As Sudan seeks sanctions relief, U.S. presses religious freedom

By Lesley Wroughton

Archives: Meriam Yahya Ibrahim of Sudan (2nd R) carries one of her children, as she arrives with Lapo Pistelli (C) Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, holding her other child, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R), his wife Agnese (L) and Foreign Affairs minister Ferica Mogherini after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman who was spared a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity and then barred from leaving Sudan flew into Rome on Thursday. Photo link here.

KHARTOUM, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The United States has raised the issue of religious freedom during talks about easing sanctions on Sudan, the new head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said in Sudan on Tuesday.

Newly appointed head of the agency Mark Green held the talks with senior Sudanese officials as the U.S. government weighs whether to ease or extend the economic sanctions, a decision that must be made by Oct. 12.
“We have asked questions and … have received assurances,” Green told reporters after a meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh.

While human rights and religious freedom are not conditions for the permanent lifting of some Sudan sanctions, the Trump administration is increasingly raising them as a concern as it seeks to advance relations with Khartoum, which has been under U.S. sanctions for 20 years.
Recently during the unveiling of the State Department’s latest religious freedom report, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out Sudan for arresting or intimidating Christian clergy and church members, and for demolishing churches and trying to close church schools.

Archives: Clockwise from top-left: Rev Hassan Abduraheem, Petr Jasek, Rev Kuwa Shamal, Abdumonem Abdumawla. One of two pastors in Sudan accused of crimes against the state has been freed while a judge has upheld the charges against a second.
Rev Kuwa Shamal Abazmam Kurri  faced the death penalty or life imprisonment if he had been found guilty, however, a court has concluded there is no evidence to proceed in his trial.
Fellow church leader, Rev Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour  – along with two other men – has, however, had his charges confirmed and still faces the death penalty if found guilty.  Photo link.

The crack down on religious minorities has stoked fears among Christians that they will not be able to practice their faith in majority-Muslim Sudan.
During his three-day visit to Sudan — the first by a senior U.S. government official since 2005 — Green met with various religious organizations, including churches and religious freedom lawyers.

In his meetings on Tuesday, Green said he had acknowledged “meaningful steps” by the government in complying with U.S. demands for easing the sanctions. Among those conditions are improved humanitarian access for aid workers, counter-terrorism cooperation and a resolution of internal conflicts.

“The government is continuing a gradual reversal of long-standing impediments,” Green said, “and I urge the government to accelerate its work in this regard.”

Earlier, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said his country was looking forward to normal ties being restored.

Archives: Facing death: Pastors Peter Yein Reith, pictured, and Yat Michael Ruot are facing the death penalty
Photo link

“On our side we look forward for a normalization of our relations with an important country … the U.S.,” said Ghandour, who has overseen dialogue with Washington on the sanctions.

HOBBLED ECONOMY

Easing the sanctions could suspend a trade embargo, unfreeze assets and remove financial restrictions that have hobbled the Sudanese economy.
The North African country wants to regain access to the global banking system, potentially unlocking badly needed trade and foreign investment. It needs both to cope with an inflation rate of 35 percent and a shortage of foreign currency that has crippled its ability to buy abroad.

A decision on the sanctions was delayed for six months to give Sudan more time to make progress on key demands and to give the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump time to settle in.

Lifting them would be a major turnaround for the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who once played host to Osama bin Laden and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.

Archives: Accused: Pastor Yat Michael Ruot was arrested in December after allegedly condemning the sale of church land in Khartoum and expressing concern about the treatment of Christians in Sudan
Photo link.

Washington has not weakened its condemnation of Sudan’s tactics in Darfur, and Sudan remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, alongside Iran and Syria.

But Green said if Sudan complied with U.S. demands for the lifting of the sanctions, and protected religious freedom, “it would bring in a new era for a new relationship in which many issues can be taken on.”

Green told Reuters on Monday after visiting North Darfur state that humanitarian access had improved.

In particular, aid workers have been allowed for the first time in seven years into Jebel Marra, a region of Darfur where clashes between the government and rebels persist, according to USAID reports.

The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking the government’s assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. The United States layered on more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region. (Additional reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Larry King and Sandra Maler)

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USAID Director Green visits Darfur as U.S. considers lifting sanctions on Sudan

 

18 February 2015. Zam Zam: A newly displaced child drinks water in Zam Zam camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in North Darfur. His family arrived to this camp as they flee fighting between Government and armed movements in the area of east Jebel Marra. Photo by Hamid Abdulsalam, UNAMID. Photo link here.

“We will be closely watching for sustained progress,” Green added, citing five conditions Washington has laid down for sanctions relief, “especially humanitarian access.”

EL FASHER, Sudan — As Mark Green, the head of U.S. humanitarian aid, visits hard-hit areas of Sudan to assess whether help is getting to millions of civilians uprooted by war, he frequently dangles a carrot — lifting sanctions and a trade embargo. His first overseas trip since becoming administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coincides with a sanctions review by the Trump administration that could undo measures imposed two decades ago.

The White House has set an Oct. 12 deadline for a decision on whether to end sanctions against Sudan put in place initially over its support for international terrorism and then for the violence it used suppressing rebel groups in the five states that make up the Darfur region.

“The timing of my visit shows the importance the U.S. attaches to our relationship with Sudan during this very important sanctions review period,” Green said pointedly Monday as he met with Abdul Wahid Yousif, the governor of North Darfur state. The Sudanese official is credited with restoring the rule of law in a region where villages were destroyed when rebel groups battled government troops and pro-government militias in a brutal conflict that started in 2003.

U.S. officials and many aid groups say the government has made notable progress over the last year reining in lawlessness and allowing aid workers into conflict zones they had been blocked from reaching for years.

There has also been progress in counterterrorism cooperation. Sudan, where Osama bin Laden lived from 1992 to 1996, is one of only three countries the United States labels state sponsors of terrorism. But it has been sharing intelligence on terrorism for years with U.S. agencies. For the time being, however, there is no talk of lifting sanctions pegged to terrorism.

Sudan wants sanctions lifted so it can buy spare parts for its planes, trains and canal locks, which are crumbling. Its college graduates are fleeing the country for lack of opportunities. Inflation is running at around 34 percent annually. Khartoum hopes easing U.S. sanctions will open the door for foreign investment in energy, agriculture and precious metals.

But the decision is complicated by the fact that the president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide related to the conflict in Darfur, in which an estimated 300,000 people have died.

Many say constructive engagement would encourage changes for the better. It also could open the door for more development aid from countries that have limited most of their assistance to short-term humanitarian purposes.

“What we want to ensure is, while we are trying to get the regime to change its ways, that the people of Sudan are not suffering because of that,” said Steven Koutsis, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. The United States has not had an ambassador in Sudan since 1997.

Former president Obama announced before leaving office in January that the U.S. government would ease some financial sanctions against Sudan, but that the measures would not fully take effect for six months, allowing the Trump administration to continue or reverse the policy.

Many aid workers favor eased sanctions. Marta Redas, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said Sunday that aid workers have been admitted to areas long denied them. She credited the change of policy to negotiations between Khartoum and Washington over sanctions relief.

But a White House decision to lift sanctions is unlikely to have an immediate effect on ZamZam camp, where 230,000 people are sheltered in what has become a semi-permanent settlement less than 10 miles outside of El Fasher, the capital of Darfur. Many residents have lived there for over a decade, and built homes out of mud bricks.

Green, who became head of USAID three weeks ago, toured the camp on Monday, listening as residents sat under a canopy and peppered him with questions about why more aid isn’t geared toward helping them. The women in particular offered suggestions of microfinancing projects.

About a dozen women learning how to grow crops, a project of Relief International, shook their heads vehemently when asked if they ever left camp to collect firewood.

“It’s not safe,” said Hawa Abdallah Mohammad, 33, who has given birth to five of her seven children in ZamZam camp and has lived there 13 years.

Aid workers say violence remains a problem in some areas of Darfur, primarily because of local disputes rather than a campaign by militias or government forces. But as the war has ebbed, a joint African Union and United Nations operation in Darfur is deploying its troops away from the region.

The government is trying to increase safety through a disarmament campaign. Billboards show semiautomatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and masked gunmen all with a big red X through them, part of an effort to encourage people to turn in weapons voluntarily. In some areas of Darfur, the United Nations is holding workshops to try to discourage land-use conflicts between farmers and nomadic herders.

The government and aid agencies are hopeful that at least some residents at camps like ZamZam can start returning home soon. But some may never go back.

Haroom Nimr, 52, said that he fled his village in 2004, leaving behind a house where he raised sheep, and land where he grew millet. Someone else is working the land now, he has heard. He does not want to risk confrontation, and said he will not even try returning until he is assured the squatters have been evicted.

“I won’t go back,” he said as he and a group of men gathered under a tree to discuss what they had heard from Green. “I will probably sit here, for the rest of my life.”

 August 28 at 6:45 PM

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Flood havoc across Sudan

August 23 – 2017 SUDAN
A rickshaw makes its way through floods in Atbara in Sudan’s River Nile state in May (File photo: RD correspondent)
Heavy downpours followed by flash floods have wreaked havoc across Sudan. Camps for the displaced have been hit exceptionally hard. The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources has warned people to be cautious.

At least 200 houses and 300 cottages have collapsed or been seriously damaged at camp Murnei in West Darfur following heavy rains on Sunday.

One of the camp Sheikhs told Radio Dabanga that vast tracts of the camp have become uninhabitable.

He pointed out that there are more than 200 families affected, some of them are still in the open while a number of them have been hosted by other families.

He appealed to humanitarian organisations and authorities to expedite assistance.

North Darfur

In North Darfur final estimates show that 167 houses collapsed in floods that swept through Zamzam camp in the state capital of El Fasher on Monday.

One of the Sheikhs of camp Zamzam told Radio Dabanga “the final statistics show that 107 houses collapsed completely, while 60 houses were rendered uninhabitable. Some families are still without shelter, while some have been hosted by other families”.

He appealed to the governmental Humanitarian Aid Commission and humanitarian organisations to expedite their assistance.

South Darfur

At Kalma camp in Nyala, capital of South Darfur, at least 230 houses were destroyed on Sunday and Monday.

Saleh Eisa, the secretary-general of camp Kalma, told Radio Dabanga that a preliminary inventory revealed the complete collapse of 230 houses at Block 5 while the inventories continue in the other blocks.

He explained that there are hundreds of families in the open and appealed to humanitarian organisations to expedite the provision of food and other aid.

Northern State

In the Northern State, Delgo area saw torrential rains caused extensive damage to houses and public facilities at the beginning of this week.

Yon Monday, residents reported to Radio Dabanga that a preliminary estimate of the losses show the collapse of 18 houses at Shargafab and Malaga in Delgo locality, while 220 houses were partially damaged.

The floods also caused damage to 10 mosques, seven schools and two health centres.

Residents warned that 11 villages were affected by floods and rains.

Residents said one woman was injured by the rain and was taken to Khartoum for treatment, this in addition to the damageof thirty-six high-voltage and low-voltage poles.

People warned of an increased cholera outbreak in the area after the recent rains.

Sennar

In Sennar large segments of people of Singa and its suburbs have been affected by the floods that swept the shores of the Blue Nile during the past year and this year.

Yesterday residents of Singa told Radio Dabanga that the floods that have swept through the Blue Nile coasts during the past two years and the current caused complete damage to the banana plantations in the two banks of the Nile.

They pointed out that banana farms represent the first economic resource in the region that affects all sectors of farmers, traders and workers.

They pointed to the negative effects on the lives of the residents, especially with the steady increases in prices of goods in the market.

Khartoum

In Khartoum, dozens of houses along the agricultural road of Halafaya of Khartoum North drowned after the Nile flooded the western side of the agricultural road, resulting in the displacement of families and their stay in the open on both sides of the road.

The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources warned of the rise in the level of Blue Nile during the next two days.

Yesterday the ministry said in a statement that the levels of the Blue Nile and the main Nile are witnessing a rise in Khartoum and north, where on Monday it reached the highest level in 100 years and exceeded the flood in 1946, reaching 17.14 metres in Khartoum, and expected to reach a higher level during the next two days.

The ministry called on the people on the banks of the Nile and its branches, especially in Khartoum to take more caution.

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UNMISS mourns US journalist killed in S. Sudan

“Christopher Allen is the tenth journalist to have been killed in South Sudan since 2012.”

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has expressed its sincere sympathy to the family and friends of US journalist Christopher Allen, killed during fighting in the town of Kaya, near the border with Uganda, in circumstances that remain unclear.

“We would like to pass on our deepest condolences to the family, colleagues, and friends of Christopher Allen for their loss.

“His death while reporting on the conflict in South Sudan is a tragedy,” said the Head of UNMISS and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer.

“Christopher Allen is the tenth journalist to have been killed in South Sudan since 2012.

“UNMISS has repeatedly stated that any attacks on journalists are unacceptable and it calls on all parties to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan to respect the freedom of the press.”

CNN reported that acccording to South Sudan’s state broadcaster, Allen was one of 19 people killed during fighting between government troops and rebels in Yei River state.

“Christopher Allen, who worked for various news outlets, was killed in heavy fighting in the town of Kaya,” South Sudan Broadcast Corporation said, citing rebels and military officials.

By Admin Added 28th August 2017

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UN MOVES TO PROTECT SOUTH SUDAN CIVILIANS AFTER YEARS OF CRITICISM

South Sudan was the world’s youngest country when it became independent from neighbouring Sudan in 2011 following decades of conflict.

Residents from South Sudan pictured at the protection of civilians (PoC) site adjacent to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base. Picture: United Nations.

KAMPALA – United Nations peacekeepers in South Sudan are moving more aggressively to protect civilians caught in the country’s four-year civil war, after years of criticism for failures that led to the sacking of the mission’s military chief last year.

This year, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has rescued aid workers and UN staff during attacks, saved civilians from abduction by armed groups, and pushed past roadblocks to a massacre site.

“A lot has been done … to improve UNMISS’ ability to deliver on its protection of civilians mandate,” said Lauren Spink, a South Sudan specialist for the independent US-based advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC).

South Sudan was the world’s youngest country when it became independent from neighbouring Sudan in 2011 following decades of conflict.

But the new nation dissolved into civil war less than two years later, after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy, Riek Machar, a Nuer.

Since then tens of thousands have died, and 3.5 million of the country’s 12 million citizens have fled their homes, creating Africa’s largest refugee crisis since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

BASE PROTECTION

As the war spread, families flooded into UN bases seeking protection. More than 210,000 people now stay in six such bases, too fearful to go home.

Between December 2013 and July 2016, more than 100 civilians and four UN peacekeepers were killed in attacks on UN bases when peacekeepers didn’t shoot back, fled, or delayed responding, according to data from the UN and CIVIC.

But a chastened UNMISS has gradually taken a tougher stance, boosted by the January arrival of new chief David Shearer, a former New Zealand labour party leader.

“We are trying to make our peacekeeping more robust,” Shearer told Reuters. “Our peacekeepers are going to stand up to situations and challenge them.”

Several incidents demonstrate the change. In April, peacekeepers deployed to Aburoc, a village on the Nile. After the UN arrived, rebels withdrew, and a government offensive that had displaced 20,000 civilians paused. Aid workers then intervened to stop a cholera outbreak.

The same month, peacekeepers went to Torit in the southeast to protect an orphanage housing 250 children caught between the front lines.

Mongolian peacekeepers in northern Bentiu town have repeatedly rescued civilians from abduction by armed groups this year, including one incident where they fired their weapons. Reuters was unable to find records of such interventions for previous years.

“There is improvement,” said Peter Ruach, who lives in the camp outside the UN base in Juba. A year ago government troops raped dozens of women who ventured outside the fence to search for food.

“The Ethiopian battalion have cleared a buffer zone and they make sure that when women are going out for collection of firewood they are protected,” he said.

Since the buffer zone opened at the end of November, serious crimes like rape and murder reported near the camp had dropped from around 48 per month to between 1 and 5, the UN said.

STRAINED HISTORY

UN peacekeepers have been in South Sudan since before independence, but found themselves frequently criticised after war broke out by aid groups like Doctors Without Borders, who said they were not doing enough to protect civilians.

A year ago, peacekeepers at the UN’s main Juba base ignored desperate pleas for help when government troops attacked a hotel a mile away, killing one aid worker and gang-raping others.

In following days, government troops raped dozens of Nuer women outside the same base. Ten aid agencies released a joint statement accusing peacekeepers of failing to adequately patrol the area.

“The inability of UNMISS to protect civilians threatens to undermine any attempts at safety and security in the country and makes it impossible for humanitarian agencies to provide the help that is so urgently needed,” Frederick McCray, South Sudan Country Director at charity CARE, said at the time.

The UN eventually launched an investigation that led to the firing of UNMISS’ top general, Kenya’s Johnson Ondieki, in November. In response, Kenya pulled its troops from the peacekeeping mission.

PROBLEMS REMAIN

Despite more robust peacekeeping, the violence continues. The mission has 12,000 armed peacekeepers and a budget of over a billion dollars. But that’s not enough to patrol a nation the size of France with under 300km of paved roads.

Peacekeepers were too stretched to deploy to Pagak, a rebel stronghold in the northeast, where a government offensive has displaced thousands and forced dozens of aid workers to evacuate since July, Shearer said.

UN patrols did not intervene in the northwestern town of Wau in April when a government-aligned Dinka militia went door-to-door, executing at least 16 people of other ethnicities.

Part of the problem is that the UN needs permission from South Sudan’s government for its presence. That can interfere with investigations or interventions aimed at government forces.

Last week, the government grounded UN flights after a dispute about the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops to beef up the peacekeeping mission. The government is reluctant to accept the new force.

“The UN cannot be totally independent in a country that is sovereign. They need to be working in cooperation with the government … They cannot run a parallel government,” said presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny.

He denied that government forces had killed or abused civilians.

“Government … cannot do anything harmful to civilians that requires someone to come and protect them,” Ateny said.

Shearer has responded to some roadblocks with public pressure. He took to UN radio to demand access to the Torit orphanage, and has ordered peacekeepers to hold their ground when their patrols are blocked by troops.

“We’ve had several instances of platoons sleeping at checkpoints for up to three days until they were finally persistent enough to be allowed to go,” he said.

But for some, UN intervention came too late. The UN did not arrive in Aburoc until April, well after the government offensive began in January.

In the meantime, government forces killed civilians, bombing and shelling the area, and burning people alive in their homes, rights body Amnesty International said.

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South Sudan regrets monitor’s negative assessment on peace progress

JMEC chairperson Festus Mogae. Photo link here.

by Denis Elamu

JUBA, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — South Sudan said Friday the latest negative assessment on peace deal implementation by the peace monitoring body the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) was misleading international actors.

President Salva Kiir’s spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told Xinhua that the Thursday statement by the head of JMEC Festus Mogae, describing shocking deterioration in the political and security situation in the country amid increased hostilities, were misleading in the wake of renewed peace deal revival efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in June.

“That statement is misleading international actors, considering they are being said by someone who is in Juba. I don’t agree at all with that, we have seen a lot of progress in peace deal implementation,” Ateny said.

Mogae had earlier expressed shock by the rampant hostilities across the country amid rapid deterioration of the political, security, humanitarian and economic situation in South Sudan.

“Since July 2016, we, as JMEC, have remained profoundly shocked by the rampant hostilities across the country and the rapid deterioration of the political, security, humanitarian and economic situation in South Sudan. As a result, we are now rightly absorbed in a process to restore and revitalize the prominence of the Peace Agreement,” Mogae said.

Ateny also disclosed that the overall security situation in the nation had improved better than previous in the wake of renewed July clash in 2016.

“The overall security situation in South Sudan has improved better than other time, and these are some of the things (JMEC) should have seen other than continue to be negative about South Sudan,” he said.

Ateny said that some armed opposition members were abandoning rebellion and returning to Juba for reintegration and participation in the ongoing national dialogue launched last year by President Kiir.

“National dialogue is on and a number of (opposition) people are coming back to join national dialogue,” Ateny said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitied mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

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South Sudan calls for more international involvement on Abyei’s dispute

August 25, 2017 (JUBA) – A leading South Sudanese minister Friday called for more international efforts to fix the stalled situation in Abyei area, pointing that the deployment of an international force in the border contested area has averted an unimaginable humanitarian situation.

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Counting officers, who were part of a referendum commission, count votes in Abyei on 30 October 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)

Nine days ago, Juba declined to take part in a meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) on 16 August organised by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel to discuss the formation of a joint administration.

Further, it comes after a call by the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council for Khartoum and Juba to not only to form the joint administration but also to activate the demilitarised border zone and to deploy joint border patrols agreed in September 2012 as part of the Cooperation Agreement.

“The issue of Abyei is the responsibility of the international community to work together to the two parties so that the outstanding issues are resolved amicably,” cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

“It is not an issue which should be pushed to the two parties to resolve alone. It requires international support for the parties to close the gaps and overcome the challenges through mutual understanding,” explained Minister Lomuro.

The statements are seen as an indirect response to the growing international criticism for Juba on its “refusal to cooperate” with the different messages on Abyei and the buffer zone sent by the African Union and the United Nations.

The cabinet minister, who is an ally of President Kiir in the unity government, said international community should persuade Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir to accept a peaceful dialogue to resolve the impasse.

“His Excellency President Salva Kiir as you know and as everyone knows is a humble man. He is a peace loving person and wants the issue of Abyei to be resolved through peaceful dialogue. The international community should, therefore, work with the Sudanese government to ensure there is a reciprocation of the same spirit and will. It cannot be pushed to the leaders like that. No. The Abyei protocol was negotiated and the international community, particularly the United States played an important role. They need to continue playing this important role until a lasting settlement is found,” he said.

The administration of former President Barak Obama gradually distanced itself from Juba after years of strong support by President George Bush during the years of peace negotiations with Khartoum and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. President Donald Trump’s administration, for the time being, is busy with internal affairs and other international files are seen more urgent.

The South Sudanese official, also, commended the government of Ethiopian for shouldering peacekeeping responsibility and acting as a de facto government in the area since 2011 following military activities.

“The intervention of the international community to deploy a peacekeeping force from the Ethiopia has averted the unimaginable humanitarian situation. If there was no neutral force in the area, the tension that was in the area would escalate into the unimaginable humanitarian situation. It averted war,” he said.

Lomuro further said the United Nation peacekeeping force currently in control of the situation of the contested area should remain there until when a solution is found through amicable solution between the parties.

Last May, the Security Council threatened to stop its support for the awaited joint border forces between Sudan and Sudan if they parties fail to operationalise it soon. The warning comes in line with Washington’s demand to reduce the number of peacekeepers deployed in the different operations as it is operating significant cuts in its financial contribution.

(ST)

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China’s Vice-Premier arrives in Khartoum to discuss debt settlement

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli received by Sudanese First Vice President Bakri Hassan Salih at Khartoum airport on 25 August , 2017 (ST photo)
August 25, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The Chinese Vice-Premier of the State Council Zhang Gaoli has arrived in Khartoum on Friday in a two-day visit to hold bilateral talks on a number of issues particularly China’s debt on Sudan.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sudan’s external debt has reached $51 billion. China’s debt on Sudan is estimated at more $10 billion.

Sudan has failed to repay its debts despite being given two long grace periods by China. However, last March Khartoum vowed to settle its entire debt, saying every “single penny” of Beijing’s money would be paid off.

The Chinese senior official and his accompanying delegation were received at Khartoum airport by First Vice-President and Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Salih and a number of ministers.

In press statements at the airport, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour described the visit as “historic and important”, saying it comes within the framework of the strategic partnership signed between the two countries in 2015.

He said the two sides will hold official talks on Friday at the Republican Palace, pointing out that a number of framework agreements would be signed after the talks.

Ghandour added that Gaoli will meet President Omer al-Bashir on Friday evening at the guest house.

Sudan hopes to attract new Chinese investments after Beijing had refrained from implementing a number of projects agreed upon with Khartoum following the latter’s failure to settle its debts.

China has been Sudan’s largest foreign investor, particularly in oil and telecommunications after western firms shunned the East African nation due to conflicts and sanctions.

It has invested more than $20 billion in Sudan mostly in the oil sector during the past two decades. Beijing provides low-interest loans and weapons transfers in return for oil.

(ST)

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China, Sudan pledge to enhance practical cooperation

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli meets with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 25, 2017. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)

KHARTOUM, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) — Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said Friday that China will expand its practical cooperation with Sudan and work actively to explore new cooperation areas under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

He made the remarks while meeting here with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Zhang said China has always viewed and handled its relations with Sudan from a strategic and long-term perspective.

The two countries have maintained mutual support on issues involving each others’s core interests and major concerns, he said.

China will, as always, support Sudan’s efforts in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as achieving domestic peace and stability, he said, adding that China will cooperate and coordinate with Sudan on major international and regional issues.

Meanwhile, the Chinese vice premier urged the two countries to explore new ways to boost their practical cooperation under the principles of mutual benefit, win-win results and common development.

Zhang said the two countries need to strengthen cooperation in oil and gas exploration and development, and work actively to explore new cooperation areas under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative, put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, is aimed at building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road through concerted efforts of all related countries to benefit all participants by promoting unimpeded trade, financial integration, infrastructure connectivity and closer people-to-people exchanges.

Zhang also stressed the need to create synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Sudan’s development strategy and boost bilateral cooperation in some new areas such as agriculture, mining and port construction.

China encourages its enterprises to invest in Sudan and the two sides should step up their efforts in promoting the project of the new Khartoum international airport, he added.

Al-Bashir, for his part, said China-Sudan relations can be regarded as a model for South-South cooperation.

Sudan highly values its friendship with China and is ready to encourage more African countries to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with China under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, he said.

Sudan is the third leg of Zhang’s four-nation tour which has already taken him to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He will also travel to Namibia.

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Russia’s Sudan Ambassador Found Dead

Russia’s ambassador to Sudan, Mirgayas Shirinskiy

Russia’s ambassador to Sudan, a career diplomat with decades of service, was found dead at his Khartoum home on Wednesday, Russian and Sudanese officials reported.

The death of the ambassador, Mirgayas Shirinsky, who was in his early 60s, was at least the fourth time since December that a senior Kremlin envoy has died prematurely overseas. The Sudan Foreign Ministry said in a statement quoted by news agencies that Mr. Shirinsky “died this evening at his Khartoum residence” without providing a cause of death.

Agence France-Presse, in a dispatch from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, quoted the Sudan police as saying he was found in the residence’s swimming pool.

His death came almost exactly six months after Russia’s longtime ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly I. Churkin, died suddenly at work at the age of 64. Russia’s government did not disclose the cause of death for Mr. Churkin, whom it described as an “outstanding diplomat.”

In January, Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, one of the longest-serving diplomats in that country, died after a brief illness at age 68.

Last December, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey G. Karlov, was fatally shot at an art exhibit in Ankara by a Turkish police officer who screamed “Don’t forget Aleppo, Don’t forget Syria!,” a reference to Russian military aid to Syria’s government in the Syrian war. Mr. Karlov was 62.

Mr. Shirinsky was said to have been a fluent Arabic and English speaker whose diplomatic career began in 1977. He had been the ambassador to Sudan since 2013, with previous postings in Rwanda, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

His death came as the Russian and Sudanese governments have been preparing for a visit to Russia by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, a sign of improved relations between the two countries.

The planned visit also signifies Mr. Bashir’s defiance of longstanding International Criminal Court warrants for his arrest on charges of war crimes and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

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