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October 2013 - Posts

Sudan’s Misseriya to hold counter-referendum in Abyei

October 30, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Misseriya tribe announced Tuesday, the organisation of an unilateral referendum to determine the fate of the disputed area of Abyei in riposte to the process organised by the Ngok Dinka who prepare to announce the results of their vote.

The National Youth and Student Organisation for Abyei, a youth group composed by Misseriya and Ngok Dinka youth from the disputed region announced in a press conference held in the Sudanese capital Khartoum the organisation of a popular referendum on the future on the areas.

The chairman of the group Mahmoud Abdel Karim said the vote will be open to all the resident of Abyei without excluding anyone, adding they invited regional and international organisations to monitor the process and mobilised volunteers to participate in the popular process.

He further called on the Sudanese, South Sudanese governments, African Union and the United Nations to recognise the result of their referendum .

The group’s secretary general, Ggor Deng, denounced the ongoing vote in in the region organised by Abyei high referendum committee, adding they welcomed the outcome of the presidential summit in Juba and support the establishment of joint administration and legislative council in Abyei as well as the police force.

Presidents Omer Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir agreed in a meeting held in Juba on 22 October to form the temporary institutions agreed on 20 June 2011 and to resume their discussions over the organisation of a referendum in accordance with the 2005 peace agreement.

The African Union and the United Nations disapproved the vote organised by Abyei community and called to refrain from unilateral actions, fearing that it could lead to ignite tensions between Sudan and South Sudan and stop the normalisation process engaged by the two governments.

The Misseriya paramount chief Mukhtar Babu Nimir, this week strongly criticised the unilateral referendum in Abyei and warned they would organise their process to maintain Abyei in Sudan.

"We will also organise a referendum similar (to the referendum of the Dinka Ngok)..If the result of their referendum was in favor of joining the South, we will organise a referendum to join the North", he said in an interview with Al-Meghar newspaper on 25 October.

Nimir extensively spoke about the good neighbouring and coexistence between two communities and accused what he called the "intellectuals and politicians" of the Nogk Dinka of being behind this unilateral referendum.

He stressed that the tribal leaders of the Dinka Ngok are opposed to the unilateral referendum.

On the other hand, in statements to the semi-official SMC, Zakeria Atem, a tribal Ngok Dinka leader accused Kush organisation of Deng Alor and luka Biong of organising the referendum with the support of some foreign groups, adding they will stand by the Misseriya to defend the area.

Observers agree that the residents of the border area are now sharply divided between those who want to join the South Sudan and those who are supportive to maintaining Abyei within the current Sudan.

Khartoum and Juba failed to hold a referendum on Abyei in January 2011 as provided in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement because they did not agree on who is eligible to vote.

The African Union mediation panel failed to broker an agreement between the two sides who reject all the proposals it advanced in this respect since 2010.

However, the African Union Peace and Security Council expressed its support the latest proposition made by the head of the mediation Thabo Mbeki in September 2012 which says that only the Ngok Dinka vote in the referendum.

The proposition is in line with the position of the South Sudan which had rejected a proposal aiming to divide the region between the two countries.

The leaders of Abyei high referendum committee say they were forced to organise their own process as the two countries did not strike a deal and there is no horizon for an agreement over the voter eligibility.

The organisers who vowed to seek international support to the outcome of their process further say they are acting within the framework of the rule of the international arbitration court which provides that Abyei belongs to the nine chiefdoms of the Ngok Dinka.

The Misseriya, who repeat they hosted in the Ngok in their land, have rejected the rule. Their leader Mukhtar Babu Nimir said for the time being they support the position of the Sudanese government because it is in accord with their position.

"Yes, we fully agree with the government in the North, This is why we do not want to disagree with them", he said about the position of the Sudanese government.

The nomads who fought against the former SPLM rebels before the signing of the CPA in 2005, say they are ready to defend their land if Khartoum accept a referendum excluding them.

Sudanese president defends media crackdown, pledges free & fair elections

October 29, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir announced today that 58 people will stand trial for their involvement in the protests which broke out in different parts of the country in late September over recent economic package adopted by the government and said that they will review “exceptional” measures taken against media outlets for their coverage of the demonstrations.

“The recent events have tested the media and the public opinion made its judgment on those who managed to commit themselves to professionalism, honesty, and objectivity, and those who were blinded by their special interests and seduced by vagary”, Bashir said in his address before the opening of the parliament’s eighth session.

He went on to say that investigations into the protests unearthed evidence against 58 people, emphasising that law would be applied firmly against those who undermined security and vandalised properties.

Bashir also pledged that authorities would investigate the killings that occurred in the protests and nab perpetrators once identified. The Sudanese leader affirmed that his government is committed to paying out compensations to victims following the conclusion of the committees’ work which were set up to identify human and material losses.

He further pointed to those whom he described as “lying in wait” and said that they viewed the implementation of the economic package as a favourable opportunity to overthrow the regime, accusing them of standing behind the criminal groups which vandalized, destroyed, looted, and killed innocent citizens.

The violent clashes that erupted between demonstrators and security forces lead to about 70 deaths, according to official figures, although activists, rights groups and opposition parties put the death toll at more than 200.

Sudanese authorities said they arrested 700 in connection with the riots and denied using live ammunition against protesters. They accused outside elements of firing at the demonstrators, namely the rebel coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).

Bashir said that given the ordeal [the recent protests] subsided and life returned to normal, the government would now be open to reconsidering the exceptional measures applied against some individuals and media institutions that did not commit themselves to professionalism and objectivity rules.

Khartoum shut down the offices of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya and Sky News Arabia TV and intermittently suspended several dailies newspapers including pro-government ones such as al-Sudani, al-Meghar, al-Jareeda and al-Mash’had al-Aan.

The al-Intibaha newspaper owned by Bashir’s uncle was suspended indefinitely.

SUDAN ENGAGES WITH REBELS

Bashir renewed his call for the rebel groups in Darfur to sign the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) stressing the government’s readiness to pardon arms bearers and negotiate with them on arrangements for joining the peace process.

He also said that his government is keen on achieving peace in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, calling upon rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) fighting there to resume negotiations in order to implement the remaining parts of the two areas protocols that were included in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

It was Bashir who swiftly scrapped a June 2011 framework agreement signed by his aide Nafie Ali Nafie with SPLM-N and has insisted that his government will deal militarily with the rebel movement.

But this year Sudanese officials announced a change in position and agreed to sit down with the SPLM-N but only on the basis of the protocols related to Blue Nile and South Kordofan in the CPA.

Last April, the first round of talks between the SPLM-N and the Sudanese government since 2011 resumed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa under the auspices of the African Union (AU) but adjourned without success in achieving any breakthrough.

Last June, Bashir said that they will no longer negotiate with the rebels following their assault on towns in North and South Kordofan states.

The Sudanese president called upon political parties to participate in the upcoming elections, saying that it is the only means for change and reform, promising to conduct free and fair elections in 2015.

He did not directly address the recent split that emerged in his National Congress Party (NCP) but spoke of reform as being an integral part of the government’s philosophy.

This week, an NCP commission of inquiry established by Bashir recommended the dismissal of Bashir’s ex-adviser and former NCP majority leader in parliament Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani, along with two other members and suspending nine others for 12 months.

The punished members were among a larger group that included more than 30 NCP figures which signed on an open petition to president Bashir last month following the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies which prompted a deadly wave of protests across the country.

The party’s leadership bureau chaired by Bashir endorsed the recommendations and referred it to the NCP Shura (consultative) Council to review and make a binding decision.

Al-Attabani was not present at the parliamentary session nor the other two dismissed members.

Salah Gosh, ex-chief of intelligence and former adviser to Bashir, who is also an MP attended the session which is his first since being charged in connection with an alleged coup attempt last year.

He was later released after prosecutors decided not to press charges in what appeared to be a presidential directive. 

Sudan’s ex-majority leader becomes NCP’s first high-profile defector in a decade

October 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The former adviser to president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) ex-majority leader in parliament Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani declared today his intention to leave the party and form a new one that would "bring new hope to Sudan".

The move was widely expected as it comes two days after an NCP commission of inquiry established by Bashir recommended the dismissal of Al-Attabani along with two other members and suspending nine others.

The punished members were among a larger group that included more than 30 NCP figures which signed on an open petition to president Bashir last month following the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies which prompted a deadly wave of protests across the country that killed at least 60 according to official figures and more than 200 as reported by activists and rights groups.

The signatories including lawmakers and retired army officers, called for reinstating the subsidies due to its "harsh" impact on ordinary Sudanese and demanded that the government prosecute those behind the use excessive violence against protestors.

They also urged Bashir to form a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of various political forces and assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team.

"The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today" they said in their letter to Bashir which was seen as a direct challenge to the president who is now the country’s longest serving leader.

Al-Attabani and several others also refused to appear before the panel and questioned its legality and standing. They also said its formation shows the lack of tolerance inside the party for different views.

On Saturday he described the committee’s recommendations as “arbitrary” and said that those behind it "have fired the death bullet on the body of reform which they claim to be seeking".

He pointed that the door is now wide open for the formation of a new political party, adding that they laid out a formula for a party that would offer a respected alternative and bring new hope to Sudan.

Al-Attabani said that they will consult with large segments of the Sudanese people to arrive at a consensus that accommodates their hopes and aspirations.

One of the three dismissed members by the name of Fadlallah Ahmed Abdallah said today that they will name the new party within a week adding that a mini-committee was formed to pick a name.

The former presidential adviser has long shown to be unhappy with the direction of the country and the NCP though he has been very careful not to make public statements that would make him appear to align with opposition’s agenda.

This has led many reformists in the NCP and its ideological arm, the Islamist Movement (IM) to criticize Al-Attabani saying that he is unwilling to take a firm and unequivocal stance against the government in his push for change and is only talking of reform in very general terms.

But Attabani was slowly becoming at odds with the NCP old guards and was removed earlier this year from his post as NCP majority leader in the national assembly which was widely believed to be in response to his assertions that Bashir is constitutionally barred from running again for presidency.

Last year he withdrew his candidacy for IM Secretary General and left its convention angrily due to what he saw as interferences by influential government figures who pushed through amendments he strongly opposed.

In July he released a memo outlining what he said is his vision for "reformist drive" emphasizing that he is keen on reform to shield the country and people from more problems. He also warned that resistance to reform might makes matters worst in Sudan.

It remains to be seen whether al-Attabani’s decision to leave the NCP will shake up the political scene and whether it might lead to more defections and emergence of new political alliances with other opposition parties.

The first split within the NCP took place in 1999 following a bitter power struggle between Bashir and Islamist leader Hassan Al-Turabi, with the latter subsequently ousted from his post as parliament speaker.

Al-Turabi later established the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and has since been a vociferous critic of the very regime for which he orchestrated the army-backed seizure of power in 1989.

The NCP has been facing growing difficulties particularly as its coffers dried up after the oil-rich south became an independent nation in July 2011.

Last November the Sudanese government said that it uncovered a "sabotage" attempt that was later upgraded and labeled as a coup. Authorities arrested dozens of suspects in the army and security apparatus including ex-spy chief Salah Gosh and Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil who served in Bashir’s security detail at one point.

African Peace and Security Council condemns Sudan for preventing its visit to Abyei

October 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) issued a statement on Sunday condemning the Sudanese government for preventing its planned visit to Abyei and warning against any unilateral action in the disputed areas.

The council “expresses its deep disappointment and regret that it was unable to undertake the visit to Abyei, as planned, on 26 and 27 October 2013”, it said in a statement released following its 403rd meeting on Saturday.

The 15-member body said that the Sudanese government did not allow the visit under the pretext of alleged security reasons, stressing “the discrepancies in the analysis, by the parties, of the situation prevailing in Abyei”.

“[The] council considers this to be an obstruction to the discharge of its responsibilities”, it said in the strongly worded statement.

The statement added that the council considers that “those who obstructed its visit should bear full responsibility for any resulting negative development in the area”.

The African body also praised Juba for its appeal to the Ngok Dinka community to refrain from any unilateral actions in Abyei, urging it “to continue to demonstrate utmost restraint”.

The African body also renewed its calls for Khartoum and Juba to continue their efforts to reach an agreement on the final status of the Abyei Area, based on the proposal put forward on 21 September 2012 by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

“Council strongly urges the UN Security Council (UNSC) to extend its full support to the AUHIP proposal, which is the best way forward in addressing the challenges at hand”, the statement said.

Khartoum has refused to accept the proposal by the AU panel, which is headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, stressing that the Arab Misseriya nomads should also be eligible to take part in the plebiscite on whether the area should be part of Sudan or South Sudan.

However, the statement warned the parties in Abyei to refrain from taking any unilateral action that may further complicate the situation, reiterating its call for “maximum restraint”.

The AUPSC further called on the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments to “expeditiously” establish an Abyei administration and its legislative council in line with the agreement reached on 20 June 2011.

The council also demanded the Sudanese government “refrain from obstructing its work and extend full cooperation in support of the AU’s efforts to manage and resolve the situation in Abyei”.

The AUPSC plans to conduct its postponed visit to Abyei on 5 and 6 November.

ACTIONS, NOT WORDS NEEDED

However, a South Sudanese civil society activist has called on the AUPSC to take action against the Sudanese government instead of merely condemning its decision to block the scheduled visit.

“We feel [Omer Hassan] Al-Bashir is playing with the issue of Abyei and this is what CEPO [Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation] has being saying since last year”, Edmund Yakani told Sunday.

“This move by Sudan government is absolutely undermining the outcome of the recent summit held in Juba between [Salva] Kiir and Al-Bashir”, he added.

He also expressed fears that Khartoum’s decision to block the AU team from visiting the contested oil-producing region was likely to provoke the otherwise calm situation on the ground.

“[The] South Sudan government now has to use Angel diplomatic approach of pursuing the international community to put pressure on Al-Bashir”, said Yakani.
President Bashir vows to make 2013 end of rebellion

October 25, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, has pledged to beat off those whom he described as saboteurs, arms bearers, bandits and infiltrators before the end of this year and accused them of leaking information to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors.

Bashir, who delivered a public speech in Abu Zaima and Um Bader areas in North Kordofan state on Thursday, welcomed armed groups wishing to achieve peace, swearing that he would only do what pleases Allah (God).

He warned the people against succumbing to the claims of marginalization raised by rebels and urged them not to accept the foreign humanitarian relief.

“If a white man bring you relief, don’t take it and whip him on his back”, he said.

He also directed harsh criticism at the US administration for not granting him an entry visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings last month saying that his trip to the US would have demonstrated the ICC inability to arrest him.

Bashir faces two arrest warrants issued by the ICC which charged him in 2009 and 2010 on ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with the decade-long conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

He praised the governor of North Kordofan state, Ahmed Haroun, and described him as competent public official and likened him to the cloud that brings good wherever it falls, saying that he was appointed as governor at the request of the people of the state.

“Ahmed and I are in the same batch of the ICC”, he said laughingly.

Haroun is also one of the Sudanese officials wanted by the ICC for war crimes he allegedly masterminded in Darfur during his time as state minister for interior.

The Sudanese leader also praised the Minister of Dams and Electricity, Osama Abdalla, and said that he is the one to pick for tough challenges.

“When there is a tough mission I look at the men around me and I don’t find one better than Osama Abdalla” he said.

Bashir , who concluded his two-day visit to North Kordofan state today, attended in the locality of Sudari the opening of Abu Zaima bridge which connects North Kordofan and North Darfur states to Sudan’s twin capital city of Omdurman.

He also received the North Kordofan’s document for development Nafeer (a call to mobilize) amid a large crowd in El-Obaid stadium.

Bashir underscored his government’s keenness to deliver services to the rural areas and achieve balanced development, saying that it is the duty of the government to provide health services, water, and education to the citizens.

He called for solidarity among the Sudanese people and particularly the people in North Kordofan state to defeat the saboteurs who “have sold themselves” and trying to impede development efforts.

Bashir also opened Um Bader’s dam in the locality of Sudari and addressed a public rally and emphasized his government’s keenness to achieve peace and security in all parts of Sudan, saying that they wouldn’t allow saboteurs to destabilize the country and hinder development.

He renewed his government pledge to implement development projects and provide health services, water, and education in the rural areas to prevent migration to urban areas and maintain values and heritage of the rural areas, pointing that all leaders of his regime have descended from rural areas.

The governor of Kordofan state, Ahmed Haroun, for his part, said that the opening of these projects is the first step in the road for development.

The minister of electricity and dams, Osama Abdalla, asserted that his ministry would continue building infrastructure projects including bridges and water projects.

Bashir , who addressed people in El-Obeid grand mosque on Friday, said that the government won’t tolerate those who refused peace and sold themselves "for a few dollars and dirhams", stressing that what happened in Um Rawaba and Abu-Kershola earlier this year will not be repeated.

Last April, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels swept through Um Rawaba in North Kordofan state in an attack that took the Sudanese government and observers by surprise. The rebels stormed the major town which lies around 500 kilometers south of the capital Khartoum utilizing 150 vehicles.

North Kordofan, which includes Um Rawaba and forms part of Sudan’s commercial heartland, is a hub for the country’s agriculture, livestock and gum Arabic industries.

The president downplayed the differences among political forces and demanded the Sudanese people work together to develop the country, calling upon states’ governors to provide services and create a work environment conducive for development.

Bashir further pledged to implement all development projects in North Kordofan state including El-Obeid water project, stressing that work has begun in the road which connects El-Obeid and Bara with Omdurman as well as the project of the medical city.

He also said that his government is interested in building the continental road network which revives the old pilgrimage route and connects North Kordofan state with South Sudan and West Africa.

Sudanese cleric slams TV prize draws as sacrilegious

October 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - A Sudanese cleric who is also a member of the parliament issued a Fatwa (religious ruling) by which he declared that prizes offered by telecommunications companies to its subscribers through a daily TV draw are forbidden by Islam.

A number of Sudanese telecom companies including Zain, Sudani and MTN have been conducting these draws over the last two months to encourage its subscribers to register their personal details associated with the SIM cards they own.

The prizes offered include cash, gold coins and cars.

But hardliner cleric Dafalla Hassab al-Rasool said in press statements today that subscribers who received prizes through these draws should seek to get rid of it and donate them to mosques or to the poor and needy.

He noted that the Islamic Fiqh Council Fatwa in this regard prompted the telecommunication ministry to order these companies to scrap these programs.

MP al-Rasool said that Sudan’s highest religious authority determined that these draws are marred by questionable practices.

He stressed that telecom companies should attract customers by improving the quality of their services and prices and not through "gambling".

"These cars and other [prizes] are funded by the prices of these SIM cards purchased but the award goes to one person only and this is gambling," he said.

Sudan, South Sudan seek to mend ties to keep oil flowing

JUBA | Tue Oct 23, 2013- The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan said on Tuesday they were happy with work to rebuild southern oil exports through a Sudanese pipeline, seeking to end a recurring row that has hurt a vital source of revenues for both nations.

Within months of South Sudan's secession in mid-2011 from Sudan, Juba halted its exports that at the time had been running at 300,000 barrels per day because of a row of transit fees, border security and territory. Both economies struggled.

The taps were turned on again in April, but just three months later South Sudan had cutback output and threatened to shut it down again after Sudan accused Juba of backing rebels.

The land-locked south depends on a pipeline that runs north to a Sudanese terminal in Port Sudan.

"The two sides express satisfaction over the progress made with regard to the flow and export of oil," the two presidents, Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir and South Sudan's Salva Kiir, said in a joint communique after talks in Juba.

It was only Bashir's second visit since the south seceded. It followed unrest in Sudan in September over fuel subsidy cuts, driven by a severe financial crunch since the north lost most of its oil producing areas to the south.

Output is now about 190,000 barrels per day, South Sudan's Petroleum Ministry said in October, revising down a figure of 240,000 bpd it gave in September, attributing that mistaken number to a "clerical error."

The presidents also sought to strike a unified note over the disputed territory of Abyei, a region on the border whose fate was left undecided when South Sudan declared independence.

A long-promised official plebiscite on whether it belongs to Sudan or its southern neighbor has been stalled by arguments over who is entitled to vote. Leaders of one pro-South Sudan group have threatened to hold their own referendum next week.

The joint communique said the two sides would seek to establish an administration and police force for Abyei and said "the 2 percent share of Abyei area in oil revenue, including arrears, will be paid to the Abyei administration."

Abyei was a major battleground in the north-south civil war that ran for more than two decades until a peace deal in 2005. It has emotional, symbolic and strategic significance for both.

South Sudan said this month it had made more than $1.3 billion in oil sales since the country restarted production in April this year. It also said it had paid more than $300 million to Khartoum to export the crude through Sudan's pipelines.

Kiir-Bashir summit ends without solution on Abyei deadlock

October 22, 2013 (JUBA) – The highly anticipated summit between South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir ended with no viable solution on the fate of the disputed oil-producing region of Abyei.

The two leaders, officials told, mainly explored matters aimed at strengthening relations between them, less than a month after the two countries signed an agreement for the establishment of official entry crossing points on both sides of the border.

Tuesday’s meeting, which took place in the South Sudan capital, Juba, also looked into issues related to trade and mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Prior the meeting, however, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) had hoped the two leaders would use the summit as an opportunity to take concrete steps aimed at resolving the final status of the disputed oil-producing region.

A joint communiqué obtained said the Kiir and his Sudan counterpart only agreed on general terms for administration and policing of Abyei, to be handled by both parties.

The two leaders, it further added, also agreed “to expedite the establishment of Abyei Administration, Council and Police organs, and reaffirm that the 2% share of Abyei Area’s oil revenue, including arrears, will be paid to the Abyei Administration.”

Resolving the final status of Abyei still remains a major issue between the Sudan and South Sudan after the latter broke away from the former in July 2011, leaving several unresolved post-secession issues.

Last year, the AU mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei this month, but stated that only those residing permanently in the area will be allowed to vote in the plebiscite and decide whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan.

The Sudanese government, however, rejected the AU proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum saying it ignored that the eligibility of the Misseriya.

The Ngok Dinka openly declared their intention to conduct the Abyei area community referendum this month after a general conference its community members held on Friday in Abyei town.

The move, which was inadvisable by African and international bodies, would put the area at high risk of communal violence between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya who claim also the ownership of the region.

Ngok Dinka community to hold Abyei referendum this month

October 21, 2013 (JUBA) – The Ngok Dinka have openly declared their intention to conduct the Abyei area community referendum, saying they see "no light at the end of the tunnel".

The decision emerged after Friday’s general conference for the Ngok Dinka community, which was held in Abyei town.

The move, which was inadvisable by African and international bodies, would put the area at high risk of communal violence between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya who claim also the ownership of the region.

The referendum, the community said in a statement emailed by the former Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee Luka Biong, should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, while calling upon the international community, media houses and relevant organisations to monitor and observe the process.

No specific date was, however, fixed for the self-determination vote. However since Saturday reports emerged saying that the vote would be conducted during the last days of the month and the result would be announced on 31 October.

The community leaders prepared this vote since several months and they encouraged the return of its members to the disputed areas. UN aid agencies estimate that over 10.000 people recently regained Abyei.

North and South Sudan fought over two decades of civil war, which only ended with the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Kenya.

Under its protocol on Abyei, however, the people of the contested region should have conducted their referendum at the same time as the South Sudanese, but was postponed due to disagreements between the North and South Sudanese leaders.

These differences mainly centred on the eligibility of voters. While Juba maintained that only the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms were eligible to vote as permanent residents of the area, Khartoum insisted that the Misseriya Arabs, who are temporary residents, be allowed to take part in the referendum.

So, although the protocol specifies Abyei residents as eligible voters, it still remains unclear as who were the legal inhabitants of the contested area, which is claimed by both countries.

In 2009, however, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) redefined Abyei area as the land of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms.

The community, in one of its resolutions, recognised efforts of African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) to put the two Sudans on the track of peace and stability by adopting a comprehensive roadmap in April, 2012 that was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in form of its resolution 2046 in May, 2012.

"(We…) Believe that the United Nations represents a vision for humanity where national and sovereign interests align with a higher respect for the fundamental rights of peoples," the communiqué reads in part.

Last year, the AU mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei this month, but stated that only those residing permanently in the area will be allowed to vote in the plebiscite and decide whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan.

The Sudanese government, however, rejected a AU proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum saying it ignored that the eligibility of the Misseriya.

A leading member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Abyei accused the Ngok Dinka of defying the AU decision and preparing to hold an unilateral vote on the fate of the disputed region.

Mac Yak Kor, a former member of Abyei administration accused Deng Alor, a leading member in the South Sudan ruling party SPLM and former minister, of mobilising the Ngok Dinka to carry out a referendum to determine the future of the contested area.

Kor told the official news agency (SUNA) that Alor uses a group called "Youth for Abyei Referendum" to prepare for the unilateral vote, stressing they are now campaigning in the northern part of the claimed area.

He called on the United Nations mission in Abyei (UNISFA) to "take the necessary steps to stop these negative moves" which aim to portray Sudan as the biggest enemy of the Dinka, Kor added.

During last week’s meeting with the UN special envoy for two Sudans, president Salva Kiir expressed his disappointments at the way the international community responded to calls for immediate intervention on Abyei.

"There is also a need for an honest approach from the international community so that the conflict is resolved amicably at once", the South Sudanese leader told Haile Menkerios.

BASHIR AND KIIR SUMMIT

Sudanese president Omer Al Bashir plans to travel to Juba on Tuesday 22 October at the invitation of his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir.

The foreign minister Ali Karti said on Sunday that the two leaders , among other things, will discuss the issue of Abyei and the decisions of the African Union on Abyei, in addition to the decisions agreed by the two sides on the disputed area.

The Sudanese official is referring to the formation of Abyei interim institutions agreed on 20 June 2011. But the Nogk Dinka refuse the implementation of this deal saying they are no longer ready to share the administration of their region with Misseriya.

Karti, however, was keen to minimise the impact of Abyei issue on bilateral relations saying that the two presidents are capable of banishing any fears that may trouble the evolving relations between the two countries.

Al-Mahdi says NUP did not support protests for lack of clear alternative to NCP government

October 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The head of Sudan’s largest opposition party directed fresh criticism at the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) accusing it of damaging the economy and prioritizing security expenditures over more pressing items just to maintain its grip on power.

Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was the last democratically elected Prime Minister before the 1989 coup and leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), said that all solutions currently offered by the NCP are nothing more but “band aids”.

However, the opposition leader suggested that his party is not prepared to support any uprising against the government until political and social groups in the country agree to a clear alternative.

Al-Mahdi recalled the demonstrations that erupted since late September across Sudan against the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies saying that his party did not call on its membership to join them.

“The reason for not inviting the [NUP] youths to protest is for the lack of suitable alternative and we previously tabled the question of who is the alternative and did not find it,” al-Mahdi told a gathering on Friday night held under the title of ‘Call for National Consensus’.

The meeting was called for by several group including ‘Youths for Change’ to establish a united front that would also incorporate the NCP and opposition parties to lead internal and external reforms and resist the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

However, most opposition parties and even the NCP boycotted the meeting.

According to the al-Khartoum daily, al-Mahdi went on to explain that protests and acts of civil disobedience require preparations so the NUP could not urge people to protest without giving them the necessary support.

The NUP leader stressed that excluding the NCP from political transition will lead to a scenario similar to that of Syria and Egypt.

He also criticized what he described as the “internationalization” of Sudan problems saying that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Abyei protocol were “cooked” by the United States.

The NUP agreed with other participants that they are to address the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to scrap Bahir’s warrant on the grounds that he is the symbol of the nation.

This is not the first time al-Mahdi pours cold shower on opposition stated intentions to topple the regime and took stances that were interpreted to be pro-government.

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 2011.

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.

Last June, 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.

Ngok Dinka accused of working to hold unilateral vote on Abyei future

October 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - A leading member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Abyei accused the Ngok Dinka of defying the African Union decision and preparing to hold an unilateral vote on the fate of the disputed region.

Mac Yak Kor, a former member of Abyei administration accused Deng Alor, a leading member in the South Sudan ruling party SPLM and former minister, of mobilising the Ngok Dinka to carry out a referendum to determine the future of the contested area.

Kor told the official news agency (SUNA) that Alor uses a group called "Youth for Abyei Referendum" to prepare for the unilateral vote, stressing they are now campaigning in the northern part of the claimed area.

He called on the United Nations mission in Abyei (UNISFA) to "take the necessary steps to stop these negative moves" which aim to portray Sudan as the biggest enemy of the Dinka, Kor added.

The former official of Abyei administration further urged the Sudanese government to take precautionary security measures to protect civilians there in the event of any problem with "SPLM groups", he said.

Sudan and South Sudan failed to reach a compromise over voter eligibility before to hold a referendum to determine the future of Abyei. They also rejected two proposals the African Union mediation team had made to settle this conflict.

Juba recently banned its official media from publicising or organising talk-shows on issues related to Abyei unilateral referendum.

The South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and his government has often been criticised in the media for normalising relations with Sudan without reaching an agreement over Abyei status with Khartoum.

The Sudanese government for the first time on Saturday confirmed that president Omer Al-Bashir will fly to Juba on Tuesday 22 October for talks with his South Sudanese counterpart on bilateral relations.

A statement released by SUNA says that Bashir will visit Juba leading a high level delegation upon an invitation extended by Kiir to discuss issues of mutual concern without details.

Different sources, however, say their meeting will discuss Abyei this time, as many officials complained during last month summit in Khartoum that no time was dedicated to the disputed areas.

Bashir expected to visit South Sudan next week

October 18, 2013 (JUBA) - Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir is expected for an official visit to South Sudan on 22 October, according to a senior South Sudan official.

The visit will be the third by the Bashir since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011.

The visit will also come two weeks after the two countries signed an agreement allowing establishment of official entry crossing points on both sides of the border and committing to honour past pledges including releasing of prisoners of war.

Asked about the visit, a spokesperson for South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs said he had unofficially heard about it but said South Sudan had not yet received official communication from their counterparts in Khartoum.

"It [the visit ] remains a rumour. There is no official communication at the moment with the government of Sudan. The Sudanese embassy here says it sent to our official account a document about this information but we have not opened it because our system has been experiencing some technical issues for the whole of today", Ambassador Mawien Makol told on Wednesday.

However, Makol said contact with officials at South Sudan’s embassy in Khartoum indicate Bashir will likely visit South Sudan next week.

"The information we have from Khartoum shows that president Bashir is expected to visit Juba on 22 October, but it has not been officially confirmed", he further said.

Meanwhile, Eye Radio, a local radio station supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) quoted Sudanese Information minister, Hamed Belal Osman confirming the visit, saying it is aimed at strengthening the relations between the two countries.

“I can say that we need the visits to continue in a natural manner. We want the visit to be normal because the two Presidents are brothers,’’ Eye Radio quoted minister Osman as saying.

According to Eye Radio, the minister said the Abyei referendum and demarcation of the border will likely be discussed by the two heads of state.

The Sudanese and South Sudanese presidents agreed last September during a summit held in Khartoum to fully implement the cooperation agreements signed in September 2012.

Abyei and some border zones remains the only unresolved issues between the two sides.

Juba stops public media campaigns for Abyei referendum

October 16, 2013 (JUBA/KHARTOUM) - South Sudanese government unexpectedly issued strong administrative instructions, suspending all announcements and mobilisation campaigns in support of the Abyei referendum, according to senior officials.

The directive, issued late on October 15, affects state-owned South Sudan Television and Radio but cites no specific reasons for the cessation of communications about the plebiscite, which was scheduled to take place this month.

“The management of the South Sudan Television and Radio has received directives from a higher authority to immediately suspend all announcements and mobilisation campaigns in support of Abyei referendum. We were told to implement them (administrative orders) with immediate effective. There was no mention of any reason”, a senior official at South Sudan Television told on Wednesday.

Abyei was originally due to hold a vote to decide its future in January 2011 at the same time that South Sudan opted to secede from Sudan. The oil-producing region is claimed by both countries.

However the referendum has been delayed because the two parties failed to define who are Abyei residents that can participate in the crucial vote on the fate of the disputed territory.

Khartoum says the Misseriya nomads who pass some six months in the area are residents and have to vote while officials in Juba say only the Ngok Dinka can vote.

Last year, the African mediation or the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) proposed that only the Ngok Dinka participate in a referendum that can take place in October 2013.

The panel said that its proposal comes in line with the rule of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2009 providing that Abyei belongs to the nine chiefdoms of the Ngok Dinka.

The elite of the Ngok Dinka and several civil society groups from the disputed area campaigned recently to unilaterally hold the referendum as provided in the AUHIP proposal.

The South Sudanese government backed the move and directed to support the return of Abyei people to their homeland to take part in the vote.

In a joint meeting held in New York on 27 September, The African Union and United Nations said concerned by the "deteriorating political environment in the Abyei area and the risk that unilateral actions by Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities lead to security incidents costly in human lives".

They further called on the two sides to form Abyei interim administration and to " he Abyei Area Referendum Commission and refrain from undertaking unilateral actions and encourages implementation of such commitments."

JUBA DEMANDS NEW DATE FOR REFERENDUM

In statements to the private Sudanese TV channel Ashorroq, South Sudanese ambassador in Khartoum Mayan Dut Wol said they are waiting to determine a new date for the referendum after recent decision of the AU UN meeting which included the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Dut Wol however praised the bilateral relations between the two countries and said that Juba is ready to open the 10 crossing points for border trade. He added that he opening will be effective within two weeks.

He further underlined that joint committees are working to settle security issues.

Shoe thrown at Sudanese presidential assistant: report

October 14, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie had a shoe thrown at him during a social event in al-Halaliya town in central Sudan, according to a news report.

The Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV quoted an eyewitness by the name of Yusuf al-Hadi Kabashi as saying that a 20-something-year-old male became aggravated when he saw Nafie at a ceremony to honour al-Amin Dafalla, a leading figure in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Dafalla saw his house burned during the recent protests which erupted over the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies.

The unidentified assailant slammed Nafie as a “thief” and a “murderer” then threw a shoe at him before the Sudanese official reached the podium.

Kabashi said that Nafie, who appeared visibly angry after the incident, had been caught by surprise and failed to avoid the flying shoe.

A few weeks ago, Nafie was forced to rush out from a memorial ceremony after a group of mourners surrounded him, calling for him to leave.

The memorial ceremony was being held in memory of Salah Sanhoori, a pharmacist who was shot dead during last month’s protests.

The bizarre incident mirrored that of another notorious show-throwing incident in which an Iraqi man threw his footwear at George W Bush at a 2008 press conference, narrowly missing the then-US president.

In a separate incident in 2010, one angry audience member took aim at then-Australian prime minister John Howard during a live television appearance.

Algerian group to invest $6 billion in Sudan

October 14, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - A private Algerian manufacturer of food products, Cevital, said willing to invest six billion USD in the food industry in Sudan after facilities granted by the authorities of the East African country.

We "chose Sudan because this country wants to achieve economic breakthrough, and its authorities are fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead", said Cevital chief executive officer Issad Rebrab in statement to the Bloomberg Arabic service on Saturday.

He added that the Sudanese move also confirms Khartoum desire to exploit its non-oil resources.

Rebrab said his negotiations with the Sudan started since two years ago, adding he had been received by president Omer Al-Bashir who assured that his government was ready to provide him all the needed facilities enabling him to transfer expertise and technology to Sudan.

On the other hand, minister of agriculture Abdel Halim Al-Mutafi stated that the Sudanese government decided to allocate 50 hectares in Khartoum region to the Algerian firm besides other arable areas to achieve joint projects.

In October 2010, Rebrab said that his company exported sugar to Sudan.

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