Is It Time to Repeal U.S. Sanctions On Sudan?

The clock is ticking for President Trump who must decide by July 12 whether to lift decades-long U.S. sanctions on Sudan.

PRESS RELEASE

As a July decision approaches on whether to permanently remove most sanctions on Sudan, the Trump administration should properly evaluate progress, or lack thereof, on each of the five tracks on which progress is required, and the administration should not privilege any single track over others. Enough’s view is that the evidence available concerning multiple tracks is inconclusive. Combined with the fact that key senior Trump administration officials responsible for Africa policy are not yet in place, this calls for a six-month delay on the decision, during which time the Trump administration should assign the additional staff needed to gather credible information and assess progress on each of the five tracks. While properly assessing progress on the five tracks, the Trump administration should also pivot to pursue a separate new track of engagement focused on advancing peace and human rights in Sudan.

A convoy of WFP trucks in North Darfur (file photo).

Introduction

This past January, the outgoing Obama administration conditionally eased almost all U.S. sanctions on Sudan, arguing that the Sudanese government had made improvements in five tracks of engagement: (1) cooperation on counterterrorism; (2) cooperation in countering the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); (3) commitment to a cessation of hostilities in Sudan’s conflict areas; (4) ending support to South Sudanese armed opposition actors; and (5) providing humanitarian access to populations in need. The Obama administration asserted that the prospect of full sanctions removal created incentives for the Sudanese regime to improve conditions for the Sudanese people. The executive order initially easing U.S. sanctions in January provided that the sanctions would be lifted altogether in mid-July 2017 if the Sudanese government verifiably “sustained the positive actions that gave rise to this order.”

There are four major problems with the executive order and the way it was implemented by the Obama administration. First, it removed one of the biggest points of leverage the United States has to achieve its policy objectives at the very time the sanctions were beginning to bite more effectively, mostly because of enforcement of Iran sanctions that led to enforcement actions related to Sudan. Second, the Trump administration is just now putting in place the personnel needed to properly track and make use of the potential opportunity provided by the conditional easing of sanctions. Third, at the time of the issuance of the executive order in January, the Sudanese regime in fact had not made such meaningful progress on at least two of the five tracks as to warrant the easing of sanctions at that time. Fourth, the five tracks do not by themselves address the core human rights and governance issues that are at the center of the ongoing crisis. This policy initiative is therefore deeply flawed and incomplete, undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, and gives away a major point of U.S. leverage for little beyond potential short-term counterterrorism gains while doing nothing to address the structural issues in Sudan that have led to increased refugee flows to Europe, further repression of Sudanese Christians and other minority groups, and continued war and authoritarian leadership.

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Sudan, Libya, and Support for Radical Islamic Militants: A Vignette

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“General and First Vice President, perhaps the most powerful man in the Khartoum regime—certainly he is essential to President al-Bashir’s grip on power. He was director of the National Intelligence and Security Services for a number of years follow the National Islamic Front military coup of June 1989.” Photo: sudanreeves.org/File

In October 2014, I analyzed some of the implications of minutes reflecting the deliberations of the most senior military and intelligence officials of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime during a “Joint Military and Security Committee Meeting held at the National Defense College on 31/08/2014” (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1wk ). These minutes have been repeatedly and authoritatively confirmed by a wide range of sources (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5 ). They were leaked to me by a Sudanese source of unimpeachable character and honesty, although his identity—and those who assisted him in this extremely dangerous undertaking—must remain confidential for obvious reasons.

The minutes are highly revealing on various counts, including what at the time was the vehement insistence that Iran was Khartoum’s singularly vital ally in the region. This insistence is a virtual refrain, appearing in the comments of nearly every senior official present, including First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh, who presided at the meeting. The ongoing implosion of the Sudanese economy has forced that Khartoum regime to abandon Iran and side with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; but ideologically—as the minutes clearly reveal—the regime is very much on the side of Tehran. Only the possibility of immense financial assistance from the Saudis and Gulf States compelled the abandonment of Iran. Notably, the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, mentioned in the minutes as recipients of aid from Khartoum, are now being targeted by Sudan Armed Forces in concert with the Saudi-led campaign.

This is the context in which to see the import of a dispatch in today’s Sudan Tribune, concerning the repatriation of Sudanese nationals who had gone to Libya to fight with ISIS (Sudan Tribune, June 21, 2017). This is obviously a delicate issue for Khartoum’s security services, something reflected clearly in the Sudan Tribune analysis.

But let’s return to the views of the Khartoum regime in late 2014, and the question of how that regime saw the opportunities presented by Libya in chaos. I offered contemporaneous commentary on particular passages from the minutes, reproduced here without change or editing. The leaked minutes obviously put Khartoum in an extremely awkward position in communicating with recognized Libyan authorities, and this is where I began. Although reflecting only one issue in a very wide-ranging set of topics covered in the meeting of senior officials, let us remember that there is not a shred of evidence that ideologically the NIF/NCP has changed its views about radical Islamic militants:

(Speakers in each case are identified; all bold emphases in the quoted texts have been added; my commentary is in blue italics followed by my initials, ER; important dates are in bold red)

Traveling to Khartoum this month [October 2014], the Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani undoubtedly had the August 31 minutes much on his mind when meeting with regime officials. Libya comes up frequently in these minutes, and at several points in ways that must be deeply disconcerting to the struggling Libyan government, and reveal yet again the depth of the mendacity that characterizes the regime. On 7 October 2014 Sudan Tribune reported:

The head of the Libyan government, Abdullah al-Thani, will visit Khartoum in response to an invitation extended by Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir, a government source disclosed this week. “The Libyan government welcomes the invitation received from president al-Bashir. (The government) considers it as a step in the right direction and a confirmation of Sudan’s support to the democratic process in Libya,” a Libyan official told the Libyan Bawabat Alwasat on Monday.

The official further said that al-Thani accepted the invitation after Khartoum’s full recognition of the House of Representatives as the sole legitimate body representing the will of the Libyan people. Observers in Khartoum says the public acceptance of the invitation is seen by the Sudanese government as the first positive signal from Tripoli after repeated Libyan accusations of supporting extremists groups in the north African nation. On 2 October, Sudan’s foreign ministry for the second time within a less than three weeks summoned the Libyan ambassador in Khartoum to protest against these accusations.

Earlier, on 2 October 2014, the Sudan Tribune reported more particularly on the accusations by Libya against Khartoum:

The Sudanese foreign ministry announced on Thursday that it summoned the Libyan charge d’affaires to protest recent remarks by an army general in which he accused Khartoum of backing extremist groups in the North African nation. This follows a similar move on September 15th by the ministry in which the acting Libyan CDA was summoned to complain over same allegations made by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The latter warned that Tripoli may sever ties with Khartoum as well as Doha if they continue aiding these militias. Sudan’s foreign ministry reiterated its denial of meddling in Libyan internal affairs or taking sides in the ongoing conflict.

“The misleading information transmitted by media that is attributed to Libyan [army] officer claimed Sudan’s interference in the internal affairs of his country,” the ministry said in a statement adding that this information is “unfounded.” It denounced attempts seeking to involve Sudan in the Libyan conflict and noted the Sudanese government’s recognition of the legitimacy of the elected Council of Representatives, which meets in Tobruk.

So Khartoum would appear to be ready to bluster with denial of what is revealed clearly in the minutes of the 31 August 2014 meeting of senior regime officials:

“We have intensified the work to train and graduate Libyan [Islamist rebels] Military Intelligence cadres. Currently, they are doing an advanced course on Internet operation, deciphering of codes, interception of telephones and wireless radios. Their leadership requested us to train and establish for them a strong Military Intelligence system.” (General Siddiq Amer, Director General of Intelligence and Security)

“Our intelligence and security files can play a role in the improvement of our economy [how is never explained—ER] and diplomatic relations. They can also be used to abort the conspiracies of the rebellion against us. The victory of our people [Islamists of the Libya Dawn rebel movement—ER] in Libya is an indication that we will also achieve victory over the New Sudan Project [“New Sudan Project” is Khartoum’s catch-all phrase for any movement toward democratization, press freedoms, equality in citizenship, and secular governance—ER]

And there seems no way to deal with this assertion by General Imad al-Din Adawy, Chief of Joint Operations:

“The Libyan border is totally secured, especially after the victory of our allies [Libya Dawn forces] in Tripoli. We managed to deliver to them the weapons and military equipment donated by Qatar and Turkey and we formed a joint operations room with them under one of the colonels in order to coordinate and administer the military operations. Turkey and Qatar provided us with information in favor of the revolutionaries on top of the information collected by our own agents so they can control the whole country.”

Radio Dabanga reported very recently (28 October 2014) on further details of the Libyan accusations:

[In] late September, Libyan army officers intercepted a Sudanese convoy with Yemeni fighters at El Kufra on the Sudanese-Libyan border. On 6 September, a Sudanese military aircraft was grounded at El Kufra airport, “laden with weapons bound for [Libya Dawn] rebels.” The week before, the Sudanese military attaché in Tripoli was declared persona non grata, after being accused of supporting Libyan militia groups.

Libya has expelled the Sudanese military attaché after accusing Khartoum of flying weapons to Islamist rebels in Tripoli, raising fears of a widening regional conflict. The government, which has fled Tripoli for eastern Libya, accused Khartoum of sending a transport plane loaded with munitions for the Islamist-led Libya Dawn militias who control the capital.

“Sudan is interposing itself by providing arms to a terrorist group that is attacking the headquarters of the state,” said a government statement. “This also represents a clear violation of international resolutions, and the latest UN Security Council resolution.” The government said the plane entered Libyan airspace without permission on Thursday, making a refueling stop in the southern oasis town of Kufra, where the weapons were discovered. It said the weapons were destined for the Tripoli airport of Mitiga, controlled by Libya Dawn. Sudan, which is sympathetic to Libya’s Islamists, confirmed sending the plane but insisted the weapons were intended for legitimate border forces patrolling the southern desert.

This is who the NIF/NCP was and remains. And if we want to know the face of radical Islam in Libya in 2014, I can think of no more telling image than one showing some twenty Egyptian Coptic Christians being led to their beheadings on a beach near in November 2015:

Sudan and Terrorism

In Senate testimony of July 2009, the Obama administration’s first special envoy for Sudan, Air Force Major-General (ret.) Scott Gration, declared that:

“There’s no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It’s a political decision,” Gration said.

At the same hearing, former Senator Russ Feingold, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee on Africa rightly pushed back:

Gration said Sudan, once home to Osama Bin Laden, has been helpful in counterterrorism efforts. However, Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said Sudan’s cooperation is always overstated in this area. 

More fully, Feingold had issue a strong statement in May of that year (2009):

“I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship with Sudan, a nation which the U.S. classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan, including U.S. pressure to address the ongoing crisis in Darfur and maintain the fragile peace between the North and the South.” (Statement by Senator Russell Feingold, Chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, May 1, 2009)

Gration was spectacularly ignorant about Sudan and was simply wrong in his claim about what U.S. intelligence knew at the time—and on multiple counts, including Khartoum’s assistance in Iran’s movements of weapons to Gaza—well reported at the time in The Guardian (December 6, 2010)—and the bald fact that Hamas was allowed to operate freely in Khartoum, despite being on the list of terrorist organizations compelled by a wide range of countries besides the U.S. There were many other examples as well that Gration simply chose to ignore. Rightly, Sudan remains one of only three countries on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” including Syria and “best-strategic-ally-for-life” Iran.

All this becomes particularly important as a Trump administration, easily as ignorant as former special envoy Gration and even more cynical, approaches a decision about whether or not to lift U.S. economic sanctions on Khartoum permanently (the deadline for a decision is July 13, 2017). The terribly misguided and mendaciously justified decision by the Obama administration in January 2017 provisionally to lift sanctions can still be reversed. But depending on the administration of a xenophobic, pathologically narcissistic, and profoundly ignorant President Trump seems to make reversal a distinct long shot. And although the Trump administration that will make the decision, it was President Obama that set the clock ticking. In rewarding Khartoum’s génocidaires, he is a disgrace to the campaign statement he made in running for the presidency in 2008—“that genocide in Darfur was a “stain on our souls” and that he would not “avert his eyes from human slaughter” (see | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEd583-fA8M ).

Unctuous words that meant nothing for the eight years of his administration, which concluded with Obama’s decision to begin the process of lifting longstanding U.S. economic sanctions on a regime guilty of serial genocides.

Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.

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Sudanese scientist battles climate change in Africa

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Balgis Osman-Elasha is renowned for studying climate change effects in the Horn of Africa and seeking solutions.

Sudanese climate researcher Balgis Osman-Elasha delivers a speech after receiving the UNEP Champion of the Earth award in 2008 [How Hwee Young/EPA]

Khartoum, Sudan – She’s seen it before. The images of dry cracked-lands, dead trees, animal corpses, hungry children, and lines of people waiting for food assistance are not new to her.

The current drought and resulting food crisis affecting millions across the Horn of Africa are painful reminders of the importance of her work.

But that’s not all that bothers her. Across the Atlantic, the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and proposed polices to reverse the United States’ contribution to the fight against climate change dishearten her. They add insult to injury.

“This is the problem with climate change: it’s caused by the large emissions of industrialised countries, so they are more responsible for the climate change phenomenon,” said Balgis Osman-Elasha, a climate change expert with the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivore.

“We are being impacted by something we have not contributed to,” she said.

A recognised scientist on global warming from Sudan, Omsan-Elasha helps promote climate change adaptation efforts in Africa, which more than any other continent has bore its brunt.

This year its eastern region is witnessing a third year of consecutive drought that scientists link to climate change. The UN has issued a call to action for the Horn of Africa seeking to raise funds to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis that includes food shortages, human displacement, and refugees.

Osman-Elasha’s work has received global attention. A lead author of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, she was among a select few to represent the group in 2007 in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, next to Al Gore.

The following year, she was awarded the UN’s Champions of the Earth Prize. The US State Department invited her to the United States in 2008 to take part in a science diplomacy programme, where she gave lectures on climate change at several American universities.

Her achievements were the result of years of hard work and persistence. Like women studying the sciences everywhere, she was among a small group at her university.

“There were a few female students in the faculty of agriculture, even fewer in the forestry department,” she said of her days at the University of Khartoum in the early 1980s.

Marveled by nature and trees as a child, she spent weeks as a university student camping and studying the forests of Sudan. Her research took her all over the country from one village to another, where she helped spread awareness of the importance of forests, preserving and planting trees, and conserving energy.

After years of working on forests, she joined a local government agency that provided the UN with reports on the effects of climate change in Sudan. She helped identify the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, such as deforestation and land degradation, and recorded the signs such as increasing drought and floods.

“Sometimes there are droughts that come in the middle of the rainy season that have an impact on agriculture,” she explained.

“The rain now comes later, it’s not the usual pattern. It can now come all suddenly and in one day you can have the whole quota of the season, so there’s a shift in the timing, a change in the pattern,” Osman-Elasha told Al Jazeera.

Balgis Osman-Elasha has raised awareness about worsening climate change in the Horn of Africa [How Hwee Young/EPA]

Drought and shifting rain patterns have impacted the lives of farmers and nomads, reducing fertile farms and grasslands and sometimes causing conflicts. One place that attests to this is Darfur, which former UN chief Ban Ki-moon described as the first modern conflict caused, in part, by climate change.

“There are many factors that escalated the conflict, but the triggering factor is climate change, the changing weather conditions,” Osman-Elasha said.

The same signs exist across the region of the greater Horn of Africa, where droughts have become more frequent, associated with famine, food insecurity, displacement and migration in places such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. That’s why she thinks long-term solutions are needed.

“The problem with the Horn of Africa is that previous solutions have not targeted the real causes of the problem: trying to create an environment for sustainable development. It’s always relief and short-term solutions,” she added.

Today, Osman-Elasha helps African countries adapt to climate change by initiating “climate proof development”. She gives advice on how to plan development projects, such as hydroelectric dams and roads while taking into account climate variables such as drought and flooding.

While she admits there are ways to go, she believes many African countries are on the right track. The global dimension of climate change and the efforts to combat it also concern her.

According to the World Resources Institute in Washington DC, greenhouse gas emissions caused by the energy sector in industrialised nations are the major “culprit” behind global warming with China, the United States, and the European Union being the “top three greenhouse gas emitters”.

Osman-Elasha has participated in dozens of conferences to discuss global efforts to combat climate change, including recent UN conferences in Lima, Paris, and Marrakesh.

Having stayed up late in the night following efforts to convince all parties, she recalled the sense of victory that scientists and activists felt in Paris in late 2015 when governments signed The Paris Agreement.

So the Trump administration’s views and actions on climate change “disappointed” her, but were not a surprise.

“The decision in the US is heavily influenced by industrial companies, especially in the energy sector,” she said with a sigh. “It is in their interests to continue in their dirty work polluting the environment and making profits.”

Nevertheless, the mother of three who completed her masters and doctorate after giving birth to her children, Osman-Elasha’s nearly two decades of work continues to attract admiration and inspire a new generation of women in Sudan and elsewhere.

“When girls and young women see successful scientists like Dr Osman-Elasha, there is no greater illustration of how science is a career that belongs to women as much as it does to men,” said Naysan Sahba, UN environment spokesperson.

One person inspired by Osman-Elasha’s work is Ne’mat Allah Shawki, 25, a national coordinator with the Arab Youth Climate Change Movement in Khartoum.

“She has become my role model,” said Shawki, who also studied forestry at the University of Khartoum.

“Dr Balgis’ work has influenced me greatly by encouraging me to hold on this track and keep being an environmental activist,” she said.

Despite the many challenges of climate change, Omsan-Elasha remains optimistic that Trump’s stance will not prevail.

“I’m happy to know that many scientists in the US are working hard on climate change and I’m confident that they will not accept this,” she said.

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Refugee brings taste of Sudan to Utah, leaves behind pain, destruction, death

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A smile lights up Kaltum Mohamed’s face as she readies the ingredients for a dish called moshakl she often cooked in Nyala, her hometown in the war-torn Darfur region of southwest Sudan.

She loves cooking African dishes and takes pride in her craft.

Kaltum, her husband, Ahmed, and their two children escaped the genocidal slaughter in Darfur in 2004. They fled to Libya, where things later turned deadly as well.

Recently, in the comfort of their South Salt Lake apartment, Kaltum sliced zucchinis, eggplants, potatoes and onions to prepare the dish, a fried and seasoned medley of vegetables. To accompany it, she would create asida, a boiled flour pudding served with dagareda, a meat and tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, cumin, black pepper, dill weed and parsley.

It’s a lot of work, but she dove into it with a sense of purpose.

Fighting in Darfur continues — ethnic cleansing supported by leaders in Khartoum, the capital in the eastern part of Sudan. Khartoum and the surrounding area are dominated by Arab Muslims. Darfur, by contrast, is made up primarily of black Muslims, while South Sudan is predominantly black Christians.

“In Darfur, people would come and kill everything they see,” Kaltum said. “We were so afraid we would lose our kids.”

Some of her extended family members, she lamented, were killed.

They escaped to Benghazi, Libya, in 2005, where Kaltum and Ahmed had three more children before that country disintegrated into civil war. In 2011, they retreated again, this time seeking shelter in a dusty and precarious refugee camp on the Libyan-Egyptian border.

“It was a very harsh time for us in the camp,” she said. “Thank God for the U.N. peacekeepers.”

Their luck changed in April 2013, when the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees selected them for immigration to the United States.

Refugees do not get to choose where the U.N. will send them. Under the Obama administration, this country accepted 110,000 refugees each year. President Donald Trump said he will cut that number in half.

The Mohamed family members were sponsored by the International Rescue Committee. Kaltum also gets support from Women of the World (womenofworld.org), a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit that seeks to help refugees assimilate into American culture. Four years after their arrival, they seem at peace in Utah.

Kaltum’s kitchen is stocked with large pots and pans. She is used to cooking for big gatherings, she explained, stirring and seasoning the vegetables.

Memories flood back as she fixes the asida, a dish she regularly made in Sudan. “It reminds me of my [extended] family,” she said. “We often gathered to eat together.”

Her hometown, Nyala, is a trading center known for its textiles and leather goods. Ahmed owned a small clothing shop there. The couple had a comfortable home in the bustling city of half a million. Life was good, Kaltum said.

She recalled her childhood, when she and her schoolmates dressed in nice uniforms and grew up in tranquility. At soccer games, they cheered and sang glorious songs about their country.

“It was beautiful and peaceful,” she said. “But then we lost everything.”

Ahmed was ordered out of his store at gunpoint. There was no going back.

The unrest in Sudan and the accompanying genocide are the products of ethnic prejudices, oil money and the expansion of the Sahara that is making arable land scarcer in Darfur.

South Sudan is rich in oil. But most of the profits were kept in Khartoum, near the northern ports on the Red Sea, where it is exported, mostly to China. That is chief among reasons why South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July 2011.

The oil money financed Khartoum’s aggression in Darfur. It paid for bombers, helicopter gunships and financed the Janjaweed, the Sudanese Arab militias made up of herdsmen who raid towns and villages on horseback, burning houses, raping and killing the black Muslim residents.

An estimated 480,000 people have been killed in Darfur, according to the U.N. Some 2.8 million have been displaced.

Despite those horrors, Kaltum and her family have been able to move on.

Their eldest daughter, Masagid, 19, shares her mother’s sunny disposition and infectious smile. She attends Salt Lake Community College training to become a dental hygienist.

Her other daughters, Maazah, 7, and Manra, 8, attend public school, as do sons, Abdul,11, and Mohamed, 16. They act like regular, fun-loving kids.

Ahmed works at a chocolate factory, and Kaltum has a fledgling Sudanese catering business called Mother of All. Recently, she began operating a food truck and sells Sudanese dishes around the valley.

“We are happy to have a new life,” Kaltum said. “We are happy to be safe in America.”

Traditionally, Sudanese eat with their fingers, as do the people of many other African countries. The asida (flour pudding) and dagareda (tomato meat sauce) are served in a common bowl. Diners use their fingers to pull away a piece of asida and swipe it through the dagareda. The combination yields a full-bodied taste sensation. The moshakl ­(seasoned vegetables) compliments it with a fresh, light touch; spicy but not overbearing.

Her food truck brings a taste of Sudan to Utah. Kaltum loves that thought.

csmart@sltrib.com

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Sudan military helicopter crashes killing crew: army

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The Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter crashed late on Tuesday due to

The Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter crashed late on Tuesday due to “bad weather” in state capital Dongola, army spokesman Brigadier Ahmed Khalifa Shami said in a statement.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Sudanese military helicopter has crashed in Northern State, killing all four crew members on board, the army said on Wednesday, in the latest accident to hit its ageing fleet.

The Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter crashed late on Tuesday due to “bad weather” in state capital Dongola, army spokesman Brigadier Ahmed Khalifa Shami said in a statement.

“All four crew members on board were martyred.”

Sudan’s fleet of Russian-manufactured aircraft has suffered several crashes in recent years, with the military frequently blaming technical problems and bad weather.

In April 2016, a Soviet-era Antonov An-26 transport plane crashed while landing in El Obeid, capital of North Kordofan state. All five crew members on board were killed.

In June 2013, two air force crew died when their helicopter crashed in war-torn Blue Nile state, just a week after one went down in South Kordofan state, another war zone.

The military has relied heavily on air power in its campaign against rebel groups in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur.

Rebels often claim to have shot down military aircraft in Sudan’s conflict zones.

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PICTURES: US envoy to Sudan pushes for aid in ex-rebel bastion

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 Steven Koutsis (File: AFP)

Steven Koutsis (File: AFP)

Golo – The top US envoy in Sudan pushed on Monday for more access to deliver humanitarian aid to Golo as he visited the former rebel stronghold in war-torn Darfur under tight security.

US charge d’affaires Steven Koutsis was in Golo as part of a tour to assess the security situation in Darfur as the United Nations prepares to downsize its 17 000-strong peacekeeping force.

Koutsis’ visit to the town surrounded by the thickly forested mountains of Jebel Marra comes weeks before President Donald Trump’s administration decides whether to permanently lift a two-decades old US trade embargo on Sudan.

“Golo is a strategic area for providing humanitarian assistance,” he told officials and security officers he met in a tightly secured building, an AFP correspondent reported from the venue.

Khartoum restricts the access of international media to Darfur and particularly to Jebel Marra, which foreign media have been unable to visit for years.

“That is why we are here to understand better what is needed to bring more assistance here,” Koutsis said.

Aid workers have complained that delivering aid to Golo and other parts of Jebel Marra has been extremely difficult given the terrain and the severe restrictions imposed by the Sudanese authorities.

They say a road journey to Golo is a challenging experience in itself, with several hours needed to reach the town given its location in the hilly areas of central Darfur.

The Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid group (SLA/AW) were attracted to Golo because of the region’s wealth of natural resources, its fertile ground and mountainous terrain.

Crowds of children and villagers gather to welcome Steven Koutsis (3rd-R), the United States’ top envoy in Sudan, in the war-torn town of Golo in the thickly forested mountainous area of Jebel Marra in central Darfur . (AFP)

The main rebel group of Jebel Marra turned Golo into their stronghold until it came under government control last year.

Pleas for aid 

A 90-minute helicopter flight brought Koutsis to Golo, where he was welcomed by cheering children who poured out from their homes to a makeshift helipad where the chopper landed.

Children ran behind his convoy of armoured vehicles as it travelled down a rocky road while groups of women watched the motorcade from the street.

The impact of the fighting on Jebel Marra is clear in Golo.

The town is rife with half-built brick homes damaged in the fighting, muddy roads and queues of women and children waiting to collect water in plastic cans from hand pumps.

An official from Sudan Humanitarian Commission told Koutsis that Golo needed better infrastructure, including well-built schools, roads and healthcare facilities.

“Many classes are held in school rooms without roofs,” said Abdo Aldeem.

Workers at Golo’s only hospital say they are struggling to deal with malnutrition among children and provide better care for pregnant women.

Several children suffering from severe malnutrition are being treated at the hospital, the AFP correspondent accompanying Koutsis reported. The walls of the hospital still had pro-rebel graffiti.

“Only yesterday a child died,” a Unicef worker said.

Jebel Marra saw pitched battles last year between government forces and the SLA/AW group, which Khartoum accuses of ambushing military convoys and attacking civilians.

In September, Amnesty International accused Sudanese forces of carrying out chemical attacks during military operation against the rebel group.

‘Big assistance’ 

Sudanese officials including President Omar al-Bashir have denied these charges.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced in Jebel Marra in last year’s fighting, the United Nations says.

 United States’ top envoy in Sudan, Steven Koutsis (C), poses for a photograph next to North Darfur deputy governor Mohamed al-Nabi (C-L) and other officials.(AFP)

Deadly conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003 when ethnic minority groups took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, which launched a brutal counter-insurgency.

At least 300 000 people have since been killed and 2.5 million displaced in Darfur, the UN says.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on alleged war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, which he denies.

On Monday, Koutsis also pushed for a strong presence of UN peacekeeping forces in Golo and other parts of Jebel Marra – an area where UN forces are still not deployed.

Steven Koutsis (R), the United States’ top envoy in Sudan, poses for a picture with Sudanese children and villagers in the war-torn town of Golo in the thickly forested mountainous area of Jebel Marra in central Darfur.(AFP) 

He said that although UNAMID is expected to be restructured, its forces need to be present in Jebel Marra.

“We need to have UNAMID present here… to offer big assistance to the local region,” he said.

Access for delivering humanitarian aid and ensuring security in Darfur are key conditions insisted by Washington in order to lift sanctions imposed on Sudan in 1997.

Although Washington believes Khartoum’s terror ties have ebbed, it has kept sanctions in place because of the scorched-earth tactics it has used against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.

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US envoy to Sudan pushes for aid in ex-rebel bastion

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Displaced civilians sit on the ground after receiving relief supplies ahead of moving into a new camp in Bentiu, South Sudan June 18, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The top US envoy in Sudan pushed Monday for more access to deliver humanitarian aid to Golo as he visited the former rebel stronghold in war-torn Darfur under tight security.

US charge d’affaires Steven Koutsis was in Golo as part of a tour to assess the security situation in Darfur as the United Nations prepares to downsize its 17,000-strong peacekeeping force.

Koutsis’s visit to the town surrounded by the thickly forested mountains of Jebel Marra comes weeks before President Donald Trump’s administration decides whether to permanently lift a two-decades-old US trade embargo on Sudan.

“Golo is a strategic area for providing humanitarian assistance,” he told officials and security officers he met in a tightly secured building, an AFP correspondent reported from the venue.

Khartoum restricts the access of international media to Darfur and particularly to Jebel Marra, which foreign media have been unable to visit for years.

“That is why we are here to understand better what is needed to bring more assistance here,” Koutsis said.

Aid workers have complained that delivering aid to Golo and other parts of Jebel Marra has been extremely difficult given the terrain and the severe restrictions imposed by the Sudanese authorities.

They say a road journey to Golo is a challenging experience in itself, with several hours needed to reach the town given its location in the hilly areas of central Darfur.

The Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid group (SLA/AW) were attracted to Golo because of the region’s wealth of natural resources, its fertile ground and mountainous terrain.

The main rebel group of Jebel Marra turned Golo into their stronghold until it came under government control last year.

Pleas for aid

A 90-minute helicopter flight brought Koutsis to Golo, where he was welcomed by cheering children who poured out from their homes to a makeshift helipad where the chopper landed.

Children ran behind his convoy of armoured vehicles as it travelled down a rocky road while groups of women watched the motorcade from the street.

The impact of the fighting on Jebel Marra is clear in Golo.

The town is rife with half-built brick homes damaged in the fighting, muddy roads and queues of women and children waiting to collect water in plastic cans from hand pumps.

An official from Sudan Humanitarian Commission told Koutsis that Golo needed better infrastructure, including well-built schools, roads and healthcare facilities.

“Many classes are held in school rooms without roofs,” said Abdo Aldeem.

Workers at Golo’s only hospital say they are struggling to deal with malnutrition among children and provide better care for pregnant women.

Several children suffering from severe malnutrition are being treated at the hospital, the AFP correspondent accompanying Koutsis reported. The walls of the hospital still had pro-rebel graffiti.

“Only yesterday a child died,” a UNICEF worker said.

Jebel Marra saw pitched battles last year between government forces and the SLA/AW group, which Khartoum accuses of ambushing military convoys and attacking civilians.

In September, Amnesty International accused Sudanese forces of carrying out chemical attacks during a military operation against the rebel group.

Big assistance

Sudanese officials including President Omar al-Bashir have denied these charges.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced in Jebel Marra in last year’s fighting, the United Nations says.

Deadly conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003 when ethnic minority groups took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, which launched a brutal counter-insurgency.

At least 300,000 people have since been killed and 2.5 million displaced in Darfur, the UN says.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on alleged war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, which he denies.

On Monday, Koutsis also pushed for a strong presence of UN peacekeeping forces in Golo and other parts of Jebel Marra — an area where UN forces are still not deployed.

He said that although UNAMID is expected to be restructured, its forces need to be present in Jebel Marra.

“We need to have UNAMID present here… to offer big assistance to the local region,” he said.

Access for delivering humanitarian aid and ensuring security in Darfur are key conditions insisted by Washington in order to lift sanctions imposed on Sudan in 1997.

The sanctions were imposed over Khartoum’s alleged support for Islamist groups.

Although Washington believes Khartoum’s terror ties have ebbed, it has kept sanctions in place because of the scorched-earth tactics it has used against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.

AFP

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