The Popular Defense Forces and the University of Bahr El Ghazal.
The Popular Defense Forces, trained and armed by the army, under whose jurisdiction they operate, were recruited in Wau mainly from southerners and students at the University of Bahr El Ghazal which was opened in 1993.147 The PDF is an Islamist militia created by the NIF and the training its members receive reflects that. In addition to military marching and weapons handling, it includes daily lectures by Islamists, religious studies of the Koran, and Muslim prayers five times daily, although Christians seem to be exempt from these prayers. All PDF trainees are exhorted to participate in a "jihad" or holy war against the infidels.148 Participation in this training is mandatory for many groups in the population, including civil servants and, as of 1997, students seeking to receive their certificate of graduation from high school. Among the PDF in Wau were boys younger than high school age, according to one observer who saw many young (Dinka) boys in PDF uniforms fleeing Wau after the fighting in January 1998.149
Even before 1997, PDF training was required of university students, who would not be permitted to graduate without it.150 Students at the college of education in Wau were trained in the PDF, and militant NIF university students were given guns through the PDF. This gave rise to problems with other students on campus, who were intimidated by this armed presence. Although the guns were collected after the dean complained, they were given back when the military supply train neared Wau and during the fighting in late January 1998.151
Governor Ali Tamim Fartak as well as Sudan Security were suspicious of the nascent university, particularly after four students and one teaching assistant were found to have joined the SPLA in the mid-1990s. At a government rally in 1996 the governor accused the university of being full of SPLA supporters, although the majority of the student body was not southern but northern and western in origin. Southerners were handicapped in reaching higher education, often lacking sufficient proficiency in Arabic and coming from areas that lacked an adequate educational system in any language.152
The University of Bahr El Ghazal was intended to include medical and veterinary schools, but these faculties were never relocated from Khartoum; the college of education, a four year college, was the only faculty to operate in Wau, with classes starting in 1993, and the first graduation in 1997.153 Some 300 students attended the college of education, with each class of no more than seventy-five students. More than one hundred were accepted each year, but many would not enroll because Wau was in a war zone. The graduating class in 1997 was of only thirty-four.154
When Kurmuk in Blue Nile State fell to the SPLA in January 1997,155 universities and colleges nationwide were closed to permit the students to be mobilized through the PDF and go to the front.156 The only exception to closure was the college in Wau, because it was in the south and thus on the front already. The Wau PDF university students were indeed armed for the fighting in late January 1998, but at the end of February 1998, after the Kerubino/SPLA attack on Wau, this college also was relocated to Khartoum, ending the government=s short experiment with higher education in Wau.157
147 Ibid. The muraheleen were incorporated into the PDF but maintained their separate and rather autonomous tribal units. See Human Rights Watch, Behind the Red Line, pp. 273-292.
148 Ibid., pp. 284-86.
149 Human Rights Watch interview, Lokichokkio, Kenya, May 6, 1998.
150 Human Rights Watch, Behind the Red Line, pp. 285-86.
151 Human Rights Watch interview, Martin Marial, Nairobi, May 3, 1998.
152 Ibid. Teaching at the Bahr El Ghazal university was in Arabic and English.
153 Every university has a college of education because there is a high demand for teachers. Ibid.
154 Human Rights Watch interview, Martin Marial, Nairobi, May 3, 1998.
155 Kurmuk was temporarily captured by the SPLA in December 1987 also. Keen, The Benefits of Famine, p. 71.
156 David Orr, ARebel Unity Spurs Sudan Call to Arms,@ Independent (London), Nairobi, January 16, 1997; ASudan Closes University so Students Go to War Zone,@ Reuter, Khartoum, January 14, 1997 (students were to fight AEthiopian aggression@).
157 Human Rights Watch interview, Martin Marial, Nairobi, May 3, 1998. The University of Juba had been relocated to Khartoum in 1987 because of the war. Opening universities in many towns and decentralizing education was a NIF project to make higher education more available. A side effect would have been to relocate the problematic student population, which never lost its penchant for non-NIF politics despite a heavy NIF presence, from Khartoum. See Behind the Red Line, pp. 232-251.