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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The United Nations said yesterday that heavy rains and flash floods have affected about 195,000 people in 15 of Sudan’s 18 states, the Anadolu Agency reported.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Kassala was worst hit as high rainfall and flash floods affected 47,500 people. While 24,000 people in West Kordofan were also affected by the waters.
Some 33,00 students saw their lessons disrupted in 95 schools.
Some 43 people have been killed by torrential rains in the states of Khartoum, the Nile River, Kassala, West Kordofan and El-Gezira since the rainy season began.
This week’s sentencing of one of the most powerful intelligence officers in Sudan has not only sent shockwaves through the ranks of the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) and civil servants, but is also set to open the floodgates for more corrupt officers and officials to be brought to justice.
The seven-year custodial sentence and fine of seven million Sudanese pounds (£300,000) imposed on Abdul Ghaffar Al-Sheriff appears to be a clear signal that abuse of a public office for personal gain will no longer be tolerated. For many people, though, the punishment was not enough.
Accounts of Al-Sheriff’s initial arrest are numerous but one source close to the intelligence services told me that he was lured to a meeting with the then newly-reappointed head of the NISS, Salah Abdullah, better known as “Gosh”, to discuss the work of his department and exchange pleasantries. The fifteen-minute meeting ended but as he walked out the door he was apprehended by agents who were waiting for him on Abdullah’s instructions. Al-Sheriff’s plea for an opportunity to visit his family before being locked up was ignored. He was marched away and held incommunicado for most of the time prior to sentencing. It is now expected that he will be transferred to Sudan’s federal prison in Koba.
When the intelligence services raided Al-Sheriff’s home, he was found to have US$120,000 in cash and documentation for more than 100 tracts of land and real estate. He was charged with treason, bribery, ransom and corruption, money laundering, support for terrorism and other issues relating to national security. His role was to oversee the business sector of the security services.
Al-Sheriff’s trial began in July at the Court of Intelligence and Security Service (CISS), but many of the charges were thrown out because it could only rule over whether he had abused or worked outside his sphere of authority. Furthermore, unlike civilian criminal courts, the court is unable to sentence anyone to more than ten years in prison. He has just 15 days to appeal against the sentence.
Notwithstanding the charges that were dismissed, events appear to reinforce Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s declared aim to stamp out corruption by civil servants who he said were “robbing the nation of its wealth.” In April, he vowed to parliament to apply the Illegal Wealth Act to uncover suspicious money laundering and put an end to gold smuggling so that the economy can recover fully. “We have reviewed the banking system and taken punitive measures against banks and companies involved in financial corruption,” he explained. “We will continue to review, inspect and evaluate private and public banks, especially the Central Bank of Sudan, in which we will undertake structural reforms.”
However, there was no mention of the security forces and few believed that the battlefront would begin within a service that has played a pivotal role in maintaining Sudan’s relative stability and protecting Al-Bashir’s 29-year rule. Al-Sheriff’s arrest represents the continuation of a huge purge within the NISS to oust corrupt practices. Sources say that at least 130 officers are currently being detained and investigated by their erstwhile colleagues. The identity and whereabouts of many others have not been released for various reasons, including “national security”.
Much of the credit for the reform of the intelligence services is being given to Abdullah, who was reinstated as Director of NISS earlier this year. Immediate steps were taken to remove those associated with Al-Sheriff from office, not because they were thought to be corrupt, but because it was feared that they may not be fully supportive of Gosh’s return to power. More than seven high-ranking officers were removed or retired, including the Deputy Director of NISS, who was regarded as an ally of Al-Sheriff.
As Sudan struggles to rebuild its economy, the suspicion of corruption remains in the minds of the public who believe that the wealth of the nation has been squandered over the years. Whatever the truth is, there now appears to be an expectation that criminals at the highest level of government will be rooted out.
“Of course, over the years, people have been saying, rightly or wrongly, that different people are corrupt,” one intelligence official who requested anonymity told me “but perhaps for the first-time we are seeing powerful men being brought to justice. These convictions are bound to change the way the system operates within the government.”
Clearly, with many investigations pending, more security officers will be indicted and sent to jail. It’s a move that could restore some public confidence in the Sudanese authorities, although it could also fuel a greater sense of frustration if the punishments are perceived as not severe enough.
NUBA MOUNTAINS, SUDAN — Caught between a repressive government to the north and a civil war to the south, residents of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan face difficult choices as they ponder their future. What they can count on, Catholic leaders say, is that the church will continue to accompany them on whatever political path they choose.
“We live in the mountains because we fled from the Arabs who came here to make us their slaves. If the SPLA-North wasn’t militarily strong, the Arabs would have entered here and raped all the women and girls, killed all the men, taken all the property, and enslaved anyone who survived,” said Fr. Daniel Tutu Kuku, the parish priest in Heiban. He referred to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, a rebel group that controls much of the Nuba Mountains, a small enclave inside Sudan along its border with South Sudan.
“We won’t be slaves. If Khartoum won’t give us our freedom, we will continue fighting. By peaceful means when possible, because the gun can’t win. It only destroys,” he said. “But it is the means by which we protect ourselves. We prefer peaceful means, but when they force us to use the gun, we use it.”
Despite decades of conflict, the future of the Nuba Mountains remains unclear. While the Nuba fought alongside other southerners against the North during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), their fate was set aside by the 2005 peace treaty that placed what became South Sudan on the road to independence. Instead, war dragged on for the Nuba, with the government in the capital, Khartoum, sending Russian planes to regularly bomb agricultural land, chasing farmers into caves in the hillsides and leaving the population short on food. While Khartoum stopped the bombing in 2016 during a diplomatic offensive to convince the West to end sanctions, its military standoff with the liberated enclave has continued.
U.N. agencies refuse to enter the Nuba Mountains, unwilling to antagonize the Sudanese government. A handful of international aid groups, insisting on anonymity, provide some humanitarian assistance, but all have problems with access. For years the Catholic Church flew cargo planes of food and medical supplies into the region, but halted those after Khartoum started targeting the flights.
Talks to allow greater humanitarian access have gone nowhere, with Khartoum insisting that all aid be channeled through the North, and the SPLA-North demanding a humanitarian corridor from the border with neighboring South Sudan.
Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic lay missionary from the United States, said any aid that comes from the North would automatically be suspect.
“When you’ve lived here during the attacks, you’re not going to trust anything from Khartoum. You assume it’s poisoned. You’re going to assume that any vaccines they send are to sterilize the people. It’s not something that’s negotiable,” said Catena, who directs the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel. “That’s the position of the SPLA leadership, and most people agree. I wouldn’t trust them, either. They’ve tried to kill us with bombs, so what’s to stop them from killing us in other ways?”
Comboni Sr. Angelina Nyakuru, a Ugandan who serves as head nurse in the hospital, said the people of the Nuba will never surrender. “They are fighting for their liberation. They’ve had it with the North and want to be free,” she said. “They already have their own national anthem. And people in Gidel came to us sisters for cloth to make their own flag. We didn’t have all the colors they needed, but we gave them what we had.”
No one here proposes unifying with South Sudan, which has been plagued by civil war since 2013. With both merger and independence off the table, Catena said some sort of semi-autonomous status might work.
“We had high hopes for places like Kurdistan, but it’s kind of collapsing. So I don’t know how it would work. The Nuba is landlocked and poor. On the other hand, the people don’t need much. They’ll farm, and there’s gold here and there. They’ll find their way. But at the moment, I don’t see any viable political solution,” he said.
Catena said he urges his neighbors to think beyond war to achieve their ends.
“Fighting and killing Arabs isn’t going to solve their problems,” Catena said. “They should prepare themselves to be better than them. Get their revenge that way. Become so excellent in medical care that the Arabs will come here for medical care. Is an Arab guy going to think that he’s better than you when he sees you standing over him with a knife about to operate?”
What’s clear to church leaders is that they must prepare people for whatever political future emerges. One key element is education. Besides health care, a primary emphasis of Catholic work in the region has been opening and operating schools throughout the Nuba Mountains, as well as a teacher training institute in Kauda.
The schools have been largely financed by a Nairobi-based foundation run by Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the retired bishop of El Obeid. For years he has run church operations inside the Nuba Mountains on behalf of the Sudan-based diocese, whose current bishop is not allowed by Khartoum to enter the rebel enclave.
Yet runaway inflation — the Nuba use the troubled South Sudan pound as their currency — coupled with financial shortfalls in Nairobi have pushed several school directors in the Nuba Mountains to attempt to raise school fees this year, a move opposed by most parents. The church has now trained sufficient local teachers that there’s almost no need to import costly foreign teachers from Kenya and Uganda, as has been the practice for years, but the schools still face difficult financial challenges.
“The church puts effort into education because the church looks ahead. It looks to the future,” said Fr. Zacharia Osman, the parish priest in Lugi. “Without education, nothing good will happen. It’s how we’re creating our leaders for the future. The Arabs in the North educate themselves but don’t care about the education of people here. So we need to do it ourselves.”
This is part 1 of a two part series on the role of Bibles & Peace in the Sudans. The Sudans Prayer Guide is usually sent out on a weekly basis as an email to encourage prayer partners to continually lift the Sudans to God’s Throne of Grace.
Partnering on Bibles for the Sudans
One of the key projects that the SSNet [Sudans Support Network] is involved with, is to bless the people of the Sudans through the printing and distribution of Bibles. We partner with Bibles for Africa to have Bibles for these purposes. During the past few months, 100,000 Bibles was printed in South Africa and delivered at various places like Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, as well as several places in South Sudan.
The Bible binder are almost in production, ready to bind, the Word of GodA new Bible Binder was bought for Bibles for Africa to increase capacity of the printing of Bibles. This include Bibles for Sudan, South Sudan and Refugee camps.
Two key representatives from SSNet and Bibles for Africa is set to travel to the Middle East next month to consult with Sudanese from various churches and ministries on how to print and distribute Bibles for Sudan and to the Sudanese.
Praise & prayer
Praise God for the amazing way He provided to get His Living Word, the Bible, printed and distributed through strategic partners. Praise God for the extent to which Bibles can now be printed and distributed. Praise God for all of the ongoing partnering relationships that is necessary for the printing and distribution of the Bibles.
Praise God for His provision, not only for the 100,000 Bibles that were printed and distributed, but also HUGE provision for the Bible Binder. God’s provision for and in all of this is just awe-inspiring!
Praise God for the envisioned trip to the Middle East next month. Pray for full provision and protection for the gathering, for everybody coming together. Pray for CLEAR DIRECTION from God as to WHAT and HOW to print Bibles in Sudan and for other strategic matters.
Should you wish to donate or encourage others to donate to the Bibles for Sudans printing and distribution projects of the SSNet and partners, here is the link.