CONFUSION surrounds the fate of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese
Christian woman condemned to death for alleged apostasy (News, 16
On Saturday, a Sudanese official in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs said that Mrs Ibrahim, who was born to a Muslim father but
brought up as a Christian, would be freed from prison within days.
But, only hours later, this had been denied by a spokesman for the
ministry, Abu Bakr al-Sideeg, who said that only the judiciary in
Sudan could overturn the death sentence, which she has already
Mrs Ibrahim, who gave birth to a daughter last week while still
in shackles, remains in prison in Omdurman with her baby and
two-year-old son, Martin (News, 30 May). Her husband, Daniel
Wani, has told the BBC that reports of her release were just
"rumours", and that he was waiting for her appeal to he heard.
Mrs Ibrahim, who is 27, was sentenced to death for her alleged
apostasy last month, and was also sentenced to 100 lashes for
adultery; the court sees her as a Muslim, and therefore considered
her marriage to a Christian illegal under Sudan's laws, which
prohibit interfaith marriage (News,
Supporters of the international campaign to free Mrs Ibrahim
include Tony Blair, David Cameron, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and Hillary Clinton.
The Head of Africa and the Middle East for Christian Solidarity
Worldwide, Dr Khataza Gondwe, told The Sunday Times that
he believed that the Sudanese government was only announcing her
possible release to ease the pressure upon it.
"They [the Sudanese] have a track-record of buying time by
making promises which they don't keep," he said. "The worry is that
the campaign loses momentum, and then, if they renege on any
promise, the world's attention has moved on.
"Whatever happens in this case, the fundamental problem remains
that the state's constitution appears to guarantee religious
freedom and the right to change religion, but the judiciary
operates by different rules."
The International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, said
on Tuesday that while Mrs Ibrahim's appeal is being heard she
should be released from prison.
On Tuesday, lawyers for Mrs Ibrahim appealed to the African
Commission on Human and People's Rights, which has the authority to
suspend her sentence. Sudan is a signatory to the African Charter
on Human and People's Rights which established the Commission in
This appeal has been backed by a number of African and Western
human-rights organisations, including the African Centre for
Justice and Peace Studies, the Strategic Initiative for Women in
the Horn of Africa, and a British-based campaign group,
Dr Lutz Oette, a law lecturer at the School of Oriental and
African Studies who helped to draft the appeal, told The
Times on Tuesday: "Given the urgency of the matter, and the
worldwide attention to the case we would expect that [the
commission] would act as quickly as possible.
"Unfortunately, Sudan's record of compliance has been weak. But
that doesn't mean that they have no obligation to comply, and it
doesn't mean they won't comply in this case."
A protest outside the Sudanese embassy in London, jointly
organised by Christian Voice and the Brit-ish Pakistani Christian
Association (BPCA), was due to take place today.
A statement from Redress on Monday described the conditions in
which Mrs Ibrahim is being held.
"The prison is notoriously overcrowded, and the medical care
provided is insufficient, resulting in appalling conditions for
inmates. Her situation is aggravated by the fact that she is
routinely shackled, which makes it very difficult for her to look
after her children."
UNLESS the fighting stops, there will be no South Sudan
by the end of this year, a church leader in South Sudan said last
week, writes Madeleine Davies.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan,
the Revd Peter Gai Lual Marrow, suggested that the number of deaths
could exceed those incurred during the civil war with the North:
"If the conflict continues until the end of the year, there will be
no South Sudan. . . It will devastate the whole land
The latest data from the UN suggests that, in addition
to the thousands of people killed, more than a million people in
South Sudan have been internally displaced, and 360,000 people have
fled abroad. More than 95,000 people are sheltering in UN bases.
Four million people are in need of humanitarian aid.
Speaking on Thursday of last week, Mr Marrow cautioned
against probing the causes of the conflict: "The people of South
Sudan don't want to reveal the facts behind the conflict now, but
it will come later on.
"Our concern is only to mind about the innocent
suffering of the innocent people - that is the priority, and later
on people can talk about it, because even now in the Church we are
very careful not to exaggerate and talk about things that can add
to the bitterness."
He acknowledged that the country was suffering from
disunity: "[It is] completely divided, even when people are
displaced. If they identify themselves, they can even fight them.
Even inside the UN site in Malakal, people are fighting and dying.
Communities who were just being together are divided sadly, and no
mercy at all, all the women taking refuge they again meet another
problem within that camp."
Mr Marrow, who is one of the church leaders facilitating
the peace process in South Sudan, suggested that the Church could
bring harmony: "We talk about bringing people together again: you
need to be in their midst, you cannot leave. It's better to come
closer and talk to people, and see what divided them, and, even
more, what can unite them."
His primary concern is the urgent humanitarian needs on
the ground. Christian Aid's senior advocacy and policy officer for
East Africa, Natalia Chan, warned that, during South Sudan's rainy
season, two-thirds of the country was inaccessible by road. "We are
calling on donors not to cut development funding and divert it to
humanitarian funding," she said.
"We need to have funding and a long-term commitment.
This is an entirely preventable crisis if we act now. Timing is
The UN is seeking $1.8 billion from donors, about 40 per
cent of which has been received.
A South Sudanese bishop has laid the blame for the
country's continuing conflict at the feet of its
The Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol, told the
Anglican Communion News Service that South Sudan's leaders were all
former rebel commanders who had not yet become responsible
A peace deal was agreed between the battling factions,
but it has not led to a cessation of violence on the
Bishop Deng also said that the Church was working hard
to bring peace. "The Anglican Church cuts across ethnic divides and
we are working hard to ensure that the Church remains united as it
is the only institution which will facilitate reconciliation of our
"Had it not been for the Church, South Sudan would not
be where it is today, but could have been worse than