Sudan has summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to complain about a TV series that portrays Egyptian rebel fighters living in the neighbouring country.
The Sudanese foreign ministry said on Saturday that the Ramadan series, titled Abu Amr al-Masry, broadcasted by ON TV satellite channel, is “insulting to Egyptians living in Sudan and destroying the confidence and relations between the people of the two countries”.
It urged Egypt to “stop attempts at disturbing the interests of the two countries”.
Khartoum appears to have been angered by the idea that Egyptian armed groups would find refuge in Sudan. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other armed group members were based in Sudan in the mid-1990s.
Diplomatic ties between Cairo and Khartoum have largely remained tense, particularly since last year after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting opposition figures fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones such as Darfur.
Diplomatic relations have been further strained over the past year by Khartoum’s revival of a long-standing border dispute and its perceived support for Ethiopia, which is building an upstream dam on the Nile that Egypt fears will cut into its share of the river.
The chief of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur on Sunday expressed regret over recent clashes in Sudan’s western war-torn region, which he said has left villages burnt and people displaced.
The latest fighting, in the Jebel Marra mountains, came despite a ceasefire unilaterally announced by Khartoum in March, applying to Darfur and another conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The fighting had erupted in Jebel Marra between the Sudanese government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid rebel group, said the African Union-United Nations joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur, also known as UNAMID.
“UNAMID appeals to all parties involved to exercise restraint and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue and the peace process,” UNAMID chief Jeremiah Mamabolo said in a statement issued after he visited the mission’s temporary operating base in the town of Golo in Jebel Marra.
“We particularly regret the new displacements and the burning of villages such as Gobbo, Kawara, Kimingtong in South Darfur as well as other villages in the Rokero locality in Central Darfur.”
Washington too had condemned the fighting, which it said has resulted in thousands of new displacement of civilians.
An insurgency began in Darfur in 2003, as rebels rose up against Sudan’s government, accusing it of marginalisation.
Khartoum cracked down on rebels and since then insurgent groups have fragmented, with fighting punctuated by periods of relative calm.
Khartoum restricts international media access to Darfur, an area about the size of France, so it is not possible to independently verify the details of fighting there.
In recent years the level of violence has significantly dropped across Darfur, with Khartoum insisting that the conflict has ended in the region.
The UNAMID mission too is being downscaled, now standing at around 10,000 uniformed personnel from a peak of about 27,000.
The United Nations says that over the years the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, with many having set up home over the last decade and a half in sprawling semi-permanent camps.
A separate conflict erupted in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both bordering South Sudan, in 2011.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said Armed groups in South Sudan have released more than 200 children who have been serving as fighters, this comes amid estimates that there are some 19,000 child soldiers in the war-torn nation.
The release of the 210 child soldiers brings the total number of underage fighters freed so far this year to 806 a UN spokesperson said.
Farhan Haq said additional releases are expected in the coming months that could result in more than 1,000 children being freed.
Most of those released, he said, were from the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) while eight are from the National Salvation Front.
However, the UN top official has condemned the treatment of aid workers in South Sudan, saying that violence and harassment is preventing help from reaching an estimated seven million people in need.
U.N. undersecretary General for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock said four aid workers have been killed and 10 others abducted in the last two months alone. His numbers did not appear to include aid workers reportedly kidnapped near the eastern town of Yangiri.
Lowcock, who visited South Sudan this week, said both the government and the armed opposition have done too little to halt violence and stop their forces from obstructing aid workers from reaching their intended destinations.
Last week, the Acholi Cultural Institution premier Ambrose Olaa and eight others were abducted by an armed group in South Sudan. The group regained their freedom after three days following intervention of the UN Mission in South Sudan and World Vision.
Mr Olaa, who was picked up in South Sudan’s Gbudwe State close to the western border with DR Congo and the Central African Republic, had been doing consultancy on peace building with World Vision International.
While security officials in Uganda have not disclosed the identity of the armed group behind the abduction, the UPDF 4th Division spokesperson, Maj Telesphor Turyamumanya, said the abductees were released in a jungle and they were tracing for a convenient place where they could be picked up.
It is a welcome relief, particularly for the Acholi Cultural Institution, that Mr Olaa has been freed. The incident, however, raises broader concerns about the security of Ugandans in South Sudan and those residing around the border areas.
Given the prolonged instability in South Sudan, there are various rebel outfits and armed groups. This has led to widespread lawlessness and armed gangs operating mostly around border areas where they terrorise cross border traders, raid cattle, farms and homesteads inside Uganda.
The government of South Sudan may not have control over such armed groups, which makes it difficult to engage them constructively.
Cases of abduction and harassment by South Sudan armed groups both in South Sudan and the border areas, including inside Uganda, have therefore become common. In August last year, a suspected South Sudan rebel group operating near Lamwo District in northern Uganda, abducted six Ugandan businessmen, held them in a prison and demanded a Shs3 million ransom in order to release them.
The area where the businessmen were abducted – Lubone Sub County, Magwi County in Imatong State in South Sudan – just five kilometres from Aweno Olwi border post in Lamwo District, was then controlled by rebels.
In 2014, similar reports of abduction, torture and harassment were reported in the West Nile district of Moyo when 16 Ugandans were detained by South Sudan militia while carrying out a census exercise at Wano Village, Lefori Sub-county in Moyo District. The militia claimed the territory belonged to South Sudan.
Such reports, and several others, including a recent case where a South Sudan MP was assassinated in Uganda by gunmen operating in South Sudan, calls for tougher security measures to protect Ugandans living around border areas and South Sudan refugees in Uganda.
ADDIS ABABA, May 20 (Xinhua) — The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said on Sunday accusations by Eritrea of its supporting Eritrean rebel movements as “baseless.”
The Eritrea Ministry of Information (MoI) issued a press statement on Wednesday accusing neighboring nations, Sudan and Ethiopia, of conspiring to support Eritrean rebel groups.
The statement from Eritrea further said Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to deploy Eritrean armed opposition groups along the two countries’ borders with Eritrea to facilitate hit and run attacks on the Red Sea nation.
Speaking exclusively to Xinhua, Meles Alem, Spokesperson of Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said the allegations by Eritrea that Ethiopia is working together with Sudan to support Eritrean rebel movements are totally false.
He further said Ethiopia’s offer to have unconditional negotiation and dialogue with Eritrea still stands despite the two countries’ current bitter standoff.
Eritrea and its southern neighbor Ethiopia fought a blood border war from 1998 to 2000, which killed an estimated 70,000 people.
Since then, the two countries have been engaged in a state of armed standoff along their common border punctuated occasionally by sporadic small-scale clashes.
Eritrea has tense relationship with its eastern neighbor Sudan, with both countries accusing each other of supporting rival rebel groups.
OMDURMAN, Sudan – In Sudan, a story of forced marriage, marital rape and murder has shone a spotlight on the country’s personal status law and the vulnerabilities women and girls face every day.
The case of Noura Hussein, sentenced to death earlier this month for killing her husband and alleged rapist, has drawn attention and criticism worldwide.
On Friday, the UN said it was “acutely concerned” for Hussein and warned that her trial did not appear to have been fair.
But the case of the 19-year-old, who says her husband’s relatives held her down as he raped her, is in no way unique in the East African country.
European Union diplomatic missions in Khartoum have also expressed extreme concern over the death sentence verdict against Hussein.
“Sudan is the only country in the region that legitimises child marriage and marital rape,” Amira Osman, secretary-general of rights coalition “No to Women’s Oppression,” told Middle East Eye.
“This is why we would like to take this chance of Noura’s case to reflect the suffering of the Sudanese woman.”
As an angry campaign sweeps Sudan protesting against Hussein’s sentence, similar stories are emerging.
Nahid Jabrallah, director of the Sima Centre for Training and Protection of Women and Children’s Rights in Khartoum, said marital rape cases like those involving Hussein are typical in Sudan and something the centre sees regularly.
She pointed to the case of a girl who killed her husband, an older man, after being repeatedly raped by him.
The girl, who hails from a small village just outside of Khartoum, is serving a prison sentence, but narrowly avoided capital punishment due to being under the age of 18.
Jabrallah, a prominent human rights activist, highlighted another case, which she described as typical, of a woman who was raped by her husband, a local religious leader.
The husband used his followers to hold the woman down, Jabrallah said, before raping her.
“The young woman … even received medical treatment in a public hospital without the police opening a case,” she added.
Jabrallah told MEE that the low value placed on the lives of Sudanese women is encouraged by laws rooted in religious conservatism which do not criminalise child marriage or marital rape and make women’s lives extremely difficult.
The activist said that marital rape in Sudan is a common occurrence, but Hussein’s case has come as a shock to Sudanese society as most victims’ voices go unheard under the pressure of social stigma.
Activists only found the confidence to speak out for Hussein and other similar cases after her story went viral with the help of local and international human rights groups.
The Sudanese Gender Centre rights group, based in Khartoum, has used the awareness from Hussein’s case to highlight the case of one newly wed woman whose husband raped her with a knife.
The young woman, who like all other women profiled by MEE wished to remain anonymous, said that her husband’s mother and sister restrained her while the husband used the weapon on her.
According to the group, the woman then attempted to report the case at a police station in Khartoum, only for the policemen to hand her back to her immediate family in 2015.
Endangered by law
Activists campaigning against Hussein’s sentence put the blame squarely on Sudan’s personal status law, which they have been protesting against for years.
Passed in 1991, the Personal Status of Muslims Act allows the marriage of girls and boys as young as 10 – the lowest legal marrying age in Africa – as long as a judge permits it.
Under Sudanese law, the minimum age of sexual consent is 18. However, the country’s penal code exempts spouses from being charged for sex with a minor within marriage.
Sudan has not signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an “international bill of rights for women” which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1979, and rights groups have long complained there are insufficient policies in place to protect them.
The laws have significant consequences for Sudanese women and children: more than a third of women in Sudan were married before they turned 18, according to a 2010 government survey. In the country’s poorest households, more than half of women were married as teenagers, and in southern Sudan’s Blue Nile state, 19 percent of women are married before 15, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
At 165 out of 188 countries, Sudan currently ranks at the bottom of the UN Gender Equality Index, which tracks parity between men and women in political participation and access to employment, healthcare and education.
Activists who have been pushing for changes to the laws for years say Noura Hussein’s case, which has attracted attention from right groups around the globe sharing the #JusticeForNoura hashtag, has kicked their protest into high gear.
‘A real icon’
Amira Osman, the women’s rights advocate with the No to Women’s Oppression coalition, Sudan’s top feminist organisation, denounced the verdict, and said it was scandalous that Sudanese judges and laws could treat women like this.
“Noura has become a real icon of the struggle of the Sudanese woman against these laws, so we will never let her face this fate alone,” Osman told MEE, vowing that campaigns against laws oppressing women and children would continue.
Sudanese feminist and legal expert Samia Hashim said that the 19-year-old should be seen as a victim, not a guilty party. Yet while her case has attracted widespread attention, the oppression of women in Sudan is an endemic issue and the personal status law, which she said the current government uses to oppress women, is at the heart of it.
“Marital rape and child marriage are not considered crimes in Sudanese law,” she said.
Along with campaigning, Hashim said she hoped Hussein and her lawyers would continue to appeal her sentence as far as the constitutional court if necessary to get justice.
Noura Hussein’s defence team has confirmed that they will appeal against her death sentence and are confident that the courts will drop her sentence or at least ease the judgement. If necessary, they may raise the case in the constitutional court, said Alimam, Hussein’s lead lawyer.
From her jail in Omdurman, the second-largest city in Sudan, Hussein sent a message with activists who visited her that she appreciated her supporters and the campaign that has been launched around her case.
“Thanks for all those who supported me without knowing who I am,” Hussein said. “Thanks for those who stood against oppression of the women that were forced into marriage.”
According to the activists, Hussein said that she doesn’t regret fighting back against her husband’s attempt to rape her a second time. From the moment it happened, she said, she knew she would end up in a prison.
“I accept this verdict proudly and bravely,” she said. “If this is the justice of the human being, I prefer to die than to continue in such unfair life.”
May 15, 2018 (JUBA) – The latest round of regional-mediated South Sudanese peace talks ended with no progress toward a political settlement as government offensives continued in opposition-held areas.
Rival parties in South Sudan’s conflict meeting in Ethiopia for consultations aimed at bridging the existing gaps, ended without a significant breakthrough, dashing hopes and sparking fears of the resumption of major attacks.
Cabinet affairs minister, Martin Elia Lomuro said the government he led participated in the consultations in “good faith” and it was up to the mediation team to sieve through positions and views of the various parties.
“It is our hope in the transitional government of national unity that this conflict comes to an end as soon possible, that we accept sharing of responsibilities so that everyone feels included. The president of the republic affirmed his commitment to ending the war through political settlement by allowing those who feel they need to be part of the government to come in and begin to make their contribution”, Lomuro told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The minister, however, stressed the need to expand the executive and legislative arms of the government in an effort aimed at accommodating everyone in the government instead of a lean government.
“In our view, sharing of responsibilities seek to include everyone instead of reducing the size of the cabinet and the parliament. But those in the opposition are saying something else. They are talking about lean and even proposing of people who should not participate in the government,” explained Lomuro.
The opposition is also talking of a government of technocrats, he said.
“We asked what does this mean and who these technocrats are but nobody was able to provide a clear answer and logical explanation. If they are talking of expertise, the president of the republic himself is a career officer, a professional soldier who fought in liberation wars. His entire was life was in the army. He knows inside out of the army and you know the best leaders are those who have had the opportunity and zeal to be in the army than some of us in politics,” added the minister.
According to Lomuro, the army is mandated to traverse every part of the world’s youngest nation, enabling them to meet and interacts with different people as they execute their constitutional duties.
“So all these proposals are diversionary tactics to addressing real issues and stop the war. It shows clearly that those in opposition are not for peace and people of South Sudan and the world should know it is those in the opposition who are not serious and should deal with them”, he further stressed.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) will resume in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday.
On Monday, the head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), urged South Sudanese parties at the forum to put the interest of the country first and make compromises necessary to achieve resolution of all the outstanding issues.
“This country has missed so many opportunities to make durable peace and we should not allow the HLRF [High-Level Revitalization Forum] to be squandered,” Festus Mogae told reporters in the capital, Juba.
Since the conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied to former first Vice President Riek Machar, tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than three million displaced as a result of the conflict.
RABAT, May 16 (Xinhua) — Morocco and Sudan pledged here Wednesday to give new impetus to bilateral cooperation.
This pledge was made during a meeting between the Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani and Ahmed Saad Omar, Minister in charge of the General Secretariat of the Sudanese Council of Ministers.
The two sides lauded the long-standing relations of friendship between the two countries and the dynamic of bilateral cooperation in the different fields, according to a statement from the PM’s office issued following the talks.
This dynamic will be reinforced through a series of cooperation agreements covering different sectors of economic and social development, which will be signed at the next Moroccan-Sudanese Joint Committee, the same source said.
During the talks, the two sides also reviewed cooperation and coordination concerning government action and the organization of trainings for the benefit of specialized executives, the source added.
KHARTOUM, May 16 (Xinhua) — Sudan on Wednesday condemned what it described as “Israeli massacre” of Palestinian civilians who were protesting over the move of U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns, in the strongest terms, the massacre committed by the authorities of the Israeli entity in the Gaza strip against Palestinian civilians coincident with the 70th anniversary of Palestinian Nakba Day and opening of the U.S. embassy in the occupied Jerusalem,” said Sudan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement.
It urged the international community to live up to its responsibilities towards provision of full protection to the helpless Palestinians.
The statement stressed Sudan’s solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just cause and legitimate right in establishing its state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The statement further criticized the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, describing it as a “flagrant violation” of the international law and the rights of the Palestinian people.
It said the move represents a provocation to humanity and a threat to international peace and security, noting that the move also aborts peaceful settlement talks, top of them the Oslo agreement.
The statement reiterated Sudan’s full rejection to any violation of the legal and political status of Jerusalem.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have reached an agreement in their ongoing dispute over the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the River Nile.
Progress was made in talks held yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a $4 billion infrastructure project being undertaken by Ethiopia. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan’s water resources minister have said they will set up a scientific study group to consult on the construction of the dam, and leaders from the three nations will meet every six months for consultations on progress. More high-level talks are set to take place on 3 July in Cairo.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the scientific study group will discuss “various scenarios related to the filling and operation rules in accordance with the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of shared water resources while taking all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm.”
The three countries have also signed a Declaration of Principles that aims to bring about “understanding and rapprochement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.” The ten-principle declaration was first proposed in 2015 as the foundation upon which further agreements should be based.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, told reporters that “we have charted a roadmap that, if successful, will be able to break difficulties that we have been facing,” according to the Washington Post. Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Meles Alem, saw the progress as “one step forward to Ethiopia”.
Until now, extensive negotiations between the three countries had failed to reach an agreement. The previous round of talks, which took place in April in Sudan, ended without resolution. Ethiopia blamed Egypt for the failure of these talks, citing a “lack of goodwill on Egypt’s part to move the consultations forward.” Alem explained that “Egypt wanted Ethiopia to recognise a 1959 water-sharing treaty between Sudan and Egypt,” which Ethiopia sees as “a red line” because the agreement was signed in its absence. Although there have been a number of treaties over the years between the countries sharing water from the Nile, most of these agreements excluded Ethiopia.
The April talks were the first technical meetings held after Egypt suspended negotiations last November, in protest at Sudanese and Ethiopian modifications of the studies made by French experts about the dam. The dispute has been ongoing since Ethiopia began construction on the dam back in 2011. The dam is situated on the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, about 15 kilometres east of the border with Sudan.
The dam is now 60 per cent complete and will become Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam. Ethiopia hopes the dam will boost development in the country and provide power to 60 million of its citizens who currently don’t have access to electricity. Egypt, however, is concerned that too much of the Nile’s waters could be retained each year by the dam, affecting its agriculture and suffocating the country’s main water source. With around 93 per cent of Egypt’s 94 million citizens living along the banks of Nile, Egypt has taken a tough stance against Ethiopia’s plans. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has previously said that “the Nile is a matter of life and death” for Egypt.