(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.
October 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The National Congress Party (NCP) would forgo the direct election of state governors and instead recommend their appointment by the president of the republic, said a leading member of the ruling party on Monday.
Delegates attend the general convention of the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum October 23, 2014. (Photo Reuters Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
The head of NCP legal secretary, al-Fadel Haj Suleiman, told Sudan Tribune that the Leadership Council will discard the party’s nominees for governors in the next year election and recommend that the president of the republic appoint state governors rather than elect them.
The NCP regional conventions held in the 17 Sudanese states selected 51 people, each state submitted three nominees. The party’s leadership has to pick one of the three to run for governor in the gubernatorial race.
“The General Convention of the party issued a recommendation, requiring to review the federal system, including the selection of governors, after divisions over the appointment or election,” Suleiman said.
He was referring to the failure of the fourth convention, which wrapped up on Saturday, to reach a consensus over the matter.
President al-Bashir in his speech at the opening session of the party’s conference underlined the tribal and ethnic alliances that transpired during the regional conventions particularly in Darfur when it came to select the nominees for governor, and called to correct the “negative effects” of the current territorial administrative system.
“The issue needs to be studied to determine positive and negative effects of previous experiences,” Suleiman said, emphasising that negative tribal and ethnic practices appeared during the nomination of the party’s candidates for the gubernatorial election.
Last September in remarks delivered at the party’s convention in South Darfur’s capital Nyala Ghandour vigorously denounced the functioning of the ruling party in the state saying “the loyalty of its membership is based on tribal affiliations”.
Ghandour further said the “NCP principles call to strengthen the national unity and bring people together on common interests.
Suleiman expected the party opts for the appointment of governors by the president of the republic and advocated saying “this step does not break the principles of democratic governance because an elected president can select the governors who are accountable before elected regional assemblies that can recommend to relieve them.”
He further said that every regional assembly can nominate several persons and the president chooses one of them as governor. Or the head of state can submit some names to the state legislators who will select one of them.
Suleiman said the leadership council might discuss the appointment or the election of governors in its first meeting within a week.
The general convention of the ruling party selected the incumbent president Omer al-Bashir as its candidate for the presidential election scheduled for April 2015.
Last January, Bashir called for a national dialogue process aiming to end war in the Two Areas and Darfur, but also to discuss democratic reforms paving for a permanent constitution.
October 21, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) Shura Council has selected president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, as party candidate for the 2015 election.
Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir looks on during an interview with state television in Khartoum late February 3, 2012 (Reuters)
The incumbent president won 265 votes out of 495 which represent 73% of the total percentage. His official nomination will be approved at the NCP General Convention.
The NCP Leadership Council on Monday besides Bashir selected four other leading members and referred them to the Shura Council to pick one of them as the party’s nominee for 2015 presidential election.
The 70-year old president previously said he would not seek a new mandate saying the country needs “fresh bold”. The appointment of a military, Bakri Hassan Saleh, as first vice-president was also perceived as a step towards his departure.
During the past weeks, Bashir received different delegations from the NCP dignitaries requesting him to accept their nomination for the presidential race.
The other four nominees chosen by the Leadership Council and submitted to the Shura Council included the first vice-president Bakri Hassan Saleh, former presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, former first vice-president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour.
Meanwhile, the former presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that he does not seek to run for the presidency despite being selected among the NCP’s five possible candidates.
“The party members will not select me [as presidential candidate] and I do not want it and it is better for them not to select me”, he said.
The NCP leading figure, Amin Hassan Omer, said in press statements that Bashir and his deputy Salih are not serving army officers, pointing they had retired and became members of the NCP.
The head of the NCP organisational sector, Hamid Siddiq, for his part, scoffed at reports that Bashir will easily won the upcoming election because he wouldn’t run against strong competitors, saying what is wrong if Bashir wins by consensus.
He downplayed voices saying that Sudan needs a president who could break the barrier of the the international isolation and build strong relation with the United States, saying the NCP needs someone who is close to Allah [God] not the US.
Siddiq pointed the NCP leaders were unwilling to accept party nomination for presidency, saying that 7 members withdrew their nomination and the technical committee conducted the nomination process twice for lack of a quorum.
Bashir, who addressed the Shura Council meeting on Tuesday, acknowledged that the NCP committed several mistakes and violations, announcing intention to form a committee to look into these violations in order to overcome the flaws.
He directed the NCP members to implement the recommendations of the Shura conferences, pointing to the political mobility his party made ahead of the General Convention.
The NCP chairman said his address in the opening session of the General Convention on Thursday will tackle NCP achievements during the past five years, pointing he will also deal with the failures.
Sudan: bombings force children out of classroom and into camps
Renewed violence in South Kordofan is robbing a new generation of their education, former students and teachers tell Nuba Reports
With every year and every lesson missed, the hopes for a new generation – nurtured in brief peace between 2005 and 2011 – are fading.
Howa James is one of this generation. Before the conflict between Sudan’s armed forces and Nuban rebels reignited in the Nuba Mountains in June 2011, Howa was a student at the Girls’ Peace High School in Kauda. Peace High School is a boarding school, but Howa’s family lives next door, so teachers allowed her to sleep at home.
Howa loved her time at Peace High. As the war intensified, she and her classmates tried to continue on with their lives. But they soon found themselves caught in the middle.
“I heard the sound of the jet and when I looked up, I saw the plane dropping bombs on me,” she said. “I didn’t have time to run but I found a small hole near me and I got in it. The bomb exploded 10 metres from me.”
Howa told her story as she stood next to the huge crater created by a bomb that nearly killed her. She hasn’t been to school since that day over two years ago.
Destruction of schools
Education is at the core of the Nubans’ cultural values. For all the damage war has done in the Nuba Mountains, the destruction and shuttering of the schools have hit the communities hardest.
I heard the sound of the jet and when I looked up, I saw the plane dropping bombs
Before the war, hundreds of members of a community would volunteer their time, money and crops to build and fund community schools and their students. Towns even pooled funds to fly in teachers from Kenya.
Early in the war, students would sit for final examinations with a rock on their desk. If an Antonov bomber flew overhead, the rock held their papers in place while they hid in foxholes.
At the end of each year, the schools would hold a celebration for the entire village. The teachers call the students’ names one by one and present them with handwritten certificates confirming they’ve passed their classes.
As the name of each child is called, their parents run and dance towards them. The mother sings a song praising the child, and the father slaps five Sudanese pounds ($1) to their head. The note sticks to the student’s scalp as if they are wearing a crown for their achievements. For many communities these celebrations have stopped and it is no longer safe to bring in teachers.
Before the war, there were 255 schools in the Nuba Mountains. Now there are less than 100. None are able to provide the same level of education as they did before the war. There are not enough teachers to provide instruction for all eight grades, books are rare and there are few resources to help with lessons.
According to Tajani Tima, minister of education for the insurgent group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N), 10 national and international organisations were supporting education in the region but now only two of these organisations are willing to help the schools.
Before the war, there were 255 schools in the Nuba Mountains. Now there are less than 100
“The education budget for the state is significantly lower than years of peace,” Tajani said. “Teachers have fled the region and there is a high student dropout rate because most schools can’t continue to operate due to the ground fighting and increased bombing.”
Many schoolyards within the SPLM-N controlled areas have been targeted by the Sudanese government in its near-daily aerial bombardment. Bombs have landed near the Girls’ Peace High School on several occasions. But on the morning of 29 December 2012, an Antonov flew over, dropping bombs and finally hitting the school.
Jawahir Yusif was studying there at the time. “Six bombs were dropped on the school. It destroyed one of the classrooms and the dormitories for the girls,” she said, adding:
“The students and teachers are scared that if the government hears that many people are in one location like the school that they will send a plane to bomb us.”
School officials said they had no choice but to shut down.
According to UNHCR, Yida is too close to the Sudanese border and the conflict the refugees left behind. Unless the camp can be moved further south, the organisation says it cannot provide education.
The only schools operating in Yida camp are elementary schools that have been started by the refugees themselves with minimal outside funding. These schools serve thousands of students under trees and small grass huts and do not have the resources to pay their teachers well or provide textbooks. Still, the students walk days to the camps at the start of each term and sit in the sweltering heat for a chance to learn.
UNHCR does support elementary and high school education in the Ajoung Thok Camp about 60 km from Yida. Despite the efforts of UNHCR to convince the refugees to move from Yida to Ajoung Thok most families have been reluctant. Only around 13,000 have settled in in Ajuong Thok. Some students opt to go there without their families but there still aren’t enough schools for all the students in Yida or South Kordofan who need education.
The Next Generation
No matter how difficult it may be, people are determined to educate their children. Oum Juma worked as a teacher in Yida during it’s first year of existence. Like many teachers here, she refuses to let the conflict take her daughter’s childhood the way the earlier conflict, Africa’s longest-running civil war, took hers. She was separated from her family by Sudan’s war with the south, which ran from 1983 to 2005 and eventually saw South Sudan split from the north in 2011.
I just focus on these children. I want them to know right from wrong
She was raised and educated in a missionary school, and didn’t see her mother until after the peace deal in 2005. Since then, she’s become a mother herself. When fighting broke out again she fled the carnage with her infant child. She made it to Yida, but her husband disappeared.
“My whole life has been war, since I was a child, 24 years – that’s how old I am,” she said. “I just focus on these children. I want them to know right from wrong.”
For all that she has experienced Oum Juma does not want revenge. She believes education can bring peace to her children and the next generation of Nubans.
“Education cannot stop the war, but this generation must understand the problems. The children may say my mother was killed and now I want revenge. ‘I want to kill those who killed my mum,’ – an eight year old thinks this. But that thinking just starts another war. If they understand they can think of a new future, there are many ways of solving problems.” Guardian
(KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Khartoum state has declared a state of high alert following heavy rains which hit the capital on Wednesday.
A Sudanese woman sits with her child next to her house in a flooded street on the outskirts of the capital Khartoum on 10 August 2013 (Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)
Dozens of families in the west of Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman were seen carrying their belongings after their homes were destroyed by rain which amounted to 43 mm. Floods have also destroyed homes in villages and areas south of Omdurman.
Eastern parts of Omdurman also suffered from heavy rains and power outages and distress calls were heard in Al-Thawra neighbourhood. Fallen trees and shattered signboard impeded normal flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic on public streets. Khartoum state governor, Abdel-Rahman Al-Khidir, toured areas affected by floods in Um badda and Karrari neighbourhoods, announcing closing of schools for one week.
Al-Khidir declared a state of high alert and formed a 24-hour central emergency committee in the state’s 105 administrative unit besides giving localities the right to use heavy machinery to draw waters and clean up roads.
He also decided to put the civil defence and river rescue forces in a high of alert besides putting police in a %50 state of readiness of 50% in anticipation of emergency matters following weather forecast that heavy rains will continue until 11 August.
The governor also directed state’s authorities to supply affected families with sheeting and tents.
Khartoum state stressed in a press report that old and new water drains were able to discharge most of the waters, saying some lowlands and squares need additional work.
It underscored there were no casualties or serious damage to property, saying that primary outcome showed that 60 homes were completely or partially destroyed in Um Bada besides 10 others in Karrari.
The governor further called upon Khartoum residents to allow the concerned engineering bodies carry out their work and not to throw wastes on water drains.
The commissioner of Jebel Al-Awliya, al-Bashir Abu Kasawi, told the state-run radio of Omdurman that localities of Karrari, east Nile, and Jebel al-Awliya and other areas have been affected by rains and floods.
Sudan’s General Authority for Meteorology (GAM) said Khartoum state saw an increase of rainfall ranging from 60 to 110 mm which led to raising levels of the Nile waters, pointing the increase represent a real threat to residents of the White and Blue Nile banks.
Competent bodies have advised Khartoum state to carry out strategic plan to build permanent water drains, spray insecticides, and drying waters of public squares.
Heavy rains also isolated 15 villages in the locality of south Gazira in Gazira state.
Sudan’s president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, was seen on Monday in a surprise inspection tour for construction works of a bridge in east Nile locality following heavy rains which hit Khartoum state on Saturday.
Heavy floods have been common in the past few years in Sudan’s east along the Blue Nile but happen more rarely in the capital and the north where much of Sudan’s population live.
Floods and rains that hit different areas in Sudan last year lead to the death of at least 38 people and injured dozens.
Rains which fell during the past few days have turned Khartoum into a pond of water amid widespread anger over what is perceived as an inadequate government response.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of south Gazira locality, Kambal Hassan al-Mahi, attributed isolation of these villages to poor drainage, saying walls and bathrooms of several homes and schools were destroyed by the rain.
He announced mobilization of all resources of the locality, state, and Gazira scheme board to rescue the isolated villages.
The commissioner of Al-Ghorashi locality in Gazira state, Abdel-Basit al-Dikhairi, for his part, announced collapse of 114 homes and several government buildings in 15 villages due to heavy rains in the past two days.
Sudan’s PCP leader demands 2015 elections be delayed(KHARTOUM) – The leader of Sudan’s Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan al-Turabi, said his party participated in the national dialogue in order to return “power to the people”, disclosing he demanded the government to delay the 2015 elections.
Head of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan al-Turabi gestures during an interview in Khartoum on 3 October 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
Turabi, who delivered a Eid al-Fitr sermon at a mosque in his native village on Monday, said they accepted president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, initiative for national dialogue in order to return power to the Sudanese people, stressing he asked the government to extend elections date to allow political parties contact their bases.
Reliable sources from opposition side in the national dialogue committee known as 7+7 told Sudan Tribune that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) expressed reservation on issues of the transitional government and review of elections law while opposition forces insists on discussing these issues before the 2015 elections.
Sudan’s general elections are set to be held in April 2015 but opposition parties threatened to boycott it saying NCP holds absolute control over power and refuse to make any compromise to end the civil war and allow public liberties.
Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) had previously said it received requests from political parties last April to delay elections.
The NEC chief, Mukhtar al-Asam, said they received requests for postponing elections from the PCP and the National Umma Party led by, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, due to financial difficulties and the country’s present circumstances.
He said the NEC agreed with these political parties on the possibility for postponing elections until improving their financial position.
However, after conflicting statements from government officials, Bashir emphasised that there will be no postponement for next year’s elections and even berated NCP officials who suggested otherwise.
Turabi urged residents of his village to properly choose their representative in the parliament, calling upon them to take elections seriously.
The veteran Islamic leader ruled out running in the upcoming elections, saying it must be fair and transparent.
He further demanded the government to allow neutral bodies oversee elections. Last week, the 7+7 committee said it has partially agreed on a roadmap for a process to realise peace and democratic reforms.
Presidential assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, said the committee agreed to more than %90 of the roadmap, noting the framework agreement would be completed no later than Eid al-Fitr [feast of breaking the fast of Ramadan] holiday.
He expressed optimism that political forces would confidently move towards the national dialogue.
Last January, 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 revitalizing national identity.
He also held a political roundtable in Khartoum last April with the participation of 83 political parties.
The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (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.
Bashir at the time instructed authorities in the states and localities across Sudan to enable political parties to carry out their activities inside and outside their headquarters without restrictions except those dictated by the law.
The Sudanese president also pledged to enhance press freedom so that it can play its role in the success of the national dialogue unconditionally as long they abide by the norms of the profession.
Political detainees who have not been found to be involved in criminal acts will be released, Bashir said
But since then, Sudanese authorities arrested al-Mahdi and the head of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) Ibrahim al-Sheikh. It also intensified its censorship of newspapers by either suspension or shutting down the entire media houses.
The NUP suspended its participation in national dialogue following detention of its leader in May after he criticised government militia, accusing them of committing war crimes in Darfur. After his release in June, Mahdi said there is a need to review the current process and to include rebels in the political process.
The PCP refused to suspend its participation in the national dialogue, saying all current difficulties can be resolved within the existing mechanisms.
July 13, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, has renewed promise to end rebellion and tribal conflicts in the country by the end of 2014 and denounced criticism directed to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) from some political forces.
Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech on 27 January 2014 in the capital, Khartoum (Photo: AFP/Ebrahim Hamid)
Bashir, who received from the speaker of the parliament, Alfatih Izz al-Din, on Sunday the parliament’s response to the letter he tabled at the National Assembly, praised efforts of the Sudanese army and other regular forces in defending the country.
He further strongly defended the RSF, saying they defeated rebel groups in several areas in Darfur and South Kordofan.
“They [RSF] offered 163 martyrs and several of wounded within five months only to defend the country,” he added.
The Sudanese president denounced criticism of the RSF by some political forces, saying the latter turned a blind eye on the violations committed by the rebel forces in the localities of Haskanita, Al-li’ait Jar Alnabi, Altiwaisha, and Kalmando in North Darfur.
The RSF militia, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilized by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.
The militia was reactivated and restructured again in August 2013 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 authorities arrested leaders of two opposition parties recently after accusing the RSF of committing serious abuses in conflict zones.
ELECTIONS TO BE HELD AS SCHEDUELD
The Sudanese president on Sunday also directed the National Elections Commission (NEC) to make the necessary arrangements for holding elections in April 2015, saying it is a constitutional requirement and there is no reason for delaying it.
Sudan’s opposition parties call for forming a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.
The interim government would organize general elections once a political agreement on constitutional matters is reached, inaugurating a new democratic regime. But the NCP rejects this proposal saying opposition parties must simply prepare for the 2015 elections and that rebels should sign first peace accords.
Last week, Bashir issued presidential decrees appointing NEC chief, deputy chairman, and two other members.
The Sudanese parliament also passed amendments to the 2008 elections law amid accusations by opposition that the government plans to rig the election process through the new law.
Bashir said the amended electoral law would allow all political forces to be presented in the parliament.
Under the amended law, the percentage of proportional representation according to the draft bill went up from 40% to 50% with an increase in the minimum allocated for women from 25% to 30% and for the party representation list from 15% to 20%.
Bashir underscored commitment to widen the circle of political practice and allow public freedoms according to the law and without infringing on the rights of other people and public rights.
He called upon MPs to focus on resolving problems facing Sudan on top of which are the tribal conflicts which is fuelled by the enemies of the country.
Bashir renewed Sudan’s adherence to its principles, saying the country was targeted since a long time ago due to its geographical location