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July 2012 - Posts

Khartoum rejects South Sudan’s “last” offer on oil, Abyei

July 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese negotiators on Monday dismissed as “nothing new” what their South Sudanese counterparts have termed as the “last offer” to resolve the two countries’ disputes over oil transit fees and the status of Abyei, in the latest setback to talks bound by a UN deadline due to end in nine days.

FILE PHOTO - South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum (L) sits alongside Sudan’s Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (C), Sudanese spokesman Omer Dahab (R) during the latest round of talks in Addis Ababa on July 7, 2012 (GETTY)

The new offer was unveiled by South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum, who said in a press conference held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday, that Juba told Khartoum it can pay US$9.10 for every barrel of oil that passes through pipelines owned by the Chinese-led Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), and US$7.26 for every barrel of oil that passes through PetroDar pipelines.

Amum, who described the offer as their “last”, said it also includes an annual compensation package of US$3.2 billion to help Sudan cover a budget deficit resulting from the loss of three quarters of its oil production to South Sudan when the latter seceded in July last year.

The South Sudanese official said Juba would also forgive US$4.9 billion in what it says are overdue oil payments before its independence and for oil Sudan confiscated after independence. Sudan says it took the oil in lieu of unpaid transit fees.

The offer also includes a new proposal to hold a referendum organised by the AU and the UN on the status of Abyei, Amum said.

But Sudan, which previously rejected the South’s offer of paying US$2.6 billion in financial compensation and insisted on getting US$32 for every barrel of oil, swiftly rejected the new proposal. A member of Sudan’s negotiating team Mutrif Sidiq described the offer as “nothing new”.

Sidiq, who was also addressing a press conference in Addis Ababa, said that South Sudan’s offer was nothing but the combination of previous offers in one document.

He added that the fact that South Sudan shifted from direct to AU-mediated talks means that the process is now back to the starting point.

South Sudan suspended direct talks with Sudan on Saturday, citing an airstrike carried out the day before by the Sudanese army inside southern territories. Khartoum denied the charge saying it only bombed forces of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) after they crossed into Sudan from South Sudan.

Sidiq said that the direct negotiations were addressing all issues in one package as dictated by the “strategic approach” the two sides adopted in earlier rounds. He also commented on the Abyei proposal, saying it is an attempt on the part of Juba to refer the dispute to the international community.

The renewed impasse comes nine days before the expiry of a deadline set by the UN Security Council (UNSC’s resolution number 2046), which threatened non-military sanctions against both sides if they fail to meet the deadline.

Local press reports in Khartoum said on Monday that Khartoum and Juba appear to be headed towards filing a joint démarche requesting the UNSC to extend the deadline.

However, Sidiq appeared unconcerned by the deadline and insisted that border security issues and the establishment of a demilitarised zone remain on top of Khartoum’s priorities.

“The end of the deadline does not mean that the two sides should stop negotiating but it means that they now have to show greater seriousness in negotiating a number of contentious issues including the cessation of hostilities, withdrawal from occupied areas and ending of support to rebel groups,” Sidiq said.

Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting a number of Sudanese rebel groups including JEM of Darfur and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), a former affiliate of South Sudan now fighting the Sudanese government in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

BORDER ARBITRATION

The new international border was not demarcated during the six year power and wealth sharing deal between Juba and Khartoum and the two sides fought a brief conflict over Heglig/Panthou a contested oil region in April.

South Sudan’s Amum repeated on Monday his country’s preference to refer border issues over to international arbitration.

"We favour international arbitration. This, we believe, is the best amicable way," Amum said.

The two sides have been unable to agree where a non-binding line should be drawn in order to set up a demilitariseed border zone as buffer between the two armies.

This is seen as an important first step to end hostilities.

The Presidents of the two countries met on the sidelines of an AU summit a week ago, a move that was seen as a positive step to moving negotiations forward.

South Sudan’s offer also includes a new proposal to resolve the status of the disputed region of Abyei, suggesting that a referendum be organised by the AU and the United Nations.

Abyei, was given special status as part of the 2005 deal and was due to vote in January 2011 on whether to join South Sudan or remain in Sudan. However, disputes over the formation of the body to run the plebiscite and voter eligibility scuppered the process.

Sudan’s NCP defiant amid small protests in Khartoum against electricity rates hike

(KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has again dismissed the significance of protests that erupted in different part of the country over the last month describing them as "isolated".

Sudanese demonstrators shouting anti-regime slogans during a protest outside the Wad Nabawi mosque in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on July 6, 2012. (Getty)

On Sunday night some hundreds of demonstrators took the streets in areas south of the capital Khartoum to protest a previously unannounced increase in electricity rates that were introduced yesterday which were as high as 150%.

There was no official explanation from the government regarding the rate change.

The move contradicted government assertions made in the past that electricity rates would remain unchanged following the inauguration of the multi-billion dollar Merowe dam in northern Sudan three years ago.

Police and security officers managed to disperse the protests which continued until late into the night in Buri Lamab and and Jebel Awlia areas in Khartoum State.

Abdel-Jalil al-Karoori, a member of the NCP leadership bureau, said that the protests that began in late June are "isolated" and not reflective of the general sentiments among the people.

He stressed that the government is putting significant efforts to contain the economic crisis and accused the opposition of attempting to exploit it politically.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting that Sudan’s GDP growth will shrink by 7.3% in 2012 following the secession of the oil-rich South a year ago. South Sudan now controls what used to be 75% of the formerly united Sudan’s oil production worth billions of dollars.

The government scrambled to find alternatives in the form of expanding gold exploration which is not expected to make up for the revenue shortfall any time soon. Moreover, Sudanese officials have made little progress in attempts to get financial aid from Arab and friendly nations.

China, a major ally of Sudan, has suspended funding to dozens of projects citing the lack of oil collateral after South Sudan broke away.

In a bid to redeem the state’s ailing finances, the government announced a number of measures including the lifting subsidies on fuel which increased frustration among ordinary Sudanese who are struggling to make ends meet amid rising prices.

Annual inflation hit 37.2% in June this year, double the level in June 2011.

Furthermore, the government partially devalued the currency in a bid to further align it with the black market exchange rate and encourage those with US dollars to sell them in the official market. The move meant that Sudan will pay more for imports considering that much of its needs, including many basic food products come from abroad.

The government has also slashed ministries on the federal and local levels to cut expenses but economists say that the step is largely symbolic and would have a negligible impact on the budget.

Despite widespread anger among Sudanese citizens with the measures, only small protests broke out, which saw the participation of few hundred. Khartoum insists that the demonstrations do not amount to an "Arab Spring" as activists have hoped.

In Khartoum, a senior NCP official further downplayed its significance.

"Of more than 5,000 mosques in Khartoum only two protested [after Friday prayers]. That can give you the size of the whole thing," NCP’s external relations secretary Ibrahim Ghandour told Reuters.

Ghandour revealed that the government would keep in place some fuel subsidies until the end of 2013 to minimise social pressures.

"I don’t think the government will go and fully lift subsidies to oil. That would be a very unwise political and economic decision," he said.

The NCP official said the austerity measures would generate savings of 7 billion pounds, enough to close a finance gap of around 6.5 billion pounds, stated by Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud Abdel-Rasool, due to the loss of oil revenues.

"The goodies... of those economic arrangements are expected to start coming out at the end of the year provided that the Bank of Sudan [central bank] was able to support the pound," Ghandour said.

He acknowledged that the central bank has been unable to stop a slide of the pound against the dollar, despite the partial devaluation.

"Until now they managed [to stabilise] to a degree but now the dollar is coming up in the equivalent [black] market," the NCP official said.

"The Bank of Sudan [central bank] cannot in my opinion continue to support the pound against the dollar. They need new measures," Ghandour added.

To stop the slide Ghandour said the central bank should license more foreign currency exchange bureaus to attract more dollars from Sudanese who are using the black market.

"Why don’t we open exchange offices for whoever wishes to sell and buy?" he said. "There are few very exchange offices."

However, he ruled out a total liberalisation of the exchange rate, saying this would be a "disastrous" move.

Sudan, South Sudan Presidents Hold Meeting

July 15, 2012 (by: Franz Wild) — Sudan’s President Umar al-Bashir and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir held talks after African leaders called on them to resolve issues stemming from the split of the two nations about a year ago.

The two leaders met today on the sidelines of an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, as they sought a “comprehensive agreement on all issues,” said Pagan Amum, South Sudan’s chief negotiator in the peace talks.

“They are talking about peace,” Amum said in an interview in the city today.

Sudan and South Sudan’s presidents told African leaders they are committed to resolving disputes over issues including oil fees and borders before an Aug. 2 deadline, Haile Menkerios, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special envoy, said in an earlier interview.

“The two presidents reconfirmed they are ready to comply with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council road map and security council resolution,” he said following a meeting of the organ. “I would hope to believe that the two, consistent with what they’ve declared, will meet their commitments.”

Since the south’s secession a year ago, African Union-mediated talks between the two countries have failed to yield an agreement on oil and other issues, including the rights of citizens of both countries on either side of the border and the status of the disputed territory of Abyei and other contested border regions.

Brink of War

The countries came to the brink of war in April after the talks collapsed. Sudanese fighter jets launched air strikes inside South Sudanese territory, while the Southern army occupied and then withdrew from Heglig, a contested area that accounts for half of Sudan’s oil output.

South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrels a day of oil production after it accused Bashir’s government of stealing $815 million worth of crude. Sudan said it was confiscated to pay unpaid transportation fees.

On May 2, the UN Security Council expressed its intention to impose sanctions if the countries failed to resolve disputes within three months.

“I think that would be left for PSC and UNSC to decide at that time, but so far they’ve been making progress,” Menkerios said..

Bashir Says No Arab Spring in Sudan

KHARTOUM,  July 11, 2012 – Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday dismissed opposition calls for an Arab Spring-style uprising in the African country, threatening that "a burning hot summer" awaits his enemies.

JPEG - 13.6 kb
 president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir

Demonstrations against price hikes have sprung up in the capital, Khartoum, and other major towns across Sudan in recent weeks.

The government cut public spending to compensate for the loss of about 70 percent of its revenues when South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it much of Sudan's oil wealth.

Protesters have also been chanting a refrain heard often in other regional uprisings: "The people demand the downfall of the regime."

"They talk of an Arab Spring. Let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies," al-Bashir told a large crowd while inaugurating a factory in central Sudan.

Waving a cane, al-Bashir warned that Sudan's enemies would also be skewered.

As with other Arab Spring uprisings, security forces and riot police have responded forcefully to put down the demonstrations.

The protests began in mid-June at Khartoum University against the austerity measures, which have increased the fares on public transportation and doubled the prices of food and fuel.

According to a statement Wednesday by the London-based rights group Amnesty International, Sudanese authorities have tortured protesters and arrested some 2,000 people in connection with the demonstrations.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 13 former detainees, who reported beatings, verbal insults, food, water and sleep deprivation and other mistreatment while in detention in Khartoum and its suburbs since mid-June.

Activists claim that security forces also used excessive force against a demonstration after last Friday's Muslim prayers in a suburb of Khartoum. Protesters said they were hit with rubber bullets, tear gas and were chased into the mosque, according to Amnesty International.

In recent days, demonstrators have also reported being attacked by pro-government students wielding sticks, knives and axes. Injured protesters are afraid to seek medical care, and state security agents have detained wounded protesters in hospitals, the rights group said.

Security officials have also arrested and detained journalists, lawyers, doctors, and members of youth groups and opposition parties not directly connected to the protests.

Calls have come from neighboring Egypt for the release of journalist Shaimaa Adel, who works for an independent Egyptian daily newspaper. She was in Sudan covering the protests when state security officers arrested her more than a week ago.

On Wednesday, Egypt's most powerful political party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, sent a letter to Sudan's president calling for her release "as a measure of respect for the strong bilateral relations between Cairo and Khartoum."

US urge to end repression of as Sudanese police deny detention of protesters

July 11, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — US State Department renewed Tuesday its call on the Sudanese government to investigate reports about violent repression of peaceful protesters, while Khartoum denied detention of activists stressing the police is in control of the situation.

Sudanese demonstrators shouting anti-regime slogans during a protest outside the Wad Nabawi mosque in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on July 6, 2012. (Getty)

Protests broke out in the Sudanese capital when President Omer Al-Bashir announced on 16 June the lift of fuel and basic food provisions subsidies. The student demonstrations triggered gradually protests in the different parts of the country.

The security and police forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the peaceful protests but also detained over two thousands activists and political leaders many were arrested in their home to prevent the intensification of demonstrations.

The Sudan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced the arrest of its leader Mayada Abdalla Souar Eldahab, who is also a member of Sudanese doctors association. The party said she was arrested at her home in Khartoum North on Tuesday.

"We call on the Government of Sudan to halt the violence and respect the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly," said the State Department in a statement released on Tuesday.

Washington for the second times in two weeks, said it "remains deeply concerned" with the cruel treatment of peaceful protesters by the Sudanese authorities which are accused of arbitrary arrest and torture of political activists.

The State Department further urged Khartoum to "immediately" investigate all these charges.

However, the general director of the Sudanese police, Hashim Osman Osman, played down the impact of these protests saying the security situation in Khartoum and other states is calm.

He admitted however the existence of "small and sporadic" student protests, before to deny that the police arrest the protesters.

"We do not arrest (protestors), but we investigate the case and refer it to the court," he said.

Sudanese activists reported that Jeeraif suburb, in Khartoum, witnessed some protests on Tuesday but reliable sources from the capital explained that the tension was triggered by a traffic accident in a central street in the town because the municipality neglects to install traffic signals.

The activists announced they prepare for another peaceful protest next Friday.

Sudanese lawyers announced Tuesday they will organise a peaceful procession to the presidential palace next Monday 16 July to hand a memorandum on the difficult living conditions and the government’s violations of the constitution and laws.

In another development about the tense atmosphere in the Sudanese capital, the security services banned Tuesday’s issue of Al-Ray Alaam, a pro-regime daily newspaper, because it published a news article about shortage of bread flour.

Sudan’s VP says government to open dialogue with opposition on power alternation

July 10, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The First Vice-President of Sudan, Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, said on Monday that the government intends to approach opposition parties for dialogue on alternation of power, few days after they agreed to work for regime change.

            First Vice President Ali Osman Taha

In a televised interview broadcast by a number pro-government channels, Taha said that the dialogue would also include a new constitution to replace the current one. He stressed that all contentious issues regarding the constitution would be open for wide discussions.

On Wednesday last week, mainstream opposition parties allied under the National Consensus Forces (NCF) signed the Democratic Alternative Charter (DCA) which called for regime change “through peaceful means.”

The NCF, which include the National Umma Party (NUP) of former Prime Minister Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and the Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan Al-Turabi among others, also agreed on a three years transitional period governed by a caretaker cabinet and a presidential college with rotating chairmanship to rule the country when the National Congress Party’s (NCP) regime is down.

Taha however failed to mention whether the same offer of dialogue will extend to the rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF) whose factions including three groups from the western region of Darfur plus the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) are fighting as they say to topple the regime.

The opposition move comes amid small but growing street protests sparked by the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies as part of what officials say is an austerity program needed to make up for a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars.

Taha avoided commenting on the protests that had been gripping the capital Khartoum and other regional towns for the past three weeks.

However, he sought to calm public concerns over the economic crisis, saying that the government had adopted a comprehensive set of measures including intensification of production and reduction of government expenditure.

Sudan’s economy has been contracting since the country lost three quarters of its oil production to South Sudan which split to form an independent state last year. Inflation rose to over 30 percent in May, mainly on food prices, while the price of the local currency reached a low-record of 6 pounds against the dollar.

Taha said that the government had issued directives to control the process of money creation as well as to establish institutions of accountability to ensure maximum efficiency and reduction of waste.

In Taha’s words, the austerity program aims to bridge the gap in the budget and take the economy to broader horizons.

He expressed confidence that citizens understand the necessity of the recent economic measures.

In a related context, Sudan’s second vice-president, Alhaj Adam Youssef, accused foreign quarters he did not name of standing behind the protests.

Addressing an occasion marking “the week of national media” in the capital Khartoum on Monday, Youssef said that government statistics on the protests indicated that 85 percent of those participating were motivated by “foreign sides waging a proxy war”

Sudanese government officials say foreign media is exaggerating the scale of the protests to which security authorities responded with teargas and rubber bullets.

Activist groups say the government arrested more than 2000 people since the protests started on 16 June.

First anniversary of independence of South Sudan

July 9, 2012  -- South Sudan attained independence from Sudanese colonialism on the 9th July 2011 after much bloodshed and destruction of unimaginable proportion had taken place. As bloodshed and destruction of unimaginable proportion are mentioned, it is obvious that independence was not given by a benevolent Sudan but South Sudan fought two bitter wars lasting a total of 39 years to attain it.

By Jacob K. Lupai

Introduction

Conservative estimates put the death toll in the last war of liberation in South Sudan as two million people dead, half a million as refugees in neighbouring countries and four million people displaced and driven from their homes, notwithstanding the high level destruction of property and institutionalized underdevelopment as a policy to keep South Sudan perpetually dependent.

The above is a glimpse of what Sudanese colonialism did to South Sudan for the last half century. The first anniversary of independence of South Sudan is therefore a very high profile occasion that reminds people of the enormous sacrifices made for independence and for people to look forward with confidence for better times in nation building and development for prosperity to all.

Achievements

South Sudan is just one year old as an independent country. Expectations might have been high that disappointment would be registered as poor service delivery was perceived. However, the attainment of independence in itself should be seen as one of the greatest achievements by the people of South Sudan. One other achievement is the successful work on the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 that is the basis of governance. The establishment of institutions and the smooth functioning of government is an achievement that cannot be ignored. The National Assembly is progressively becoming assertive and this is so far an achievement.

The instantaneous recognition of independence of South Sudan by leading countries in the world is a memorable achievement. There is modest achievement in physical infrastructure. In Juba metropolis property development is on the rise. There is also improvement in road infrastructure and so an achievement. Juba metropolis has a ring road and Juba International Airport is well connected to the city centre and government ministries of various disciplines with tarmac roads. This can be pointed out as an achievement in relation to Sudanese colonialism.

Businesses are booming and South Sudan has become an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors. This was all denied to South Sudan by Sudanese colonialism. The struggle for freedom and independence was not therefore in vain given the achievements so far realized.

Challenges

Like any new independent country, South Sudan faces enormous challenges and they are taxing. The challenges may be classified into four categories. The four categories in alphabetical order are corruption, illiteracy, insecurity, land grabbing and tribalism/nepotism.

a. Corruption

Corruption is one of the most daunting challenges the Republic of South Sudan faces. It deprives South Sudan of the badly needed resources for development to improve living standards through the provision of basic services. Corruption flourishes when leniency is disproportionately applied. This means corruption should not be treated friendly and there shouldn’t be any dialogue with the corrupt that should be facing justice for the criminal offence anyway even when lying sick on a stretcher.

b. Illiteracy

According to Statistical Yearbook for Southern Sudan 2010, 72 per cent of the population is illiterate. This suggests that the first anniversary of independence of South Sudan will find most of the people are still illiterate. The implication is dire. With a highly illiterate population what can one expect? Nationalism among the illiterate is limited to the circles of one’s family. Relating to others in nation building is something the illiterate may not find it compatible with their narrow-mindedness. Aggressiveness among the illiterate may be something rampant. This may explain the high level of violence when people do not have a clue of the law of respect for the rights of others. Illiteracy may co-relate to primitiveness as opposed to enlightment. Nation building with a high level of illiteracy will be a mammoth task as the illiterate may have little confidence or none at all.

c. Insecurity

Insecurity is also one of the greatest challenges to the Republic of South Sudan. Human life seems to have become of little value. People disappear or are killed and there seems to be very little done to bring the culprits to justice. Results of investigations are hardly made public if at all investigations are ordered and carried out. Worse still criminals are at large, escaping justice while victims suffer and are in pain in silence. This is not something that an independent South Sudan should be characterized with. Independence was attained precisely because Sudanese colonialism perpetrated murder of innocent civilians in South Sudan. South Sudan should therefore be seen making the difference.

d. Land grabbing

Sudanese colonialism did not encourage land grabbing the way it is being witnessed in independent South Sudan. Land grabbing is a challenge that can only be ignored at the peril of nation building and unity. It is like a dormant volcano that may one day erupt and this is a challenge.

e. Tribalism/nepotism

South Sudan is composed of many tribes which participated in the liberation struggle that the result was ultimately independence. One would therefore expect an equitable distribution of portfolios and resources because no one single tribe brought independence to South Sudan. However, in practice things may be different. For example, in distribution of ministerial positions one tribe has about 43 per cent of the positions and this is where there are more than 50 tribes which might have actively participated in the liberation struggle in South Sudan. In addition one state has 46 per cent of the positions represented by the 43 per cent. This clearly seems to suggest that tribalism/nepotism was in play. However, it could have been that appointments were made based on merit as when the late President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, appointed his own brother as Attorney General because the brother was capable. Nevertheless, in the case of South Sudan it is an open question whether it is tribalism/nepotism that influences appointments or they are made on merit. In any case tribalism/nepotism is detrimental to nation building because it may be the cause of mediocre occupying very important positions that need brainy visionaries with practical skills to make the difference.

Opportunities

As a new independent country South Sudan has opportunities to develop faster. It can learn from other independent countries with decades of experience behind them in the post independence era. South Sudan does not need to invent the wheel, so to speak. There is a wealth of experience out there that South Sudan can easily tap into.

Insecurity is of widespread concern to ordinary folks who cannot even make ends meet. South Sudan has the opportunity to clean up its image of incompetence in providing security in neighbourhoods. It can gain experience in fighting crime from countries with good record in containing insecurity. It is not difficult to identify countries with a good system of providing security to their citizens. South Sudan cannot pretend to have all the expertise in providing security to people. This is because there is stark failure in providing adequate security as seen in the unnecessary killings of innocent civilians. Outside help may be very useful until people can be able to stand on their feet. Indiscipline is incompatible with good governance and it is difficult to have both at the same time.

Conclusion

South Sudan is a young independent country and there is no magic wand to resolve all challenges immediately. It will learn through experience and the experience of the first year of independence will make South Sudan to consider redoubling its efforts in providing adequate services to the people. Many people wouldn’t like to live in the past but would rather look forward with confidence for a brighter future in post independent South Sudan.

In conclusion, South Sudan has all that it takes to be a vibrant country that all will happily identify with as a Motherland. Hopefully, the second anniversary of independence should be an occasion that will see South Sudan different from the occasion of the first anniversary when people will truly be nationalists in which corruption, illiteracy, insecurity, land grabbing and tribalism/nepotism will have become pronounced with less frequency.

Bashir says “street children” behind Sudan’s protests

July 8, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir has dismissed the protests that have been occurring in his country for the last three weeks as being organized by “street children.”

“Those who tried to create [protest] movement are some youth and street children” he told a public rally in Wad Al-Fadni area east of the capital Khartoum on Saturday.

Bashir is referring to the wave of street protests that was ignited on 16 June by his government’s decision to implement austerity programs including termination of fuel subsidies to make up for what officials say is a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars created as a result of losing three quarters of the country’s oil production due to South Sudan’s secession.

Over the following two weeks, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in sporadic parts of the capital Khartoum and ten regional towns, burning tires and chanting slogans calling for the downfall of Al-Bashir’s regime.

Security authorities used teargas, batons and rubber bullets to stamp out the demonstrations, arresting more than 2000 people in the process, according to activist groups.

In his address, Al-Bashir accused sides he did not name of trying to exploit Sudan’s economic crisis. But he added he was confident that Sudanese people are supporting his government’s efforts to overcome the current straitened situation.

The Sudanese president promised to take measures to resolve the economic crisis and shelter poor pockets of society from its effects.

Al-Bashir hinted that his country is being targeted because it chose to uphold Islamic values. “Those besieging us are doing so because we swore allegiance to Allah and committed ourselves to Islamic Sharia [law].

Sudanese officials often cite the economic sanctions that the United States (U.S.) has imposed on the country since 1997 as one of the causes of the current economic situation.

They also complain that the West is blocking government efforts to have the country’s foreign debt relieved.

Earlier this year, the U.S. successfully lobbied to cancel an international conference that was supposed to be held in Turkey to discuss ways of supporting Sudan’s economy.

The U.S. move appeared to be in response to Khartoum’s refusal to allow foreign aid groups to access the country’s war-hit region of South Kordofan.

Sudan used “nerve gas” on Friday’s protesters amid reports of increased arrests

July 7, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese security forces used “nerve gas” to incapacitate would-be demonstrators in the capital Khartoum on Friday, an opposition member has charged, whereas activists said the number of detainees has risen to 2000 in the third week of anti-regime protests.

Sudanese police firing teargas on demonstrators, Friday 6 July (AFP)

Police and plain-clothed security agents deployed heavily since the early hours of Friday around main mosques in the capital Khartoum ahead of planned weekly demonstrations as part of a protest movement that has been gripping the country for the last three weeks.

Activists named the protest the “The Friday of Aliens and Bubbles” to gibe President Al-Bashir’s description of the protesters in the first week of the unrest.

For the second week in a row, the most violent confrontation took place around Al-Sayid Abdel Rahman Al-Mahdi Mosque in Wad Nubawi area of Omdurman town.

Al-Sayid Abdel Rahman Al-Mahdi Mosque is one of the biggest in Omdurman and has been the epicenter of Friday’s protests. The mosque is also the stronghold of the Ansar religious sect which is affiliated to the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) led by Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Al-Mahdi arrived to perform prayers in the mosques amid chants calling for the downfall of the regime. Eye-witnesses told Sudan Tribune that as soon as the prayer ended, police forces besieging the area had fired heavy teargas inside the mosque in order to disperse the worshippers before they march out.

According to the same sources, the police also fired rubber bullets against those who tried to break the siege which lasted for several hours.

At the same time, plain-clothed agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were actively arresting individuals around the area. Activists report that some of those detained by the NISS were taken to unknown directions.

A leading opposition member, meanwhile, has accused security forces of using a type of “nerve gas” that induced paroxysms of paralyses and twitching.

Speaking in an interview with Al-Jazzera Arabic, NUP member and daughter of the party leader, Maryam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, said during the siege of Al-Ansar mosque the police fired “nerve gas” that caused paralyses, twitching and suffocations among dozens of worshippers.

In an emailed statement to Sudan Tribune, Maryam said that the regime is still “arrogant” in dealing with the protests. She called on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to hand power over to Sudanese people.

In a related context, witnesses told Sudan Tribune that security forces prevented crews of media organizations from covering the protests. Al-Jazzera reported that its cameraman was arrested while the correspondent of its online replica was detained for an hour and had his mobile phone confiscated.

In another spot, police and security forces besieging Al-Sayid Ali Mosque in Khartoum North used teargas and batons to break up hundreds of demonstrators who attempted to take to the streets following Friday’s prayer.

Al-Sayid Ali Mosque is the stronghold of the Khattmiya religious sect which has close ties to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Mohammed Osman Al-Mirghani. DUP activists told Sudan Tribune that ten of their colleagues were arrested in the crackdown.

Small groups of protesters also staged demonstrations and clashed with the police in Al-Kalakla and Gabra areas of Khartoum town.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets following Friday prayer in Al-Obied, the capital of North Kordofan State. Witnesses said the protesters were chanting “we will not be ruled by Kafouri’s thief” in reference to President Al-Bashir who lives in Khartoum’s affluent neighborhood of Kafouri.

Police also used teargas and batons to disperse Al-Obied protesters.

The police issued a statement saying its forces had managed to contain “limited” protests without the occurrence of any losses.

The Sudanese Committee to Defend Rights and Freedoms (SCDRF), an activist group, on Friday issued a statement condemning the authorities for their continued “violations of human rights as well as sanctity of worshipping places” by firing teargas inside mosques.

SDRF called on the authorities to release all the individuals arrested since the protest movement erupted on 16 June in response to the government’s decision to implement austerity measures removing fuel subsidies.

“We are concerned by the situation of human rights in the country. We have setup an emergency room to monitor the events as they happen and track the continued deteriorations of rights and repression of peaceful demonstrations by force and firing of teargas on worshippers” SCDRF coordinator Farouq Mohammed Ibrahim said in the statement.

Ibrahim accused security authorities of using “excessive force” to confront peaceful demonstrators following Friday prayer in Omdurman, Khartoum North and Khartoum.

He also said that the number of those detained is increasing by the day. “We have news that the number of detainees had exceeded 2000”

Local and international rights groups say that at least 1000 protesters have been arrested since the protest movement started.

SCDRF official also condemned the beating and arrest of journalists and correspondents of media organizations while they cover the protests. He also said that Sudanese authorities are continuing to block websites whose reporting is deemed hostile.

Sudanese authorities arrested a number of journalists during the protests. Last month security authorities deported an Egyptian female correspondent of Bloomberg news.

Sudanese opposition forces sign charter on “democratic alternative” to NCP

July 5, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Leaders of Sudan’s mainstream opposition parties managed on Wednesday to sign the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC) which unequivocally adopts the goal of regime change through “peaceful means” while outlining the basis of how the country should be governed afterward.

Supporters from Sudan’s main opposition parties sign documents requesting for democratic alternatives to the one-party rule at the Democratic Unity Party headquarters in Omdurman July 4, 2012 (REUTERS)

Representatives of party members of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), an opposition coalition including the National Umma Party (NUP) of Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan Al-Turabi, and the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) among others, signed the DAC in a big celebration at the headquarters of the National Unionist Party in Omdurman amid heavy presence of government security forces.

Opposition officials lauded the DCA as a significant step forward in the confrontation with the government of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) which for the past three weeks has been facing growing street protests following its decision to end fuel subsidies as part of wider austerity measures to make up for what officials described as a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars created mainly by the loss of 75 percent of the country’s oil production due to South Sudan’s secession.

The text of the DCA adopts the use of “peaceful mass struggle” in the forms of civil disobedience and popular uprising to topple the regime and then establish an interim government in which all political forces will be represented to rule the country for three years until a new constitution is installed and elections are held.

It then proceeds to describe the principles that should guide the process of writing the constitution, including that Sudan is “a civil democratic state” predicated on equal citizenship rights.

The DCA further calls for “the abolition of all freedom-restricting laws”, “respect for the reality of diversity in Sudan” and “safeguards against the use of religion in politics”

It also calls for responding to the demands of people in the Western region of Darfur through various means including “compensations” and “accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed during the conflict in the region.

NCF chairman Farouq Abu Issa told reporters that the DCA marks a quality shift in the Sudanese political arena. He went on to added that all political forces agreed that “the national project is now represented in toppling the regime and obliterating the hallmarks of the NCP from all levers of power in the Sudanese State”

Abu Issa warned the NCP against inflicting any psychological or physical harm on the thousands of people detained by security forces during the current wave of protests, saying that this will transform the conflict along ethnic lines.

NUP’s leading member, Maryam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, told the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the DCA represents a historical landmark in the political life in Sudan.

“As far as we are concerned, this regime has become unfit to rule the country. It’s a threat to the country and we will strive to change it through all means” she said.

Maryam added that the DCA will be explained to the regional and international community.

Mubarak Al-Fadil, head of the Umma Party Reform and Renewal, said in an emailed statement to Sudan Tribune that the DCA is “a triumph for the forces of democracy that are seeking change in Sudan”

Al-Fadil stated that the Sudanese youth who took to the streets “ignited the revolution” have compelled leaders of Sudanese opposition parties “to bury their differences and sign the charter for change.”

Last week, divergences of opinion within NCF factions prevented them from signing the DCA and the Constitutional Declaration (CD) which provides for the establishment of a collegial head of state, Council of Sovereignty, a government and a legislative council that will lead the country during an interim period of three years.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that NCF factions failed on Wednesday to sign the Constitutional Declaration due to new disagreements between its members.

However, an NCF official told Sudan Tribune that there are no disagreements on the Constitutional Declaration but the signing was delayed because some parties requested time to conduct internal consultations.

UPRR leader mentioned that the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF), which is fighting the government in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, was “part and parcel” of the consultations on the DCA.

Al-Fadil said that the rebels’ coalition promised to support and sign the DCA in a meeting “to be held soon” with NCF representatives

Sudan "arrested 1000" in crackdown on anti-regime demos

July 2, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Police and security forces have arrested about 1000 people during two weeks of sustained crackdown on anti-regime protests in Sudan, an activist group said on Sunday.

Police violence during anti-government protests in the capital Khartoum last year (AFP)

Sudanese authorities use terms like “rioters” and “saboteurs” to refer to hundreds of citizens who have been protesting for the past two weeks on the streets of the capital Khartoum and other regional towns after the government moved to implement a set of austerity measures including cuts on fuel subsidies.

Activists say the protests are aiming to end the rule of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), who they accuse of a long list of failures including rampant corruption and misguided economic policies.

Large numbers of anti-riot police units and plainclothes security agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) used teargas, batons and rubber bullets to stamp out demonstrations that broke out following Friday prayer in the capital and 10 regional towns as part of what activists called "elbow-licking Friday” in reference to a gibe that some NCP officials use to indicate the impossibility of overthrowing their regime.

Agence France Press (AFP) quoted an official from the Organization for Defense of Rights and Freedoms as saying that about 1000 people have been arrested countrywide while hundreds were hurt, many by teargas, since the protests first erupted on 16 June.

"The figure of those arrested before yesterday (Friday) was about 1,000 in the whole country," the official stated, while also alleging that many of them are still being held in unknown NISS detention facilities known as ’Ghost Houses’. "They don’t tell you where they are. You are not even allowed to ask," he said.

Sudan says police used "minimum force" to respond to "rioting by small groups".

Other activist groups including Girifna have reported the arrest of hundreds of protesters and said some of them have been tortured. Among those detained is prominent blogger Usamah Mohammed who remains incommunicado since he was arrested on 22 July.

Security forces have also targeted journalists covering the unrest. Last week the authorities deported Salma El Wardany, an Egyptian female correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) issued statements this month calling on Sudan to end the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and release all detainees.

According to HRW, Sudan security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beaten people in detention, used rubber bullets and even live ammunition to break up protests.

Sudan denies using force against protesters as opposition reports torture

July 01, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Police authorities in Sudan sought on Saturday to play down their response to the anti-regime protests of yesterday, saying they used minimum force to confront “small groups of rioters”, while opposition groups spoke of torture and abduction of protesters.

File photo of police beating demonstraters during protests in the capital Khartoum last year

In a statement published by the official news agency SUNA, the police press office said that the security situation in all towns and states of Sudan was “stable” following what it called the taking to the street by small groups of rioters.

The police statement refers to the demonstrations that broke out following Friday’s prayer in several parts of the capital Khartoum and at least 10 regional towns including Al-Obied in North Kordofan and Madani in Al-Jazzera State as planned by opposition groups under the name “the elbow-licking Friday” of the Sudan Revolt campaign against the rule of President Omer Al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Heavily deployed police and plainclothes security forces used teargas, batons and rubber bullets to break up the protests which initially started two weeks ago in response to government austerity plans of lifting fuel and sugar subsidies to make up for what officials say is a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars.

Opposition groups including the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the youth group Girifna reported that many of their activists have been arrested or sustained injuries during the crackdown.

According to the police statement, however, the authorities used “the least amount of civil force” to confront the protests without there being any causalities or losses incurred in the process.

The statement confirmed that “some rioters” were arrested and will be brought to trial. The police statement further expressed confidence that citizens will not heed any attempt to “create chaos or undermine security.”

PCP officials who requested anonymity told Sudan Tribune that the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has been waging a campaign of arrests among its members since the protests that erupted following Friday’s protests in Al-Obied town of North Kordofan State.

On the other hand, security authorities in North Kordofan on Saturday issued a statement denying any arrests among PCP members. Their statement said that a “limited” number of people who attempted to cause riot following Friday prayer had been arrested and charged.

Girifna and other groups published photos on the internet of people with marks of lashing on their backs. The groups also said that the regime’s Rabata, the name activists use in reference to plainclothes security agents, abducted some of the protesters and took them to unknown destinations.

Meanwhile, the former presidential candidate and member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Hatim Al-Sir, condemned the use of violence by Khartoum security authorities against “peaceful” demonstrations. Al-Sir said that the police had “crossed all redlines” by firing teargas inside two mosques in Omdurman and Khartoum North to disperse would-be demonstrators.

The DUP figure, whose party parted ways with opposition allies in December last year to join the government, went on to launch severe attack on the Sudanese regime, saying it never learns from its mistakes and calling for its downfall.

He further expressed anger over the “brutality” with which protesters have been met, stressing that this approach will not deter people from peaceful demonstrations until their demands are met. He also said that all the arrests among activists will not scare them but fuel them to protest more. “If the rulers wanted reform, they should bow to the demands of the people otherwise they will pay the heavy price alone”

According to Al-Sir, security forces raided the mosque of Al-Said Ali Al-Mirghani in Khartoum North and arrested a number of DUP youth members who were then taken to an unknown destination.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) issued statements this month calling on Sudan to end crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and release all detainees.

According to HRW, Sudan security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beat people in detention, and used rubber bullets and even live ammunition to break up protests.