Category Archives: North Africa

Sudan denies supplying weapons to Libyan Islamic militias

Sudan Tribune

Sudan denies allegations it shipped weapons to Libya(KHARTOUM) – The spokesperson for the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF),al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, has denied accusations that his country sent weapons to Libyan Islamist militias.

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Sudanese army spokesperson al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad (Reuters)

“The relations between Sudan and Libya and particularly the military [one] is now at its best and proof is the big military cooperation in the field of training,” SAF spokesperson said before noting that dozens of Libyan trainees are enrolled in Karari military college.

Col. Sa’ad also recalled that Libya and Sudan have joint border forces to combat human traffickers and terrorists.

Colonel Mohamed al-Hejazi, spokesperson to ex-general Khalifa Heftar forces, told Cairo-based al-Youm al-Sabe’ newspaper this week that the latest shipment arrived on Friday morning at Meetiga military base airport.

He said these weapons have already been delivered to a militia loyal to Abdul Hakim Belhaj adding that Qatar funds these shipments.

This week, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that Belhaj himself travelled to Sudan for meetings with officials there to coordinate logistics for Qatari aid.

Khartoum has not commented on reports of Belhaj’s visit.

Heftar’s rise came after he claimed that his forces represent the legitimate Libyan army and has managed to win the support of military units inside Benghazi for his offensive against the jihadists which he labelled as Operation Karama (dignity).

The Libyan government, however, accused him of trying to stage a coup but Heftar says that these militias have wreaked havoc in the North African nation.

Libya has been plagued by political infighting, with government and parliament unable to control militias that have continued to defy state authority since ousting Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

(ST)

Sudanese Foreign Minister says judiciary can handle apostasy case

Sudan Tribune

Sudan FM says judiciary capable of addressing the apostasy case

(KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti asserted that the judiciary in his country is able to address the issue of a woman convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death this month, which sparked widespread international condemnation.

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and his counterpart from Sudan Ali Ahmed Karti brief the media after a bilateral meeting at the foreign ministry in Berlin, Wednesday, June 4, 2014 (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

On May 15, a Khartoum court sentenced 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim to death by hanging for apostasy after she refused to recant her faith and revert to Islam.

The court convicted Ibrahim, who is in custody with her 20-month-old son and her newborn baby girl, of the charges on May 11th and gave her three days to return to Islam.

Western officials including UK Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the verdict calling it “barbaric”.

The Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday voiced the hope the Ibrahim would get a retrial adding that he was following the case “with keen participation”.

Karti said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Bonn yesterday that handling the case is governed by legal appeal process to achieve justice to the satisfaction of all parties, stressing that the government does not interfere in judicial decisions.

The Sudanese minister emphasized the integrity and independence of the Sudanese judiciary, and praised the spirit of understanding that prevailed in his talks with his German counterpart.

In response to the conflicting statements made last weekend by the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Alazrag announcing the imminent release of the woman, Karti said that Alazrag’s remarks were taken out of context.

The German top diplomat on his end said that his government “is looking forward to seeing this inhumane judgment lifted”.

Steinmeier also praised the national dialogue process called for by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir this year stressing that it is the only to resolve crises in Sudan.

He also noted Khartoum’s efforts to stabilize the situation in South Sudan, and pointed to the role played by Sudan as a “constructive partner” in the region.

Steinmeier urged Sudan to play a role in support of the neighboring countries in the region which are currently experiencing crises, such as Libya and Central Africa.

(ST)

Sudanese foreign ministry denies report on impending release in apostasy case

Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s foreign ministry refutes reports attributed to its undersecretary on woman apostasy case(KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign ministry refuted a statement attributed to its Undersecretary Abdallah Alazrag in which he announced that the government will seek to free a woman sentenced to death for apostasy within the next few days.

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Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag’s wedding photo (BBC)

“The lady will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice,” Alazrag told Agence France Presse (AFP) yesterday.

“She will definitely not be executed. I am sure about this,” he told The Sunday Times in separate remarks.

The foreign ministry said in statement on Sunday that Alazrag did not make any statement regarding release of the Sudanese woman accused of apostasy during the coming period.

According to the statement, Alazrag said in an interview with the BBC that the woman’s defense team had appealed the verdict of the preliminary court and if the court of appeal rules in her favor, she will be released.

It added that Alazrag pointed out that the woman’s case is in the court and the government does not intervene in the judiciary because the latter is an independent power.

“Some media outlets took part of the Undersecretary’s answer and put it out of context, and thus changed its meaning and what it inferred”.

The statement further underscored the government’s full commitment to the independence of the judiciary, saying the former has complete trust in professionalism and impartiality of the Sudanese judiciary.

On May 15, a Khartoum court sentenced 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim to death by hanging for apostasy after she refused to recant her faith and revert to Islam.

The court convicted Ibrahim of the charges on May 11th and gave her three days to return to Islam.

The judge also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery as under Sudan’s Islamic Shar’ia law her marriage to a non-Muslim is considered invalid and therefore an adulterous relationship.

Ibrahim, who was raised in Eastern Sudan’s Gedaref state, was born to an Ethiopian Christian mother and a Sudanese Muslim father, who was largely absent from her childhood. She was arrested in 2013 after a relative reported her to authorities for adultery, with an additional charge of apostasy, brought against her in February after she asserted that she was not a Muslim.

The sentence has sparked international condemnation, with United States senators urging secretary John Kerry to personally intervene on Ibrahim’s behalf and offer her political asylum.

The United Nations human rights experts described the conviction as “outrageous”, saying the right to marry and start a family was a fundamental human right.

On Sunday, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron told The Times that he was “absolutely appalled” when he learnt of the death sentence against Ibrahim and called for lifting the “barbaric” verdict.

“The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today’s world,” he said.

“Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children. The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act,” Cameron pledged.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour party, described her conviction as “utterly appalling” and “an abhorrent abuse of her human rights”. He said that his party had pressed for Cameron message to be sent to the Sudanese government

Ibrahim, who is in custody with her 20-month-old son, gave birth last week to a baby girl in prison.

(ST)

South Sudan – doubts over apostasy release story

BBC

Meriam Ibrahim: Husband ‘not informed of release’

Meriam Ibrahim holding her daughter
Khartoum has been facing international condemnation over Meriam Ibrahim’s death sentence

The husband of a woman sentenced to death in Sudan for abandoning Islam has told the BBC he has not been informed that his wife will be released.

Reports on Saturday said a Sudanese official had confirmed that Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth in custody, would be freed in a few days.

But the foreign ministry said on Sunday Ms Ibrahim could only be released after a successful judicial appeal.

Her death sentence has sparked international outrage.

Ms Ibrahim was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, but a judge ruled last month that she should be regarded as Muslim because that had been her father’s faith.

She refused to renounce her Christianity and now faces hanging for apostasy.

‘Rumours’

Abdullahi al-Azreg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, told the BBC on Saturday that Ms Ibrahim, 27, would be freed because Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting her.

Daniel Wani said reports of his wife’s release were “just like rumours”

But the foreign ministry said on Sunday issued a clarification, saying that only the judicial system could rule on the case.

“The defence team of the concerned citizen has appealed the verdict … and if the appeals court rules in her favour, she will be released,” the ministry said.

Ms Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani said he had only heard media reports about his wife’s release, which he described as rumours.

“No Sudanese or foreign mediator contacted me. Maybe there are contacts between the Sudanese government and foreign sides that I’m not aware of,” Mr Wani told Mohammad Osman, the BBC’s correspondent in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

“As far as I’m concerned I will wait for the appeal which my lawyer submitted and I hope that my wife will be released.”

Protesters outside the court in Khartoum hold banners saying "Meriam has the right to be Christian” and “I have the right to choose any religion” - 15 May 2014 Protesters in Khartoum called for the right to choose any religion last month

Last Wednesday, Ms Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in her prison cell – the second child from her marriage in 2011 to Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

The court had said Ms Ibrahim would be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before the sentence was carried out.

The court also annulled her Christian marriage and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery because the union was not considered valid under Islamic law.

In his interview with the BBC, Mr Wani said he was hoping to continue living in Sudan with his wife and children in the event of her release, but that that might be too difficult.

He also expressed his hope that the court would reconsider the verdict about the annulment of their marriage, which he confirmed he had also appealed against.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population and Islamic law has been in force there since the 1980s.

The ruling has revived a debate over apostasy, with liberal and conservative scholars giving different opinions over whether – and how – the act of abandoning the Islamic faith should be punished. BBC

Africa and malaria – success in bringing down death rates in 10 states

Mail and Guardian

Malaria has killed 50 million in Africa, but these 10 star countries have kicked it out

01 Jun 2014 14:40 MOLLY PENN 

For the first time Cape Verde in 2012 had zero deaths caused by malaria…and in Eritrea deaths caused by the disease plummeted by 96%.
Malaria kills a child dies every minute in Africa, but despite the horrors, quite impressive progress has been against the disease.
Malaria kills a child dies every minute in Africa, but despite the horrors, quite impressive progress has been against the disease.  

The UK press just reported the story of 21-year-old aid worker who died from malaria in western Kenya, while other media reported that American scientists are developing a new vaccine against the killer disease following research on children in Tanzania.

Malaria kills a child dies every minute in Africa, but despite the horrors, quite impressive progress has been against the disease in a handful of countries on the continent.

Africa has paid a high price at the hands of malaria. It loses an estimated US$12 billion annually in the fight against the disease, equivalent to around 1.3% per cent of its annual Gross Domestic Product growth.

Malaria causes over an estimated 1 million deaths every year globally, and Africa accounts for 85% per cent of the world’s malaria infections and 90% per cent of deaths caused by the disease

This means that since 1960, close to 50 million Africans, five per cent of the continent’s current population, could have died from one of the most common yet most difficult to combat infections—exceeding the challenge of HIV and Tuberculosis.

That number is more than the population of each of Africa’s 49 countries, except five – Nigeria (177m, Ethiopia 87m, Egypt 85m, DR Congo 75m, South Africa 53m). However, that casualty estimate is still conservative—malaria data in Africa remains notoriously unreliable due to misdiagnosis caused by a lack of laboratory facilities, while a lot of cases are also treated presumptively because key malaria symptoms mimic other common infections.

And with anywhere between 10-20% of all hospital admissions related to malaria, the economic cost to each of the 50 malaria affected countries is huge, as acknowledged by the African Union’s seminal malaria event, the 2000 Abuja African Summit on Roll Back Malaria.

Most of these are the poor—studies have found that the poor spend up to 35% of their annual income on malaria, compared to 1% of the amount spent by the rich.

While a lot of progress has been made over the years, UNICEF says there are too few women still not sleeping under Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN). Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the disease as their immunity is compromised, and they are more likely to become anaemic or have stillborn births if infected.

As at 2012, less than 40 per cent of pregnant women were sleeping under ITNs, with Benin having the highest number of expectant mothers doing so and Zimbabwe recording the lowest.

Malaria is a treatable and preventable tropical disease caused by a number of parasites, although the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is responsible for most malaria deaths in Africa.

The good news
Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 8 African countries are on track to achieving general reduction in malaria incidence and morbidity with an impressive rate of 75% or more. Two countries, Ethiopia and Zambia, are also on track and will achieve reductions in malaria at between 50 and 75% by 2015.

The 10 (in no particular order) that have achieved over 75% reductions in malaria cases in the last decade and are most likely to boot malaria before the rest of Africa include:

Cape Verde – Cape Verde had every reason to celebrate World Malaria Day in April this year. Over the last decade, the country has seen a steady decrease in malaria infections and reported only one local infection. For the first time, Cape Verde had zero deaths caused by the disease in 2012. It is now in the pre-elimination phase.

Eritrea – Statistics from the country’s Ministry of Health in 2013 showed that the malaria burden on the population had dropped by 89% and deaths caused by the disease by 96% between 1998 and 2012. Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) of DDT and other insecticides were instrumental to Eritrea’s anti-malaria policies.

Algeria – Algeria is in the elimination phase, although it recorded an increase from 4 locally acquired cases in 2011 to 59 in 2012. This increase, however, was due to the influx of immigrants from Mali and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Namibia – Had the highest population at risk of being infected with malaria in southern Africa in 2012 (more than 60%). However, since it lies in a region with a low incidence of malaria, it is still on track towards eliminating Malaria. Namibia is a signatory to the regional elimination eight initiative (E8) that aims to achieve total elimination of the disease in southern Africa.

Botswana – The country recorded adequate access to anti-malarial medication. The population at risk of the disease is also very small (less than 20%) and is generally considered a low transmission country compared to the rest of Africa.

Swaziland – The government aims to eliminate malaria from the country by 2015, and has made significant strides in malaria control over the past 12 years. With malaria infection and exposure being so low, the aim to eliminate it is feasible. However, imported cases of the disease from Mozambican labourers and contractors through their shared border threaten this goal.

South Africa – Between 2000 and 2012, the number of malaria cases declined by 89%, thanks to preventive measures by authorities including spraying of DDT insecticides and use of ITNs.

Sao Tome and Principe – Incidences of malaria in the last decade decreased by over 75%, along with a decrease in hospital admissions and deaths from the disease. This was because of a total coverage of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and 85 per cent coverage of Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) of insecticide in households. However, WHO says that a brief disruption in spraying insecticide and supply of malaria drugs led to a recent spike in cases between 2009 and 2012.

Rwanda – Rwanda is in the control phase of eliminating the disease. It has made significant gains as cases of malaria fell by 86% between 2005 and 2011. However, this progress is fragile as the country also reported an increase in confirmed malaria cases between 2011 and 2012.

Zanzibar Islands (Tanzania)- The island has had relatively greater success than the mainland in controlling the disease, reducing cases by over 75% in the last twelve years. Malaria interventions such as mosquito treated nets and use of insecticide sprays are some of the reasons for this progress. According to WHO, variations in malaria trends within countries is not an uncommon phenomenon and happens in Kenya and Uganda as well.

Lesson to be learnt
The successes in reducing incidence of malaria have been largely due to efforts by governments to work together to end malaria related deaths. ALMA, an alliance established by African heads of state, has been instrumental in sensitizing and mobilising leaders to positively influence malaria policy in their countries.

At the recently held African Union Summit of heads of state, ALMA awarded Cape Verde, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe and Swaziland the 2014 African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Awards for Excellence in Vector Control.

According to ALMA, the award recognises leaders whose countries have maintained at least 95% consistent coverage throughout the year of Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets and/or Indoor Residual Spraying.

•Editor’s Note: The data is obtained from the World Malaria Report 2013 (WHO) and some of the countries’ respective Health ministries.

Sudan – confusion over release of woman sentenced to death for apostasy

Sudan Tribune
Confusion over reports that Sudan will release woman sentenced to death for apostasy

June 1, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese foreign ministry denied a statement attributed to its Undersecretary Abdallah in which he announced that the government will seek to free a woman sentenced to death for apostasy within the next few days.

“The lady will be freed within days in line with legal procedure that will be taken by the judiciary and the ministry of justice,” Alazrag told Agence France Presse (AFP) earlier today

The Sudanese diplomat made similar statements to BBC and Reuters. Sudan Tribune reporter in Khartoum said that Alazrag, who was Khartoum’s ex-ambassador to London, has been staying in Britain for some time seeking medical treatment.

He did not specify how the 27-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim would be released despite a court conviction which a lawyer told Sudan Tribune can only be overturned by appeals court or a clemency issued by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

In a statement to CNN, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Abu Bakr al-Sideeg, said he was unaware of any plans to release Ibrahim “before a ruling from an appeals court”.

Sudan Tribune failed to reach the spokesperson despite repeated attempts today.

The court convicted Ibrahim, who is in custody with her 20-month-old son and her newborn baby, of the charges on May 11th and gave her three days to return to Islam.

The judge also sentenced Ibrahim to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery as under Sudan’s Islamic Shar’ia law her marriage to a non-Muslim is considered invalid and therefore an adulterous relationship.

The ruling drew widespread condemnation by Western governments and human right groups.

‘BARBARIC’

Today the UK Prime Minister David Cameron told The Times that he was “absolutely appalled” when he learnt of the death sentence against Ibrahim and called for lifting the “barbaric” verdict.

“The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today’s world,” he said.

“Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children. The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act,” Cameron pledged.

His predecessor Tony Blair was quoted by the same newspaper as saying that justifying her treatment in the name of religion was “a brutal and sickening distortion of faith and we must unite in calling for her release.

“We must fight to protect freedom of belief, strive to allow people to worship the god they want or to worship none,” Blair said.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour party, described her conviction as “utterly appalling” and “an abhorrent abuse of her human rights”. He said that his party had pressed for Cameron message to be sent to the Sudanese government.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said Ibrahim’s sentence contradicted Sudan’s own constitution.

The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the chorus of world officials condemning the sentence.

“Meriam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence is abhorrent,” Clinton wrote on Twitter. “Sudan should stop threatening religious freedom and fundamental human rights”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, was quoted by Sky News as saying that “our religions tell us that human interactions should be shaped by compassion and humanity, not by death sentences”.

“Christians and Muslims should be able to coexist alongside each other,” he added.

‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’

The prominent Sudanese legal expert on international law Dr. Faisal Abdelrahman Taha asserted in an interview with Sudan Tribune that the apostasy law in its entirety is unconstitutional.

He said the ruling contravenes both Sudan’s 2005 interim constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) the country ratified more than two decades ago.

Sudan acceded to the ICCPR of 1966 in March 1986 and entered into force three months later.

Article 18(1) of the covenant states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”.

Taha said that the government never expressed any reservation to any provision of the ICCPR when it acceded to it or issued any interpretative declaration like some other Arab countries.

“The covenant is binding to its parties and it affords many rights not even endorsed or approved by Islamic Shar’ia law,” Taha said, a situation which poses a dilemma for the Islamist government.

He emphasized that international law does not allow a state to use its national laws or constitution to justify its failure to fulfill its obligations under a convention it ratified.

The former head of International and Comparative Law division at the University of Khartoum (UoK) recalled that Sudan affirmed its adherence to the principle of the freedom of religion in several official reports submitted to the Human Rights Committee tasked with monitoring adherence to the ICCPR.

This includes its third periodic report dated June 26 1996 which noted that article 38 of the 2005 constitution states that “every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same, by way of worship, education, practice or performance of rites or ceremonies, subject to requirements of law and public order; no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in, nor to practice rites or services to which he/she does not voluntarily consent”.

In 2007, the Sudanese government addressed concerns raised by the committee regarding incorporation of the covenant in national law by saying that according to Article 27(3) of the 2005 constitution ” All rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties, covenants and instruments ratified by the Republic of the Sudan shall be an integral part of this Bill [of rights]“.
A recent picture for Mariam Ibrahim from her prison publishde by Al-Sudani newspaper showing her after the birth of her daughter, and her son.

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http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51188

BBC
Meriam Ibrahim: Sudan ‘to free’ death row woman

Meriam Ibrahim has been sentenced to 100 lashes as well as death by hanging

Sudanese authorities are to free a woman who was sentenced to death for having abandoned the Islamic faith, a foreign ministry official says.

Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth to a daughter in custody, will be freed in a few days, the official told the BBC.

Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman.

Khartoum has been facing international condemnation over the death sentence.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron described the ruling as “barbaric” and out of step with today’s world.

The UK Foreign Office this week said that it would push for Ms Ibrahim to be released on humanitarian grounds.

Apostasy debate
Ms Ibrahim, 27, was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, but a Sudanese judge ruled earlier this month that she should be regarded as Muslim because that had been her father’s faith.

She refused to renounce her Christianity and was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy.

On Wednesday, she gave birth to a daughter in her prison cell – the second child from her marriage in 2011 to Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

The court said Ms Ibrahim would be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before the sentence was carried out.

The court had earlier annulled her Christian marriage and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery because the union was not considered valid under Islamic law.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population and Islamic law has been in force there since the 1980s.

The ruling has revived a debate over apostasy, with liberal and conservative scholars giving different opinions over whether – and how – the act of abandoning the Islamic faith should be punished.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27651483

Sudan – government planes bomb Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan

Sudan Tribune
Sudanese warplanes bombard rebel stronghold in S. Kordofan: SPLM-N

May 30, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) bombarded during the last three days Kauda, a rebel stronghold in the Nuba Moutains area, South Kordofan state.

“More than 53 bombs were dropped on residential areas, schools, hospitals, and farms,” SPLM-N spokesperson, said Arnu Ngutulu Loddi in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Friday.

According to Loddi, an Anyonov dropped 8 bombs on Tuesday 27May, causing damage to some buildings in the town which is located at about 100 kilometers east of Kadugli, the state capital.

The next day, 28 May, air strikes by an Antonov and a Sukhoi-24 on Kauda destroyed 4 houses, also one man and two children were wounded.

“On May 29, 2014, a Sukhoi-24 bombed Kauda with 14 bombs, horrifying civilians and destroying buildings,” he concluded.

Right groups accuse the Sudanese army of “indiscriminate” aerial attacks on the Nuba Mounyains.

Canada, EU and US condemned earlier this month aerial bombardments on 1 and 2 May 2014 of the Mother of Mercy medical facility in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan.

“The civilians of the Nuba Mountains continue to endure relentless aerial bombardment by the military forces of the Khartoum regime—without condemnation, indeed largely without notice,” said Eric Reeves on Friday.

“But for the people of the Nuba, the realities of such constant attacks—all of them war crimes under the terms of the Rome Treaty that is the statutory basis for the International Criminal Court—are ever-present, destroying their lives and livelihoods,” he further said in a short statement extended to Sudan Tribune..

The Sudanese army’s spokesman could not be immediately reached.

Sudanese military officials said this week they target Kauda, but a rebel sources speaking to Sudan Tribune on conditions of anonymity ruled out a ground attack by the government troops saying they are far from the rebel stronghold.

(ST)

South Sudan – the game of regional chess

ISS

For the past five months, the government and opposition forces in South Sudan have been locked in a destructive political and military crisis. Diplomatic efforts have thus far failed to secure a lasting ceasefire – let alone lay the groundwork for a negotiated political settlement. As a result, the volatile security situation in the Horn of Africa has only worsened.

Indeed, the crisis has added a new dimension to existing tensions in the region – between Uganda and Sudan on one hand, and Ethiopia and Eritrea on the other. Every day the crisis continues, additional pressure is placed on these states that have, for some time now, been locked in a distrustful and suspicious relationship to support one side or the other.

As one official involved in the ongoing diplomatic efforts pointed out, ‘the longer the conflict drags on, the more the possibility of fixing South Sudan fades, and the higher the risk of greater regional competition.’

“It is unlikely that Sudan can withstand the temptation of settling old scores”

There are obvious tensions between Sudan and Uganda – which no longer share a land border, and are respectively South Sudan’s oldest enemy and closest ally. Uganda has security-related, political and economic interests, which prompted it to intervene militarily in South Sudan in support of the government.

Historically, Uganda provided substantial support to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during its armed struggle against Sudan, which reciprocated by giving support to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Uganda also sought to protect its lucrative bilateral relationship with South Sudan since it had recently become a major trading partner, to the detriment of Sudan’s geopolitical and economic interests.

It also aimed to protect the thousands of Ugandans working and operating businesses in South Sudan. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni assiduously cultivated close personal ties with South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir. The scenario most feared by Uganda is an outright victory by the opposition forces, which are heavily linked to the Nuer ethnic group and led by former vice-president Riek Machar – also from the Nuer group. This would lead to Kiir’s removal from power, which would be a strategic setback to Uganda and erode its capacity to influence future developments in South Sudan.

The proximity of Ugandan forces to the oil fields in the Unity and Upper Nile states caused great anxiety in Sudan regarding Uganda’s intentions. Sudan was deeply concerned by the possibility that the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of armed groups opposed to Sudan, might receive a significant number of weapons from Uganda.

“Ethiopia feels the crisis must be stopped before it becomes an ethnic conflict beyond repair”

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s visit to South Sudan in early January 2014 was supposed to symbolise his support for Kiir’s government against Machar – who for so many years had been Sudan’s key ally. Yet, there are real concerns that Sudan might already have reverted to its longstanding tactic of supporting the opposition forces, which are on the lookout for foreign sponsors and conduits for military support in the region. Last month, the South Sudanese government repeatedly claimed that opposition forces were allowed full use of Sudanese territory to carry out military operations and attacks.

The South Sudanese crisis has enabled Sudan to present itself to the international community as a force for stability. Yet, it is unlikely that Sudan can withstand the temptation of settling old scores with the greatly weakened South Sudan. A protracted civil war in South Sudan would be beneficial to Sudan’s interests in the short to medium term, as it would prevent the emergence of a stronger and oil-rich state allied to Uganda – thereby allowing Sudan to re-establish its influence over South Sudanese politics.

The tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea are far more obvious. Since 1998, these states have been involved in a bitter and undisguised ‘long game’ of undermining each other’s security, building opportunistic alliances and fighting cross-border proxy wars. Ethiopia has consistently avoided direct involvement in the South Sudanese crisis because of wider geopolitical, diplomatic and security considerations. The state believes that unilateral and partisan military intervention is counter-productive, and would only exacerbate the existing fault-lines in South Sudan.

It has thus strongly asked Uganda to pull out its troops, even if they had entered South Sudan at that government’s request. Ethiopia believes that Uganda’s military intervention has created harmful regional dynamics, endangering the mediation efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), of which Uganda is a member. Ethiopia sought instead to play a balanced but highly visible role in these mediation efforts.

The crisis may have presented a political opportunity for Ethiopia to play such a role and to prove itself as a reliable partner of the international community. Yet, the state has a very high stake in this crisis.

Firstly, the crisis has provoked an influx of large numbers of refugees into Ethiopia. It is currently struggling to accommodate the more than 90 000 South Sudanese, who are mostly Nuer, who have crossed into its territory since December 2013.

“Eritrea may have risked reaching out to South Sudanese opposition forces in support of Sudan”

Secondly, Ethiopia feels that the crisis must be stopped before it becomes an ethnic conflict beyond repair, which would complicate and even sharpen the political divide between the Nuer and Anuak ethnic groups that live in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. This border region, where a Nuer president was appointed in April 2013, has experienced persistent struggles for power between these two ethnic groups.

Thirdly, deteriorating security on Ethiopia’s long, porous and politically explosive border with both Sudan and South Sudan poses a direct threat to Ethiopia. More than any other state in the region, Ethiopia seeks to prevent at all costs the total collapse of the South Sudanese government and a prolonged civil war. This could in turn lead to the marginal areas of South Sudan being used by Eritrea to infiltrate Ethiopian rebel groups and conduct destabilising activities inside Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is also very concerned that a South Sudan-style crisis could materialise in Sudan and ultimately lead to a full-fledged war between the two states. It has more than 4 000 troops in the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which was deployed to prevent a border war between Sudan and South Sudan. Ethiopia is also actively involved in efforts by the African Union to broker peace talks between South Sudan and Sudan; as well as between Sudan and the SPLM-North, which is part of the SRF.

Since February 2014, unconfirmed reports suggest that Eritrean operatives are covertly providing support to South Sudanese opposition forces. This would be deeply unsettling to Ethiopia, which sees Eritrea as the principal source of instability in the Horn of Africa for as long as President Isaias Afewerki remains in power. Such support will probably never be fully corroborated, since it is as secretive as it is sensitive. The disclosure of its true extent would not only threaten its effectiveness, but risk major embarrassment to Eritrea – which vigorously denied these reports.

Yet, considerably isolated from Horn of Africa politics and diplomacy, Eritrea is visibly not enthusiastic about the mediation undertaken by IGAD. Eritrea views IGAD as a tool of Ethiopia’s ever-increasing military and economic predominance in the region. Controlling extensive clandestine networks, Eritrea may thus have risked reaching out to the South Sudanese opposition forces in support of Sudan’s interests – and in the hope that fragmentation or a government change could later on cause a spill-over of the violence into Ethiopia.

This would be the simplest and cheapest way to keep Ethiopia entrapped in South Sudan’s unrest for many years, as armed factions seek passage through Ethiopia to conduct military operations. As a result, Ethiopia would eventually lose the political capital that it so carefully expended in the hopelessly uncertain course of mediating the crisis.

Eritrea’s priority would be to strategically use resulting dynamics to lift its shakier regional position, and improve its own political vulnerability and economic difficulties. It is also of great importance for Eritrea to solidify its renewed strategic relationship with Sudan. Both Eritrea and Sudan had officially proclaimed their political support for the South Sudanese government during Al-Bashir’s official three-day visit to Eritrea in late January 2014. However, this visit did nothing to allay the apprehension of their strongest rivals – Uganda and Ethiopia. On the contrary, it essentially confirmed their mutual interest of curbing the greater role that Uganda and Ethiopia play in South Sudan.

All this seems unlikely to Western analysts and diplomats, who hastily argue that the fear of a Sudan-Eritrea ‘axis of evil’ is misplaced; that there is no compelling evidence to date of Eritrean misdemeanours; and that Eritrea is currently weakened to the extent that it can no longer compete in any way with Ethiopia in South Sudan. Nonetheless, it fits perfectly into Eritrea’s interests to ensure that the South Sudanese crisis would produce losses for Ethiopia and minimise its broader regional influence – especially owing to disagreements with Uganda and Sudan.

Berouk Mesfin, Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Addis Ababa

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy gives birth in prison

Sudan Tribune

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for religious beliefs gives birth in prisonseparation


May 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her religious views earlier this month has given birth to a baby girl in prison.

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Meriam Yehya Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani pictured on their wedding day

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim’s husband and legal team have reportedly been denied access to the new mum, who gave birth early Tuesday at Omdurman Women’s Prison, where she is being held in custody with her 20-month-old son. Amnesty International said it had no information on her condition as yet.

Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy and adultery on 11 May, with a Khartoum court sentencing her to death by hanging at a later hearing on 15 May after she refused to recant her faith and return to Islam. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for committing adultery as her 2012 marriage to husband Daniel Wani – a South Sudanese-born Christian man – is considered invalid under Sudan’s Islamic Shari’a law.

Despite being heavily pregnant, reports emerged that Ibrahim has been constantly restrained in shackles in her cell since her sentencing, a practice commonly used on prisoners who have been sentenced to death.

It’s expected that Ibrahim will be allowed to nurse her child for two years before the sentence is carried out.

Amnesty said Ibrahim’s lawyers have confirmed that an appeal has been lodged against the conviction and have indicated that they are prepared to take the case to Sudan’s Supreme Court and Constitutional Court if the appeal proves unsuccessful.

Ibrahim, who was raised in Eastern Sudan’s Gedarif state, was born to an Ethiopian Christian mother and a Sudanese Muslim father, who was largely absent from her childhood.

She was arrested in 2013 after a relative reported her to authorities for adultery, with an additional charge of apostasy, which is defined as the act of renouncing one’s religion, brought against her in February after she asserted that she was not a Muslim.

The sentence has sparked international condemnation, with US senators urging secretary of state John Kerry to personally intervene on Ibrahim’s behalf and offer her political asylum.

The UK government, meanwhile, has labelled the sentence “barbaric”, while UN human rights experts described the conviction as “outrageous”, saying the right to marry and start a family was a fundamental human right.

There has also been an outpouring of public sympathy for Ibrahim’s plight, with more than 660,000 people signing a petition by Amnesty International calling for her immediate release.

Amnesty says treating adultery and apostasy as criminal offences is inconsistent with international human rights law.

Sudan’s population is predominantly Muslim, but there is a Christian minority, particularly in the southern region.

While executions for apostasy are rare, many people have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned after recanting their faith.

(ST)

Sudan – NCP says al-Mahdi arrested for criticising government militias and abuse

Sudan Tribune

NCP says al-Mahdi arrested over negative remarks against government militia


 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) declared that the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, was not arrested for political or security reasons but summoned to complete investigations over a criminal complaint filed by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) this week.

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Sudan’s National Umma Party (NUP) leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (AFP)

Al-Mahdi was questioned before state security prosecutors on Thursday regarding remarks he made accusing Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of committing serious abuses in conflict zones in Darfur and Kordofan including rape as well as looting and burning villages.

The veteran politician and former prime minister was taken into custody on Saturday night from his house and sent to the notorious Kober prison in Khartoum.

Al-Mahdi’s lawyer, Satie’ al-Hag, said his client faces charges of undermining the constitutional order and using force against the regime, saying those charges are punishable by death if convicted.

NCP spokesperson Yasser Yussef was quoted by state media as saying that new charges were filed against al-Mahdi that would not allow him to be released by personal recognizance.

Nonetheless, Yussef said that because of his age, status and national contributions al-Mahdi was not held in regular police docks but sent to Kober prison which he said offers better conditions until he is referred to court.

He noted that al-Mahdi repeated his allegations against the RSF, stressing that the NCP wished that things would not reach this stage.

The NCP spokesperson emphasised that the armed forces and national security institutions should be respected and kept away from political bickering.

The RSF militia, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilised by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.

The militia was activated and restructured again in August last year under the command of NISS to fight rebel groups in Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following joint attacks by Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.

Sudanese officials say the RSF is part of the NISS but operationally follow the army.

The NUP chief noted out that the Sudanese security apparatus violates the constitution by establishing militias even though its mandate is limited to gathering and analysing intelligence.

He went on to say his remarks were based on factual information he obtained from sources in the region as well as from records of 220 police complaints filed by the locals in the towns of El-Obeid and Abu-Zabad in North Kordofan state.

The former Prime Minister came under fire from Sudanese lawmakers this week who said his remarks amount to treason and belittling the armed forces.

LENGTHY INTERROGATION

The NUP leading figure and al-Mahdi’s daughter, Mariam said her father went through lengthy interrogation since Sunday morning, adding that she does not know the outcome of those investigations.

She disclosed that an NUP delegation met with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, and informed him of the party’s decision to suspend participation in the national dialogue process and conditions for its resumption.

Mariam claimed that Mbeki expressed disappointment for al-Mahdi’s arrest and revealed ongoing efforts on his part to meet him in the prison.

The NUP secretary-general, Sara Nugdalla, read to reporters on Sunday a message sent by al-Mahdi from his prison in which he announced suspension of his party’s participation in the national dialogue.

He pointed to a statement he made on Thursday in which he said that government’s aggression wouldn’t dissuade him from seeking political solution, stressing he will not deal with the situation impulsively.

“However, the aggression of some government institutions against us and procedures imposed upon us by government hawks make us review the whole situation in order to determine requirements of the political solution and ways for achieving them”, he added

In his statement, al-Mahdi said that as of late many accused him of “selling the cause” after his son Abdel-Rahman became president Omer Hassan al-Bashir assistant “even though he does not represent me or the party in this [position].

He pointed out that his move towards national dialogue with the regime is another reason that made people think he is appeasing the NCP.

“But what I am subjected to from aggression is the [godly] means to clear my position of any suspicion, and enforce our viewpoint to become a station of popular political consensus,” al-Mahdi wrote.

The NUP leader called upon opposition forces to form a wide alliance including all political and civil forces in order to demand allowing public freedoms.

Nugdalla, for her part, directed harsh criticism at the government and the NCP, saying arrest of al-Mahdi reveals the true face of the regime and its position toward democracy.

She emphasized that al-Mahdi’s statements with regard to the RSF reflect the position of the NUP, announcing mobilisation among its religious wing, Ansar sect in order to confront the oppression.

The NUP deputy chairman, Fadlallah Burma Nasser, described the detention of Al-Mahdi as “setback” for the national dialogue, particularly as the latter’s strategy for resolving issues through dialogue can’t be implemented in an atmosphere of mistrust and oppression.

He added that dialogue would only be held when its requirements are met, pointing to the need for creating environment conducive for dialogue and building trust among the Sudanese people without exclusion.

The representative of the Arab Ba’ath Party (ABP) at the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Mohamed Diaa Al-din, called upon opposition parties which agreed to take part in the national dialogue to follow the lead of the NUP and suspend their participation, saying it is a good opportunity to unify the opposition forces in order to overthrow the regime.

But the PCP’s political secretary, Kamal Omer Abdel-Salam, told Sudan Tribune that his party won’t suspend its participation in the dialogue despite its strong rejection of Al-Mahdi’s detention, disclosing ongoing contacts with the NCP to contain the crisis between the NUP and NISS.

He said his party agreed to take part in the dialogue because it is fully convinced it is the only way for resolving Sudan’s crisis, underscoring that the NUP is an important component of the dialogue process.

Abdel-Salam further demanded immediate release of al-Mahdi, urging the government not to deal with the latter by reactions.

He pointed that enticements between the NCP and the NUP wouldn’t push forward the national dialogue, saying the government could have responded to al-Mahdi’s accusations through the media instead of arresting him.

Last January, Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir called on political parties and armed groups to engage in a national dialogue to discuss four issues, including ending the civil war, allowing political freedoms, fighting against poverty and revitalising national identity.

He also held a political roundtable in Khartoum last month with the participation of 83 political parties. The opposition National Umma Party (NUP) and the PCP are the only major opposition parties to accept Bashir’s call for national dialogue so far.

The NCF boycotted the political roundtable, saying the government did not respond to its conditions.

The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive one-month 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.

RSF DEPLOYED AROUND KHARTOUM

In a separate development, NISS director Mohamed Atta Abbas al-Moula on Sunday ordered three RSF brigades to deploy around the capital Khartoum and remain in a 100% state of readiness.

The Khartoum state police force on its end also announced that its forces elevated their degree of readiness to 100%.

No explanation was given for the decisions.

(ST)