Warning system, conduct peace training, etc.;

* a Somalia National Commission on Human Rights, to be entrenched in the charter, that would investigate and prosecute human rights abusers;

* the signing of bilateral and regional agreements to increase security in the area and come up with joint efforts to resolve the problems of refugee movements, droughts, floods, and other crises;

* enforcing the U.N. Arms Embargo and the Nairobi Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons;

* re-establishing a central bank and monetary system; and

* a US$1.13 billion budget to fund 22 sectors that include health, education, fisheries, the Central Bank, public administration, the Supreme Court, road rehabilitation, police force, etc.

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