Sudan will not proceed with normalizing relations with Israel until the US Congress passes legislation giving Khartoum immunity from future lawsuits from terror victims, Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan reportedly told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.Burhan set a deadline of the end of this year for Congress to pass the “legal peace” bill, in a conversation first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by diplomatic sources.
Pompeo responded that the immunity would be finalized in the coming weeks.
In late October, Sudan pledged to become the third Arab state, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to join the Abraham Accords and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. That commitment was deeply controversial in Sudan, and came amid heavy pressure from the US, during negotiations for Sudan to be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list and receive economic aid. Sudan’s current, transitional government came after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled last year, and it seeks to shift the country towards democracy.
The final agreement between Sudan and the US required the former to pay $335 million in compensation to victims of the 1998 terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people were killed and thousands injured. Al Qaeda carried out the attacks, and Sudan harbored the terrorist group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, in 1991-1996.The bill the Trump administration seeks to have Congress approve would shield Sudan from further lawsuits from US victims of terror. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have sought an exception to be carved out in the bill for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In addition, Menendez has spoken out against a disparity in the compensation received by those who were US citizens during the embassy attacks and those who have since become naturalized citizens. At the same time, Menendez has said he recognizes that Sudan has an opportunity to establish a democratic government, and that it is in the American interest to encourage that transition. As such, he would support granting Sudan immunity, once his concerns are addressed. Sudan, however, would be unlikely to accept an agreement that would require them to pay more to compensate victims of terror. Khartoum regards the immunity bill as an important step in pulling itself out of a years-long economic crisis, without which investors may be reluctant to put money into Sudan’s shaky economy.
Nov 26, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Latest UNMISS report from South Sudan’s capital indicate that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has prevented inter-communal clashes that could have killed hundreds and displaced thousands of people, adding that the South Sudanese army(SSPDF) thanked UNMISS for its prompt response.
“Within minutes of receiving warning of a potential clash between armed groups in Cueibet, Nepalese peacekeepers sprang into action, sending a team of highly trained troops to intervene and protect civilians in the area.” Reads part of the UNMISS report.
“At around 9am, the peacekeepers, who are located at a temporary base in the remote area, received information that the group was mobilizing to attack and that 100 people within the town itself had armed themselves as they prepared to repel that attack. A violent clash was imminent.” UNMISS Report continued.
According to Captain Bigyan Bista, the Commander of the Nepalese Quick Reaction Force, the Nepalese contingent “immediately sent a platoon of soldiers to intercept the groups and, within an hour, they had set up a checkpoint” between the two communities.
“Our task was to assess the security situation, patrol the area to deter the armed groups, provide a protective presence and intervene to protect civilians if needed,” Captain Bigyan Bista said.
The threat of an inter-communal clash came about after a young man was killed during a raid on a cattle camp about 12 kilometers north of Cueibet town in the Lakes region of South Sudan.
According to the residents, about 60 members of his community gathered their weapons and headed towards the town to avenge his death.
The joint effort between UNMISS and local security services worked with the armed group turning back to their village.
The report said, the South Sudanese army, loyal to president Salva Kiir, in the area expressed their appreciation for peacekeepers’ quick response.
“The South Sudan People’s Defense Forces in the area expressed their appreciation for peacekeepers’ quick response.” Part of UNMISS report reads.
According to a UNMISS report, this is common for conflict to flare up between communities during the dry season in South Sudan as they seek to recover from the loss of crops and cattle during the previous rainy months through violent raids on others.
In anticipation of these violences, UNMISS had established temporary bases in conflict hotspots in line with its “proactive, robust and nimble” approach to peacekeeping and peace building.
“In these bases, integrated military and civilian teams work to deter violence, support reconciliation efforts, and help communities reach agreement to peacefully co-exist. The aim is to provide protection where it is needed most,” read a report.
Egyptian and Sudanese officials have expressed keenness on strengthening bilateral cooperation in the transportation sector.
While the ministers of transport in both countries agreed, in a joint meeting in Cairo, on increasing the capital of the Nile Valley Authority for River Navigation to USD50 million, experts discussed mechanisms to link both countries via railways.
Egyptian Minister of Transport Kamel al-Wazir and his Sudanese counterpart Hashim Ibn Auf chaired the Authority’s general assembly on Tuesday.
They discussed upgrading the river units and ships, and stressed construction of new units. The new ones would hold up to 750-1,500 tons compared to the old units that carry small loads.
Wazir affirmed that the political leadership ordered to revive the Authority, a sign of the distinguished cooperation between the two states.
Ibn Auf noted that cooperation and integration between the two nations have proven to be fruitful.
The ministers also discussed a number of road projects, such as executing the land road between Egypt and Chad passing through Sudan, and the Cairo to Cape Town road that stretches through nine African countries.
Director General of Egyptian National Railways Ashraf Raslan also discussed with the Sudanese Minister of Transport means of railway coopetition.
Raslan expressed the Egyptian leadership’s interest in implementing the railway project connecting Egypt and Sudan.
Obituary: The Sudanese statesman served twice as Prime Minister, but failed to effectively rule or establish lasting democratic values .
adiq Al Mahdi, Sudan’s last elected prime minister who died on Thursday, was an elder statesman of Sudan who fostered democracy to the end.
At 84, his death brings to an end an era of turbulent Sudanese politics in which the Oxford-educated scion of a historical family played a key role.
He will be buried on Friday in Umm Durman, Khartoum’s twin city and a stronghold of his supporters, known as the Al Ansar.
“He spent his entire adult life in politics and died a martyr of that epidemic,” said Salah Talha, a Sudanese university professor close to the Al Mahdi family. “He was a moderate Islamist who leaned in favour of democracy and centrist ideas.”
Al Mahdi’s political career spanned more than 50 years, its milestones and details often mirroring the tempestuous, post-independence history of Sudan, from military coups, democratic rule and economic woes to popular uprisings, civil wars and famines.
Imprisonment, hiding and exile in many ways defined his political life. In other ways, they serve as something of a manual for the art of political survival in a country that often looked like it was about to come unglued or implode and where every democratic experiment won international accolades but was later abruptly ended by military coups.
Known to his supporters as simply the Imam, Al Mahdi will not be remembered only for his political career. He has left behind a wealth of writings on Islamic jurisprudence and on modernising Islam’s teachings to fit in with the complexities and contradictions of the present time.
Al Mahdi, critics contend, spent much of his political career addressing himself to Sudan’s political establishment and intellectual elite in near total seclusion from the rest of the country, while also striving to maintain his standing and relevance as a traditional religious leader to the hundreds of thousands of loyal supporters who treated him with deep reverence and saw him as a spiritual guide.
“The pain that comes with ailment is the best time to take stock of one’s personal, moral and social track record,” Al Mahdi, forever the philosopher, wrote after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 last month. “Self-criticism is one of the most important tools for personal betterment and satisfaction.”
In his two spells as prime minister, Al Mahdi led dysfunctional governments that miserably failed to resolve any of the country’s major problems, from civil wars, an economy that’s in disarray and the ethnic and religious fault lines that divided the country.
n some ways, his critics say, his ineffectiveness played a part in tempting the military to seize power in 1969 and 1989, with the generals convinced that they could easily do a better job running the country than civilians.
In his later years, Al Mahdi capably took on the role of statesman, offering counsel to the young men and women who led months of violent street protests against the 29-year regime of Omar Al Bashir until the generals stepped in and removed him last year.
In the aftermath, Al Mahdi helped in no insignificant way to eke out compromises between young protest leaders and generals on the future of Sudan.
His effort bore fruit in August 2019, when the two sides signed a landmark power-sharing agreement that has since served as a transitional constitution for Sudan until a new one is adopted and free elections are held.
Ameen Makki, a prominent figure in the anti-Al Bashir uprising, recalled Al Mahdi’s role in the early days of the uprising. He and others in the pro-democracy movement sought the counsel of elderly statesmen like Al Mahdi as the regime’s security forces grew more brutal in dealing with the protesters.
“The Imam carried more weight, was the wiser and more rational among them. He contributed to the halt of bloodletting,” he said.
“It’s for people like him that the flags are lowered, a state of mourning is declared and official funerals are held.”
In some ways, Al Mahdi’s role in the 2018-19 uprising was a surprise to some of the young opposition activists, who saw him as a political relic from a bygone era who was out of touch with the mood, aspirations and rebellious traits of Sudan’s contemporary youth.
To them, Al Mahdi was the quintessential symbol of the traditional and religious forces that dominated but achieved little during spells of democratic rule in the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. These forces, they argued, have been displaced by a new strain of political activism that is mostly liberal, left-leaning and fearless in the face of brutal force.
Their argument may not be entirely without merit, although Al Mahdi dismissed it as untrue and argued that he and his Umma party, Sudan’s largest, were at the heart of the uprising.
He was also just as dismissive of the notion held by some activists that with his impeccable English, aristocratic manners and Oxford degree, he presided over an elitist political system.
However, a significant part of Al Mahdi’s relevance in the “new Sudan” came from the voting power of his supporters, which has for decades kept his Umma party as a political powerhouse.
Al Mahdi served twice as prime minister, the first time when he was barely 30 in 1966. His second term as prime minister came in 1986, a year after the military seized power in a bloodless and popularly-supported coup amid nationwide street protests against the 16-year rule of military dictator Jaafar Al Nimeiri.
His democratically elected government was toppled in a 1989 coup led by Al Bashir, an Islamist whose time in office handed Sudan its worst chapter since independence in 1956.
Al Bashir is now in prison following his conviction of corruption and is facing additional trials for the shooting deaths of protesters in 2018 and 2019 and for violating the constitution when he plotted and led the Islamist-backed 1989 coup.
But Al Mahdi betrayed no glee when he spoke about what it meant for him to see Al Bashir appear before a criminal court last year charged with corruption.
“The wrong must eventually be vanquished, the righteous state must come back,” Al Mahdi told The National in an interview last year at his Umm Durman residence.
Experts and researchers in the field of economics have criticised the current policies adopted by the transitional government to address the economic deterioration in the country, and demand the government be transparent and conduct structural reforms in the Sudanese economy.
At a seminar in Khartoum this week to discuss possible solutions to revive the Sudanese economy by arresting the collapse of the Sudanese pound and the continuing high inflation rates, independent economist Hafiz Ismail said that the Sudanese economy needs a the issue of transparency in budgets and their sources, and an evaluation of the government’s economic performance.
He pointed to monopolisation and fraud, especially with regard to the distribution of investment opportunities and contracts, which affects the attraction of foreign investment.
“There are companies that do not pay taxes and are not subject to accountability, which creates difficulty in their competition,” he said. “This is in addition to companies that monopolise the market and control the prices, raising them at will.”
Ismail called the restructuring the Sudanese economy by making “real reforms”, raising the technical capabilities graduate students so that they can join the work force in the investment sector, and reviewing all investment contracts signed under the previous regime, due to its non-compliance with the necessary requirements and its environmental impact.
Economist Kamal Abdelkarim, a member of the Communist Party of Sudan, said that the current government lacks any clear economic policy to address the economic deterioration.
“The current approach the government wants to follow serves the interests of parasitic capitalism, and that will lead to destroying the slogans and goals of the December revolution,” he stated.
He stressed that the reality of Sudan today is not similar to the reality in which Sudan dealt with the World Bank earlier, referring to the severe poverty and unemployment in the country.
“The government will find great difficulty in implementing the proposed economic policies, because of the inability of the current state apparatus to achieve any economic policy.”
Abdelkarim attributed this to “the control of elements of the previous regime over the joints of the economy in all government institutions, and their work against any policies followed by the government”.
He called for the need to seek the help from “the revolutionary youth who carry new ideas to remove all the elements of the previous regime from the country’s institutions”.
The economist acknowledged the importance of the role of the International Monetary Fund and the need to deal with it, but with a different approach. He referred to the possibility of offsetting Sudan’s debts with the World Bank with the large sums of money smuggled abroad by the former regime.
On Monday, photos of Mohamed El Taayshi, member of the Sovereign Council, riding a bicycle to his office at the Republican Palace in Khartoum widely circulated on social media.
El Taayshi is used to riding a bike. His father was reportedly the first to introduce the bicycle in his hometown Reheid El Bardi in South Darfur in the 1940s.
The Sovereign Council member said he has important initiatives in this regard that will soon see the light.
Avoiding traffic jams, maintaining a clean environment, or exercising could be the main reasons for cycling to one’s work place. However, a number of social media users link the use of the bicycle to the fuel shortages the country is suffering from for many months without a solution in sight. “Perhaps the fuel crisis has reached the Sovereign Council,” they commented.
Fears that a civil war raging in neighboring Ethiopia’s northern Tigray Region will reverberate across eastern Africa are playing out in Sudan, which is contending with a massive influx of refugees who’ve fled the fighting.
More than 40,000 people have streamed across the border from Tigray into eastern Sudan since Nov. 7, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Sudan itself is seeking to rebuild its shattered economy after conflict in the Darfur region and the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir last year, and lacks the resources to meet their basic needs.
“Sudan won’t be able to manage and finance the response to this disaster alone,” said Alsir Khalid, the Sudanese aid commissioner for the eastern Kassala state. “We’re asking for the international community to help Sudan as it keeps its border open to the Tigray people.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered soldiers into Tigray after months of tensions, accusing the state’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front of attacking an army base. Tigrayan authorities say the fighting has displaced 100,000 people and the United Nations has warned that an additional 1.1 million people may need aid.
Refugees have crossed into Sudan’s Kassala, Gedaref, and Blue Nile states and their total numbers could surge to 100,000 within six months if fighting persists, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned. They are being temporarily housed at reception points before being relocated to sites where they are given food, blankets and materials to construct shelters.
Gado Gabir Hawari was among those who abandoned her home to escape the fighting. She walked for four days from her home in Tigray before crossing the Setit river into Sudan and became separated from her husband and three of her children along the way.
“I still don’t know where they are,” the sobbing 40-year-old said as she held her two small children at Village 8, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the border. “The Ethiopian army attacked us from all directions, using warplanes and heavy weapons, including tanks and artilleries,” she said, echoing other accounts of intense fighting and civilian casualties.
Sudan was engulfed in civil war for two decades before a 2005 peace deal that partitioned the country six years later. It’s among the world’s poorest nations, ranking 168th out of 189 countries on the UN Development Program’s human development index.
The U.S. is doing all it can to help Sudan cope with the refugees crisis and to continue its development, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said in a call with reporters last week.
It’s unclear how long Ethiopia’s conflict will last, with Abiy’s government and the Tigrayan leaders giving wildly differing views.
The cost of living is gradually becoming more unbearable; all prices have doubled, for everything, with the pound losing its value. And now the cost of fuel is increasing significantly. How can I send my children to school this year when the transportation fees increased from 10 000 Sudanese pounds ($40) for the school year to 10 000 a month for a single student, and I have three children in school,” Mohamed Ibrahim, a resident in Khartoum North, told Ayin.
With average incomes in Khartoum at about $100 a month, school transport costs are prohibitively expensive for Ibrahim, despite the fact that he works two separate jobs.
More challenges fell on to civilians’ laps after the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies on 27 October as part of its attempts to remedy the dire economic situation in the country, where inflation recently surpassed 200%.
As per the new orders, some petrol stations are now selling locally produced fuel at 56 Sudanese pounds a litre for petrol and 46 pounds a litre for diesel, roughly double the previous prices of 28 Sudanese pounds and 18 Sudanese pounds, respectively. Other stations are selling imported fuel at the international market rate: 120 Sudanese pounds *a litre for petrol and 106 a litre for diesel.
The IMF’s prescription
“Lifting fuel subsidies and liberalising the currency exchange rate are part of the government attempts to meet the technical conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — by having a good track record and showing commitment to economic reform — to enable reviewing Sudan’s debt and seeking possible future support,” says economist Khalid al-Tijani. “The government took this move, relying on financial support it expected from the donors’ conferences.”
Al-Tijani told Ayin that talks about lifting subsidies go back to the end of 2019 as the government prepared the 2020 budget, but the implementation was delayed, partially because of internal political disagreements and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The government suspended the budget for the first quarter of 2020 as a temporary solution and called for an economic conference around March. It also wanted to see how the conferences of Friends of Sudan and donors panned out.”
The Sudan Partnership Conference held in Berlin in June pledged $1.8-billion to improve macroeconomic stabilisation and develop the Sudan Family Support Programme. Although welcome, the pledge was far less than the government had hoped for — estimating that $5.4-billion was needed to revive Sudan’s economy.
Transport costs are now prohibitively expensive for Khartoum residents with the partial lifting of the subsidy, while the fuel shortages continue and many public transport vehicles are no longer available on a regular basis. Transport prices witnessed an increase of 100% to 200%, which vary at different times of the day, without an official rate. The decision has been met with a barrage of criticism, both in public spheres and on social media. “Lifted fuel subsidies — this is in the name of raising the blood pressure and diabetes for the defeated Sudanese citizen,” Emad Hamid tweeted.
The revolutionary umbrella group, Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), issued a statement on 31 October condemning the abrupt lifting of fuel subsidies and called for the removal of those who implemented the policy.
The government seemed to have no supporters in its action, but Sudanese Congress Party was reported to stand by the move. Party representative Nuraldeedn Babiker told Ayin that it does, in fact, support lifting the subsidy, but not the way it was done by the government, calling it premature and problematic.
“First — as a short-term plan — the government should have gained control over public funds, [ and] reformed investment laws, among other steps, in addition to identify[ing] all the people impacted by lifting subsidies; then restructure subsidies for them not to be affected. Then, in the long-term, subsidies should be lifted and the funds can go to basic services for the citizens,” Babiker said.
A huge burden
The lack of clarity over the level of donor support and internal rifts within the government, such as the resignation of the former finance minister — not to mention disputes over economic reforms with the FFC — have put pressure on the government to act, says al-Tijani. Even the IMF has criticised the plan, he added. Lifting subsidies, even partially, and shifting to a liberalised currency exchange rate without the necessary cash reserves available in the central bank will lead to further disastrous inflation rates, al-Tijani warns, since the state will be forced to print more local currency.
Questions remain about how the government can achieve economic reform without having tangible control over the market, al-Tijani says. The security and military sectors, the Rapid Support Forces militia in particular, own corporations operating in the private market sector with little oversight of tax payments and other fees, he added. “The [fact that the] head of the Rapid Support Forces, also heads the [government] economic committee — besides controlling the gold market — is an example of this issue.”
Al-Mughtaribeen University (or “Expatriate University”) economics professor Mohamed al-Nair told Ayin that the government took a leap to the unknown by abruptly, albeit partially, lifting the fuel subsidies. “This is a step in the wrong direction as the government needed to achieve economic stability first — and it had a year to work that out — then consider the citizens’ situation and how they will be impacted.”
“I can’t go to my work most of the days as the transport isn’t available, and many times I have to take taxis, which is a huge financial burden that my salary doesn’t cover. I had to apply for my annual break until things get better,” says Amal Abdullah, a commuter who lives in Omdurman and works in Khartoum.
The way out
“The government put all its eggs in the foreign-aid basket and made up an unrealistic budget based on support that is not in hand. Therefore, expenses exceeded income, the central bank kept printing more currency and the inflation increased,” says al-Tijani, adding that the country needs to fix the basic economic indicators to move forward.
“Sudan needs to focus on productivity and support to farmers, [as well as] enhance the tax system,” he adds. According to the World Bank, Sudan has one of the lowest tax revenue bases in Africa. Sudan accrues about 6% of its gross domestic product from taxes; the average in Africa is more than double that, at 15%, according to al-Tijani. “Rich people are not taxed — most of them have the power to avoid taxes, while less privileged people suffer from taxation.”
Al-Nair also thinks that the government neglected production and placed too many hopes on financial aid. The university professor does not think the country will receive this elusive aid. “The government is unlikely to receive financial support, and if it continues down this road, it will not emerge from this darkness anytime soon.”
It may be up to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to decide the country’s direction after the National Dialogue conferences proposed several legal changes to stabilise the country.
The discussions, which were divided into two phases, began with grassroots regional meetings followed by the national conference.
Participants presented solutions to local issues such as cattle rustling and land tenure, as well as to more critical concerns like whether the country should adopt a federal system.
Other matters covered were a suggestion for two presidential terms per holder, appointing South Sudanese with dual citizenship to senior government offices, and return of the country to 32 states.
The conference, led by a steering committee with funding from the Japanese embassy through UNDP, held regional meetings in Upper Nile, Bhar-el-Ghazel, and Equatoria, with representatives from the grassroots levels.
At the final national event that ended on Wednesday, more than 500 representatives from various communities and political parties were present.
At the closing ceremony on Wednesday in Juba, President Kiir said the resolutions will be incorporated in the permanent constitution.
“The National Dialogue has been broad-based bottom-up consultation. The revitalised agreement on the other hand came as a result of talks between political elites, which makes it narrow in scope,” President Kiir said, referring to the 2018 peace agreement between him and various rebel movements that led to the formation of the Government of National Unity in February this year.
“However, the agreement has a constitutional sanctity that the National Dialogue lacks, despite its popular legitimacy. Therefore, we should not attempt to replace the agreement with the consensus reached through the National Dialogue,” the president said.
He added that the National Dialogue should be used as a guide to enrich the constitution-making process, which the 2018 peace deal mandates.
However, some participants feared that the country may sweep the suggestions under the carpet now that there is some sort of stability.
Jame Kolok, who heads Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance, a civil and human rights advocacy organisation, recommends the formation of a select committee to follow up the resolutions’ implementation.
“South Sudanese have reasons to doubt the commitment of the government towards implementing matters. The criticism coming from citizens is, if the government is unable to implement a broader peace agreement that looks at the National Dialogue as a sub component of the peace process, then how can it implement the dialogue resolutions?
“What is important now is translating the recommendations that have been made into tangible outcomes that must come in terms of improving the situation of this country. This can be done when a committee is constituted to monitor the resolution implementation,” said Mr Kolok.
NIMULE – The South Sudan chief of defence forces, Gen Johnson Juma Okot, led a high-profile delegation of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) to meet their Ugandan counterparts in Gulu City on Friday.
The meeting was held at the 4th Division Barracks and attended by Lt Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) deputy chief of defence forces, the Land Force commander, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, and Maj Gen Paul Lokech, a senior military officer, among others.
The meeting was meant to settle the recent series of clashes between the two forces at their common borderlines, cause reconciliation and derive a way forward to peaceful coexistence between the two countries.
“We have come here to make peace. How do we put our hands together and chat the best way forward for us to live together, take care of our countries and authorities,” Gen Okot said.
Gen Okot noted that it was unfortunate to have people misunderstand the wealth of historical relations between the two countries by causing conflicts that would, in other words, risk the lives to thousands of South Sudanese refugees that are currently settled in Uganda.
“We have been so privileged that Uganda is providing protection to our displaced people in northern Uganda. Our children have been able to go to school, pursue their welfare, including their health,” he added.
The meeting between the two top army commanders comes after Ugandan forces attacked a village in Eastern Equatoria state killing two members of South Sudan army in October.