Chronology of key events in 2004




JANUARY

5 Jan: The government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) reach agreement on wealth sharing, bringing them one step closer to a comprehensive peace deal. Under the agreement, 50 percent of non-oil revenue from southern Sudan will be given to the central government during the six-and-a-half-year interim period.

14 Jan: The government and the SPLM/A reach agreement in principle on the division of powers between the national and state governments in the southern Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains, which would remain part of northern Sudan.

15 Jan: Authorities in Nyala, southern Darfur, close two camps housing 10,000 displaced people, following a failed attempt to relocate the IDPs to new camps. The new camps were located about 20 km outside of Nyala in an area considered unsafe due to ongoing fighting and accessibility problems.

22 Jan: A new planning project in camps around the capital, Khartoum, leaves thousands of IDPs homeless. The government "re-zones" the camps where many of the city's two million IDPs live to enable them to buy their own plots of land and legitimately stay where they are. In the Wad al-Bashir camp on the edge of Omdurman, bulldozers destroy about 7,000 homes.

29 Jan: Daily bombing raids on villages in Darfur killed hundreds of civilians and cause thousands more to flee across the border into neighbouring Chad. Local authorities estimate that, since July, 35,000 people had fled into Tine, Chad, which is separated from neighbouring Tine, Sudan only by a dry watercourse.

FEBRUARY

9 Feb: President Omer Hasan al-Bashir formally declares that his government has defeated rebels in Darfur, pledging to open up immediate humanitarian access to the region. The main Darfur-based rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), dismiss the government claims.

10 Feb: The Center for the Prevention of Genocide - a US-based, human-rights group - claims 81 civilians have been massacred by Janjawid militia, aligned with the Sudanese government, during an attack on the town of Shatatya and its surrounding villages.

16 Feb: The advocacy group Refugees International claims that humanitarian access to western Sudan's war-torn Darfur region has remained limited despite government claims to have opened relief routes.

17 Feb: Talks between the government and the SPLM/A resume in Kenya, with both parties re-affirming their commitment to signing a peace deal to end the country's 20-year civil war. The two pending issues are power-sharing and the status of three disputed areas - namely Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the southern Blue Nile region - during the transition.

MARCH

10 Mar: A total breakdown of law and order is reported in Darfur, as militias roam the region in gangs of hundreds, attacking one village after another. The entire Jabal Si area, previously home to about 70,000 people living in over 119 villages, is cleared of civilians, the UN says. Many of the displaced, over 90 percent of who are women and children, flee to Kabkabiyah town in Northern Darfur.

28 March: Government-allied militias conduct "extensive campaigns" of destruction in the Shilluk Kingdom of southern Sudan, destroying homes and in some cases whole villages, according to the US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT). CPMT investigators count 52 burnt homes in the village of Datang.

31 March: Peace talks start in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, between the Sudanese government and representatives from Darfur's rebel groups - the SLA and the JEM - aiming to reach a ceasefire that will guarantee humanitarian access to relief organisations. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is "very disturbed" by the continued fighting in Darfur, describing civilian casualties and human rights violations there as "unacceptable".

APRIL

8 April: The N’Djamena Agreement on a humanitarian ceasefire is signed between the SLA, JEM and government, resulting in a renewable 45-day ceasefire that takes effect on 11 April and the establishment of a Joint Ceasefire Commission. The Janjawid who have been held responsible for mass displacements and "crimes against humanity", are neither a signatory to the agreement, nor specifically referred to in the text.

19 Apr: Up to 30,000 people - mostly women and children - are displaced by fighting to the garrison town of Malakal in the Upper Nile area. Up to 75,000 people are believed to have been displaced by conflict in the nearby Shilluk Kingdom, which pits government-backed Nuer and Shilluk militias against the SPLM/A.

20 Apr: The number of (internally displaced persons) IDPs in Darfur rises to one million, according to a UN assessment.

26 Apr: UN agencies begin an assessment in northwestern Uganda following the mass displacement of Sudanese refugees by Ugandan rebels. Tens of thousands displaced over the previous three months as small gangs of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, in search of food and medicine, attack Sudanese refugee settlements in the area.

MAY

20 May: A study, conducted in Mukjar (town) and Wadi Salih Province (of Western Darfur State) reveals "dangerously high levels of malnutrition and mortality" with a rapidly deteriorating food-security situation, according to an MSF study. No less than 21.5 percent of children five years of age or under in the area were found to be suffering from acute malnutrition.

20 May: The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) calls for an investigation into what it said were "reports of crimes against humanity" in southern Sudan's Upper Nile state. It says attacks by armed militias had led to the displacement of 150,000 people.

26 May: The Sudanese government and the SPLM/A reach a breakthrough that officially ends the bilateral "political" negotiations.

JUNE

3 Jun: A high-level donor meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, appeals for at least US $236 million to help an estimated 2.2 million victims of war and "forced ethnic displacement" in Darfur. In total, about $126 million was pledged for 2004, leaving a deficit of $110 million.

8 Jun: UN agencies and the Sudanese ministry of health launch a plan to vaccinate 2.26 million children against measles in Darfur, rushing to complete the exercise before the onset of the long rains that render most roads in the region impassable each year.

9 Jun: Annan calls for the deployment of an "advance team" in Sudan to pave the way for a future UN peacekeeping mission once a comprehensive peace agreement ends the now 21-year civil war in the south.

17 Jun: The South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) claims that the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A had repeatedly violated the terms of the ongoing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, originally signed in October 2002.

17 Jun: An Ebola outbreak in Yambio County, Western Equatoria, is "contained", according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Seven out of 30 reported cases have died - one of the lowest mortality rates in the history of the Ebola virus. Previous outbreaks in Equatoria in 1976 and 1979 had resulted in mortality rates of 53 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

25 Jun: More than 100 people are killed in southern Sudan by Ugandan rebels belonging to the LRA in raids on villages around the towns of Torit and Juba.

29 Jun/3 Jul: Annan and Powell visited Darfur and held consultations with the government in Khartoum.

JULY

3 Jul: In a joint communiqué, following Annan’s three-day visit to Sudan and Chad, the Sudanese government formally commits to the immediate disarmament of Janjawid militias and other outlaws operating in Darfur and facilitate access by aid workers to people affected by the conflict.

19 Jul: Human Rights Watch says it had obtained documents showing that Sudanese government officials had directed the recruitment, arming and support for Janjawid militias in the country's western region of Darfur. The confidential documents, obtained from civilian administrations in northern and southern Darfur, implicate high-ranking government officials in "a policy of militia support".

30 Jul: The Council adopted a resolution that stated it would consider measures - including economic sanctions - if the Sudanese government did not make progress on commitments to disarm the Janjawid militias and restore security in Darfur.

AUGUST

6 Aug: Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's special representative for Sudan, and Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail sign an agreement committing Khartoum to take "detailed steps" in the next 30 days to disarm the Janjawid militias accused of attacking civilians in Darfur. Under the agreement, the Sudanese government would also improve security for the 1.2-million IDPs and alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.

15 Aug: The first contingent of an African Union force, consisting of 154 Rwandan troops, arrives in Darfur to protect the AU observer mission in the town of Al-Fashir, North Darfur. From Al-Fashir, the soldiers would be deployed in five centres - namely Al Geneina, Nyala, Kabkabie, and Tine and Abeche in Chad.

30 Aug: The Sudanese government and the SPLM/A extended a cessation of hostilities agreement signed nearly two years ago to allow peace talks aimed at ending two decades of civil war, to continue.

SEPTEMBER

9 Sep: The government arrests 14 members of the Islamist opposition Popular Congress Party of former prime minister Hassan El Turabi as security is tightened around the capital, Khartoum. The Interior Ministry, in a statement broadcast on Radio Omdurman, accuses those arrested of attempting to sabotage the peace.

18 Sep: The Council adopts a US-sponsored resolution threatening to "consider taking additional measures, including sanctions, to affect Sudan's oil sector and the government or its individual members" unless there were tangible efforts to protect civilians in Darfur against militia attacks.

22 Sep: The number of people affected by conflict in Darfur rises to 1.8 million, of whom, 1.45 million are IDPs, according to the UN.

27 Sep: Sudanese security forces set up roadblocks, search vehicles and houses and intensify surveillance around the capital, Khartoum, after the government accuses the Islamist opposition Popular National Congress Party, led by Turabi, of plotting to overthrow President Bashir's administration.

OCTOBER

7 Oct: Talks aimed at reaching a final peace settlement between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A resumed in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, after a two-month hiatus.

7 Oct: Annan sets up a commission of inquiry to investigate and determine whether genocide had been committed in Darfur. He appoints an Italian judge, Antonio Cassese, the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), to lead the probe.

10 Oct: Two relief workers, one British and one Sudanese, employed by Save the Children UK, are killed in North Darfur when their vehicle hits an anti-tank landmine.

20 Oct: The AU agrees to boost the number of peacekeepers in Darfur and to send in a civilian police force. The deployment of the armed force, which would number 3,320, was expected in a matter of weeks.

NOVEMBER

1 Nov: The absence of flooding in many parts of southern Sudan increased the uncertainty over the yield of fish and water lily between November 2004 and May 2005, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-Net). Wild food sources sustain households during the November to May dry-season, making up at least 50 percent of households’ annual food basket in most parts of southern Sudan.

2 Nov: In a pre-dawn operation, Sudanese army and police forcibly move a large number of IDPs from camps near Nyala in South Darfur.

9 Nov: The Sudanese government agrees to end military flights over Darfur and signs a series of breakthrough agreements in the Nigerian city, Abuja, touching on security and humanitarian issues to end 20 months of hostilities with the region’s rebels.

9 Nov: Sudanese security forces enter the Al Geir IDP camp in South Darfur for the second time in a week. According to Amnesty International, police fired tear gas during the attack, assaulted residents and bulldozed shelters in the camp, ignoring the protests of representatives of the UN, the AU and international aid agencies who were present during the attack.

19 Nov: The Sudanese government and the SPLM/A sign a memorandum of understanding in which they agree to conclude a final peace deal by the close of the year.

25 Nov: A build-up of armed militias, government troops and southern-based SPLA fighters is reported in various areas of the Upper Nile region, increasing tensions between local civilians and armed groups.

30 Nov: The UN and its partners in Sudan launched their 2005 work plan with an appeal for $1.5 billion for urgent programmes to support humanitarian, protection, recovery and development activities in Sudan.

DECEMBER

6 Dec: The Sudanese Vice President Ali Uthman Taha and the leader of the SPLM/A, John Garang, resume high-level talks in their latest attempt to end two decades of war in the south.

13 Dec: Continuing violence in Darfur reported to be derailing efforts to find a political roadmap out of the Darfur crisis, according to delegates at AU-sponsored talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

13 Dec: Two Sudanese employees of the international relief organisation Save the Children UK are killed in South Darfur, after coming under fire while traveling in a convoy of clearly marked humanitarian vehicles.

ALSO SEE: Hopes for lasting peace in the south //Yearender//