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August 2010 - Posts

Presidency Meeting Adopts Measures to Remove Obstacles Facing Commission for the Referendum

Khartoum, Aug. 29 (SUNA)- The Presidency meeting Sunday between the President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, the First Vice - President and President of the Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, and the Vice - President, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, adopted a number of measures to remove all the impediments facing the Commission for the Referendum

 

The Presidency gave a directive for completing the demarcation of border between the north and the south and formed a joint political committee to provide political and technical support for the demarcation of the border so as to finalize its task in the fixed time

 

The Presidency has called on the international community to live up to its commitments and pledges to boost holding of the referendum of south Sudan

Foreign Minister Lauds Firmness of the Sudanese - Egyptian Relations

Khartoum, Aug. 29 (SUNA) - The Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, has lauded progress of the deeply and fraternal relations between Sudan and Egypt

 

This came when he received at his office the Ambassador of Egypt to Sudan, Affifi Abdul-Wahab, on the occasion of expiry of his assignment to Sudan. The minister praised the role of Ambassador Affifi for consolidating further the bilateral between the two sister countries

 

The Foreign Minister has awarded the Nelein Order (First Class) to Ambassador Affifi Abdul-Wahab, on behalf of the President of the Republic, in recognition of his role for cementing the bilateral relations

Abul-Ghait Affirms Egypt Support to Agreements between the Two Partners

Cairo, Aug. 29 (SUNA)- The Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul-Ghait, said that the international community shall work to support peace in Sudan in the coming period through two stages, the first begins from now and continues till the referendum, while the second stage deals with the arrangements for the post referendum period

 

The spokesman of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Hussam Zaki, said in a press statement that Abul-Ghait has welcomed the agreement reached last week in Sudan by the two partners on the personality of the Secretary General of the Commission for the Referendum

 

He quoted Abul-Ghait as stressing the importance of agreement of the National Congress and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) on the procedural issues of the referendum and speeding up the demarcation of the border between the north and the south

 

Ambassador Zaki Egypt will focus in the coming period for boosting the agreements between the two partners, urging them to agree on a clear-cut method to pave the way for holding the referendum and determining the requirements for the post referendum stage, encouraging the regional and international efforts for guaranteeing the good relations and co-existence between the north and the south

 

He referred to recent talks between the Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul-Ghait, and Chairman of the African Union Panel on Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, on the result of the referendum, which would be federalism, confederacy, separation or unity

 

Ambassador Zaki indicated that Abul-Ghait has assured Egypt support to the efforts for the preservation of Sudan peace and stability

 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Foreign Minister met Saturday evening separately with the chairman of the African Union panel on Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, the special envoy of the UN and African Union Mission for Darfur (UNAMID), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General for Sudan, Haile Menkerios, and the US envoy for Sudan, Gen. Scott Gration

Kenya’s PM party distances itself from Bashir’s visit as more details emerge on trip

August 28, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was intentionally kept in the dark on plans to admit Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir into the country for the ceremony of signing Kenya’s new constitution, his party said today amid growing divisions in the cabinet on the decision to invite him.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary General Anyang Nyong was quoted by Kenyan newspapers as saying that that the party was unaware that Bashir would be at the event and only realized it when he arrived to join other dignitaries and heads of state at the ceremony.

“We would like to point out to Kenyans and the international community that this was indeed a very unfortunate visit that could put into question the commitment of the government to implement the Constitution of the second republic in letter and spirit,” Nyong told a news conference on Saturday according to Capital FM website.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in the war crimes that took place in Sudan’s Western region of Darfur. Kenya is an ICC member which means its obligated to execute the arrest warrant and him over to the Hague Tribunal.

On Friday the Kenyan foreign minister Moses Wetangula brushed aside the local and international criticism saying that it was not an African tradition to embarrass or harm guests.

He also recalled the African Union (AU) decisions instructing its members not to arrest Bashir regardless of their obligations.

Wetangula asserted that his country will not allow "anyone to make friends and enemies" for it, revealing that Kibaki himself extended the invitation to Bashir.

But the ODM SG rejected Wetangula’s assertions and said that his party will demand an explanation for the incident from him.

“As we maintain cordial relations with our neighboring countries, we must not forget or disregard our equally important adherence to international conventions and commitments,” Nyong said.

“There was no knowledge on our part as partners in government on an invitation to al Bashir. The Minister for Foreign Affairs must come out clean and give us a very clear explanation of what happened,” he stressed.

He also disclosed that PM Odinga was unaware that Bashir was coming to town.

Odinga’s spokesperson told CNN yesterday that he was "shocked" at al-Bashir’s presence and that his attendance was "out of the blue."

He also said that he had not spoken to Odinga but described the situation that developed as "impossible."

The Kenyan Land minister James Orengo also joined other cabinet members such as Deputy Defence Minister David Musila and Fisheries minister Amason Kingi in condemning the visit.

“This is definitely not a good beginning to compound a new Constitution with an act of impunity,” Orengo said adding that besides the explanation, Kenya had to take full responsibility.

“We first have to give an explanation to ourselves because we broke our law that is supreme, besides violating an international agreement that we are a signatory.”

Musila again expressed his shock over the visit.

“We were shocked beyond words when we heard the master of ceremonies announce the arrival of President Bashir at Uhuru Park,” said Musila.

“His name was not on the list of invited guests that we had and some of us had been assured by a government official that Sudan would be represented at the function by President of the South, Mr Salva Kiir.”

The judges of the ICC issued a decision on Friday ordering the court’s registrar to report Kenya’s non-compliance to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Assembly of State Parties "in order for them to take any measure they may deem appropriate".

The UNSC referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005 under a Chapter VII resolution.

Kenya "has a clear obligation to cooperate" in enforcing arrest warrants, the judges said.

The U.S. president Barack Obama, the European Union (EU) and several international human rights groups slammed Kenya’s hosting of the Sudanese president calling on the authorities there to arrest him.

However, Bashir only stayed in Kenya for a few hours before heading back home.

Sudan’s foreign minister Ali Karti said that “Kenya had invited A-Bashir to the summit in adherence with the African Union’s decision and it had shunned all the calls it received from many quarters and activists who stand behind the ICC and whose hopes were dissipated when Kenya welcomed Al-Bashir, especially that Kenya is a signatory of the ICC membership.”

SECRET VISIT

’The Standard’ newspaper revealed the details surrounding Bashir’s arrival into Kenya which was cloaked with secrecy to pre-empt any negative reaction.

Sources told the newspaper that as part of the plan, Bashir’s plane landed in Nairobi’s Wilson Airport rather than the traditional Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as Kenya closed its airspace to facilitate President Bashir’s arrival and departure in a well coordinated and guarded operation known only to a few

Wilson Airport is the region’s busiest airport, which had been ordered closed for the whole day on security grounds by authorities.

Bashir had negotiated his security and received guarantees before accepting Kenya’s invitation, the security sources told the newspaper.

Furthermore, only a handful of top Kenyan civil servants from the ministry of foreign affairs, public service and internal security coordinated Bashir’s visit and ensured all other government officials were kept in the dark.

SOUTH SUDAN ANGRY AT KENYA

Most Kenyan officials were under the impression that Sudan First Vice President and South Sudan government (GoSS) president Salva Kiir was going to be present at the ceremony as a representative of his country. The Kenyan foreign ministry had confirmed Kiir attendance earlier this week.

The Kenyan Sunday Nation newspaper quoted a Southern official as saying that Kiir was planning to carry out the visit until the last minute and chided Nairobi saying they have humiliated GoSS president.

"Our president was all set to travel to Nairobi for the ceremony and had even sent his advance team, only to be called by President Bashir on Thursday afternoon informing him that he would be in Nairobi. Mr Kiir had no choice but to cancel his trip because protocol does not allow them to travel out of the country at the same time,” said the head of the Southern Sudan referendum campaign, John Andruga Duku.

“We were shocked to see him there. Why did the Kenya government invite our president while knowing very well that they had invited Bashir,” Duku added.

Sudanese president heading to Senegal: report

August 28, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir is flying to Dakar on Sunday in a new show of defiance to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir (Reuters)

The independent Al-Ahram Al-Youm newspaper said that Bashir wants to take part in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

However, the COMESA summit for heads of states is due to take place in Swaziland on Tuesday.

The newspaper said that Bashir skipped an Iftar dinner held by South Sudan president Salva Kiir in order to make the trip.

Bashir managed to visit Chad and Kenya so far, both of which are full members of the ICC with an obligation to arrest him under the statute.

South Sudan refutes claims that oil revenues have been paid in hard currency

August 28, 2010 (RENK) - The regional government of southern Sudan on Saturday repeated its denial that July and Augusts’ oil revenue was transferred to them by the central bank of Sudan in US dollars or any other hard currency.

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Minister Baranba Marial (ST)

Half of the revenues from south Sudan’s oil fields go the regional government in Juba and half go to the central government in Khartoum under a 2005 peace deal.

On 24 August the governor of Central Bank of Sudan, Sabir Mohamed Hassan, said the south’s share of oil revenue in July and August was paid in hard currency and that the south’s claims to the contrary were false.

Hassan’s statement came after south Sudan’s minister of finance and economic planning, David Deng Athorbei, said that Sudan’s central bank had unilaterally started making oil payments in local currency.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, minister of information and broadcasting in the southern regional government told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that no oil revenues had been received in hard currency by Bank of South Sudan (BoSS) from Central Bank of Sudan.

“Our minister of finance here [in Juba the southern capital] has repeatedly told the council of ministers [that] receipt of the oil revenues for July and August [was] in local currency not hard currency”, said Benjamin.

The minister who is also the official spokesperson of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) said he could not understand why the central bank governor continued to contradict the southern government’s claim that recent payments have been made Sudanese Pound (SDP).

“Why is the central bank insisting that transfer of the two months oil revenues has been done when in fact nothing has been transferred and received?”, he asked adding that he believed the people of south Sudan have started losing trust in the central bank’s governor.

“All what the central bank governor is saying is not correct. We have not received our share of the oil revenue in hard currency’’, Benjamin said.

The central banks governor has also refuted the south’s claims that they are running out of foreign currency. According to Hassan the Bank of Southern Sudan (BoSS) has reserves of up to US$726 million, twice the amount he says that the Central Bank possesses.

Elijah Malok Aleng, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Sudan and a governor of BoSS denied this. After a briefing with south Sudan’s president on Friday, he told South Sudan TV (SSTV) that south Sudan’s reserves were less than half what the central bank claimed.

“We only have a reserve of about US$300 million”, he said.

According to Aleg the amount of foreign exchange reserves should not influence whether the south is paid in hard currency or not, as it was agreed in the 2005 peace accord between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - who now govern the south - and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

“Transfer share of the oil revenues cannot be stopped or determined by the level of reserveSleep in the Bank of South Sudan but on the basis of the entitlement in accordance with provision of the agreement on wealth sharing,” Aleng said.

On Monday 23 August, Athorbe the southern finance minister told a press conference that the central bank’s action was starving the economy of southern Sudan of the hard currency it desperately needs to operate.

“The foreign exchange needed by the business community to pay for imports and to meet their foreign currency obligations and commitments cannot be provided. Investor confidence in southern Sudan is eroded as we cannot meet their foreign exchange requirements. The public is unable to send money to their families abroad for school fees or any other purpose’’, Athorbei said.

The Sudanese pound has been showing signs of appreciation against major currencies this week after its value dropped a month ago.

This is latest disagreement between the partners of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement comes months before the south is due to vote on whether it wants to remain united with the north or form a new country.

South Sudan’s referendum should be held on time - UN envoy

August 27, 2010 (JUBA) - The United Nations remains committed to conducting of south Sudan’s forthcoming referendum on time and full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Haile Menkerios, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan said on Saturday.

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Haile Menkerios UN Special Representative to Sudan (UN)

The UN envoy made these remarks during the swearing-in ceremony of members of the 10 state referendum high committees, who are tasked with organizing the self determination vote due to take place in January 2011.

Consisting of five members each, the state-level high committees will be responsible for appointing subsidiary bodies at the state and county levels as well as the overall administration of the referendum process.

Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) Chairperson, Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil presided over the event, which took place in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan.

"This is the beginning of the final stage in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in southern Sudan and Abyei," Menkerios said.

"We have a full mandate from the UN Security Council to support the efforts of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and that of Abyei, once it is formed, to fully carry out the conduct of the referenda in a free, fare and transparent manner,” the UN envoy added.

While speaking at the ceremony, the SSRC chairperson urged the newly installed state high committee members to take their responsibilities seriously.

"On your shoulders rests the bulk of the work," Khalil said, adding that, "This is a milestone in the process, and you are responsible for your state and the subsidiary committees that you will have to appoint."

Khalil admitted that his commission faced a historic, complicated and difficult task to prepare the country for the referendum.

"We need to devote all our energies and approach it with open minds and in good spirit,” he said.

A host of dignitaries attended the ceremony, including members of the resident diplomatic corps, representatives of UN agencies as well as various international organizations.

Preparations for the referenda remain behind schedule, with processes like voter registration, border demarcation, citizenship and future oil revenues all yet to be agreed and completed.

Voter registration should have taken place in July this year, but materials for the exercise have not beennot been approved.

Demarcating the border is also not straight forward as many of Sudan’s oil fields lie on the north-south divide.

South Sudan army arrests soldiers behind Yei murders

By Ngor Arol Garang

August 28, 2010 (RENK) – The official spokesman of the Southern Sudan’s army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on Saturday said they have arrested soldiers involved in the two separate killings of eleven people in Yei River County, Central Equatoria state on Thursday and Friday.

Lieutenant General Kuol Deim Kuol told Sudan Tribune on Saturday from regional capital of Juba that security forces have found and arrested two members of the SPLA suspected of involvement in two separate killings.

"Our forces in Yei upon passage and receipt of information related to the two separate incidents occurring at different times launched restrictive search and managed to get and arrest a soldier who killed his in-laws on Friday morning at 2:00AM in Yei. They continued the search in collaboration with local authorities and security forces until the other criminal who escaped after killing a military officer was also found today on Saturday in Lainya County, Central Equatoria,” said the army’s spokesman.

General Kuol explained that on 27 August, a soldier from the SPLA, identified as Martin Amaar Deng Manyuol, shot nine family members in Yei, killing eight of them instantly while the ninth survived the shooting but sustained injuries to their stomach.

"While the information about the incident was being passed as it happened late in the night, the murderer managed to escape but our forces in collaboration with security forces swiftly acted to arrest him on the same day,” Kuol said.

The senior military officer said initial findings indicate that the soldier shot his future in-laws over differences in marital arrangements.

“Complete details will be unearthed by the investigation. Involvement of the SPLA forces was purely restricted to containment of security situation to avoid creating fears and panic to the general public in Yei,” he added.

Switching to the killing of a military officer, the spokesman of the regional army also explained that on Thursday 26 August at 7:30 PM, a soldier identified as Sergeant Gabriel Majur shot dead Colonel Peter Gatkuoth Chol. Majur is alleged to have been drug addict and who drank heavily.

“[An] Investigation will be conducted to get the actual cause of the killing but the primary information we have now is that the cause was purely an administrative issue,” he said, dismissing allegations that it was a tribal dispute.

Majur was previously disciplined for his behavior of frequently smoking cannabis, known locally as ‘bongo’. He was put in jail recently but was released. Late Colonel Peter Gatkuoth was the army’s officer in charge of the SPLA Engineering Corps in Yei town.

"These incidents have nothing to do with tribal conflicts. They are pure criminal acts,” said General Kuol, adding that there are people, especially in the north, who have connected and regarded the two separate incidents as tribal conflict which is not the case.

"These are pure individual cases caused by criminal acts and these individuals responsible have already been identified and arrested,” he said.

Obama criticizes Kenya over Bashir’s visit, local divisions emerge in Nairobi

August 27, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The United States president Barack Obama and the European Union (EU) today criticized the decision of the Kenyan government to receive Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and genocide he allegedly masterminded in Darfur during the seven years conflict.

Bashir returned today from Nairobi after a short visit where he attended the ceremony of signing Kenya’s new constitution and swearing in of president Mwai Kibaki and prime minister Raila Odinga. Hypothetically Kenya as a signatory to the ICC’s founding treaty has an obligation to arrest Bashir once he entered its territory.

Following Bashir’s return to Khartoum, Sudan’s foreign minister Ali Karti said that “Kenya had invited A-Bashir to the summit in adherence with the African Union’s decision and it had shunned all the calls it received from many quarters and activists who stand behind the ICC and whose hopes were dissipated when Kenya welcomed Al-Bashir, especially that Kenya is a signatory of the ICC membership.”

The Kenyan government kept the visit under tight wraps and foreign ministry attendees list included only the First Vice President of Sudan and the president South Sudan Salva Kiir. Sudan official news agency (SUNA) released a statement on Thursday of Bashir’s planned visit.

This is not the first time Bashir risked arrest by travelling to a member state of The Hague-based court. Last month, he visited Chad after a thaw in relations between the two countries.

Bashir arrived on Friday accompanied by his adviser Mustafa Ismail, foreign minister Ali Karti and intelligence chief Mohamed Atta. The wanted president stood in a front-row position alongside other regional leaders during the ceremony. However, he later skipped a luncheon with Kibaki and returned home.

The presence of the Sudanese president took many by surprise including members of the Kenyan coalition government.

Al-Bashir was invited by the Kenyan foreign ministry in his capacity "as the head of a friendly, neighbouring country," the spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told CNN. He said that he was "shocked" at al-Bashir’s presence and that his attendance was "out of the blue." He also said that he had not spoken to Odinga but described the situation that developed as "impossible."

The Deputy Defence Minister David Musila said Kenya had "brought shame to itself" adding that Bashir should be "arrested immediately and handed to the ICC."

Musila was quoted by ’The Standard’ newspaper as saying that Kenya "has suffered irreparable damage internationally" adding that it was incomprehensible for Kenya which he said was emerging from impunity with a new constitution "to allow Bashir to attend our ceremony."

But the Kenyan foreign minister Moses Wetangula dismissed the crictiscism saying that Bashir was invited as one of the country’s good neighbours.

"He [Bashir] was here today because we invited all neighbours and he is a neighbour." "There are no apologies to make about anybody we invited to this function because I am sure we are enhancing peace and security and stability of this region more than anything else," Wetangula said.

The top Kenyan diplomat also recalled the African Union (AU) decisions instructing its members not to arrest Bashir regardless of their obligations. He asserted that his country will not allow "anyone to make friends and enemies" for it, revealing that Kibaki himself extended the invitation to Bashir.

The chairman of the Parliamentarians for Global Action-Kenya Chapter (PGA) Musa Sirma echoed Musila’s position saying that "it was an ambush to us that a person of the nature of al-Bashir comes to Kenya for a function of democracy and human rights".

’The Standard’ said that other Kenyan MP’s including Abdul Bahari and David Were will seek a ministerial statement from the government on the circumstances that led to al-Bashir’s invitation and why he was not arrested.

In protest at Bashir’s presence, some European Union envoys and human rights activists boycotted Kibaki’s state luncheon.

The US Ambassador Michael Rannenberger declined to comment on the surprise visit, only stating, "Today I will only talk about the ceremony and nothing else." When Bashir entered the scene, the US envoy was reportedly was seen in animated conversation with Sudan ambassador in Nairobi Majok Guandong before walking back to his seat.

Dutch Ambassador Laetitia Van Assum said the government had hidden information of Bashir’s visit from the international community, therefore, pulling a fast one on them.

"We had been told that Salva Kiir was the one coming. But we were surprised and the atmosphere became quite strange when Bashir arrived," she said.

A source in New York told Sudan Tribune that Kenyan civil society tried their best to exert immense pressure on their government to arrest Al Bashir "but the odds were against them".

"Al Bashir’s visit to the country was well orchestrated by his hosts the Kenyan government who made sure that no one knew of his visit. Consequently, many civil society activists were caught off guard by his visit," said the source.

"They ensured that there would be no magistrates to receive an application or applications for the arrest of Al Bashir on the day that he arrived this is because Kenyan magistrates and judges were taking a new oath today" he added.

INTERNATIONAL REACTION

The U.S. president released a statement on Friday congratulating Kenya on the new constitution but directed criticism at it for allowing Bashir to attend.

"I am disappointed that Kenya hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in defiance of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," Obama’s statement read.

"The Government of Kenya has committed itself to full cooperation with the ICC, and we consider it important that Kenya honour its commitments to the ICC and to international justice, along with all nations that share those responsibilities. In Kenya and beyond, justice is a critical ingredient for lasting peace".

But some Sudan advocacy groups in Washington indirectly blamed Obama for Kenya’s decision not to arrest Bashir.

“This is a clear challenge for U.S. diplomacy at a critical moment. It’s incumbent upon the Obama administration to strongly support both justice and peace in Sudan and ensure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It seems clear that countries in the region see U.S. support for justice as little more than rhetoric at this point” said David Sullivan of the Enough Project.

"There can be little doubt that the United States, Brazil, and major European governments knew about Bashir’s trip in advance. Had they wanted to expend significant diplomatic capital, they likely could have stopped it. But here Bashir is on to something important: he knows that governments supportive of the ICC probably won’t have the patience and focus to maintain that effort" wrote American University’s School of International Service professor David Bosco in Foreign Policy magazine.

In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Kenya to arrest Mr. Bashir and ensure its own cooperation with the ICC over the 2008 violence.

“She urges Kenya to respect its obligations under international law to arrest and surrender those indicted by the ICC,” an Ashton spokesman said. “She calls upon Kenya to continue to cooperate with the ICC in its investigation into the 2007-2008 post-election violence.”

In a less direct statement, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “urges all states party to the Rome Statute to cooperate with the court” in line with their obligations under a Security Council resolution.

In The Hague, Netherlands, where the ICC is based, the judges said in a written order that Kenya "has a clear obligation to cooperate" in enforcing arrest warrants. The court also ordered its registrar to inform the U.N. Security Council of al-Bashir’s presence in Kenya "in order for them to take any measure they may deem appropriate."

The Hague-based ICC has no police force and relies on member states to enforce its arrest warrants.

They issued a similar order with regard to Chad as well which is also an ICC member that received the Sudanese president last month.

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) called in a statement released today on the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute as well as on the United Nations Security Council to take the necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of ICC decisions, including the execution of all pending warrants of arrest.

“The failure of Kenyan authorities to arrest Al-Bashir constitutes a serious breach of Kenya’s international obligations under not only the ICC Statute and the United Nations Charter, but also under its national legislation, including its new constitution, which recognizes the direct applicability of international law,” said CICC Convenor William R. Pace. “What should have been a day of celebration of Kenya’s commitment to human rights, democracy and rule of law is now marred by welcoming an international fugitive and disregarding the plight of the thousands of victims in Darfur.”

Sudan says committed to transparency in oil revenues

August 19, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese government today said it is committed to transparency on oil production and revenue to local and international audience amid long-standing doubts and reports questioning the accuracy of figures provided by Khartoum.

The Sudanese oil minister Lual Deng speaking at a seminar in the Friendship Hall said that the government is keen on refuting the allegations by the UK-based Global Witness which issued a report last year which claimed to have found serious discrepancies in reports of Sudan’s oil revenues suggesting that Khartoum was underpaying the South by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Under the 2005 peace accord between North and South Sudan, both sides agreed to share the country’s oil wealth, with the south receiving half the state revenues from the oil drilled from its territory.

"We hope to comfort all the Sudanese people that there will be transparency even if there was none in the past," said Deng, who is from the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) according to Reuters.

"The audit is basically to look at the production since 2005 — it will be done by an independent firm," Deng said. "Our preference is to accelerate the process so that the results are made available before the referendum," he added.

"It is the lack of transparency, or the perceived lack of transparency, that has fuelled mistrust between partners," Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted him as saying. "We want to enhance trust between the north and south."

The state minister for oil Ali Ahmed Osman stressed the importance of providing facts on the Global Witness report through cooperation and coordination between the Government of National Unity (GoNU) and the Government of the South Sudan (GoSS) to inform the public on the correctness of the wealth sharing and the commitment of Global Witness to achieve transparency through its handling of the facts without distortion.

Furthermore, Azhari Abdul-Qadir Secretary General of the Ministry of Oil, described the Global Witness report as "false" emphasizing the need for tracking facts on the production and manufacture of oil in Sudan to achieve transparency.

Global Witness, which took part in the seminar, said it was impressed by the openness with which all sides participated in today’s event which also included all 3 main foreign oil companies working in Sudan (CNPC, Petronas, ONGC) saying it offered an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation and information sharing.

"It is very hard for ordinary citizens of Sudan or for civil society organisations to get accurate figures on the oil industry in the country. The figures that are publicly available do not always agree with each other. As Global Witness has previously emphasised, the discrepancies we uncovered in the oil revenue data do not necessarily mean that money is going missing. What they do mean is that there is a disclosure and verification problem and that until citizens see audited and verified data and processes they cannot be confident that the oil revenues are being openly and fairly shared" Global Witness said,

"Concerns were raised today that Global Witness had alleged that US$6billion had gone ’missing’. This is not the case. $6bn was the full amount Global Witness estimated had been transferred from north to south since the signing of the CPA in 2005. Our analysis showed discrepancies of between 9-26% in the figures - which translates to a potential shortfall of between $540m and $1.56bn. The conservative estimate used in our report was $600m (i.e. 10%). We were careful to insist that this was only a potential shortfall – and never alleged that this money had in fact gone ’missing’,".

The group welcomed Deng’s promise to start publishing figures on daily output on its website and performing a full independent audit of oil production.

Global Witness said however that there are still some unanswered questions about the discrepancies and some significant gaps in information remain such as the companies’ costs of operation

"Part of the explanation tendered by CNPC to Global Witness today for production discrepancies was that companies were consuming oil in processing and transport. This could account for as much as 9% of production, it was claimed. Another explanation given by the government was that the amount of water in the oil was inflating the volume figures".

The Sudanese oil minister also revealed that his country is working on boosting output to at least 600,000 bpd next year.

Deng said current average output is now between 450,000 and 470,000 bpd from the two blends — Nile and Dar. That could reach 650,000 bpd on the back of increased production from Block 6 and more efficient oil recovery techniques, he said.

"For next year, all things being equal, we expect between 500,000 and 600,000. We are aiming at 650,000" bpd.

The assertions by Deng contradicts a report released this month by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stating that oil output in Sudan is projected to peak in 2012 and to subsequently decrease gradually.

About 75 per cent of Sudan’s proven reserves of 6.3bn barrels are in the south but the pipeline that carries the oil to export terminals and refineries runs through the north. The south needs Khartoum’s co-operation to sell its oil; the north needs revenues from its neighbour’s resources.

In 2011 the people of South Sudan will vote in a self determination referendum in order to decide whether they want to remain as part of united Sudan or create their own state. It is widely expected that secession will be the overwhelming choice of Southerners.

U.S. special envoy hold talks with Sudanese officials

August 18, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The United States special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration met today with senior Sudanese officials including 2nd Vice president Ali Osman Taha according to state media.

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U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration (R) leaves after meeting Sudanese officials in Khartoum August 18, 2010 (Reuters)

Sudan official news agency (SUNA) said that Taha and Gration discussed the progress of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the upcoming referendum in the South as well the peace process in Darfur.

The U.S. State department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley told reporters today that Gration is seeking to push the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) to live up to all of the criteria under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and continue to move forward in preparation for the referendum next January".

Currently the referendum preparation process is lagging well behind the timeline stipulated by the CPA primarily because of the delay in adopting the referendum law and the formation of the commission primarily because of disagreements between the NCP and the SPLM.

The referendum panel has yet to pick its secretary general because of SPLM objections over whether it should be a figure from the North or the South. Furthermore, the commission does not have headquarters or regulations in place to begin functioning leading its chief Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil to suggest that the January 9, 2011 date for the key vote would not be attainable.

According to the government sponsored Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) Khalil briefed Gration today on the time constraints facing the commission to discharge its mandate. He told SMC that the U.S. special envoy was "understanding" to the need to push both sides to agree on a secretary general.

The secretary-general controls the funds and budget of the commission and south Sudan’s ruling party has warned the deadlock could derail the vote. Khalil threatened to resign if the issue is not resolved.

Darfur was also a topic for discussion in the meetings that took place between Gration and the officials here particularly the aid blockage reportedly imposed by the Sudanese government on the Kalma camp in South Darfur.

SUNA said that Gration affirmed the keenness of his government to contribute to enhancement of the humanitarian situation in Darfur, indicating that he aims to be informed about the situation in Darfur and to be assured on arrival of aid to the affected people.

The U.S. official said after meeting foreign minister Ali Karti that he received assurances from Sudanese officials on guaranteeing the flow of aid into the camp and treating the IDP’s in accordance with international law and relevant provisions on human rights.

The presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani said that he exchanged ideas with Gration on Khartoum’s new strategy on Darfur which focuses on "domestication" of the peace process and focus mainly on development projects and empowering civil society groups.

He said that a more in-depth discussion with Gration will take place when he returns on August 26th.

The United States has reportedly decided in a recent meeting of senior administration officials to endorse a plan by Gration to focus on the referendum and place the crisis in Darfur as a low priority on its agenda.

Sudan to renew efforts to bring peace in Somalia – president

August 19, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan will reactivate its efforts to mediate between the different Somali warring parties to bring peace in the Horn of Africa country, the Somali President said on Wednesday.

Somalia Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (AFP)The Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed wrapped up a three-day visit to Khartoum where he had arrived on Monday for talks with President Omer Al-Bashir on Sudan’s efforts to reconcile the Islamist insurgents with the government.

"We need to Sudan’s important role to resolve the Somali crisis and the coming days will witness new developments and a Sudanese move to reunite the Somali parties and support the central government and the peaceful transfer of power," said President Sheikh Sharif before to leave Khartoum today.

He also thanked the Sudanese government for its supportive stance and asserted his Government’s determination to end the Somali crisis through peaceful means and restoring the authority of the State.

Since last year Sudan has undertaken efforts to convince the Islamist Somali opposition to join the UN backed government of President Sheikh who was elected on January 31, 2009 in a bid to end the 19 civil war in the country.

Last year Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, was in Khartoum to discuss reconciliation with Mogadishu government. However he returned to the Eritrean capital without meeting with Somali officials who were there to meet him.

The Somali insurgents say they would speak with government officials only after the withdrawal of the foreign troops from the country and some other conditions.

Khartoum tries to use its influence among the warring Somali Islamists groups to support ongoing efforts to bring stability in Somalia. But Darfur crisis and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed with the former rebel SPLM forced it to turn its attention back to its internal affairs.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 when the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, following which the country was plunged into anarchy and factional violence. Conflict and famine have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Dr. Nafie Affirms National Congress Commitment to Result of the Referendum

Khartoum, Aug. 19 (SUNA) - Assistant of the President of the Republic and Deputy Chairman of the National Congress for the Party's Affairs, Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, pointed out that his party will be fully committed to the result of the referendum if is complied with the desire of the people of south Sudan

 

At a press conference he held Thursday, Dr. Nafie said that the National Congress is working for the sake of unity while Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is working through its media and mechanisms for the goal of separation

 

He reiterated the National Congress commitment to all the clauses of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and addressing the partners in this regard

 

On the appointment of the Secretary General of the Commission for the Referendum, Dr. Nafie said that the National Congress has no desire of appointment of a certain person for this position

 

He indicated that the allegations on the National Congress support to George Attor are baseless and similar to the claims on the support to the Lord Resistance Army

 

Dr. Nafie referred to the efforts of the central government to contribute to the development in the south despite the full responsibility of Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) for the development in south Sudan

 

He appreciated the clear stances of some opposition political forces concerning the unity of Sudan, indicating that the boycott of the Communist Party, the People's Congress and SPLM to the call of the President of the Republic for consultations on the referendum affirms that the SPLM is not willing to speak about the unity of Sudan and does not want to give a commitment before this national gathering

Iranian Vice President: Sudan is economic priority to Iran

Tehran, Aug 19 (SUNA)- The Iranian First Vice President , Dr. Mohamed Ridha Rahimi, stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sudan share identical stand on regional and international issues

 

Upon receiving the Wali (governor) of Khartoum State, Dr Abdul-Rahman Al Khidir, and the accompanying delegation, currently visiting Iran, Dr. Rahimi said that Sudan represents a priority to Iran in the economic and developmental fields

 

Dr. Rahimi has promised to sponsor agreements and protocols reached by Kartoum State and Tehran and Isfahan provinces

 

Dr. Al-Khidir said that Khartoum State hopes that the Iranian exports bank will provide funding for its developmental projects

 

Dr. Al Khidir has paid a visit to a cement factory, the biggest in the Middle East, and held a meeting with officials of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, businessmen and companies and invited them to visit Khartoum to be informed on the investment opportunities

 

Khartoum State and Isfahan Province have signed a memo of understanding in area of meat processing, poultry and animal production, extension of gas pipeline and dams' building

President Al-Bashr: Referendum will be Held in the Fixed Time

Khartoum, Aug. 19 (SUNA)- President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, affirmed that the referendum will be held in the fixed time and that the government is keen to make all its steps successful

 

President Al-Bashir made the affirmation during his meeting Thursday at the premises of the Council of Ministers with Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sudan, Haile Menkerios

 

Menkerios said in a statement after the meeting that the two partners of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) will during the coming two days to solve all the impediments facing the referendum process and reach solutions that are satisfactory for all parties

 

He said that all members of the Commission for Referendum will leave Monday for Juba for more consultations and discussions for surpassing the pending or expected impediments

 

Menkerios said that the commitment of the two partners to the clauses of the CPA will lead to several positive results

 

He added that the meetings between the officials and the political forces will boost the efforts for making the referendum successful

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