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March 2012 - Posts

UN officials seek to convene Kiir-Bashir summit in a third country: reports

March 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A number of senior United Nations (UN) officials are privately seeking to bring Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir together for a summit in a third country, according to newspaper reports in Khartoum.

FILE - Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir, right, walks with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (AP)

The tensions between the neighbouring nations dramatically escalated this week following clashes inside Sudan’s borders. On Monday Kiir accused Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of launching an aerial and ground attack on South Sudan’s Unity State.

The Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) repelled the attack, Kiir said and chased SAF soldiers all the way inside South Kordofan before taking over oil-rich region of Heglig.

But while SPLA drew close to Heglig they never managed to take it and eventually withdrew back inside South Sudan after clashes with SAF.

The incident led Khartoum to call off the Bashir-Kiir summit scheduled for Tuesday 3 April in South Sudan’s capital Juba.

But Sudanese media have indicated that there are behind the scenes contacts by senior UN officials to rearrange the meeting at a "neutral" venue.

These efforts are led by Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the Republic of South Sudan Hilda Johnson and others who are also in a bid to de-escalate the situation.

The chairman of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki is on his way to Addis Ababa to review progress in preparations for the political-security meetings between delegations from Khartoum and Juba.

On Wednesday, military delegations from the two countries met at the expert level to prepare for the joint political-security meeting led by defense ministers from the two countries.

President Al-Bashir Returns Home after his Participation at Arab Summit in Baghdad

March 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM)Kerti: Sudan's Participation in Arab Summit Affirms Sudan Support to Iraq

President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, Thursday evening returned home after heading Sudan delegation for the 23rd Arab Summit in Baghdad, Iraq.

He was received upon return home at Khartoum Airport by the First Vice - President of the Republic, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and a number of senior officials.


In a statement at Khartoum Airport, the Foreign Minister, Ali Karti said that the summit has discussed the situation in Syria and the importance of finding a solution for the crisis as well as supporting the countries that are surpassing a stage of political changes.

He said that the Arab Summit also tackled the situation in Somalia and Yemen.

Elsewhere in the news : Kerti: Sudan's Participation in Arab Summit Affirms Sudan Support to Iraq

Foreign Minister, Ali Kerti has disclosed that Sudan's participation in the Arab Summit in Baghdad affirmed its support to the Iraqi government and the non-interference in its internal affairs .

Kerti said in press statements in Khartoum Airport, Thursday, President Al-Basher who met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talbanni and the Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki assured Sudan's keenness to be in contact with all the Iraqi factions, describing the meetings as positive .

He described the Sudanese-Iraqi relations as historical .

North & South Sudan negotiators head to Addis Ababa for discussions on security

March 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The governments of Sudan and South Sudan have sent their delegations to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss ways by which they can defuse the recent military flare-up on the borders of the two countries this week.

Sudanese troops stand next to a burnt out vehicle in Sudan’s southern oil centre of Heglig on March 27, 2012 (AFP)

The crisis started with an announcement by South Sudan president Salva Kiir on Monday that the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) managed to take over the oil-rich region of Heglig in the course of repelling an aerial and ground attack by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) inside Unity State.

But Kiir’s assertions regarding control of Heglig were contradicted by SPLA field commanders and later South Sudan’s army announced that it has disengaged and returned to its old positions inside the country’s borders.

Officials in Khartoum however, said that SAF units fought back SPLA and pushed it off Sudan’s territory.

But the ramifications of the clashes were far reaching and a long-awaited summit between Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan al-Bashir set for April 3rd was called off by Khartoum. The latter said that environment no longer conducive for such talks.

In an encouraging sign that situation will not escalate, the two countries stressed that they have no intention of engaging in a full-scale war.

On Wednesday, military delegations from the two countries met at the expert level to prepare for the joint political-security meeting that will be chaired by defense ministers from Khartoum and Juba.

Sudan’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Rahamatalla Mohamed Osman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he was in Addis Ababa “to represent my country in the negotiations... with regards to security along the border”.

“I am not sure we can accept any more offers [from the South],” Osman said, warning the clashes could create a stalemate.

“We are talking about security arrangements at a time when there are attacks,” he added.

The SPLM Secretary General and South Sudan’s top negotiator Pagan Amum said he is also heading to Ethiopia.

“What we expect to achieve is the cessation of hostilities,” Amum said by telephone from the South Sudanese capital.

“We will stop the fighting that is there, and ensure that this does not erupt into war between the two countries" Amum added and urged both sides to “rescue the positive spirit” of earlier talks.

In Khartoum, the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Al-Obeid Marwih said that reversing the decision on Bashir-Kiir summit is contingent on progress at the security talks.

AFRICAN UNION REACTION

In a related issue, Marwih also criticized the African Union (AU) statement on the clashes calling it "unbalanced" and "equating the victim with the executioner".

The pan-African body said Wednesday it was deeply concerned at an “escalating security situation” on the border between the former civil war foes, and called for troops to pull back 10 kilometers (six miles) either side of the border.

The AU on Wednesday joined the European Union and United Nations Security Council in calling for an end to the fresh fighting around the oil-rich town of Heglig, which includes ground fighting on both sides of the border and aerial bombardment of South Sudan’s Unity State.

In a statement, AU chief, Jean Ping, called on both sides to withdraw their army 10km from either side of the shared border; establish a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM); and halt any support to rebel forces operating in the territories of the other country.

Ping further urged on the two states to respect the non-aggression and cooperation pact they signed last month.

Last month, representatives from Sudan and South Sudan met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where they signed an initial agreement on issues of nationality and demarcation of their common boundary.

Sudanese President, Omer Al-Bashir, was scheduled to meet his southern counterpart, Salva Kiir Mayardit, on 3 April in Juba to officially ink the Addis Ababa agreement.

Khartoum announced it had cancelled Bashir’s planned trip to Juba after the clashes on Monday. But South Sudan has maintained it has received no official notification and say they expect the talks to go ahead.

The AU said “it is critical that appropriate steps be taken to create an environment conducive to the holding of the planned Summit between the two Presidents and the continuation of the post-secession negotiations”.

The EU and the UN Security Council on Tuesday, called on the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to exercise maximum restraint and engage in negotiations.

Sudan and South Sudan have traded accusations over the eruption of the latest fighting, which is said to be the most grave since South Sudan seceded in July last year.

Sudanese army clash with JEM rebels near Heglig

March 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) clashed with rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Wednesday in the restive state of South Kordofan state near Heglig where the Khartoum government accused them of carrying out a joint attack three days ago with the South Sudanese army (SPLA).

The Sudanese army announced that its troops fully control the oil-producing Heglig area after clashes on Monday with the South Sudanese troops and JEM rebels. Also reporters were invited to visit it as Juba announced the withdrawal of its troops.

Military sources told Sudan  that clashes occurred outside Heglig as JEM rebels were moving eastward from the area to inside South Kordofan to the position of their allies of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North in Talodi.

The Sudanese military sources further reaffirmed that JEM took part in the attack on Heglig the assault meant to undermine the presidential summit which was scheduled to take place on 3 April in Juba.

JEM or other members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), did not react to the Sudanese accusations of being part of the attack. Sudan had days before Pagan Amum’s visit to Khartoum last week accused the rebels of attacking Heglig but they denied the attack.

Speaking to reporters during their visit to Heglig, Lt. General Abdel-Moneim Saad, SAF Deputy Chief of Staff, said the army was conducting combing operations to control the oil producing region after the fight with the South Sudan army.

He pointed out that the Sudanese army protect the border at a distance of 36 kilometers from Heglig.

Besides the signing of border and citizenship deals, the presidential meeting of 3 April was expected also to discuss and take measures to ease tensions between the two countries caused by the presence of rebel groups in the two countries.

South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan on Monday briefed the cabinet in an extraordinary meeting chaired by president Salva Kiir about what was agreed during his visit to Khartoum before the visit of the Sudanese president to Juba.

Hours, before Kiir’s statements on Monday where he declared the capture of Heglig, the South Sudan government had decided to create a conducive environment for talks with the Sudan ahead of Bashir’s visit and to organise a warm for him on 3 April.

Khartoum has said that due to the security situation the visit has been cancelled.

Sudan says no desire for full-fledged war with south despite military escalation

March 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government on Tuesday said that it has no plans to enter the territories of South Sudan despite the military confrontation that occurred on Monday, which is considered the most serious since the country’s partition in July 2011.

South Sudanese Minister of Information Barnaba Benjamin Marial, right, and Military Spokesman Philip Aguer brief the media on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 in Juba, south Sudan (AP)

The director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Mohamed Atta Abbas al-Moula held a press conference detailing Khartoum’s version of events relating to the battles that broke out in South Kordofan between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA).

South Sudan president Salva Kiir announced on Monday that SAF launched aerial and ground attacks against areas in Unity State and near the poorly defined borders with South Kordofan state.

Kiir said that they repelled the attack and pursued SAF inside Sudan’s borders and in the process took "full control" of the oil-rich Heglig region. But SPLA spokesperson Philip Aguer later contradicted Kiir’s saying they only captured parts of Heglig.

The South Sudanse leader also said that Heglig belonged to his country laying the ground for a future dispute with the north over its ownership similar to the standoff over Abyei, another oil-producing region.

SAF spokesperson al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad yesterday acknowledged the clashes with the SPLA but also alleged the involvement of Darfur rebels the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the Heglig attack.

Sa’ad said that SAF "bravely" resisted what he suggested was a surprise attack by SPLA and retreated 10 kilometers north of the international borders but he vehemently denied South Sudan’s claims that they overran Heglig.

The military spokesperson added that SAF was still dealing with remnants of the attacking forces.

OIL FIELDS

On Tuesday, South Sudan accused SAF of targeting oil fields in Unity State with aerial bombardments.

“I have just been informed about the new attacks by the state authorities that Sudanese warplanes have indiscriminately bombed the area this morning” Stephen Dhieu Dau the country’s oil minister, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday. “The attack is targeting oil fields”, Dau added.

The oil minister further said he received information that Sudanese warplanes were still “flying low” and “hovering” everywhere in strategic areas of the oil wells in the state.

“I am told one of the bombs nearly hit a compound of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPC), a consortium of oil companies led by China’s CNPC, operating in Unity State”, the minister said.

“They bombed one of the wells in Rubokana town which is not far away from Bentiu town”, Dau said adding that the Sudanese government has been looking for “an excuse” to attack South Sudan’s oil fields.

The senior official said that he does not yet have details on whether there are direct damages to oil facilities but was told that one bomb narrowly missed a camp there.

“At the moment there is no information about damages. The latest information I have is that they [Khartoum] have once again bombed our oil fields. We are still waiting for details of the attack from our field staff members. It will be from their report that we shall be able to tell whether there are damages” Dau said.

Asian oil group the Greater Nile Petroleum Company (GNPOC) - a consortium led by the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) - confirmed its facilities had been hit.

"The warplanes are hovering everywhere ... One bomb actually just missed Unity base camp but anywhere else so far there is no information," GNPOC Vice President, Chom Juaj, told Reuters.

"They bombed the oil field but so far we are still waiting for the report from the field telling us if they are damaged or not," he said.

Sudan’s spy chief, Atta, on Tuesday said that SAF has pushed SPLA deeper into South Sudan.

He strongly denied Juba’s claims that the clashes started after SAF attack on Jau because, according to Atta, it was already occupied by SPLA and northern rebel forces.

The NISS director said Khartoum initially sought to convince Juba to pull it forces out of the areas they attacked inside Sudan. But after additional SAF enforcements were sent, the southern army launched a new assault forcing SAF units to withdraw deeper inside Sudan.

He stressed that never at any point did SPLA enter Heglig and at its best was six kilometers away from the region.

"Until one hour ago troops of the southern army were still ten kilometers on our side of the border. We have now advanced ... and are still expelling them." Some prisoners had been taken, he said.

"We hope this will be no full war," he added. "We have no intentions beyond liberating our [occupied] land. We don’t want to enter southern territory" Atta added.

BASHIR-KIIR SUMMIT

The latest clashes dashed hopes of a new phase in relations between the ex-foes ahead of a planned 3 April meeting between Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir.

Yesterday, the Sudanese 2nd Vice-President, al-Haj Adam Yusuf, announced that the summit has been called off following the attack and that no negotiations will resume without an improvement in the security situation.

But South Sudan’s minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin Bil, said that Juba has not received a formal message informing them of the cancellation.

“We still expect president Bashir to attend the summit because we have not until this moment received an official communication cancelling the visit as per initial plan”, Marial told reporters on Tuesday. The minister explained that the invitation was extended to Sudanese president with “clear intention” to strike a deal that would normalise relations in a manner that would benefit both sides.

Marial denied that the invitation was an "ill thought plan or trick” to arrest Bashir once he arrives. He accused voices in the Sudanese government of misconstruing the move and mounting a campaign against it with “war like tones” intended to “distort” the purpose for which the invitation was made.

“We remain committed to the purpose of inviting the Sudanese president. We are for peace although it seems there voices agitating against in Khartoum by trying to derail the process,” he said before adding that the country would not accept to be dragged into war with Sudan.

"Our president has said it clear time and again that we will not accept return the two countries into a senseless war. We will not accept be dragged into a conflict with Sudan”, the minister said.

INTERNATIONAL REACTION

On Tuesday the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, Mark Lyall-Grant, which holds that rotating presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC), read a statement on behalf of the council saying that the body’s members are “deeply alarmed” by the military clashes.

The clashes “threaten to precipitate a resumption of conflict between the two countries, worsen the humanitarian situation, and lead to further civilian casualties.”

The UNSC Council called upon both governments to exercise maximum restraint and sustain purposeful dialogue in order to address peacefully the issues that are fueling the mistrust between the two countries, citing oil resources, violence in the border region, citizenship, and the disputed Abyei region.

The UNSC members called on the two countries to respect the letter and spirit of their February 10 Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation, which urged both countries to utilize the upcoming session of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism to defuse tensions along the border.

Meanwhile, the White House on Tuesday also said it was alarmed by the fighting in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan and along a disputed area of the border between Sudan and South Sudan.

Both sides, it added in a statement, must exert the greatest restraint in this situation.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton separately said Washington, which helped to broker the 2005 peace deal which ended Sudan’s long civil war, held Khartoum primarily responsible for the latest hostilities, in which the two neighbours have traded accusations of attacks on either side of their contested border.

"We think that the weight of responsibility rests with Khartoum because the use of heavy weaponry, bombing runs by planes and the like, are certainly evidence of disproportionate force on the part of the government in Khartoum," she said.

Clinton said that the US wants the Bashir-Kiir summit to go as planned.

"We want to see that summit held, and we want to see both sides work together to end the violence," Clinton said, calling it "deeply distressing."

The top US diplomat said the two sides — bound inextricably by their intertwined oil industries — should focus on finding a solution to their deteriorating economies.

"There is a win-win outcome here. South Sudan has oil. Sudan has the infrastructure and the transportation networks to get the oil to market," Clinton added.

In Paris, the French foreign ministry said that France "is extremely concerned" by the fighting and called for an "immediate end".

"We strongly encourage the two countries to settle their disputes through agreements on the basis of good neighborliness and mutual respect, in particular the respect for each other s territorial integrity" said the statement.

"The implementation of the previous agreements on the establishment of a demilitarized and internationally monitored border area, as well as the demarcation of undisputed border areas, must be continued on an urgent basis in order to achieve a political settlement of the current tensions. There must be full cooperation with the United Nations to that end," the French foreign ministry said.

"The meeting scheduled to take place shortly between the presidents of the two States, following the visit to Khartoum by a high-level delegation from South Sudan on March 23, should be able to go ahead despite the recent clashes. It will be a sign of the willingness of each party to resolve the current tensions".

China also echoed sentiments expressed by Washington and Paris.

"We call on southern and northern Sudan to remain calm and restrained, keep tensions from escalating further, and remain committed to properly resolving their differences through negotiations" said Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesman Hong Lei.

The two countries have been at loggerheads since the South became independent under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Oil, the lifeline of both economies, is at the heart of the feud. Landlocked South Sudan took most of known reserves when it became independent but needs to export its oil through Sudan. Juba shut down its output of 350,000 barrels a day after Khartoum started taking oil to compensate for what it calls unpaid transit fees.

S. Sudan: Oil firm accuses security official of seizing 10 vehicles

March 27, 2012 (JUBA) — A Chinese and Malaysian owned Oil Company has accused a security manager deployed by South Sudan’s national security ministry to observe the company activities of confiscating company properties and threatening foreign managers.

Southern Sudanese soldier at a field processing facility in Unity State on November 10, 2010. (AFP)

Petrodar operating company (PDOC) in a March 18 letter to anti-corruption commission says the official, Kuol Mour Mour, allegedly confiscated 10 company vehicles, laptops, refrigerators and several office furniture, including unspecified amounts of money.

The security official is also accused of allegedly threatening Chinese and Malaysian mangers working at PDOC.

Asked why he forcefully took the vehicles, Mour, according to the letter, reportedly said he would share the vehicles with the company and the national security protection unit, which guards the oil fields.

Sources told Sudan  that the oil company had earlier on issued a similar complaint to South Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar, who currently chairs the country’s oil management committee.

In the letter, a copy of which we obtained, PDOC further accuses its security manager of allegedly violating company procurement rules and procedures, without approval from management.

“Mr. Koul [Mour] has brought an airplane from Uganda to replace Nova Air, which the PDOC has been using. So, he has signed the contract with the Uganda Company without permission or to follow the company procurement rules. As a matter of fact, this is not his responsibility,” partly reads the letter, signed by South Sudanese employees at PDOC.

There was no independent confirmation from either the accused official or the national security ministry.

South Sudan last month expelled Petrodar’s president, Liu Yingcai, accusing him of not cooperating with the government and continuing to receive instructions from the government in Khartoum.

Stephen Dhieu Dau, the country’s petroleum and minister said some oil companies in South Sudan were not respecting the terms of reference of the memorandum of understanding, which they signed in December.

Currently, Petrodar holds concessions in Palloj in Upper Nile state, where South Sudan was producing over 60 percent of its crude oil before the shutdown.

The oil crisis is one of many raising fears of a return to war between the two countries. Decades of civil war, leading up to the 2005 peace deal that gave South Sudan the right to secede, left 2 million dead and over 4 million displaced, according to the UN.

President al-Bashir cancels his visit to Juba
 

Clashes have broken out between the armed forces of Sudan and South Sudan in several disputed border regions, both sides said.

South Sudan's army, the SPLA, said the Sudanese air force had attacked the disputed areas of Jau and Pan Akuach.

The SPLA had also repelled an attack by Sudanese forces in the area of Teshwin inside South Sudan, SPLA spokesperson Philip Arguer said on Monday.

Sudan's army spokesperson Sawarmi Khalid Saad confirmed the fighting in the border area of Sudan's South Kordofan state and the southern Unity state, without giving the exact locations. He did not say who had started the fighting.

"I think due to this attack, the government now is changing its strategy to deal with the southern government," Rabie Abdul Atti, an advisor to Sudan's minister of information, told Al Jazeera.

The fighting has forced President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to suspend plans to visit South Sudan on April 3, Sudan's state radio reported.

In a brief text message, the broadcaster said the suspension came after an attack on the oil-producing area of Heglig, parts of which are claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.

Bashir had been due to hold talks with his southern counterpart Salva Kiir during his visit to the southern capital Juba to resolve tensions that have surged since South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year.

UN concern

UN leader Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to the border clashes.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned about the military clashes in the border region and calls on the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to fully respect and implement the agreements they have already reached on security, border monitoring and Abyei," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The two Sudans fought a two-decade civil war up to 2005 in which two million people died. Since their separation the two sides have been in dispute over oil reserves, their frontier and the disputed territory of Abyei.

Minister of Information Refutes Claims of South Sudan President on Occupation of Hejilij

Khartoum, March 26 (SUNA) The Minister of Information, Engineer Abdalla Ali Massar, announced that forces of the army of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM) of South Sudan , supported by forces of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement Monday staged a treacherous aggression on the Armed Forces, explaining that the Armed Forces has inflicted heavy losses on the aggressors and repulsed them.

The statement pointed out that the statements given by the President of South Sudan State, Salva Kiir, on the occupation of his forces to Hejilij area in a military operation reflected extreme hatred to Sudan and its people and the Armed Forces.

The statement issued by the Minister of Information stated that the agreements that South Sudan State has signed with Sudan in Addis Ababa and the recent visit paid by South Sudan delegation to Khartoum were deceptive and misleading acts.


The statement affirmed the Armed Forces readiness to carry out its role for maintain the security and stability and to defend the homeland.

Leader of Sudan’s communist party laid to rest in grand farewell

March 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Thousands of people fronted by prominent opposition figures thronged on Sunday to participate in the funeral procession of the Sudanese Communist Party’s (SCP) leader, Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, who passed away in Britain three days ago.

Sudanese men mourn next to a poster of Ibrahim Nugud, late leader of Sudan’s Communist party, during his funeral in Khartoum on March 25, 2012 (GETTY)

Nugud died on Thursday, 22 March, at the age of 83 from an inoperable brain cancer, according to party officials. The tragic news saddened party members and sparked a wave of obituaries across the Sudanese political spectrum.

At dawn on Sunday, a British Airways flight carrying Nugud’s body landed at Khartoum Airport, from where the procession started in the presence of mournful SCP supporters who chanted slogans hailing the achievements of the deceased leader and that of the working class in Sudan.

The procession first went to Nugud’s house in Al-Fardous district in Khartoum before moving to the SCP’s headquarters in the downtown area of Khartoum 2 where party supporters and sympathizers paid their last respects.

Finally, the procession moved to Al-Farouq’s cemetery where the burial took place after the performance of relevant prayers. Police vehicles deployed heavily in and around the roads leading to the cemetery.

People make their way to the funeral of Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, head of Sudan’s Communist Party, in Khartoum March 25, 2012 (REUTERS)

The seven-hour procession was attended by an unprecedented crowd featuring the top leadership of opposition parties, including Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), and Hassan Al-Turabi, leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP).

Leaders of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), meanwhile, were conspicuously absent except for the minister of presidential affairs, Bakri Hassan Salih.

Following the burial, the SCP organized a morning ceremony in which various political figures raced to eulogize Nugud.

The SCP’s senior member, Sidiq Yousif, considered the mass participation in Nugud’s funeral procession as evidence of popular rejection to the current situation.

Al-Turabi also spoke highly of the late SCP leader, describing Nugud as a charismatic and an upright man who led his party through a period of extreme complications. The veteran Islamist called for continuing Nugud’s efforts in unifying political forces behind the goal of regime change.

South Sudan’s minister Peter Adwok Nyaba (left), NUP leader, Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (front, 2nd L) and PCP cheif Hassan al-Turabi (front, 2nd R) attend the funeral of Nugud, head of Sudan’s Communist Party, in Khartoum March 25, 2012 (REUTERS)

Similarly, NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi said Nugud was a tolerant and humble personality. “He sacrificed his personal life at the altar of the principles in which he believed” he said.

Al-Mahdi pledged that all political forces would strive to achieve equality and prevent the passing of a one-sided constitution, in a veiled reference to the draft Islamic Constitution proposed by a coalition of Islamist groups.

The ceremony was also attended by a South Sudanese delegation led by the country’s minister of higher education, science and technology, Peter Adwok Nyaba , who said that Nugud was one of the people who spent their lifetime struggling for the betterment of the former united Sudan, including the South.

Adwok called on SCP members as well as Sudanese people to support each others in order to achieve freedom and social equality.

Nugud had served as a secretary-general for the SCP since his predecessor Abdel-Khalek Mahjoub was executed by ex-president Ga’afar Nimeiri in the aftermath of the brief SCP-backed coup in 1971 along with a large number of the party’s leadership.

A Sudanese woman gestures as people mourn over the coffin of Ibrahim Nugud, late leader of Sudan’s Communist party, during his funeral in Khartoum on March 25, 2012 (GETTY)

Following what was named as the 1971 massacre of the SCP, Nugud went into hiding for 14 years until the 1985 uprising against Nimeiri. He re-joined the parliament up until the military coup led by Brigadier Omer Hassan al-Bashir took place in 1989 and a decree was issued banning all political parties in the country.

He went underground again until his hiding place was uncovered by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in 2005 as Sudan moved into a system of government that was more tolerant of opposition.

In 2009, when the SCP held its first general convention in decades, Nugud was reelected to the party’s top post. However, at the time his views largely moderated with some in the party privately attributing it to old age and deteriorating health.

A year later, Nugud ran unsuccessfully in the country’s first multi-party presidential election. By that time, the SCP chief was no longer the charismatic eloquent figure he used to be.

A man stands near the grave of Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, head of Sudan’s Communist Party, in Khartoum March 25, 2012

Analysts say that the party was never able to regain its prominence as the strongest communist party in the region after losing its top leadership in 1971.

Furthermore, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the diminishing popularity of communist ideology around the world also took a toll on the party.

At one point there were discussions within the SCP on whether its name should be changed to reflect the new realities.

Sudan chief negotiator spat with NCP official highlights divisions

March 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A prominent official from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) lashed out at Sudan’s negotiating team accusing them of weakness following a recent accord they signed with the neighboring state of South Sudan.

Pagan Amum (left), chief negotiator from South Sudan, lead mediator for the African Union, Piere Buyoya (centre) and Sudan’s head negotiator Idriss Abdu Qadir, shake hands at the end of African Union-led talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa on March 13, 2012 (AFP)

South Sudan gained its independence from the north in July 2011 but a wide range of issues remain outstanding namely borders, Abyei, oil, splitting external debt and citizenship among others.

The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki is mediating between the two sides seeking resolution to these contentious items.

But despite successive rounds of talks no progress was made on bridging the differences.

Last week, Mbeki managed to get both countries to sign framework agreements dealing with borders and status of citizens in each others’ country. They included a clause granting northerners and southerners “freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property".

But the ’Four Freedoms’ deal came under fire in Sudan especially from the Just Peace Forum (JPF) and hardline Islamists who assert that this was too much of a concession at a time when relations between the two countries are tense over allegations of Juba supporting rebels who want to topple regime in Khartoum.

The negotiating team found itself having to defend signing the accord on almost a daily basis while many senior officials in the government remained silent.

Qutbi al-Mahdi, who was until recently the NCP politburo chief, said the ’Four Agreements’ was premature and "illogical". He also described the negotiators as "softies" who gave away too much to South Sudan.

He stressed the need to change negotiating strategy to one that rearranges priorities and stops the practice drafting policies based on impressions.

The leading NCP official, speaking at a forum in Khartoum, went on to describe the negotiators from Khartoum’s side as ignorant of their counterparts’ qualities. He pointed fingers at South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum saying he is someone who is "full of hate towards anything northerner".

Al-Mahdi also called Amum "greedy" who wants to take everything without giving anything in return on top of being an agent to the west. He added that no agreement can be reached unless South Sudan’s entire negotiating team is replaced which would pave the way for an understandings on security, oil and borders.

He warned against president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s travelling to Juba saying that South Sudan leader Salva Kiir "cannot be trusted". South Sudan today assured Bashir that they will not execute the arrest warrant against him issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Prior to al-Mahdi speaking at the same forum, Sudan’s chief negotiator Idriss Abdel-Gadir described the attack on the "Four Freedoms" agreement from NCP officials as "painful" and warned against any attempt to scrap it saying it could provoke the "wrath of god" for not being thankful.

He said the same people who are critical now were unhappy about the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war and eventually led to creation of a new state on Sudan’s borders.

Abdel-Gadir said the CPA was the greatest accomplishments since Sudan’s independence.

Khartoum and Juba strike new tone on post-independence negotiations

March 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The top negotiators from north and south Sudan on Friday spoke of a new spirit in the discussions on post-independence issues that have dragged on for years.

Pagan Amum (left), chief negotiator from South Sudan, lead mediator for the African Union, Piere Buyoya (centre) and Sudan’s head negotiator Idriss Abdel-Gader, attend the end of African Union-led talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa on March 13, 2012 (AFP)

The Secretary General of the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Pagan Amum at a radio forum in Khartoum said that the upcoming summit between president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir was a joint initiative made by the negotiating teams.

Amum, who is the chief negotiator for South Sudan, said this move aimed to at changing the direction of talks and move the two countries into a new phase that steers the two sides away from mistrust and creates confidence that would allow for changing mentality from "confrontation and clash" to partnership.

The SPLM SG said last week’s framework agreements signed on nationality and borders was a "turning point" that was a result of adjusting stances instead of staying entrenched in prefixed positions. He went on to say that the two delegations started working as one team by recognizing that the disputed items are joint ones.

Sudan’s lead negotiator Idriss Abdel-Gader that the two sides began the process of mending ties in their meeting yesterday and agreed that the media should refrain from reporting sensational stories on the negotiations.

Abdel-Gader also revealed that there will be joint committees to discuss trade after first ensuring the improvement of security situation on the borders. He added that the interior ministers from the two countries will review the status of citizens on the other side of the borders.

Today Amum met with senior security officials in Sudan including minister of interior Ibrahim Hamed, Defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and intelligence director Mohamed Atta in Khartoum to lay the groundwork for the discussions by the interior ministries’ joint committee.

Amum was joined by South Sudan cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor and justice minister John Luke.

The communiqué of the meeting said the discussions were frank and candid with a genuine desire to reach comprehensive solutions.

The SPLM SG, who arrived on Thursday handed an invitation from Kiir to Bashir to an April 3rd summit "with the aim of solving the pending issues between the two states".

It would be Bashir’s first visit to the south since it separated last year following a referendum.

After months of failed negotiations, a dispute over oil fees and mutual accusations of backing rebels on each other’s territory it is hoped that last week’s accords would create a positive atmosphere going forward.

When South Sudan gained its independence it took about three-quarters of Sudanese oil production with it, but it has no facilities to export the crude.

At the heart of their dispute has been disagreement over how much Juba should pay to use the northern pipeline and port.

Sudan wants guarantees from Juba that Bashir will not be arrested upon his visit

March 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – An official in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said that South Sudan must provide assurances that president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will not be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) during his upcoming visit.

FILE - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, left, and Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir, right, walk together at the airport in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 (AP)

Qutbi al-Mahdi, a prominent NCP official, told reporters that there has been a lot of talk in Juba about the issue of the outstanding ICC arrest warrant against Bashir and whether South Sudan has an obligation to execute it.

“If we are not comfortable that there is enough trust in this regard the president will not travel to Juba,” al-Mahdi said.

South Sudan which became independent in July 2011 is not signatory to the ICC’s founding treaty and is therefore under no legal commitment to apprehend the Sudanese leader.

Bashir is slated to meet with South Sudan president Salva Kiir in Juba on April 3rd where he will sign a number of agreements related to the borders and nationality.

Observers hope that Bashir’s first trip to South Sudan after independence will help deescalate tensions between the two sides since last year.

But South Sudanese officials have given contradictory stances on the issue of the ICC arrest warrant.

Last Wednesday, South Sudan top negotiator Pagan Amum who is also the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General said Bashir will not be arrested because “we have problems to settle first” on top of the fact that his country is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

But Luka Biong, another senior SPLM figure, suggested that the venue of the meeting should be changed so it does not compromise South Sudan’s international values and moral obligations.

"With due respect to the position of [the SPLM’s] Secretary General, comrade Pagan Amum, I think it would be wise holding the summit elsewhere if the intention is to reach genuine agreement. The venue should actually remain Addis Ababa," Biong told Sudan Tribune last Sunday.

Bashir is charged by the court of masterminding war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. His travel has been limited since the warrant to friendly nations that can guarantee his safety from extradition to the ICC.

Last week, a coalition of major civil society organisations in South Sudan issued a statement rejecting the position of SPLM SG and called for Bashir’s arrest.

They asserted that South Sudan can arrest Bashir under Article 86 of the Rome Statute because the case against him was referred to the International Criminal Court by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). As South Sudan became the UN’s 193rd state after seceding from the north it has the right to arrest Bashir, the activists say.

Sudan’s PCP says Khartoum may soon come under attack

March 21, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese capital Khartoum may come under attack in the coming days, an official with the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) said today.

Kamal Omer of the Popular Congress Party (Reuters)

Al-Nagi Abdullah, PCP Secretary General in Khartoum, did not specify what group will launch the attack but said the information was obtained from government sources.

The PCP official said the situation now requires confronting the realities and not "burying heads in the sand". He called for revising government policies and listening to the voice of reason to deflect dangers facing the country.

Three of Darfur’s main rebel groups along with the Sudan people Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) formed the Sudan Revolutionary Fund (SRF) with the stated goal of toppling the regime in Khartoum. It also declared that they will carry operations in all of Sudan in a war of attrition before marching on Khartoum.

Last Sunday the spokesman of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said they are monitoring SPLM-N movements for a fresh attack in South Kordofan but he did not speak of any threats to Khartoum.

In May 2008, the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched a surprise attack on the capital before being repelled. JEM is also part of the SRF.

Khartoum is battling rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan amid accusations by the Sudanese government that Juba is aiding the armed movements.

In a related issue, the PCP politburo chief Kamal Omer said he expects no meeting between the party’s leader Hassan al-Turabi and president Omer Hassan al-Bashir as part of an ongoing initiative to unite Islamists.

Omer said the ruling party always seeks reconciliation when faced with big crises. He added that a Turabi-Bashir meeting can take place only if the latter agrees to step down and hand over power.

The PCP official noted that his party endorsed regime change as a strategic choice. Omer accused the ruling party of destroying the Islamic agenda in Sudan through its policies.

Turabi, who was close to President Bashir before a bitter power struggle and split in 1999/2000, has been in and out of jail since he formed his Popular Congress Party. He is accused by Sudanese authorities of being the mastermind behind JEM.

Sudan warns journalists against contacting rebel leaders

March 20, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The speaker of Sudan’s National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Tahir, has accused journalists who contact rebel leaders of committing “high-treason,” stressing the need to bar publishing of rebels’ viewpoints in local newspapers.

Sudanese newspapers are already under strict orders by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) to avoid publishing statements by, or interviews with, leaders of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) and other rebel groups from the Western region of Darfur.

In January this year, the NISS closed the pro-opposition Ra’y al-Sha’b newspaper after it published an interview with one of the leaders of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement.

“We must draw a line between us and those who take up arms against us,” Al-Tahir said during a meeting of the security and defense committee of the Sudanese parliament on Monday.

Al-Tahir said that it is important to protect the morale of army soldiers who are fighting the rebels in the bush, asking what their feelings would be like when they read statements of rebel leaders in newspapers.

He added that there is no justification whatsoever for journalists to contact rebel leaders and publish their views.

Such action, according to Sudan’s top parliamentarian, amounts to “high-treason” and can be classified as an issue of espionage.

The Sudanese parliament is preparing to pass an anti-espionage law that activists and journalists fear would serve to escalate what they describe as a campaign to intimidate them.

Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir warned in an interview last week that his government would not tolerate any negative comments by journalists against the army.

The Sudanese army is fighting rebel groups on a number of fronts including the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as the western region of Darfur.

Sudan’s top university re-opens amid heightened tension

March 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The University of Khartoum re-opened its doors on Sunday after being closed for two months following clashes between police and students.

Sudan’s most prestigious university was suspended in December after its students staged a series of protests against the university’s administration and the police whose members raided the main campus twice and used violence to stamp out demonstrations held in solidarity with Al-Manasir, a community displaced by the construction of a government dam upcountry.

Later in February, the police raided the university’s dorms and arrested over 300 students in anticipation of a planned protest.

The returning students were surprised to see that security has been beefed up in and around the campus. More guards were placed at the gates and surveillance cameras were installed.

According to the second vice-president, Al-Haj Adam Youssef, the new measures adopted by the university’s administration are “designed to safeguard the course of study after the appearance of the security breakdowns that led to the suspension of the university”, as reported by the Sudanese Media Center, a government-backed website.

Youssef attributed the events at Khartoum University to what he described as the infiltration of the students rank-and-file by people seeking political agendas. He further warned that any future protest “using violence or arms will be met with a decisive response.”

Meanwhile, the committee of Khartoum University Students on Sunday issued a statement reiterating demands that the university must sack its director and compensate the students affected by the violent events. The committee also insisted that the police must make a public apology for raiding the camp.

In a related development, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has accused opposition parties, namely the Popular Congress Party of Hassan Al-Turabi and the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), of plotting to mobilize their student members in three of the country’s universities to take to the streets in protest.

In a press conference held in Khartoum on Sunday, the political secretary of the NCP’s student sector, Ismail Ali Yaqub, warned opposition parties against taking to the street or inciting Khartoum University’s students protest.

He further sought to discredit the committee of Khartoum University Students, describing it as “suspicious” and saying it is made up of communists and students affiliated to Darfur rebel groups.

Yaqub accused the committee of seeking to execute agendas different from the ones sought by Khartoum University’s students. He went to threaten that their student members are ready to use force in response to opposition students.

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