Statement by the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference, September 2000
The Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference (SCBC), meeting in Pesaro, Italy
for their Annual Plenary Assembly (September 11-21, 2000) and
in anticipation of the canonization of the first Sudanese Saint,
Blessed Josephine Bakhita, to take place in Rome on October 1, 2000,
send to IGAD and all its members the following message.
We the undersigned, send our sincere thanks for all the achievements of IGAD since its inception and for its tenacity in sustaining the dialogue between the conflicting parties of Sudan in order to resolve the civil war and to bring to an end the ever-more inhuman condition of suffering for the people of Sudan.
The SCBC has in the past and continues in the present to support the IGAD process. In a particular way, we affirm the stand taken by IGAD to adopt a clear "DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES"(DOP), which truly embodies the key issues towards the attainment of peace in Sudan.
If the fighting parties could abide by the objectives of the DOP there would be a sound guarantee towards a just and lasting peace. In order to achieve peace and stability, the SCBC asks the IGAD members not to put aside or neglect any article contained in the DOP. Any deviation from the DOP would jeopardise any effort towards reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.
In our meeting in Pesaro, we have exchanged information and experiences gained from all sectors of both North and South Sudan. We are indeed horrified by the deteriorating condition of life of the people and the state of affairs prevailing in our land. In this context, we would like to submit the following for your consideration
1. We have reliable reports about several events that are continually occurring at debilitating rhythm. The bombing of Kauda Primary School in the Nuba Mountains on February 8, 2000 in which 20 pupils and their teacher were killed and 17 others maimed is one such incident. The bombing of the Catholic compound in Tonj, in Bahr El Ghazal, August 9, 2000 is another. One of the three bombs fell only two-and-a half metres from two priests and a dozen youth gathered under mango trees. By God's protection, none of them was injured in spite of the 5-metre wide crater caused by the explosion and dirt and debris scattered all around. We could report many such events that give evidence of indiscriminate and premeditated attacks on civilian targets, which have happened with total disregard to a bilaterally agreed upon cease-fire (see appendix attached.)
2. Similarly, after the fall of Gogrial on June 24, 2000, all the properties of the civilians displaced by the fighting, were looted. The ground fighting and the bombing have caused 442,000 displaced people in Bhar El Ghazal and nearly 220, 000 in the Unity Zone, Blue Nile and Upper Nile regions in the last five months. These events have increased tremendously the already high number of internally displace Sudanese, i.e. 2.3 million.
3. To the above, we must add a large number of cases of human rights abuses. In this category, we can list several acts of oppression:
a. In the border areas between North and South Sudan, we have seen many individuals maimed and physically handicapped, hundreds of unaccompanied orphans and numberless psychologically traumatised victims of slavery.
b. We have watched young girls of 13 or 14 years of age carrying babies born from cruel and humiliating acts or rape and abduction that will traumatise them for the rest of their lives.
c. A common example of social violation of human rights is to deny starving people their share of relief. A woman in Bahr El Ghazal had to sell the poles from her hut under construction to have enough money to buy her rightful share for herself and her family.
d. At an increasing pace, the government of Sudan (GOS), deliberately vetoes the international community and the NGOs from reaching areas that are in need of relief assistance. At present, it is estimated that 1.2 million Sudanese in Bahr el Ghazal , Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile , Upper Nile, Ingessena Hills and Eastern Equatoria are at risk of starvation and insecurity. As we write, the GOS is the only policy maker designating where and when humanitarian goods can be taken by OLS, the aid agencies and the Church and it has interfered repeatedly by bombing relief flights indiscriminately.
e. With regards to religious freedom, it is a known fact that building permits are not granted to construct churches, schools and chapels while more and more church structures are being destroyed or confiscated by the government, e.g The Catholic Action Club in Khartoum and the trespassing and harassment of church personnel in the Comboni College in Khartoum by the police.
4. We are dismayed by the forced conscription of adolescents , who, without adequate military training, are placed on the frontline where they are senselessly mowed down in a brutal genocidal confrontation in the name of "JIHAD" (holy war) or presumed but false patriotism.
This dreadful situation has been going on for some years and we fail to notice any evident move towards ending the conflict. In fact, everyday that passes many more innocent lives are lost. We do not see any sign of a decisive effort towards a just prompt peace by the warring parties.
5. We are under the impression that there is either lack of political will to restore peace or there is an ulterior motivation for the continuation of war. We have the impression that the UN and the OAU are indifferent about the situation of Sudan as if there were no plausible solutions or as if Sudan is not considered part of the family of nations.
The Sudan conflict is more than just a national issue. It is destabilising the neighbouring countries, and soon may take a regional and international dimensions. The Sudan conflict does not differ from those in Kosovo, Sarajevo, East Timor and Sierra Leone where violations of human rights have prompted massive international intervention.
6. We foresee that the production and sale of oil will fuel the war rather than expedite its termination. Since several countries have rushed to show interest in the trading of oil with Khartoum, the GOS has lost interest in pursuing a peaceful solution to the war. Khartoum is now interested in a military settlement aided by new allies who covet the oil wealth. Moreover some foreign countries are assisting the GOS to drive people from their ancestral land to facilitate the exploitation of the oil wells. We are convinced that the oil revenues will not be used for the welfare of the Sudanese. The fact that numberless government employees have gone without pay for several months attests to this. Indeed, Christ was sold for 30 pieces of silver and our people are being sacrificed in exchange for barrels of oil. The prolongation of the war will increase the fragmentation of the Sudan, tribal divisions and the instinctive personal quest for food, money and security and will engender additional internal displacement. this situation is allegedly exploited and perpetuated by those who have opted for a military solution.
From the above analysis, we the Catholic Bishops of Sudan, submit to the members of the IGAD countries the following:
I- Cease-fire be adopted and implemented immediately as a just and peaceful solution is sought under the auspices of IGAD.
II- That all relief aid be channeled by the UN, NGOs and Churches through non-military flight zones and designated corridors strictly monitored by the UN.
III- That all the warring parties abide by the principle of respect for human dignity of all citizens.
IV- That in order to guarantee No I,II, III, it is of paramount importance to have the UN monitoring teams on the ground.
V- We want to assure all IGAD members that we, the Church leaders of the Sudan, fully support their initiative in the quest for justice and peace in Sudan. Above all, we fully support the DOP in its entirety as the only vehicle towards a just and lasting peace.
Finally, we are fully confident that the IGAD members will adhere to and enforce the implementation of the DOP. We consider it a very wise and far-reaching benefit for Sudan.
VI- We firmly believe that all the national borders and state-sovereignty cease to exist whenever a state commits willful crimes against its own people.
VII- In this case, we request that UN, OAU, the USA, European Community and the international NGOs should come to the rescue of the people from an impending genocide.
VIII- We are convinced that the benefits from the oil production are not shared for the development of the South and other marginalised areas. In fact we fear that this wealth will cause escalation of the conflict. We, the members of the SCBC, while thanking the IGAD members for their endeavours, request you to resume the negotiations as soon as possible in a conclusive way. Any other co-opted solution, which does not honour the DOP, is only wasted time.
God bless you,
H.G. Paolino Lukudu Loro, President SCBC
H.G. Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum
H.L. Joseph Gasi Abangite, Diocese of Tombura-Yambio
H.L. Vincent Mojwok Nyike,r Diocese of Malakal
H.L Paride Taban, Diocese of Torit
H.L. Macram Max Gassis, Diocese of El Obeid
H.L. Erkolano Lodu Tombe, Diocese of Yei
H.L. Rudolf Deng Majak, Diocese of Wau
H.L. Caesar Mazzolari, Diocese of Rumbek
H.L. Antonio Menegazzo, Apostolic Administrator El Obeid
H.L. Daniel Adwok Kur, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum
H.L. Johnson Akio Mutek, Auxiliary Bishop of Torit (absent)