May 2015 - Posts
May 25, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan confiscated issues of 10 major newspapers on Sunday, in response to reports they carried on sexual assaults on children in Sudan, newspaper editors and a security source said.
National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers often confiscate newspapers over articles they deem inappropriate, but it is rare for them to seize so many at once.
"The security apparatus seized the editions of nine different newspapers on Monday" without saying why, the Journalists for Human Rights Sudan (JHR) NGO said in a statement.
NISS seized the Monday editions of "al-Sudani, al-Jarida, Akhir Lahza, al-Intibaha, al-Rai al-Aam, Alwan, al-Tayar, al-Khartoum and al-Yom al-Tali" dailies, JHR Sudan said.
The Sudanese General Journalists' Union said that a tenth daily -- al-Akhbar -- was also seized.
Afterwards, NISS agents called the editors of four papers to tell them their publishing licences had been suspended.
"The security and intelligence apparatus told us by phone that al-Khartoum newspaper and three others -- al-Jarida, Akhir Lahza and al-Intibaha -- were all suspended for an unspecified time," said Al-Bagir Ahmed Abdallah, al-Khartoum's chief editor.
Abdullah was told his paper had been suspended over a story about a consumer rights forum where one speaker discussed "the sexual abuse of school- and nursery- children on the buses that transport them," he said, adding that the decision to seize the papers had come from the head of NISS.
The chief editors of pro-government daily Akhir Lahza and independent al-Jarida confirmed NISS had called to say their publishing licences were suspended but had not given reasons.
Al-Intibaha's managing editor also said he had been notified of his paper's suspension.
The General Journalists' Union criticised the confiscations in a statement, "pointing to their negative impact on the situation of press freedoms in Sudan".
The Union said it would raise the confiscations with the presidency, information ministry and NISS.
Journalists in Sudan complain of pressure and harassment from the security services, and the country regularly ranks towards the bottom of press freedom indexes.
In February, before nationwide elections that President Omar al-Bashir won with more than 94 percent of the vote, NISS seized the print runs of 14 papers in one of the most sweeping crackdowns in years.
Rights groups accused Bashir's government of trying to stifle the media and civil society ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections, but NISS agents have also seized newspapers since the April 16 votes.
May 20, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - The joint Sudanese-Saudi agricultural ministerial committee has commenced meetings in Khartoum Tuesday to discuss bilateral economic cooperation in various fields.
Sudan’s minister of agriculture and irrigation, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, stressed Khartoum’s readiness to establish deep and strategic relations with Saudi Arabia for the benefit of the two peoples.
Hamid, who addressed the opening of the fifth session of the joint ministerial committee meetings, said ties between the two countries have been characterized by credibility and full commitment by the leadership of both nations to create environment conducive for trade and economic cooperation.
He renewed Sudan’s firm and sincere desire to promote relations with Saudi Arabia, expressing hope to upgrade those relations to wider horizons for the good of the two nations.
Saudi Arabia is Sudan’s second largest trade partner following China. Its investments in Sudan exceed $4 billion.
The Sudanese minister invited Saudi public and private sectors to invest in several fields including agriculture, mining, industry, health and education, underscoring his government’s commitment to provide the necessary requirements for the success of all Saudi investments in Sudan.
The Saudi minister of agriculture, Abdel-Rahman Ibn Abdel-Muhissn al-Fadli, for his part, thanked the Sudanese people and government for hosting the fifth session of the joint Saudi-Sudanese ministerial committee.
He said they look forward to discussing the promising opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in the service, trade and economic domains besides reviewing cooperation projects being discussed in the previous sessions.
Al-Fadli also said the meeting would discuss ways for overcoming obstacles which hinders sustainable development in both countries, expressing hope that the joint committee arrives at recommendations that could push forward cooperation between the two nations in all fields.
The joint ministerial committee would discuss ways for overcoming obstacles facing the Sudanese workers in Saudi Arabia besides plans for increasing trade and economic exchange and banking transfers between the two countries.
Last April, a high-level technical delegation from Saudi Arabia discussed in Khartoum ways for implementing the Arab food security initiative in Sudan.
Sudan’s National Investment Authority (NIA) said it offered to the Saudi delegation six agricultural projects in various states in north and east Sudan to carry out the food security plan.
Sudanese-Saudi relations have witnessed a thaw in recent months after years of tensions over Khartoum’s close ties with Tehran that saw Iranian warships dock several times in Port Sudan.
Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir paid a one-day state visit to Saudi Arabia last month in which he met with King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz and his son Mohamed who is the kingdom’s defence minister.
It was announced afterwards that Sudan will join the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemeni Houthi rebels allied with Iran who have taken control of Yemeni capital since September 2014.
EXPULSION OF SUDANESE WORKERS
Meanwhile, Sudan’s foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi authorities to expel 120 Sudanese nationals would not adversely impact on eternal ties between the two countries.
Ali al-Sadig, spokesperson for Sudan’s foreign ministry said in press statements on Monday that violation of residency requirements by Sudanese nationals in Saudi Arabia would not affect relations between the two nations.
He said the Sudanese workers were expelled because they violated residency conditions, adding that anyone who breaks the law in a host country would be expelled.
The spokesperson said the joint ministerial committee would discuss bilateral cooperation particularly on agriculture and animal and fish wealth and related industries, noting that several agreements and memorandums of understandings would be signed between the two countries.
May 16, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - The director general of Sudan’s Sea Ports Corporation (SPC), Jalal al-Din Mohamed Shulia, said that a high-level team from the United States Coast Guard will arrive in Port Sudan during the upcoming days.
In statements to the Khartoum-based Al-Sudani newspaper on Saturday, Shulia said the visit of the US team comes within the framework of the constructive cooperation between the two sides and to continue discussions on several common issues pertaining to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
He further said they would discuss with the visiting US delegation possibility of maintaining some communications equipments besides issues of security and safety at the SPC.
He added the US delegation would discuss with the competent ISPS’s security committee the course of action and security applications as well as ways for making the necessary coordination for the implementation of the navigational procedures.
SPC director pointed out that the US team would visit the southern port in Port Sudan besides Al-Khair and Bashair ports on the Red Sea.
He noted the team would also hold meetings with several bodies including SPC’s top management, ISPS officials, and the committee tasked with the implementation of the ISPS requirements.
Shulia expected the SPC would gain numerous benefits from the visit in the domains of security and safety, saying US team comes within the framework of the mutual visits between the SPC and the US Coast Guard.
Sudan is on the US list of countries supporting terrorism since 1993 and also subjected to economic sanctions since 1997.
However, Washington admitted Khartoum cooperation to combat terrorism but maintains the sanctions to bring the government of president Omer Bashir to end armed conflicts in Sudan and achieve democratic reforms.
May 12, 2015 - Nyala (AFP) - Stacked with rockets and machineguns, dozens of trucks seized from rebels lined the main square of South Darfur's state capital. Proof, Khartoum says, that its forces dealt insurgents a knockout blow.
Troops in camouflage and draped with ammunition pouches chatted on top of the trucks in Nyala, where Sudan was showing off the spoils from a major clash with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
"It was a battle beyond description, a decisive victory," said Major Nimr Khalifa Abdel Hafiz, an officer with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who took part in the clash near the Tullus area south of Nyala on April 26.
For President Omar al-Bashir's government, the battle was a major step forward in its fight in Darfur, which has been engulfed by violence since ethnic insurgents rebelled against Khartoum's rule 12 years ago.
But rebels insist the conflict is far from over, with JEM spokesman Jibril Bilal telling AFP: "We will never stop fighting these criminals as long as they are fighting our people in Darfur."
And analysts say the tactics used by Bashir -- who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur -- are likely to fuel continued unrest.
Darfur's insurgency was launched in 2003, with the rebels complaining of economic and political marginalisation by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
Bashir unleashed a brutal counter-offensive using Arab militia and the military. The United Nations says the conflict has killed 300,000 and forced 2.5 million from their homes.
- 'Increasingly counterproductive' -
Despite attempts to reach peace agreements and the deployment of a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in 2007, violence in Darfur "continues unabated," the International Crisis Group said in April.
In its latest bid to end the insurgency, Khartoum last year deployed the RSF, which has claimed several victories but has been accused by rights groups of abuses and of displacing civilians.
Khartoum's "reliance on a militia-centred counter-insurgency strategy is increasingly counterproductive –- not least because it stokes and spreads communal violence," the ICG said.
But Major Hafiz was bullish about the RSF's victory at Tullus -- which came only a few weeks before the start of Sudan's rainy season, when there is usually a lull in fighting.
"Our forces captured 164 land cruisers mounted with all sorts of weapons," he told reporters on the government-organised tour of the city.
The military says JEM forces sheltering in South Sudan -- which broke from Sudan in 2011 and which Khartoum accuses of harbouring rebels -- crossed the border to try to launch an attack in Darfur.
RSF troops laid ambushes along roads in South Darfur, hitting the JEM convoy at Tullus, killing and capturing an unknown number of rebels.
JEM denied it had been based in South Sudan, but Bilal made a rare admission that its forces had "lost a lot of troops and ground leaders" as well as "up to 40 to 50 vehicles" in the ambush.
- 'We have fought enough' -
He said JEM -- as well as other groups from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile allied to it in the Sudan Revolutionary Front -- would keep fighting until Khartoum offered a comprehensive solution to the country's myriad problems.
Peace talks broke down in December but Bashir, who was elected to another five-year term last month after a quarter-century in office, has vowed to launch a national dialogue after his inauguration next month.
It is unclear which members of the opposition and of the fractured and splintered rebel movements will participate, and analysts are not holding out much hope.
The conflict in Darfur has been further complicated by violent disputes between the region's varied ethnic groups over resources and land.
The Arab Rezeigat and Maaliya tribes clashed in East Darfur's Abu Karinka locality on Monday, tribal sources said, with an unknown number of casualties. And clashes between the Fallata and Salamat ethnic groups in South Darfur in March left a number of people dead after a cattle theft.
The ICG warned that with mounting ethnic and tribal violence, some of Darfur's conflicts "are too local to solve by national dialogue only".
Amid the trucks and troops in the square in Nyala, Mohamed Ibrahim Ishag said JEM and its allies had "tried to ruin Darfur".
But the school teacher said more than a government counter-offensive was needed to end the violence.
"The dead from both sides are our people, the people of Darfur. We have fought enough," he said.
May 8, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – The United States condemned recent armed clashes in Sudan’s conflict zones blaming it for the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
“The United States is gravely concerned about the continuing fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region and Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states,” said a statement by deputy US department of state acting spokesperson Jeff Rathke.
“Actions by the Sudanese government and armed opposition groups, especially following the return of some elements of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have displaced countless civilians this year and exacerbated an already serious humanitarian crisis”.
Heavy fighting erupted on several axes in South Darfur between government forces and fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in al-Nackara and Goz-Dingo areas.
The Sudanese army had claimed that the rebel forces entered the state from South Sudan which is accused by Khartoum of harboring insurgents.
JEM had issued a rare statement afterwards acknowledging defeat in the South Darfur battles.
Two days ago, Sudan’s minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein announced from the state of South Kordofan the continuation of military offensive against rebel forces until they are "cleansed" from all areas.
“We urge the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), all other armed groups, and the Government of Sudan to cease hostilities, to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular with regard to the protection of civilians, and to ensure safe, timely, and unhindered access for aid organizations as called for by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)” the US statement reads.
“A political solution is essential to attaining sustainable peace in Sudan. We urge Sudanese government and opposition leaders to take the bold steps needed to secure peace for all Sudanese. Years of fighting have made clear that there is no military solution to the conflicts in Sudan”.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called yesterday on the UNSC to consider abuses against children in South Kordofan conflict a war crime and impose sanctions on those responsible for the miserable security and humanitarian situation there.
“Children are literally being blown to pieces by bombs and burned alive with their siblings,” HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele, said. “They are unable to get sufficient food, basic health care, or education, and the situation is only getting worse.”
The US also backed the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in its dispute with Khartoum over events that took place last month in South Darfur area of Kass.
“We condemn the recent attacks against the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers in Kass, South Darfur state. The UNSC has made clear that UNAMID is authorized to defend itself against attacks, as occurred in this incident”.
The US urged Khartoum to bring culprits to justice and take “all necessary action to prevent future attacks”.
“The Government of Sudan has the responsibility to defuse tensions in the area and prevent future attacks on UNAMID personnel”.
Four persons, according to UNAMID, or six people as claimed by Sudanese authorities were killed and five others were injured from the Zaghawa tribe by UNAMID peacekeepers during clashes in Kass last month.
The joint mission says the gunmen attacked the patrol of Nigerian soldiers at the sunset on April 23 and "made off with one of the Mission’s vehicles after shooting the driver". But the tribesmen insist they were going after stolen cattle when they encountered the peacekeepers.
UNAMID further said that a second patrol travelling from Nyala was attacked by the gunmen near the their base in Kass on the morning after.
Sudan accused UNAMID’s headquarters in Sudan, New York and Addis Ababa of seeking to cover up what it called the “heinous crime” committed by its troops in Kass, saying they sought to criminalise the innocent victims instead of offering condolences to their families and the Sudanese government.
Both the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, and the head of the of the African Union commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, underscored the peacekeepers have been attacked by the armed gunmen, saying they returned fire in self-defence.
May 05, 2015 - A South Sudanese official described the creation of a “Hybrid Court" to try those responsible for mass killings and other human rights violations in the country’s conflict counterproductive.
- Michael Makuei Lueth (SSIM)
South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei said setting up such a court at this time will impede the ongoing, but elusive peace process.
“This is an unfortunate statement, especially at the time when we are in search for peace. The most appropriate situation would have been to work for peace first, bring peace and, after peace, then you make people accountable. Now it seems that the Secretary is putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
In an interview Monday in Nairobi with the Juba-based Eye Radio, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would provide $5 million to kick-start the court.
“In very practical terms, I announced today that we are putting $5-million into the effort to develop a justice and accountability system for what is happening in South Sudan. We believe that these terrible, atrocious things that are happening to people – the rapes, the killings, the disappearances, the level of violence is really questionably a violation of warfare, and we need to have accountability,” Kerry said.
Kerry called on South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and former Vice President and rebel leader Riek Machar to “come to their senses” by signing an agreement that’s real and stop using their people as pawns.
He said the lack of peace may lead to sanctions against individuals, not the whole country.
Makuei denied the government has been holding the people hostage by its unwillingness to reach a peaceful settlement with the rebels. He said negotiation for peace is a process and not an event.
“It is unfortunate that people are fast in reaching that conclusion and saying that the parties have failed to reach an agreement. If we had failed, we would have not been continuing talking. So, we have not failed to reach peace, but we are in the process,” Makuei said.
He accused those in the international community who are insisting on a swift end to the conflict as having hidden motives other than bringing to South Sudan.
Makuei said the Juba government supports the IGAD-led peace negotiations, but he accused “other institutions” of trying to impose some of their positions or opinions on IGAD and the African Union.
He said the South Sudan government is in search of a durable and lasting peace, and those who want to force the government to reach peace by all means necessary are only interested in trying to isolate the government.