Category Archives: North Africa

African journalists call for more investigative reporting to uncover corruption

Premium Times/allAfrica

Investigative journalists from 14 countries in West and Central Africa, are calling attention to what they call “the disastrous effects of corruption and illicit trafficking on human development and security” in the region, and urging journalists to embrace the challenge of investigative techniques to expose corruption and illicit trafficking which they say have held down human development and worsen security situation in the region.

After a one-week regional workshop in Saly, Senegal, on the investigation and reporting of corruption and organized crime in the Sahel, participants who were joined by journalists from Latin America and Europe, challenged their African peers to see value in collaborative investigative networks as a way of freeing the region from the cancer of corruption, organised crimes,

The participants said the “continuing impunity for these crimes and the lack of satisfactory action of institutions mandated to fight against these phenomena”, as well as threats of criminal prosecution and physical insecurity faced by investigative journalists in the performance of their work in the region make the need for a renewed response to these crimes the major agenda for development in the region today.

Participant saluted the recent emergence of the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and asked that journalist push governments to give value to their treaty obligations under Article 13 of the UN Convention against Corruption.

The treaty provides that “Each State Party shall take appropriate measures to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector.

The participation, it adds, should be strengthened by such measures to respect, promote and protect the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption.

The governments are also undo obligation under Article 5 of the Convention of the African Union to “adopt such legislative and other measures to protect informants and witnesses in cases of corruption and related offenses, including their identity” and to “adopt measures to ensure that citizens report instances of corruption without fear of consequent reprisals”.

Participants in the workshop encouraged journalists and media in the region to also explore UNESCO guidelines on access to information adopted in 2004 in Paris, and to practice more investigation and go beyond mere revelations; and establish local structures for this purpose.

Challenging African journalists and media to use new technologies to network in and beyond the region and develop a database for press articles on corruption and organized crime, participants also called on regional media practitioners to implement platforms for citizens to report acts of corruption and organized crime.

They invited the media to always exercise good judgment and responsibility in carrying out their investigations; encouraging investigative journalists to strengthen their collaboration with anti-corruption authorities and anti-organized crime institutions in the region.

But they also urged regional governments to promote access to information through the adoption of appropriate legislation; as well as take the necessary steps to decriminalize press offenses and to ensure the physical protection of investigative journalists, even as they adopt appropriate measures, including legislation, to protect witnesses and whistle-blowers.

The event was upported by the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA), the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

Sudan – al-Mahdi calls on Bashir to accept unity of Sudan’s opposition groups

Sudan Tribune

(ADDIS ABABA) – Leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) has called on president Omer al-Bashir to admit the unity of the opposition groups, adding the conditions are favourable for an inclusive and comprehensive peace process in Sudan .

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Sadiq al-Mahdi speaks to reporters in a press conference held in Addis Ababa on 30 Nov 2014 (ST)

Sadiq al-Mahdi was speaking to reporters following a meeting held with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sunday before the departure of Thabo Mbeki to Berlin.

In his remarks al-Mahdi said a comprehensive conference with a neutral chairmanship is needed to achieve democratic transition in Sudan once the warring parties reach a cessation of hostilities .

He further wondered why the Sudanese government refuses to negotiate with the rebel alliance Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), considering the government position is the main obstacle in the current negotiations.

“The problem is that the government does not want to recognise the new reality. This reality that the weapon bearers formed one platform which is the (Sudanese) Revolutionary Front. Why the government refuses to recognise it? Particularly the (SRF) renounced call to overthrow the regime by force and its claim for self-determination,” he said.

“Why (the government) does not want to recognise the Revolutionary Front as a negotiator, and why it does not recognise the unity of the opposition which only wants a just and comprehensive peace”.

The existence of a single platform facilitates comprehensive solutions,” he emphasised.

Few hours before al-Mahdi’s remarks, president Omer al-Bashir warned the opposition parties against any agreement with the rebel groups saying it impact negatively on the morale of the Sudanese army soldiers who are fighting rebels.

He also said al-Mahdi will be tried for signing the Paris Declaration with the SRF groups.

However, ignoring Bashir’s threats, Mahdi announced the opposition forces including the NUP and National Consensus Forces (NCF) will sign a new agreement with the rebel groups.

There will be post Paris Declaration which was between the SRF and the NUP and now we want to expand the base of the agreement.

He pointed that this step is supportive to the ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful settlement because all the (opposition and rebel) parties recognise the decision 456 of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the AUHIP agreement on national dialogue and constitutional process signed by the Paris Declaration forces and the national dialogue committee.

(ST)

Sudan accused of violating South Sudan airspace

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The South Sudanese government said on Monday that two warplanes from neighbouring Sudan entered its airspace last week, calling it an act of intrusion and a “serious violation” of international law.

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Sudanese Air Force MiG-29 (Photo Wikipedia)

The planes were witnessed flying over the Khorshamam area in Western Bahr el Ghazal’s Raja county.

Raja county commissioner Hassan Jallab told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the area had witnessed two warplanes flying over Khorshamam area, which

The area was bombed by Sudanese jet fighters in earlier this month, resulting in the death of at least 35 people and wounding of 17 others.

It remains unclear why this particular area, located about 20km east of Raja town, has been targeted by Sudanese military.

Raja county commissioner Hassan Jallab has expressed fears over possible further bomb attacks by Sudanese warplanes, saying he had called on Juba to raise the issue with the Sudanese government at the highest level.

“I thought things would change to better when our president [Salva Kiir] visited Khartoum recently. They assurances we heard he was told by the Sudanese president and his government, which was in the press, is that his government and the Sudan armed forces, have no interest in destabilising South Sudan, especially people in the border areas, but now these developments are raising concerns and questions asking whether the president of Sudan was really serious with the statements he made,” he said, adding that people in at-risk areas had been told to take precautionary measures against future attacks.

Jallab said Sudan’s military activities in border areas were becoming an increasing concern to local communities.

He said he had raised his concerns with the state government and was told they would be passed on to Juba.

“I brought to the attention of the state government. I talked to the governor about these military activities which are causing security concern to the people,” he said.

Jallab said he had also raised the issue of rising consumer prices for basic items.

“Things are becoming expensive in the markets. Local markets are empty. They are no items to buy. Things like soap, salt and other basic commodities are not there,” he said.

“These things come from Sudan, but because of these military activities, traders are afraid to cross when they see huge presence of troops at crossing points,” he added.

The Sudanese army has maintained silence over the different accusations of bombing in Raja.

Military experts in Khartoum confirm the air attacks saying the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) pulled out of South Kordofan and has established a military base for its fighters in the Western Bahr el Ghazal’s county which borders the southern part of Darfur region.

JEM has started a new round of talks over a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and needs to have its troops inside the region.

Sudan and South Sudan trade accusations of support to rebel groups from both sides. Last April, said Juba is using JEM fighters in its conflict with a splinter faction of the SPLA in the Unity state.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan after a 2005 peace deal paved the way for a referendum on self-determination, ending more than two decades of brutal civil war.

Although the South officially gained its independence in 2011, a number of contentious post-secession issues remain unresolved, resulting in ongoing tensions, particularly in border areas.

(ST)

Sudan blocks UNAMID mass rape investigation

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government said it denied an investigation team from the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access for the second time to the village of Tabit in North Darfur state to investigate recent claims of mass rape of some 200 women by Sudanese military personnel.

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Peacekeepers from the hybrid UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in the North Darfur capital, El-Fasher, on 5 July 2010 (Photo: Getty Images)

Sudan’s foreign ministry in a statement on Sunday said the UNAMID team was denied access to Tabit because it violated the agreement it concluded with the foreign ministry on Friday.

On Friday, the Sudanese foreign ministry summoned the acting head of UNAMID Abiodun Bashua to protest the mission’s handling of the alleged incident in Tabit.

The statement added that Bashua told the foreign ministry undersecretary, Abdallah al-Azraq, that UNAMID seeks to visit Tabit again to follow-up on its preliminary mission and it will make a request to that end on or after Monday, saying he was told that the foreign ministry will look into the request and inform them of the government decision in this regard.

It said that several contacts were made between the Sudanese government, the UN and UNAMID, adding that the government’s position was that the latter investigated the incident and found no evidence proving the rape claims.

It also added that Sudan is skeptical about the motives behind UNAMID’s insistence to visit the village for the second time.

On Monday, UNAMID said its investigation team found no evidence proving the rape claims.

However, western media quoted UN officials as saying that the mission said in a secret report to the UN headquarters that witnesses were intimidated by the heavy presence of the Sudanese army during the investigation.

The statement further said that UNAMID violated its agreement with the foreign ministry and made a request to the authorities in North Darfur on Saturday to visit Tabit, noting that the mission also did not notify the foreign ministry of the request, according to the agreement.

It added that UNAMID embarked on moving towards Tabit after it was granted approval by the local authorities in North Darfur and without notifying the foreign ministry, saying the move meant that the mission disavowed the agreement.

“Mass rape claims were met with intense resentment and anger from the residents of Tabit and neighboring villages which created a state of tension in the area. The people in Tabit became hostile to UNAMID because the reputation of the innocent and chaste women was hurt by these allegations,” it added.

The foreign ministry added the security situation in the area is alarming and deadly confrontations are imminent and that is why “the government of Sudan decided not to allow the mission to visit the village once again”.

It underscored Sudan’s commitment to cooperate with the mission according to the legal bases agreed upon between the two sides.

The statement pointed the government allowed the investigation team access to Tabit although it was convinced of the absurdity of these allegations because large number of the soldiers of the military garrison in Tabit are married from women in the village or have families there.

“It is impossible that the military personnel turn into predatory monsters who rape all women of the village,” it added

It mentioned that the government commissioned the special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur to conduct a comprehensive investigation on these claims.

The Sudanese army vehemently denied these rape accusations, describing reports about the incident as “baseless and without justification”.

(ST)

Sudan – UN concern over military’s presence at mass rape probe

Reuters

(Reuters) – The heavy presence of Sudan’s military during an investigation by international peacekeepers of an alleged mass rape incident in Sudan’s western Darfur region has raised serious concerns at the Security Council, Australia’s U.N. envoy said on Monday.

Those concerns were reinforced by remarks from a U.N. official, who described the menacing atmosphere the alleged rape victims were subjected to due to the presence of Sudanese troops while they were interviewed about possible acts of sexual violence.

Last week the United Nations said Sudanese troops had denied U.N. and African Union peacekeepers access to a town in Darfur called Tabit where they wanted to investigate reports of an alleged mass rape of some 200 women and girls.

The joint U.N.-AU force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, issued a statement on Monday saying a verification team it sent to Tabit had been granted access to the village after a delay of nearly one week. UNAMID said none of those interviewed confirmed they had been raped and the investigation team found no evidence to support the allegations.

The issue was discussed by the Security Council. Australia Ambassador Gary Quinlan said U.N. special envoy on sexual violence in armed conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura and a number of council members voiced concern about the Sudanese military being present when alleged rape victims were interviewed.

“Ms. Bangura added … that there had been a heavy military presence during the team’s visit and she stressed that while the rape allegations remained unverified, in her view it was not possible to conclude that no sexual violence took place,” said Quinlan, president of the 15-nation council this month.

“A number of members of the council expressed very strong concern over this,” he said, adding that Bangura was worried about a possible “a wall of silence” and that the atmosphere created was one of threats and “fear of reprisal”.

A U.N. official familiar with UNAMID, who is not authorized to speak to the media, said in an interview the situation during Sunday’s investigation was not conducive to a proper examination of allegations of mass rape.

“It was an obvious atmosphere of intimidation,” the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the military were present in every house the UNAMID team visited to conduct interviews.

One alleged rape victim told members of the team that Sudanese military officials ordered them not to speak to the UNAMID team, saying that a committee headed by an army commander would talk to UNAMID on their behalf.

The U.N. official added that some of the Sudanese soldiers were drunk, which only heightened the menacing atmosphere for the alleged rape victims. The official also noted that some of the soldiers were in uniform and others in civilian clothes.

Sudan’s U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Law and order have collapsed in much of Darfur, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accused of discriminating against them. UNAMID has been deployed in the region since 2007.

Last month, an internal U.N. review found that UNAMID had failed to provide U.N. headquarters in New York with full reports on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers. The review had been ordered in response to media reports alleging that UNAMID intentionally covered up details of deadly attacks.

South Sudan – Kiir extends Khartoum visit after fall;agreement on ending rebel funding

Sudan Tribune

November 4, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, fell as he was boarding his airplane, following the end of official talks with his Sudanese counterpart president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in Khartoum on Tuesday.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (L) and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, attend a press conference at Khartoum airport on 4 November 2014 (Photo: AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that president’s aides then appeared to help him onto the airplane before he was taken again to a car. Multiple sources stressed it was a minor incident caused by the president’s shoe, saying he was not hurt.

Sudanese security agents quickly confiscated the cameras of journalists covering the visit of the South Sudanese leader and forced them to delete images of the fall.

Senior officials in both governments, including ambassador Mutrif Siddig, Sudan’s envoy to South Sudan, said that Kiir may not return to Juba on Tuesday as earlier planned. However, they blamed an aircraft fault for the delay.

Siddiq stressed that Kiir is in good health condition and he walked out of the aircraft on his feet.

The information office at South Sudan embassy in Khartoum denied rumours about deteriorating health condition of president Kiir, saying he is currently in his place of residence at Corinthia Hotel in Khartoum.

In a press release, it said that the visit was extended due to a technical fault with the aircraft, stressing Kiir will depart for Juba on Thursday morning by another plane.

SUCCESSFUL VISIT

Meanwhile, the two presidents agreed to resolve the outstanding security issues and stop support and harbour for rebels from both countries besides, agreeing to form a joint committee to seek to cancel Sudan’s foreign debts.

In a press conference held at Khartoum airport, Bashir expressed hope that South Sudan sees stability, stressing his country will continue to work to ensure the success of the initiative launched by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to achieve peace in South Sudan and prevent internationalisation of the ongoing conflict.

He said that the visit made significant achievements in spite of its short duration, pointing they discussed all common issues between the two countries.

“[Armed] with will and determination, we will carry out what we have agreed upon because it resolves many problems suffered by the two countries”, he said

Kiir, for his part, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of his visit to Khartoum, saying he was warmly welcomed by Bashir.

“We held fruitful talks on outstanding issues particularly the cooperation agreement which we committed ourselves to implementing it, and we will also work on other issues. We want both states to proceed forward as twin countries that support each other and address all economic and security problems,” he said.

Since March 2014, the South Sudanese defence minister, Koul Manyang, agreed with his Sudanese counterpart Abdel Rahim Hussein to operationalise the buffer zone and to deploy the joint monitoring teams.

The visiting president further pointed to the formation of a joint committee to lead efforts to cancel Sudan’s foreign debt, announcing the launch of a joint campaign to lift economic sanctions imposed on Sudan.

Kiir said the joint ministerial committee will start its work as soon as possible, saying “we are able to overcome obstacles facing us”.

According to the closing statement of the talks, they also agreed to name the head of the joint administration for Abyei, underscoring Sudan’s role to mediate between the warring parties in South Sudan.

The two presidents instructed the joint committees to immediately meet to resume implementation of the cooperation agreement and submit their reports to presidential summit through the joint higher committee.

The statement also mentioned that the Joint Political and Security Committee (JPSC) will meet during this month to activate implementation of the security arrangement agreement and determine the baseline for the demilitarised security zone (zero line) between the two countries according to the AUHIP plan.

It also pointed to the activation of the mechanisms agreed upon to stop support and harbour rebel groups on both sides in preparation for the opening of the 10 border crossings between the two countries.

The two presidents also acknowledge the need to activate the mechanisms on citizenship and trade according to the cooperation agreement, stressing continuation of oil production in Adareel and fulluj oilfields in South Sudan besides restoring production from Unity oilfields.

Unity state changed hands several times between the rebel and government forces. The insecurity in the region led to stop oil production outside Bentiu.

Khartoum is affected by this decrease of the oil exported through its pipelines as the South Sudan produces now less than half of the 350,000 barrels per day.

The South Sudanese political activist, Steven Loual, described Kiir’s visit to Khartoum as “very successful”, saying the summit discussed in details the pressing security issues, particularly the situation in Abyei and harbour and support of rebels from both countries.

He told Sudan Tribune that the two presidents directly discussed ways for resolving outstanding issues to realise the common interests, pointing that president Kiir is keen to achieve peace in South Sudan despite obstacles made by his opponents.

Bashir and Kiir will participate in the upcoming Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) special meeting on South Sudan in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

(ST)

South Sudan accuses Khartoum of bombing Bahr el-Ghazal

Sudan Tribune

November 3, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan claimed 35 of its civilian were killed and 17 others injured in an aerial bombing allegedly carried out by the Sudanese army in Western Bahr el-Ghazal state.

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People displaced in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state by alleged SAF bombings in 2012 (Office of the Aweil North county commissioner/File)

The incident reportedly occurred on Sunday morning in a densely populated area of Raja county damaging several properties and causing panic among citizens.

“The Sudanese jet fighters came yesterday [Sunday] morning and bombed the area. People are now terrified especially that it caused death,” Raja county commissioner, Hassan Jallab said on Monday.

“35 people have been killed and 17 others also wounded when an Antonov bomb landed in the heavily populated area,” he added.

The commissioner described the attack, which he largely blamed on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), as “barbaric and unprovoked.”

He said several civilians have since fled Raja in fear of more bombings, and many reportedly took refuge in to nearby bushes.

Jallab called upon the government in Juba to intervene and assist the displaced people in Western Bahr el Ghazal state.

Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) confirmed the incident in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune on Monday.

“What we have now is that an Antonov bombed the area today morning,” Aguer said.

“We are still establishing the make of the plane but what we know is that the plane came from the direction of Sudan,” he added.

The zonal commander reportedly said 17 people were wounded during the attack.

“We are yet waiting for more reports on this,” said Aguer, adding that the SPLA would send an investigation team to Raja on Tuesday.

The alleged attack comes as president Salva Kiir prepares for a trip to Khartoum for talks with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Al-Bashir on Tuesday this week.

(ST)