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January 2012 - Posts

EXCLUSIVE: Sudan army officers warn Bashir & Hussein against rush to war with south

January 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A group of 700 military officers from Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) confronted president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein with several demands that focused on military and political reforms, Sudan Tribune is told.

FILE - Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir (C) and Defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (L) salutes at a military function in Khartoum (AFP)

Multiple army sources who all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue said that the officers included those stationed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and other parts of the country.

The message was delivered last week to Bashir and Hussein during their briefing sessions with SAF senior army officers who listened to the pair calling on them to prepare for the possibility of a full-scale war with South Sudan.

But the sources said that the SAF officers at the briefing were all but appalled at the prospects of heading to war with Sudan’s southern neighbor given the state of the military at this point.

The officers called on Bashir and Hussein to urgently address the challenges faced by the SAF emphasizing that the army has been unable to decisively overcome the rebels in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The Sudanese army is battling rebels from the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in the two states since June 2011 in South Kordofan and September 2011 in Blue Nile. Khartoum persistently accuses Juba of providing aid to the rebels but South Sudan routinely denies the charge.

This week the second Vice-President of Sudan, Al-Haj Adam Youssef was quoted by local media as threatening to go after SPLM-N rebels even if they had to go all the way to Juba.

“If necessary, Juba is not far,” he told the paper during celebrations of Sudan’s independence in the central state of Al-Jezira.

SAF needs “tremendously huge efforts” in order to prepare for future dangers particularly at a time when there is talk about foreign intervention, Bashir and Hussein were told.

The officers also urged Bashir and Hussein combat “rampant” corruption within the army and gave an example of 200 battle tanks that were bought in early 2010 but most of it turned out to be defective and a large number had to be sent to neighboring countries for repairs.

They noted that several senior officers objected to the “subpar deal” involving these tanks before they were bought which led to the sacking of Hussein’s chief secretary Maj. General Al-Na’eem Khidir and other senior officers including Maj. General Ahmed Abdoon who headed the Nyala army division and Maj. General Al-Tayeb Mosbah of El-Fasher army division.

The SAF officers also implored on Bashir and Hussein to implement segregation between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the army so that the latter does not shoulder the mistakes of the NCP and become vulnerable to volatility of the Sudanese politics.

Furthermore, they said that is imperative that the system of government be reformed because the status quo jeopardizes the country’s national security.

One of the sources underscored that the current political climate in the form of tensions between the Islamists and the NCP has spread into the army but declined to provide details.

He described Bashir and Hussein as "rattled" by the officers’ complaints.

Eric Reeves, a researcher at Smith College who writes extensively on Sudan, believes oil is a major factor in this move.

"This may well be a dismayed response to the clear possibility that Khartoum never wanted to make a deal about oil revenues with Juba. Rather, the goal was to create a casus belli, by which the army would seize the oil regions of the South and restore all oil revenues to a northern economy that continues in a politically dangerous tailspin" he said.

This month a number of memos have surfaced allegedly sent by the Islamist base calling on the NCP to implement political reforms and fight corruption.

One of them was presented in late 2011 by Bashir’s adviser Ghazi Salah al-Deen in his capacity as the leader of the NCP parliamentary bloc.

The Sudanese president responded vaguely to some of the demands contained in Ghazi’s memo while saying that it is “premature” to address the others.

Sudan is facing a growing economic crisis that was aggravated by the secession of the oil-rich south which took with it 75% of the country’s crude reserves.

Since then, Sudan’s oil revenues, which used to make up 90 percent of the country’s exports and were the main source of hard currency inflows, have largely dried up.

The government has already banned many imported items to preserve its foreign currency supply.

The Sudanese pound lost a significant amount of its value against the dollar as a result and the black market has flourished despite government warnings.

Khartoum is trying to walk the fine line between the need to cut government spending and cutting subsidies on basic goods and petroleum products which they fear might trigger social unrest.

Last year the governor of Sudan’s central bank Mohamed Khair al-Zubeir said that fuel subsidies need to be removed because they are a huge burden on the economy.

"Subsidies are a big burden for the state. The biggest subsidy is for fuel," al-Zubeir said, adding that a barrel of fuel was sold locally at $60 compared to a market price of $100.

"So far we didn’t notice the difference, subsidies were no problem because the country had oil ... [but] we cannot pay this anymore," he added.

The landlocked South Sudan has been in talks with Khartoum on the fair fee that should be assessed for using the north’s refineries and pipelines. It has been reported that Sudan asked for $32 per barrel for the service, something which South Sudan vehemently rejected saying it is excessive compared to international norms.

Sudan retaliated to the slow pace of talks and decided to seize part of South Sudan’s oil as payment in kind for the exporting service. Juba responded by shutting down its oil production.

Sudan hopes for breakthrough after Bashir agrees to release south’s oil tankers

January 29, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir heeded to a request from the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and agreed to release three tankers carrying oil cargoes belonging to South Sudan that were held by Khartoum since earlier this month.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends the inauguration of the new African Union (AU) Building in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, January 28, 2012 (Reuters)

The deputy head of the negotiating team from the Sudanese side Said Ahmed al-Khateeb told reporters at a press conference held in Addis Ababa’s Sheraton hotel that Zenawi visited Bashir at his suite to tell him that Juba would sign a framework agreement drafted by the mediation team but is skeptical about implementation.

South Sudan president Salva Kiir was particularly concerned about the clause relating to oil tankers and as such Bashir ordered them freed immediately after consulting with his delegation and negotiating team.

"The vessels will be free to leave immediately," al-Khateeb said.

Said Khatib, a senior member of North Sudan’s negotiating team addresses a press conference on January 28, 2012 in Addis Ababa (AFP)

He also pointed out that Kiir raised this demand in yesterday’s quartet meeting with Bashir, Zenawi and Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki.

On Friday, hopes of an agreement between Bashir and Kiir were dashed after South Sudan president expressed reservations about the proposal submitted by Thabo Mbeki who chairs the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

In its watered-down form, the accord would allow South Sudan to export its oil without any portion of it being confiscated by Khartoum. The latter started last year seizing some of the crude pumped by Juba through the north’s pipelines claiming that it was payment in kind for transit fees.

South Sudan would then provide Sudan with the 35,000 barrels per day for its refineries in Khartoum and elsewhere.

The two sides would then work on the oil transit fee calculation and seek an agreement within a specific timeframe.

Th next round of negotiations is to resume on February 10th.

The two countries have been negotiating for months on what a fair charge should be for usage of the infrastructure by Juba to export its oil.

But as talks on the fees dragged on the Sudanese government said it ran out of patience and can no longer tolerate landlocked South Sudan exporting its oil for free. As such it started taking part of the oil pumped by South Sudan to make up for what it called unpaid fees.

In response, South Sudan said last week it was shutting down its oil output drawing concern by regional and international that tensions between both sides is escalating dramatically to the point where war could ensue.

Officials in Juba said they will not reverse their decision to suspend oil production unless Khartoum reimburses it for the “stolen” oil which they put it at close to 2 million barrels or $815 million.

Khartoum insists that it is simply it is taking what is owed to it by Juba for using its pipelines and refineries since South Sudan gained its independence last July.

"We started taking the equivalent in kind of what we had been invoicing South Sudan, not a cent more," Al-Khateeb said.

Al-Khateeb said that Mbeki’s team would contact the two sides in order to set a date for signing the framework agreement which would pave the way for a final accord within 30 days.

"By taking this step, we expect the cover agreement to be signed, the shutdown to be halted, and the terms of the cover agreement to be respected," said al-Khateeb.

"Before the end of today, we could be able to sign the cover agreement. We, at least, are ready to sign."

A South Sudanese official, asked to comment, told Reuters: "We are studying the claim. We are waiting for confirmation from the shipping companies." He did not want to be named.

Meanwhile the Sudanese negotiating team returned to Khartoum and upon arrival made remarks that were largely negative about their talks in Addis Ababa with South Sudan.

They also revealed that South Sudan attached other conditions in order to reach a deal including conceding Abyei along with five other disputed border areas.

Khartoum would also be required to give up any claims to its shares and rights in the branch of Sudapet Oil Company that operated in South Sudan.

“It is clear that the delegation of the South [Sudan] does not want to reach neither a temporary or permanent solution, having introduced two strange conditions which shows that the southern government has parties or pockets that do not want to reach an agreement with the [Sudanese] government to an agreement on this matter" said Al-Zubeir Mohamed al-Hassan who was a member of Sudan’s negotiating team and a former finance minister.

Al-Hassan warned that South Sudan has got more to lose than Sudan by shutting down oil production since it is dependent by 98% on crude exports for income. He accused Juba of seeking to topple the government in Khartoum through “strangling it economically”.

Failure of al-Bashir and Salva Kiir in resolving differences over the southern Sudan oil

January 28, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The presidents of Sudan Omer Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan Salva Kiir failed to reach an agreement on the terms by which Juba can export its oil through the north’s pipelines despite pressure mounted by African leaders present at the summit in Addis Ababa.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (L) & South Sudan president Salva Kiir (R) attend talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 27, 2012 (AFP)

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who is the current chair of the African Union (AU) spent several hours of the day in Sheraton hotel desperately trying to convince Bashir and Kiir to reach common grounds on the issue of oil.

The landlocked South Sudan became independent last July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with Khartoum. It took with it about 75 percent of roughly 500,000 barrels per day of oil production.

Both countries depend heavily on oil and have put forward widely differing figures for a possible transit fee. Sudan has publicly proposed $36 per barrel, while South Sudan has listed figures under $1 per barrel.

As talks on the fees dragged on the Sudanese government said it ran out of patience and can no longer tolerate South Sudan exporting its oil for free. As such it started taking part of the oil pumped by South Sudan to make up for what it called unpaid fees.

In response, South Sudan said last week it was shutting down its output.

Zenawi along with Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and chairman of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki listened to the respective positions of Bashir and Kiir on the oil dispute after which it was realized that the gap between the two sides is very wide.

But the Ethiopian premier told the two leaders that while he respects their views but that they have no options left but to sign off on the AUHIP proposal and suggested that the mediation team ran out of ideas.

The latest proposal submitted by Mbeki’s team states that South Sudan would pay its northern neighbor $4 billion over the next five years, send 35,000 barrels per day to Khartoum’s refineries and in return the Sudanese government would release the oil tankers in Port Sudan carrying crude to their buyers.

The south countered the initiative saying it is prepared to pay only $2.6 billion over the next five years including $1 billion starting this year.

Some sources told Sudan Tribune that the AUHIP proposal was watered down in Addis Ababa today to where it allows Juba to export its oil without Khartoum seizing part of it. South Sudan would then provide Sudan with the 35,000 bpd.

The two sides would then work on the transit fee portion of the dispute and seek an agreement within three months timeframe.

After several hours of frantic deliberations Bashir and Kiir agreed to sign an accord on spot after consulting with their delegations prompting Zenawi to break the news to his African peers.

But Kiir reportedly came back and said he can’t approve of this arrangement in its present form.

The head of South Sudan negotiating team Pagan Amum vehemently denied that Kiir gave Zenawi his blessings saying that this a “lie”. He stressed that his boss never agreed and came to the summit to inform the leaders about his position and that for a starter Khartoum must return the oil it seized.

Sudan’s foreign minister Ali Karti said that Kiir’s stance generated harsh criticism from African leaders.

Zenawi said the two sides hadn’t agreed on a deal yet, but oil would stay on the agenda in Addis Ababa, where the leaders of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia also met.

"It was agreed that the two parties will continue their negotiations during the summit. We have not come to conclusion as yet," he told reporters.

Zenawi said an African Union mediating panel had proposed a "reversal of unilateral measures" taken by both sides, but did not spell out what that meant. "Many of those issues are agreed, but there are some sticking points," he said.

In a related issue the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Bashir refused the presence of Ugandan president Yoweri Musevini in the oil talks.

New Islamists’ memo calls for civil state in Sudan

January 27, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A group of individuals describing themselves as veteran members of the National Islamic Front (NIF) have released a memo calling for the renouncement of the rule of its offshoot, the National Congress Party (NCP), and the establishment of a civil state.

Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir prays alongside some of his senior aides following his re-election on 26 April 2010 (AP)

The new memo, dubbed ’milestones in the road of reform and development’, had been prepared since February but was only released to the media on Thursday.

Its under-signatories, who kept their names anonymous, identified themselves as people who have “spent decades in the service of the NIF in Sudan”, and whose efforts were “squandered” as a result of the NIF’s military coup in 1989 and the lust for power that split it into the NCP and the Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Hassan al-Turabi.

Sources told Sudan that the people behind the memo represent elite Islamist writers and thinkers who preferred to go on the sideline after the NIF took power and during the power struggle between the PCP and the NCP.

The difference between this memo and the previous ones which called for internal reforms is that the new memo calls on NIF members to distance themselves from the NCP and seek a “democratic system” that guarantees equal right to citizens.

The memo also stated that one of its goals is to restructure the NIF away from the influence of the NCP.

“Considering this regime [the NCP] as a custodian or supporter of the Islamist project is a figment of self-deception and detachment from reality,” the memo said.

The writers of the memo went on to detail a long list of failures they accused the current NCP regime of being responsible for, including the secession of South Sudan, the war in Darfur and the worsening situation of the economy.

But what stands out in the new memo is the call to establish a civil state that treats “the principles of freedom and justice as inalienable rights”. The memo defined a civil state as "a state where fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed, and where people are equal before the law regardless of gender, racial or religious discrimination”.

Sudan’s politically active Islamists, whether NCP or PCP members, advocate an Islamist state in the traditional sense of the word, which suggests a state based on a purely Islamic constitution that gives preferential treatment to Muslims over non-Muslims.

The insistence of Sudan’s ruling Islamists on implementing Shar’iah law is one of the factors that led to the secession of South Sudan after nearly half a century of intermittent civil war in the mainly Christian region.

The new memo also called for putting an end to internal wars and pushing for peace, development and eradication of corruption.

Meanwhile, a senior NCP official, Amin Hassan Omer, demanded that those behind the new memo reveal their identity. He stressed that his party will not deal with memos signed by anonymous people and that its worth can only be determined through the weight of the people who signed it.

Another reform memo created by hardline Islamists and calling for internal reforms appeared in the media last month.

Two killed in South Darfur as unrest continues

January 27, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The violent events in South Darfur State escalated on Thursday with two people being killed as demonstrations against the newly appointed governor entered its third day.

Photo of Wendesday’s demos in Nyala (ST)

Meanwhile, the federal government in Khartoum has vowed to stamp out the unrest, describing as outlaws those protesting in favour of reinstating the former governor.

South Darfur State plunged into an episode of unrest on Tuesday when supporters of ex-governor, Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha, staged protests against the appointment of his successor, Ismail Hamad, as the latter arrived in the state capital Nyala to assume his duties.

Hamad was appointed to his position on 10 January as Kasha, the governor elected during the 2010 general elections, was relieved from his position as part of presidential decrees that increased the number of states in Sudan’s western region of Darfur from three to five.

The decrees are part of the implementation of the Doha Peace Agreement signed in mid July last year between the government and the Liberation and Justice Movement, one of Darfur rebel groups, in a bid to end the nine years of conflict in the region.

Kasha was given the position of the governor of the newly created state of East Darfur, but he refused to accept his post, citing dissatisfaction with the area’s lack of infrastructure.

The first two days of unrest in Nyala saw looting, arson and the death of three people as the police clamped down on the protesters.

Eye witnesses told Sudan  that demonstrators took to the streets again on Thursday and gathered in main down town markets where they burned tires. The police resorted to its typical response of firing tear gas and live bullets in the air to break them up.

According to witnesses, two more people were killed and dozens were injured.

Meanwhile, the state minister for the presidency of the republic, Amin Hassan Omer, told the Khartoum-based daily newspaper Al-Ahdath on Friday that the authorities are determined to confront outlaws without leniency.

“There will be no immunity to those who break the law,” he declared, stressing that there is no going back in the appointment of the new governor.

Omer also absolved the former governor Kasha of any guilt, saying he had nothing to do with the unrest.

But Omer’s assertion makes little sense in view of statements on Thursday in which the new governor Hamad accused Kasha loyalists in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of standing behind the unrest.

“If this crisis did not erupt, we would not have been able to glean the sources of error in the party,” Hamad told a gathering of NCP members in Nyala.

The new governor called on the NCP’s youth to renounce violence, and pledged to continue the achievements of his predecessor.

In the meantime, the NCP has scrambled to contain the situation, forming a taskforce led by its prominent member Ibrahim Ahmad Omer and other members who arrived in Nyala on Thursday.

The delegation immediately embarked on a series of meetings with the state’s security committee as well as local officials, including Kasha.

On the other hand, NCP members loyal to Kasha gathered at the party’s headquarters in Nyala and chanted slogans calling for his return to the governor’s office.

The NCP’s delegation met with Kasha’s stalwarts and urged them to observe self-restraint.

Analysts say that governors of Darfur’s states who belong to the NCP are unhappy with the Doha Agreement perceiving that it detracts from their powers.

Analysts are also sceptical that the Doha agreement will bring an end to the conflict in the region, considering the power struggles that might derail its implementation.

South Sudan puts its army on maximum alert in oil row escalation

Ngor Arol Garang (JUBA) - South Sudan on Wednesday said it has put its troops on maximum alert, amid growing tensions with Khartoum over the ongoing oil wealth sharing dispute and reports of air bombing by Sudan inside its borders.

Soldiers guard a South Sudanese oil refinery, 2009 (AFP)

Yesterday the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned aerial bombardment of areas hosting Sudanese refugees in South Sudan.

The bombing which took place on Monday in the Upper Nile state reportedly left one child injured and 14 other people missing. Upper Nile borders Blue Nile state in Sudan, where the Khartoum government is engaged in conflict with rebels.

On Wednesday the spokesperson for the French foreign ministry Bernard Valero condemned the air raid saying it not only endangered civilians living "in dramatic situation" but also United Nations (UN) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) staff working there.

"This aggression is a violation of international humanitarian law and involves the lives of civilians and humanitarian workers. This is unacceptable," the French official said.

Valero also said that France is “very concerned” about recent decisions “taken unilaterally” by both Khartoum and Juba which “go against the spirit of friendship and cooperation which they had been able to demonstrate from January to July 2011”.

Valero urged both parties to “demonstrate responsibility” and to reach an agreement at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development special summit, based on the African Union High-level Implementation Panel proposals.

Speaking at a press briefing in Juba International airport upon arrival from Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Majak D’Agoot, South Sudan’s deputy minister of defence said the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) was aware that Khartoum is mobilising support for militia groups operating along the borders with South Sudan.

Agoot said South Sudan’s troops are on maximum alert, to counter any Khartoum-backed aggression.

The South Sudan official said the talks he attended in Ethiopia with Khartoum were fruitless because of the reluctance of the Sudanese delegation to engage "in honest and meaningful discussions".

Khartoum has been confiscating South Sudanese oil as what it considers payment for arrears in unpaid transit fees. Juba considers the charge of around US$32 per barrel in fees suggested by Khartoum as exorbitant, but it is landlocked and currently has no other pipeline, other than the one under Khartoum’s control, which terminates at Port Sudan.

Juba claims Khartoum has “looted” US$815 billion worth of its oil. Khartoum is demanding around US$1 billion in unpaid fees since July 2011.

As a result of dispute South Sudan has stopped output at more than 300 wells and has reduced production at 600 more.

According to the South’s chief negotiator in talks being held in Addis Ababa, Pagan Amum, output is expected to be reduced from 275,000 to 135,000 barrels per day. He also said US$2.6 billions would be disbursed to Sudan within four years after separation and that US$2.8 billion in South Sudanese arrears be forgiven.

As South Sudan relies on oil revenues for 90 per cent of its economy, the prohibitive costliness and time consuming nature of constructing an alternative pipeline through neighbouring Kenya to the coast at Lamu, the stalemate is unlikely to be tenable for long.

Aleu Ayeny Aleu, a member of the National Assembly from Warrap commended the decision to reduce oil production.

“Nothing much has changed. The standoff on oil have not been resolved”, Agoot told journalists on Wednesday in Juba, but expressed South Sudan’s willingness to negotiate “a fair deal” with Khartoum.

While still at the Addis Ababa summit Agoot told Sudan  that his “profound” knowledge of the Sudanese government made the Sudanese defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein reluctant to hold discussions with his delegation.

Agoot served as deputy National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum during the interim period, before he was appointed as South Sudan’s deputy defence minister after secession on 9 July 2011.

Agoot was accompanied by the general chief of staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, James Hoth Mai.

Sudan promises to bring BBC Arabic back

January 26, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese minister of media, Abdula Massar, has promised to reverse the government’s decision that banned broadcasts of the BBC Arabic radio countrywide.

On 9 August 2010, Sudan took the BBC Arabic broadcasts off FM frequencies in four main cities, saying the decision had nothing to do with the reporting of the popular broadcaster, and everything to do with actions breaching the accord regulating the terms of its service and sanctity of national laws.

According to the Sudanese ministry of media, these actions included the BBC’s smuggling of satellite equipments through the British Embassy’s diplomatic courier.

Quoted by Sudan’s official news agency SUNA, the undersecretary of the Media Ministry, Abdul Dafi al-Tayyib, said that his boss, Massar, made the promise during a meeting on Wednesday with the British ambassador in Khartoum, Nicolas Kay.

The official said that Massar’s discussed with Kay common issues and the latter was particularly interested in the issues of press freedom in Sudan.

Kay, in the latest entry on his controversial blog which saw him being summoned by the authorities few times before, noted with regret that pressures on journalists and on those exercising their right to speak in Sudan are “again making the news” as the year 2012 begins.

Sudan exercises tight control over broadcast media while allowing newspapers a semblance of freedom that is fraught with redlines.

Two newspapers were shut down this month by the National Security and Intelligence Services which practices censorship on newspapers to prevent them from reporting on controversial issues.

South Darfur State witness protests against new governor

January 26, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Protests erupted on Tuesday in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, as its newly appointed governor arrived to assume his duties.

Photo of Tuesday’s protest in Nyala against the new governor (ST)

Eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the protestors were demonstrating against the appointment of the new state governor Hamad Ismail.

Ismail was appointed to the position by Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir as part of his 10 January decrees that saw the three states in the western region of Darfur being increased to five and some governors reshuffled.

The changes in the region’s administrative makeup are part of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) signed between the Sudanese government and the ex-rebel group Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in a bid to end the eight-year conflict in the region.

Ismail’s predecessor, Abdel Hamid Kasha, was removed from his position and given the position of the governor of the newly-created state of East Darfur, but the latter refused to accept his post, citing unhappiness with the decision to remove him.

Tuesday’s protests in Nyala erupted as Ismail, flanked by the former governor Kasha, arrived in the town amid tight security presence.

According to eye witnesses, the demonstrators toured the town chanting slogans refusing to recognize the new governor and calling on Al-Bashir to reinstate Kasha.

Police forces intervened to contain the protests as they developed into rioting incidents involving many shops in Nyala downtown market being looted.

Members of the police fired teargas and bullets in the air to break up the demonstrators. They also arrested a number of protestors.

The chief of police in Nyala, Taha Jalal, said his forces had responded to “marauding groups” which tried to undermine security by throwing stones at the people who gathered to receive the new governor. He further said that the police had managed to contain the situation in a short time and without any casualties.

Meanwhile, the vice-president of the ruling National Congress Party, Nafie Ali Nafie, has downplayed the protests, telling reporters in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday that the demonstrations do not reflect any level of unpopularity of the new governor.

South Sudan and Kenya sign memorandum on construction of oil pipeline

January 25, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan and Kenya have signed a memorandum of understanding on the building of a oil pipeline from South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Lamu.

South Sudan and Kenya sign MoU for construction of oil pipeline, Juba, Jan. 24, 2012 (ST)

The agreement comes four days after South Sudan passed a resolution in cabinet to shut down the oil operations through the pipeline which passes through Sudan to its sea port of Port Sudan.

South Sudan accused Sudan of stealing its oil while Khartoum claimed it was confiscating the oil for unpaid fees; a claim Juba said was unfounded.

The South Sudanese government also passed another resolution seeking an alternative oil pipeline to another neighboring country.

A high level delegation from Kenya, led by the prime minister, Raila Odingo, arrived in Juba on Tuesday to negotiate the memorandum with their South Sudanese counterparts, which resulted in the signing ceremony at J-One Palace.

The Kenyan delegation also included its minister of foreign affairs, Moses Wetangula, minister of public service, Dalmas Otieno and minister of energy, Kiraitu Murungi, among others.

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and vice president, Riek Machar, witnessed the signing ceremony. Minister of foreign affairs, Nhial Deng and several other ministers and ambassadors were also present.

The minister of petroleum and mining in South Sudan, Stephen Dhiew Dau, and the Kenyan minister of energy, Kiraitu Murungi, signed the memorandum on behalf of their respective governments.

The memorandum also provided for the installation of fibre optic connections between the neighbouring countries.

In a press statement after the signing ceremony, the two ministers explained that the memorandum laid a foundation for economic cooperation between the South Sudan and Kenya.

“The purpose of this memorandum of understanding is to develop and expand a framework of cooperation and partnership between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the Government of the Republic of Kenya on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, mutual understanding, respect and trust,” partly reads the memorandum’s text.

The memorandum explained that the two countries will negotiate transit fees for the oil pipeline which will be based on international practice.

Currently, many countries in the region pay less than US$1 per barrel as transit fees; Khartoum is asking for $32.20.

Sudan’s Islamic Fiqh Council bans formation of womens soccer team

January 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (religious order) saying that it is forbidden for the country to create a womens soccer team, deeming it an immoral act.

Yoanis Linares Reyes of Cuba’s multi-coloured hair flies during the second half of their CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying soccer match against Haiti in Vancouver, British Columbia January 23, 2012 (Reuters)

The religious authority said that any request made by FIFA in this regard is not an excuse to bypass Sharia’a law or grant any exception.

This ruling was in response to an opinion asked for by Al-Sheik Dafalla Hassab al-Rasool who is a member of the legislative and justice committee in the parliament. He said that the national assembly will soon summon the relevant authority for a hearing on the matter.

The Islamic Fiqh Council said in its decision that it had previously made a similar fatwa, in 2006, by which it banned the establishment of a soccer league for women.

It added that for Sudanese females to go play soccer in Africa, Asia and Europe is a breach of Sudanese ethics and values.

Last November Sudan participated in a seminar that took place in South Africa which discussed women soccer in Africa and challenges faced.

Sudan was represented by Laila Khalid who is a member of the country’s soccer association. At the time she stated that she hopes the seminar reflects positively on female soccer in Sudan.

Kiir explains decision to halt oil production as Sudan plays it down

By Ngor Arol Garang (JUBA) - South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has asked the country’s legislature to back his government’s decision to halt oil production in the wake of what he described as “looting” by neighboring Sudan of oil revenues worth $815 million.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit during his Monday’s speech before the parliament on the current oil dispute with neighboring Sudan (ST)

The landlocked South Sudan decided last week to shut down oil production countrywide after its officials said that ex-civil war foe Sudan is stealing South Sudan’s crude oil flowing through its pipeline infrastructure to export terminals in Port Sudan. Southern officials also accused Sudan of blocking vessels laden with oil from sailing out of Port Sudan.

Khartoum defended its decision to confiscate southern oil, saying Juba has failed to pay any fees for using Sudan’s facilities since South Sudan seceded in July last year as per a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil wars between the two sides.

Addressing members of the Juba based National Legislative Assembly, President Kiir explained that his government took the decision to halt oil production after exhausting all possibilities of a peaceful settlement, and after there was no guarantee that oil flowing through Sudan would “reach its intended destination.”

He went on to recount that Khartoum informed them on December 6 that all oil shipments belonging to South Sudan would only be allowed to leave Port Sudan after paying the “exorbitant” amount of 32.2 dollars per barrel.

South Sudan strongly objects to Khartoum’s demands of 32.3 dollars per oil, saying it is “a broad daylight robbery,” according to one official, and insisting it will only pay fees in accordance with international standards.

Kiir revealed that last week he sent envoys to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia whose presidents reached out to president Al-Bashir and asked him to stop taking “unilateral decisions” about South Sudan’s oil.

“The response from Bashir is that he will not stop taking oil until we pay the exorbitant amount of 32.2 dollars per barrel, something that is completely out of international norms and a precedence that we are unwilling to set” Kiir declared.

According to Kiir, the total amount of oil revenues “looted” by Khartoum since December through blocking oil shipments and diversion amounts to approximately 815 million dollars.

“We cannot allow assets which clearly belong to the Republic of South Sudan to be subject to further diversion,” he told parliamentarians in explaining his cabinet’s decision to halt production with immediate effect.

However, Kiir acknowledged that his country needs to find “other sources of funding” in order to cope with the disruption of oil revenues on which South Sudan’s nascent economy heavily relies.

The president revealed that he had already instructed the ministry of finance to devise “contingency plans” to accelerate the collection of non-oil revenues.

He further emitted assurances that the government can survive “for the immediate future” on the existing cash reserves.

“I want to assure the people of South Sudan that all measures will be taken to ensure that any disruption is minimal” he said.

Kiir also warned that the disruption of oil revenues “could last many months” in light of what he termed as the Sudanese government’s failure to negotiate “in good faith.”

He however did not shut the door before continued negotiations with Sudan, saying his government would do everything possible to resolve the impasses and restore the flow of oil.

“I call upon this august house to support the decision of the Council of Ministers to stop the flow of oil and search for alternative sources of funding to manage government projects,” Kiir told the MPs.

Photo of demos in Juba supporting South Sudan’s decision to suspend oil production (ST)

Concurrently, demonstrations backing South Sudan’s decision to halt oil production erupted in the capital Juba on Monday.

Meanwhile in Khartoum, the Sudanese government has downplayed the impact of South Sudan’s decision to suspend oil production, and suggested that the demonstrations in Juba were contrived.

The media secretary of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Ibrahim Gandor, said that the biggest loser from the disruption of oil production is South Sudan itself, not Khartoum.

He further said that Juba demonstrations were “concocted” by the government of South Sudan to send a message saying that the South Sudanese public supports the decision.

Gandor said that the government in Juba believes that the decision is a way of exerting economic pressure on Khartoum coupled with Juba’s support for armed groups in order to change the government in Sudan.

“This is a big delusion,” he added.

However, the state minister for media in Sudan, Sana Ahmad, stroke a conciliatory tone, saying her country is still keen to reach a negotiated settlement under the mediation of the AUHIP.

She added that Sudan had taken all precautions to avert the negative impact of South Sudan’s decision to stop oil production.

Sudan softens stance on foreign aid groups for Blue Nile and S. Kordofan

January 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government appears to have softened its stance regarding the presence of foreign aid groups in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan where Khartoum is battling rebels belonging to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

Refugees protest on November 17, 2011 at Yida camp in South Sudan (AFP)

Sudan has been adamant that it will not allow the humanitarian agencies from working in the two states citing security concerns while other officials accused aid groups of contributing to the conflict there and prolonging it.

The United States has warned of an imminent famine by March if Khartoum does not allow United Nations (UN) agencies and aid groups in by then.

It was also reported that Washington is drafting plans for a unilateral intervention for the purpose of delivering aid to the needy in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

But the Sudanese government warned against any such move saying that humanitarian assistance should be provided only in coordination with Khartoum.

The United Nations humanitarian chief Valery Amos visited Khartoum earlier this month to discuss the humanitarian situation in the two states and called on the government to allow UN and international aid workers to reach the rebel controlled areas.

Amos also warned that food insecurity and malnutrition have reached "alarming" levels in areas controlled by the SPLM-N.

She proposed that providing aid to the SPLM-N areas will be monitored by African and Arab figures.

Today the Sudanese foreign ministry and Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) held a meeting with representatives of twenty aid groups including those from the UN and other international organisations.

According to Sudan official news agency SUNA the government issued directives saying that all aid groups that were present before the fighting broke out in the two states will be able to continue working there under certain conditions.

With regards to aid distribution, Khartoum ordered that this can only be done through HAC and the Sudanese Red Crescent. Also any infrastructure projects are to be implemented by the relevant ministries and local organisations. This rule also applies to social development projects.

Representatives from the UN and other international organisations will be allowed to be present in the state capitals only after obtaining necessary permissions from the pertinent authorities who will determine the duration of the permit.

Today’s decision seems to be seeking a middle ground on international demands of allowing full access to aid agencies. But it remains to be seen whether local groups are capable of effectively carrying out the aid distribution.

The foreign ministry spokesman, Al-Obaid Marwih was quoted by SUNA today as saying that the government has been monitoring coordinated movement by “extremist groups” in the US to prepare the international arena for action in these two states.

Marwih said that the US is ignoring the real cause behind the trouble, is who violated agreements and decided to continue to carry arms, in clear reference to the SPLM-N. He added that Sudan doesn’t mind a ceasefire in order to allow for the delivery of aid.

The violence has already forced about 417,000 people to flee their homes, more than 80,000 of them to South Sudan, the United Nations estimates. Locals have faced air raids and sporadic ground fighting, according to human rights groups and refugees.

Governor threatens to sue Sudan over delay of appropriations

January 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Karm-Allah Abbas Al-Sheikh, Governor of Gedaref state threatened to sue the federal ministry of finance before the international justice over non-payment of financial appropriations..

KarmAllah Abbas AlSheikh, Governor of Gedaref state

In such case, the governor can contest the ministerial delay before the constitutional court, in accordance with the Sudanese constitution however he alluded to the international justice to express his angry from the finance ministry.

The governor accused the federal ministry of restricting the payment of the money allotted to his state while it pays other states at time stressing officials in Khartoum are favoring some other states and feeding their financial accounts without any complexity or delay.

The governor who is the leader of the ruling National Congress Party at the state level was speaking Saturday at the celebration of the Martyr Day in Gedaref warned that he will resort to the Council of States, Upper house of the parliament, to complain over a 18 month delay of payment.

"I will not go (to Khartoum) for begging anyone but however I will work to restore the rights of the state, and if necessary I will go to the International Tribunal," he further said.

Al-Sheikh said he briefed President Omer al-Bashir and his two deputies about the practices of the Federal Ministry of Finance and reluctance to feed the state’s money.

He slammed the current and former ministers of finance and denounced the lack of justice in the money distribution saying they do it according to their whims.

He said many projects have been implemented thanks to the self-efforts and generous donations by the state citizens.

Gedaref governor is not the first Sudanese official to complain from the very bureaucratic and tyrannical practices implemented by the ministry of finance which is still works with the mentality and principles of a centralized state while the country has adopted a federal system since long years ago.

South Sudan will continue talks with Khartoum despite halting oil production

Ngor Arol Garang (JUBA) :  South Sudan said on Friday that it will continue to negotiate with Khartoum over post-independence issues despite announcing that it is stopping oil being exported through North Sudan over transit fees dispute.

South Sudan council of ministers meeting  January 20, 2011 in Juba (GoSS website)

South Sudan’s cabinet on Friday passed a resolution that will see a total halt to oil production within two weeks. The ministry of petroleum and mining will immediately proceed with construction of a new alternative pipeline through Ethiopia to the Kenyan port of Lamu, according to South Sudan’s oil minister.

"We are planning that building an alternative pipeline will be a national duty for all South Sudanese," South Sudan’s oil minister, Stephen Dhieu Dau, told reporters in Juba.

Juba claims that Khartoum has stolen $350 million worth of its oil and prevented over $400 million of it from leaving Port Sudan, while Sudan says that the South Sudan owes it more than $1 billion in unpaid fees.

Sudan wants $36 a barrel as a transit fee, which is roughly a third of its value, and for Juba to share the north’s $38 billion national debt. Juba wants to pay a much smaller fee similar to the rate Chad pays to export it oil through West Africa.

Landlocked South Sudan officially became an independent state in July 2011 after a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum that ended decades of civil war in which 2 million people died.

However, since South Sudan seceded the two countries have been unable to agree over the poorly demarcated border, citizenship, national debt and the exportation of South Sudan’s oil using northern pipelines and refineries.

South Sudan’s minister of information, Barnaba Marial, told reporters at the council of ministers that they had resolved to pursue negotiations with Khartoum through the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on the outstanding issues between the two countries.

So far the AUHIP mediated talks, led by former South African president Thabi Mbeki, have failed to resolve any of these issues. Minister Marial said the Khartoum government have spoiled the environment for discussion.

Marial said the council had directed the minister for petroleum and mining to communicate the decision to all oil companies involved in the production in order to initiate immediate construction of the alternative pipeline.

"This decision was necessitated by the continuous behaviour, which the Khartoum government has adopted recently toward South Sudan. They have been stealing and blocking our oil from going to the international markets. Our oil worth 350 million US dollars has been stolen", the minister said.

Marial said the cabinet made the decision to build the pipeline after the minister in the office of the president, Emmanuel LoWilla, and the minister of petroleum and mining, Stephen Dhieu Dau, tabled a report about recent visits to the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The minister accused Khartoum of forcing oil companies to load the oil into its vessels without the permission of the government of South Sudan.

“How can we be discussing with Khartoum on the issues of oil especially the transit fees while they are now confiscating our oil by force?” minister Marial asked.

South Sudan’s oil minister told Reuters that the six month-old government could last for 18 months without oil, despite oil accounting for 98 percent of the budget.

The oil minister said that despite the issues with the project the government wanted to build the pipeline to avoid exporting out of north Sudan.

The new pipeline route runs through difficult and insecure areas of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya and there is scepticism that the project is financially viable as oil production is expected to decrease by half over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government has downplayed South Sudan’s move, saying that the latter will be more affected by it.

Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported that Khartoum’s foreign ministry responded to the announcement by releasing a statement saying that it has the right to confiscate South Sudan’s oil because Juba was not serious about negotiating a fee for using northern infrastructure.

Khartoum said there would be "a negative impact on both sides but the damage will be bigger for South Sudan than Sudan". Since Sudan lost South Sudan’s oil revenue, which made up 75% of oil revenues, its economy has suffered severely.

North Sudan has not said whether it will attempt to sell the oil it has diverted to its two refineries but Juba has said it will sue any company who buys its oil from Sudan rather than them.

Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has recently admitted that his country will be negatively affected if the South decides to halt oil production, but warned that Juba has more to lose from such step.

Over the last six months the two countries have accused each other of supporting rebels in each others territory. Both sides have denied the allegations. North Sudan has also been accused by the United Nations of bombing South Sudan, a charge denied by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

Sudan’s foreign minister Ali Karti said this week that an oil deal with South Sudan is unlikely to be reached without an agreement on border security and Juba’s cessation of alleged support to Sudanese rebels.

Some observers have suggested that South Sudan’s decision to halt oil production is aimed at putting pressure on Khartoum in order to elicit concessions on the negotiation table.

In New York, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement saying he is "is deeply concerned by continuing tensions along the border between Sudan and South Sudan as well as the current oil crisis".

"This situation indicates a worrying deterioration in the relationship between the two states," he said.

"The United Nations fully supports the efforts of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to resolve these and other outstanding issues between the parties based on the concepts of mutual viability, security and peaceful coexistence".

"The Secretary-General strongly urges the parties to do everything possible to reach agreement in their current negotiations in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AUHIP, to defuse the current oil crisis, and address the other contentious issues on the agenda that require immediate resolution".

Foreign Ministry: Sudan Takes Oil instead of unpaid Fees

Khartoum - The government of Sudan has affirmed that it took Sudan's rights in the oil of the State of South Sudan that passes through its territoriesin kind.

The Foreign Ministry in statement issued, Friday affirmed that Sudan would not be harmed if the State of South Sudan stopped exportation of its oil through Sudan, confirming that Sudan, in principle, will cooperate with the State of South Sudan in the field of oil and the other issues for the interest of the people of the two countries .

The statement indicated that the government was obliged to take such move after it realized that the State of South Sudan is not serious in the negotiations .

Teh rebel group said it mnaged to destroy five military vehicles.

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