Johannesburg – At least 32 people have been killed, 15 abducted and dozens wounded after several attacks on a village in Kolom in the disputed town of Abyei in the South Sudan border area, the UN peacekeeping mission UNISFA said on Friday.
“Our mission in Abyei has increased protection of civilian efforts after attacks that killed at least 32 people. The mission apprehended five armed group members and stepped up patrols and engagement at community levels,” UNISFA said in a post on Twitter.
Local elders confirmed the deaths after armed nomadic herders from the Misseriya tribe carried out the attack on the rural Dinka Ngok village, burning down 19 houses during the violence.
UNISFA spokesman Daniel Adekera told the Sudan Tribune that Thursday’s violence followed clashes between the two sides on Monday and Wednesday, which had already claimed 22 lives.
The cause of the violence is unknown but conflict in the area has revolved around cattle rustling with the absence of police and administrative structures in Abyei exacerbating the situation.
The Dinka Ngok tribe has long called for a referendum to be held on the future of the area, which is currently part of Sudan, so that it can join South Sudan.
South Sudan ceded from Sudan in 2011 and this has been a cause of friction between the two countries due to the political and security vacuum in the 10,500 km area border area despite it previously being seen as a model of coexistence.
Due to the ongoing friction, UNISFA deployed troops to the area to contain the situation and prevent any escalation as armed men from both sides converged on Kolom.
“UNISFA would like to reiterate that any presence of armed groups within the Abyei box other than its own troops is viewed by the mission as a violation of its mandate and will not hesitate to place responsibility on those engaged in such violations,” Adekera said.
Published: 22:30 GMT, 15 January 2020 | Updated: 23:25 GMT, 15 January 2020
Ethiopia made progress with Egypt and Sudan in US-brokered talks in easing concerns over a hotly contested mega-dam on the Nile, with a tentative agreement to fill it only during the rainy season.
The three countries had set a deadline of Wednesday to reach an accord over the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, which Egypt fears could deplete its scarce drinking water.
After three days of talks in Washington, the countries’ foreign ministers “noted the progress achieved,” a joint statement said.
But they stopped short of announcing a resolution, saying the three countries would meet again in the US capital on January 28-29 to finalize an agreement.
Analysts have feared that the three Nile basin countries could be drawn into a conflict if the dispute is not resolved before the colossal 1.8-kilometer-long dam, under construction since 2011, begins operating.
In a draft deal, Ethiopia agreed that it will fill the dam — set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project — only in the wet season from July to August, or also in September if conditions are right.
Ethiopia will aim rapidly to reach the level of 595 meters (1,952 feet) above sea level, with later filling to be determined based on the conditions of the river.
The filling “will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs,” said the statement released by the United States.
The three foreign ministers “reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement,” it said.
The draft deal also calls for special mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan on years that they are especially dry.
In early negotiations, Ethiopia had said it would fill the dam’s reservoir in three years while Egypt wanted the process drawn out over 15 years.
– Appeals for mediation –
Ethiopia says the $4.2 billion hydroelectric barrage would double its electricity and be indispensable for a growing economy. It is expected to begin generating power by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.
But Egypt fears disruption in the river that provides 90 percent of its drinking water.
Discussions between the three countries broke down, prompting Egypt to call for international mediation.
The US Treasury Department agreed to broker talks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a pitch to President Donald Trump, his close ally.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his democratic reforms, promised Sunday to take into consideration the other Nile nations’ concerns.
“Ethiopia always believes in a win-win approach with Egypt and Sudan,” Abiy said on a visit to South Africa, adding that peace was essential to “realize our vision of development and growth.”
Abiy also invited South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, the incoming chairperson of the African Union, to help push forward negotiations on the dam.
The International Crisis Group, in a report last year, urged the three nations not to see the dam dispute as an “existential conflict” but as a way to improve resource-sharing.
“Waiting until the dam is operational — when its impact on downstream countries is clearer — would raise the risk of violent conflict,” it warned.
Members of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are seen near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum, January 14. (Reuters)
KHARTOUM – Sudan said Wednesday the country’s chief of intelligence had resigned after government forces and paramilitaries crushed a mutiny launched by members of his agency in the capital.
General Abu Bakr Mustafa handed over his resignation after clashes between agents of the General Intelligence Service, formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and government forces killed five people including two soldiers.
“He called us by telephone and we asked him to give a written resignation — which he did. We are now examining it,” the chairman of Sudan’s ruling transitional council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, told state television on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, heavy gunfire broke out at several Khartoum bases of the intelligence agency after some of its agents rejected a retirement plan proposed by the country’s new authorities.
NISS agents were at the forefront of a crackdown on protesters during a nationwide uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir last April.
Late on Tuesday, troops from the regular army and from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) crushed the rebellion after storming these bases amid heavy gunfire.
Burhan’s deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — who else heads the RSF — has blamed the former chief of NISS, Salah Gosh, for the rebellion.
General Mustafa had been appointed as chief of the newly named General Intelligence Service after Gosh resigned in the wake of Bashir’s fall.
Sudan’s army has overrun the HQ of mutinous forces from an intelligence agency once loyal to ex-leader Omar al-Bashir, reports say.Shooting broke out earlier on Tuesday in the capital Khartoum and some explosions were heard.
The agency, the General Intelligence Service, is being disbanded.
The government says the row is a mutiny over severance pay, but there were concerns about an attempt to derail the political transition.
A senior member of the ruling Sovereign Council, Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti, has accused former intelligence chief Salah Gosh of being behind the unrest.
He said that while he did not consider the incident a coup attempt, such action would not be tolerated.
BBC World Service Africa Editor Will Ross says there have long been fears that the stability of Sudan could be tested by once powerful figures who are against the major reforms carried out since Bashir’s overthrow in April last year.
Soldiers from the intelligence agency posted videos of their colleagues firing heavy weapons into the night sky in a show of force.
Reuters news agency quoted residents as saying there was some fighting in a northern district of Khartoum, and a security building was seized by mutineers near the airport.
Meanwhile the AFP news agency said five people were wounded in the shootings.
But military sources said that government troops had now taken back control after negotiations of several buildings from which the mutineers had fired on them.
The country’s main protest group had earlier called for an end to “these irresponsible operations that are causing terror among citizens”.
At least 170 people were killed during the months-long crackdown against the protest movement last year. The unit, then known as the National Intelligence and Security Service, played a major part in the crackdown. Bashir was eventually overthrown by the military, 30 years after he took power in a coup.
He was sentenced to two years in a social reform facility for corruption in December.
South Sudan’s government and holdout opposition groups on Sunday signed a declaration of principles, in a critical step towards resolving years of conflict.
The document, dubbed the Rome declaration on the peace process in South Sudan, was signed under the auspices of the community of ’Egidio, a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service provision.
The government signed the document with South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of opposition groups that did not sign the 2018 peace agreement.
The parties agreed to foster political dialogue in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization by addressing the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan.
Both sides said the current conflict in South Sudan requires a comprehensive political engagement in order to achieve inclusivity and sustainable peace with the non-signatories to the revitalised peace deal.
The parties agreed that the dialogue will continue under the auspices of Sant’Egidio in consultation with IGAD and with the support of the international community.
The parties recommitted themselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December 2017 to void further armed confrontation. The government and the holdout opposition groups reaffirmed readiness to allow uninterrupted humanitarian access to alleviate the suffering of the population.
Sant’Egidio hosted the meeting in Rome, Italy from Saturday to Sunday.
The declaration contains names of presidential envoy Barnaba Marial Benjamin, member of the leadership council of SSOMA Gen. Thomas Cirillo, member of the leadership council of SSOMA Gen. Paul Malong, member of the leadership council of SSOMA Pagan Amum, among other opposition officials.
The document was witnessed by representatives of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) and National Democratic Movement (NDM). The Intergovernmental Authority on Developmental (IGAD), a regional bloc for East Africa, witnessed the declaration of peace as observer.
Khartoum — Investigations into organisations and institutions set up by the defunct regime of ousted President Omar Al Bashir showed that the recently dissolved Holy Koran Institute owns a gold mine in River Nile state.
Wajdi Saleh, member of the Anti-Corruption Committee, reported on Sunday that the committee is investigating criminal reports related to “a breach of trust”.
“The Holy Koran Institute has been active in gold prospecting for quite some time now”, he said. He added that the Holy Koran Association also owns a multi-storey building and two hotels in Khartoum, and nearly 100 vehicles.
Saleh explained that the Holy Koran Institute received funds from the state since its foundation, in particular from the Zakat (Muslim alms) Chamber. This funding included machinery used to prospect gold. The funding ended when the Al Bashir regime was ousted in April last year.
According to Saleh, the Institute is supposed to deal with Islam advocacy activities, like teaching and memorising the Koran, “without engaging in commercial activities or any activity that goes beyond the goal for which it was established”.
Assets of the NCP were seized under a law that was passed in November and that ordered the party’s dissolution.
8 January, 2020
Sudan has seized the assets of ousted president Omar al-Bashir‘s now-dissolved party, a senior member of the country’s ruling sovereign council said. Assets of the National Congress Party (NCP) were seized under a law that was passed in November and that ordered the party’s dissolution.
The law’s implementation is widely seen as a test of how far Sudan’s transitional authorities are willing or able to go to dismantle the system built up by Bashir, who was ousted in April after nearly three decades .
The assets of four private television channels and newspapers have been frozen, but they have the right to appeal, said Mohamed al-Faki, a sovereign council member who is also deputy head of a legal committee assessing the NCP’s assets.
“These institutions were financed by state funds and we want to return the money to the Sudanese people,” he told a news conference late on Tuesday.
Diaeldin Belal, the editor of Al-Sudani newspaper, one of the media outlets that had its assets frozen, denied the accusations.
“We didn’t receive funds from anybody. They are targeting the newspaper and press freedom,” Belal said.
The ministry of finance has also taken over the al-Quran al-Kareem Society, a religious charity organisation that Taha Othman, a member of the sovereign council legal committee, said had links to Bashir’s former government.
Othman said the ministry of religious affairs would now manage the organisation. The al-Quran al-Kareem Society was not immediately available for comment.
PM Abdalla Hamdok makes first visit by a government official to conflict-ridden South Kordofan state in nearly a decade.
By Hiba Morgan.
January 10th, 2020
Kauda, Sudan – For nearly nine years, people in rebel-held Kauda in Sudan’s South Kordofan state have been monitoring the skies for the planes coming from capital Khartoum.
The residents in Kauda watched the movement of aircraft to warn others of either the government’s surveillance or dropping of bombs in the conflict-ridden area.
But for the first time since the war broke out in 2011, three planes from Khartoum landed in Kauda on Thursday, carrying representatives from Sudan’s months-old transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok as well as diplomats and representatives from humanitarian organisations.
“After all the bombardments that used to come from planes in the sky, this is a big change to see planes coming with a government delegation pushing for peace,” resident Anas Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.
Ibrahim was among tens of thousands of people who gathered at a square near the airstrip in Kauda to welcome the delegation. “It’s the first time a plane comes for something good in so many years,” he said.
Kauda, nicknamed “the fortified place” for being surrounded by the Nuba mountains, is a stronghold of the rebel Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu.
The group was born out of SPLM, which led a war against the Sudanese government from 1983 to 2005, making it one of the longest continuing civil wars in Africa.
The movement was mostly made up of fighters from the south, but also included soldiers from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
In 2005, when SPLM signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government, South Kordofan and Blue Nile were termed as “the two areas”.
While southern Sudan, which gained a semi-autonomous status following the deal, was granted right to a referendum to decide whether it wanted independence, the two areas were granted “popular consultation”.
The deal did not clearly define how the popular consultation would take place and who was eligible to join it. While fighters from the two areas fought for the southern side during the civil war, the areas also had a large population that supported the northern government.
Tensions reached a peak in 2010 during the national and gubernatorial elections. Al-Hilu, who ran for governorship on an SPLM ticket, accused Ahmed Haroun, the then incumbent governor, of rigging the votes in his favour.
Haroun is accused by the International Criminal Court of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.
South Sudan voted for independence in 2011 according to the 2005 deal, but the Sudanese government showed no signs of wanting to define what “popular consultation” was or if the two areas would get the chance to hold it.
Al-Hilu announced his rebellion in June that year, a month before South Sudan officially seceded. The Sudanese government responded to the rebellion with indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling.
“Wipe them [off], sweep them,” Haroun said in a video two months after the war started. “Don’t bring them back to us alive.”
The exact death toll from the war in South Kordofan is not known as Sudan’s government under longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir blocked medical and humanitarian aid in areas controlled by the SPLM-N.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced, with most of them seeking shelter in camps in neighbouring South Sudan.
Change in tide
Despite on and off declarations of ceasefire and peace talks between the two sides in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the area remains closed off to aid, except under cover through neighbouring South Sudan.
The tide changed in October last year when, for the first time in more than eight years, the World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley officially landed in Kauda after holding talks with Hamdok, who assumed power in August following months of turmoil that started with protests in December 2018 and eventually led to the military overthrow of President al-Bashir and his government in April.
“The first priority of this government is peace,” Hamdok had said in August, days after a power-sharing agreement between the military that overthrew al-Bashir and leaders of the protest movement was signed.
As a sign of goodwill, the new transitional government allowed the WFP chief to return to a rebel-held territory in December, this time to Yabous in Blue Nile which is also controlled by .
Thursday was the 15th anniversary of the 2005 peace deal.
“We have seen agreements in the past and nothing really happened that could benefit the people,” Beasley told Al Jazeera in Kauda.
“Opening up corridors, giving us the access we need … we have now unlike any other time here we have ever had.”
Hamdok also seemed to agree that the trip to rebel-held Kauda was a step in the long road to ending the conflict as talks between the transitional government and armed groups continue in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
“There is a proliferation of armed groups but I think our peace architecture will respond to that in a very positive way,” Hamdok said, identifying five pillars of peace: Economic and social development, addressing root causes of conflict, marginalisation and even development, security reforms, and issues of legal and transitional justice.
The war in Kauda, like in many other parts of Sudan, has left it with poor infrastructure. There are no tarmac roads and hospitals rely on aid.
“I would like to see humanitarian work here only for a short while,” Beasley said. “So we won’t be needed long, so we can see the communities support themselves.”