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July 2013 - Posts

SPLM divisions widen as Kiir accuses Machar of “disrespect”

July 31, 2013 (JUBA) - Cracks within the leadership of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) appear to be widening as its leader, Salva Kiir Mayardit, broke his silence on Tuesday, accusing his former deputy, Riek Machar, of disrespect and insubordination to the party leadership.

It’s the first time Kiir has spoken publicly since issuing a series of decrees on 23 July effectively removing the vice-president and dissolving the entire cabinet. In a separate order, Pagan Amum, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) secretary-general was suspended pending an investigation into his conduct.

Speaking at an event marking the eighth anniversary of the martyrs, Kiir said he made the decision in response to calls from the people of South Sudan.

He accused Machar and Amum of showing disrespect and publicly discrediting the achievements of his administration in the media, rather than addressing their grievances through the correct channels and structures.

“I removed the former vice-president because he decided to go astray. He used the public media to discredit the government in which he was a party before the international community. This was an act of disrespect and [shows an] intention to hurt the image of this country”, Kiir told the audience.

 SPLM BIGGER THAN ONE PERSON

Kiir stressed internal discussions on the state of affairs are administrative issues and thus should be dealt with privately by the leadership, not in the public arena.

“I have never issued any statement, and from my office, those who work with me, there is not a single person who has made a statement. There is only one side that is making statements”, Kiir said.

“Let me tell you something, SPLM is not about one person. It is bigger than all of us. We have a lot of people. SPLM is all of us and it is going to clean itself and those who will not be found fit in the SPLM formula should leave on their own or SPLM will throw them out. That is all because at the end of the day our people want services. They need roads; they need schools; they need hospitals; clean drinking water”, the president stressed.

Kiir also made reference to Machar’s media address last week in which he warned that inciting violence would not solve the problems the party is facing.

Machar has also objected to Amum’s suspension, criticising Kiir’s decision to block the secretary-general from making public statements and travelling abroad.

“When you bake a piece of cake and it does not come out nicely, even if you put decorations, icing and whatever, you are wasting your time. The cake is not good. SPLM is still a popular party. Everywhere you go, they will tell you, SPLM is very strong, but you must look at your leadership and me as a president, I have received so many calls from everywhere”, Kiir said.

He said it was unfortunate that his former long-serving deputy seemed unaware of the internal rules and regulations of that party which he seeks to lead, accusing him and other colleagues of creating political divisions.

Kiir added he would decide the way forward in a mature and orderly manner.

TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

Deng Mawien, a member of the SPLM from Warrap state, said the party should move involve itself in petty issues.

“These are supposed to be senior leaders of the party, so if they are senior leaders of the party, they are supposed to discuss those issues with the president. They have access to the president. There is nobody who can say the president is shielded from them”, he said.

“Vice-president Riek Machar is immediate to the president. Have you ever heard the president say anything or comment on anything on this matter?” he added.

Mawien called on the president and his team to focus on organising the party and not on petty issues.

“If the party chooses that is the way to go, it’s their choice. If there is any issue that arises within or outside the party, there is no problem that is insurmountable for the party, even in this situation. There is no need for the leaders to panic, all they need is to use the same courage, to take the step they are reported to have taken - to also have the courage, in a mature and orderly manner, and focus on what they want to resolve because they are saying all that [is] in the interest of the party”, he said.

MISTREATMENT OF WIDOWS

Speaking on a separate matter, president Kiir decried the mistreatment of widows, accusing some officials in his administration of chasing away widows and orphans who had approached their offices seeking assistance.

“There is this developing bad culture which is unacceptable at all. It must stop or I will intervene and take action if I prove widows are [being] chased from the offices when they go to look for assistance. People rudely tell them ‘Go away. It was not me who killed your husband or your father. Was it my making?’ This is not the spirit of revolutionists and must desist”, he said.

Customers in Khartoum complain about rising prices

July 30, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Markets in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum have witnessed a significant increase in the prices of clothing, accessories, toys and perfumes just a week before Eid Al-fitr (Religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting).

The price increases is coupled with a new low for the Sudanese pound against the US dollar. The latter traded for 7.5 pounds in the black market. This is considered the benchmark for individuals and businesses seeking hard currency.

Prices of clothing have risen by 150% compared to last year amid predictions that a further hike of 25% is forthcoming due to increase in government toll on imported products.

Saad al-Din Ahmed, told during a tour in one of Khartoum’s markets that he purchased skirts and pants for his two daughters at the price of 450 pounds, adding that buying clothes for the kids in Eid Al-fitr is indispensable despite high prices. He seemed to be worried about prices of items such as candies and cookies.

Traders at a pastries shop told that price of a kilogram of Kunafah (an Arab cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup ) has reached 22 pounds attributing the increase to the rise of flour price.

A senior official in the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) projected that the inflation rate would increase significantly in August but said that it should return to its normal level following Eid Al-fitr.

A senior official in the chamber of industry predicted that commodity prices will increase by 25% prior to Eid Al-fitr due to additional fees imposed by the government on imported goods as well as the increase in foreign exchange rates.

The popular markets in Khartoum looked crowded with shoppers who complained about high prices and accused the government of deregulating prices in a way that is not commensurate with a daily average income of $1.

Earlier this month, Sudan’s ministry of finance declared that it has embarked on the final arrangements for increasing the minimum wage.

But a worker told that he would receive 60 pound SDG increase which doesn’t suffice to buy a single meal.

The current minimum monthly wage is 425 pounds ($96 based on official exchange rate).

Prices have also risen in the furniture market leading to an jump in the price of a Chinese-made bedroom to 9.000 pounds compared to 6.000 before.

A trader at the furniture market told that government fees have increased significantly which led to a decrease in purchasing power, saying “I won’t sell until the dollar price is settled”.

Sudan’s economy was hit hard since the southern part of the country declared independence in July 2011, taking with it about 75% of the country’s oil output.

The last poverty survey which was conducted in 2009, prior to the secession of South Sudan, revealed that 46% of the population in the north lives below the poverty line including 57.6% in rural areas.

Sudan’s ministry of social welfare had previously estimated that there are 2 million poor families, including 300,000 destitute families who cannot afford to buy their daily food.

The Sudanese government spends 80% of its budget on the army and other security forces, while less than %5 is spend on health and education.

Sudan receives documents regarding oil transit fees

July 30,2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese government announced that it has received documents regarding its financial dues from the transfer of South Sudan oil through Sudanese territory.

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 other issues.

In March this year the two countries signed an implementation matrix for these cooperation agreements allowing for resumption of South Sudan oil exports through its northern neighbor pipelines which were suspended for more than a year for disagreements over transit fees.

But in June, Bashir ordered the shutdown South Sudanese petroleum exports through Sudan’s oil installations, accusing Juba of providing shelter and support to Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and Sudan People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

Last week, Bashir agreed to a request made by Chinese and AU officials to postpone for at least two weeks the deadline by which Sudan will shut down the pipelines.

Sudan’s central bank said that it has received documents regarding Sudan’s share from South Sudan and oil companies’ transit fees amounting to $236 million.

The assistant governor of Sudan’s central bank, Azhari al-Tayeb al-Faki, said in press statements on Mondaypointed out that the total amount was $236 million including $150 million transit fees for South Sudan’s oil, and $86 million transit fees for the companies’ oil.

He stressed that the southern oil will continue to flow through Sudanese territory until August 22.

Sudan army spokesman ready to fight Facebook impostor

July 28, 2013, (KHARTOUM)  –  Sudan's military spokesman is ready to battle a Facebook imposter who has been making online comments about the country's armed forces, official media say.

Somebody has been using an account on social networking site Facebook to impersonate army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the state SUNA news agency reported late Saturday.

The pretender "makes dialogue with friends on issues including matters related to the work of the armed forces", SUNA reported.

Saad will "take the necessary measures toward that criminal act", it added.

"Al-Sawarmi affirmed that he has no account in Facebook and has nothing to do with the comments made by the person (who) impersonates him over the Internet," SUNA said.

Sudan's military is battling rebels in the far-west Darfur region as well as in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, while tensions persist along the border with South Sudan.

Analysts say authorities were humiliated in April and May when insurgents widened their offensive, and the military took one month to retake an area in South Kordofan from the rebels.

SPLM’s Amum says he will review Kiir’s decision for legality

July 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Secretary General of South Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Pagan Amum challenged president Salva Kiir’s decision to suspend and refer him to investigation suggesting it violates the ruling party’s charter.

Amum, in an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, stressed that per the SPLM constitution, the SG should only answer to certain figures in the party and not a commission.

He said any issue with his performance should be handled directly by the chairman of the party or the Political Bureau or the Liberation Council.

“I will wait for the notification formally from president Kiir himself then I will deal with the matter on the basis of the party’s constitution and If it is in violation then I will write to the President that he has to follow the constitution,” Amum said.

Kiir, who is also the SPLM chairman, established a five-member committee, headed by the national legislative assembly speaker, James Wani Igga, to probe allegations that Amum mismanaged the affairs of the SPLM, both administratively and politically.

Amum is also accused of insubordination for using the public media to discredit the party and its leadership.

Kiir also banned Amum from travelling outside the country, holding press conferences or making statements to the media during this probe.

The SPLM SG disclosed that he met with Kiir few days before the decision and urged him to call for a politburo meeting to discuss the political situation in the country and the current issues of the party but that Kiir ignored the plea.

He underscored that he has no personal issues with Kiir but that the differences between the two are related to the party’s programmes and its implementation by senior SPLM figures.

Amum also defended his public criticisms of the government and Kiir saying that this practice of self-criticism is embedded in the SPLM culture.

This month, the SPLM SG rapped Kiir over his suspension of Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor and minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kosti Manibe over corruption allegations saying it is politically motivated.

Amum is also among the senior party officials who want to contest against the incumbent who has been the party chairman since 2005, slamming him of failure to lead the nation-state building.

This week Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar and dissolved the entire government in what was seen as an intensification of power struggle within the SPLM.

Sudan Darfur rebels attack North Kordofan military, five soldiers killed

July 25, 2013 (khartoum) – Sudanese rebels from Darfur have attacked an army position in North Kordofan, killing five soldiers in fierce fighting, the military has said.

 North Kordofan has been relatively untouched by the violence in Darfur and near the border with South Sudan.

South Sudan denies charges it backs the Darfur rebels.

President Omer Hassan al-Bashir takes part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Abuja on July 15, 2013

Details of the battle are unclear, but it comes ahead of Sudan's deadline to halt oil exports from Sudan Sudan over the allegations of rebel support.

South Sudan seceded in 2011, under the terms of a 2005 peace deal to end Africa's longest-running civil war.

Over the past two years, relations between the two neighbours have soured over oil revenues and accusations that they are backing rebel movements in each other's territories.

Rebels who had fought for the South during the war but found themselves on the Sudanese side of the border after the separation took up arms, saying their concerns had not been addressed.

Along with three Darfuri rebel groups they formed the Sudan Revolutionary Front and have mainly been active in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which border South Sudan.

Fleeing
 
Both sides are claiming victory in the clashes in the Sidrah area of North Kordofan, a region that produces gum arabic, a food additive used in soft drinks.

"We handed the army a defeat," Reuters news agency quotes Gibril Adam Bilal, rebel spokesman for Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), as saying.

Military spokesman Col Sawarmi Khalid Saad said the rebels had attacked with the aim of robbing properties and Sidrah was now "under full control of the armed forces which are still pursuing the rebels' remnants", the state-run Suna news agency reports.

A resident in the nearby town of Rahad told Reuters people had arrived fleeing the fighting.

Another Rahad resident told the AFP news agency that shooting and explosions had been heard in the town.

"Authorities closed the schools and asked students to go home."

Last month, Sudan told the South it would stop transporting oil within 60 days following accusations Juba backed rebels operating on Sudanese soil.

The oil had only begun flowing again in April after production was shut down by South Sudan for 14 months in a dispute over transit fees.

South Sudan has a large-scale oil sector - it took nearly three-quarters of Sudan's oil production when it declared its independence - but the country is landlocked and reliant on Sudan's ports for export.

South Sudan calls for calm after government sacked

July 24, 2013 (JUBA) –  Last updatedHeavily armed South Sudanese troops and police guarded key government institutions in the capital Juba Wednesday, as radio broadcasts called for calm after the president suspended his cabinet.

Those removed include two of the young country's most influential leaders -- the vice president, Riek Machar, as well as Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The sackings have sparked concern over potential instability in the fledgling nation, awash with guns, riven by ethnic rivalries and still reeling from decades of war.

"We are asking our citizens, please do your duty and go to work," said Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who until his suspension late Tuesday was the information minister and government spokesman.

All 29 ministers were suspended as well as their deputies, in addition to 17 police brigadiers.

"Give the president a chance to form his government... he has already empowered the technocrats to see the day-to-day running of the administration," Benjamin said in a broadcast on the United Nations-supported Radio Miraya.

Troops and armed police blocked several key roads in Juba, with a heavy deployment at the government ministry complex, but the city was reported calm, army spokesman Philip Aguer said.

"This is routine work, they are being deployed to protect the ministries," Aguer told AFP.

Many of the ministers were key figures in the rebel SPLM or its armed wing that fought a brutal 1983-2005 war against the government in Khartoum, which led to a 2011 referendum in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north.

Machar, from the Dok Nuer people from the key oil producing Unity state, is a controversial figure for many, but commands loyalty among many branches of the Nuer, which form an integral part of the footsoldiers of the new nation's ex-rebel army.

He has made no secret of his desire to challenge Salva Kiir for the presidency in elections due in 2015.

However, he fought on both sides of the civil war, leading a splinter SPLM faction that sided with Khartoum, battling troops commanded by Kiir, who comes from the Dinka people.

Machar's troops are accused of a brutal massacre in the ethnic Dinka town of Bor in 1991.

Amum was the top negotiator with arch-foes Sudan at long-running African Union-mediated talks over a raft of issues left unresolved at independence, including border demarcation and oil exports, currently under threat of suspension again, this time by Khartoum.

The suspended party leader is to be also investigated for alleged "mismanagement of the party" by a parliamentary committee, the presidential orders broadcast on state radio said.

No replacements have been announced, and it was not immediately clear whether all those suspended would return, or if new blood would be brought in to replace them.

While Juba has been rife with rumours in recent weeks about a potential reshuffle by Kiir -- especially concerning tense relations with his deputy Machar -- the move still took those involved by surprise.

South Sudan’s Kiir relieves VP Machar and dissolves government

July 23, 2013 (JUBA) –  Last updated- South Sudan's president has sacked his entire cabinet, in an apparent power struggle with other senior leaders.

Salva Kiir issued a decree dismissing all ministers and deputy ministers, as well as Vice-President Riek Machar.

No clear reason was given for the sackings, but analysts say Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have been embroiled in a power struggle for months.

South Sudan has suffered from chronic economic problems since it split from Sudan in 2011.

Its stability has been hampered by lingering rows over territory and oil with its northern neighbour.

Recently some of Mr Kiir's colleagues have hinted at discontent with his leadership.

Local reports say Mr Kiir is battling to maintain control of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the former rebel group that now runs the country.

Mr Machar, who had been stripped of some of his powers in April, had hinted that he may stand against Mr Kiir for leadership of the SPLM before the next presidential election in 2015.

Financial scandal
 
Under-secretaries have been put in charge of the departments and the government insists it can function smoothly until new ministers are appointed.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who had been information minister until Tuesday, characterised the sackings as a "major reshuffle" and said it was part of Mr Kiir's constitutional mandate.

"Some of these people will come back and some will not," Mr Benjamin told AFP news agency.

Among the other leaders to be dismissed was Pagan Amum, the top negotiator in peace talks with Sudan.

He was removed from his post as SPLM secretary general and the decree said he would be investigated for mismanaging the party.

Last month Mr Kiir sacked two other senior ministers embroiled in a multi-million dollar financial scandal, a decision reportedly criticised by Mr Amum.

It was unclear whether Tuesday's decree had any link to the scandal.

South Sudanese journalist Nhial Bol said Mr Kiir had probably acted to end the paralysis in his government.

"Things have not been moving in the government because of this internal fighting over who is going to control the SPLM," Mr Bol told Reuters news agency.

South Sudan is rich in oil, but is one of Africa's least developed countries, with few paved roads and poor health and educational facilities.

It gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 after a decades-long civil war.

However, the oil refineries are on Sudanese territory, so the South relies on its northern neighbour to get its product on to the market.

President al-Bashir for the first time admitted that his reign saw injustice and bloodshed in Sudan

July 23, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir gave an unusually candid assessment of the situation in his country expressing regret over the prevalence of bloodshed in Sudan and even appeared to be holding himself personally responsible.

"How will god answer our prayers when we are shedding the blood of Muslims and each others’ blood?" Bashir told attendees at an Iftar dinner hosted by the head of the Darfur Transitional Authority (DRA) al-Tijani al-Seisi at his home in Khartoum.

"We know that the destruction of the Ka’aba [in Mecca] is lesser [in gravity] in the eyes of god than the killing of a [human] soul," he added.

The Sudanese president stressed that people get punished in this life for all sins they commit except murder which has its retribution saved for the day of judgment.

The veteran Sudanese general, who ruled Sudan for 24 years since staging a coup in 1989, also said that the "injustice" shrouding the country resulted in drought and lack of rain.

"How can we ask for mercy [from god] when our hands are covered in blood?" Bashir asked.

He then addressed the growing trend of tribal conflicts in Darfur and urged the Darfuris present to raise their hands and make an oath on their desire to seek peace.

"Swear and say we are for peace and against war….We do not want anyone from outside advising us. We will solve our own problems," the Sudanese president said.

Bashir said that reasons for the killings in Darfur do not even warrant slaughtering a sheep let alone a human being and vowed that an upcoming a tribal reconciliation conference will come up with real solutions.

The out-of-the-ordinary statements by Bashir represent a stark departure from his usual fiery speeches in which he often strikes a challenging and threatening tone to his opponents and to the western nations alike which he claims are working to topple his regime.

Throughout his two-decades rule, Bashir has managed to weather a major civil war with what is now independent South Sudan, multiple rebellions that continue till this very day, U.S. sanctions and most recently an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant alleging that he orchestrated war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

The conflict erupted in the large western region of Darfur in 2003, when ethnic African rebels rose up against Khartoum, complaining of discrimination by the Arab-dominated government.

Khartoum responded with a military crackdown, and it is accused of unleashing Arab militias known of Janjaweed, which have attacked ethnic African villages, killing, raping and looting residents, according to United Nations reports.

While Khartoum’s human rights record has always drawn condemnation since Bashir came to power over its brutal suppression of dissent, the Darfur conflict created a headache for the Sudanese government which has sought tirelessly to label it as a manufactured and an exaggerated crisis.

Bashir himself has vehemently denied any mass killings in Darfur and continuously asserted that no more than 10,000 were killed since the violence broke out a decade ago and rejected responsibility for the deaths.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people were killed in the course of the Darfur conflict while more than 2 million civilians were displaced.

Even though the violence in Darfur has ebbed from its 2003-2004 peaks it has recently picked up again between the army, rebels and rival tribes, displacing some 300,000 people since January of this year.

Machar calls on Abyei citizens to go home and prepare for envisaged referendum

July 23, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar Teny, has called on sons and daughters of Ngok Dinka chiefdoms of Abyei to return home and prepare themselves for the expected referendum exercise on self-determination in October this year.

In accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by Juba and Khartoum which ended 21 years of war between the two regions of the former one Sudan, the Ngok Dinka people of Abyei were supposed to simultaneously conduct the plebiscite in January 2011 when the people of South Sudan were deciding their destiny and voted for independence.

The exercise in Abyei failed to take place due to disagreements between Juba and Khartoum over who can take part in this crucial vote. While Juba says only the Ngok Dinka - who belong to the greater Dinka ethnic group in South Sudan - should vote, Khartoum wants the nomadic Misseriya tribe to equally participate in the vote.

The two sides have also failed to agree on the composition and leadership of the temporary Abyei administration, that will organise the conduct of the envisaged referendum.

Sudan has demanded the formation of a joint Abyei administration and recognition of the Misseriya as residents of the area and for them to participate in the referendum vote, without limiting their rights to access water and pastures.

Under the mediation of the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP), chaired by the former South African president Thabo Mbeki, the two sides tentatively agreed to the possibility of conducting the referendum in October this year if they could thresh out the outstanding issues in time.

In a campaign to mobilise the people of Abyei to return in preparations for the referendum, the leaders of Abyei community in Juba on Saturday organised a ceremony, which Machar addressed as the chief guest.

During his speech, the vice-president challenged the citizens of Abyei to show their seriousness by returning to Abyei and participate in the registration for the expected exercise.

The law requires that a citizen of Abyei must register within the Abyei area three months before the conduct of the referendum.

Most of the Ngok Dinka people are believed to have been scattered all over South Sudan, while some are still in Sudan.

Some are holding senior positions in South Sudan’s government, including the recently sacked minister of cabinet affairs, Deng Alor Kuol and the Inspector General of Police, Pieng Deng Kuol.

Machar, however, told the thousands of the citizens of Abyei gathered in Juba that the mobilisation was not for war with Khartoum, but was meant for a peaceful and lawful exercise of the referendum.

SUDAN REJECTS AU PROPOSAL

Sudan last year rejected a proposal submitted by the African Union mediation aiming at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum, saying it ignored that the eligibility of Misseriya was the main cause of discord.

Khartoum, in its rejection letter, said the proposal should abide by the 2005 peace deal which provided a specific protocol on the future of Abyei and the 2010 Abyei Referendum Act.

Meanwhile, the Misseriya Arab tribe recently renewed their rejection AUHIP proposal for holding a referendum in Abyei area this October. The Misseriya’s paramount chief, Mukhtar Babo Nimir, told the pro-government Sudan Media Center (SMC) website that a referendum without engaging them will be doomed to "failure".

Major changes across Sudan’s federal & state government forthcoming: official

July 19, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The head of Sudan’s parliamentary subcommittee on Security and Foreign Affairs Mohammed al-Hassan al-Amin revealed today that sweeping changes will me made across all levels of government.

Al-Amin said that the overhaul will be made primarily for the purpose of accommodating the new generations.

The Sudanese official added that this along with other measures are meant to address the economic and political challenges in the country.

He went on to say that this will help achieve the goals of furthering the goals of the National Congress Party (NCP) led government of adhering to Sharia law, alleviating the suffering of the citizens and achieving their ambitions and aspirations.

Local media reports in Khartoum indicate that a cabinet shuffle is imminent and will include major ministries such as foreign affairs, interior and defense.

There have been mounting signs of divisions within the NCP and frustration particularly within the younger generations in the party about the lack of change in the leadership many of whom retained their positions for more than two decades.

The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has also recently appeared to shy away from his pledge this year not to seek re-election in 2015.

Last year the Sudanese authorities thwarted what it said was a coup plot planned by pro-NCP figures in the army and security apparatus including former spy chief Salah Gosh.

Speeding bus killed 22 people in eastern Sudan

July 18, 2013 (KHARTOUM)  —  A speeding bus killed 22 people in eastern Sudan when it collided with a smaller vehicle, official media reported on Thursday.

The full-sized passenger bus heading to Kassala from Port Sudan was in collision with a minibus, Radio Omdurman said on its website.

In addition to the dead, nine people were injured, it said.

"The accident happened because of the speed of the bus," the report added.

Police could not be immediately reached for comment.

Deadly road accidents, often involving buses, are relatively common in Sudan where driving skills are poor.

At least 38 people died in June when a bus collided with a truck in White Nile state.

Police blamed excessive speed for that crash, one of the country's worst road accidents in years.

Khartoum diminish the importance sudden return of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir from Nigeria

July 17, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese government sought to downplay the significance of the sudden return by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir from Nigeria as further details emerged on his condensed program of work during his participation in the HIV summit in Abuja.

President Omer Hassan al-Bashir takes part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Abuja on July 15, 2013
part in the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Abuja on July 15, 2013.

“President Bashir returned normally to Khartoum after participating in the summit in Abuja to resume his work in Khartoum,” his press secretary Emad Sid Ahmed told Reuters.

This explanation contradicted slightly with the one provided yesterday by the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in Nigeria Mohammed Moiz who attributed Bashir’s sudden departure to other engagements without giving details.

The New York Times (NYT) quoted delegates at the conference as saying that Bashir abruptly left the room in the middle of an official lunch on Monday.

Furthermore, during the afternoon session, when Bashir was scheduled to speak, he could not be found confirming the unexpected nature of his absence even by the organizers of the conference and the hosts.

Later Bashir’s press secretary told NYT that “most presidents don’t attend entire conferences”.

A Sudanese diplomat who would not give his name told The Associated Press that Bashir left at 3 p.m. Monday, less than 24 hours after he arrived and in the middle of a two-day summit which ends on Tuesday.

Bashir’s presence has stirred controversy given his status as an individual wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegations related to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Conflict has raged through Darfur since 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of economic and political neglect. Khartoum armed Arab tribes to put down the insurgency.

Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate hundreds of thousands of people died in the conflict. The government says around 10,000 people were killed.

Sudan has refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the Hague-based court despite the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC under a Chapter VII resolution in 2005.

The late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has forced the 2009 AU Sirte summit to adopt a resolution instructing members not to cooperate with the ICC in arresting Bashir.

Despite not being consulted into drafting this decision, several African countries that are ICC members used it as an cover to receive Bashir in spite of their theoretical obligations under the Rome Statute which is founding treaty of the court.

This included Chad, Djibouti, Malawi, Kenya, and now Nigeria.

Furthermore, African nations and politicians accuse the court of unfairly targeting the continent in its choice of cases to investigate and prosecute.

But some experts say while this argument appears true on the surface, it does not hold water with a close look.

“It’s true all of the court’s current investigations are in Africa, but 7 out of 8 of them came about because the governments where the crimes were committed asked for the court’s involvement or the UN Security Council referred the situation due to the gravity of the crimes. So CAR [Central African Republic], DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Uganda, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire asked the court to get involved,” said Elise Keppler, Associate Director, International Justice Program, at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“[T]he Council referred Libya and Darfur. How can the court be targeting if they are responding to direct requests from governments affected or the council? The prosecutor’s office acted on its own initiative only in Kenya where there was wide international and domestic disappointment and frustration that the Kenyan government did nothing to prosecute heinous post-election crimes,” she added.

Ironically the bulk of African states that were in the UNSC at the time voted in favor of referring the situations in Libya and Darfur to the ICC.

Bashir’s trip to Nigeria stirred the anger of human rights groups including the Nigeria Coalition on the International Criminal Court (NCICC) which condemned Abuja’s decision to receive the Sudanese leader and went to a local court on Monday with a motion to compel the government to arrest him in line with its obligations under the Rome Statute.

Diplomatic sources told Pan-African news agency (PANA) that the move by NCICC was the "last straw" for Bashir prompting him to cut short his trip.

HRW welcomed what it perceived as the fruits of civil society pressure forcing the Sudanese leader to rush home.

"Business as usual is over for this head of state suspected of the most serious crimes committed in Darfur. Al-Bashir faced intense pressure for his arrest from local activists when he tried to visit Nigeria, including court action. Moreover, the examples of former Liberian president Charles Taylor and Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who were surrendered for international trial for grave crimes after years of safe haven, show that the highest-level fugitives can and do ultimately face justice. But Nigeria and other governments should better play their part in securing his arrest as soon as possible. The victims deserve to see justice done and he belongs in custody" Keppler said.

Nigeria was forced in the past to hand Taylor, the warlord who began that country’s devastating civil war in 1989.

In 2003, Taylor resigned under pressure and a promise from Nigeria’s government to give him a safe haven. When democratically elected leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf demanded his extradition in 2006, Nigeria came under huge international pressure and was forced to go back on its word and hand him over.

SUDAN REGRETS UK REMARKS ON BASHIR VISIT

On Tuesday, Sudan’s foreign ministry expressed regret for the comments made yesterday by Britain’s Africa minister Mark Simmonds on Bashir

“The UK has a strong and abiding bilateral relationship with Nigeria. I am therefore disappointed that Nigeria has chosen to host President Al Bashir of Sudan at an African Union event, despite International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants against him for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This undermines the work of the ICC and sends the victims a dismaying message that the accountability they are waiting for will be delayed further,” Simmonds said in a statement yesterday.

The Sudanese foreign ministry responded in a statement saying that the remarks of the British official amounts to a despise of the AU which is the organization that reflects the will of all African countries, pointing that African leaders in the AU’s Sirte Summit in 2009 decided not to cooperate with the ICC and renewed their decision in Addis Ababa’s summit recently.

The statement went on to say that the comments disregard the will of the African people and their democratic choices, considering it one of the worst examples of using double standards as well as moral and political inconsistency.

The foreign ministry further pointed that the British government has no moral grounds to speak on behalf of the victims of violence in Darfur, particularly as it harbors the leaders of the Darfur rebel groups who are responsible for the continuation of violence and assassination.

The US Embassy has also criticized Nigeria’s decision to welcome Bashir while the European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a statement today expressing concern and urging Nigeria “to respect its obligations under international law to arrest and surrender those subject to an arrest warrant from the ICC”.

But Nigeria brushed aside the international criticism saying that the event was organized by the AU.

"President Al-Bashir was in Nigeria under the auspices of the AU, based on the Assembly’s decision to convene the Special Summit in Abuja to deal with three diseases that together constitute a heavy burden on member states," the Nigerian foreign ministry said.

"Any attempt to make an issue out of the attendance of President Al-Bashir at the AU Summit will only amount to unnecessary shift from the important objectives of the special summit," it added.

"It is, therefore, a matter between the African Union and the international community," the ministry statement said.

The ICC judges issued an urgent request to Nigeria to arrest and surrender Bashir and reminded the West African nation of its obligations.

“Accordingly, it is under the obligation…to execute the pending Court’s decisions concerning the arrest and surrender of Omar Al Bashir,” the three-judge chamber said in document made public on Tuesday.

The row that erupted over Bashir’s trip highlights the increasing diplomatic difficulty faced by the Sudanese leader since his indictment.

Many countries have asked Bashir publicly or privately to stay away from summits it is hosting while other world leaders refuse to meet with him. At one point in 2011 his plane was forced to return to its point of origin on his way to China after Turkmenistan and Tajikistan refused to allow him into their airspace.

In late 2011, a local judge in Nairobi issued a provisional arrest warrant for Bashir in response for a motion by the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) after the government of then president Mwai Kibaki allowed the Sudanese president to attend the promulgation of the country’s new constitution in August 2010.

The ruling infuriated Bashir who expelled the Kenyan envoy and gave Nairobi two weeks to reverse the decision before imposing sanctions.

The government in Nairobi convinced Khartoum that it would appeal the decision which it did a few weeks later. The appellate court refused a request by the government to suspend the warrant against Bashir and ordered that it stays in effect until the appeal is fully heard.

It is not clear when a decision might be made on the case.

Ironically the current Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta himself is awaiting trial at the ICC for his alleged role in the post-election violence of 2007. However, unlike Bashir he has cooperated with the court throughout the process which likely allowed him to avoid the isolation imposed on his Sudanese peer.

Another irony is the fact that Bashir was accompanied by his health minister Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, a former Darfur rebel leader, who stood before the ICC voluntarily after being charged in the 2007 killing of African peacekeeper.

ICC judges acquitted him saying that the prosecution failed to prove that ABu Garda played a role in the deadly assault that left 12 soldiers dead and wounded eight others.

Bashir Returns Home after Participation at African Summit in Abuja

Khartoum, July 15 - President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, Monday evening returned home after his participation in the African Summit on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

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

In a press statement at Khartoum Airport, the Minister of Health, Bahar Idris Abu-Garda, described the visit as successful, indicating that Sudan has played great efforts for combating and reducing the rate of infection with the three diseases of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by adopting a number of measures in this regard.

President Bashir arrives in Nigeria for talks

July 14, 2013 (ABUJA, Nigeria)  — Sudan's indicted leader Omar al-Bashir arrived Sunday in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to a red-carpet welcome and a full guard of honor despite demands from human rights activists that Nigeria arrest him to face trial for genocide in Darfur.

Minister of Police Affairs Kenneth Olubolade was at the airport to meet the private presidential jet Sunday along with troops in ceremonial green and white uniforms and a military brass band.

"Nigeria has the shameful distinction of being the first West African country to welcome ICC fugitive Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

It said Nigeria's welcome is "in stark contrast" to the stands taken by other African countries. Only Chad and Djibouti have received al-Bashir in the past year.

The Nigerian Coalition on the International Criminal Court said South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Central Africa Republic "have specifically made clear Bashir will be arrested on their territory, seen to it that other Sudanese officials visit instead of Bashir, relocated conferences or otherwise avoided his visits."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009 indicted al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur. He was the first sitting African head of state indicted by the court.

"Al-Bashir is sought on the gravest crimes committed in Darfur and Nigeria's hosting is an affront to victims," said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.

The African Union has urged its 53 member states not to cooperate with the ICC, a stand that Nigeria may cite as an excuse for allowing al-Bashir's visit. No Nigerian officials could be reached for comment Sunday. President Goodluck Jonathan and all senior Cabinet ministers arrived home earlier Sunday from a week-long trip to China.

Al-Bashir is in Nigeria ostensibly to attend an African Union summit on health focusing on HIV and AIDS that is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The Nigerian coalition on Sunday called on citizens to picket the summit to protest the presence of al-Bashir.

Coalition director Chino Obiagwu said they are preparing to go to court Monday to demand that Nigeria arrest the Sudanese leader, to fulfill its obligations as a member of the European-based court. Some Africans charge that the ICC is racist in targeting Africans..

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