Category Archives: North Africa

African states blast West over farm subsidies

Thomson-Reuters Foundation/allAfrica

Africa: Developing Countries Blast Rich-World Farm Subsidies At Rome Talks

Rome — Wealthy countries are still subsidising their farmers at the expense of developing nations, undermining market access for some of the world’s poorest producers, two farm ministers told a Food and Agriculture Organization meeting on Monday.

“Our cotton producers are constantly targeted by unfair subsidies from the North,” Burkina Faso Agriculture Minister Mahama Zoungrana told delegates at a meeting of the U.N. agency in Rome.

“The rules and standards of international trade are not favorable to SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) from Africa,” he said.

Georgian Agriculture Minister Otar Danelia echoed that concern. “I believe a global approach is needed to deal with farm subsidies,” he told delegates at the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Governance and International Commodity Markets. “They (subsidies) create imbalances.”

The United States, the world’s largest cotton producer, paid its cotton farmers $32.9 billion to grow their crops between 1995 and 2012, the Environmental Working Group, a research organisation, reported.

“U.S. farmers are subsidised so they produce more cotton than they would otherwise, lowering the global price and hurting farmers in Burkina Faso,” Gawain Kripke, Oxfam America’s director of research, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This creates unfair global competition.”

European cotton producers, based mostly in Greece and Spain, receive smaller subsidies, but the EU accounts for only one percent of world production, EU figures show.

For other crops, the European Union spends around $58 billion annually on farm subsidies. Farmers from poorer countries say they cannot compete, given these levels of government support for their rivals.

Members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development spent a total of $258 billion subsidising agriculture in 2013, OECD data show.

Asked whether rich-world subsidies unbalance agricultural markets, David Hallam, director of the FAO trade and markets division, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation “there is still scope to improve” global rules governing subsidies. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has the task of arbitrating disputes on such issues, he said.

Brazil has tried to use the WTO in its dispute with the United States over cotton subsidies.

In 2004, Brazil won a challenge against U.S. cotton farmers when the WTO backed its complaint and allowed it to impose $830 million in sanctions on U.S. products. The two governments are still wrangling over the specifics of a payout, and South America’s largest economy has threatened to impose higher import tariffs on U.S. products if a deal isn’t reached.

Disputes between India and the United States over farm subsidies have been partly responsible for stalling global trade pacts.

Concerns over developed-world farm subsidies took a back seat for policy makers in recent years, as high prices for agricultural goods led to food riots and worries that a growing number of people in poor countries couldn’t afford to eat.

Today, plentiful harvests have pushed down prices, putting concerns over subsidies back on the table.

“Disfunction in commodity markets is a threat to security, worldwide,” said Burkina Faso’s Zoungrana.  allAfrica

Sudan’s Ghandour says government committed to African peace plan

Sudan Tribune

October 7, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s chief negotiator reiterated his government seriousness to reach peaceful settlement to the armed conflicts and to hold the national dialogue conference, calling on the rebels to avoid tactical positions and to work seriously to “eliminate tragedies of war”.

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Ibrahim Ghandour (Photo Suna)

Ibrahim Ghandour was commenting on statements made by the SPLM-N secretary general and its top negotiator Yasir Arman who accused the Sudanese government of derailing the efforts of the African Union to stop war and facilitate the dialogue process.

Arman said the Sudanese government had sought to push away talks scheduled for 14 October to reach a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, ahead of an all-parties meeting on the national dialogue issues. The two events are facilitated by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

He further accused the government army of massing troops in the Two Areas in preparation of new military campaign against their fighters, saying all these moves are in line with the negative statements by president Omer al-Bashir on the peace process on 27 September.

Speaking at a reception on the occasion of Eid al-Adha organised at the premises of the National Congress Party (NCP), Ghandour reaffirmed the government commitment to participate in the talks with the rebel groups by the end of the month. However, he did not mention a date saying “it will follow the convention of the ruling party”.

Further, in an interview with Ashorooq TV, the NCP deputy leader urged Arman to devote his efforts entirely to achieve peace in the upcoming round of talks.

“In any forthcoming round of talks, we hope that Arman be faithful to a peace process that relieves the country of the tragedies of war” he said.

Ghandour stressed the NCP keenness to dialogue with the other parties, saying they reached all the political forces. He went further to say they are “resolved to continue the dialogue, despite difficulties, obstacles and attempts to discredit it”.

The presidential assistant was alluding to the refusal of opposition parties to participate in the process demanding to select a neutral personality to chair it instead of president Bashir. They also demand to implement a number of confidence building measures and to postpone the elections.

Ghandour underscored that the NCP was not forced to call for a national dialogue process. But he added that it is a strategic choice not a tactical move because “no political party can build a nation alone whatever is its size and strength”.

He further expressed hopes that the next round of talks with the rebels be the last one. Nonetheless he added that “some do not want to reach peace before to achieve their political ambitions”.

Officials in Sudan’s ruling party several times accused opposition and rebel groups of seeking to use the national dialogue process to dismantle the rule of president Bashir.

The NCP also rejects calls by all the Sudanese political forces to postpone the general election scheduled for April 2015.

Speaking about the elections, he encouraged the other parties to participate in this “democratic exercise” adding the NCP does not seek to sweep elections.

“The NCP is not looking for scoring goals through the next election, but it is looking for a draw or victory if forced to it,” he said.

He also reiterated the government’s rejection of the Paris Declaration which the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) signed with the rebel alliance of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front last August.

“Only the state owns the rights to sign agreement with the holders of arms,” he said.


Sudan’s ruling NCP to choose presidential candidate this month

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will select its presidential candidate during the general convention which will take place on October 20-25 with the participation of more than 100 foreign political parties.

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Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (R), flanked by presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour, gives a speech in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on 27 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Abd Raouf)

President Omer Hassan al-Bashir repeated previously that he would not seek his re-election and urged the party to select a new candidate. However, several NCP officials objected his decision stressing that he is their sole candidate.

Bashir, who suffers from health problems, underwent two knee replacement surgeries and a throat surgery in the last two years. He also faces an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2009.

The state minister at the ministry of information, Yasser Youssef, said in statements to the official news agency (SUNA) that all NCP’s regional, sector and central conventions have been concluded adding that meetings of the leadership office and Shura (consultative) council will convene before the general convention.

He noted that the general convention will elect a new Shura council besides selecting the NCP presidential candidate for the April 2015 elections.

Youssef added that the convention will discuss several working papers including political reform, economy, foreign relations and NCP’s internal issues.

Meanwhile, the NCP deputy chairman and presidential assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, said that he attended 18 NCP conventions in various states, stressing that the country is entering a new phase in light of the democratic way in which these conventions were held.

He noted that the main message communicated through these conventions is that the upcoming elections will be held on time.

Sudan’s general elections are set to be held next April but opposition parties threatened to boycott it saying the NCP holds absolute control over power and refuses to make any compromise to end the civil war and allow public liberties.

But the NCP insists on holding them, saying it is a constitutional requirement that must be met.

Ghandour said the nomination and selection of the states governors is an internal issue that will be decided after the NCP’s general convention, adding that the party leadership will meet the 5 nominees from each state to discuss the future plan for the party and the country.

The NCP official said that small committees will be set up to look into governors’ nominations, underscoring that the final selection will be decided by the NCP leadership office and some other experts.


Germany to help mediate between opposition and governmewnt in Sudan

Sudan Tribune

October 2, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Germany will work with the Sudanese parties to facilitate a process aiming to bring peace in the east African country and achieve democratic transformation, said a statement released in Berlin on Thursday after a meeting with the Sudanese rebels.

A German institution for mediation, Berghof Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Think Tank of the German Government, Stiftung Wissenschaftund Politik, (SWP) organised a workshop with the rebel alliance of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) to assess the state of the national dialogue process and explore ways to support it.

The two-day meeting was attended by the different SRF groups, except the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW), which demands to implement security measures aiming to protect civilians in the war zones before to engage in peace negotiations with the government.

The workshop, which included officials from the German foreign ministry, took place after a series of meetings German officials recently conducted with the Sudanese government and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

While the SRF leaders reaffirmed their commitment towards a process leading to achieve just peace and genuine democratic change in Sudan, The German tandem agreed to with them to work on ways to end the fighting and prepare the national constitutional conference.

“Berghof Foundation/ SWP committed to work with the SRF and other Sudanese parties as well as international partners towards helping create a credible national dialogue/constitutional process in Sudan,” said a statement extended by the German mediation body to Sudan Tribune at the end of the workshop.

The Berghof Foundation further said they will support efforts aiming to “find a mechanism for stopping the wars in Sudan and assisting the Sudanese parties in closing the gaps towards a comprehensive national dialogue”.

Further, the German facilitators agreed with the SRF alliance to consult on these ideas with “a variety of Sudanese stakeholders and key international partners, notably the African Union and United Nation”.

The German foreign ministry expressed its readiness to support these objectives through its backing of the Berghof Foundation/SWP initiative.

On Monday 30 September, the German embassy in Khartoum said the Sudanese authorities are aware of the meeting with the rebel groups.

Last August; Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour told Sudan Tribune they had asked Berlin to support their efforts to end war in Sudan and hold the national dialogue process inside the country with the participation of all the rebel groups.

He further expressed hopes that Germany play a role supporting Sudan’s efforts to improve its relations with the European Union countries.

The organisers of the workshop said the SRF expressed “its conviction that democratic, credible elections can occur only following a national dialogue/constitutional process”.

In early September, the SRF signed with AUHIP an agreement on the national dialogue and constitutional process providing that a comprehensive political agreement is the ideal option to end war and achieve democratic reforms.

The government and rebel delegations will meet in Addis Ababa on 12 and 15 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan, Blue Nile states and Darfur region.

However, the SLM-AW did not participate in the meeting with the German facilitators.

Sudan Tribune failed to reach its leader Abdel Wahid al-Nur. However sources close to the rebel group said the workshop is perceived by the SLM-AW leadership as “pre-negotiation process”.

In an interview conducted with him in September after the SRF meeting with the AUHIP in Addis Ababa, al-Nur said they would not participate in the national dialogue process before improving the security conditions of civilians in the conflict areas.

“We reiterated our demand to protect civilians on the ground before any dialogue with the regime. Peace must begin with security and ends with a genuine democratic change,” al-Nur told Sudan Tribune on 7 September.

The rebel leader who considers that the cessation of hostilities is not enough says security measures should be unilaterally implemented by the government, adding they do not require any discussion or agreement.


Sudan – Bashir says Sadiq can only return if he gives up Paris delcration with SRF rebels

Sudan Tribune

September 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir strongly attacked the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) for signing a political agreement with rebel groups and said that Sadiq al-Mahdi can return back to Sudan only if he cancels the Paris Declaration.

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Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech on 27 January 2014 in the capital, Khartoum (Photo: AFP/Ebrahim Hamid)

Since the signing of Paris Declaration on 8 August with the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), al-Mahdi is based in the Egyptian capital Cairo. His daughter and DUP deputy leader was jailed for a month before her release.

On 4 September, the Paris Declaration group signed an agreement on the national dialogue and constitutional process with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Further, the African mediation called the warring parties in the Two Areas and Darfur to separately negotiate a cessation of hostilities respectively on 12 and 15 October.

In line with these developments, and after Khartoum commitment to create a conducive environment inside the country, it was expected that the Sudanese authorities would allow Mahdi’s return to the country. The release of his daughter Merriam and the leader of the opposition Congress Party were considered as positive steps.

However, in a speech at the convention of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum state on Saturday, Bashir surprised the public by announcing that Mahdi can only come back to Sudan after having renounced the Paris Declaration, emphasising that Paris Declartion makes him complicit in the rebel project to bring down the regime by the force of arms.

“Sadiq al-Mahdi is welcome at any time, but he should first disowns what he signed in Paris,” Bashir said, adding that Mahdi agreed with SRF to change the regime while the programme of the rebels “is based on the armed action to overthrow the regime”.

The Paris declaration was welcomed inside the country and abroad as it provides that the “end of the war is the right approach to any credible national dialogue and serious constitutional” process and call to ensure freedoms in the country.

The African Union Peace and Security Council in a meeting held on 12 September tasked the AUHIP with cessation of hostilities talks between the warring parties, and exhorted Khartoum to implement the confidence-building measures agreed in the agreement of 4 September which is also signed by the national dialogue committee.

The regional body further urged the Sudanese stakeholders to “refrain from hate speech and from conducting negative media campaigns against each other”.

The Sudanese president went further to say that some want to use the national dialogue to dismantle the regime, adding that his government will not allow rebel groups to exercise any political action or to establish alliance with the opposition forces in Sudan.

He said the SRF rebels have to lay down their arms before to come to Khartoum and engage in political activities.

Bashir called on the rebel groups to participate in the national dialogue and renewed his government commitment of to provide the needed guarantees for the SRF delegates to participate freely in the national process after the end of talks on security arrangements in Addis Ababa.

But he clearly underscored that the separate talks with rebels will be based on the 2005 peace agreement (CPA) for the SPLM-N and the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) for Darfur rebel groups.

The talks on the South Kordofan and Blue Nile “will only consider a single item which is the reintegration and demobilisation of the (rebel) combatants in the Two Areas, as the rest of issues are included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he said.

He also reiterated his refusal for the postponement of 2015 elections and expressed his readiness to undertake a Cabinet reshuffle in a way to represent all the political forces participating in the dialogue process.


Hours after Bashir’s statements against the return of Mahdi to Sudan before the cancellation of Paris Declaration, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) announced its intention to sue the leader of the opposition NUP Sadiq al-Mahdi for his participation in “activities against the country”.

“Our decision to file a suit against al-Mahdi is taken after extensive legal assessment and based on information and documents relating to his activities since the signing of the Paris Declaration and what followed in encounters,” said the director of the NISS information department is a statement released on Saturday evening.

The security official further described Mahdi’s activities as illegal actions publishable by law and confirmed that that the legal proceedings against him will begin in the coming days.

Since his arrival in Cairo last August, the DUP leader held a series of meetings with the Egyptian officials and foreign diplomats there to explain the Paris Declaration. He travelled to the United Arab Emirates and Addis Ababa where he met with the AUHIP chief.

Al-Mahdi, who was a fervent supporter of the national dialogue, had been arrested for one month from May to June for criticising atrocities and war crimes committed by the government militias in Darfur.

Following his release, he distanced himself from the internal process and called to include rebels in the national dialogue. He further demanded to issue a law protecting political freedoms before to launch the political operation.


Sudan – SRF to hold conference of all opposition parties

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – The rebel alliance of Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has revealed plans to hold an all-parties conference for the opposition forces in order to combine visions on Sudan’s future and adopt a unified political program prior to the convening of national dialogue.

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The speaker of the South African national assembly, Baleka Mbete (C), pictured with Malik Agar (R) and Yasir Arman (L) after a meeting on 22 September 2014 (Photo courtesy of the SPLM-N)

The SRF’s secretary of external affairs, Yasir Arman, told Sudan Tribune from South Africa on Tuesday that they are conducting extensive contacts to hold an all-parties conference for opposition forces, similar to that one which took place in the Eritrean capital of Asmara in June 1995.

“The conference seeks to reach a common vision and program and a national project which accommodates lessons from the experience of the cessation of South Sudan and provides a vision for building the country on new bases,” Arman said.

He stressed the move was dictated by the recent developments particularly after the signing of the “Agreement on National Dialogue and Constitutional Process” in Addis Ababa on 4 September and calls from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) for a meeting of all Sudanese forces to agree on the agenda and timeframe of talks.

However, Arman did not elaborate on where and when the meeting will be held, but stressed that it will take place soon.

In a conference held in Asmara from 15 to 23 June 1995, Sudanese opposition forces gathered under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance for “the conference on fundamental issues” where it agreed on the right of self-determination for South Sudan, a programme for a transitional period, and general principles for a democratic, decentralised and secular rule in the country.

Arman praised the decisions of the AUPSC endorsed on 12 September on the national dialogue and the need for a comprehensive process to end war in South Kordofan, Blue Nile states and the Darfur region, as well as establish a democratic regime.

“The intervention of the African Union (AU) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) as facilitators and guarantors of the national constitutional process have transformed the role of the AU from a fire truck which seeks to achieve partial solutions to a sponsor for the comprehensive solution which links ending the war to democratic transformation,” he said.

In a release issued at the end of its 456th meeting on 12 September, the AUPSC provides to hold separate talks on a cessation of hostilities and security arrangements followed by a meeting in the AU headquarters gathering all the Sudanese political forces on agree on the agenda and principles of the dialogue process which will be organised inside the country.

The SRF official described this step as a great political development, which will maintain unity of the Sudan through a comprehensive solution, reiterating readiness to participate in a national dialogue conducted on an equal footing.


Arman, who is also the secretary-general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), welcomed efforts of the AU mediation on Sudan’s peace process, saying the SPLM-N is ready to engage in the next round of talks with the Sudanese government in Addis Ababa on 12 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement in the Two Areas.

He underscored that this round of talks comes within the framework of the comprehensive peace process in accordance with the AU’s decisions at its 456th meeting, stressing they wouldn’t accept partial solutions for Sudan’s problems,

Earlier this month, the chairman of the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, announced that Sudanese government delegations will hold parallel meetings with the SPLM-N on 12 October and another one with Darfur rebel groups on 15 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement.

Mbeki added that the signing of a truce will pave the way for the rebels’ participation in the national dialogue.

The SRF initially demanded negotiations for a comprehensive humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states, stressing the need to unify the two peace processes.

However, Khartoum insists on the importance to maintain the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as basis for negotiations with the holdout rebels saying it already committed with two former rebel groups that inked the framework agreement.


Arman pointed to recent statements by presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour rejecting the postponement of 2015 general elections and the formation of a transitional government, saying this would push opposition forces to work towards the prevention of elections through wider public action.

“No opposition party will participate in the coming election and these assertions were made in the Paris Declaration signed last August with leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, and also in the meeting held in London [ last August] between the SRF and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Mohamed Osman al-Merghani,” he said.

He further described the relationship between the SRF and the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) as “strategic”, saying they will not allow any party to manipulate it.

The SRF official mentioned previous meetings with the NCF chairman, Farouq Abu Issa, pointing to his recent phone conversation with the leader of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP), Ibrahim al-Sheikh, as well as a meeting with the NCF delegation in Addis Ababa recently.

The NCF refuses to take part in the national dialogue process, demanding greater public freedoms, the postponement of elections and a transitional period to implement the outcome of the dialogue process by a national cabinet.


Arman said their current visit to Johannesburg aims to learn from the South African experience of transition from the apartheid regime to the democratic system of governance besides urging the government in Pretoria to support recent decisions of the AU on Sudan’s national dialogue.

A delegation of the SPLM-N headed by its chairman, Malik Agar, is currently visiting South Africa to hold meetings with officials from the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC), as well as South African government and parliament.

The SPLM-N delegation on Monday met with the speaker of the South African parliament and the national chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete, with Agar is expected to meet more officials in the Pretoria government and ruling party.

In a separate statement, SPLM-N negotiating team spokesperson Mubarak Ardul described the visit as a “qualitative shift” in relations of Sudan’s forces of change in general and particularly the SPLM-N with countries such as South Africa, which plays a significant and influential role in the course of events on the continent.


AU calls for synchronised security talks on Sudanese conflicts

Sudan Tribune

September 15, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC) has finally opted for separate, but synchronised discussions on security measures between the warring Sudanese parties before they can engage in the internal dialogue process.

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A general view of a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (Photo courtesy of the African Union)

The Sudanese government and Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) agreed on the need for a comprehensive and inclusive process to reach peace and restore democracy in the country.

The government and rebel groups, however, diverged on how to proceed and where this political process was to be conducted.

While the government says the rebels should come and directly discuss ceasefire and security arrangements before joining the negotiating table with other stakeholders, the latter has demanded a humanitarian cessation of hostilities followed by separate negotiations abroad on the security arrangements and matters related to the war areas after which discussions on the new constitution can begin.

The AUPSC, in a resolution released on 15 September, following its 456 meeting acknowledged that the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and its chairman Thabo Mbeki will play the midwifery role of the national dialogue by brokering the security talks as well as an all parties conference in Addis Ababa to agree on a framework agreement for the political process.

“The negotiations on cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement, should resume at the earliest opportunity, under the auspices of the AUHIP and in collaboration and coordination with the JSR/JCM ‘Mohamed Ibn Chambas),” partly reads the AUPSC resolution.

“The negotiations on the cessation of hostilities for the Two Areas and for Darfur should be conducted in a synchronized manner,” it further added.

A rebel group, Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) warned last week that they would not accept a humanitarian cessation of hostilities, but requested that security measures be implemented to protect civilians in the war affected zones.

The Council, however, took in consideration a demand by the rebel and opposition parties on the need for a preparatory meeting to fix the rules of the national dialogue and agree on how to implement its outcome.

“A meeting of the Sudanese parties to discuss relevant process issues, in order to pave the way for the National Dialogue should be held at the AU Headquarters under the facilitation of the AUHIP,” decided the AUPSC.

The regional peace and security body emphasised the need to establish a conducive environment for the national dialogue and urged the Khartoum government to implement confidence-building measures.

Among these measures, the 15-member council mentions the release of all political detainees and prisoners, enacting the necessary legislations to ensure political freedoms and the freedom of expression and publication, and ensuring that the judiciary will be the only institution to adjudicate such matters.

But before any engagement in the internal process and in line with the AUPSC decision, the government has been requested to provide the “necessary guarantees for the armed groups freely to participate in the national dialogue, once the comprehensive ceasefire and security arrangements agreements have been concluded”.

Khartoum also has to facilitate humanitarian assistance to all populations in war-affected areas.


The African body called on the international community to provide “economic support package to Sudan, including expediting debt relief and extending concessionary loans”.

It also appealed to the United States and the European Union to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Sudan “ in order to contribute positively towards the creation of enabling conditions for the success of the national dialogue”.

Some EU countries consider the lift of economic sanctions imposed on Sudan and debt relief as they follow closely the ongoing efforts to hold the political process and to ensure effective implementation of its outcome.

On 9 August, the American acting chargé d’affaires David Kaeupur met with Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour to hand over a message from US special envoy Donald Booth on the national dialogue.

Booth, in his message, expressed his government’s support to the internal process and encouraged Khartoum to create the necessary conditions for a genuine, holistic and inclusive dialogue.