ATMs Run Dry as Sudan Economic Rot Goes Beyond U.S. Embargo

Chronic cash shortage. Link to web article.

Going by his bank statements, Isam Ali isn’t short of money — but in Sudan’s cash-strapped capital that’s exactly what he is.

Several times a week, the 45-year-old accountant lines up at one of the few ATMs in Khartoum still dispensing banknotes, waiting hours to withdraw the daily maximum of 2,000 Sudanese pounds ($42). That sum’s being spread increasingly thinly to feed his family, as inflation in the North African nation hits its highest in two decades, quashing hopes 2017’s lifting of U.S. sanctions could spur an economic revival.

The reality: three devaluations for the Sudanese pound this year, the central bank rushing to print more money and a government that can only promise further austerity as President Umar al-Bashir periodically hires and fires his ministers.

“Things are going from bad to worse and the government is changing the cabinet only to buy time,” said Ali. A father of two, he’s feeling the trickle-down from a dearth of foreign investment in Sudan and a chronic lack of liquidity in its banking system.

In a torrid decade for Sudan’s $117.5 billion economy, which included the south seceding in 2011 with three-quarters of the united country’s oil reserves, the past year may have been its worst.

Economic Contraction

Despite lifting most sanctions, the U.S. still lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that officials blame for the lack of significant new investment. Inflation is almost 70 percent, and the pound trades at 47.5 per dollar, plunging from 18 in January. The International Monetary Fund says the economy may contract 2.3 percent this year.

“People lost confidence in the banking system,” says Hamid Eltagani, a Sudanese economics professor at the American University in Cairo. “The economy is becoming more of a rudimentary system of barter-exchange and the government has no instrument to entice cash into the banks.”

Sunset view of Khartoum

Bloomberg

While the U.S. sanctions — imposed in 1997 on terrorism allegations — hit Sudanese government agencies that provided essential services, the nation’s elites often found ways to circumvent them, setting up companies that benefited from preferential access to hard currency and contracts.

Click here for more about how Sudan’s elites escaped the worst of U.S. sanctions

Al-Bashir has repeatedly blamed Sudan’s economic troubles on alleged plots by the U.S. and other Western countries. He’s said “fat cats” including unidentified bankers, black-market traders and smugglers also bear responsibility.

Prime Minister Mutaz Musa in October announced a 15-month plan to trim inflation, cut spending and tackle corruption while defending those on lower incomes. The government said on Saturday it was raising flour subsidies to protect the price of bread. A January decision to lower subsidies on that commodity and electricity sparked protests and dozens of arrests.

For Abdullah Ismail, 55, his day job isn’t enough to make ends meet. The Sudan Railways Corp. workshop employee spends half his 4,000 pounds monthly salary on rent, then has to eke out food, transportation, electricity and school fees with the rest.

Debtor’s Prison

He borrowed 10,000 pounds from a local bank to buy a small taxi and make extra money. But the fresh earnings were eaten up by rising expenses; he hasn’t been able to make repayments for six months. “I failed and I’m in danger of being imprisoned” for the outstanding debt, Ismail said.

Losing oil plunged Sudan into crisis, but the country’s involvement in a new deal to end South Sudan’s five-year civil war could bring compensation.

As landlocked South Sudan boosts its crude output, that may mean extra revenue for Sudan, which collects fees for transporting oil by pipeline to a port on the Red Sea. Sudan pumped about 86,000 barrels per day of its own oil last year, according to BP Plc.

Gold has been touted as a replacement to oil, and exports of about 10.7 metric tons brought in $422 million in the first half of 2018, the Minerals Ministry says. But the government complains most exports don’t go through official channels and has promised steps against smuggling.

Lacking Policies

“The political machine has run out of lubricants,” said Eltagani, the academic. He described an “aging regime” with a “bankrupt ideology and a lack of clear policies to fix the ailing economy.”

In the meantime, Sudanese like Zahra Ahmed — a 21-year-old arts student at the University of Khartoum — are looking for any work available to cover their expenses and tuition.

“My family can’t manage to provide that for me as well as my two sisters,” she said.

Link to web article.

South Sudan rebel leader Machar back in Juba after two years

2018-10-31 11:30 AFP

Machar

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba for the first time in more than two years on Wednesday for a ceremony to welcome the latest peace accord for the war-ravaged country.

Machar, who under the terms of the September deal is to be reinstated as vice president, had not set foot in the city since he fled in July 2016 under a hail of gunfire when an earlier peace agreement collapsed.

The latest deal aims to end a civil war that erupted in the world’s youngest country in December 2013 and uprooted about four million people – roughly a third of the population.

The rebel chief was welcomed at Juba’s airport by President Salva Kiir, Machar’s former ally turned bitter enemy. The two rivals then joined regional leaders at the ceremony to publicly welcome the most recent agreement, signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) chief David Shearer hailed the moment of cooperation and said that building trust would be crucial, according to a statement.

“To see parties that have previously been divided by violence coming together here in Juba, in a public sign of unity, sends a strong message to the citizens of this country that you are genuinely committed to end the suffering and build durable peace,” he said.

 ‘Chance to restore hope’ 

Several thousand people gathered for the ceremony at the John Garang Mausoleum, built in honour of the independence hero who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2005.

Among regional leaders attending were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopia’s newly appointed President Sahle-Work Zewde, Somalia’s head of state Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbour Sudan in 2011 after a 22-year civil war pitting rebel groups against Khartoum.

“Sadly, the hopes and dreams of that moment were lost in the outbreak of the war that has plagued this country for five long years,” Shearer said.

“This ceremony is a chance for the leaders here today to restore that hope and to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for their people.”

The deal has encountered delays on several issues including the reactivation of a joint committee on borders and the number of regionals states.

It was not immediately clear how long Machar would remain in Juba, as his aides have expressed concerns over his safety in the city.

Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesperson for Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group, had said on Tuesday that he would be accompanied by around 30 political figures.

Link to web article.

“Never in a million years I thought he’d get the death sentence”

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

The wife of former South African soldier, William Endley, who has been sentenced to death, has appealed to the South African government to extradite her husband.

The 55-year-old Endley was sentenced to hang by a South Sudanese court for his role in assisting rebels during the country’s civil war.

Judge Lado Sekwat found Endley guilty of espionage and conspiring to overthrow the government.

His wife, Sana Endley is pleading with South Africa’s international relations officers to bring back her husband “for our daughter”.

ALSO READ: Former SA soldier sentenced to death in South Sudan

In an interview with Jacaranda FM News, Sana says she is yet to break the news to her daughter: that her father might be hung.

Endley describes the verdict as a “mockery of justice”.

“He is a South African man and ex-retired colonel. I have not had any contact with the South African government today. My request would be is to do the best they can and at least clarify,” says an emotional Endley. “I just heard from a mutual friend in Juba that when the sentence was given the judge even declared that all evidence against William will be destroyed. Why will they do this?”

William has been in South Sudan for the past 18 months. He worked as an advisor to former vice president and now rebel leader Riek Machar on the integration of the rebel forces into the national army under the then peace deal.

The peace agreement collapsed in 2016 where he was arrested.

His sister, Charmine Quinn says the family has been left broken.

“We are very broken. We are emotionally very tired, financially we are under strain. It’s has been really tough.”

Link to web article.

Freedom for political detainees James Gatdet, William Endley

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir walks with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir as he arrives to the Juba international airport to attend a peace ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, on October 31, 2018. PHOTO | AKUOT CHOL | AFP

By JOSEPH ODUHA
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South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday declared the release of two political detainees who had been sentenced to death.

James Gatdet and a South African William Endley, who were sentenced by a Juba court in February, will be freed on Thursday.

ACCUSATIONS

President Kiir made the declaration during his speech at a peace ceremony in the capital.

“Today, I declare the release of two political prisoners James and Endley,” he said.

Mr Gatdet, a former spokesman of rebel leader Riek Machar was arrested in 2017, after his deportation from Nairobi, for allegedly engaging in subversive activities against the Juba administration.

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Mr Endley, a retired South African army colonel and for adviser of Mr Machar, was accused of providing him with military support.

William John Endley, a South African national and an adviser to South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar, stands inside the dock in the High Court in Juba, South Sudan February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Samir Bol

“I will release him tomorrow [Thursday] and deport him back to South Africa,” Mr Kiir said.

PEACE DEAL

Dr Riek Machar — who returned to Juba for the first time in more than two years to take part in the ceremony — reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of the September 12 peace agreement.

“We come here today to confirm to you that we are for peace. We want peace and unity,” he told the crowd at Freedom Square.

“The peace agreement will bring you federal system of governance,” he added.

Notable among the special guests at the ceremony were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopia’s newly sworn in President Sahle-Work Zewde, Somali’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

WAR

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war in 2013 after President Kiir accused Machar — then the vice president— of plotting a coup against him.

The five-year civil war has killed an estimated 380,000 people and nearly two-and-a-half million others displaced.

A Mo Ibrahim Foundation report recently ranked South Sudan as the second worst governed state in Africa after Somalia.

Several peace accords have been signed but faltered immediately. They include the last one in 2016 that forced Mr Machar to flee into exile.

Link to article.

Sudan announces 15 month austerity programme

Sudan is heading towards an emergency reform plan in order to revive its ailing economy.

Prime Minister Moataz Moussa announced to parliament of the 15-month emergency economic-reform plan on Wednesday. It also includes further austerity measures.

The measures include slashing all tax exemptions except for materials needed for production, withdrawing some vehicles provided to officials, among others.

“The aim of the program is to restore the implementation of the budget of 2018 to assist the performance in 2019 to achieve its objectives of economic stability by reducing the average rate of inflation, stabilizing the exchange rate and achieving a real GDP growth rate of 4%,” said Moussa

The prime minister also highlighted plans to establish a commodity exchange for gold and currencies.

The country’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking a huge share of oil, once a major export.

It has also been enduring miserable economic conditions in recent months despite hopes last year that the lifting of US sanctions in place since 1997 would boost the country’s fortunes.

The government has been trying to slash expenditures as it continues to grapple with an acute foreign exchange shortage and inflation above 65 per cent for several months.

The central bank has twice devalued the Sudan pound this year. The pound currently trades at 41 to the dollar on the black market, while the official rate is 28 to the dollar.

In September president Omar al Bashir cut the number of ministries. He also announced his second major government reshuffle in the space of four months, a move aimed at fixing a crisis-hit economy.

Bashir also pledged to tackle corruption and reform the national economy, promising more subsidies for the poorest, increased productivity and revenues, and finance for agricultural schemes.

Link to web article.

Save the Children: 20,000 children risk starving to death in S. Sudan

A child in Juba waits for milk expected to help him recover from malnutrition|Credit|UNHCR
Save the children has warned that 20,000 children are at risk of dying from hunger-related conditions before the end of this year in the country.

Early this month, the National Bureau of Statistics and UN agencies released a report warning that parts of greater Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, and Western Bahr El Ghazal states are expected to face acute food shortages early next year.

The report indicated that over six million people face Phase 3 food crises which are classified under the Integrated Food Security as the worst acute food insecurity.

In a statement seen by Eye Radio over the weekend, the agency said the children are among 270,000 who are severely malnourished and at risk of starvation in the four regions.

Safe the children said “the near-famine is a rapid and worrying increase compared to 2017, in which famine was only declared in one state.”

The agency attributes this to continuing conflict in the areas it said is limiting access by humanitarian organisations.

Besides, it added that “reduced aid funding makes it difficult to provide assistance to malnourished children.”

Authorities in the respective states are yet to comment on the report.

Link to web article.

Abyei residents welcome proposal to deploy more peacekeepers

Alhadi Hawari |  | 10:49 pm

South Sudan-Sudan border near Abyei – CNN Photo

Residents of Abyei area have staged a peaceful protest, supporting the UN Peacekeeping Operations’ proposal to deploy additional police units in the disputed region.

”Yes we have  organised the demonstrations to support the proposal of secretary general of United Nations that is presented to the United Nations security council…,” Kon Manyith, the deputy head of Abyei Administration Area told Eye Radio on Monday.

Last month, the UN top peacekeeping official said the unit would enhance the UN’s focus on maintaining law and order there, and furthering peace between local communities.

Thousands of Abyei Area residents took to the streets today to voice their support for the proposal.

….we believe that the proposal has really addressed big changes to take place within united mission in Abyei,”Mr. Kon said.

The area residents also urged the council to endorse the proposal they said will determine the final status of the region.

“We are urging all members of security council to vote for the proposal of secretary general as the proposal was the turning point for the resolutions of Abyei final status…,” Mr Kon added.

The Abyei Area was accorded a “special administrative status” by the 2004 Protocol on the Resolution of the Abyei Conflict, known as, the Abyei Protocol, in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Under the terms of the Abyei Protocol, the Abyei Area was declared, on an interim basis, to be simultaneously part of the states of South Khordufan and Northern Bahr el Ghazal and issues related to be determined by the Presidency, made up of President Salva Kiir and President Omar al Bashir.

The Ngok Dinka and Misseriya had unilaterally held referendums, but both governments of Sudan and South Sudan were mum about the popular votes.

Link to web article.

Gov’t approves 700 million SSP for peace celebrations

Obaj Shago |  | 11:07 pm

Thousands of Southern Sudanese wave the flag of their new country during a ceremony in the capital Juba on July 09, 2011 to celebrate South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. South Sudan separated from Sudan to become the world’s newest nation. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

The Presidential Press secretary has said the government has approved nearly 700 million Pounds for the celebration of the revitalized agreement.

The government and opposition parties signed the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan last month.

Ateny told Eye Radio on Monday that the ministry of finance has already released the funds to the organizing committee.

“The ministry of finance has availed the fund for it, and so the celebration is realistic as I speak with you.”

According to Ateny Wek Ateny, the budget, which was approved by the council of ministers.

“Well the budget that was passed by the cabinet of the current government is closed to seven hundreds million pounds.”

It aims to facilitate the celebrations which will take place on the 30th this month.

The national celebration of the peace deal was initiated by President Salva Kiir, who signed the revitalized peace agreement on September 12 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

President Kiir invited leaders of the parties who inked the peace accord, including Dr. Riek Machar and Dr Lam Akol; and regional heads of state.

“The opposition are all invited, Sudan government will be guaranteeing for participation of the opposition led by Dr. Riek Machar and Dr. Lam Akol…”

Earlier, the government said it would extend an official invitation to the opposition leaders to attend the celebrations.

However, the parties are yet to confirm the invitation, but the opposition group had insisted that President Kiir lift the state of emergency and release all political detainees first for them to attend the peace celebrations.

Link to web article.

Reduction of hostilities remarkable-JMEC acting deputy Chief of staff

Rosemary Peter |  | 7:01 pm

The Deputy Chief of Staff for JMEC [Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission] said the peace monitoring body has observed a significant reduction in hostilities across the country since the signing of the revitalized agreement.

Dr. Thomson Fontain made the remarks on Eye Radio’s Dawn Show on Thursday, as he provided an evaluation of events – 30 days from the date of signing of the new peace accord.

The evaluation was based on the JMEC monthly report on the status of the implementation of the agreement over the past 30 days in accordance with the implementation matrix, outstanding or missed tasks, upcoming activities linked to implementation, key observations and recommendations.

In the evaluation, the report noted some progress in implementing certain pre-transitional tasks as well as outstanding or missed tasks.

Dr. Fontain said despite some key pre-transitional period tasks not being pursued within the specified time frame, fighting has reduced since the signing of the peace agreement.

 “I must say that we have seen a remarkable decline in the level of hostilities and violence across the country.”

“We will ultimately be in a situation where we see a country that is free of conflict but we are certainly moving in the right direction,” Dr Fontain expressed optimism.

 Among others, JMEC said progress has been made on dissemination of the outcome of the peace process, the composition of the national pre-transitional committee, and the ratification of the revitalized agreement by the parties.

The progress report further indicated that 75% of nominations to the implementation institutions have been received and the CTSAMM Board [Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism] was reconstituted on September 27 as per article 2.4.6 of the agreement.

The outstanding pre-transitional tasks expected to be implemented by IGAD over the last 30 days include the appointment of a Chairperson for the revitalized JMEC, reconstitution of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee, the establishment of the Independent Boundaries Commission and the Technical Boundaries Commission.

Outstanding tasks for the parties to implement include the immediate release of all prisoners of war and political detainees by all parties under ICRC supervision and the establishment of a fund for the implementation of the activities of the Pre-Transitional Period by TGoNU.

Other tasks are the completion of disengagement and separation of forces by the Parties, creating a roadmap for implementing the political tasks of the Pre-Transition Period and preparation of a budget by the body upon its convening.

Dr. Fontain said although several deadlines have been missed, he still sees a commitment from the parties to accelerate the implementation process.

“Yes deadlines have been missed but the fact that the committees are now beginning to get into gear, beginning to work is a very hopeful sign and we are hopeful that a lot more will be done in months ahead.”

Link to web article.

Tired of war, South Sudanese pray for latest peace deal

South Sudanese demonstrators hold signs requesting peace as they await the arrival of South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, at the airport in Juba, South Sudan, on June 22, 2018. (RNS/AP/Bullen Chol)

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — During a recent Sunday service, Pastor Jok Chol led the congregation at his Pentecostal church to pray for a sustainable peace after President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed the latest peace agreement in neighboring Sudan.

The two leaders signed an agreement in mid-September, hoping to end years of conflict.

“I want to rebuke the spirits of confusion in our leaders,” Chol prayed, amid cheers of “Amen” from hundreds of worshippers. “We thank God and pray that he touches the hearts of our leaders so that they can embrace the new peace agreement.”

During his sermon, Chol urged his congregants to have faith and hope and continue to pray for a sustainable peace. He said they should refuse to be divided by political leaders along ethnic lines.

“We are all children of God,” said Chol, 55, a father of three. “We should treat each other with the love of Jesus Christ. Please don’t do anything wrong because your leader has told you. Follow what the Bible says and you will be blessed.”

Chol and his congregants are among thousands of Southern Sudanese gathering in churches and various mosques across major cities and refugee camps to pray for their country, which has been embroiled in civil war since 2013.

South Sudan erupted into civil war after a power struggle ensued between Kiir and Machar. The conflict spread along ethnic lines, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing millions of others internally and outside the border. The economy has collapsed as a result of the ongoing war. Half of the remaining population of 12 million faces food shortages.

The latest treaty is the second attempt for this young nation to find peace. South Sudan became officially independent from Sudan in 2011. In 2013, civil war broke out after Kiir fired Machar as his deputy, leading to clashes between supporters of the two leaders.

A previous peace deal in 2016 tried to bring warring sides together so they could find a permanent solution. But fighting broke out in the capital city of Juba a few months later when Machar had returned from exile to become Kiir’s vice president as outlined in the peace agreement.

Under the new power-sharing arrangement Machar will once again be Kiir’s vice president.

Religious leaders such as Chol are optimistic that the latest peace agreement will hold up. They believe it is an answered prayer for thousands of faithful.

“I have hope in the new peace agreement,” said Bishop Emmanuel Murye of Episcopal Church in South Sudan. “We have been praying for peace to return to the country and we are happy that our leaders are committed to bring peace.”

Murye has been holding evangelistic meetings in refugee camps in Uganda, where more than 1 million South Sudanese have taken refuge. He said people in the camps have been praying for leaders to embrace the new deal.

“People want to come back home,” he said. “They are tired of staying in the camp. Life in the camp is not easy because there is no food to eat and children are not going to school. They have been praying for peace and they believe this is an answered prayer.”

But others still doubt the new peace deal.

Fighting broke out in the country, killing 18 civilians, two days after the warring sides signed the latest agreement to end the civil war. Kiir and Machar supporters blamed each other for the attacks.

Religion has played a major role in South Sudan’s conflicts.

According to a recent report by Pew Research Center, Christians make up about 60 percent of the population of South Sudan, followed by 33 percent who are followers of African traditional religions. Six percent are Muslim.

Link to web article.