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June 2013 - Posts

Sudan’s al-Mahdi speech does little to quell doubts about his position on regime change

June 30, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi addressed a mass rally in Sudan’s twin capital of Omdurman in which he called for establishing a new regime in the country in a rare show of force.

But hundreds of his supporters who attended the pre-planned gathering expressed disappointment at al-Mahdi’s speech and some even clashed with other NUP members who were in attendance.

The former Prime Minister was interrupted at times by his supporters who chanted anti-government slogans and called for toppling the regime of the National Congress Party (NCP).

"Calm down….You came to hear me not for me to hear you," a bemused al-Mahdi said in response to them.

"This is our way…If you don’t like it then you can show yourself out," he told a disappointed section of his supporters.

At one point al-Mahdi accused some of seeking to hijack the party to a certain direction "to achieve special interest" and urged his supporters to stand in the way of those working to sabotage on behalf of foreign powers "who should be isolated".

Al-Mahdi called on the government to listen to the voice of reason saying that a quarter of a century is more than enough to open a new page and form a national government.

"My brother Mr. President, don’t listen to voices that says there is no opposition, especially from sham parties…opposition is now at its peak and you have to grab the historic opportunity to be a consensual president," he said.

He accused the government of bad policies that split the country into two, allowed for international intervention, breeding extremist Islamic factions, mismanagement of money during the oil boom that neglected crucial productive sectors and destroyed civil service.

"The regime that seized power through a coup and established empowerment through exclusion and making people poor, abusing human rights, tore the country and subjected it to internationalization so it deserves to be asked to leave; Leave!" he said.

"We are working to establish a new system that frees the country from tyranny and corruption and achieve complete democratic transformation, comprehensive and just peace and our means to achieve this is through mobilization and sit-ins and all the available methods except violence and utilizing the outside [foreign forces]" al-Mahdi added.

The NUP chief also expressed readiness to work with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) but only if they drop arms and work for a peaceful settlement.

He warned that if SRF fails to remove the regime by force then they will give it more reason to stay in power and if they succeed then they will establish a regime based on exclusion.

This Sunday marks 24 years since Bashir staged a military coup against the multi-party government led by al-Mahdi.

Prior to today’s rally many expressed doubts about al-Mahdi’s true intentions.

"We do not trust this man; he steals our plans to make it fail and add few more years to the ruling regime plus he is not in good terms with the [Sudan] Revolutionary Front as he fiercely criticized it during the Abu-Kershola events," an opposition figure told this week.

A columnist in the privately owned al-Khartoum newspaper echoed the same sentiments in an op-ed.

"Let us see what al-Mahdi intends to do in the last day of this month, but what this man did in many past initiatives makes us totally non-optimistic [because] he is not someone to be trusted," Hassan Ismail wrote.

"In the last [2010 general] elections he [al-Mahdi] received millions of pounds from the ruling [NCP] party," he added.

Many critics point out to the fact that al-Mahdi’s son Abdel-Rahman has accepted a position as an assistant to president Bashir in late 2012.

They also say that al-Mahdi, who was also Sudan’s last democratically elected Prime Minister before the 1989 coup, has made it a habit to publicly bash other opposition parties and insisting that he does not want to overthrow the regime but rather "change" it.

The NUP leader has made sure to distance his party from last year’s demonstrations that broke out in response to the government’s rollout of austerity measures in response to growing economic pressures caused by the secession of the oil-rich South Sudan.

“We have hosted them [the protesters in our headquarters] but we don’t think that the time has come for us to organise such a movement until we have an alternative regime in place ... and democratic transformation,” al-Mahdi, told the Financial Times newspaper in July 2012.

Some members of the NUP politburo privately say that they believe al-Mahdi has forged a secret deal with the NCP to assure that the opposition party stays away from any attempts to stage mass protests against the regime.

This month al-Mahdi said he does not approve of the 100-day plan to oust the regime announced by the National Consensus Front (NCF) even though a representative of the NUP at the coalition said he took part in formulating the scheme.

Instead he offered a different initiative to change the regime through collecting a million signatures and organizing sit-ins in public squares and other places.

Suspension of ministers on corruption charges not politcally motivated, presidential source

June 29, 2013 (JUBA) - A source in the office of South Sudan president, Salva Kiir has denied allegations that the recent suspension of two senior ministers over a corruption-related case, was politically motivated.

South Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai
      FILE -  Kosti Manibe Ngai.

"President Kiir was simply looking for facts behind why $7 million was transferred to purchase of anti-fire safes on behalf of the government without the knowledge of relevant institutions", source.

Last week, Kiir relieved finance minister Kosti Manibe and his cabinet affairs counterpart, Deng Alor, lifting their immunities so they can be investigated over the request and transfer of $7 million to a private company without knowledge or authorisation of the president or cabinet.

On Monday, however, Manibe responded to his suspension telling the UN-sponsored Miraya FM that the case against him was “political”.

But presidential source told that there was a lot of "misinformation and claims" about the president’s decision to suspend the duo.

"He [Kiir] was not targeting of any [of] these ministers", the source said.

"They [ministers] were actually the closest cabinet members to him. You can tell this by the period of service in the government. They have never been left out in any cabinet changes. This shows the level of trust the president had in them", he stressed.

The only reason for their suspension was to establish the truth behind request and the approval of the money”, the source, who works in the president’s protocol department.

On his recent trip to Botswana, Kiir stated that he was only interested in getting a clear reason and explanation on why the money was requested and transferred without going through the relevant channels.

The process of suspending the two ministers, the official further revealed, started in February, but the president opted not to take action because he wanted the issue to be settled through administrative channels.

"But the people involved failed to show an understanding and instead went as far as insulting him in private meetings, thinking that he (the president) would not get the information", he said, and blamed the two ministers for having shot themselves in their feet.

"The are actually the ones who made the matter worst and they should now reap what they sow”, added the source.

BRIBES FOR CONTRACTS

Angelina Chol, a local businesswoman in the country’s capital Juba, she believes her unwillingness to offer brides has hampered her attempts to win government contracts, despite being able to meet requirements.

She said she had applied to supply fuel, stationeries, furniture and catering services to government bodies, but allegedly refused to to bribe officials involved in the procurement processes at various institutions.

Chol, who owns a hotel and five restaurants in Juba, employs 46 South Sudanese nationals and four foreign workers who assist her in writing proposals and applying for government projects.

“We look for those who can do what they know. We ask you what you can do best and assign you. If you say for example that you know how to prepare local food or a sauce to the extent that it attracts customers to our restaurants, then we hire you immediately. So we look at what one can do best. And the majority of the people we have hired are South Sudanese from different communities because our clients do not come from one ethnic group”, Chol told (ST) on Thursday at Juba town.

One of the main problems facing her businesses is getting hard currencies to enable her buy food items from neigbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda, she said.

“There are things that we buy locally and there are things we bring in from Kenya and Uganda. Things like construction materials, beer and other beverages require hard currencies which are difficult to get because of bureaucracy in banking system”.

Chol says she runs other business projects, which deal with supplying furniture to government and private institutions, after winning bids to supply fuel, stationery and catering services for workshops and conferences by international relief organisations, government agencies or individual groups.

She claimed most of the government contracts meant to be given to the local companies are presently awarded to the foreign companies allegedly because of bribery.

The practice of bribing people to get government contract is rapidly growing deep roots in the South Sudanese economy.

Her exasperation is shared by many South Sudanese who believe corruption in the new nation has worsened, since austerity measures were introduced last year. This follows last year’s oil dispute with Sudan that deprived the young developing nation of 98% of its income.

US companies "interested" in South Sudan’s oil, says ambassador

June 27, 2013 (JUBA) - The US Ambassador to Juba, Susan Page said on Wednesday that companies from her country were interested in South Sudan’s oil, when asked about the subject at a press conference.

The American government helped negotiate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between then government of Sudan and Southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which allowed the South to secede in July 2011.

Ambassador Page disclosed that the US has donated $600 million to the new country in the last six years in aid to towards health, education and agriculture.

South Sudan’s oil industry is dominated by the companies that did deals with Khartoum before secession in 2011, with China, Malaysia and India besides France’s Total which holds a large but unexploited concession in Jonglei state.

Page pointed out that the US government does not "have oil companies as part of their machinery of the government" in the same way as other countries but said that among the US’s "independent" companies "there is a lot of interest oil and gas companies".

American companies were beginning to come to South Sudan, which she said was beginning to open up to more wider investment in the oil industry.

The SPLM government has "divided some of the blocks and sub-divided some of the blocks that have previously been granted and there is real interest in a number of American companies", the Ambassador said.

Many US oil companies are already operating in South Sudan in the field of exploration and logistics, she added.

In January 2012, South Sudan stopped oil production over a dispute with Khartoum, which appeared to have been resolved when export of Southern crude resumed earlier this year.

However, Sudan accused Juba of backing rebels north of the border and has threatened to stop oil production within two months it continues to harbour and support them.

Page noted that most international companies want to see a "stable and peaceful" environment before investing, pointing out that some of the blocks are in areas that "are not all that secured right now such as Jonglei state", where the military is fighting a rebel group which the South claims is backed by Khartoum.

Such issues are "going to be a concern for all big companies" she said but admitted that the "US would like to see more American companies here because they bring value and generally turn to have a more open and transparent process as well as making sure that they helped the communities where they engage."

South Sudan’s oil sector has been criticised in some quarters for lacking transparency by analysts and campaigning groups.

Page said encouraging the government to "abide by the contracts that have already been signed" would be a good thing "because that is very important for the people to know but also to allow for good deals if they can be made with American companies.”.

listen to ‘US Ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, on the country's oil industry’ on Audioboo

U.S. incoming National Security advisor vows to maintain focus on Sudan

June 26, 2013, (WASHINGTON) - The United States ambassador at the United Nations Susan Rice vowed today to continue having north and south Sudan as priority in her new role as president Obama’s National Security adviser .

Rice, who will assume her new post next week, said that improved relations with Khartoum is contingent upon the latter "meeting the most fundamental obligations to its own people".

The U.S. official also noted the suspension of an invitation extended to Sudan’s presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie as announced last week by Washington.

"Wilted Flowerhat we have seen tragically in Darfur and more recently in the Two Areas [Blue Nile & South Kordofan]—and now with Sudan’s violation of the September 27th Agreement with South Sudan reflected in their decision to suspend oil flows, which are not meant to be suspended under the September 27th Agreement but only for technical reasons, not for political reasons—is discouraging and has certainly shaded our view of the timeliness of such an encounter [with Nafie]" Rice said in a press conference at UN headquarters in New York.

"We remain in communication with the leadership in Khartoum. We will continue to do so. But there are important steps that the United States feels ought to be taken to protect the people of Sudan, which is the responsibility of the government, and those have always been central to our interest in and ability to make meaningful progress in improving the relationship," she added.

The invitation by Washington to Nafie, who is also the ruling party’s vice chairman, sparked outrage among lawmakers and activists alike.

But the U.S. administration defended the move saying while it is aware about Nafie’s past, it needs to open lines of communication with senior government officials in Khartoum with the exception of those indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The invitation was revoked however, following Sudan’s decision to shut down the pipelines that transport the oil produced in landlocked South Sudan to export terminals in Port Sudan for it to reach international markets.

Khartoum claimed that Juba continues to aid rebels who have recently stepped up their military offensive in South Kordofan, Darfur and even launched a daring attack on North Kordofan’s second largest town of Um Rawaba.

The Sudanese government downplayed Washington’s decision saying that they were not the ones who asked for the invitation.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since the 90’s after Sudan was placed on the U.S. sanctions list in 1993 for harbouring "international terrorists". It has hosted prominent militants including Osama bin Laden and Carlos the Jackal.

Then-president Bill Clinton imposed the embargo in 1997 over Sudan’s alleged support for international terrorism, efforts to destabilize neighboring governments, and human rights violations.

Sudanese officials frequently voice frustration over what they say is U.S. backtracking on promises to lift sanctions despite cooperation on combating terrorism and allowing South Sudan to peacefully secede in July 2011.

But the U.S. asserts that conflicts in Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan have prevented any move to normalize ties.

Sudan may introduce new cuts on fuel subsidies

Sudan may introduce new cuts on fuel subsidies

June 24, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The Shura (consultative} council of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has endorsed a proposal to lift subsidies further on petroleum products, an informed source told today.

The source said that the increase in prices will be applied in phases on two grades of fuel.

At the NCP Shura Council meeting on Friday, president Omer Hassan al-Bashir hinted to the move in his speech saying that subsidies on fuel and electricity benefit the rich for the most part.

"Any family with more than a single vehicle gets more subsidies than the salary of the Deputy Minister," Bashir said.

The source further revealed that Sudan’s 2nd Vice President al-Haj Adam Youssef told NCP women meeting that increasing fuel prices is inevitable after state failed to get alternatives to plug the budget hole.

VP Youssef said the measure will take effect in the coming days but he also acknowledged that women will bear the brunt of the price increases that will ensue.

Following the independence of South Sudan in July 2011, Khartoum was forced to introduce a contractionary budget that saw the partial lifting of fuel and food subsidies which triggered rare but small demonstrations across the country.

The government defended the measures saying that the country can no longer afford to pay for these subsidies after losing 75% of the oil reserves that are now in South Sudan territory.

Khartoum and Juba signed an agreement last March that will allow landlocked South Sudan to resume transporting its oil through Sudan’s pipelines after suspending it for more than a year in a row over transit fees.

Sudan will receive a fixed fee for every barrel of oil exported but nonetheless Khartoum said that it will continue with plans to lift subsidies.

“Maybe every month we can remove a little bit, half a pound or a pound,” finance minister Mahmood Abdel-Rasool told Reuters last April adding that the subsidies - which make up around 12 percent of state spending - should be fully removed by mid-2015.

Sudan justice minister to soon review appeal of Gosh’s lawyers

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

June 24, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s attorney general Omar Ahmed Mohammed has confirmed today that the minister of justice had received the appeal submitted by the defense team of the former director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Salah Gosh on charges filed against him in connection with a coup attempt thwarted last year.

After more than six months in detention, the ex-spy chief was formally charged this month with undermining the constitutional order, inciting violence to topple the legitimate government and breaching the anti-terrorism law.
A pre-trial court session decided to confirm the charges following the conclusion of the preliminary investigation conducted by a committee from the justice ministry.

Gosh’s charges falls under articles 21, 50, 63 of the criminal penal act which are punishable by death or life imprisonment or imprisonment and fines with the possibility of confiscation of property as well as articles 5, 6 of the anti-terrorism act.

The attorney general said in an interview with the state news agency SUNA that the minister of justice will decide on the appeal upon his return from a business trip to Saudi Arabia.

He further pointed out that the justice minister could either accept the appeal or refer the case to the court and noted that the president of the republic has the power to pardon him.

President Bashir twice issued decrees over the last two months pardoning and commuting sentences for army and security officers convicted in connection with the coup.

However, the Sudanese president excluded his former adviser and ex-director of NISS.

Sources with knowledge of the ongoing investigation into the recent coup attempt have told that Gosh and the four security officers detained with him refused to demand the presidential pardon as it was done by the military.
Gosh’s arrest marked the downfall of the once powerful spy chief who is better known for his deep cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism following September 2001 attacks in Washington and New York.

He was surprisingly dismissed from his position in 2009 before being appointed as a presidential adviser for security.

In 2011 he was abruptly sacked by president Bashir from the position following an imbroglio between him and the powerful presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie over dialogue with opposition parties. He was later stripped of his position within the NCP and only maintained his seat in the Sudanese parliament.

The Sudanese parliament revoked Gosh’s parliamentary immunity to allow for his prosecution.

South Sudan says lifting immunity not automatic indictment of corruption

June 23, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan said on Saturday that the suspension and lifting immunity of two federal ministers, suspected of involvement in the alleged illicit request and transfer of public funds without the knowledge of the president, must not be seen as an automatic indictment of corruption.

“By law, they are not accused of any corruption and the public ought to be clearly enlightened and adequately informed about this constitutional provision. Suspending and lifting immunities does not mean automatic indictment of corruption", South Sudan’s justice minister John Luk Jok told reporters on Saturday..

Jok said that the measures were taken "to afford an opportunity to clear the allegations or establish a fact of what actually happened."

The minister was reacting to media reports on president Salva Kiir’s recent order regarding the minister of cabinet affairs, Deng Alor Kuol, and the minister of finance and economic planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai.

It is alleged that the two high profile figures requested and approved the transfer of $8 million to purchase fire safety equipment without the knowledge of relevant institutions.

Jok implored upon the media to show objectivity and avoid reporting negative and hateful comments on the case.

PUBLIC REACTION

William Wel, a member of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state legislative assembly currently in Juba, commended the decision taken by Kiir and asked the national parliament and general public to stand by the president in order to successfully win the fight against corruption.

“The decision by the president is commendable. He should be encouraged and should not hesitate pressing ahead. This is the only way to see the light of development, especially if we want to survive as Angel strong and viable state. We must do something extremely serious about corruption, which is the road our president seems to take. He must be supported”, said Wel.

The legislator said development would take place only “if the government shows it can punish whoever steals, whoever takes public funds from the treasury without the knowledge of the relevant institutions, whether it is in the local government, state or at the national”.

Charles Majak, a national member of parliament in Juba from Warrap state, stated that officials accused of corruption must be given the opportunity to clear their names in court.

“We should not sympathise with those who have taken public money. We should encourage them to abide by the requirements spelled out in the constitution, the law in respect of this country," he said explaining the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has the responsibility to clearly show that it is committed to promote good governance and combat corruption.

“We are shouldering the heavy task bestowed by the history and going through the test of the times. We must uphold the principles for which this party [SPLM] was founded. It was founded on the democratic ideals which advocates promotion of good practices for the public good and that it exercises state power for the public, surprise our conduct and this country with strict disciplines" he said.

"Those in public office should show exemplary role. We must be modest and prudent, defy difficulties and work hard, bury ourselves in the work and forge ahead with the determination so as to achieve new, greater victory in completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects”, Majak explained separately in an interview on Saturday.

Ladu James Laku, a local administrative officer with the Central Equatoria State government appreciated Kiir’s decision but added that he was not sure whether the officials would be prosecuted if proven guilty by the investigation committee formed by the president.

“I was not surprised by the order because we have seen similar orders before. You are aware of the case of the first minister of finance, Arthur Akuien Chol and his successor, Kuol Athian Mawien. They were removed from their positions which the public saw as the right decision in the right direction to fight corruption but what happened. Committees for investigation were formed but did we see any light. Was there any result. No. So this is the problem”, said Laku.

He said the public would never believe that the former officials were innocent as long as the debate did not extend to Parliament from which the result would have been extended to court and the general public.

“They may be innocent but in the public eyes they are still be accused of corruption. So it would have been important to prove their being innocent at the court. Their innocence should have tested against the evidence that would be provided by the law enforcement agencies but these processes seem to have been clearly ignored, regardless of the public opinions”, he said.

Sudanese president alludes that he may be run for reelection in the upcoming presidential elections

June 22, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir has hinted today that he could run for re-election in the upcoming presidential elections on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) ticket.

Last March, Bashir reiterated his past intentions to step down at the end of his term in 2015 saying that Sudan is in need of “fresh blood” and that he spent enough time in power.

At the time several officials, including Bashir’s second vice-president al-Haj Adam Youssef, said that it is not up to Bashir to make a decision on his political future but the NCP.

Al-Bashir, who was addressing the NCP’s Shura Council seventh session on Friday, said that the media made conclusions on the issue of his candidacy without being fully informed adding that his re-election will be determined by the NCP’s General Convention and the Shura Council.

The head of the NCP’s Shura Council, Abu Ali Majzoub, on his part asserted that the NCP will nominate Bashir again in 2015.

“We will not approve any candidate other than Bashir”, and addressed Bashir saying “We will only accept you, and we want you to continue holding the torch”.

Bashir said that the NCP will review its statute in preparation for the 2015 general elections and urged the opposition parties to get ready for the polls instead of working overthrow the government.

He went on to say that if the opposition aims at organizing mass street protests with the aim of having army will take its side "we tell them that we are not the Socialist Union (SU)".

The Sudanese leader was referring to the SU which was the ruling party during the regime of Sudan’s ex-president Gaafar Al-Nmeiri who was deposed after a popular uprising in April 1985 prompting the army to abandon him.

On the economic front, Bashir pointed out that the government’s tab for subsidizing fuel, wheat, and electricity amounts to 14 billion pound SDG ($ 3.2 billion), while the government budget is 25 billion pound SDG ($ 6.4 billion).

Last year, the government launched a package of tough austerity measures, including scaling back fuel subsidies to close a fiscal gap, sparking short-lived protests.

Earlier this month, Sudan’s minister of finance and national economy Ali Mahmoud Abdel-Rasool urged the parliament to authorize gradual lifting of subsidies in order to reduce inflation.

Sudan’s finances have tightened since oil-rich South Sudan seceded from the north in July 2011. The new state contained 75% of the country’s pre-partition oil reserves.

Bashir also spoke of the new constitution that is being formulated and said that government is consulting several stakeholders so that the law of the land accommodates all political forces “except those who refuse”.

The opposition vowed not to take part in the process unless the NCP agrees to cede power and form a transitional government that prepares the country for elections.

Sudan is currently governed by an interim constitution which was ratified following signing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with South Sudan rebels.

Bashir stressed that Sudan will continue its fight against the world which is he said controlled by the Zionist alliances and scoffed at the concept of “international justice” saying it is run by the U.S.

“We continue to exist against their will” said Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide charges related to the Darfur conflict that broke out in 2033.

The Sudanese president acknowledged that his government had in the past provided support for rebel groups fighting the government of South Sudan.

“We will not deny that we used to arm and support the southern opposition as South Sudan does [now to Sudanese rebels], however we ceased our support after signing of the cooperation agreements”.

In September of last year, both Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements, which covered oil, citizenship rights, security issues, banking, border trade among others.

Last March, the two countries signed an implementation matrix for these cooperation agreements.

Earlier this month Sudan’s president ordered halting the flow of Juba’s oil through Sudan’s territory. He said the decision was in response to Juba’s continued support to rebels battling Khartoum.

The move was seen as a major setback to the agreements.

DAM BENEFICIAL to EGYPT

In his first public endorsement for the controversial Ethiopian renaissance dam, Bashir said that the dam “will not stop the water from Egypt” and added that it will only be used for electricity generation, calling for continuation of consultation among all concerned parties.

He acknowledged the “sensitivity” of the water issue for Egypt, saying that Sudan and Egypt’s water shares will not be impacted during the dam filling period.

The Sudanese president also expressed doubt the Nile Basin Initiative (Known as Entebbe agreement), which he said “ came from the World Bank not from the Nile Basin countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, formerly known as the Millennium Dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile 40km from the Sudanese border.

Egypt and Sudan had previously argued that the construction of the dam would negatively affect their water shares and insisted the project should be blocked, calling on international donors against funding it.

Egypt believes its “historic rights” to the Nile are guaranteed by two treaties from 1929 and 1959 which allow it 87 percent of the Nile’s flow and give it veto power over upstream projects.

But a new deal (Entebbe agreement) was signed in 2010 by other Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, allowing them to work on river projects without Cairo’s prior agreement.

U.S. suspends invitation to sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie over row with Juba

 

June 21, 2013, (WASHINGTON) - The United States informed the Sudanese government that its invitation to presidential assistant and vice chairman of ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Nafie Ali Nafie is on hold following Khartoum’s decision to freeze cooperation agreements with South Sudan.

This month the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir ordered his government to shut down the pipelines that transport the oil produced in landlocked South Sudan to export terminals in Port Sudan for it to reach international markets.

Sudanese officials said the closure will be effective within 60 days of Bashir’s directive and oil companies were asked to provide a timetable and a plan of how to implement it.

Khartoum also announced that a series of deals signed with Juba last year will be put on hold until it gives up support to the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) umbrella rebel group which has recently stepped up its military offensive in South Kordofan, Darfur and even launched a daring attack on North Kordofan’s second largest town of Um Rawaba.

The African Union (AU) and China have launched a diplomatic push to bring the two countries back from the brinkmanship while the U.S. has urged Khartoum to reverse its decision regarding oil shutdown.

On Wednesday a U.S. official announced that Nafie’s controversial visit to Washington will no longer take place as a result of Sudan’s move.

Larry André, Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan at the U.S. State Department, also defended the decision by Obama’s administration to invite Nafie at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives on the human rights situation in Sudan.

"You heard me in my briefing mention that we are looking for any avenue to get our message to senior decision maker level in Khartoum," André said.

Representative James McGovern questioned why the U.S. would bring a "well known torturer" and "human rights abuser" and asked whether this should be construed as a "new angle of diplomacy".

"When the decision was made in March to invite a delegation led by Nafie Ali Nafie it wasn’t made within the illusions as to his background. It was [made] with the idea of trying to do all we can to end these conflicts," André responded.

The U.S. official noted that U.S. policy prohibits dialogue with Bashir who was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and others such as the defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein.

"We needed a way to get our policies expressed to the senior leadership. We don’t talk the president [Bashir]. There are no senior leaders of this government that have nice past," he stressed.

He said that a condition was attached to the invitation when extended that has now not been met.

"When that decision was made a caveat was and was expressed to Khartoum at the time is that this visit could only take place in the context of a Sudan that is implementing its cooperation agreements with South Sudan," André said.

"As of earlier this month Sudan ceased implementing these agreements. We have passed the message back to Nafie Ali Nafie that as long as the government of Khartoum is suspending the implementation of these agreement we are suspending this invitation" he added.

Andre also revealed that the U.S. is working to press countries to refrain from receiving with Sudanese official wanted by the ICC.

"We just recently communicated to quite a number of our embassies where we think that some of those indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) may travel; language for them to use with the government, their host government to make certain that it is well understood our opposition to that travel. We continue to have a policy of not meeting or conducting business with those individuals who have been indicted" he said.

"We look at what is happening in Sudan and know that their own personal calculations about their own future is dictating their government policy" Andre added.

But Representative Frank Wolf, a vocal critic of Khartoum, blasted the Obama administration calling its Sudan policy an "absolute failure".

"The very thought that you are going to bring Nafie here is just incredible…The standard of this town [Washington] has sunk so low..it shows there are no standards….it is immoral…it is absolutely immoral" Wolf said.

He argued that those meeting with Nafie need to apply "heavy sanitizer on their hands".

It has been a number of years since the US received a high-level delegation from Sudan, which Washington has considered a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, imposing a raft of sanctions on the country in 1997.

 

Changes in Sudan's Top Military Command

Khartoum, June 21 - According to the Sudan News Agency the spokesman of the Armed Forces, Col. Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad, announced that a new Staff of the Armed Forces was appointed.

He said that Lt. Gen. (engineer) Mustafa Osman Obeid was named as the new Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Hashim Abdalla Hassan was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Staff.

The new Armed Forces' Staff included Lt. Gen. Mohamed Jraham Omer Shaoul as the General Inspector, Gen. Ismail Beraima Abdul-Samad as the Chief of Staff of the Air Forces, Gen. (pilot) Ahmed Abdalla Al-Naw as the Chief of Staff of the Land Forces, Gen. (engineer) Imad-Eddin Mustafa Adawi as the Chairman of the Joint Operations Staff, Gen. (naval) Dalil Al-Daw Mohamed Fadlalla as the Chief of Staff of the Naval Forces, Gen. Siddiq Amer Hassan as the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Forces, and Gen. (doctor) Al-Sayed Ali Siral-Khatim Mustafa as the Director of the Medical Services Administration.

Col. Al-Sawarmi said that officers at the ranks of brigadier and major general were promoted and others were sent to retirement in the context of the annual routine work at the Armed Forces in the context of the succession of generations and to provide opportunities to others.

He indicated that the President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, received the former Staff of the Armed Forces, which was headed by Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdul-Rahman, and appreciated their distinguished performance in the past period.

Col. Al-Sawarmi said that the new Armed Forces' Staff was also received by the President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit Suspends Two Ministers for Corruption Probe

June 18, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit has suspended two federal ministers from their duties and lifted their immunities to be investigated for a corruption related case.

South Sudan minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol
FILE - South Sudan minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol

In a republican order read on the state-owned South Sudan TV on Tuesday, Kiir suspended the minister of Cabinet Affairs, Deng Alor Kuol and the minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai, and lifted their immunities so that they are investigated for a suspected theft.

The president implicated the two ministers, Alor and Ngai for a shady request and transfer, respectively, of over 7 million US dollars to a company known as Daffy Investment Ltd.

The two ministers transferred the money to the private company without knowledge or authorization from the president or the cabinet for alleged purchase of anti-fire safes on behalf of the government.

n a subsequent order Kiir formed an investigation committee headed by the anti-corruption chairperson, John Gatwech Lul, to investigate the two ministers and report the findings to the president within six days.

South Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai
FILE - South Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe Ngai,

IThe terms of reference for the investigation will include establishing who authorized the transfer of the money and whether there was a resolution from the cabinet approving the alleged purchase of anti-fire safes.

The committee will also investigate whether there was a contract approved and signed by the government and whether such alleged anti-fire safes were brought into the country as well as the whereabouts of the money, among others.

The president’s order also calls for criminal prosecution of the two ministers should the outcome of the investigation find that the transfer of money was an act of theft.

The order which came as a surprise is the first of its kind following president Kiir’s letter to 75 senior current and former officials in his government whom he suspected of stealing a disputed figure of $4 billion US dollars over six years period.

It was not clear whether the two national ministers are among the list of the undisclosed 75 suspected officials.

There are speculations as to why the president chose to act selectively this time.

An official in the ministry of finance and economic planning told that the president’s action against the finance minister could have resulted from the minister’s recent order in which he transferred a number of senior staff from the ministry.

The staff threatened the minister and reportedly forwarded their petition to the president asking him to force the minister to reverse his decision.

A political commentator who asked for anonymity said Cabinet minister Deng Alor might be a victim of the ongoing party wrangles as he is seen to have withdrawn his support from the president Salva Kiir who also chairs the ruling party, SPLM.

The order mandates the deputy cabinet minister Wek Mamer Kuol to act in the place of Alor while the first deputy finance minister, Marial Awou, will act in the place of Ngai.

If prosecuted for an act of corruption, the two ministers will be the first senior government and party officials to be prosecuted over corruption since 2005 when the ruling party and the president came to power.

Alor and Ngai are senior figures in the ruling party as both are members of the SPLM highest political organ, the political bureau, as well as members of the national liberation council.

A similar attempt failed in 2007 when the authorities tried to detain and prosecute the former finance minister, Arthur Akwen Chol, also member of the national liberation council, over corruption.

Akwen was unlawfully set free by his community members who mobilized and stormed the detention center where he was being kept.

Sudan says Mbeki’s proposal contains no new elements

June 18, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said today that proposals of the head of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, to resolve the recent crisis between Khartoum and Juba were made prior to Khartoum’s decision to halt flow of South Sudan’s oil through Sudanese territory.

Over the weekend the Sudanese government announced it has informed the AUHIP of its acceptance of the proposals.

The NCP’s spokesperson, Yasser Yossif, said in press statements on Sunday that the AUHIP’s proposal focused on three points including non-harboring of rebel groups by South Sudan, building the demilitarized zone and halting hostile media escalation.

Yossif further held the government of South Sudan responsible for impeding the mission of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM).

He reiterated Khartoum’s commitment to Mbeki’s plan, saying that it represents a suitable platform for resuming the implementation of the cooperation agreements.

Tensions between the countries have escalated last week when Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir ordered the closure of pipelines carrying oil from landlocked South Sudan.

Sudan also announced that it will put on hold cooperation agreements signed with South Sudan last year on a wide range of issues that included citizenship rights, security issues, banking and border trade.

Last March the two sides also agreed on the implementation schedule for these accords.

Sudan oil minister reiterates his accusation against rebel group

June 16, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s oil minister announced that repair crews finished their work on a secondary pipeline sabotaged last Wednesday and reaffirmed that rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were behind.

The pipeline, which transport some 18.000 bpd of oil produced in Difra, northern Abyei, was attacked by unknown group on Wednesday evening.

The Sudanese authorities said that operation was carried out by JEM rebels who reached Abyei from Unity state in South Sudan. Khartoum also said that the rebels received technical support from its southern neighbour.

But the rebel group denied the accusation and said not involved in this action. At the same time “Abyei Now” a website supporting the positions of the South Sudan ruling party on Abyei, said that a group of Misseriya gunmen did the attack.

Awad Al-Jaz who was speaking on Friday after his return from the area of the attack told reporters that Sudanese oil workers repaired the damaged pipeline, adding it is now back up to full operation.

The minister stressed that Sudan’s oil supplies were not affected by the attack indicating that crude produced since the attack was redirected to reservoir tanks in the area.

Al Jaz went further to say that a group ridding a vehicle composed of four persons targeted one of the two pipeline control room management where they placed explosive devices on which is written the name of the rebel group.

The minister further said that oil worker realised the attack on the control room, which was not guarded by the army when they detected that oil pumping was diminishing gradually.

Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) last Thursday said that the area was supposed to be protected by the UNISFA peacekeepers. But the latter did not issue any statement on the incident.

Al-Jaz said a report will be prepared including the damages caused by the attack, he further called on the Sudanese to join the ranks of volunteers combatants to fight the rebels.

South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar to Khartoum for talks on oil row

June 14, 2013 (JUBA) – VP Machar will travel to Khartoum for talks with Sudanese official on their decision to stop oil flow through their pipelines, a government source said today.

The weekly cabinet meeting in Juba tasked Machar with seeking to defuse the tensions with its northern neighbor, the source told.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir ordered the oil minister to begin shutting down the pipelines carrying the crude from landlocked South Sudan.

Bashir said the decision was in response to Juba’s continued support to rebels battling Khartoum.

The move was seen as a major setback to the agreements signed last year between the two ex-foes.

In September of last year, both Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of cooperation agreements, which covered oil, citizenship rights, security issues, banking, border trade among others.

However only last March, the two countries signed an implementation matrix for these deals which was hailed as a major breakthrough in the mostly tense relations between the two ex-foes.

The most notable provision in the agreement is related to resumption of oil exports by landlocked South Sudan which were suspended more than a year ago because of a dispute over transit fees. Oil started flowing again in April.

Sudanese army say JEM rebels attacked Abyei pipeline

June 13, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday announced that Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels attacked an oil pipeline in northern Abyei, pointing out the assailants penetrated the area from South Sudan Unity state.

SAF spokesperson, Al Sawarmi Khaled, said that JEM rebels on Wednesday at 09.00 pm attacked the pipeline in Ajaja area in northern Abyei, which is under the protection of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), from South Sudanese Unity state.

He said the UNISFA soldiers are pursuing the attackers .

Oil minister Awad Al-Jaz, on the other hand, said the fire had broken out in the secondary pipeline connecting Dafra oil field and the oil processing plant in Heglig.

The minister added that the fire now extinguished and the situation is under full control as the technical teams are now restarting the pipeline.

Al-Sawarmi said the rebels had engineering equipment that enabled them to blow up the pipeline, stressing this gear was provided by the South Sudanese government.

JEM spokesperson Gibreel Ibrahim Bilal told that he has no information about such an attack.

He further denied that their movement has a base or any presence in Unity state.

Sudan says JEM rebels has a base in Unity state near Bentiu but Juba always denied that and dismissed their presence in South Sudan.

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