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December 2012 - Posts

Bashir’s lifting of minimum wage leaves Sudan’s 2013 budget subject to amendments

December 31, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday preempted the work of a committee reviewing the issue of wages and ordered the lifting of minimum wages effective next January.

Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) said that Bashir conveyed his decision during a meeting he held with the head of Sudan’s labor union Ibrahim Ghandour and other senior officials from the union.

Ghandour was quoted by SUNA as saying that the new minimum wage will be 425 Sudanese pounds (SDG) which is comprised of the old minimum wage of 165 SDG, 200 SDG in pre-existing bonuses granted previously by Bashir and a new increase of 60 SDG.

Based on official exchange rate the minimum wage has jumped from $37 to $96.

The issue of raising wages was a topic of hot discussions between Ghandour and the finance minister Ali Mahmood Abdel-Rasool who insisted that the country cannot afford bumping pay for workers given the current economic situation.

Abdel-Rasool has previously said that doing so would require either raising taxes or further cutting subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities which eats a big chunk of the budget.

But the labor union head rejected either options and hinted at a strike should their demands not be met.

The Sudanese presidency established a commission to review the implications of raising wages and was required to submit its recommendations by the end of next March.

Abdel-Rasool has stressed that should an increase in pay be approved then the 2013 budget endorsed by the parliament this month needs to be amended.

Today’s report on SUNA did not explain how the hike in wages would be funded or when next year’s budget will be adjusted to reflect Bashir’s decision.

Speaking by phone on privately-owned Blue Nile TV this month the finance minister scoffed at Ghandour’s assertions that the wages will be raised starting January 2013.

“After the parliament approved the [2013] budget….[how] are we going to do something [spend more money] outside of the budget?” Abdel-Rasool posed the question.

The national assembly approved the 2013 budget proposal submitted by the government this month which projects 25.2 billion Sudanese pounds (SDG) in revenues and 35.0 billion SDG in expenses leaving a deficit of 10 billion SDG ($1.5 billion) which equals 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some analysts disputed the figures saying the deficit will likely be higher.

Sudan lost 75% of its oil reserves after the southern part of the country became an independent nation last July denying the north billions of dollars in revenues. Prior to the country’s breakup, Sudan produced close to 500,000 barrels but now its output is limited to 140,000 barrels per day. Oil revenue constituted more than half of the Sudan’s revenue and 90% of its exports.

The value of the Sudanese pound has deteriorated sharply against other major currencies and particularly the U.S. dollar which is now trading at 7 SDG compared to an official rate of around 4.4 SDG.

This has fueled inflation which is now at 46% due to the fact that Sudan imports a significant portion of its basic commodities. Ordinary Sudanese citizens are increasingly frustrated about their inability to make ends meet.

Stunning video purportedly shows 2010 escape of U.S. diplomat killers from Sudan prison

December 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A group apparently affiliated with Al-Qaeda has published a video on Friday purportedly showing the escape of four men accused of killing an American diplomat and his driver almost five years ago from a maximum security prison in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Video footage showing Abdel-Ra’uf Abu-Zaid Mohamed Hamza explaining their escape route from Kober prison in 2010.

John Granville, 33, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and his 40-year-old Sudanese driver Abdel-Rahman Abbas were hit in their car by a hail of bullets before dawn on 2008 New Year’s Day.

Sudanese authorities eventually managed to capture five men, believed to be belonging to the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Tawhid, and charged them with the killing of Granville and his driver.

Their names were Mohamed Makkawi, Abdel-Basit Haj al-Hassan, Mohannad Osman Youssef, Abdel-Ra’uf Abu-Zaid Mohamed Hamza and Murad Abdel-Rahman Abdullah.

Except for Abdullah a Sudanese court sentenced all the defendants to death by hanging in 2009. But the four managed to escape in June 2010 from Kober Federal prison under mysterious circumstances. Police at the time said that the prisoners used sewer pipes to flee.

Later it was revealed that the government re-arrested Hamza while the family of Youssef said he was killed in Somalia without giving details.

Many observers questioned how this could be possible given the tight security surrounding the facility from the inside and outside in addition to surveillance cameras installed. Some have went as far as accusing the government of facilitating their escape.

The YouTube video produced by a group calling itself ’Al-Hijratain for Media production’ explained in extensive details how the runaway was planned and executed.

A substantial portion of the 41-minute video was filmed from inside the prison in broad daylight raising questions about the level of security the prisoners were subject to.

Video footage showing Mohamed Makkawi speaking about their escape from Kober prison in 2010.

Makkawi who had his face blurred started speaking on camera on how they began devising their escape plan from day one.

"When we entered the prison we entered just me and Abdel-Basit as the first batch. Abdel-Ra’uf and Mohannad were still in criminal investigations and have not yet been transferred to Kober prison. Brother Abdel-Basit brought up with me the idea of escaping. He conveyed me an idea and made several other suggestions for the two of us before the others joined us," Makkawi said.

"After that when the [two other] brothers came and we met and became all in one place we thought about escape but the place we were in was not suitable to execute the idea we had in mind until god blessed us when they [prison administration] moved us from the area we were in, the department of cells, to the political section," he added.

Makkawi said they were "inspired" in their plan by the prison break which occurred in February 2006 of twenty three al-Qaeda members in Yemen.

After their first death sentence was handed to them, the four of them were locked in chains pursuant to prison rules on those awaiting capital punishment, Makkawi said. He claimed that a section chains were welded together and as such had no keys to open them. The other section had the lock damaged to the point where even the keys could not open it.

But according to Makkawi they overcame this obstacle by using a handsaw to cut into the chains and also managed to steal keys from one of the guards which opened the locks despite being mutilated on purpose by the prison guards.

Another section of the video had al-Hassan, whose face was also blurred, demonstrate the escape using a design of the prison he drew on a blackboard apparently inside the prison as well.

"From here the digging began in the kitchen" al-Hassan said as he pointed to a room in the blackboard. "In the corner of the kitchen we started digging aiming at the goal of [reaching] the visitation room so that we are able to change clothes," he said.

"We started digging here. Of course there are tiles...Every day we started digging and it was covered in a way so even that if there is a search the prison administration could not discover [the hole]" al-Hassan added.

"We dug down for approximately 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). After we reached the depth from which we could enter inside, glory to god the dust turned [from clay soil] to sand" he said adding that this made it easy to dig except in certain areas.

He said the underground tunnel they dug after the initial 3.5 meters was the difficult part as it was not a straight line. In total they dug 38 meters (125 feet) to freedom. The video showed pictures from the inside of the tunnel that they dug through.

The four inmates dug between 0.5 and 1 meters daily using plumbing pipes through the kitchen floor every day after sunset prayers. After they finished they covered the hole in a way making it difficult for anyone to suspect anything.

Makkawi scoffed at government statements following the escape in which they said that the sand they dug out was dispensed in sewer pipes. He said that the sand was actually disposed in the prison yard after putting water on it. They even planted roses on top of it as camouflage. This process was also filmed from inside the prison.

The video will likely cause deep embarrassment to the government given the relative ease by which the convicts carried out their plan.

Parts of the video showed filming of Kober prison from outside by a group described as "support and surveillance" suggesting that the inmates received help from outside.

Sudanese police the four men after exiting the prison rode a Toyota Land cruiser which passed a checkpoint northwest of the twin capital city of Omdurman. The driver of the car refused to stop when ordered and fire exchange took place killing the police driver on spot.

Another police car attempted to carry on the pursuit but got into a wreck causing it to roll off the street upside down. The Toyota Land cruiser was found abandoned later with flat tires from bullets shot at by police.

The warden of Kober prison was suspended from duty over the incident but was later reinstated after being cleared from negligence.

The United States at the time had called on the Sudanese government to "initiate a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding this escape" and "to prosecute, to the full extent of the law, any individuals or groups found complicit in the escape of these criminals".

For a decade after Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, Sudan became a notorious refuge for militant Islamists.

These included Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US special forces in Pakistan last year and who was based in Khartoum between 1991 and 1996, where he ran a thriving construction business and built mujahideen training camps.

But in the last ten years Khartoum has stepped up its counter terrorism cooperation with the U.S. and denounced its support for militant groups.

Sudan- S. Sudan presidential summit to take place in Ethiopia

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle (ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s president, Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, will meet in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs, Dina Mufti.

The two leaders’ decision to engage in a fresh round of talks comes after the new Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, visited the capitals of Sudan and South Sudan where he met the leaders of the two countries as part of the efforts to push ahead the peace process between the two neighbours.

"The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to meet in Addis Ababa and the two leaders expected to arrive here on Friday next week," said Mufti.

However the official Sudanese news agency SUNA reported on Friday evening that the Ethiopian Prime Minister has extended an invitation to presidents Bashir and Kiir to meet in Addis Ababa on 13 January.

Juba and Khartoum singed nine agreements in Addis Ababa on 27 September, aiming to normalising their relationship after the independence of the South Sudan, following accusations of support to rebel groups and tense clashes over Heglig .

However the two parties did not implement the security arrangements after their failure to narrow the gaps between their positions on how to deal with the Sudanese rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

On the other hand the two parties failed to meet over Abyei referendum as provided in a decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council calling on the two sides to reach a compromise over a proposal the mediation had made.
Mufti said the two sides will discuss ways of implementing the previously signed agreements and the issue of the final status of Abyei area.

Mufti stressed that the issues of Blue Nile and South Korodfan states where Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting insurgencies will be high on the agenda at the summit.

The Blue Nile and South Kordofan states are believed to have been prime obstacles to implementing the cooperation agreement between the two countries but Mufti said he hopes that the two leaders will make a breakthrough over their differences during the presidential summit in Addis Ababa.

"There is equally goodwill between the two sides and we highly believe to witness a fruit full outcome from the upcoming summit," Mufti emphasised.

After meeting Bashir and Kiir, Desalegn said that both have assured him of their commitment to engage in substantive consultations during the presidential summit, to end the standoff on implementing the peace agreements.

Ethiopia has played a crucial role to facilitate the resolution of the outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan.

Sudan arrests dozens of unofficial currency traders

December 28, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese security authorities have arrested more than 70 traders of hard currency as part of a crackdown on the black market, a well-placed source told on Thursday.

The source said that the arrests that took place during the last two days were carried out by the National Intelligence and Security Forces (NISS) whose agents also confiscated all the hard currencies found in the possession of the detainees.

Sudan’s Central Bank announced this week that it has decided to ban unofficial foreign currency dealing after the local pound hit a record low, trading for 7.1 against the US dollar in the black market as individuals and businesses alike found it increasingly difficult to obtain dollars through official channels and sometimes even in the black market.

With the loss of oil-rich South Sudan last year, Sudan’s main source of hard currency has dried up leaving the government scrambling to secure new sources of Forex.

"It is almost impossible to get dollars in Khartoum and it is getting worse," one black market trader told Reuters. "The mood is very bad".

The deputy governor of Sudan central bank Badr Al-Deen Mahmood was quoted by government sponsored Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website on Tuesday as telling parliament that the jump in the price of the dollar is a result of practices such as linking the dollar price to gold.

Mahmood said the bank is collecting information on currency dealers suggesting legal action might be forthcoming against those implicated.

He said that there is no excuse for trading outside the official channels as the central bank permits anyone to apply for a license to establish a Forex bureau.

The black market rate is watched by foreign firms which sell products in pounds but struggle to convert profits into dollars.

Among those companies are mobile service providers Zain and MTN and Gulf banks such as Dubai Islamic Bank.

The exchange rate also impacts the price of basic commodities most of which are imported from abroad. Inflation rate in November hit 47% last month.

President Al-Bashir Launches Start of Production at Hadida Oil Field

Hadida, Dec. 28 (SUNA)- President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, Thursday launched the start of oil production at Hadida field in South Kordofan State and received a bottle as a sample of the produced oil from the Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Awad Ahmed Al-Jaz.

The new oil field will add 10,000 barrels per day to the Sudanese oil production.
The inauguration festival was attended by the Assistant of the President of the Republic, Musa Mohamed Ahmed and a number of ministers.

Addressing a mass rally on the occasion, President Al-Bashir called on all the people of Sudan to discard aspects of internal dispute and stick to the method of peaceful dialogue for solving the internal problems.

He stressed the importance of uniting and consolidating the internal front for realizing development and utilizing the vast resources of the country.

President Al-Bashir affirmed that the state will go ahead in implementing development projects despite the hostility of enemies and plotters.

He said that the new oil field will provide addition to the national income and the people of the area and all the Sudanese people.

President Al-Bashir has lauded the role of the Armed Forces, the Police Forces and the People's Defense Force (PDF) and praised the Chinese companies that came to work in Sudan without pre-conditions.

Sudan’s ruling party welcomes Bashir-Kiir summit

December 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) —The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) welcomed the organization of a summit between the Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir before the African Union summit next month.

Negotiating delegations from both countries agreed last week in Addis Ababa to meet after Christmas and New Year holidays as the two parties agreed partially on the implementation of security deals. The next January meetings, of the joint political security committee, will focus on the rebels’ issue.

Initially the mediation was planning to organise a meeting between the two presidents on the margins of the African Union annual meeting to discuss to discuss besides the rebels’ issue, Abyei and the disputed areas.

NCP spokesperson, Badr al-Deen Ibrahim, said his party welcomes a presidential meeting between Bashir and Kiir before the African Union "if it is in the interest of the implementation of the agreements signed between the two countries".

Speaking after a meeting of the party’s political sector, Ibrahim said that Khartoum supports and welcomes any step leading towards the enforcement of Cooperation Agreement and paves the way for the establishment of good-neighborly relationship.

He expressed hope that the two parties would demonstrate the necessary political will to enforce what has been agreed, and reiterated Sudan’s commitment to what was signed in Addis Ababa.

The official was reacting to statements by Luka Biong, member of South Sudan negotiating team, to Khartoum based Al-Sahafa daily newspaper where he said that a South Sudanese delegation will arrive to Khartoum to discuss the presidential summit.

Ibrahim denied that Sudanese government has blocked the implementation of the agreements inked on 27 September. He further called on the mediation and the international community to exert the necessary pressure on any of the parties they consider obstructing its implementation.

Khartoum which has long accused Juba of supporting rebel groups particularly the SPLM-N, refuses to allow the exportation of South Sudanese oil through its pipeline and the Red Sea ports asking it to disengage with the Sudanese insurgents

In addition, it says Juba did not yet withdraw its troops from the disputed areas. The South Sudanese army due to the rainy session was not able to redeploy its troops and their heavy military materials from these areas.

Sudan congratulates U.S. Senator Kerry on nomination for Secretary of State

December 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government hailed the decision by United States president Barack Obama last week to nominate Senator John Kerry to become the next Secretary of State.

According to a press release by the Sudanese embassy in Washington the foreign minister Ali Karti in a letter to Kerry extended his congratulations on the nomination and expressed Sudan’s willingness to continue working with the U.S. in full cooperation on matters of mutual concern.

Karti also conveyed his “sincere desire and hope for a constructive dialogue between the two countries that leads to a normal relationship and fosters peace and security in the world at large”.

Sudanese officials and pro-government newspapers expressed relief over the decision by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice this month to withdraw her name from consideration for the post of U.S. Secretary of State.

Rice told Obama in the letter that Senate confirmation hearings for her would have been overly contentious. She has came under heavy fire from Republicans in Congress for remarks she made in the aftermath of a September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Khartoum believes that Rice has maintained a hostile attitude to the government led by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir since her days as U.S. assistant Secretary of state for African Affairs in the 90’s.

Kerry is currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been the 2004 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

In this capacity the U.S. Senator visited Sudan three times in April 2009, October 2010 and November 2010. The first visit came in the aftermath of Khartoum’s decision to expel more than a dozen aid groups from Darfur.

At the time Sudan official news agency (SUNA) conducted a rare extensive coverage of the lawmaker’s visit in what appeared to be optimism in Khartoum of gradual normalization of relations between the two countries.

The second time around Kerry came with a message from the Obama administration which said that Washington would be willing to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism if it facilitates the January 2011 South Sudan referendum.

The U.S. later said the de-listing is not possible as a result of new conflicts that erupted in Abyei, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

In a related issue the U.S. charge d’affaires Joseph Stafford said that normalizing ties between the two countries will likely take a long time. He also denied any desire by Washington to topple the Bashir government.

At a symposium on the future of the Sudanese-American relations in Khartoum he addressed in Arabic the U.S. diplomat expressed optimism that the coming period could witness a breakthrough that leads to improve ties.

The U.S. charge d’affaires said his country continues to lead multiple efforts with rebel groups in Darfur South Kordofan and the Blue Nile in order to push them to negotiate to resolve the conflict peacefully with Khartoum.

He stressed that the U.S. administration rejects military conflicts in the Sudanese territory as long as there are peace agreements such as the Doha accord and cooperation agreements with South Sudan.

The U.S. imposed a set of sanctions on Sudan since 1997 that restricts U.S. trade and investment and blocks the assets of the Sudanese government and certain officials.

Sudan's Bashir to give speech, after surgery last month

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will address the nation and open a major dam on Sudan's national holiday next week, in one of his first major public appearances since undergoing surgery last month, state news agency SUNA said on Sunday.

Sudanese blogs and newspapers had been speculating about Bashir's health because he has cut down public rallies in the past few months.

The 68-year-old leader, who seized power in 1989, went to Saudi Arabia in November for what officials described as a "minor surgery". He also underwent surgery on his vocal cords in Qatar in August.

Bashir will travel to Blue Nile state capital El Damazin for Sudan's independence day on January 1 to open a major dam and give a "speech to the Sudanese nation", SUNA said.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region, gave a speech broadcast on television after his operation in Saudi Arabia but has otherwise been less present in public recently.

The veteran leader is known for his fiery speeches and for dancing and waving his walking stick at public events.

Over a 23-year span in power, Bashir has weathered armed rebellions, years of U.S. trade sanctions, an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, waves of student protests and the secession of oil-producing South Sudan last year.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Sudan’s Umma party had prior knowledge of coup attempt, government says

December 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie accused the National Umma Party (NUP) led by former Prime Minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi of being complicit in the alleged coup attempt thwarted last month.

"We said this before and he [Al-Mahdi] knows this…..some of the participants [in the coup] contacted him," Nafie said in an interview on Sudan TV Saturday.

"We don’t need to say that there is more evidence that the Umma Party personally even knew the zero hour [of the coup attempt] and they consulted on what do with regard to it," he added.

Nafie, who is also the deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), refused to provide further details.

"I am confident that the Umma party knew the zero hour on Thursday and based on it they had an opinion on what to do" he repeated.

"I hope the people of the Umma party do not force us to say more on this but [more info] could surface in the future when results [of investigations] appear," Nafie said.

This is the first time Nafie explicitly accuses an opposition party of involvement in the coup attempt which involved disgruntled regime loyalists. In a previous interview Nafie made the suggestion of NUP involvement without going as far as pointing fingers in the manner he did today.

This month a local newspaper quoting security sources said that Al-Mahdi took a trip to Britain last month to conceal his participation in the coup. It also pointed to alleged NUP contacts with the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) which is a coalition of armed rebel groups including the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) and three Darfur rebel groups that aim to topple the Bashir-led government.

The NUP along with Al-Ansar, a religious sect associated with the NUP, fiercely denounced the allegations and warned against any attempt to implicate its leader in the coup attempt.

The plot foiled on November 22nd saw the arrest of more than a dozen people including former intelligence chief and ex-presidential adviser Salah Gosh, Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil who is better known as ’Wad Ibrahim’ and Major General Adil Al-Tayeb from the NISS.

Further arrests were carried out quietly in subsequent days and weeks of low and mid-level army officers and Islamists figures.

Sudanese officials said that the health of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and speculations that he is terminally ill provided an impetus to conspirators to topple the regime.

The 68-years old Sudanese leader underwent two surgeries in his throat since August in Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively. Officials in the presidency confirmed the first surgery only two months later following growing talk that Bashir was ill.

Bashir’s brother Abdullahi was the first to disclose that the president had a tumor in his vocal cords but said it was benign. The revelation embarrassed other Sudanese officials who gave less serious accounts of Bashir’s ailment.

Bashir & Salva Kiir to meet in January to boost talks on rebels’ issue

December 20, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM) – Presidents Omer Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir will meet next January in Addis Ababa to discuss the stalled implementation of the Cooperation Agreement they signed in 27 September, particularly the issue of Sudanese rebels.

Khartoum and Juba agreed to operationalise the buffer zone and to withdraw armed forces from the disputed areas on the common border. The negotiating teams also are scheduled to meet on 13 January to continue discussions on the disengagement with rebel groups.

Khartoum insists that Juba has to end its links with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) and Darfur groups before to allow the exportation of South Sudanese oil through its territory.

Abdel-Rahim Hussein, Sudan’s defence minister and head of the Sudanese negotiating team said that the meetings of the joint political and security committee achieved a breakthrough and agreed on over 80% of the pending issues.

He further confirmed reports from Addis Ababa that Sudanese and South Sudanese president will meet in the margins of the African Union summit next month in Addis Ababa in a bid to boost the on ongoing talks over the rebels’ issue.

The minister who was speaking to reporters at the Khartoum airport said it was the first time the two parties agree that the rebel presence is a problem dissevering to be tackled.

"This time, it was agreed that it is a crucial issue and must be discussed," he said alluding to South Sudan’s denial of the presence of rebel groups in its territory.

Late on Tuesday, Thabo Mbeki, the African Union mediator and former South African president, said the two sides had agreed to take "practical steps" to demilitarise the common border.

He however disclosed that they still disagree over how to dmilitarise Mile 14, which raised much of protests from both sides the Reizagat in Darfur and Malual Dinka in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.

"The parties continue to agree that it should be demilitarised but they are discussing how to effect that decision," Mbeki he said on Tuesday.

Mbeki said the two sides have agreed “that steps will be taken immediately to ensure the creation of a safe demilitarized border-zone. They have agreed on where that border zone is: [this means] that any South Sudanese forces that are north of that zone should move south - 10 kilometres away from the centre line, and the Sudan forces would also move 10 kilometers north of that border line."

Despite the agreement Mbeki said it could take longer than anticipated to effect the decision, particularly due to the lack of water in the areas the troops will be relocated to.

"In the agreement it says within seven days, but in reality it’s going to take longer. And the reason it will take longer is because in particular locations where these troops will be positions there is no water. So work will have to be done to make sure that water is provided for the troops that will be located there," he said.

South Sudan’s defence minister, John Kong Nyuon, said that an ad hoc commission has been setup to follow up the implementation to the security agreements and to further investigate and monitor should new disputes arises.

In case any complaint comes up "the JPSM [Joint Political and Security Measures] co-chairs will give the task to the ad hoc committee to verify and investigate the allegations and report to the co-chairs," Nyuon said adding, "if necessary, the issue can be taken to the two heads of state."

Sudan announces surprise breakthrough in security talks with Juba

December 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – In a surprising turn of events, Sudan has announced a major breakthrough in talks with South Sudan, saying all obstacles facing the implementation of a border security deal they signed in September have been surmounted, but it is not clear whether the two sides managed to break the deadlock over Khartoum’s demands that Juba disarms the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

According to the official spokesperson of the Sudanese army (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, members of the Joint Political and Security Committee (JPSM) of the two countries reached a deal at the conclusion of their latest round of talks held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Quoted in a report published by Sudan’s official news agency, SUNA, on Wednesday, Sa’ad said that an agreement of 11 points was reached to overcome all the obstacles that faced the implementation of the eight cooperation agreements signed between the two countries on 27 September.

The deals signed included an agreement to resume South Sudan’s oil exports via Sudan but Khartoum insisted that Juba must first implement the border security deal and sever alleged ties with the SPLM-N which is fighting the Sudanese government in the country’s border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Two rounds of JPSM meetings in Juba and Khartoum failed to break the deadlock as South Sudan complained that Khartoum is making impossible demands by asking Juba to disarm SPLM-N which fought as part of South Sudan army before independence.

SAF’s spokesperson said he expects the sub-deal to “lead to concrete work in the field of disengagement and cessation of support to rebel groups in particular and security arrangements in general”

Al-Sawarmi said that the two sides had agreed to “implement all the agreements relating to security arrangements and activate border monitoring mechanisms and verification of complaints.” Furthermore, he said the two sides agreed to create a timeframe for the implementation of all the agreed agendas, adding that the two sides will also begin technical and administrative preparations to open cross-border routes.

He went on to say that the agreement also confirmed that military forces of both countries will withdraw from all disputed areas and operationalize the implementation of the demilitarized safe border zone as agreed under the security deal.

According to Al-Sawarmi, the two sides agreed to ensure that no states will recruit fighters from the other and verify the demobilization of fighters from the other country “through the procedures agreed for that”

Sudan accuses Juba of maintaining ties with SPLM-N which Khartoum continues to refer to as the ninth and tenth divisions of South Sudan’s army SPLA.

Al-Sawarmi also said that the joint commissions will create timeframes for the deployment of monitors to verify the implementation of the buffer demilitarized zone.

Sudan’s announcement comes as a surprise given the fact that South Sudan’s top negotiator Pagan Amum said on Tuesday that the talks are deadlocked. “The talks now are deadlocked and, essentially, I see these talks as having collapsed because Sudan has taken a new strategic position opposing the development of cooperation between the two states,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Amum said he sees no point in continuing the talks and that Juba should start looking for alternatives to export its oil.

SAF’s spokesperson said that the JPSM will hold its next meeting on 13 January in order to assess progress in implementation what has been agreed.

Sudan’s interior minister Ibrahim Hamid, meanwhile, confirmed to Al-Shorog TV that the current round of talks adjourned until 13 January when the contentious issues will be discussed.

Hamid said that the talks produced an agreement to setup a mechanism to oversee implementation of the security deal.

He added that the mechanism will be chaired by the commander-in-chief of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and consist of officials from both sides.

The minister said he personally opines that the round achieved a great breakthrough in many issues but he declined to divulge more details.

There is no comment from South Sudan so far on the developments announced by Khartoum.

China puts forward “practical” proposals to resolve Sudans’ outstanding issues

December 18, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – China has presented proposals it described as “practical” to resolve outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan, a newspaper’s report said on Monday.

According to the report of the daily Sudanese Arabic newspaper, Al-Sudani, the member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, Li Changchun, who is visiting Sudan these days, said that his delegation had put forward “practical” proposals to both Sudanese and South Sudanese officials on how to break the deadlock facing their current talks about border security in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and resume exporting South Sudanese oil via Sudan.

Al-Sudani said that Li Changchun declined to divulge more details on the proposals but said that he had discussed them with South Sudanese officials prior to his arrival in Khartoum.

The Chinese official said that the proposals aim to accelerate the process of resuming South Sudan’s oil exports through Sudanese territories. He said that they already visited Juba and exchanged views with South Sudanese officials on the issue of resuming oil exports.

South Sudan postponed plans to resume oil exports through Sudan in November citing “impossible” demands by Khartoum in parallel talks about implementing a border security deal they signed in September. Khartoum says it wants Juba to sever ties with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) which is fighting the Sudanese government in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Sudan says it will not allow South Sudan’s oil to flow through its territories again unless Juba disengage from the SPLM-N which fought as part of South Sudan’s army before independence.

China is the biggest investor in the oil sector in both countries and has been walking a fine diplomatic line trying not to appear bias in favor of any side.

In Khartoum, Li Changchun and his delegations held meetings with top state officials including President Omer Al-Bashir and officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

South Sudan reserved over mediation’s propositions over security deal

December 18, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — South Sudanese delegation has expressed some reservations about the news propositions the African mediation made to break the stalled talks over the implementation of security arrangements with Sudan.

After the failure of the two parties to agree on the implementation mechanism of the 27 September security deal, Thabo Mbeki called the parties to meet in Addis Ababa where he made some propositions aiming to build confidence and to monitor the border to prevent rebels from crossing the common border or receive any support.

Sources from the Ethiopian capital said Khartoum delegation accepted the new proposition of the African Union panel, while the South Sudanese team showed reservations over the buffer zone and the disengagement with the SPLM-North.

Since last November, Sudan demands to extend the demilitarized zone by 50 kilometres in order to cover the common border with South Kordofan state where the SPLM-N fight against Khartoum army. Juba rejects the demand saying this issue is not part of the deal.

The initial deal provides to deploy joint patrols with the participation of UNISFA peacekeepers only in the five disputed areas along the border. But the deal does not specify to deploy troops along the 1800 kilometres of border between the two countries.

Mbeki received Monday the response of the two parties. The head of the South Sudanese negotiating team Pagan Amum and defence minister John Kong Nyuon stressed that they maintain their position over the two issues of the buffer zone and SPLM-N.

The mediation did not disclose the nature of its propositions but seemingly it aims to reassure Khartoum that Juba does not support the SPLM-N fighters.

Juba denies having authority over the Sudanese rebels who are now part of another state and established an independent party since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 in line with the result of a referendum on self determination held in January of last year.

The South Sudanese government also dismisses accusations of support to the Blue Nile and South Kordofan rebels but Western diplomats demanded different times that Juba stops its support to the SPLM-N.

A member of the South Sudanese delegation said talks may resume after Christmas and new year holidays.

An agreement over the implementation of the security deal is considered crucial for the viability of the Cooperation Agreement which is thought to be the basis for strong bilateral relations between the two nations.

Khartoum refuses the exportation of the South Sudanese oil through its pipeline unless Juba disengages with the SPLM-N. Also, the Sudanese government says will negotiate with the rebels to end the South Kordofan and Blue Nile conflict once this disengagement is effective.

Reports from Addis Ababa say the chief mediator, on the other hand, failed to make a breakthrough in his discussions with the SPLM-N over the resumption of political process with Khartoum

In addition, he is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday with the joint security committee members from both sides but no significant developments are expected.

SPLM-N delegation led by Malik Agar and Yasir Arman met with foreign diplomats present at the venue of the talks to explain its positions on the talks with the Sudanese government.

The SPLM-N proposes since months to sign a cessation of hostilities deal in exchange for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy civilians in the rebel controlled areas.

Mbeki makes new proposals to break deadlocked security talks

December 17, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The African mediation handed new proposals for the Sudanese and South Sudanese delegations aiming to help the two sides to strike a deal on the implementation of the security arrangements.

The two countries failed in two meetings held in Juba and Khartoum to agree on the implementation of the security deal inked last September because Khartoum demands Juba to disengage with the SPLM-North rebels while the latter says this issue is not part of the signed agreement.

Sources from Addis Ababa said the new proposals include a plan to build confidence between the two parties, the operationalisation of the demilitarised zone and measure to ensure that no rebel groups are harboured or supported by both sides involving foreign observers.

The two delegations member of the joint security committee, headed by defense ministers, discussed Sunday the agenda of the meeting and they are scheduled to resume talks on Monday.

Sudanese government continues to accuse the South Sudan of backing rebel groups particularly the SPLM-North which was part of the ruling party in Juba before the independence .

Sudan last November in a meeting held in Juba demanded to extend the buffer zone to the border with Blue Nile and South Kordofan. But the South Sudanese delegation rejected this demand.

The chief mediator is expected to propose a compromise satisfying the two parties on this critical issue.

The lack of confidence hampers the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement. Sudanese officials repeated recently that the resumption of oil exportation will allow Juba to fund rebel activities in South Kordofan, and Darfur.

In his report to the African Union Peace and security Council last on 14 December, Mbeki underscored that the conflict in the two southern Sudanese areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile constitutes a hindrance towards the improvement of relations between Juba and Khartoum.

Also, besides the security issues the two countries still have a big gap in their positions on Abyei and the disputed areas on the common border.

The AUPSC on 14 December maintained its support to a proposal the mediation made providing to hold a referendum in Abyei next year without the participation of Misseriya herders. But it did not decide to refer the proposal to the UN Security Council leaving it to a presidential summit to be held in January.

In Khartoum, the ruling National Congress Party reaffirmed on Sunday its opposition to submit the issue of Abyei to the Security Council stressing that African solution remains its only option.

Hasabo Abdel-Rahman, NCP political secretary, following a meeting the party held on Abyei issue, praised the AUPSC’s decision to postpone the referral, adding that the African leaders with their wisdom and expertise will arrive to resolve this issue in January meeting.

Bashir’s health a key driver for coup attempt says presidential assistant

December 16, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The participants in an alleged coup attempt uncovered last month in Sudan justified their move in saying that president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s poor health will not enable him to carry out his duties, presidential assistant said today.

In a live interview broadcasted on Sudan TV on Saturday night, Nadir Ali Nafie said that the conspirators were aware that the "huge popularity" Bashir enjoys in the army and among the ordinary people would pose a difficulty.

As a result the plotters stressed in their communication with different parties that Bashir is "incapacitated" and "will no longer be able to carry out his duties" as president but that if the coup succeeded they will treat him with dignity and respect.

Nafie however did not address rumors about his boss’s health nor did not follow the official line of denying speculations about Bashir being terminally ill.

The 68-years old Sudanese leader underwent two surgeries in his throat since August in Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively. Officials in the presidency confirmed the first surgery only two months later following growing talk that Bashir was ill.

Bashir’s brother Abdullahi was the first to disclose that the president had a tumor in his vocal cords but said it was benign. The revelation embarrassed other Sudanese officials who gave less serious accounts of Bashir’s ailment.

The Sudanese president has cut down his public appearances particularly in conferences but continues to hold bilateral meetings with members of his government and foreign dignitaries.

Last month he was reportedly more than an hour late to the opening ceremony Islamic Movement (IM) convention attended by Islamist figures from all over the world. He also cancelled his attendance at the last minute at the 12th conference of the Arab ministers of minerals that took place in Khartoum in late November.

In an separate interview with Cairo-based Al-Ahram al-Youm, Nafie said that ex-spy chief Salah Gosh who is held in connection with this coup attempt, has been planning it for a long time.

"The [coup] attempt wasn’t yesterday and Salah Gosh wasn’t planning it yesterday but was working on it for a while," Nafie said.

The presidential assistant confirmed media reports that other political parties were involved and appeared to confirm that former Prime Minister and leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was part of it.

He was commenting on remarks attributed to al-Mahdi in which he said that Gosh offered him to head a new government. The NUP later described the report as "misleading" and was said in a different context.

But Nafie said he was not convinced.

"Is it logical that al-Sadiq al-Mahdi disclose what went between him and Gosh in the past without meaning it?" he questioned.

The Sudanese government initially said that the coup, which is linked to disenfranchised Islamists within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), was planned in participation with an opposition political party but it did not name any. It also said that two opposition members were arrested on charge of making contacts with the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Among those accused was Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil who is better known as ’Wad Ibrahim’. The latter is a veteran of a special force that fought southern rebels during the north-south civil war. He was also responsible for Bashir’s presidential security for several years.

The coup attempt was seen by observers as strong evidence of a growing split within the Islamist-backed regime. It is not clear whether the government however will move ahead with prosecuting the coup plotters amid reports of mediation efforts by some NCP members.

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