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March 2013 - Posts

Sudan’s opposition dismiss VP Taha’s call for dialogue as political maneuver

March 29, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – A day after Sudan’s 1st Vice President Ali Osman Taha made a call on rebels and opposition alike to renounce violence and agree to dialogue, doubts were cast over the motives behind it and whether it was genuine or not.

Mubarak al-Fadil, leader of the dissolved Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP), considered the press conference which was held by Taha on Tuesday as a move to “market” himself as a successor for president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir who made public his intention not to seek a new term in 2015.

Taha said that "President Al-Bashir who I knew is sincere in his words", asserting that the final decision on Al-Bashir’s political future will be determined by the institutions of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudanese people.

Al-Fadil said in a statement on Wednesday that the country is "torn apart" and the Sudanese blood is "heavily flowing" and stressed there is no time for "maneuvering and deception".

The opposition figure called on Bashir to stop the bloodshed and hand over power to a transitional government backed by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). The interim government, according to al-Fadil, should be responsible for holding a constitutional conference which will bring an end to the civil war and offer a framework for solving Sudan’s governance crisis.

He said that Taha presented himself as a savior of the country when he called the opposition forces to participate in the dialogue over a new constitution as if he wasn’t responsible for the humanitarian, political and economic crisis which has befallen in the country under this regime which he said is to blame for the secession of South Sudan as well as war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

Al-Fadil accused the government of impoverishing and humiliating Sudanese people as well as weakening the army, adding that Taha’s call for national dialogue lacks credibility because it comes at a time when the opposition leaders and political activists are stuck in prisons and detention centers only because they participated in a national dialogue conference on the future of governance and how to achieve peace in Sudan.

He was referring to the ’New Dawn’ charter of which he was a signatory earlier this year in Uganda that infuriated the NCP over clauses related to preventing exploitation of religion in political activities and restructuring state institutions.

Several figures which took part in the signing were swiftly arrested upon their return to Khartoum and remain in detention.

Taha had suggested that as relations with the South improve there is a less restrictive political atmosphere within Sudan

"We don’t see anything new in that. It is the same line," Farouk Abu Issa, who heads the opposition alliance called the National Consensus Forces (NCF) of more than 20 parties told Agence France Presse (AFP) in Khartoum.

Bashir Adam Rahma, foreign relations secretary of the Popular Congress party (PCP), told same news agency that the government "junta" has a history of calling for dialogue "on their own terms".

Rahma said opposition wants to be part of a "transitional administration" which would include rebels and the NCP.

Taha also called on leaders of the Sudan people Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) Malik Agar and Abdulaziz al-Hilu fighting Khartoum in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states to take part in drafting the new constitution.

Sudan has been strongly resisting regional and international pressure to negotiate with SPLM-N rebels, calling its leaders outlaws and issuing arrest warrants for them.

But this month Sudanese officials expressed readiness to sit down with SPLM-N on the basis of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

President Kiir’s office disputes amount of money stolen

March 28, 2013 (JUBA) – The office of South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit has that confirmed cash money was stolen from the presidential compound and called for a thorough investigation into the criminal act.

Kiir’s office on Wednesday issued a press release in response to yesterday’s in which it confirmed the incident, but disputed the amount of the missing money.

The statement, a copy of which was seen, explained that the combined amount of US dollars and South Sudanese pounds (SSP) that was stolen was in hundreds of thousands and not in millions.

A senior aide close to the president on Tuesday said that around six million in cash of South Sudanese pounds and US dollars was robbed by unknown suspects.

The communications department however said the amount stolen was comrpised of approximately 176,000 South Sudanese Pound (SSP) and $14,000 respectively.

The press release further explained that part of the cash was to be used to pay salaries of junior staff that did not have bank accounts in which to deposit their monthly salaries in accordance with the payroll system.

The rest of the money was meant for special projects including the opening of a new section in the presidential complex.

Kiir’s office further emphasized that the robbery took place in the "administrative block of the general Office of the President complex".

"At no time was the actual Office of the President compromised or vulnerable, as it is located in a separate and fully enclosed compound. Security around the Office of the President is extremely controlled and the safety of the President was never compromised".

It further assured that the authorities were carrying out an investigation and that details will be made available upon its conclusion.

“The necessary authorities, including the Presidential Protection Unit and the Police (CID Unit) are involved in the investigation. The investigation is currently under due process, and further details will only be made available upon its conclusion. Additional security and safety measures have been put in place to ensure that the same type of incident is not repeated,” reads the last paragraph of the one-page document.

South Sudan’s information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin admitted money was stolen, but said media reports should have specified the exact amount and which part of the president’s office was involved.

"As you know, the president’s office is very large and comprises several sections. But the administration has launched investigations into the matter, which was very unfortunate," Marial said Thursday.

Millions in cash money stolen from President Kiir’s office in Juba

March 27, 2013 (WASHINGTON) - “It was shocking news to me when I woke up one morning to learn that millions in cash money which was stored in the President’s office had gone missing,” a senior aide close to South Sudan President, Salva Kiir Mayardit.

Rumors have been circulating for days among ordinary people in the streets that a big sum of money kept in the President’s office was stolen by unknown individuals.

“It was [such] a big embarrassment that we didn’t want to talk about [it],” said the anonymous official who feared to reveal his identity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The incident occurred over the weekend when a combined cash of millions in South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) and U.S. dollars just vanished from the office despite tight security provided by the President’s protection unit in the compound.

When asked, the official could not explain why such a huge sum of cash, which he said was around six million, was kept inside the office and not in the bank.

An investigation was to be carried out in secrecy, he said, in order to avoid public outcry and because of the awareness on its negative implications on the highest office of the land.

South Sudan has been badly haunted by allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public resources. President Kiir last year had to write a letter to 75 of his officials asking them to return billions of suspected stolen money but no positive response has been publicly made known.

Controversial job posting rattles Sudan’s labor ministry

March 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – An uproar triggered by a job advertisement posted this week in a local newspaper to recruit Sudanese women to work in Kuwait, opened the door to allegations of massive fraud and corruption in a government body.

The Minister of Human Resources Development and Labor Ishraqa Sayed Mahmoud, has accused four members in her ministry’s workers’ union of standing behind this job posting to pressure her into backing down from her decision to strictly prohibit collecting fees without the issuance of an official receipt known as (Form-15).

The ad which was published by the ministry and appeared in the widely distributed pro-government al-Intibaha newspaper said it seeks "good looking" and "fair skinned" women between the ages of 21-35 to work as receptionists in the Arab Gulf state of Kuwait.

The applicants who responded to the ad were required to send 3 colored full-body photographs showing from different angles and also furnish information about their height, weight as well as details about their health history and past surgeries.

The ministry came under fire from media, preachers and prominent figures for allowing a “racist” ad which implied solicitation for sex workers. Some columnists even called for the resignation of the minister.

Al-Intibaha newspaper has since published an apology and the recruiting agency was suspended.

Minister Mahmoud who spoke at a press conference on Sunday said that a statement released by the workers’ union accusing her of approving the advertisement is strong proof of the union’s role in the posting.

“I won’t back down [from requiring Form-15], this makes me more resolute and determined”, she said and underscored that she will fight for the peoples’ rights even if it leads to “my departure from the ministry” in her war against what she described as interest groups that were affected by her decision.

Mahmoud disclosed that an internal investigation revealed that the former Chief Financial and Administrative Officer of the ministry was involved in a massive corruption scandal. According to her, the senior official committed (14) financial and administrative violations, the least of which was receiving a monthly incentive of 26,000 Sudanese pounds (SDG).

She pointed out that these violations were referred to the attorney general and Inspector general for investigation.

The minister went on to accuse some members of the worker’s union of illegally owning recruitment offices which she claimed raised suspicions that the ministry is issuing bogus employment contracts and charging huge amounts of money.

She qualified her statements however, saying that not all union members are corrupt.

“The corrupt members are only four” Mahmoud said.

The minister disclosed that 300,000 SDG is collected monthly inside the ministry illegally without (Form-15) receipt, but noted that this money does not go to the staff members.

US embassy in Khartoum resumes consular services

March 25, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The US embassy in sudan will resume full consular services on Monday, following a six month closure after the compound was targeted in violent protests in the Sudanese capital.

According to a statement extended on Sunday, the embassy announced that the consular section will resume services for American citizens and will once again be offering visitors’ visas.

The embassy’s information resource centre, which offers books, journals, DVDs, videos, online resources and free internet, will also re-open to the public.

The diplomatic mission has essentially offered only emergency services since 14 September when thousands of protesters attacked the American, British and German embassies in Khartoum, after a wave of anti-western sentiment swept the Islamic world, sparked by a US-made film seen to be denigrating the prophet Mohammad.

Two Sudanese protesters died after thousands of demonstrators attempted to break in to the embassy in Khartoum’s outer suburb of Soba.

The Sudanese government mobilised some 250 police force to protect the compound, with security forces managing to push back demonstrations, including three protestors who managed to scale the perimeter wall.

Protesters had initially targeted the German embassy, storming through the outer wall and setting fire to a car near the gates before moving on to the nearby British embassy, which suffered only minor damage in the attack.

Following the incident, the US State Department announced it was withdrawing all non-essential diplomatic staff in Sudan, also issuing parallel travel warnings to American citizens.

An emergency message issued by the embassy informing American citizens in Khartoum of the closure, urged them to avoid coming to the embassy “for any reason”.

The Sudanese government reportedly denied a request by the US to send a specialised team of anti-terrorism marines to protect its mission in Khartoum.

US embassies across the Muslim and Arab world were targeted in a series of violent protests as outrage over the low-budget film spread, including Libya, where US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other employees were killed when demonstrators stormed the consulate.

Darfur rebels to hold consultations before signing peace agreement

Darfur rebels to hold consultations before signing peace agreement

March 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Justice and Equality Movement of Mohamed Basher (JEM-Bashar) asked to suspend the Doha negotiations for more consultations before to take a decision on the signing of a peace agreement with the Sudanese government.

The rebel group, which broke away in September 2012, holds talks with the Sudanese government on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) since last January.

JEM-Bashar asked to ensure the full implementation of DDPD and to increase funds related to the voluntary return programme. They also demanded to review the number of posts they would get in the national and regional institutions.

Sudan’s chief negotiator state minister Amin Hassan Omer told reporters after his return to Khartoum on Friday that JEM-Bashar demanded hold more consultations before to sign a peace agreement with the government.

He said that the two parties reached a final compromise and submitted it to the mediation which recommended to sign it, he further pointed out.

Qatar plans to hold a donor conference on 7 and 8 April.

The two sides said that they are pressed by the host-country to positively conclude the talks before this date arguing that such outcome would encourage donors to fund recovery and development projects.

The Sudanese minister who is also tasked with the DDPD follow-up implementation mechanism said that JEM-Bashar negotiating team announced its return on Tuesday 26 March.

Mohamed Bashar was in Doha three weeks ago and returned to Darfur via the Chadian capital.

The Liberation and Justice Movement of Tijani Al-Sissi is participating in the talks and they are part of the government delegation.

Sudanese police fire teargas to break up protest Called by the opposition forces

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s addressing supporters at Sudan’s embassy in Riyadh November, 9 201

Khartoum March 24, 2013  - Sudan police fired teargas and used batons on Saturday to break up a demonstration of opposition party members over the detention of several activists and politicians, witnesses said.

About 40 members of the African country's main opposition parties had gathered in front of the house of Sudan's first post-independence president in the Omdurman area of Khartoum, giving speeches and chanting.

"The people want to overthrow the regime," they chanted, and, "Freedom, freedom."

Police fired teargas at the protesters and used batons to disperse them, the witnesses said. There was no immediate comment from the police.

Small protests have broken out in Sudan over rising food prices and cuts to government fuel subsidies over the last two years, but the country has avoided the sort of mass unrest that unseated rulers in neighboring Egypt and Libya.

The protesters, who included members of the Umma, Popular Congress and Communist parties, were protesting against the detention of activists and politicians who had attended a meeting with armed rebel groups in Uganda early this year.

The secession of oil-producing South Sudan in July 2011 stoked high inflation after a loss of foreign currency led to a depreciation in the Sudanese pound and made it more expensive to import food and fuel.

McFarlane's apartment searched for Sudan lobbying

March 21, 2013 WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has searched the apartment of former Reagan administration national security adviser Robert McFarlane for evidence of whether he lobbied on behalf of the government of Sudan in violation of federal law.
 
A search warrant on file in U.S. District Court in Washington shows agents seized items this month including handwritten notes about Sudan and White House documents with classification markings up to Top Secret.

It is against the law for Americans to do business with Sudan because of its alleged support for international terrorism and human rights violations, among other things. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has been charged by the International Criminal Court with genocide and other crimes during the deadly conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region.

In an accompanying affidavit, FBI agent Grayden R. Ridd cited a host of emails between McFarlane and Sudanese government officials obtained prior to the search.

"I believe that these emails are evidence that McFarlane was entering into an agreement with the government of Sudan to lobby the U.S. government officials on behalf of Sudan and to provide it advice during negotiations with the United States," Ridd wrote. He said he believed the emails are also evidence of an attempt by McFarlane and a Sudanese government official "to hide McFarlane's relationship with Sudan by construing the agreement to make it appear that his contractual relationship was with Qatar, when in fact it was not."

The affidavit said that the FBI investigation has established that in February 2009, McFarlane entered into a one-year agreement with the government of Sudan to act as its consultant and to lobby the U.S. government on its behalf.

Ridd wrote that the source of the emails to McFarlane appeared to be someone from the Sudanese intelligence service.

The affidavit is listed as "under seal" but is viewable online.

The FBI is also investigating whether McFarlane violated a law that requires anyone working as a foreign agent of another country to disclose that to the Foreign Agent Registration Act Unit of the Justice Department.

The investigation into McFarlane was first reported by The Washington Post.

McFarlane has not been charged with a crime. The case is being handled by the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia. A spokesman for the office, Peter Carr, said McFarlane is cooperating with the ongoing investigation and, through his counsel, has asserted his innocence.

McFarlane's lawyer, Barry Levine, did not immediately return telephone and email messages Thursday. Levine told The Post that McFarlane didn't violate any laws.

"He has devoted his entire adult life to the interests of this country, and he cares deeply about the people of Darfur," Levine told the newspaper.

Sudanese president al-Bashir confirms he will stand down by 2015

March 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Bashir has reiterated his intention to step at the end of his term in 2015, saying Sudan is in need of “fresh blood”.

In an interview with Qatar’s Al Shraq newspaper due to be published on Wednesday, Bashir said deliberations were now underway within the National Congress Party (NCP) to select a new presidential candidate for the next general elections.

He said the new leader will be named at NCP’s general convention next year.

“Elections will be held in two years and this gives them sufficient time to choose their candidate, God willing,” he said.

“It is not about who will be the candidate, it is rather about how the NCP selects its coming leader,” he said, ruling out any possibility that the party would nominate him again for the top job.

“No, we [have] had enough. We spent more than 20 years [as president] and this is more than enough. Sudanese people are looking for fresh blood and a new impetus in order to continue on what we have begun,” he said, adding that the party was well-positioned to contest the next election.

Bashir did not address rumours about his health nor the hanging arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The 68-year-old president underwent throat surgery last August in Qatar performed, which was only officially acknowledged weeks after.

He underwent a second operation in Saudi Arabia last November, with officials saying he was advised to cut down on his public appearances.

This month, he secretly flew to Saudi Arabia again for a medical checkup, according to a presidential source.

Bashir has been ruling Sudan since taking power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.

In 2009 he became the first sitting head of state to be served with an arrest warrant from the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Darfur conflict, which according to the UN, led to the death of 300,000 people and displacement of 2.7 million in 2003-2004.

He had previously made public his intention to step down at the end of his term in 2015, but last month second vice-president Al-Haj Adam Youssef said that Bashir would be renominated for a new term.

COUP PLOT TRIAL BEGINS

In the interview, Bashir was also quizzed about the status of investigations in to a recent coup attempt to overthrow the government and the possibility that those involved had external connections.

“Let me assure you that this group doesn’t have any connections to a third-party, they are purely Sudanese elements. Their trial has begun and the court held the first hearing and we will be waiting for the court’s ruling”, he said, without providing further details.

Sudanese authorities arrested 13 suspects last November, following the failed coup plot, including ex-spy chief Salah Gosh and Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) who also served as Bashir’s bodyguard at one point.

The trial of military personnel accused of involvement in the plot began on Thursday in Khartoum amid intense secrecy.

NORTH-SOUTH RELATIONS

Asked to comment on the prospects for future cooperation with the South, Bashir reiterated to Al Shraq that despite their often thorny relationship, South Sudan remained Sudan’s closest neighbour and vice versa, with existing ties and interests irrevocably linking the two.

Under an agreement inked in Addis Ababa on 12 March, South Sudan has agreed to resume oil production, ending a bitter deadlock over border and security issues that had threatened to send both countries back to war.

Landlocked South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrel-per-day crude output in January last year over a dispute on how much it should pay to pump its oil through Sudanese pipelines to the Red Sea.

The closure had a devastating effect on the economies of both countries, which are heavily dependent on oil revenues, and worsened ongoing disagreements over territory and other issues left unresolved between the two countries following South Sudan’s secession in July 2011.

Bashir conceded that Sudan’s "enemies" continued to target it through South Sudan, adding that any positive developments in relations between the two countries was likely to lead to increased foreign meddling in their national affairs.

“However, we bet on our relationship with our brothers in South Sudan because they know well that their interests are connected to ours. We aren’t only talking about exporting the Southern oil, although it is the only source of income for our brothers in South Sudan as they don’t have any other tapped resources to substitute for it”, he said.

“We also refer to the old and continuing relations, be it demographic, cultural, economic, or trade relations because we were once one country for a hundred years”, he added.

Bashir dismissed alternative route options through Kenya and Ethiopia which had been flagged during the long-running stalemate, saying Sudan remained the only economically feasible option to pump South Sudan’s oil for export.

Khartoum signs a peace deal with a Darfur breakaway faction

March 19, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government signed an agreement with a breakaway faction from Sudan’s Liberation Movement of Abdel Wahid Nur (SLM-AW) called “Darfur Front for Injustice Rebuttal”.

The chairman of the Ministry of Defense and the National Intelligence and Security Service joint liaison committee for contact with rebel groups Major General Jamal Omer said that they reached a mutual understanding with the dissident group which is comprised of 10 field commanders, 500 armed soldiers and 16 Land Cruiser vehicles.

The group will be integrated into the armed forces and other regular forces according to the regulations of the Sudanese Armed forces (SAF).

Omer also announced in a press conference yesterday that they are in contact with a number of armed groups in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile saying that a series of agreements with them will be signed soon.

He pointed out that the strength of this SLM-AW dissident group stems from its sincere desire and intention to enter into peace as well as its deep understanding of the challenges ahead.

For its part, the dissident group said it became convinced that the leader of the (SLA- AW) Abdel Wahid Nur doesn’t have a true and genuine will to arrive at a peaceful solution for the Darfur crisis, adding that the SLM-AW has fallen prey to foreign powers and turned into a racist movement.

They also stated that their understandings with the government has addressed the root causes of the crisis and offered the adequate solutions.

But sources told that the dissident group has nothing to do with the SLM-AW though they acknowledged that there is some kind of understanding between them because they are stationed in Jebel Marra which is the stronghold of the SLM-AW.

They further said that this particular faction is active in kidnapping foreign workers for ransom and that all the group members belong to the pro-government Arab tribes.

The same source claimed that all group members are part of the government Border Patrol Forces and are still in the Sudanese government’s payroll, describing this agreement as a “political drama” aimed at weakening rebels’ movements.

Ethiopia blocks Al Jazeera news website

March 18, 2013 (PARIS) - The website of Qatar-based news organisation Al Jazeera has been blocked in Ethiopia, raising questions over the country’s commitment to press freedom, under the new leadership of prime minister.

According to reports and the website’s users in Ethiopia, the English and Arabic websites of Al Jazeera have been inaccessible during the last six months.

An investigation by Al Jazeera indicated that traffic from Ethiopia to their English-language website plummeted from 50,000 hits in July 2012 to just 114 in September.

The Arabic website also saw a drop to almost zero in September, down from 5,371 in July last year.

The sharp decline in Al Jazeera’s traffic data began in early August.

A blogger, speaking on condition of anonymity, alleged that Al Jazeera was targeted by Ethiopian censors after the news website began to give wider coverage over ongoing Muslim protests against the government’s alleged “interference” in the affairs of the country’s Islamic communities.

According to Ethiopia’s last census in 2007 around 25 million (34%) of the Christian-dominated East African nation are Muslim.

As well as the coverage of Muslim protests, Al Jazeera English also published an article on deadly ethnic clashes between two rival tribes in the country’s south.

Authorities including the state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Cooperation have not yet provided any official explanation over the allegations.

Ethiopian officials were unavailable for comment on Monday.

The Horn of Africa nation has a growing reputation for blocking access to dissident news sites, blogs and other local and exiled news sites critical of the government.

Addis Ababa has previously blocked US-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) and the German Amharic radio, accusing them of violating the ethics of journalism by broadcasting what it described as “destabilising propaganda”.

The actions brought widespread condemnation from international press freedom groups. 

Darfur’s Al-Sissi says he is ready to abandon post in favour of rebels

March 17, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The chairman of Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Dr Tijani Al-Sissi said he is ready to give up his post in favour of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) or Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdel-Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW), provided that they embrace all factions without exclusion.

Al-Sissi, who was speaking at the Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies in Cairo on Thursday, said that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) is being kept open for those who want to join it.

The DRA chief was on a visit to Cairo accompanied by the Sudanese minister of investments Mustafa Osman Ismail where they met Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi to invite his country to take part in the Darfur donors conference taking place next month in Qatar.

He set the four priorities of the regional authority as being voluntary return of more than 1.5 million displaced, including one million displaced people in refugee camps; implementation of reconstruction and development programs; repairing the social fabric which has been ruptured by the war and sustaining security in Darfur.

The DDPD was finalised at the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference in May 2011 in Doha. In mid-July the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed a protocol agreement committing themselves to the document.

The Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), SLM-AW) and JEM refused to sign the accord and remain at war with Khartoum.

Al-Sissi said he is optimistic about the cooperation deal which was signed between Khartoum and Juba earlier this week and expressed hope about its positive impact on the situation in Darfur, explaining that South Sudan had constantly sought to fuel the crisis in Sudan’s western region in order to use it as a negotiating card.

He noted that the economic crisis in Sudan led to a delay in fulfilling the government’s commitment to provide funding estimated at $2 billion dollars to the regional authority, which in turn led to delays in fulfilling DRA’s mandate.

The LJM chief, however, said that funding has started to flow and disclosed that Qatar has also pledged $560 million to construct villages for returnees.

Sudan’s minister of investment, who was speaking at the same forum, said that al-Sissi became governor of Greater Darfur when he was only 31 years old and so he understands well the region’s needs in terms of development, stability and political reconciliation.

Ismail pointed out that revolutions of the Arab Spring have positively impacted Darfur by eliminating external interventions, particularly Libyan interference, adding that Sudan enjoys good relations with six of its seven neighbouring countries, mentioning that the latest cooperation agreement with South Sudan will have a positive impact on the Darfur crisis as well.

War broke out in the western region of Darfur over a decade ago and has raged ever since despite two peace accords and the presence of the world’s largest peacekeeping mission.

Sudan’s president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum dismisses the court as an agent of Western neo-imperialism.

In 2008, the United Nations said some 300,000 people may have died in Darfur’s war, a figure some activists say is too low. The government has put the death toll at around 10,000.

While violence is down from its peak in 2003 and 2004, new fighting has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year, according to the United Nations.

In December, the outgoing US special adviser for Darfur, Dane Smith, said Sudan had implemented little of the Doha deal, which was hindered by a lack of funding, the failure to disarm militias and attacks on peacekeepers.

Rebels fight Sudanese government troops in south Darfur

Sat Mar 16, 2013  - KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels said on Saturday they had killed more than 200 soldiers in South Darfur, but the government said its troops had suffered only a "number" of casualties and repulsed an ambush.

War broke out in the western region of Darfur over a decade ago and has raged ever since despite two peace accords and the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping mission.

The main insurgent groups, who accuse the government of marginalizing the region's ethnic minorities, have refused to join a Qatar-backed peace process that led to a deal between Khartoum and an umbrella of smaller rebel factions in 2011.

While violence is down from its peak in 2003 and 2004, new fighting has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year, according to the United Nations.

On Saturday, rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army faction loyal to veteran fighter Minni Minnawi said they attacked a government convoy near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.

"Nothing of note survived of the convoy," they said in a statement. They said they killed 260 government troops and militia fighters - an unusually high number to claim.

The army contradicted this account, saying it had repulsed the ambush and had killed and wounded around 100 rebels. The armed forces only suffered "a number" of casualties, the army's spokesman said in a report by state news agency SUNA.

Both sides frequently give conflicting reports of fighting, each claiming victory over the other. Events in Darfur are hard to independently verify because of restrictions on media access to the region.

Donors are scheduled to meet in Doha next month at a conference to raise money for development projects and other provisions of the 2011 peace deal.

In December, the outgoing U.S. special adviser for Darfur said Sudan had implemented little of the deal, which was hindered by a lack of funding, the failure to disarm militias and attacks on peacekeepers.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum dismisses the court as an agent of Western neo-imperialism.

In 2008, the United Nations said some 300,000 people may have died in Darfur's war, a figure some activists say is too low. The government has put the death toll around 10,000.

Sudan coup attempt trial shrouded in secrecy

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s addressing supporters at Sudan’s embassy in Riyadh November, 9 201

March 16, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The trial of military personnel accused of involvement in a coup plot which Sudanese authorities allegedly foiled several months ago began on Thursday amid intense secrecy.

Authorities announced last November that they had arrested 13 suspects, including ex-spy chief Salah Gosh and Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), on suspicion of standing behind a “subversive attempt”.

The trial, which is taking place at the army’s weapons brigade in Khartoum’s northern suburb of Alkadaro, was confined to those suspects belonging to the SAF, while prosecution of those belonging to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), including Gosh, was postponed to a later date.

An informed source told that military court officials informed detained army officers led by Abdel-Galil that they will be brought before the court on Thursday.

A defence team comprising of Omer Abdalla Elshiekh, Hashim Abubakr Elgaali, and others has been formed.

The same source said that prosecutors found no evidence to prove the involvement of Gosh in the alleged coup plot.

Abdel-Galil made a forceful plea to the court, the source said, admitting his involvement in the coup before the judge.

According to the source, the veteran SAF officer and former commander of the Presidential Guard, addressed the court directly, saying “Yes, I was going to overthrow the government, and if I am released, I am going to do it again. You have two options: either to execute me or release me”.

The court session was adjourned in the afternoon, with the defence team allowed to sit with the defendants before they were returned to detention amid tight security measures.

The next court session is expected to be held on Sunday in the same place, although there is speculation that the proceedings may be transferred to another location.

An influential Islamic leader has predicted that suspects will be sentenced to15 years imprisonment, with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir likely to order a general amnesty and retirement from service for all officers involved.

The source ruled out the release of Gosh, saying “he has enemies inside and outside the regime, most notably presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie”.

Gosh’s defence team plans to submit a motion to the court demanding that he be tried or released.

Sudanese authorities aborted the attempt to overthrow the regime just before dawn on 22 November.

The subsequent arrest of more than a dozen senior security and army officers considered Islamist loyalists sent shockwaves through the country at the time.

Details of the alleged plot remain unclear after a number of government officials gave conflicting statements about the events.

A government spokesperson said at the time that those named in the plot were planning to destabilise security, as well as spreading false rumours about the health of 68-year old president, who has undergone two throat surgeries since August in Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively.

However, the lack of a coherent explanation by officials on the coup attempt led many observers to believe that the incident was indicative of is a power struggle within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) aimed at eliminating disenfranchised Islamist elements.

Government critics also claimed the coup attempt was concocted as an attempt to either target opposition parties or create a distraction from the possibility of a worsening economic crisis.

The NISS at first said that the “subversive attempt” was led by opposition figures but the main opposition coalition National Consensus Forces (NCF), which consists of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the National Umma Party (NUP), denied the accusation, saying that whatever happened was an indication of growing dissent within the NCP.

Later Nafie said in a TV interview that the NUP leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was aware of the coup plans but refused to go into details.

Authorities have not charged any NUP figure in connection with the coup attempt.

Egypt’s Morsi to visit Sudan in April

March 15, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The chairman of Egypt’s governing Freedom and Justice party (FJP), Saad El-Katatni said today that Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is expected to visit to Sudan in early April, declaring that Egypt can surpass its difficult economic conditions by investing in Sudan.

Al-Katatni, who was speaking at a joint news conference with deputy chairman of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Nafie Ali Nafie in Khartoum, said the visit had been arranged through diplomatic missions and “according to my personal information, Morsi will be in Khartoum early April”.

Some Sudanese officials have privately expressed disappointment with Morsi for not making Khartoum his first destination following his election in June 2011.

Last month the head of Egyptian affairs at the Sudanese foreign ministry Esam Awad criticized Cairo for stonewalling the Four Freedoms agreement signed in 2004 and for failing to return 100 vehicles belonging to Sudanese gold miners who entered into Egypt by mistake.

Awad stressed that Sudan did not forfeit its sovereignty claims over the disputed border triangle of Halayeb but added that the time is not ripe for discussing the matter because of the current political instability in Egypt.

Nafie echoed the sentiment saying that Sudan doesn’t want to distract the Egyptian government by raising the issue of Halayeb while it addresses difficult internal political challenges, stressing that the dispute will not affect “eternal relations” between the two countries.

On Egyptian investments in Sudan, al-Katatni said that Khartoum made huge efforts to overcome obstacles, stressing that an earlier visit by al-Bashir to Egypt had opened the door for increased Egyptian investments in Sudan.

For his part, Nafie expressed confidence that Cairo will work to correct the situation created by the ex-regime who he says was harboring Sudanese opposition and armed movements.

The Sudanese ambassador in Cairo filed a complaint this month with the Egyptian government this month for hosting some of the rebel figures on its territory who held meetings with several Egyptian parties.

Nafie praised the popular relations between Egypt and Sudan, while slamming “undemocratic” opposition parties in both countries whom he says are refusing to engage in dialogue.

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