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September 2013 - Posts

Dismissal of key NCP figure from party "imminent" over memo to Sudanese president: report

September 30, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is poised to fire former head of its parliamentary caucus Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani over a memo he sponsored along with 30 others that was sent to president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir yesterday, according to a newspaper report.

The signatories included party officials, lawmakers, retired military officers and Islamists who decried the government’s violent crackdown on protestors which led to 33 deaths according to official figures contrary to activists and opposition who put the death toll in the 100’s.

They also urged the government to reverse its decision to lift fuel subsidies which led to the week-long riots and to prosecute those behind the killings and asserted that the demonstrators were not allowed to "peacefully express their views in line with the constitution".

The petition emphasized that NCP sections did not agree with the move which government asserted was necessary to prevent an economic collapse.

The decision to lift subsidies led to almost doubling the prices of gasoline and diesel which is widely expected to immediately cause a domino effect of raising prices of other goods and services.

Al-Attabani, who was Bashir’s adviser, said that the 1989 coup led by the president came with the pledge of implementing the Islamic Shar’ia laws which prohibits shedding blood and calls for achieving justice among the subjects of the state and securing basic rights including the freedom of belief and expression.

"But the package of measures introduced by the government and the subsequent suppression of opponents is far from compassion, justice and the realization of the right to believe and peaceful expression," the letter reads.

"The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today" they said in their letter to Bashir.

But on Sunday, Qays Ahmed Al-Mustafa, spokesperson for the NCP said that Bashir has received no such petition and called for ignoring rumours.

A copy of the memo was published on al-Attabani’s Facebook page and no denial was made on his part of co-sponsoring it.

Another NCP leading figure Hassabo Abdulrahman warned that the 31 signatories will be held accountable but added some of those whose names appeared on the memo denied endorsing it.

On Monday, the al-Khartoum daily newspaper quoted informed source as saying that al-Attabani will soon be dismissed from the party.

Al-Attabani is widely known to be a leading figure in the reformist faction within the NCP and people close to him say that he is privately fiercely critical of the ruling party and its policies.

He has fought silent battles to initiate structural changes in the NCP and the underlying Islamist Movement (IM) but the party’s old guard has effectively shot down all his initiatives.

Last July he publicly released his vision of reform he is seeking in the government and state.

Al-Attabani was removed from his post as NCP majority leader in the national assembly which many said was in response to his assertions that Bashir is constitutionally barred from running again for presidency.

But many reformists in the NCP and IM are critical of Al-Attabani saying that he is unwilling to take a firm and unequivocal stance against the government in his push for change and is only talking of change in very general terms.

Authorities Censor Sudan's Largest Newspaper

KHARTOUM, Sudan September 29, 2013 - Sudanese authorities on Sunday forced the country's largest daily to stop printing after several dailies came under pressure to depict demonstrators in weeklong protests against longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir as "saboteurs."

The latest blow to freedom of the press in the authoritarian state comes as Sudan's experiences its largest street demonstrations since al-Bashir took power 24 years ago. Protests started after the government lifted food and fuel subsidies, sparking anger in a country where nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line.

Public discontent had been growing over failed economic and political policies that led South Sudan to break off and became an independent state in 2011, taking Sudan's main oil-producing territory with it. Critics also blamed al-Bashir for draining the country's coffers by funding rebel movements in rival countries.

The crackdown on thousands of protesters has been violent, leaving at least 50 protesters dead according to international rights groups. Doctors and activists put the death toll higher, telling The Associated Press that it is more than 100. The government has acknowledged some 33 killed, including policemen.

Despite its heavy-handed crackdown, the government sought to appease a frustrated public on Sunday, announcing cash compensation to make up for the higher prices and raising minimum wage.

The official SUNA news agency quoted Khartoum governor Abdel-Rahman al-Khidri as saying that the government will start distributing cash in the capital.

The same agency quoted the deputy finance minister as saying the salary increases were planned to start in mid-October.

However, worried of lingering protests, the Education Ministry said on Sunday that schools will remain closed until Oct. 20. Schools were closed since Wednesday after high school students led protests in different districts in the capital chanting against al-Bashir.

The government also closed the offices of Gulf-based satellite networks Al-Arabiya and Sky News Arabia. Several newspapers were ordered to stop publication while others stopped voluntarily to avoid government pressures.

Al-Intibah's website said authorities had ordered the halt indefinitely, but did not elaborate. The paper, the country's largest in terms of circulation, is owned and run by an uncle of al-Bashir, al-Tayab Mustafa. It was not immediately possible to reach Mustafa.

Diaa Eddin Belal, Editor-in-Chief of al-Sudani paper, told The Associated Press that editions of his paper were confiscated and they were ordered to stop printing three times since Wednesday. Back to work on Sunday, Belal said that in one incident on Friday the papers had been on their way to distribution centers when he received a phone call from police telling him that there would be no papers that day.

"The government feels that it is own existence is endangered and the press is playing a role in influencing public opinion ... they want papers to turn into official gazettes that reflect only (the government's) point of view with no criticism or negative feedback," he said.

NCP officials call on Sudan’s Bashir to reinstate fuel subsidies and stop killing protestors

September 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - More than two dozen officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) sent a memo to president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on Saturday urging him to reverse recent economic measures and put an end to killing of protestors who took to the streets following the lifting of fuel subsidies.

On Monday, the Sudanese cabinet formally endorsed a decision that has been circulated the night before by which prices of gasoline and diesel were increased by almost 100%.

A gallon of gasoline now costs 21 Sudanese pounds ($4.77 based on official exchange rate) compared to 12.5 pounds ($2.84).

Diesel also went from 8 pounds ($1.81) a gallon to 14 pounds ($3.18).

Cooking gas cylinders are now are priced at 25 pounds ($5.68) from 15 pounds ($3.40).

Violent clashes erupted between the demonstrators and security forces in different parts of the country leading to at least 31 deaths according to official figures and more than a 100 according to activists and opposition.

Sudanese authorities said they arrested 600 in connection with the riots and denied using live ammunition against protestors. They accused outside elements of firing at the demonstrators.

Today, 31 NCP officials and supporters sent a letter to the Sudanese president including former presidential adviser and ex-head of the NCP parliamentary caucus Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani, member of NCP leadership Bureau Hassan Osman Rizk, former member of the 1989 Revolutionary Council and ex-ambassador to Bahrain Salah Karrar, 9 members of the national assembly and other retired members of the military such as Brigadier-general Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Jalil who served on Bashir’s security detail and was detained last year in connection with an alleged coup attempt.
 
The memo seen, criticized the subsidies decision saying it "harshly" impacted the Sudanese citizens adding that it was not sent to parliament for approval and was even opposed by sections of the NCP.

"Alternatives [to lifting subsidies] were proposed by individuals, experts and political forces but the substitutes were given no consideration and the government insisted on implementing the measures as they are indifferent to their impact and the extent of citizens’ ability to endure them," the letter said.

The signatories also asserted that remarks made by Sudanese official to justify the measures were "irritating" to the people with disregard to their feelings.

They were likely referring to remarks made by Bashir and his finance minister Ali Mahmood Abdel-Rasool this month in which they said that prior to them coming to power in 1989, Sudanese people did not know what "hot dog" or "pizza" were.

The Sudanese president held a two-hour press conference last Sunday which he devoted primarily to defending the move to cut subsidies and reiterated his earlier arguments that most of these subsidies goes into the pockets of the wealthy population at the expense of the poor ones.

He gave an example of a house in his neighborhood which has five cars suggesting that this household is not deserving of the subsidies they get when they pump fuel at the station.

The memo pointed fingers at the government for violently crushing this week’s protests saying that the demonstrators were not allowed to "peacefully express their views in line with the constitution".

"With the lack of opportunities for the peaceful expression, the elements that take advantage of these situations to practice violence prevailed resulting in much destruction and the loss of precious lives between citizens and the police and security forces in clashes which saw the use of live ammunition," the letter read in part.

The signatories noted that the 1989 coup led by Bashir came with the pledge of implementing the Islamic Shar’ia laws which prohibits shedding blood and calls for achieving justice among the subjects of the state and securing basic rights including the freedom of belief and expression.

"But the package of measures introduced by the government and the subsequent suppression of opponents is far from compassion, justice and the realization of the right to believe and peaceful expression," the letter reads.

On Friday, the security service closed the bureaus of UAE-based Al-Arabiya and Sky New Arabic Service television stations, accusing them of false reporting on this week’s events.

Al-Sudani and al-Meghar al-Siyasi daily newspapers were banned from publication for most of this week. Several other newspapers suspended publication to protest the censorship on coverage of the protests.

Journalists of the independent newspaper Al-Sahafa also decided today to resign collectively from the daily for the same reason.

The pro-government al-Intibaha was informed by security services on Saturday that they are suspended indefinitely.

Since the beginning of the protests the security services prevented the local press from publishing reports about the demonstrations except from official sources.

CALL FOR REFORMS
The memo listed a number of reform demands for the country to overcome the current economic and political crisis including:• Immediately suspend the economic measures.
• Assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team with elements from the various political forces and give them the task of agreeing on a recipe for urgent treatment of the economic crisis within two weeks.
• The formation of a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of political forces to deal with the important political issues including the political framework in which the economic crisis can be resolved.
• Cease censorship on newspapers and the media outlets.
• Enabling basic freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution, including the freedom to demonstrate peacefully.
• Conduct impartial investigations on the firing live ammunition at citizens and to punish those responsible.
• Compensate citizens affected by the murder and sabotage.

The signatories did not say what their next move will be if the government did not meet their demands.

"This is a package of expedited procedures to address the current acute crisis, and there are other necessary but deferred procedures that we will address as events unfold. We advise you to deal with these demands in a wise manner. It is in your hands to ward off the crisis or escalate it" they wrote.

"The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today" they said in their letter to Bashir.

50 shot dead on Friday of Martyrs in Sudan

 

September 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Security forces in Sudan have shot dead at least 50 people in days of protests over fuel subsidy cuts, human rights groups have said.

Police fired tear gas to disperse more protesters on Friday, witnesses have told the BBC.

Officials say fewer than 29 people have died, and they insist that the subsidy was unaffordable.

Protesters have accused President Omar al-Bashir's government of corruption and called on him to quit.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies and Amnesty International say people have been killed by gun shots to the chest or head, citing witnesses, relatives, doctors and journalists.

A 14-year-old boy was said to be among the victims, who were mostly aged between 19 and 26, the groups said in a statement.

Hundreds had been detained, they added.

"Shooting to kill - including by aiming at protesters' chests and heads - is a blatant violation of the right to life, and Sudan must immediately end this violent repression by its security forces," said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Hospital sources have told the BBC that about 60 people have been killed.

Sudanese officials have not commented on the claims but Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said on Thursday that any death tolls higher than 29 were inaccurate.

BBC Arabic's Mohammad Osman in Khartoum says that around 500 people took to the streets of Jabra, an area in the southern part of Khartoum, chanting "peaceful, peaceful" to stress their non-violent nature.

Eyewitnesses have told the BBC that the security forces fired tear gas against the protestors and made several arrests.

Reuters news agency reports that trucks with mounted machine guns were parked at main roads and near large mosques across Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman ahead of Friday's protests.

Our reporter says internet is still available despite reports that access has been cut for the second time in a week.

The unrest began on Monday when the government lifted fuel subsidies to raise revenue. Austerity measures have recently escalated fuel prices, hitting people on low incomes.

The demonstrations began south of Khartoum and have now spread to the capital and other cities.

Sudan's economy has been in trouble since South Sudan ceded in 2011, taking with it 75% of the oil reserves that had fuelled an economic boom.

The Sudanese government reduced some fuel subsidies in July 2012, prompting several weeks of protests and a security crackdown.

Politicians, including President al-Bashir, have defended the austerity drive, saying the only alternative would be economic collapse, according to local media reports.

Despite efforts to mobilise opposition activists, Sudan has not seen a wave of anti-government unrest on the scale of that experienced in neighbouring Egypt or other countries in North Africa or the Middle East.

Over 600 protesters are under arrest, Sudanese interior minister

 

September 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s interior minister said over 600 people are detained since Monday, as protesters took the street in the capital Khartoum and other towns after Friday prayer.

While activists say over hundred people were killed by the Sudanese security since the start of the anti-austerity protests, the police admitted on Thursday the death of 29 demonstrators and accused rioters of burning 38 fuel stations.

Speaking today in a radio talk show, interior minister Ibrahim Mahmoud disclosed that the police arrested more than 600 people during protests, adding that 100 individuals are investigated and they will appear before the courts next week.

He confirmed the burning some public establishments, private vehicles and cars in the capital adding they deployed policemen to protect the 220 fuel stations in Khartoum.

He went further to say he does not rule out possible involvement of rebel groups in the "acts of sabotage".

However thousands of Sudanese significantly participated the peaceful protests against the lifting of basic commodities subsidies. The demonstrators shouted slogan against the government of Omer Al-Bashir like "The people want the fall of the regime!" and "Freedom! Freedom!".

"The police forces marched behind the demonstrations saying they want to protect them from the rioters who attack shops burn fuel stations", said an eyewitness from Khartoum’s suburb of Al-Kalaklah.

Nonetheless, reports from other parts of the capital say the police an security agents killed several peaceful protesters. Further details will emerge during the night.

Observers in Khartoum agree that Friday protests in the capital, for the first time, gathered thousands of people from the different social segments and not only youth and students.

The Sudanese army also deployed heavy armed troops in the strategic positions in the capital.

Security services believe that rebels may use the ongoing protests to attack the capital, sources say.

JOURNALISTS RESIGN TO PROTEST CENSORSHIP

Journalists of the independent newspaper Al-Sahafa decided today to resign collectively from the daily to protest against the censorship imposed by the security service which prevents them from freely covering the recent protests across the country.

Since the beginning of the protests the security services prevent the local press from publishing reports about the demonstrations and censure their articles.

Today, the security service closed the bureau of Al-Arabiya and Sky New Arabic Service television stations.

UN CONCERNED OVER ANTI-PROTEST REPRESSION

In Geneva the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Cécile Pouilly, on Friday issued a statement expressing concern following reports about excessive use of force against peaceful protesters .

"We are deeply concerned about reports that a significant number of people have been killed during the demonstrations taking place across Sudan since Monday", Pouilly said.

The spokesperson called on the Sudanese authorities to "show utmost restraint" and to refrain from resorting to violence, stressing that "under international law, intentional lethal use of firearms can only be justified when strictly unavoidable and only in order to protect life".

She called on protesters to maintain the peaceful nature of their demonstrations.

"We also urge the authorities to respect the civil liberties of those protesting and, in particular, their right to assemble peacefully and express their views,” she further said.

Earlier today, the SPLM-N released a statement urging the UN Human Rights Council and Sudan’s Special Rapporteur Mashood Adebayo Baderin, to denounce the use of live bullets against the peaceful demonstrations saying the death toll has reached 182 people.

Sudan Shut Down Internet for next 48 hours as fears mount of new post-Friday prayers protests

September 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) -  Fresh clashes broke out between Sudanese security forces and demonstrators in different parts of the capital Khartoum on Thursday night despite a relatively calm morning compared to the day before.

Yesterday witnessed the fiercest protests by demonstrators who were angry about the government’s decision this week to implement new cuts on fuel subsidies causing the prices of gasoline and diesel to almost double.

The protestors chanted slogans which included "The people want the fall of the regime!", "Freedom, Freedom!".

The Sudanese Interior Ministry announced that yesterday’s protests led to the death of 29 people including policemen. But activists and opposition figures say that the actual number exceeds 100 along with hundreds of injuries and arrests by security officers.

The director of Omdurman hospital Osama Mortada told the BBC’s Arabic Service on Wednesday that 21 people sent to his hospital had died, and that about 80 were injured.

"All have gunshot wounds, some in the chest," he said.

The areas of Wad Nubawy, al-Thawra in Sudan’s twin capital city of Omdurman and al-Kalaklat in south Khartoum saw demonstrations that were met with violent response from the police which chased the protesters by cars to prevent them from blocking a main street in al-Thawra.

Eyewitnesses in Wad Nubawy and al-Kalaklat said that police used live ammunition and tear gas adding that mass arrests of young people were carried out from inside the neighborhoods without notifying their parents.

The Sudanese police in a statement asserted that security and stability has returned to the states of Khartoum and Gezira but disclosed that some of its members were critically injured.

‘ARMED ELEMENTS’

The governor of Khartoum Abdel-Rahman al-Khidir claimed that authorities have detected the movement of "organized" and "trained" elements with stated goals of carrying out the sabotage operations that hit gas stations, public transportation buses and other buildings.

Al-Khidir did not blame a specific group but other officials this week accused the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel coalition of infiltrating the protests and inciting violence.

The governor said that those elements have emerged during the protests to target people with all types of weapons. He further said that these groups were spotted being moved in vehicles to target specific sites .

Some opposition figures and activists accused pro-government militias and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of standing behind the sabotage operations to tarnish the nature of these protests.

Al-Khidir announced that the state security committee directed the competent organs to decisively address any acts of sabotage as required by law and striking with an "iron fist".

The governor of Khartoum in his statement said that authorities instructed police at the beginning of the protests to deal "gently" with the demonstrators.

He pledged that his government is working to ensure that the flow of services affected by the acts of sabotage such as fuel, bread and transportation returns to normal.

Since yesterday the vast majority of businesses and shops were closed as merchants feared looting. Public Transportation services were also severely downgraded.

Al-Khidir said that a security operation carried out resulted in the of arrest hundreds of outlaws and gangs and found stolen goods and properties in their possession.

The Sudanese Commission for Human Rights, which is under the purview of the Presidency, called on authorities to establish an independent judicial committee to investigate the damage and loss of life that occurred during this week’s protests and monitor any use of excessive force by Sudanese security .to disperse the demonstrators.

The Commission also called for prosecuting anyone involved in the killing, looting or sabotage and demanded that the government compensate citizens affected by the demonstrations.

COUNTING LOSSES

The Secretary General of the National Chamber for distribution of petroleum products al-Agib Suleiman said that 69 gas stations were affected by the riots in Khartoum state with varying degrees of damages.

The most impacted companies included Bashayer (12 stations), Petronas (10 stations), Mathew (8 stations), Gadra (6 stations), al-Nahla (6 stations), Neel (5 stations) and Aman (4 stations).

He stressed that there is no fuel shortage but that the fewer unaffected gas station are under pressure because of heavy demand adding that the situation will improve when other stations resume work.

Zainab Jamal al-Din from al-Nahla fuel said that their loss is estimated at 12 million pounds and that four of their stations were completely damaged and another two partially.

Petronas on its end said that out of its 37 stations, 20% were affected and pointed out that the company did not insure against riots.

The Khartoum state Transportation Company also announced that they incurred heavy losses as a result of vandalism that targeted its fleet causing a disruption of service.

The public transportation company said that 15 buses were completely destroyed by fire while another 105 were partially damaged due to shattered glass and doors.

48 HOURS INTERNET SHUTDOWN

A group calling itself ‘The Alliance of the Youth of the Sudanese Revolution’ called on the people to continue demonstrating peacefully until the regime is toppled.

It urged all sections of the Sudanese people including the army and security bodies to unite behind these goals.

On Thursday, Sudan TV announced that internet access will be cut off staring midnight and for the next 48 hours without saying why. But social media networks saw the circulation of calls for demonstrations following tomorrow’s Friday prayers.

This follows a full internet shutdown on Wednesday but authorities offered conflicting reasons for that.

Ahmed Bilal, the country’s information minister and government spokesperson, acknowledged in an interview with the pro-government Ashorooq TV the internet shutdown saying that the government has exercised "plenty of self-restraint" but promised that the cyber-blackout will soon end.

But the Sudanese embassy in Washington denied in a statement yesterday that this was deliberate and blamed it on the unrest.

"The Government of Sudan did not block internet access. Among other targets, violent protesters burned facilities of Canar Telecommunications Company, which hosts the core base of internet services for Sudan. These fires resulted in continuing internet black outs across Sudan," it added.

"The Government of Sudan and Canar Telecom have now partially restored internet service and will work until internet access is fully restored".

But a private sector telecoms official told Reuters the government had blocked the Internet without consulting telecoms firms.

Renesys Corp., a company that maps the pathways of the Internet, said according to Associated Press that it could not confirm whether the blackout was government-orchestrated. But the outage recalls a similarly dramatic outage in Egypt, Sudan’s neighbor, when authorities shut off Internet access during that country’s 2011 uprising.

"It’s either a government-directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city," said senior analyst Doug Madory. He said it was almost a "total blackout."

US CALLS FOR END TO VIOLENCE IN SUDAN

September 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese government announced on Wednesday that orders were issued to the army to deploy to public government buildings and gas stations to protect from protesters who continued demonstrating against the decision to cut fuel subsidies.

Ahmed Bilal, the country’s information minister and government spokesperson, told the pro-government Ashorooq TV that the army was asked to move in against "outlaws".

"What we see confirms that they are not peaceful protesters but outlaws," Bilal said.

He also acknowledged reports of an internet shutdown saying that the government has exercised "plenty of self-restraint" but promised that the cyber-blackout will soon end.

The spokesperson accused unspecified elements of inciting the demonstrations which started on Monday in Sudan’s central state of Gezira and spread later to other parts of the country including Khartoum, Omdurman, Darfur and Eastern Sudan.

In Gezira state capital of Wad Madani, Bilal said, the protesters attacked more than 37 policemen before adding that only 5 people were killed on both sides.

Bilal also claimed that some of the protesters were carrying knives and firearms. He also denied reports that some of the forces joined hands with protesters.

The Sudanese 1st vice-president Ali Osman Taha who was addressing an event in Khartoum today, said that his government does not fear those demonstrations and insisted that the economic measures decided this week will remain in place.

But in an apparent bid to prevent escalation, the Khartoum state government announced that schools will be closed till next Monday. Many of the protests were comprised of students, eyewitnesses said.

This follows announcement of several universities this week that they will close in light of the unrest.

CONFLICTING DEATH FIGURES

Today’s demonstrations spread to down-town Khartoum and saw protesters setting fire in police stations and even buildings belonging to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in south of the capital as well as gas stations.

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters who threw rocks at them, burned tires and even blocked a main road in the capital.

The protestors chanted slogans which included "The people want the fall of the regime!", "Freedom, Freedom!".

It has been hard to ascertain the number of deaths in today’s demonstrations given the internet shut-down and suspension of transportation services. Businesses and shops were also closed as merchants feared looting.

The director of Omdurman hospital Osama Mortada told the BBC’s Arabic Service that 21 people sent to his hospital had died, and that about 80 were injured.

"All have gunshot wounds, some in the chest," he said.

Opposition figures put the death toll between 50-80 but there was no independent verification.

Despite government assertions that police did not use force, several eyewitnesses told they have seen dead friends or family members with bullet shots on their bodies.

Another eye witness in north Khartoum told that he saw security agents in plain-clothes fire live ammunition at protesters and beating some of them violently.

A Reuters reporter saw police fire tear-gas grenades into a crowd while hundreds of officers and plain-clothes security agents armed with guns or batons rushed to the city center. Others were sitting on the roof of government buildings. Security agents drove away some 20 protesters in pick-up trucks.

US CALLS FOR END TO VIOLENCE

The United States Embassy in Khartoum issued a statement today saying that is aware of the protests in Sudan with violence and damage to properties that ensued.

"We call on the authorities to respect the civil liberties of those protesting and, in particular, their right to assemble peacefully and express their views. We urge all parties to refrain from the use of violence," the embassy said.

"During this challenging time for Sudan, it is vital that all sides exercise caution and restraint" the statement read.

The Sudanese embassy in Washington said in a press release that the lifting of fuel subsidies was due to the US economic sanctions.

"Due to continuing economic sanctions against the peoples of Sudan, the Government of Sudan lifted subsidies for gasoline. Some citizens violently protested this necessary economic measure by burning government buildings, gasoline stations, shopping malls and private property. Some also attacked the police, who defended themselves while protecting public and private property," the embassy said.

It also denied imposing an internet blackout.

"The Government of Sudan did not block internet access. Among other targets, violent protesters burned facilities of Canar Telecommunications Company, which hosts the core base of internet services for Sudan. These fires resulted in continuing internet black outs across Sudan," it added.

"The Government of Sudan and Canar Telecom have now partially restored internet service and will work until internet access is fully restored".

Renesys Corp., a company that maps the pathways of the Internet, said according to Associated Press that it could not confirm whether the blackout was government-orchestrated. But the outage recalls a similarly dramatic outage in Egypt, Sudan’s neighbour, when authorities shut off Internet access during that country’s 2011 uprising.

"It’s either a government-directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city," said senior analyst Doug Madory. He said it was almost a "total blackout."

ECONOMY ON THE BRINK

On Monday, the Sudanese cabinet formally endorsed a decision that has been circulated the night before by which prices of gasoline and diesel were increased by almost 100%.

A gallon of gasoline now costs 21 Sudanese pounds ($4.77 based on official exchange rate) compared to 12.5 pounds ($2.84).

Diesel also went from 8 pounds ($1.81) a gallon to 14 pounds ($3.18).

Cooking gas cylinders are now are priced at 25 pounds ($5.68) from 15 pounds ($3.40).

The cabinet also raised the US dollar exchange rate for importing purposes to 5.7 pounds compared to 4.4. The black market rate now stands at 8.2.

Senior Sudanese officials including president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir have defended the measure saying the only alternative would be an economic collapse as the state budget can no longer continue offering the generous subsidies on petroleum products to its people.

Sudan’s oil boom that fuelled an unprecedented economic growth and a relative prosperity over the last decade came to an end with the independence of South Sudan which housed around three quarters of the crude reserves prior to the country’s partition.

Last year the Sudanese government rolled out an austerity package that saw a scaling back of fuel and sugar subsidies as well as cutting the number of ministries. It also effectively devalued the beleaguered currency with the goal of reducing exchange rate parity with the black market.

But the economic picture remained bleak with inflation rates at double digit figures which pushed ordinary Sudanese to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for food and other basic commodities.

The Sudanese pound also continued its free fall against the US dollar reaching 8.2 in the black market this week compared to an official rate of 4.4.

The decline of the local currency and shortage of Forex meant that Sudan will pay more to import food which is vital to plug the deficiency in local food production. It also hurt businessmen and foreign companies that desperately seek to repatriate profits abroad.

This year’s round of subsidy cuts nearly doubled gasoline and diesel prices which is sure to be felt across the board and will likely create a domino effect on prices of other goods and services such as transportation tariffs which were already increased by 25% in Khartoum.

Sudan internet cut off as protests erupt against government in Khartoum

Sudan internet connectivity

Wednesday 26 September 2013 12.15 EDT - Sudan's internet connectivity abruptly stopped on Wednesday 25 September at 1300 UTC, according to Renesys

All internet connections to Sudan were cut off abruptly on Wednesday afternoon, after riots erupted in northern Khartoum over the ending of fuel subsidies.

The move to cut connections appears to have been done by the government to prevent protesters using social media to organise riots. "From the connectivity data alone, we cannot tell whether the blackout is government directed." Doug Madory from internet monitoring firm Renesys told the Guardian. "However, it is either a coincidental catastrophic failure of all three independent internet providers and their connections out of Sudan, including a terrestrial link into Egypt - unlikely given its not just a single connection - or some centrally directed, government action."

He added: "Normally with a failure of this type that isn't governmentally directed, like a power failure or a cut cable, internet providers switch to their satellite backups, but we haven't seen that in this case. It is a total shutdown, as happened previously in Egypt."

Cutting off internet connectivity has been used by some governments in Middle Eastern countries attempting to regain control amid heated protests. The now-defunct Mubarak regime in Egypt and the Assad regime in Syria have both severed internet links to try to restrict protests. Cutting international links also makes it more difficult to upload videos of protests to YouTube.

Renesys said Sudan's internet connectivity dipped at 1030 and then dropped to zero just before 13:00 UTC on Wednesday. Arbor Networks, another internet monitoring company, confirmed the report, seeing the same dip-and-drop movement.

Sudan connectivity from Arbor 
Sudan internet connectivity on Wednesday 25 September, as seen by Arbor Networks

Protests broke out after the Sudanese government removed fuel subsidies, with several petrol stations and a university building set on fire, Reuters reported. Security forces fired teargas to disperse dozens of protesters who have demonstrated and set fire to a police station in Khartoum.

The protests have gone on for three days after Sudan's Council of Ministers decided to stop the subsidies. That caused an immediate doubling in the price of fuel.

The cut in subsidies follows the split of South Sudan to form an independent state in 2011, which took more of the main oil-producing territory which had previously been part of Sudan. The International Monetary Fund has previously told Sudan to cut the subsidies, because they consumed more than 75% of the government's total tax revenues.

Sudan's Omar al-Bashir Cancels his Trip to New York for U.N. General assembly meetings

September 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has cancelled his planned trip to the United States thus averting an awkward an embarrassing situation to the United Nations and the Obama administration alike.

For the first time since the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged him with war crimes and genocide four years ago in connection with Darfur conflict, Bashir announced that he is seeking to attend this year’s session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meetings.

The US swiftly decried Bashir’s visa application but declined to say whether it will reject it. Under the 1947 UN headquarters request, the US is obligated to promptly issue visas for officials seeking to participate in UN events except under very limited circumstances related to national security.

But the US State department disclosed that the ICC arrest warrant will be considered when assessing Bashir’s visa request.

The US is not a member of the ICC and as such has no legal obligation to execute the warrants.

The ICC Pre-Trial chamber, in a decision issued last week, said it had ‘‘… invited the competent US authorities to arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory.’’

But Bashir at a press conference on Sunday night challenged the US to deny him entry or arrest him adding that his flight and lodging plans for New York have already been made.

"Those people [US government] we put them in a corner….We [can] go to the US and no one can do anything to us because there is no law in America that affords US authorities the right to take any action against me because it is not a member of the Rome Statute. "Attending the [UN] General Assembly [meeting] is our right" the Sudanese president told reporters.

However, a source told on Wednesday that as of today Bashir has yet to receive his US visa.

The Sudanese leader was placed on the speakers list for the UNGA session on Thursday but today the UN confirmed that Bashir will not be coming.

"Protocol has now confirmed that Sudan has cancelled President Bashir’s appearance at the General Assembly," a UN spokesman, Jerome Bernard, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The spokesman said that Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti would now address the assembly on Friday.

“We understand he is not coming and we’re glad he’s not coming,” Christian Wenaweser, the U.N. ambassador of Liechtenstein and former president of the Assembly of ICC States Parties told the Washington Post.

“We think it would have been bad for the United Nations to host someone who has been issued and international arrest warrant" Wenaweser added.

The Washington Post said the cancellation followed several days of diplomatic efforts by the US to convince Bashir not to come to the United States, warning that it could not guarantee he would not be subject to arrest, according to U.N. based diplomats.

This week UN officials speaking to Foreign Policy Magazine expressed serious doubts about whether Bashir would actually venture in a high-risk trip across the Atlantic.

Since the arrest warrants. Bashir was forced to cancel appearances in several regional and international events. In some cases his plane was denied passage through airspace of Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan.

Last July, Bashir’s reportedly “fled” Nigeria where he was scheduled to take part in a regional summit over a case filed in a local court by the Nigeria Coalition on the International Criminal Court (NCICC) to compel the government to arrest him.

Sudan fuel unrest: Many die in Khartoum as riots continue

25 September 2013 Last updated at 16:29 ET - At least 24 people have been killed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in clashes sparked by cuts in fuel subsidies, a senior local doctor says.

The director of Omdurman hospital told the BBC the victims died from gunshot wounds. Another 60 people were injured.

Police had fired tear gas against protesters. Rioting broke out on Monday when the government lifted fuel subsidies in order to raise revenues.

Sudan's economy has been in trouble since South Sudan ceded in 2011.

Correspondents say the latest austerity measures have almost doubled fuel prices and hit the poor hardest.

In a statement released in Arabic, the US embassy in Khartoum called for calm.

"We call on all sides not to resort to force and to respect civil liberties and the right to peaceful assembly," the statement said.

The embassy said it had received "regrettable reports of serious injuries and attacks on property during demonstrations which turned violent".

Hotdogs and pizza
 
The changes reportedly affected the price of cooking oil as well as petrol and diesel.

The demonstrations began south of Khartoum and have now spread to the capital and other cities, with protesters calling for regime change.

Officials have condemned the protests as acts of sabotage, describing them as "premeditated", according to the Associated Press news agency.

Politicians, including President Omar al-Bashir, have defended the austerity drive, saying the only alternative would be economic collapse, local media said.

They argued that Sudanese people had been spoiled by years of prosperity, thanks to the current government.

The Sudan Tribune last week quoted President Omar al-Bashir as saying that no-one knew what a hotdog was before his rule, while a minister said they were responsible for the introduction of pizza to the country.

Sudan had experienced an oil-fuelled economic boom until South Sudan became independent, taking 75% of its oil reserves.

The government reduced some fuel subsidies in July 2012, prompting several weeks of protests and a security crackdown.

However the country has so far avoided the unrest characteristic of recent uprisings in Arab countries such as neighbouring Egypt.

Thousands protest in Sudan against lifting of fuel subsidies , A number of deaths

September 25, 2013 (OMDURMAN)  - Sudanese police fired tear gas to break up anti-government protests in four cities on Tuesday, witnesses said as public discontent grew over the lifting of fuel subsidies.

More than 1,000 demonstrators inn Khartoum's twin city Omdurman shouted "no, no to price increases", "freedom, freedom" and "the people want to overthrow the regime". Protesters torched an office of the ruling National Congress Party, blocked several main roads and stoned police officers who were firing tear gas volleys into the crowd, witnesses said.

Veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since 1989, has avoided the sort of "Arab Spring" uprising that has ousted autocrats in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but dissent is rising over corruption and a worsening economic crisis.

On Monday, the government almost doubled the price for petrol and cooking gas to try to rein in a ballooning budget deficit. It was the second time in a little over a year that Sudan raised fuel prices that hit the poor hardest.

In Nyala, Sudan's second-largest city located in the western Darfur region, some 2,000 students demonstrated against the government, witnesses told Reuters by phone. Many hurled rocks at police who also fired tear gas.

Protests also broke out in Wad Madani and al-Manaqil in Gezira state south of Khartoum with hundreds of people yelling "no to price increases".

Police said a 23-year-old man was killed during a protest in Wad Madani on Monday but blamed unidentified gunmen opening fire from a passing Toyota pickup car that demonstrators had stoned, state news agency SUNA said.

The Arab African country's economy has been in turmoil since losing three-quarters of its oil reserves - its main source of revenues and of dollars for food imports - when South Sudan became independent in 2011.

The Khartoum government started reducing some fuel subsidies in July 2012, prompting several weeks of modest protests that ended with a security crackdown.

It had hoped to maintain other fuel subsidies by boosting gold exports to replace oil revenues, but was thwarted by the recent fall in global gold prices.

Sudan produces too little to feed its 32 million people. Even basic food imports such as wheat arrive by ship in Port Sudan before they get trucked for days across the vast country, spurring food price inflation.

The government says annual inflation eased to 23.8 percent in July from 37.1 percent in May but independent analysts put the actual rate at 50 percent or even higher.

Protests in Sudan over fuel price hikes

September 25, 2013 (AWEIL) - Sudanese demonstrators angry over oil price hikes set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman Tuesday as protests spread across the country, witnesses said.

“I saw the building’s three floors on fire as people fled,” a witness told AFP, saying many were carrying looted furniture.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the second straight day of violence around the country, in which police fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

But police said unknown gunmen had killed a demonstrator in a drive-by shooting late Monday during a protest in the central Al-Jazeera state.

Witnesses said hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Omdurman and Khartoum, as well as Nyala, capital of South Darfur state, and Wad Madani in Al-Jazeera, where the protests first started Monday.

An AFP correspondent said around 1,000 demonstrators spilled into Omdurman’s heavily populated Al-Thawra district and were confronted by anti-riot police.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, who were shouting “Freedom, Freedom!” and “The people want the fall of the regime!”
The protest in Omdurman began in the early morning and demonstrators were still on the streets by mid-afternoon.

Around 400 students also demonstrated in a north Khartoum neighbourhood, and police fired tear gas at them, a witness said.

In Nyala, Sudan’s second largest city, thousands of students filled the streets and blocked a main road, a resident told AFP by telephone.

He estimated their numbers at 3,000 and said they were shouting “No to price hikes!” and calling for the ouster of the government.
In Wadi Madani, police fired buckshot at hundreds of protesters in the city’s main market, a witness said.

“There were around 300 demonstrators, mostly youths, and they marched to the market,” the witness said.

Police reinforcements sent in to break up the protest fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with clubs, the witness added.

On Monday, the government announced steep price rises for petroleum products after suspending subsidies in a bid to reform the economy.

Oil prices at the pump have shot up to 20.80 Sudanese pounds ($4.71) a gallon from 12.50 pounds ($2.83), while diesel has risen from 8.50 pounds a gallon to 13.90 pounds.

Inflation in Sudan is already running at 40 percent.

President Omar al-Bashir said Sunday that the subsidies had reached “a level that is dangerous for the economy.”

Sudan lost billions of dollars in oil receipts when South Sudan gained independence two years ago, taking with it about 75 percent of the formerly united country’s crude production.

Since then Sudan has been plagued by inflation, a weakened currency and a severe shortage of dollars to pay for imports.

Sudan's Bashir, says he will travel to U.N. and had already booked a hotel in New York

KHARTOUM | Sun Sep 22, 2013 | Washington has led calls for Bashir to face international justice over bloodshed in the now decade-old conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, and a senior State Department official said last week that Bashir would "not receive a warm welcome" if he traveled to New York.

At a news conference, Bashir did not say whether the United States had granted him a visa yet, but did say he had made preparations to fly to New York via Morocco.

"We booked the flight route via Morocco ... we booked a hotel," he said, adding that it was his right to attend the U.N. assembly.

Bashir said he was not worried that U.S. authorities would arrest him, as demanded by human rights groups, because Washington is not a member of the ICC.

"Nobody in the U.S. can question me or hold me," he said.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010 on charges of orchestrating war crimes and genocide, requiring member countries to detain him if he entered their territories.

Since then, he has limited his travel mostly to African neighbors and Arab allies.

The United States is not a member of the Hague-based ICC, so would not be legally bound to hand the president over, but it has transferred ICC suspects to the court before.

When Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in the Rwandan capital of Kigali in March, he was put on a plane to The Hague within days.

Mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms in Darfur in 2003 against Bashir's Arab-dominated government, complaining of neglect and discrimination. The conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced about 2 million, according to human rights groups and U.N. officials.

Sudan dismisses the ICC charges, says reports of mass killings in Darfur have been exaggerated, and refuses to recognise the court, which it says is part of a Western plot.

African hostility to the ICC has been growing due to a perception that prosecutors disproportionately target African leaders - a charge the ICC denies.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir avoids addressing public in Aweil on Abyei

September 22, 2013 (AWEIL) - South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit on Saturday surprisingly avoided mentioning in a public address in Aweil town, the capital of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, how his government intends to address conflict over the oil-producing and contested region of Abyei with the government of neighboring Sudan.

It remains unclear as to why the president avoided discussing Abyei, despite a major protest on Friday by Abyei residents who called for an holding the long-delayed referendum.

Under an African Union proposal the region is due to hold it delayed referendum in October. However, Khartoum wants joint bodies to be created before the plebiscite, whereas Juba prefers to focus on the conduct of the vote.

The plan outlined by the AU panel on the Sudan’s suggests that only residents of Abyei, defined as the nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms could be eligible to vote on whether they want join north or south Sudan. Khartoum, however, insists that the nomadic Misseriya tribe who spend several months in Abyei every year grazing, to also be accorded full voting rights.

“It is strange that the president could not mention anything about [the] Abyei conflict. He just focused on the internal matters and left very important issues”, Simon Chol Deng, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal who attended address of the president said on Saturday.

Deng said he hoped the president would inform the public about alternative plans his administration has put in place to ensure the final status of the region is determined.

“You know that the people of Abyei are our people that mean what affects them also affect us in one way or the other. We are very concerned about Abyei because we have a public saying in our community that a bug that bits your neighbor can one day reach you, and actually it has reached us already. The 14 mile area can be another Abyei”, said Deng.

The 14 mile area is another disputed area, which is claimed by South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and Sudan’s Darfur region.

President Kiir had extended his tour of Bahr el Ghazal region to Aweil town, capital of Northern Ghazal state, where he is spending a night.

During his public address, Kiir pledged to assess the condition of Aweil civil hospital, construct new roads and look for funds to support construction of the new university he commissioned in 2010.

Kiir also called on the citizens to unite and work together with state administration in order to consolidate peace and efforts aimed at providing basic services to the people.

He was received on arrival by the state governor, Paul Malong Awan along with local ministers, traditional leaders and youth as well as women groups in the area.

He was accompanied by defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, security minister, Mbuto Mamur Mete, health minister, Riek Gai Kok, agriculture minister Beda Machar, deputy roads, bridges and transport.

Other members of the delegation, included James Hoth Mai, general chief of staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

US embassy promises to issue a visa to Sudanese president soon - report

September 21, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese foreign minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, has arrived in New York to attend the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

A diplomatic source told Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) that the application made by the Sudanese president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, to obtain entry visa to the US is still standing, demanding that the US administration meet its obligations as the UN headquarters state.

On Monday, the US state department said it received a visa application for Bashir to attend the 68th session of the UNGA, noting that he should not make such a trip because he is accused of war crimes and genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But the Sudanese government said that Bashir’s visit would be to the UN headquarters and not to the United States itself which does not have any legal right to object to the participation of any official from any country enjoying full membership of the international organization in the UN activities.

The pro-government, Al-Sudani newspaper, said on Friday that Bashir has obtained clearance of all countries which he will fly through his way to New York to participate in the UNGA’s 68th session.

The newspaper further said that the foreign ministry has received a promise from the US embassy to grant Bashir an entry visa within the next couple of days.

On Thursday, the US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that Bashir’s visa application is still pending review.

The US official however, revealed for the first time that the ICC arrest warrant issued for Bashir on alleged war crimes will be a factor in deciding his visa request.

"I don’t have any update for you. There are a variety of considerations in play with respect to President Bashir’s visa request, including the outstanding warrant for his arrest," she said in response to questions by reporters during daily press briefing.

The ICC Pre-Trial chamber, in a decision issued Wednesday, said it had ‘‘… invited the competent US authorities to arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the Court, in the event he enters their territory.’’

The visa issue has attracted controversy placing the US, a non-signatory to the ICC’s Rome statute, in the spotlight.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the members of the United Nations to publicly oppose attendance at its General Assembly by Bashir.

“If al-Bashir turns up at the UN General Assembly, it will be a brazen challenge to Security Council efforts to promote justice for crimes in Darfur,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice program director at HRW.

“The last thing the UN needs is a visit by an ICC fugitive”, she added.

On Thursday, a group of Hollywood actors and activists wrote a letter to Obama urging him to block Bashir’s attendance.

"While we recognize that the U.S. government is obliged to facilitate President Bashir’s visit under the U.N. Headquarters Agreement, we urge you to do everything in your power to prevent the trip," it said.

The letter suggested a number of steps to discourage the Sudanese president from visiting.

The signatories including George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow and Omer Ismail and John Prendergast of the Enough Project said that the US Department of Justice should "explore filing a criminal case against him under 18 USC 1091".

"This law, which codifies the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007, allows for anyone present in the United States to be prosecuted for genocide, even if their crimes were committed abroad" the letter reads in part.

"By publicly raising the threat of such a prosecution and the specter that President Bashir’s privileges and immunities may not extend to genocidal acts, your administration would make an important statement about the U.S. government’s commitment to atrocity prevention and accountability".

"Declaring that the U.S. will only offer the Sudanese delegation the minimum amount of protection mandated by the UN Headquarters Agreement could also affect the Sudanese government’s decision making process… Limiting the number of visas granted to President Bashir’s security detail and imposing specific geographic constraints on those visas could also circumscribe the delegation’s mobility and raise the reputational costs of the trip" it adds.

"In the event that President Bashir remains steadfast in his intent to travel to United Nations headquarters despite these actions, there are a number of steps that can be taken to impede his travel. Our diplomatic corps should encourage countries along President Bashir’s planned flight path to refuse landing rights for his aircraft for refueling and restrict access to their airspace. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations and Ambassador Samantha Power should also encourage senior UN officials and delegations from other countries to publicly refuse to meet with President Bashir or his delegation. Drawing on the precedent set by a similar rejection of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad in 2011, our diplomats could also coordinate a walk-out of the UN General Assembly session in protest of President Bashir’s presence".

Several UN diplomats told Reuters they were surprised by Bashir’s request to come to the United States. One Latin American ambassador said it was a "travesty of international justice."

ICC member countries are obligated, under the Rome Statute, to cooperate with the world court in arresting of suspects.

In the past, however, many countries, both members and non-members of the Hague-based court have avoided hosting the Sudanese leader, whose visit to the US or UN will be the first-ever for any individual indicted by the ICC for war crimes.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REACTS

Amnesty International, in a statement issued Friday, said member states of UNGA must demand that Al-Bashir surrenders to ICC where he faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Despite the ICC arrest warrants against the President, two other government officials and an alleged Janjaweed militia leader, they are all being protected by the Sudanese government which is refusing to cooperate with the Court,” said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of law and policy at Amnesty International.

Sudan’s decision to send a person accused of orchestrating these most serious crimes to attend the UN General Assembly, he added, is a grave insult to the thousands of people unlawfully killed, millions displaced and countless women and children raped in Darfur over the last decade.

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