Saudi Arabia vows to continue efforts to lift U.S. sanctions on Sudan

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends a news conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2017. (Reuters)

July 19, 2017 (RIYADH) – Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir Tuesday said his country would continue its efforts to improve Sudan’s relations with the United States and to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Sudan.

The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the second leg of an Arab Gulf tour that also took him to the UAE.

Last week, al-Bashir decided to suspend the participation of his government in a joint committee on the permanent revocation of sanctions in response to a decision by President Donald Trump to postpone his decision on the embargo for three months.

However, he agreed to a Saudi request to continue positive engagement with the U.S. administration and its official agencies for the permanent lift of economic sanctions on Khartoum.

In a joint statement with his Sudanese counterpart at the end of al-Bashir’s visit to Riyadh Tuesday, al-Jubeir said they believe that Khartoum made significant progress to lift the economic sanctions and remove its name from the U.S. list of states sponsors of terror.

“We would continue our efforts in coordination with our brothers in Sudan and other brothers in the region to find a solution to return this situation to normal so that Sudan could focus on development, economy and prosperity,” he said.

Last January, former U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order easing the 19-year Sudan sanctions on a probationary basis. The sanctions relief was to become permanent on 12 July unless the U.S. Administration acted to stop it.

On 12 July, Washington said it needs to discuss with Khartoum the human rights situation and religious freedom in the east African country, besides its commitment to UN sanctions on South Korea.

It is noteworthy that Sudan was placed on the U.S. terrorism list in 1993 over allegations it was harbouring Islamist militants working against regional and international targets.

Despite intense lobbying by Khartoum, the U.S. administration kept Sudan on the terrorism list drawing frustration and rebuke from Sudanese officials.

Ahead of President Trump’s decision on sanctions relief on 12 July, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said her country has no plans to remove Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.

“I can tell you one thing, and that is the designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terror will remain,” she said.

COMBATING TERRORISM

Meanwhile, al-Jubeir said the talks between King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with President al-Bashir on Tuesday have dealt with regional developments and ways to combat extremism and terrorism.

“The two countries are key partners in the Islamic [military] alliance to fight terrorism and extremism and partners in the coalition to support the legitimacy in Yemen and the two countries are also partners in the work to combat extremism and terrorism financing,” he said.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt severed ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamist terrorist groups and arch-foe Iran. But Doha vehemently denies the charges.

Sudan is among the Arab states that refused to take part in the ongoing diplomatic crisis and declared its support for the Kuwaiti efforts to settle the rift.

(ST)

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South Sudan Peace Hopes Fade as War Fragments, Alliances Shift

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Reuters

FILE PHOTO: SPLA soldiers stand in a vehicle in Juba, South Sudan, December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo REUTERS

By David Lewis

JUBA (Reuters) – When rebel leader Riek Machar fled the South Sudanese capital Juba last year, General Saki James Palaoko helped him escape government air strikes, evade the national army and slip into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Palaoko had played only a small part in the world’s youngest nation’s civil war until then but helped keep Machar’s rebellion alive when it was near defeat.

Frustrated by what he sees as Machar’s poor leadership, Palaoko switched allegiance again this month and joined the National Salvation Front, a nascent rebel faction led by the army’s former deputy chief of staff, Thomas Cirillo Swaka.

“Machar and his guards unfortunately seem to have quickly forgotten the sacrifices of my forces who rescued his life in July 2016,” Palaoko told Reuters by telephone from the bush.

“Leadership is very, very poor … Soldier, they need food. Soldier, they need medicine. Those things are not there,” he said in broken English.

Palaoko is not a leading figure in the nearly four-year-old civil war that has broadly pitted the country’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer, against each other.

But his defection shows the speed with which alliances are shifting in the civil war and how rapidly it is fragmenting, with battles now being fought on many fronts, often over local issues such as cattle rustling and access to grazing.

Swaka himself had switched sides in February, when he quit the army with a pledge to overthrow the government, citing abuses by the security forces against civilians and what he called increasing ethnic favoritism in the military.

He was the most senior officer to resign since Machar fled Juba in July last year, after he returned to the capital to resume his duties as vice-president as part of a peace agreement that did not take hold.

It was Machar’s dismissal as vice-president and his rivalry with President Salva Kiir that triggered the civil war in 2013, two years after South Sudan became independent from Khartoum.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted about 4 million, a third of the population, stirring old rivalries between Dinka, Nuer and other ethnic groups, and highlighting the fragility of the young country.

“The Kiir and Machar conflict always papered over a major crisis,” said Alan Boswell, a researcher on South Sudan.

“South Sudan was never centralized. It is a collection of diverse communities. In the war, the groups have just peeled off one by one, leaving little more than a Dinka ethnic core fighting to hold on to it all.”

“DIVIDE AND CONQUER”

The South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has identified more than 40 different militia that are involved in the war. Their number has swollen as splits inside various fighting groups caused them to splinter.

The fragmentation of opposition forces has played into the hands of the government, and is at the heart of its counter-insurgency strategy.

Kiir, who has been president since independence, appeared intent on splitting Machar’s movement, and the Nuer in general, when he named Taban Deng Gai, the former chief rebel negotiator, as vice-president after Machar fled Juba in 2016.

The tactic of divide and conquer has been replicated across the country with a series of peace deals with local groups which the government described as rebels though Machar’s forces denies these militia were ever their allies.

A government policy of recruiting individuals from rebel militia has also increased the fragmentation, particularly among some of the smaller ethnic groups.

In the latest hot spot, Eastern Equatoria state, at least five subclans of the Acholi tribe have joined government forces while Machar’s rebels are managing to recruit from other sub-clans, said rebel commander Okeny George M Lam.

“The number of militia groups has gone very high,” he told Reuters from the bush in Eastern Equatoria. “They know the geography of the area, they are becoming threats, but we are taking them on.”

Peace efforts have also been fractured.

The United States and other Western powers that played midwife to South Sudan’s birth have not found a recipe for stemming the violence. U.S.-backed strategies such as sidelining Machar have not borne fruit.

South Sudan has launched its own national dialogue but Machar, who is being held in South Africa under virtual house arrest, is not part of the talks.

In a sign of mounting frustration with mediation efforts, South Sudan’s Council of Churches has urged the wives of Machar and Kiir to try to persuade their husbands to end the fighting.

“Leaders say they want peace but we don’t see this on the

ground,” said Agnes Wasuk, a senior figure in the council.

Meanwhile, a foreign policy paralysis in Washington has left regional leaders to take the way on peace efforts. But, rather than speaking with one voice, they have largely worked on South Sudan on a bilateral basis.Ethiopia has the lead role to play but documents seen by Reuters show how Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is also pursuing a parallel effort to reconcile differences between Machar and Kiir, at the latter’s request.

Boswell said the priority for South Sudan’s neighbors was now to contain the spill-over of the conflict across the border and maintain their areas of influence.

“They are shadow boxing each other,” he said. “The grand plan failed. Each has lowered its sights to mitigate the situation to protect its own interests.”

(Additional reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg and by Jason Patinkin, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

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South Sudan director jailed for not airing president’s speech

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir addressed the nation during an independence day event at the Presidential palace in Juba. Picture: Jok Solomun/Reuters

Johannesburg – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday revealed that South Sudan authorities have jailed Adil Faris Mayat, the public broadcaster director, because he failed to air a live state of the nation speech by President Salva Kiir on that country’s independence day.

CPJ, which is calling for the immediate release of Mayat, said National Security Service agents arrested the director of the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation in Juba on July 10.

“South Sudanese authorities should immediately release Adil Faris Mayat,” CPJ said in a statement.

CPJ said Mayat’s wife, Amira Alnahawi, believes agents arrested her husband because he failed to air a live state of the nation speech by Kiir on 9 July, marking the country’s sixth independence day.

“Which news to air or not air is not a decision for South Sudanese authorities to make or even to influence,” said CPJ Africa Program coordinator Angela Quintal, who is based in New York.

“We call on the government of President Salva Kiir to release Adil Faris Mayat immediately and allow the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation and all news outlets to do their work without political interference or fear of arrest.”

CPJ said since 2013, South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war that has displaced millions and killed tens of thousands.

Press freedom conditions have worsened during that time, with journalists telling CPJ that they fear detention or death for writing critically. In 2015, Kiir threatened to kill journalists for writing stories that went “against the country.”

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Sudanese pound falls against dollar on black market after sanctions extension

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KHARTOUM, July 18 (Reuters) – The Sudanese pound weakened on the black market on Tuesday to 21.5 pounds to the U.S. dollar from about 19 pounds last week, currency traders said, extending a decline that began when the United States postponed a decision on long-awaited sanctions relief.

Sudan’s economic problems have been building since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income.

The United States lifted 20-year-old sanctions in January for six months, suspending a trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing financial penalties that weigh on Sudan’s economy. But it said Sudan had to make progress on key issues, including internal conflicts, before it would lift the sanctions permanently.

Last week, the United States extended the review by three months, citing human rights concerns.

Currency traders said that decision has sent the pound reeling as people buy up dollars amid an ongoing shortage.

“After the U.S. decision, there has been huge demand for buying dollars at any price. There is a panic to buy dollars and a major scarcity of it in the market,” said one black market currency trader.

Sudan’s central bank has held the official exchange rate at 6.7 pounds to the dollar.

“We expect a further rise in the price of the pound currency because the government does not have any money to inject into the banks,” another currency trader said. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Larry King)

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Dozens killed in South Sudan’s inter-communal fight

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July 18, 2017 (KWAJOK) – A least 18 people were killed and more than 30 wounded in clashes involving the Apuk and Aguok communities of South Sudan’s Gogrial state, an official disclosed.

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Map of South Sudan showing Warrap state in red

“Some of our people are now moving to the side of the former Western Bahr el Ghazal and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states for fear of their lives,” said the state information minister, Ariech Mayar Ariech.

Ariech, however, said tension remained high as some group of youth suspected to be from the Aguok community attacked the Apuk, burning down villages and forcing residents to flee their homes.

“We need the intervention of many troops to have the state special forces that are now at the places of the clashes,” he added.

Tonj state governor, Akech Tong Aleu and his Gogrial state counterpart, Gregory Deng Kuac have reportedly camped in Gogrial state as they try to persuade the youth to stop fighting.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Tuesday convened an emergency meeting of the national security committee, a day after a state of emergency was declared in parts of the country.

The meeting followed the communal clashes in four states. The state of emergency covered parts of Aweil East, Wau, Gogrial and Jonglei states.

(ST)

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Sudan gold revenues reach $1,6 billion in first half of 2017

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July 18, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals on Tuesday said revenues of gold exports during the first half of 2017 has amounted to $1,6 billion.

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Gold bullion blocks pictured at a gold refinery in Khartoum on 11 October 2012 (SUNA)

According to the ministry’s semi-annual performance report, the gold production of the first half of this year reached 50.22 tonnes during the first half of this year, saying the share of traditional mining sector reached 42,6 tonnes.

The report pointed that the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) has exported 16,1 tonnes while the private sector exported 2,2 tonnes.

Meanwhile, the minister of minerals Hashim Ali Salim has called for the need to form a committee to review policies pertaining to buying and selling of gold, demanding revising mining laws and the fees imposed on gold prospectors.

Sudan currently ranks third in gold production behind South Africa and Ghana but aims to land in the first place by 2018.

Gold has become one of Sudan’s largest exports which partially compensated for the loss in oil revenues, which accounted for more than 50% of income until 2011 when South Sudan seceded, taking with it most of the country’s oil reserves.

Sudan approved a law to regulate traditional mining by granting licenses and specifying areas to work in to protect them from hazardous conditions and smuggling.

It is believed that traditional mining employs more than a million Sudanese but it is still difficult to obtain credible data.

(ST)

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Al-Bashir, Saudi Monarch discuss regional developments

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July 18, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir and the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Tuesday have discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries besides recent developments in the region.

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FILE – Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir shaking hands with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (Riyadh newspaper)

Al-Bashir arrived in Jeddah on Tuesday for the second leg of his Arab Gulf tour that also took him to the UAE.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the two leaders “reviewed relations between the two brotherly countries and developments in the region”.

During the meeting, the two sides agreed to work together to promote cooperation to serve the common interests of the two countries.

The meeting was attended by Governor of Makkah Region Prince Khaled Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz and the Minister of State and Member of the Council of Ministers, Prince Mansour bin Mteib bin Abdul Aziz from the Saudi side.

It was also attended by the Minister of State Fadl Abdallah Fadl, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, Minister of State, Director of the Office of President Hatim Hassan Bakhit, and Sudan’s Ambassador to the Kingdom Abdel-Basit Al-Sanousi from the Sudanese side.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt severed ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Islamist terrorist groups and arch-foe Iran. But Doha vehemently denies the charges.

Sudan is among the Arab states that refused to take part in the ongoing diplomatic crisis and declared its support for the Kuwaiti efforts to settle the rift.

(ST)

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Sudan agrees to continue to communicate positively with US at the request of Saudi Arabia

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Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir praised the distinct and strong relations that his country have with Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir praised the distinct and strong relations that his country have with Saudi Arabia, expressing his appreciation for the Kingdom’s efforts in serving the Muslims and thanking it for its continued support to Sudan in all fields.

According to a statement by the Sudanese presidency, his Excellency also thanked the Kingdom’s leadership for its efforts to improve relations between Sudan and the United States.

The statement added that: “In this context and in response to the request of the leadership of Saudi Arabia, President Omar al-Bashir agreed to continue to communicate positively with the government and the official offices of the United States in the coming period in order to lift the final sanctions imposed on Sudan as well as remove the name of Sudan off the list of countries sponsoring terrorism and resolve all the existing problems between the two countries. The President also thanked the Kingdom’s leadership for those efforts.”

According to the statement, the two sides stressed the importance of combating and financing terrorism and extremism since they are the greatest threat to peaceful societies throughout the world, and affirmed their commitment to all international resolutions in this regard.

Last Update: Wednesday, 19 July 2017 KSA 00:42 – GMT 21:42
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Cholera: Situation in El Dindir worsens, six dead in South Darfur

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July 18 – 2017 EL DINDIR / ZAMZAM CAMP / EL SALAM CAMP

The area of El Dindir in Sennar state recorded 31 deaths by cholera this week. In a collaborative report doctors found that the local health centres are too ill-equipped to effectively treat all infected people.

The population in El Dindir, amounting to more than 193,000 people in 88 villages in the southeastern state, are under threat from contracting the infectious disease, according to a new report by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.

There have been 45 people who died from cholera and 280 cases of infection in the hospitals and health centres in the locality. “These numbers will rise in the poor conditions of the health centres,” the report, published on Monday, reads. “The buildings are ill-equipped and lacking cadres and aides.”

An increase in the number of cases in the past days coincided with a poor drinking water supply, the doctors said, in particular with regard to the rainy season in the summer months. The area is known for high rainfall during these months.

The most recent deadly cholera victims were reported in El Tamrab village on Monday, from a total of 31 people who died from cholera.

Yesterday Osman El Jazouli, the media official of the youth of El Hawadith Street, told Radio Dabanga that a delegation of youths from El Hawadith Street and El Dindir Voluntary Organisation paid a field visit to the villages of El Dugag, Weddoda, El Dabur, Um Sakmbari, Dabarati, Um Rakhis, Nureljalil and Azaza to assess the situation.

El Jazouli appealed to the authorities to provide awareness about the epidemic, education and medicines for the patients. Also to speed-up the deployment of specialist who can educate people on how to deal with people who suffer from cholera, and how to fight the disease.

Short on material

Residents have been asked to provide in-kind and material support to contain the epidemic. Radio Dabanga reported this week that El Dindir locality is short of rehydration solutions and medical staff.

An activist in El Dindir reported to Radio Dabanga that the hospitalised cases at one of the medical isolation centres have amounted to thirteen people.

He called for the provision of awareness about hygienic environments, in light of the government’s inaction. The Sudanese authorities and humanitarian relief organisations in the country refuse to make any reference to the disease being cholera.

Darfur camps

In Darfur’s Zamzam camp for displaced people three new cases of cholera were recorded. Reports from El Salam camp south of Nyala in South Darfur also reported cases of cholera and deaths: six people died last week. There were seventeen cases of infection in total, volunteers said.

The volunteer warned of increased rates of infection in El Salam camp and the surrounding villages when the rainy season peaks in South Darfur. Starting mid-June, torrential rains swept through camps, leaving the streets flooded and numbers of families homeless.

Cholera is a fast-developing, highly contagious infection that can spread in areas short of clean drinking water and with poor sanitation. In September last year Radio Dabanga received the first reports about cholera cases, in Blue Nile state. Since then, the disease spread in eastern Sudan, and later to the Northern State and central Sudan’s El Gezira. In April, sources in White Nile state reported a rapid spread of cholera. The disease then spread to North Kordofan, and fully hit Khartoum in May, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan said in June.

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South Sudan confirms outbreak of fall armyworm pest

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July 18, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan has reported an outbreak of fall armyworm pest in its Equatoria region, including Magwi, Yei and Juba, Northern Bahr el Gazal and in parts of Jonglei states.

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Central Equatoria farmer, Regina Awate, in a field after a visit by the state Minister of Agriculture after the launch of a community seed and agricultural project in Yei County. (Source: Alfred Poverty Taban)

Fall armyworm is reportedly a new pest in Africa, preferring maize plants, but feeds on sorghum, millet and vegetables, among others.

However, as maize and sorghum are staple foods in the war-torn nation, there are fears the emergence of the deadly crop pest is likely to put an increasing number of people at risk of hunger.

“It is nearly impossible to eliminate this pest from South Sudan – now that it is here, it will stay. Following its initial detection in Magwi Country, it is spread to nearly all areas of the country at an alarming rate,” said Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) representative in South Sudan.

“Given FAO’s experience with the pest in other countries in Africa, we can say this could be a significant blow to prospects of agricultural recovery,” he added.

In the wake of the outbreak of the pest, FAO in close partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security are continuing with assessment of fall armyworm infestation across the country.

“The results of these assessments will give a more accurate picture of where the pest is found, and extent of crop yield losses incurred in the affected areas,” said Tissot, adding “It is likely that it will spread both geographically and in intensity unless farmers learn to manage it.”

The fall armyworm arrival is an additional challenge for South Sudan which currently faces an unprecedented food crisis. More than 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“Experiences that have been shared in three regional technical meetings on fall armyworm convened by FAO point out difficulties that farmers are facing in controlling the pest,” said Lawrence Kedi, a FAO Agriculture officer.

“The range of options available for immediate response are limited as the knowledge of control interventions are low, and costs are high, leaving them out of reach for the majority of farmers in South Sudan,” he added.

The fall armyworm pest, experts say, has developed resistance to several pesticides and this reportedly calls for more coordinated research on the pest to understand how it adapts to the local environments and training of farmers in how to manage it.

South Sudan has a wealth of untapped agricultural resources. With 30 million hectares of arable land across six agro-ecological zones, the East African nation is capable of producing an array of agricultural products, from cereals to oil seeds, horticulture, and specialty products such as Shea butter and Gum Arabic.

However, despite the huge agricultural potential it possessed, only about 5% of the country’s land is cultivated. Moreover, South Sudan also offers abundant water resources in the Nile basin, and forestry assets are plentiful, with tens of thousands of hectares of teak and other high-value hardwoods available for sustainable harvesting.

(ST)

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