Sudan expels British envoy in Carey row: Islamic regime enraged over Archbishop's visit

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SUDANESE fury over the cancellation of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Khartoum boiled over yesterday as the strongly Islamic government expelled the British ambassador, Peter Streams. A trip that was to bring reconciliation and peace has bred anger and recrimination, ostensibly at least over where the Archbishop was to sleep in Khartoum.

The Foreign Office said last night it had summoned the charge d'affaires of the Sudanese embassy to demand an explanation for the 'totally unjustified act'. Last night George Carey was in Nimule, a rebel-held town in southern Sudan, having flown from Nairobi.

The government in Khartoum said the cancellation of Dr Carey's visit to the capital 'caused offence to the Sudanese sense of honour . . . it is unacceptable in all traditions to go to a place as a guest and, after accusing the hosts of lying and deceit, to snub their hospitality'.

Privately, Khartoum has blamed Mr Streams. But it was the Archbishop's choice to stay at the British embassy residence which appears to have angered Sudan.

The ambassador's expulsion follows months of bad-tempered exchanges, with Britain drawing attention to Sudan's human rights violations and Khartoum complaining of interference in its affairs. The Sudanese government, which recently turned itself into a 'civilian' administration, came to power in a military coup in 1989 and has been strongly influenced by the National Islamic Front, a fundamentalist party. It has been virtually ostracised by the West because of practices such as cutting off limbs for theft. This year an Anglican bishop, the Rt Rev Peter Elbersh, was publicly flogged on the orders of an Islamic court for alleged adultery.

Sudan is sensitive to criticism from Britain, its former ruler. Many northern Sudanese suspect Britain wants to divide the country and supports the southern rebels, most of whom are Christians. Dr Carey's decision to cancel the Khartoum trip but visit rebel-held areas will reinforce those suspicions.

The government seems to have been infuriated when the Archbishop refused its offer to make his visit official, and his insistence that he remain the guest of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church and stay with the British ambassador.

He was originally invited to Sudan by the church. The government welcomed the visit, which included a trip to rebel-held areas of the south. On 11 December it was agreed that he should stay in the British embassy residence in Khartoum.

Then on 21 December the Archbishop was told he was to be the guest of the government. The following day Dr Carey declined the offer to make the visit official and insisted that he stay with the British ambassador. Lambeth Palace was told the government would not allow that. The Sudan embassy in London said this insistence implied 'that there was not in the whole country a place fit for His Grace to stay except for a foreign embassy'.

The government insisted Dr Carey stay with the Episcopal Church. Dr Carey, aware of Khartoum's record of manipulating visitors, decided the visit to the capital could not go ahead on these terms.

Carey's defiance, page 11

(Map omitted)