April 2014 - Posts
April 29, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan government on Monday reiterated its commitment to maintain stronger ties with neighbouring Sudan, saying it would respect the cooperation agreement both countries signed in September 2012.
The new nation, according to its presidential affairs minister, was determined to promote mutual respect for each others’ territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“The president met with the Sudanese president on the sideline of the meeting in Bahr Dar, where he attended a function on peace and security. It was a function about illicit financial flows and the impact of the transfer of these illegally acquired funds, some of which are obtained through illegal means, including corrupt practices," Awan Guol Riak told reporters while briefing them on the purpose of the high-level visit.
Riak and his foreign affairs counterpart, Barnaba Marial Benjamin were among the senior government officials and military officers who accompanied President Salva Kiir to the forum hosted by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Former Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, recently appointed to head the African Union Commission of inquiry on South Sudan, also attended the forum where presentations were made on security matters affecting the African continent.
GIVE AND TAKE
Marial emphasised the importance of good relations between the two Sudans, saying they both give and take, which was essential for regional development and stability.
“The prevalence of peace and stability between the two countries become the regional peace because the two countries are established islands. If there are good roads which links Khartoum and Juba, the ordinary people will use them to access goods and services. It will facilitate movement of our people and when this happens, when there is a free and secured movement between the two countries, the region is served is in one of way or other," the foreign affairs minister told reporters in the capital, Juba.
"The goods from Khartoum will go to Kampala and there they go to Kigali in Rwanda and Nairobi in Kenya. But there is a security issue, this movement is affected and it becomes a regional concern”, he added.
Minister Marial further said president Kiir had "substantive" discussions with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer al-Bashir, which focused on how to accelerate talks on border security matters, especially the deployment of the joint temporary force.
“It was frank and honest discussions. The president emphasized on the need to accelerate the ongoing bilateral discussions on security matters in the light of current security situation. He [Kiir] made it clear it is important that it is time the two leaders appreciate the importance of the cooperation agreement, especially the security arrangement. And I think that is the key", the minister stressed.
Marial said a formal high-level army-to-army exchange would be helpful because it would reduce the spread of "military rumour" and avoid conflict. He also expressed his government’s commitment to promote healthy relations with neighbouring Sudan.
"As the government of the republic of South Sudan under the president of Salva Kiir Mayardit, we are committed to ensuring that the terms of the cooperation agreement are respected and implemented. We are only committed to ensuring that the two countries work together to strengthen strategic mutual trust," he remarked.
South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, confirmed that president Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart met on the sidelines of the two-day peace and security forum, but said discussions held were closed-door.
In recent months, however, analysts and observers claim the stronger ties which initially existed between the two countries were growing weak and far below the level of current relations between Juba and Kampala. There are also concerns regarding the deteriorating ties between Sudan and Chad as well as with Eritrea or Ethiopia.
Military officers from the two Sudans have often traded accusations over territorial disputes, sparking tensions along the undemarcated borders in recent weeks with Juba accusing Khartoum of allegedly training and hosting within its territory rebel fighters loyal to its former vice president, Riek Machar.
Sudanese government and military officials have, however, dismissed Juba’s claims.
April 28, 2014 (PORT SUDAN) – A US ship loaded with enough food to help feed 4 million vulnerable Sudanese mainly from the troubled Darfur region arrived in Port Sudan on Sunday.
The vessel’s cargo included 47,250 metric tonnes of sorghum, a staple food in Sudan, donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is enough to feed 1.7 million people for three months.
The shipment arrived from Texas after a 24-day journey via the Suez Canal.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), which is currently assisting more than 3 million people in Darfur, including some 300,000 displaced by recent fighting, has welcomed the arrival of the shipment.
Both Christopher Rowan, the US Embassy’s acting chargé d’affaires, and WFP country director Adnan Khan were in Port Sudan for the arrival of the shipment.
Khan welcomed US humanitarian assistance to Sudan, saying the shipment had arrived in time to reach vulnerable people ahead of the impending rainy season.
He told that recent clashes between government troops and rebels groups, as well as ongoing tribal fighting, had forced more 300,000 people to flee their villages for displaced camps in the region.
“We are acutely aware of the growing needs created by new displacements in Darfur, the conflict in South Sudan, as well as that in the Central African Republic (CAR),” he said.
The sorghum represents the bulk of the $164 million committed by USAID this year to WFP Sudan.
Of this, $92.5 million was released in July 2013, enabling WFP to respond to a new wave of displacement in Darfur, as well as pre-position food in remote locations in South Kordofan and White Nile states ahead of the rainy season.
In addition to the sorghum, the shipment included 12,510 metric tonnes of yellow split peas and 4,400 metric tonnes of vegetable oil, with the total contribution comprising 43 percent of WFP Sudan’s annual requirements for 2014.
Sudan remains one of WFP’s largest and most complex operations in Africa. This year, the UN agency plans to reach 4.1 million people across Sudan, of whom 3.1 million are in Darfur.
Although Washington has imposed economic and trade sanctions against Sudan since 1997 in response to its alleged connection to terror networks and human rights abuses, the US remains a major aid donor and is the biggest contributor to WFP Sudan.
“Since the early 1960s, the United States has been WFP’s long-standing partner in Sudan. Their continuing support has helped us to provide life-saving food to those affected by conflict, to maintain food security and to build resilience among communities,” said Khan.
“This contribution will enable us to help over 4 million vulnerable people cope with the approaching hunger season,” he added.
A new wave of violence has engulfed parts of Darfur since February, displacing over 300,000 people and ratcheting up needs in the region.
Continuing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also forced thousands of displaced people to seek refuge across the border in Sudan, placing further strain on already fragile resources. .
Rowan, meanwhile, said the US remained committed to providing humanitarian assistance to Sudan.
“The people of the United States remain committed to helping people in need in Sudan with life-saving food and other assistance,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
In addition to the food shipment, the US has contributed $4.8 million through USAID’s office of US foreign disaster assistance to help support the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, which is managed by WFP and provides passenger and small cargo services to the humanitarian community across Sudan.
April 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A commission of inquiry set up by the Sudanese ministry of justice to probe corruption allegations against two staff members in the office of the Khartoum governor announced that they had managed to recover 17 billion pounds from the suspects.
The two employees allegedly forged governor Abdel-Rahman al-Khidir’s signature to transfer ownership of land worth billions to bogus owners and sold it later for a huge profit.
Commission chairman Khalid Anas said at a press conference that the pair had been released after agreeing to return all money and property they gained unlawfully to the public treasury.
Anas revealed that some of the properties were registered in other people’s names in order to conceal any links to the suspects.
He further disclosed that there are seven other non-employees who were investigated for involvement and nine others as witnesses.
Deputy chairman Yasser Ahmed noted that the unlawful enrichment act allows the accused to return the money in order to avoid prosecution.
He disclosed the two employees used the money to buy new land and enter the automotive business.
Al-Khidir’s office said in a statement this week that the government at federal and state level had approved of measures he undertook to probe the incident and his decision to submit all relevant documents to judicial bodies for prosecution.
The governor was also questioned by the commission in the course of the probe, which also looked into whether employees embezzled money.
The uncovering of a corruption scandal of this magnitude has shocked observers and ordinary citizens alike and reinforced perceptions that the country faces a serious graft issue which the government refuses to recognise.
Early in 2012, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir ordered the establishment of an anti-corruption commission to “monitor and follow what is being published in the media about corruption and to coordinate with the presidency of the Republic and other competent authorities in the ministry of justice and the national assembly in order to complete information on what is being raised about corruption at the state level”.
But after more than a year of seemingly zero activity, Bashir sacked the commission head and did not appoint a replacement, dealing a major blow to demands by the public for more robust investigations of corruption.
A major economic government-sponsored forum held in Khartoum late last year called for the establishment of an anti-graft commission as one means of resolving the ongoing financial crisis facing the country.
April 24, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan is withdrawing the case against four top politicians accused of treason that triggered the civil war, the justice minister has said.
The four, who include a former leader of the governing SPLM party, denied plotting a coup and also denied any links to the ongoing fighting.
Their release had been a key demand of the rebels.
Some one million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.
Justice Minister Paulino Wanawilla said that the case was being dropped in the interest of peace and reconciliation. He said that the four would probably be released by Friday.
The charges carried the maximum sentence of death and related to an alleged coup attempt on 15 December.
South Sudan analyst James Copnall says this is a very significant step, because the trial was seen as a stumbling block to the peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
In addition to former Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) secretary general Pagan Amum, ex-National Security Minister Oyai Deng Ajak was cleared, as were former Defence Minister Majak D'Agoot and former ambassador to the US Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
In addition to the treason charge, they were accused of inciting the army and fuelling an insurgency in South Sudan, the world's newest state which became independent in 2011.
Earlier on Thursday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir sacked the head of the army following recent rebel advances. No reason was given for the dismissal of Gen James Hoth Mai.
Conflict first broke out in the capital, Juba, between troops loyal to Mr Kiir and those allied with his sacked deputy, Riek Machar.
It later spread to other parts of South Sudan, with numerous reports of ethnic killings.
Eleven ex-officials were arrested in December, but seven of them were later released.
The two sides signed a ceasefire agreement on 23 January, but sporadic fighting has continued.
The latest move comes amid worsening violence in South Sudan, with both sides implicated in atrocities and war crimes.
Last week, the United Nations accused the rebels of massacring hundreds of civilians who sought refuge in a church, mosque and hospital, after capturing the oil hub of Bentiu.
The rebels, however, blame the retreating government forces for the killings. The UN says it is now considering imposing sanctions on both sides.
Correspondents say the Bentiu killings are among the most shocking since the conflict began.
April 24, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has reaffirmed that its rules do not prevent president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir from running in upcoming elections.
Since March of last year, Bashir said that he would not seek his re-election in April 2015 and urged the party to select a new candidate in its general convention which is expected to take place in December 2014.
However, different voices within the party objected his decision saying he is their sole candidate despite rumours over his health after throat surgery he underwent and the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The chairman of the party has the right to run for a new mandate," said the head of the NCP organisation sector, Hamid Sidiq, on Tuesday. “Nothing prevents his candidacy for president,” he added.
The NCP official further said that Bashir is committed to any decision that the party takes.
Bashir has launched a political process aiming to ensure democratic transition in the country and to end the ongoing conflicts in southern and western Sudan.
The national dialogue process may bring the political parties to agree on a two-year transitional period and to delay the 2015 general elections.
April 22, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) has denied statements attributed to its foreign relations secretary, Bashir Adam Rahma, claiming that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir agreed to form a transitional government for two years.
In an interview with the Qatari Al-Watan newspaper on Sunday Rahma said that Bashir accepted the transitional government which will administrate the country during the national dialogue process.
He added the transitional government would last for a maximum of two years, noting it would adopt a program to stop the war, address the issue of refugee return, and reform the civil service and foreign relations before to hold general elections.
However, the PCP political secretary, Kamal Omer Abdel-Salam, described in a press conference on Monday the statements about forming an interim government as "jumping over stages", pointing the national dialogue is still in its early stages.
Abdel-Salam further accused unnamed parties within the government and the opposition of leaking the statements in order to hinder the national dialogue process, without elaboration.
He underscored existence of contacts between his party and the opposition forces which refused to take part in the national dialogue and rebel groups in order to convince them to engage in it.
He also pointing to a meeting of the PCP leader, Hassan Al-Turabi with the deputy chairman of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), Fadl Allah Burma Nasser. The two parties accepted to participate in the process.
Last January, the president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir called upon opposition parties and rebel groups to engage in a comprehensive national dialogue to end war and restore democracy in Sudan.
The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) refused Bashir’s call for dialogue and instead proposed forming a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states before to adopt a new democratic constitution.
The rebel alliance of the Susan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), also rejected Bashir’s call for dialogue and demanded the government to hold direct talks with them to negotiate a cessation of hostilities and open humanitarian access to civilians in the rebel areas.
Abdel-Salam pointed to ongoing consultations between the opposition parties which took part in the dialogue and the registrar of political parties and organisations in order to select representatives of the opposition parties in the dialogue and set up coordinating body to form dialogue’s committees.
He said the PCP met with several national and Islamic parties besides regional groups from Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan to ensure inclusiveness of the national dialogue process, noting that dialogue is the primary means for solving the country’s crises.
The PCP official revealed that his party has developed a strategic plan to unify the Islamic Movement (IM) all over the world, saying the Islamic forces adhere to issues of democracy and freedoms more than the secular forces.
He said the strategic plan represents the official stand of his party and noted it was adopted against the will of the western countries, calling for the unification of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the NUP, which are now divided in several factions in order to enable Sudanese people make their choices.
April 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – An opposition party revealed that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir agreed to form a transitional government to implement a national political program saying it must not last for more than two years.
Sudan’s opposition Popular Congress Party’s (PCP) secretary of foreign relations, Bashir Adam Rahma said, in an interview with the Qatari Al-Watan newspaper on Sunday, that Bashir accepted this transitional government which will administrate the country during the national dialogue process.
Rahma said the recent political roundtable meeting Bashir organised with political forces was meant to discuss formation of the Higher Commission for the National Dialogue (HCND) which will manage the process.
However several political forces brought up the issue of the transitional government although it was not part of the meeting’s agenda, he underscored.
"The transitional government will be discussed when presenting the paper regarding the interim period. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) agreed to form a transitional government after it is being approved by the dialogue’s general conference".
The PCP official added the transitional government would last for a maximum of two years, noting it would adopt a program to stop the war, address the issue of refugee return, and reform the civil service and foreign relations.
The interim government will hold the general elections and form a constituent assembly to draft the constitution and prepare the country for a new democratic era, the said in order to explain what was outlined in the meeting.
Earlier this month, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, held a political roundtable in Khartoum with the participation of 83 political parties. The move came within the framework of a call he made last January for a comprehensive national dialogue.
The opposition official was keen to explain that besides the HCND, there will be different commissions to prepare draft papers but only the General Conference will approve it.
The HCND, which is headed by president Omer Al-Bashir, is composed of 14 members 7 from the opposition and 7 representing the government parties. Its membership would be increased to 21 if the other opposition parties and rebel groups join the process.
Rahma further said the political parties which took part in the meeting agreed to Bashir’s chairing of the higher commission, indicating that the general conference can be rotated between the political forces participation in the process.
“It is preferable that Bashir chairs the higher commission (HCND) in order to be legally bound to implement the outcome of the dialogue because he is the person who controls power and the state,” he added.
The PCP official said differences which may arise among political parties will be referred to an expert committee comprised of neutral and independent persons.
He said they received information that Bashir and several senior government officials believe that dialogue is the only option for solving Sudan’s problems, pointing that “angry” factions within the NCP stand against dialogue and democratic transformation.
Rahma didn’t rule out that rebel groups could agree to take part in the dialogue inside Sudan if the government takes several measures including creating an environment conducive for dialogue, declaring ceasefire, issuing general amnesty for convicts, and allowing humanitarian aid to affected population in the war areas.
He added such measures must be guaranteed by the African Union (AU) and the international community, saying they received positive signals that the European Union (EU), AU, and the United States will support the comprehensive national dialogue.
"We don’t want foreign intervention during the deliberations but we will invite them to monitor and facilitate the dialogue process," he added.
Rahma predicted that dialogue will form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) similar to that of South Africa and Morocco, saying we need to agree on those sensitive issues.
The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) refused to engage in the national dialogue, saying the government didn’t respond to its conditions.
The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition it has called for the issuing of a general amnesty, allowing public freedoms and the release of all political detainees.
The two major opposition forces, National Umma Party (NUP) led by Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi and Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan Al-Turabi, however have so far accepted to take part in the national dialogue process.
The rebel alliance of the Susan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), also rejected Bashir’s call for dialogue and demanded the government to hold direct talks with them to negotiate a cessation of hostilities and open humanitarian access to civilians in the rebel areas.
The SRF also says that a conference attended by all political forces should be held outside Sudan and brokered by the United Nations (UN) and the AU in order to agree on the national dialogue mechanisms.
April 20, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s government on Saturday accused “enemies of peace” and regional stability of sabotaging improving relations with the government of neigbouring Sudan, asserting it remains committed to respecting the terms of the cooperation agreement the two sides had signed.
"War is not in the interest of our two countries" South Sudanese foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said on Saturday.
Marial’s comments come after the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) dismissed claims by the spokesperson of the South Sudanese army that rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar are being trained at camps inside Sudan.
In a statement released from Khartoum, SAF’s spokesperson, Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, described the comments allegations as "false and unfounded".
Saad stressed that Sudan had no intention of interfering in the domestic affairs of its Southern neighbour and would continue to maintain a neutral position on the conflict.
Philip Aguer, the spokesman for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), was quoted as making the accusation - that rebel troops that attacked Unity state capital Bentiu this week were trained inside Sudan - in the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper on Tuesday.
"What we know now is that Machar forces received training inside Sudanese territory and under the supervision of the government army," he said.
The South Sudanese government admitted on Tuesday that rebel forces are in full control of Bentiu and that its troops had withdrawn following heavy clashes over the weekend.
Aguer told Asharq Alawsat that South Sudanese rebels are present in the Heglig and Kharsana areas in West Kordofan state. He add that the SPLA would respond militarily, but it was up to the Juba administration to take appropriate political measures to address the issue.
Earlier this month, South Sudan accused Sudan of attacking its oil-rich border regions where government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir are battling pro-Machar rebels.
Having come close to returning to all out conflict in the April 2012 over disputes over oil transit fees and border issues, South Sudan and Sudan signed a cooperation agreement in September 2012 to work together to resolve all the issues relating to South Sudan’s secession from Sudan in July 2011.
"This was what we have agreed before the international community. There are mechanisms which could be used to address issues where misunderstanding arises" Marial said.
However, South Sudan’s foreign minister said that unnamed people "would like to spoil these improving relations between the two countries. They have realised their interests would not continue, if the peace is achieved, so they want to once again cause mistrust."
Minister Marial, a close ally of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, told on Saturday that his country would continue to respect the terms of the cooperation agreement, stressing that war between the two countries would destabilise the entire region.
Sudan has been fighting a civil war in Darfur since 2003. After South Sudan’s independence in 2011 as part of a peace deal ending decades of civil war conflicts began north of the new border in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In both states many had fought with the rebel movement that is now South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) and army (SPLA).
Since December a split in the SPLM and SPLA has plunged South Sudan into its own civil conflict leaving over one million people displaced.
"The spoilers of peace and stability might want to cause this developing situation. What is happening at the border might be the work of individuals wanting to cause mistrust and spoil the confidence which have been built by the cooperation agreement for their own interests”, Marial said.
South Sudan’s top diplomat, who repeatedly avoided accusing Sudanese government of participating in the attack on Bentiu, said his government was in contact with the government of Sudan to resolve the differences through established mechanisms.
"There are discussions between the two governments to try to resolve this. The heads of the security from both countries are in contact. Our minister of defence is discussing with the Sudanese defence minister the way forward. The security arrangement is the basis of discussions. It is one of the mechanisms which can be used to resolve any misunderstanding relating to border issues", Marial explained.
April 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, said that several Western countries which encouraged South Sudan’s independence have apologised for their actions and urged Khartoum to reunite with the newborn state.
Bashir, who addressed a meeting of ruling party’s pastoralists and farmers’ secretariat on Thursday evening, said that Sudan’s enemies who supported secession of the south in order to destroy the north regretted their action, noting they are now begging Khartoum to reunite with Juba.
“They pushed the south to secede in order to destroy the north, however when they saw what happened in the south they secretly told us they were mistaken and wished they had listened to us and now they asked us to reunite”, he said.
The Sudanese president said his government can’t decide on reunification with the south, underscoring the matter must be referred to the Sudanese people.
“We are a sovereign state and if another country seeks to join us, the government must be convinced by the move and then refer the issue to the Sudanese people”, he added.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan on July 9th 2011 following a referendum on whether the semi-autonomous region should remain a part of the country or become independent. 99% of the southern voters chose independence.
Observers say that strained relations between the countries and the internal crises they are currently facing are direct consequence of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which failed to adequately address several post-cessation issues.
Following the start of the inter -South Sudanese crisis last December many analysts said that South Sudan succumbed in the old "African bugaboo": tribalism and called to put the new born state under UN trusteeship.
However, Sudanese foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, violently rejected the idea saying “These suggestions undermine authority of a sovereign state and no country would accept such views”.
April 17, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Eastern areas in South Kordofan state, including areas bordering South Sudan, are now free of rebels, said the military spokesperson of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid, on Wednesday.
SAF “managed to free the following areas (in South Kordofan): Mansoura, Tommy, Tanqlto, Maqlam, Kalopa, Alhuta, Almanazla, Alpirah, Jabel Bermil, Jabel Krmo, Jabel Omdurman and Tarawa. The armed forces have achieved a major victory on the remnants of the rebels, inflicting significant loss of life and equipment on them,” Khalid said.
He added that this action comes in line with the second phase of the so-called “Decisive Summer” operation, aimed at clearing eastern South Kordofan and border areas from rebel groups.
Sudanese defence minister Abdel Rahim Hussein announced two weeks ago the launch of military operations on positions of rebels in Darfur region, South Kordofan, Blue Nile states.
The Rapid Support Forces, government militias reorganised under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services, participate in these attacks alongside the Sudanese army.
The spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) was not reachable for comment.
The SPLM-N and its allied rebel groups from Darfur region formed a joint command for their troops based in South Kordofan and attempted to extend their military action into North Kordofan state, last year.
Negotiating teams from the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N will meet next Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, in a bid by the African Union mediation to end the nearly three year conflict in Blue Nile ans South Kordofan states.
However, the SPLM-N said it would stick to its demand for a comprehensive process and reject any discussion on the Two Areas only.
April 17, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) says it is preparing to launch a major offensive to retake Bentiu, the capital of the oil producing Unity state, calling on foreign mercenaries supporting rebel forces in the area to immediately withdraw.
The comments came following official confirmation that rebel fighters allied to former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar had seized control of the strategic town close to the Sudanese border.
“This is a temporary victory and should not be celebrated that much by rebels. We will take it,” SPLA spokesperson Colonel Philip Aguer told reporters on Wednesday, adding that government forces remained in the area.
Aguer claims that rebels entered the town on Monday with the help of foreign mercenaries, believed to be Janjaweed, the feared Arab militias active in Darfur and western Sudan.
“They (rebels) entered the town with help of some foreign mercenaries, but it is a matter of time before these mercenaries regret allying with these rebels,” he said.
In a later press statement, Aguer called on foreign mercenaries to withdraw from the town within the next 72 hours.
Multiple government officials have accused the government of neighbouring Sudan of aiding the rebels with military hardware and air cover.
“We know very well that rebels did not have any capacity to take Bentiu; otherwise they would not have fled when the SPLA forces captured it from them in January,” said Daniel Jok, a member of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) from the oil-contested region of Abyei.
“What happened is an indication that there is foreign hand in this attack. There is no question that they (rebels) came from Sudan, because this is where they fled and we have been receiving reports of [the] training [of] recruits there,” he added.
In the first public account of the events which led up to the town’s recapture, Jok said Sudanese fighter jets made multiple, close-range passes in South Sudanese air space on Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region.
“This provocative military action goes against international protocols and previous agreements,” Jok told on Wednesday.
The Sudanese army (SAF) issued a statement this week denying pro-Machar rebels were receiving training at camps inside Sudan.
SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said Sudan remain a neutral position on the conflict and had no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of South Sudan.
Saad was responding to comments attributed to Aguer in the Londan-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper on Tuesday, in which the latter said the rebel troops that attacked Bentiu this week were trained inside Sudan.
“What we know now is that Machar forces received training inside Sudanese territory and under the supervision of the government army,” Aguer told Asharq Alawsat.
“What we know now is that Machar forces received training inside Sudanese territory and under the supervision of the government army,” he said.
In a statement issued following the town’s recapture, the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition called on oil companies operating in government-controlled areas to cease oil production and evacuate all staff within a week.
Rebel military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said oil companies that fail to comply are risking the safety of their staff and may face a forced shutdown of production.
Unity state has changed hands several times since political tensions erupted in violence in the capital, Juba, in mid-December.
April 15, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir issued a decree on Monday guaranteeing political parties the freedom to carry out public activities as long as they obtain prior authorisation.
The presidential decree, which has been in force since Monday, provides for the freedom of political intellectual activities for all political organisations, stressing that all parties should be equally and impartially treated.
While political parties are required to obtain permission to conduct activities in public, they are permitted to hold public meetings, rallies and seminars within their premises or headquarters without prior approval.
The party has to “obtain the approval from the competent authority in enough time, not less than 48 hours, for the purposes of protection and regulation of traffic,” says the decree.
The decree comes as part of measures pledged by the Sudanese government to create a conducive environment in the country before a national process aimed at resolving regional conflicts and reaching agreement on the principles for the adoption of a new constitution.
The People’s Congress Party (PCP) and the National Umma Party (NUP) have expressed support for the process, but stressed the need to ensure political freedoms before the process is launched.
However, the remaining opposition parties allied with the National Consensus Forces (NCF) still reject the move and have called for the existing cabinet dissolved, the release of all political prisoners and the formation of national government.
Rebel alliance – Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) – have demanded the government commence negotiations on a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to affected people in rebel-held areas in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan before it would agree to take part in the national process.
The SRF has also demanded that the first stage of the process, related to the frameworks and mechanisms of the national dialogue, be brokered by regional and international mediators.
April 15, 2014 (KAMPALA) – South Sudanese rebels say they have seized control of Unity state capital Bentiu following heavy clashes with government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir.
The spokesperson for rebel leader Riek Machar, James Gatdet Dak, said while he had been unable to reach Machar directly, he had confirmed the capture of the key oil-rich town from other sources on the ground, including rebel military spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Riek Gew and eyewitnesses inside the UN base in Bentiu.
“I could hear the ululations of people in the background celebrating its recapture and I couldn’t hear gun shots which suggested that the fighting was over inside the town,” he said.
“To me, the town has fallen to our forces,” he added.
Fighting resumed early on Tuesday inside Bentiu town after rebels entered the city about 6am (local time).
The spokesman for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Phillip Aguer, earlier denied rebel claims that government troops had been forced to pull back.
“It is not true. The SPLA forces yesterday (Monday) repulsed the attack of Riek Machar rebels, who came from Sudan. Our forces are now in control.
According to Gew, rebels were tracking fleeing SPLA soldiers who were seen heading towards Nhialdiu payam (district) and has urged them to surrender.
Meanwhile, Maj-Gen Peter Gatdet Yaka and Maj-Gen James Koang Chuol, who led the operation, have issued an ultimatum to SPLA soldiers and their commanders, warning them to surrender or risk being killed while hiding in the bush.
According to Dak, Koang, a former SPLA commander who defected to the rebels’ side earlier this year, is expected to to officially take over the administration.
Heavy fighting broke out between rebels and the SPLA around remote oil installations in the north of Unity state over the weekend.
Rebels say the SPLA instigated the fighting after its troops attacked rebel positions, a claim the army has denied.
Multiple sources in the region said heavy gun fire resumed on Monday afternoon and continued on Tuesday morning, forcing civilians to flee to UN camps in Rubkona.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said 10 employees from the Safinat Caspian oil refining company were wounded on Monday when fighting broke out near an oilfield located about 25km north-west of Bentiu.
Five of the 10 employees were wounded, with two said to be in critical condition
A massive government force has been stationed in Unity state since rebel forces were ousted in January.
It is not known how many rebel fighters were involved in the latest offensive.
The eruption of fighting in Unity state comes as the latest blow to a ceasefire deal signed between the South Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition.
Bentiu has changed hands several times since conflict erupted in the nation’s capital, Juba, in mid-December last year before spreading to other areas across the country.
Rebels are demanding the release of four political detainees, who are currently on trial for treason in connection to an alleged plot to overthrow the government, which it claims sparked the violence.
They have also called for the immediate withdrawal of Ugandan troops who are currently providing military support to the SPLA.
The international community has also called for the pull-out of foreign troops, saying it is inflaming tensions in the volatile country.
Machar has also warned against the deployment of foreign troops around oil installations in Upper Nile and Unity states, urging peacekeeping forces with the UNMISS to exercise their mandate.
Peace talks currently being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have failed to halt the violence, with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms of the 23 January ceasefire deal.
April 14, 2014 (JUBA) – Leaders from the contested oil-producing region of Abyei have warned the international community of the consequences of ignoring the ongoing conflict.
Paramount chief Bulabek Deng Kuol told on Sunday that there are increasing tensions, particularly in the outer northern extremes of the region, which was identified in 2009 by the permanent Court of Arbitration as belonging to the Nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms.
He said the area had a special connection for many people as it was the final resting place of family members.
“Our people feel that the memories of the international community are shortening and quickly losing focus on the cause of the suffering of the people of Abyei,” he added.
However, Kuol said many people in the north held fears for their safety due to the threat of militia groups aligned with the Sudanese government.
The traditional leader has expressed deep concerns over the worsening security situation in the area, saying the conflict continued to place pressure on local resources, particularly grazing and water point areas.
The situation has also been further compounded by violent conflict in South Sudan, which erupted in mid-December last year amid worsening political tensions.
The Arab Misseriya nomads, who typically travel to areas in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states at this time of year, have been unable to do so as a result of the current situation, and are instead attempting to access water and grazing areas in Abyei’s south, leading to tensions with the Ngok Dinka, who considers themselves the rightful owners of the area.
“These militias are in the north of the area. They are the ones which together with elements from [the] Misseriya [tribe] and Sudan Armed Forces carried out the attacks in February and March,” Kuol said.
“They (the Misseriya) want to go south of Abyei, but people in these areas said certain arrangements must be met. They (the Ngok Dinka) are saying they should not go to their areas with guns, which they (the Misseriya) are not accepting and they want to force their way,” he added.
Fierce clashes between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka tribes have erupted in the past month, claiming the lives of an unconfirmed number of people and causing displacement.
The Abyei territory is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, with the latter breaking away from the former in July 2011, leaving several unresolved post-secession issues.
In 2012, the African Union mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei, stipulating that only those residing permanently in the area would 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, saying it ignored the eligibility of the Misseriya, who enter the area periodically to graze their cattle.
DARK DAYS AHEAD
General Kuol Monyluak, head of the South Sudan supported local administration, confirmed that people in the extreme north of Abyei are afraid to leave, but are determined to return if the security situation improves.
“Our people are determined to return to their areas for cultivation but the current security situation is becoming an immediate concern,” Monyluak said on Sunday.
He warned of “dark days” ahead unless the international community steps in to find a speedy resolution to the conflict over the ownership of the area.
“There are clear indications of the dark days coming ahead. There is no food to the people returning to areas north of Abyei and the issue of security is becoming a big concern. These are very big issues of concerns to us as the authorities and feel it is time the international community should [take] decisive action,” Monyluak said.
“The two presidents [of Sudan and South Sudan] would never agree. They have already failed to reach an agreement on the way forward,” he added.
April 13, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of Sudan’s opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan Al-Turabi, said they have agreed to engage in unconditional dialogue with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in order to unify Islamic forces and maintain cohesion of the country.
- Al-Bashir shakes hands with Al-Turabi
In an interview with Al-jazeera TV broadcast on Friday, Turabi said that the majority of Sudan’s political parties had accepted the government’s call for dialogue because they realise that arms proliferation is a divisive issue and represents a real danger to unity in the country.
The Islamist leader said his decision to join the dialogue was driven by the desire to discuss urgent issues.
“The rules of governance in Islam allow for offering wide range of freedoms not tyranny, and provide that unity of the country must be based on a contract of citizenship and consensus,” he said.
Turabi stressed the aim of his party’s participation in national dialogue is to “restore cohesion among Sudanese people and between the Islamic forces and other political forces”, adding that pressing “regional and international circumstances dictated rapprochement with the regime”.
Several factions within the PCP have since warned that the collapse of the regime would mean end of the Islamic political project, calling on Islamists within the government and opposition to join efforts in order to preserve an Islamic state in Sudan.
Power struggles and corruption scandals have rocked the ruling party.
It is understood the NCP is prepared to make some concessions to Turabi’s PCP and the National Umma Party (NUP), led by Sadiq Al-Mahdi, in order to pave the way for a large political base for the regime, with the Democratic Unionist Party already agreeing to participate in the government.
The PCP leader said the party was prepared to continue with dialogue until an agreement is reached on national issues and a reasonable timeframe is set to discuss them.
Turabi denied that he preconditioned the PCP’s engagement in national dialogue with the sacking of former first vice-president Ali Osman Taha and former presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, but acknowledged that some opposition parties had stipulated allowing greater political freedoms before taking part in the dialogue.
Turabi holds deep-seated personal hostility towards Taha and has accused him of standing behind his removal from power.
The PCP split from the NCP following 1999’s bitter power struggle between Bashir and Turabi, which resulted in the opposition leaders being ousted from his post as parliamentary speaker and chairman of the ruling party.
Turabi later established the PCP and has since been a vociferous critic of the very regime whose army-backed seizure of power in 1989 he orchestrated.
The Islamist leader has underscored that political forces look forward to achieving a peaceful transition of power and a just settlement of regional grievances.
He said that political forces are calling for greater public freedoms and have demanded that the NCP address urgent issues, particularly those relating to peoples’ livelihoods.
The PCP leader said that hopes for resolving the Darfur crisis are increasing, saying the Um Jaras peace forum had managed to settle most of the tribal disputes in the region.
He said that Sudan’s political forces also sought to improve relations with South Sudan, in the hopes that a newborn state might one day re-join Sudan.
In an address to the nation in January, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir announced a four-point plan for reform “to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity”.
He also called on political forces and rebel groups, as long as they lay down their arms, to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation of a national reform process.
NCP officials, including Bashir, have so far brushed aside opposition calls to delay the 2015 general elections, and have also rejected the formation of a transitional government that would work on drafting a new constitution to prepare the country for the polls.
The NUP and PCP are the only major opposition parties that have so far accepted Bashir’s call for national dialogue.
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