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January 2014 - Posts

South Sudan releases seven political detainees

January 30, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government announced on Wednesday the release of seven of the 11 political detainees, despite mounting pressure from the international community and right activists for all to be freed.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta (C) receives seven of the 11 political leaders accused of plotting a failed military coup in South Sudan in December, in Nairobi on 29 January 2014. Also pictured is retired Kenyan general Lazaro Sumbeiywo (second right) and director-general of Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) Michael Gichangi at far righ
Kenyan President & S.S. Political Leaders

South Sudan’s minister of Justice, Paulino Wanawilla Unago, confirmed the release of the seven, saying all had since left the country amid safety fears but will return to face trial.

“They (the detainees) left the country because some people have expressed serious concerns about their safety if they continue to stay here. Also one of presidents from our neighbouring countries had promised to allow them stay in his country and would bring them when there is a need for further investigation, especially if they are found later to have participated in the failed coup attempt”, he said.

Unago declined to reveal the name of the country which had offered political asylum to the detainees, although former cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor Kuol confirmed that he and the six other detainees had arrived in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, as it is confirmed by the Kenyan presidency.

Kuol was released along with former minister of telecommunications and postal services Madut Biar Yel, former youth minister Cirino Iteng, former finance minister Kosti Manibe, former roads and transport minister Gier Chuang Aluong, former justice minister John Luk Jok, former Lakes state governor Chol Tong Mayay.

Those who remain in detention include Pagan Amum Okiech, former secretary-general of the ruling SPLM party, Oyai Deng Ajak, former minister for national security, Majak D’Agoot, former deputy minister of defence and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, former South Sudanese ambassador to the United States.

In a statement to Kenyan state media upon the group’s arrival in Nairobi, Jok said that as leaders of the young nation they were “ashamed” of the quarrelling over issues which could have been resolved peacefully, referring to the political row within the ruling party that led to the violence.

TREASON CHARGES

Their release comes as South Sudan government on Tuesday slapped treason charges against seven of 13 senior politicians implicated in last year’s alleged coup attempt in the country’s capital, Juba, including former vice-president Riek Machar.

Unago told reporters on Tuesday that the findings of an investigation into the role of the detainees in an alleged coup attempt had found that the group were behind a plot to remove Kiir from power through military means.

“Anybody who intends to change a constitutional government or to suspend the constitution or abrogate the constitution by force commits treason”, Unago said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Kuol expressed his gratitude to those who had campaigned for their release.

“We recognise and appreciate all the efforts and pushes you made for our release. I also would like our religious leaders to pray for country and the safety of those comrades who have not yet been released”, he said.

WASHINGTON WEIGHS IN

The US state department welcomed the release of the seven detainees by the government in Juba, but reiterated its demand for the release of all those still in detention in order to ensure their participation in the political process.

“This is an important step towards an inclusive political dialogue under the auspices of IGAD”, said state department spokesperson Jen Psaki, adding, “We urge the Government of South Sudan to release the remaining four”.

She also called on South Sudan’s political leaders to work together to fully implement the cessation of hostility agreement and the agreement on political detainees, which provides that the two warring parties acknowledge the role that the political detainees can play in the settlement of the conflict.

“And as per the 23 January agreement on the status of the detainees signed by the government and the opposition, the expeditious release of the detainees is critical to moving that piece forward. So that’s where our focus is”, Psaki added.

STICKING POINT

The status of the political detainees proved a major stumbling block during peace negotiations between the South Sudanese government and rebel forces loyal to Machar.

Despite mounting international pressure, Juba steadfastly refused to release the senior political officials, many of whom were sacked in July last year after becoming increasingly critical of president Salva Kiir Mayardit’s leadership style.

Both sides finally signed a ceasefire agreement on 23 January in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after rebels dropped a precondition on releasing the detainees.

Fighting first broke out between rival groups within the presidential guard in the capital, Juba, in mid-December before spreading to oil-producing areas, where pro-Machar forces and government troops loyal to Kiir have been battling for control of key areas.

Thirteen senior politicians were initially detained in connection to the alleged coup plot, with two others released in December.

Sudan’s ruling party in damage control after Bashir speech

January 29, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Tuesday scrambled to contain negative reactions arising from president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s address to the nation yesterday which created a wave of disappointment within the political class and ordinary citizens alike.

Prior to the speech, senior NCP figures gave multitude of suggestions that Bashir will unveil a major and comprehensive reform proposal that would be inclusive of all political forces to tackle Sudan’s growing crises.

Hours before Bashir made his speech, Rabie Abdel-Aati a senior NCP figure told Reuters that the president would use the live television address to call for opposition groups to help redraw the constitution and join the government.

But the speech offered no concrete initiatives and gave no timeframe for achieving what Bashir described as a plan to launch a "Sudanese renaissance" and while he did say political parties should join dialogue on the constitution, he did not go further.

Many Sudanese who watched Bashir speak were stunned by the complicated language of the speech which used overly-sophisticated phrases and appeared unusual from a president known for making plain-language fiery speeches.

In a rare scene, opposition figures including former prime minister and head of the National Umma Party al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi and recently defected NCP figure who formed the Reform Now Party (RNP) Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani sat in the front rows at the event which was held at the Chinese-built Friendship hall in Khartoum.

All three made statements either personally or through their parties criticizing the lack of specifics and excessive generalities that gave no real signs of concessions on the part of the ruling party.

Immediately afterwards, the NCP’s political secretary and the country’s investment minister Mustafa Osman Ismail sought to temper the disappointment by saying that Bashir initially sought to make the speech after first meeting with leaders of political parties.

But as a result of intense speculations, Ismail said that Bashir was forced to address the nation earlier than he wanted to.

Today, Bashir’s assistant and NCP’s deputy chairman for party affairs Ibrahim Ghandour announced that the president will make a follow-up speech after his return from the African Union (AU) summit taking place in Addis Ababa.

Ghandour said the new address will explain in more details the first one.

He also defended the language of the speech saying it was not meant for the general public but to lay down a party document so it was carefully worded so as not to depart from the context.

The Sudanese official said that the submission of the document in the name of the government is not fair because non-NCP parties did not participate in drafting it.

He noted that the NCP did not provide mechanisms for resolving Sudan’s problems to give political parties the opportunity to make their own suggestions.

The parliament speaker al-Fatih Izz al-Deen on the other hand said that the speech’s articulate language and its need for further clarification does not discredit it as they are simply general guidelines.

He further said that the address is unique in that it made national issues a shared responsibility and not exclusive to the NCP.

"It is not necessary for people to be within the government so they can express their views on national issues…what is needed is institutionalizing mechanisms that we could agree on whether they are committees or bodies or boards," Izz al-Deen said.

He denied the existence of frustration among Sudanese people over the speech and asserted that a quick survey revealed general satisfaction with it.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee in parliament Mohamed Yusuf Abdullah acknowledged the existence of a faction within the ruling party which insists that it should not make any concessions before opposition does so first.

A leading figure at the PCP told today that an influential group within the NCP amended Bashir’s speech at the last minute to prevent the president from making any grand bargain.


Sudan’s Bashir disappoints as his speech brings no specific reform initiative

January 28 , 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The long awaited speech by the Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir on Monday night that was expected to unveil a major reform proposal, created a wave of disappointment among those who followed it including opposition leaders who were present.

From left to right; Leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi, Reform Now Party (RNP) head Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani; National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and 2nd Vice President Hassabo Abdel-Rahman
S. Leaders of political parties

Over the last week, officials in the government and Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) upped the ante on Bashir’s speech suggesting it will carry an initiative of significant magnitude with far reaching ramifications for the country’s political and economic future.

But they also dismissed rampant speculations about Bashir’s intention to resign or delegate his powers to his recently appointed 1st Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh.

They also ruled out the formation of a new inclusive government that brings on board major opposition parties in order to work on drafting a new constitution and prepare for elections.

The attendance of top opposition figures including former prime minister and head of the National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi and recently defected NCP figure who formed the Reform Now Party (RNP) Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani raised expectations of an imminent reconciliation between the NCP and its foes.

The NCP also invited diplomats and media representatives to the event which was held at the Chinese-built Friendship hall in Khartoum.

In his address which went on for almost an hour, Bashir said that the NCP is determined to take the lead to prepare the Sudanese for the "leap "towards national reconciliation and expressed readiness for dialogue with all sides of the political spectrum including rebel groups through he stressed that the latter must first renounce violence.

Bashir argued that the challenge facing the political forces is their ability to give precedence to national loyalty over "narrow" party loyalty and also called for political competition for Sudan and not against the NCP.

As an example the Sudanese president noted that the NCP in its quest for peace signed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Darfur peace accords of 2006 & 2011.

Bashir went on to say that the NCP recognizes that more reform is required to advance the political agenda of liberalization of political work that would expand the scope of participation.

He emphasized that economic development will not be possible without establishing peace. In that respect he announced the establishment of an economic planning agency as part of the finance ministry, strengthening the role of the central bank, forming a national council for revenues and revising the formula for splitting federal resources.

The Sudanese leader also underscored the importance of developing indicators and general guidelines for economic renaissance that aims to fight poverty through upgrading the workforce competitiveness, providing cheap energy and focusing on the production of food crops.

OPPOSITION NOT IMPRESSED

The PCP’s chief al-Turabi told reporters afterwards that the president’s speech brought "nothing new" and lacked diagnosis of the problems facing Sudan and presented no fundamental solutions. He noted that Bashir spoke in very general terms in a slogan-filled language without any specifics that people can relate to.

Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) which made the unusual move of publishing Turabi’s critical statements, quoted him as saying that the address omitted any talk about removing restrictions on freedoms and did not even meet the ambitions and aspirations of the Sudanese people as reflected by speculations carried by newspapers.

Turabi stressed that dialogue is the only way to resolve the political crises of Sudan adding that the PCP is willing to engage in dialogue without preconditions.

Al-Attabani who was expelled from the NCP late last year, said that Bashir spoke in abstract terms at a time when people expected more clarity.

Nonetheless the former presidential adviser said that there is still a chance if Bashir’s speech was presented as a preliminary roadmap that could form the basis for dialogue adding that he is assuming goodwill on the part of the ruling party.

Al-Mahdi refused to comment saying that his party will review the address first before issuing a formal response.

The NCP’s political secretary and the country’s investment minister Mustafa Osman Ismail sought to explain the lack of concrete proposals by saying that Bashir initially wanted to make the speech after first meeting with leaders of political parties.

But as a result of intense speculations, Ismail said that Bashir was forced to address the nation earlier than he wanted to.

He said that al-Bashir will meet with NUP leader al-Mahdi after returning from the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa later this month.

In an indication of confusion within the ruling party, Rabie Abdel-Aati a senior NCP figure earlier told Reuters that Bashir would use the live television address to call for opposition groups to help redraw the constitution and join the government.

But while Bashir did say political parties should join dialogue on the constitution, he did not go further.

The veteran Sudanese leader who took power in an Islamist-backed military coup 25 years ago also gave no indication of his position on running for presidency in the 2015 elections.

Last year, Bashir reiterated his intention to step down at the end of his term next year and said that Sudan is in need of “fresh blood”. But later he hinted that he could run again for president, saying that his re-election will be determined by the NCP’s General Convention and the Shura Council.

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

Last month he conducted a cabinet shakeup which saw the departure of several longtime NCP figures including ex-VP Ali Osman Taha.

Sudan awaits Bashir’s speech on political reform

January 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will deliver a speech on Monday detailing the comprehensive political reform document prepared by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Several senior political figures are expected to attend the speech including some from opposition parties.

The NCP’s political secretary and the country’s investment minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in statements on Sunday that his party invited all political parties to attend this important speech, saying it contains positive indicators to improve the political process.

So far only the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) announced that it officially accepted the NCP’s invitation to attend the speech.

The NUP’s higher coordination council welcomed the invitation, saying that dialogue should be based on several standards including restoring state’s impartiality, launching a comprehensive peace process, agreeing on national solutions for the economy through a national economic conference.

It pointed to the need for developing independent and neutral national mechanisms to secure free and fair elections besides agreeing on foreign relations to further and protect national interests. The opposition also demanded the establishment of a national government that does not exclude anyone in order to carry out those standards.

The opposition alliance National Consensus Forces (NCF) on the other hand renewed its call for toppling the regime and establishing an interim government along with releasing all political detainees.

The NCF’s chairman, Farouq Abu-Issa, stressed that Sudan’s problems will not be resolved through surprises or gifts but through engaging in a comprehensive dialogue with the participation of all political forces including rebel groups.

The Secretary General of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) Yasser Arman, fiercely attacked president Bashir, saying his surprise to the Sudanese people is nothing but a deception attempt to avoid making real change.

In statements released on Sunday Arman noted that NCP leaders seek to exploit the reform slogan against change process in order to reproduce the old regime, emphasizing that modern states and societies are not built through surprises like circus performances.

Arman mentioned that Bashir rejected reform even within his own party and dismissed members who called for change including former presidential adviser Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani and Hassan Osman Rizg.

He further said that Bashir has domesticated the Sudanese Islamic Movement (IM) and called on him to recognize the political crisis and concur with all national partners on ways to resolve it, adding that recent government changes have taken conflict within the NCP to a new level.

Sudanese officials have for months been talking of an initiative being worked on by Bashir that would radically alter the political landscape and would accommodate all parties and groups in the country.

The visiting United States former president Jimmy Carter told reporters after meeting with Bashir on Tuesday that the latter informed him of his intention to declare "important" political decisions in the coming days but offered no details.

Some aspects of the lengthy reform document prepared by the NCP was revealed by the al-Ayam newspaper and included

Reaching peace with internal rivals through dialogue that would also be incorporated in a new constitution;

Democratic transformation that would see the people enjoying freedom of association, freedom to form political parties and freedom of expression among others;

Launching a program for poverty reduction that would eliminate claims of marginalization;

Resolving the issue of the country’s identity and making citizenship the basis of all rights

Some observers predicted that Bashir would dissolve the parliament and form a national transitional government while a new constitution is being drafted.

But the NCP’s deputy secretary of information Qubais Ahmed al-Mustafa described predictions of forming a transitional government as “mere exaggerations”.

Al-Mustafa said that Bashir would announce an integrated reform initiative reflecting readiness to engage in equitable dialogue with all political forces in order to produce tangible results on issues of constitution, national consensus, new initiatives and ideas making.

The speaker of the Sudanese parliament al-Fatih Izz al-Deen also dismissed forecasts that the national assembly would be dissolved but described the president’s upcoming speech as one that would carry surprises of comprehensive nature with significant impact on the public life.

He revealed that major transformations have been agreed upon between Bashir and unspecified political forces and the media that will be announced in due course.

" Change is twofold; part of it was associated with changing leadership and various government agencies," the speaker said.

"The change in policy would be surprising in terms of its coverage and comprehensiveness and its impact on the Sudanese street" he added.

Last December Bashir announced cabinet shakeup that saw the departure of several long-time NCP figures from their governmental posts including former vice-president Ali Osman Taha, presidential assistant and NCP vice-chairman Nafie Ali Nafie and Oil minister Awad al-Jaz.


Sudanese president to outline reform proposals in 48 hours: official

January 26, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese presidential assistant and deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) for party affairs Ibrahim Ghandour disclosed today that President Omer Hassan al-Bashir will deliver a speech at a rally in the coming 48 hours to announce details of the reform document that his party has been working on since last year.

Ghandour said during a television interview on Saturday that his boss would unveil a new approach on all political, security and economic matters in the framework of a unified country.

Sudanese officials have for months been talking of an initiative being worked on by Bashir that would radically alter the political landscape and accommodate all parties and groups in the country.

The visiting United States former president Jimmy Carter told reporters after meeting with Bashir on Tuesday that the latter informed him of his intention to declare "important" political decisions in the coming days but offered no details.

Some aspects of the lengthy reform document prepared by the NCP was revealed by the al-Ayam newspaper and included

Reaching peace with internal rivals through dialogue that would also be incorporated in a new constitution;

Democratic transformation that would see the people enjoying freedom of association, freedom to form political parties and freedom of expression among others;

Launching a program for poverty reduction that would eliminate claims of marginalization;

Resolving the issue of the country’s identity and making citizenship the basis of all rights

The Doha-based Al-Jazeera television website reported that Bashir will offer a "surprise" in his announcement which caused a flurry of speculations that focused on whether the 70-years old leader will step down and hand over power to his newly appointed 1st Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh.

Some observers predicted that Bashir would dissolve the parliament and form a national transitional government while a new constitution is being drafted.

But Ghandour dismissed all these projections as illogical saying they are a result of wild imagination given the upcoming 2015 elections and the NCP general convention scheduled later this year. He further said that the current government is a national one even if not all parties are represented.

"What I am reading is like fiction plays as the resignation of the president is out of question and the quitting of the president in this manner cannot be expected by any sane person as we are heading to elections. The president will not escape [from responsibility] in this fashion," Ghandour stressed.

"It was described as a surprise and it is really a programme presented by a respectable president hoping for reconciliation of his people," he added.

Bashir met on Wednesday with the son of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Mohamed al-Hassan al-Mirghani and other party figures to lay out his vision for reform. He is expected to hold further meetings with other opposition parties on the same subject.

Ghandour also denied the existence of secret or even public dialogue with the Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Hassan al-Turabi as was reported recently though he expressed hope that channels of communications between the two sides can be established noting that they have no disagreements about application of Islamic Sharia’a law, free economy and Islamic proselytizing.

The PCP creation was a result of a split within the Islamists in the late 1990’s that saw Turabi, who masterminded the 1989 coup led by Bashir, moving to become the most vociferous critic of the government.

Despite numerous attempts by internal and external mediators to bring the two sides together they have remained irreconcilable foes.

The PCP political Secretary Kamal Omer said today that they reject the idea of forming a national government with participation of certain parties only insisting that no force should be excluded and particularly rebel groups that form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).

Omer said that the PCP political secretariat met on Saturday and affirmed the party’s relationship with the other opposition groups forming the National Consensus Forces (NCF) to resolve Sudan’s crises.

He stressed that contacts with the SRF are continuing describing it as important and fundamental for the next political transformation in the country. He said that the meeting also emphasized the need for a transitional period to rebuild the Sudanese state on a new basis and move the country from a state party to the nation state .

The NCF chairman Farouk Abu-Issa a separate statements said that they will not budge on their goal to topple the regime.

Abu-Issa said that a solution to the current crisis in the country is within reach as the NCP acknowledged its failure and is working on a roadmap that was previously set by the opposition to run the country under a transitional government.

He stressed that the NCP resorting to what he described as "under the table" deals will not work adding that they did not delegate anyone to negotiate on their behalf with the ruling party.

On the economic front Ghandour stressed that the government is keen not to see a repetition of the crisis which led to a shortage in fuel, cooking gas and bread pointing out that Sudan spends billions to provide basic commodities to the citizens.

He also said that the fluctuations in US dollar exchange rates happens for many reasons and that the black market traders follow statements by Sudanese officials to decide on prices adding that the central bank and finance ministry are working to bring back the exchange rate back to normal.

Last week traders in the black market said that 1 US dollar was selling for 8.20 pounds compared 8.00 in the beginning of the week. They also projected further drop in light of low forex supplies held by the central bank as well as growing fears over fighting in neighboring South Sudan and its potential for disrupting oil flow.

On the South Sudan crisis, Ghandour said that the government had refused to pour oil on the fire of war in the south. He instead affirmed Sudan’s support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) initiative to resolve the crisis in the south and the legitimate government in Juba.

The Sudanese official expressed hope that interference of foreign countries in the ongoing fighting in reference to Uganda’s dispatching of troops to fight alongside South Sudan army (SPLA) against rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar.

South Sudan government and rebels sign ceasefire

January 23, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan government and its rebels have agreed on a ceasefire, which could end over a month of fighting in the country.

The two factions, comprising of representatives from government and rebels loyal to the country’s former vice-president Riek Machar, have for the last three weeks been negotiating in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under the mediation of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but with very little progress.

The talks also took longer than expected as rebels questioned Uganda’s involvement in the conflict as well as the fate of the 11 political prisoners in connection with last year’s outbreak of violence.

“We hope the guns will fall silent before even before 24 hours,” Tewolde Gebremeskal, IGAD’s peace and security director said shortly before the signing of the agreement.

An estimated over 1,000 people were killed and about half a million displaced as a result of the conflict, according to the United Nations.

More details on the agreement signing to follow shortly

Sudan’s Bashir to unveil major political decisions soon, says ex-US president

January 22, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Former US president Jimmy Carter said that Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir told him that "important" political decisions would be declared soon, without elaborating further on their nature.

Carter, who arrived in Khartoum on Monday on a four-day visit, met with Bashir on Tuesday discuss several issues, including national dialogue, elections, and the new constitution.

Bashir affirmed to Carter that the government is keen on developing its relations with the local, regional, and international community. He also stressed the desire to achieve consensus on national principles and visions through dialogue with all political forces in Sudan.

Carter disclosed that Bashir briefed him on issues of dialogue and the upcoming 2015 elections, saying that his visit to Sudan comes within the framework of the health care programs, including combating Guinea worm, Trachoma and river blindness, as well as training programs for health workers.

Last month, Bashir announced a cabinet reshuffle, appointing 26 ministers and state ministers.

The reshuffle saw the departure of several long-time ruling National Congress Party (NCP) figures from their governmental posts, including first vice-president Ali Osman Taha, presidential assistant and NCP vice chairman Nafie Ali Nafie and oil minister Awad al-Jaz.

A shakeup was also made at the NCP secretariat level and Sudanese officials said that more changes will be forthcoming.

In a separate issue, Bashir vowed to offer education and development projects for the families of the civil wars martyrs, saying that they continue to raise the banner of Islam and follow their path.

Bashir, who addressed the opening session of the Martyr Organization’s board of trustees meetings, saluted mothers and families of martyrs, vowing that the government will follow the path of the martyrs.

“We pledged to them [martyrs] that we will maintain the Islamic banner”, he added.

Sudan’s minister of defence, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has also echoed same promise.

The Martyr Organization was established in the 1990s during the more than two-decade-long civil war between north and South Sudan to sponsor children and families of martyrs who were killed in the battles.

The director of the Martyr Organization, Mohamed Ahmed Hag Magid, asserted that their main objective is to foster the families of martyrs and offer them a decent life.

Sudan’s Bashir heading to Juba for IGAD summit amid Ugandan intervention row

January 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will attend the extraordinary meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries in Juba on Thursday to discuss the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.

Sudan’s presidential media secretary Emad Sid Ahmed, confirmed in press statements on Monday Bashir’s participation in the summit, saying the meeting is a continuation of the previous summit which discussed ways for containing the current crisis in South Sudan and paved the way for the direct negotiations.

Clashes erupted in Juba mid-December following a dispute among the presidential guard, rapidly spreading to the country’s states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity. Over 1,000 people, according to the United Nations, have died and nearly 200,000 displaced since fighting started.

But while South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar over the incident as part of a coup attempt, the latter denies, alleging it was a move by his former boss to silence critics with the SPLM.

Ahmed didn’t rule out the possibility of holding a bilateral meeting between Bashir and South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, on the sidelines of the emergency summit.

SUDAN AGAINST ‘FOREIGN INTERVENTION’

The Sudanese foreign minister, Ali Karti, said on Monday the IGAD meeting would look into ways for pushing forward the ongoing negotiations which is taking place in Addis Ababa besides discussing the security situation and foreign interventions following the Ugandan army’s recognition of involvement in the fighting.

Uganda has publicly announced that its troops are fighting alongside SPLA against rebel forces led by Riek Machar.

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, on Friday told his army council that he deployed troops in South Sudan to save the neighboring country from collapse.

The spokesperson of the Uganda People’s Defence Force, Paddy Ankunda, was the first to announce the capture of Bor on Saturday when he wrote on Twitter "UPDF has captured the town of Bor in S. Sudan. Big relief to trapped Ugandan, international community".

The Ugandan intervention has raised concerns of South Sudan’s neighboring countries including Ethiopia who expressed fear of dragging other countries into the conflict.

Karti, told reports following his meeting with Bashir on Monday, that he briefed the president on the ongoing arrangements for the summit, saying the meeting would offer an opportunity to discuss foreign interventions in South Sudan.

“Sudan is concerned about the security and stability in South Sudan more than any other country due to political, economic, and security reasons,” he added

He pointed to Sudan’s positive and clear stance towards achieving peace and stability in South Sudan, stressing that they refuse foreign interventions in the country.

SOUTH SUDAN ASSERT RIGHT TO CALL FOREIGN TROOPS

But South Sudanese government on Monday denied discussing with Khartoum the issue of the deployment of troops from neighboring Uganda, asserting it is a sovereign state.

“We have not received any official complaint about deployment of Uganda troops from the government of Sudan. The deployment of Uganda troops was based on the memorandum of understanding between the two sovereign states. We do not have to consult any country on the deployment of any forces”, a top government official told Monday.

The official, who did not want to be named, however, admitted that IGAD had recommended in the draft ceasefire withdrawal of the foreign forces in the country.

“Sudan is one of the IGAD member states which have recommended withdrawal of the foreign forces in the country in the draft ceasefire which we are still studying. It has not complained to us an individual state”, another diplomat at the South Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation said in a separate interview on Monday.

Deputy foreign affairs and international cooperation Minister, Peter Bashir Gbandi, also affirmed that his country had not received official compliant from government of Sudan.

“South Sudan is a sovereign state and has a right to deal with any country”, Gbandi told Monday, saying they have not received any compliant from Sudan

 

Museveni admits Ugandan military involvement in S. Sudan conflict

January 16, 2014 (KAMPALA) - President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday revealed that the Ugandan army has been actively fighting South Sudanese rebels led by the former vice-president Riek Machar.

Museveni also disclosed that Ugandan soldiers were killed and others injured when the Ugandan Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) engaged the rebels just 90 kilometres outside Juba, just a day before parliament approved Uganda’s deployment in the world’s youngest nation.

He added that the Ugandan soldiers were killed and others injured when the UPDF engaged the rebels just 90 kilometres outside Juba.

"Only the other day, 13 January, the SPLA and elements of our army had a big battle with the rebel troops about 90km from Juba where we inflicted a big lost on the side of the rebels", Museveni said in a speech also obtained.

"We also took casualties and had some dead," he added, but gave no figures.

Machar has denounced the direct involvement of the Ugandan troops fighting against his forces alongside Salva Kiir’s army. He demanded their withdrawal from the country as a condition to accept the cessation of hostilities.

Machar also said on Tuesday the combined SPLA and Ugandan troops backed by six UPDF helicopter gunships, dozens of tanks and other heavy artilleries were defeated near Mongala in Central Equatoria state on Juba-Bor road.

President Museveni’s admission of direct involvement came while he was addressing the heads of state during the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in the Angolan capital of Luanda on Wednesday.

Museveni’s admission that Uganda is fighting on the side of President Salva Kiir confirms claims by MPs that Uganda was actively involved in fighting in South Sudan and had lost soldiers in the crisis that started on 15 December in Juba.

The army has strongly denied it is involved in any combat operations in South Sudan.

Questioned by Daily Monitor newspaper on the developments, defence minister Crispus Kiyonga deflected the question to the army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, who said: “Well, the president has said it. Details are scanty at the moment but all I can say is that our forces had a very successful battle.”

Museveni said on Wednesday that the South Sudanese government, with the support from UPDF, had regained control of Jemeza in Central Equatoria state the on Juba-Bor road.

He also accused Machar of planning and executing the failed coup, saying “The question is; if Riek Machar did not plan a coup in Juba, then why did his supporters capture Malakal, Bor, Akobo, etc?”

However, Machar dismissed the alleged coup attempt, saying the fighting between presidential guards was used as a ploy by Kiir to get rid of his political opponents within the ruling party. Many South Sudanese also believe that Museveni masterminded the plan duped as a failed coup.

WASHINGTON CONFIRMS DEPLOYMENT

In testimony to The Congress on Wednesday, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield confirmed the involvement of the Ugandan army in the current conflict in South Sudan.

Answering a question by congressman Randy Weber, she said that Uganda told Washington they want to protect key structures on the Juba-Nimule road which leads to Uganda and Juba airport.

"They indicated they have an interest in a stable South Sudan but also said they have an interest in ensuring that a democratically elected government is not overturned by violent means", she added.

Weber was the only congressman during the hearing to raise the Ugandan intervention in the inter-South Sudanese conflict, others including the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stopped on the possible Sudanese role in the conflict but Greenfield dismissed any involvement from Khartoum side.

However, during her presentation to the committee she was keen to omit mentioning the name of the Sudanese mediator Mohamed Ahmed al-Dabi who is the third member of the IGAD panel of mediators to end the conflict.

"We are encouraged by IGAD’s leadership in convening the parties and strongly support the efforts of former Ethiopian minister Seyoum Mesfin and Kenyan general Lazaro Sumbeiywo to find a peaceful solution through political dialogue", she said.

Khartoum agrees to assist Juba in restarting oil production in Unity state: official

January 13, 2014 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) – South Sudan’s minister of Petroleum and Mining, Stephen Dhieu Dau, has arrived in Khartoum on a previously unannounced visit to discuss restarting oil production in Unity state following government army’s recapture of the key state from rebel control.

Sudanese minister of oil, Makkawi Mohamed Awad (R) receives his South Sudanese counterpart Stephen Dhieu Dau ay his office in Khartoum Sunday January 12, 2014
Sudan & S.Sudan Minister of Oil

The Bentiu and Tharjath oilfields are situated in the Unity state and are believed to be producing around 45,000 barrels per day (bpd).

In Juba, a senior government official said that Dau is in Khartoum to deliver a message of “full commitment” to implementing cooperation agreement

“Yes, the minister is Khartoum. He went to deliver a message of assurance from the president of the commitment of the government to fully implement cooperation agreement," the undersecretary at the ministry of Petroleum and Mining Machar Ader said on Sunday.

Dau, who held talks with his Sudanese counterpart, Makkawi Mohamed Awad, on Sunday, told reporters in Khartoum that Juba seeks to restart oil production in Unity state, saying that this requires directing Sudan’s Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC) and South Sudan’s Nile Petroleum Corporation (NILEPET) to work together for this purpose.

He pointed that talks addressed ways for helping oil operating companies in South Sudan particularly as they face security challenges in Unity state, adding that they discussed problems facing oil companies including supply, equipments, and technical needs.

The minister further said they also tackled needs of oil companies for Sudanese workers and engineers in Unity and Upper Nile states oilfields, affirming that committees from both sides would soon look into the issue.

Makkawi for his part expressed readiness to immediately meet requests made by South Sudan’s petroleum minister so that oil could flow for the benefit of both peoples.

Oil companies in Unity state from China and India evacuated their workers after fighting broke out and made sure to shut down the oilfields there.

Ader said the oil in Upper Nile state continues to flow normally. “There is no interruption in the production and flow of oil in Upper Nile State. It is continuing to flow normally”, Ader told (ST) in an exclusive interview.

The conflict in South Sudan erupted on 15 December with fighting among a group of soldiers in the capital, Juba. The violence quickly spread to several states, cleaving the nation along the ethnic faultline of former Vice president-turned rebel leader Riek Machar’s Nuer and President Salva Kiir’s Dinka.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, an International Crisis Group analyst was quoted last Friday by the New York Times as saying. In December, the United Nations had put the death toll at about 1,000.

Last Monday, the Sudanese president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir paid a solidarity visit to Juba to support his southern counterpart, Salva Kiir Mayardit. He agreed to send 900 Sudanese oil workers to help restart oil production.

On Wednesday, Reuters quoted oil industry sources as saying that South Sudan’s exports of heavy sweet Dar Blend will drop to 4.6 million barrels, or about 148,000 bpd, in January in a revised loading programme, one source said, down about 21 percent from 187,000 bpd originally planned.

Dar Blend is produced in the Upper Nile state, in Blocks 3 and 7 that are operated by the Petrodar Operating Company.

Two of the seven cargoes that had been scheduled for loading in January have been deferred to February, he told Reuters.

Exports of Nile Blend, another Sudanese crude, have also dropped after production was shut in South Sudan’s Unity state last month. The grade is also produced in Sudan where output is stable.

In a revised loading programme seen by Reuters, two Nile Blend cargoes will load in January, down from three originally, the sources said. These include a cargo that was scheduled to load in December.

Sudanese officials downplayed any adverse impact of complete oil shutdown in South Sudan despite transit fees forming an integral part of the 2014 budget.

Khartoum gets a fixed fee from Juba for every barrel of oil exported through its pipelines which helps it cover a portion of its budget hole and more importantly provides a stable source of hard currency needed to import food.

Sudan army say S. Sudanese rebels reached its border

January 12, 2014 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) – The spokesperson for Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) announced on Saturday that they repulsed South Sudanese rebels who attempted to cross into their territory and refused to be disarmed.

Al-Sawarmi Khaled told the official news agency (SUNA) that an infantry battalion of rebels loyal to South Sudan former vice-president Riek Machar penetrated inside the Sudanese territory not far from Heglig, after Friday’s recapture of Bentiu by the South Sudanese army.

SAF "dealt toughly with this [rebel] force. We disarmed 54 individuals and treated them as refugees while the rest of the force withdrew to South Sudan after it refused to disarm and it was expelled", he said in a brief statement.

Khaled further said, "We confirm that our territory is now free from any foreign troops, and that the international law is our reference to deal with any similar cases".

The Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir was in Juba last Monday where he discussed with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir the deployment of a joint force on the border to prevent rebels from cross-border attacks.

South Sudanese foreign minister also visited Khartoum on Wednesday and handed a letter to Bashir, but no details were released about the military cooperation between the two sides as Khartoum denied reports about an agreement on the joint force.

JUBA CONFIRMS

Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson for South Sudan army (SPLA) confirmed reports from his Sudanese counterpart, saying they are still pursuing remnants of the rebel force.

"We have reports that some of those who fled towards to Sudan have reported themselves to Heglig. And we are told some have been disarmed by the Sudan Armed Forces. Other refused and retreated".

Aguer said the Sudanese army had reported some of them in Karasana, about 30 kilometres north to Heglig, adding, “They reached there yesterday [Friday] evening”.

The military spokesperson could not, however, say whether the army through the office of the president would consider asking the Sudanese government to extradite the fugitive rebels.

"We do not have official report about the total number of those who have fled but the information has at the moment some of them run toward Sudan", Aguer said.

"There are reports that 90 oil technicians, 14 injured [rebels] and 30 civilians entered Heglig. Others went to Karasana”, he added.

REBELS DENY

The rebels spokesperson Peter Riek Gew dismissed statements of the Sudanese and South Sudanese military officials, which claimed they were scattered into Sudan territory.

"We have not crossed into Sudan, but our forces have surrounded Bentiu town where the government troops are in. It just matter of times you will hear Bentiu will fall on our hand again", Gew said on Saturday.

Machar In undisclosed location in South Sudan holds talks with IGAD mediation

January 12, 2014 (JUBA/ADDIS ABABA) – Regional mediators from the East African regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) arrived in South Sudan on Saturday after ongoing peace talks in the Ethiopian capital stalled.

United States special envoy to Sudans Donald Booth (not shown) together with IGAD’s mediators Ethiopian former foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin (L), Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Moustafa El Dabi (R) at an undisclosed location in South Sudan to meet former VP Riek Machar January 11, 2014
          IGAD’s & Riek Machar

The peace talks between representatives of President Salva Kiir former vice president-turned rebel, Riek Machar, were suspended after disagreements over the sensitive issue of political prisoners.

Negotiators on rebel side have insisted on the release of the presumably pro-Machar political figures before signing any peace agreement thus dashing regional and international hopes of reaching a speedy ceasefire pact.

Rebels said they won’t sign truce that doesn’t ensure the release of the 11 political figures that remain detained in connection with an alleged coup attempt in mid-December, a demand once again rejected by government delegations.

Those held by South Sudan government include

- Deng Alor, former minister of cabinet affairs

- Pagan Amum, former SPLM secretary general

- Cirino Iteng, former minister of culture

- Madut Biar Yel, former minister for telecommunication and postal services

- Oyai Deng Ajak, former minister for national security in the office of the president

- Majak D’ Agoot, former deputy minister of defence

- Chol Tong Magay, former governor of Lakes state

- Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lul, former ambassador to the United States

- John Luk Jok, former justice minister

- Kosti Manibe, former minister of finance

- Gier Chuang Aluong, former minister of roads and bridges

South Sudan government representatives, including the country’s information minister told journalists in Addis Ababa that the detainees are perpetrators of a coup and their case should be handled by domestic courts and in accordance to the laws of the land.

“President Kiir will not order the release of the political prisoners. If he did so it will be an act contrary to constitution of the country,” a South Sudan government representative who asked anonymity told (ST).

A United States on Friday said it saw no evidence of an attempted coup.

“We have not seen any evidence of a coup attempt,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The violence was “an armed rebellion” against the government, she added.

After peace talks were delayed, mediators led by Ethiopian former foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin on Saturday left for South Sudan to meet and convince Machar to sign a truce to end weeks of violence that has hit the world’s newest nation.

Rebel negotiators here in Addis Ababa are not optimistic that IGAD mediators would return from South Sudan with a fruitful outcome.

“They [mediators] will return with a complete dismissal” Gérard Prunnier, a scholar who is close to rebel negotiators team, told (ST).

When asked when talks would resume Prunnier said he doesn’t think the two sides would return for face to face talks further accusing the international community of “bias”

He said the international community is taking side of Juba after government army made important military gains on the ground particularly after retaking Unity state capital of Bentiu.

“The international community is saying Machar is defeated and he has to surrender” said Prunnier.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has urged South Sudan government to release political prisoners so as ceasefire deal is facilitated.

Analysts say South Sudan could face sanctions if the two warring sides fail to seal a peace deal but the government in Juba argues any possible sanctions imposed on the country would be considered as a move of cooperation with rebels.

Fighting in South Sudan which erupted in mid-December has left an estimated 1,500 people killed and forced about 200,000 flee their home.

South Sudan troops 'recapture key oil city of Bentiu'

10 January 2014 Last updated (KHARTOUM) - South Sudan's military says it has recaptured the oil hub of Bentiu - one of just two rebel-held cities.

Army spokesman Philip Aguer said the final resistance - a tank protecting a bridge to the city - had been overcome at 14:30 local time (11:30 GMT).

Rebel leader Riek Machar told AFP his forces had withdrawn to save civilians but vowed to fight on.

The UN peacekeeping chief says the conflict has killed "very substantially in excess" of 1,000 people.

Ceasefire talks in neighbouring Ethiopia have stalled.

Bentiu is the capital of the oil-rich Unity state. The fighting, which began on 15 December, has seen South Sudan's oil output fall by about 20%.

Col Aguer told Reuters news agency: "When you control Bentiu you control all the oil fields in Unity state."

Ahead of the government advance, thousands of people fled Bentiu.

Several thousand have sought refuge in a UN base in the city, where people have been divided according to their ethnic group in order to prevent clashes.

The conflict has seen outbreaks of ethnic violence between Dinkas, the community of President Salva Kiir, and Nuers, like Mr Machar.

Although both leaders have influential backers from the other's community, the conflict has often taken an ethnic dimension.

"We withdrew from Bentiu, but it was to avoid fighting in the streets and save civilian lives. We fight on, we will continue the battle," Mr Machar, the country's vice-president until last July, told the AFP news agency.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead says the crisis has rekindled old tribal tensions

The BBC's Andrew Harding in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, says the question now is whether the recapture of Bentiu will spur on negotiators in Ethiopia to reach a ceasefire agreement to avoid further fighting.

Mr Machar said his anti-government alliance was still committed to peace talks.

Earlier, Col Aguer urged all civilians to leave Bentiu to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

He did not give any casualty figures but said that fighters on both sides had been killed.

The colonel told the Associated Press news agency that rebel forces had "destroyed'' the town, looting the bank, stealing food and setting the market on fire.

Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said its facilities in Bentiu were looted on Thursday, putting its operations in the region in jeopardy.

"MSF won't be able to resume its much-needed operations in Bentiu until the security of our patients, staff and facilities is guaranteed," MSF South Sudan head Raphael Georgeu said in a statement.

UN envoy in South Sudan Toby Lanzer, earlier tweeted from Bentiu that UN peacekeepers had built up defences at the UN base to protect civilians.

Swimming under gunfire

Col Aguer said that from Friday afternoon, all the government forces would be focused on recapturing Bor - the other city under rebel control.

On Thursday, people fleeing Bor told AFP that gunmen had shot dead fleeing civilians, torched entire villages and looted crops.

Sudan’s army, rebels claim victory after fighting in the Two Areas and Darfur

January 9, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese vice-president Hassabo Abdelahman called on the rebels to join peace process as the army and insurgents claimed victory in clashes that took place in the Tow areas and South Darfur state.

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) since last December, launched a comprehensive military campaign against the rebels of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) who established their joint command in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan..

Rebel sources admit that SAF massed for this campaign significant number of troops, claiming they include former rebels who joined the government, and militias from Darfur and South Kordofan.

On Wednesday, SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khaled released two statements where he spoke about an ambush on a commercial convoy in South Darfur state and a rebel attack on Dalmai area in the Nuba Mountains. In a separate statement, he further announced a military assault on the SPLA-N positions in the Blue Nile.

Khaled said that Sudanese soldiers escorting a commercial convoy managed to repel an attack carried out by the fighters of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) while they were in Fogo Diko area on the road connecting South and Central Darfur states.

He stated that the escort force repulsed the assailants and captured 14 vehicles. He added that the army chased the rebels who fled in direction of Kabkabiya in North Darfur and seized a truck loaded with three machine guns, captured a Land Cruiser vehicle and destroyed two others.

No rebel group released any statement on this attack. Also, it is not clear which SLM faction carried out the attack. The South Darfur state, however, is known for banditry, robbery and attacks on commercial convoys by armed gangs.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) spokesperson Arnu Lodi said a joint force from his group and the SLM group led by Abdel Wahid Al-Nur attacked Dalami town in the northern part of the troubled state.

Lodi said the attack started from six o’clock to midday stressing they withdrew after inflecting heavy causalities on the government forces.

"In the same time our artillery SPLM/A managed to shell the garrison of Umbrambitah to destroy the capacities of the regime army", he further said in a statement extended.

Conversely, SAF spokesperson from Khartoum said the army managed to repulse the attack on Dalami, adding that the shelling killed a number of women and children.

The Armed forces inflicted heavy losses on the rebels and destroyed a truck they had while the army chased the remaining rebels in a combing operation conducted after the attack, Khaled claimed.

The recent fighting between the Sudanese army and the rebels in El-Abassiya and Rashad areas in the South Kordofan displaced some 1000 people who are in need of food and shelter , said the government body, Humanitarian Aid Commission.

Speaking in the capital of South Kordofan, Kadugli the newly appointed vice president Hassabo Abdelahman reaffirmed that SAF will continue its military operations against the rebels, stressing that the current campaign is "the last option to establish security and stability in the state".

He further renewed the government’s call for the SPLM-N and all the SRF groups to join the negotiating table in order to reach a final peace in the country.

On the other hand, SAF spokesperson said in a statement issued on Wednesday night that the Sudanese troops took the control of the strategic area of Malken which is the southern gateway of Ingessana Hills in the Blue Nile state.

Khaled said the army inflected heavy losses on the rebel SPLA-N without elaborating.

Sudan and S Sudan agree to protect oilfields

January 7, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to consider setting up a joint force to protect vital oilfields during the ongoing crisis in the South, Sudan's foreign minister has said.

Sudan and South Sudan agree to consider setting up a joint force to protect vital oilfields during the crisis.
Sudan’s Bashir heads to Juba

The discussion was broached on Monday during a visit to Juba by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, where South Sudan requested talks on deploying a joint force to secure at-risk oil fields.

"Sudan and South Sudan are in consultations about the deployment of a mixed force to protect the oilfields in the South," Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said, adding that Juba had come up with the proposal.

Karti spoke at the airport in Khartoum after visiting Juba where Bashir met Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, in a diplomatic effort to halt fighting in South Sudan.

Sudan fears the three-week-old conflict in its southern neighbour could disrupt oil flows and damage its own struggling economy.

Bashir's visit came as negotiators in Ethiopia began a process of direct ceasefire talks to end weeks of fighting.

"There should be peace and security in South Sudan," Bashir said.

"We come so that we can bring peace to South Sudan, to our brothers and sisters in South Sudan. Our relationship is very important," he told reporters.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry spokesman in Khartoum reaffirmed Sudan's wish to see "a continuation of the political process aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan".

He also underlined Sudan's willingness "to offer everything in its power to ensure success of the initiative by IGAD", the East African regional bloc brokering the talks.

The diplomatic effort is aimed at ending three weeks of fighting in South Sudan that has left thousands dead and about 200,000 people displaced.

Direct talks

Direct peace talks began on Monday after days of trying to get the rival delegations in to the same room, AFP news agency quoted Ethiopia's government spokesman as saying.

Oil production in South Sudan has slumped by about 15 percent since the fighting erupted.

The conflict began on December 15, pitting army units loyal to Kiir against a loose alliance of ethnic armed groups and mutinous army commanders nominally headed by Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked last July.

Machar denies allegations that he started the conflict by attempting a coup, and in turn accuses the president of orchestrating a violent purge.

UN officials say they believe thousands of people have already been killed, and both sides are alleged to have committed atrocities.

UN peacekeeping bases have also been overwhelmed with civilians seeking shelter, many of them fleeing ethnic violence between Kiir's Dinka community and Machar's Nuer tribe.

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