Category Archives: Central Africa

Sudan – Bashir accuses Egypt of backing Darfur rebel attack

Sudan Tribune


Sudanese soldiers in North Darfur's Wadi Hawar on Egyptian armoured vehicles used by the Darfur rebels in their recent attack in Darfur on 23 May 2017 (ST Photo)
May 23, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir Tuesday has accused Egypt of supporting the armed movements that recently entered Darfur from Libya and South Sudan.

On Friday, fierce clashes erupted in North and East Darfur between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement – Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and the SLM-Transitional Council, a splinter group from the SLM-Abdel Wahid.

The government says the rebels entered into the region from Libya and South Sudan where Khartoum claims they are based, while the armed movements say the government forces attacked their positions in North Darfur state.

“The army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have seized Egyptian armoured vehicles used by the Darfur rebels in their attack last Friday on the two states,” al-Bashir told a ceremony honouring retired army officers Tuesday in Khartoum.

He pointed out that the rebel forces came from Libya and South Sudan aboard Egyptian armoured vehicles.

The Sudanese President added that Egypt refused to support his country in its long fighting against the insurgency in South Sudan and Darfur, pointing to Sudan’s support for Egypt during its 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.

“We fought in South Sudan for 20 years and Egypt did not provide us with a single bullet under the pretext that what was happening in Sudan was an internal affair,” he said.

He stressed that the rebel forces entered Sudan within the framework of a larger plot, saying that attackers came from Libya and South Sudan but the army managed to disperse them and destroyed and seized their armoured vehicles.

Since several months Sudanese officials hint that Egypt supports Darfur rebel groups hoping to put pressure on Khartoum to stop its support for the Ethiopian government which constructs a dam on the Blue Nile. Cairo says the Renaissance Dam will reduce the volume of water reaching its growing population.

The Sudanese President further mocked neighbouring countries who support the armed movements, describing the recent fight as “mere training” not actual military operations for the army.

Al-Bashir’s statements come just hours after his envoy for diplomatic contact and negotiation for Darfur Amin Hassan Omer hinted to Egypt’s involvement in the attacks which he said were meant to delay the permanent lift of U.S. sanctions imposed on Sudan.

On Monday, Facebook pages belonging to the Sudanese army and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) posted photos of armoured vehicles from the recent clashes in Darfur, claiming they are Egyptian vehicles.

It also posted maps showing the entry points of the armed movements from Libya and South Sudan.

The Sudanese government has long accused the Darfur movements of fighting alongside the forces of the Libyan General Khalifa Hafer, which is supported by Egypt.

The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Monday expressed deep concern over the recent clashes in the region, saying “Significant progress has been made on the road towards peace and security in Darfur, and it would be a serious setback to see these gains jeopardised.”

Meanwhile, Sudan’s Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman has accused unnamed neighbouring countries of supporting the recent attack of the armed movements in Darfur.

Abdel-Rahman, who addressed student crowd in the River Nile State Tuesday, accused the armed movements of being hypocrites, saying they sat at the negotiations table in Germany while they were preparing to terrorise the innocent people in Darfur.

He praised the victories of the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces against the rebels, saying the doors of the national dialogue would remain open for anyone who wants to join the process.

On 12 April 2016, the Sudanese army declared Darfur a region free of rebellion following the capture of Srounq area, the last SLM-AW led by Abdel-Wahid al-Nour stronghold in Jebel Marra. However, the army continued for several months to carry out attacks on rebel pockets in the mountainous area.

EGYPT DENIES SUPPORTING DARFUR REBELS

In Cairo, the Egyptian foreign ministry has categorically denied in a statement issued on Tuesday its support for the rebel groups in Sudan’s Darfur region.

In a statement released on Tuesday Egypt said it respects Sudan’s sovereignty over its territory and has never intervened to destabilise the sisterly country of Sudan or harm its people”

The foreign ministry spokesperson further stressed that “Egypt’s foreign policy is based on respect for international law and the principles of good neighbourliness and non-aggression, especially when dealing with countries with which Egypt has special fraternal relations such as brotherly Sudan”.

The Sudanese army has been fighting a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. UN agencies estimate that over 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and over 2.5 million were displaced.

Doha brokered the Darfur peace negotiations which resulted in the signing of the DDPD by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in July 2011. Also, a dissident group from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) joined the DDPD in April 2013.

JEM and SLM-MM have engaged in peace talks with the government under the auspices of the African Union.

(ST)

Dr Congo – investigation into Kasai violence to look at role of former minister

Reuters

 
By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

KINSHASA Congo’s attorney general said on Tuesday he had opened an investigation into a former minister over allegations he played a role in militia violence in central Congo that a U.N. employee was investigating when she was killed.

His announcement followed a report by The New York Times on Saturday that Zaida Catalan, a U.N. investigator killed in March in central Democratic Republic of Congo, had a recording of a phone call between ex-development minister Clement Kanku and a presumed militia member.

In it, the newspaper reported, Kanku is heard speaking approvingly of violence perpetrated by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, whose insurrection against government forces in the Kasai region has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than a million people since last July.

Kanku rejected all the allegations in a later news conference.

Attorney General Flory Numbi announced the government investigation to reporters in the capital Kinshasa, saying he had written to the National Assembly to request permission to conduct preliminary searches of Kanku’s property because he enjoys immunity as a member of parliament.

“If at the end of this investigation, I am convinced that the facts are established regarding the relevant charges, (Kanku) will be charged with participation in an insurrectional movement, assassination, voluntary arson, malicious destruction and association with criminals,” Numbi said.

Catalan and her American colleague Michael Sharp were investigating such acts in Kasai when they were killed in March. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in the same month.

“I am disturbed by these allegations of implication in criminal actions which I refute completely,” Kanku, who served as development minister from last December until a reshuffle earlier this month, told reporters at his house in Kinshasa on Tuesday.

Earlier, two truck loads of police had prevented him from meeting press at a downtown restaurant, saying the news conference had not been authorised.

According to the Times story, Catalan had a recording of a phone conversation — which she had told Kanku about — in which an apparent militiaman informs Kanku that the militia has set fire to a town in Kasai-Central province.

“It’s good that we burn everything; that is good news,” Kanku is quoted as saying on the tape.

Kanku and his lawyer Aime Kilolo declined to comment on the alleged recording. Kilolo said it would be “premature” to respond as Kanku’s name is nowhere stated in the phone call.

Congolese military investigators said on Saturday that two alleged militiamen would soon face trial for Catalan and Sharp’s killings but that another 14 suspects were at large.

A U.N. board of inquiry is investigating the experts’ deaths but is not expected to assign blame. Sweden has also opened a police investigation.

(Editing by Tim Cocks)

South Sudan – Kiir announces ceasefire and prisoner release but no hint of talks with Machar

Reuters

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir delivers a speech during the launch of the National Dialogue committee in Juba, South Sudan May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jok Solomun

JUBA The president of war-ravaged South Sudan declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday and promised to release political prisoners, but with no sign of a political deal with rebels it was not clear whether a truce would take hold.

South Sudan has been mired in a civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar. The conflict, fanned by ethnic rivalries, has sparked Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and plunged part of the country into famine.

“I directed the prosecutor general to immediately review the cases of those who have committed crime against the state, commonly known as political prisoners, and ensure the necessary steps taken are taken to lead their release,” Kiir said in a speech in the capital, Juba.

“I am also declaring unilateral ceasefire effective from today.”

South Sudan analysts expressed scepticism that Kiir’s announcement would lead to long-lasting peace.

Kiir has declared ceasefires before and he has yet to release any political prisoners, said Alan Boswell, a South Sudan expert who authored a paper for the Small Arms Survey on the most recent failed peace deal in 2016.

Kiir’s speech offered no hint that he was willing to negotiate with the disparate rebel groups, the largest of which is led by Machar, Boswell said. Machar is an ethnic Nuer while Kiir is a Dinka.

In April 2016 the United States and other Western nations backed a peace accord that saw Machar return to the capital and again share power with Kiir. But the deal fell apart less than three months later and Machar and his supporters fled the capital, pursued by helicopter gunships.

Since then, the conflict has become increasingly fractured, with a patchwork of ethnic militias fighting in different parts of the oil-producing country.

“There’s no good incentive for the opposition movements to put down their guns because they’re not being offered any political settlement,” Boswell said.

The U.N. has warned the ethnic violence spill into genocide.

(Reporting by Denis Dumo; editing by Richard Lough)

Africa’s growth will be boosted by recovery in commodity prices

Reuters

Photo

NEW DELHI Africa will see a lift-off in economic growth this year and next on the back of a rebound in global commodity prices, an annual report predicted on Monday.

The African Economic Outlook, co-authored by the African Development Bank, the OECD and the United Nations Development Programme, expects the continent’s economy to grow by 3.4 percent in 2017 and 4.3 percent in 2018, up from an estimated 2.2 percent last year.

The report was released as the African Development Bank began its annual meeting, this year being hosted by India in the capital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Modi invited African leaders to a summit in 2015 and has sought to promote ‘south-south’ economic ties with a continent that has a large Indian diaspora but has seen far larger inward investment from China.

The report said that a decline in commodity prices starting in mid-2014 had a devastating impact on several commodity-exporting African economies. Nigeria, for example, which has the biggest share in Africa’s GDP, slipped into recession.

Africa has been worryingly dependent on commodities to power economic growth. The fall in raw materials prices inflicted a significant shock on sub-Saharan Africa as fuels, ore and metals account for more than 60 percent of the region’s exports.

However, commodities have staged a comeback since late last year, buoyed by an improvement in the world economic outlook together with the return of risk appetite among global investors.

If the rise in commodity prices is sustained, the report said, it would trim the continent’s current account deficit to 5 percent of GDP this year from 6.5 percent in 2016.

Africa is expected to witness a marginal improvement in external inflows that are estimated to inch up to $179.7 billion in 2017 from $177.7 billion a year ago.

The report urged the countries in the region to diversify their exports to reduce their exposure to commodity-price shocks and take measures to boost trade within Africa.

(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Douglas Busvine)

UN specialist worried about human rights and press freedom in Sudan

Sudan Tribune



May 21, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi Sunday has expressed concern over detentions of civil society activists and continued the crackdown on the press and religious minorities.

The UN expert is visiting Sudan from 11-21 May to carry out his fourth mission to the country so as to continue his engagement with the Sudanese authorities and discuss the implementation of his recommendations

In a press release held at the end of his visit in Sunday, Nononsi said he is still “concerned about a number of human rights issues in the country that have not been dealt with very much”, adding “I am aware of incidents that appear to be harassment and arrests targeting representatives of civil society organizations.”

“I’d like to urge the Sudanese authorities to release Dr Mudawi Ibrahim and Hafez Idris, whom I believe have been held solely for legitimate actions to protect and promote human rights in Sudan,” he added

Ibrahim, university professor and Chair of the non-governmental organisation Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) was arrested on 7 December 2016 by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Nononsi pointed out that the suspension of Al-Jareeda newspaper in December 2016 by the NISS contradicts the interim national constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Sudan, saying “I raised this issue with the Sudanese authorities.”

The UN expert added that he urged the authorities to make the necessary amendments to the Voluntary and Human Work Organization Act of 2006 to bring it into line with the constitution and international human rights standards and to repeal all provisions of this law that adversely affect the work of civil society organizations and allow civil society actors to carry out their activities in an open, safe and sound environment.

He stressed the need to ensure the protection of freedom of religion, saying “I refer here to the destruction of churches and places of worship by the NISS, which was also used to intimidate, detain and arrest Christian religious leaders.”

He pointed out that he discussed this issue with government officials, describing it as “legitimate concerns” that the Sudanese government should address them, given the importance of freedom of religion in any democratic society.

Earlier this month, Khartoum State authorities demolished a church in Soba Al-Aradi suburb, 19 km from Khartoum, despite pledges by Sudanese government officials to stop Churches’ demolition.

Sudanese authorities earlier this year delayed a plan to demolish some 27 churches including Soba Al Aradi church, pointing they are not officially recognised as churches.

However, church leaders say the authorities refuse to give them building permits when they submit an application for the construction of a church. They stress this situation force them to resort to these houses of prayer in the far suburbs of Khartoum.

Nononsi noted that the unilateral cease-fire from government and armed movements in Darfur is largely holding, but pointed to “continuing threats of violence and attacks against civilians in other forms, including inter-communal violence, sexual violence and the abduction of civilians.”

He called on the government to focus on implementing provisions of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) pertaining to dissolution and disarmament of militias so that protection issues can be addressed in the region.

The UN expert pointed to some positive developments made by the Sudanese government in the human rights file compared to his previous visit in February, welcoming the decision of the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir issued on March 8 granting amnesty to 259 members of armed movements who were captured during the fighting with government forces in Darfur.

He also praised al-Bashir’s decision to appoint the head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on May 16, stressing the importance of the role that an independent national human rights institution can play.

Nononsi appealed to the Sudanese authorities to fill the remaining vacant posts of the commissioners in a transparent and representative manner and to support national human rights institutions with the necessary funding to enable them to carry out their functions effectively.

He further thanked the Sudanese government for its cooperation and for giving him access to all the places, persons and institutions to which he requested to meet.

The independent expert is expected to present his findings and recommendations to the U.N Human Rights Council in September 2017.

(ST)

Central African republic – 22 reported dead in new violence

Reuters

ABIDJAN Fighting this week between rival Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic town of Bria killed at least 22 people, including 17 civilians, and forced some 10,000 others to flee, the country’s United Nations mission said on Saturday.

The clashes come amid a week of intense violence between mainly Muslim fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition that overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013 and anti-balaka Christian militias who oppose them.

“The fighting between armed groups in Bria and elsewhere in eastern CAR must stop,” Diane Corner, the deputy head of the peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, said in a statement.

“These appalling acts of violence committed by armed groups over the last week have killed scores of innocent Central African men, women and children, deprived families of their homes and citizens of their livelihoods,” she said.

The rival factions fought over the northeastern town of Bria’s airstrip on Friday and looting forced humanitarian workers to seek refuge inside the MINUSCA base there.

In addition to the dead, some 36 people were injured in the clashes, the U.N. mission said.

U.N. soldiers have also reinforced their positions in the towns of Bangassou and Alindao, which have been hit by violence this week as well.

Red Cross workers said on Wednesday they recovered 115 bodies in Bangassou, a diamond mining hub, after several days of fighting there.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier, editing by Louise Heavens)

 

South Sudanese forces killed 114 civilians in Yei

Reuters

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (C) attends a ceremony marking the thirty fourth anniversary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) at the military headquarters in Juba, South Sudan May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jok Solomun/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir(L) and newly appointed army chief General James Ajongo(R) attends a ceremony marking the thirty fourth anniversary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) at the military headquarters in Juba, South Sudan May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jok Solomun/File Photo
By Tom Miles | GENEVA

GENEVA South Sudanese pro-government forces killed at least 114 civilians in and around Yei town from July 2016 to January 2017, the U.N. human rights office said in a report on Friday that the army dismissed as “baseless”.

The most recent round of fighting in oil-rich South Sudan’s civil war flared up last July when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir chased his rival and former deputy Riek Machar and a small band of followers from the capital Juba southwest through Yei and into neighbouring Congo.

The SPLA also committed an unknown number of rapes and incidents of torture and looting, the U.N. said in the report.

Another 45 people were killed by the SPLA in attacks in other towns this April, the monitors of a failed ceasefire said in a separate report on Friday.

“Attacks were committed with an alarming degree of brutality and, like elsewhere in the country, appeared to have an ethnic dimension,” the U.N. said in the report, adding that the incidents may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.

“These cases included attacks on funerals and indiscriminate shelling of civilians; cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting; often committed in front of the victims’ families.”

The SPLA’s chase of Machar and his men led to fighting across South Sudan’s Equatorias region, particularly in the southwestern town of Yei.

SPLA spokesperson Col. Santo Domic Chol told Reuters on Friday that the report was “baseless”.

“This is not the first time the U.N. has accused the SPLA and tried to portray us as enemies of the people,” he said.

“The SPLA is one of the biggest military institutions in the country and it accommodates people from different background and the whole SPLA cannot go out and rape citizens… so it has to be specific that we have seen two or three SPLA soldiers in such location committing such crimes,” he said.

U.N. investigators have described gang rape on an “epic” scale as well as suspected ethnic cleansing during the fighting.

Kiir and Machar’s rivalry first plunged South Sudan into civil war in December 2013, only two years after the country won independence from Sudan to the north.

But Yei, traditionally an ethnically diverse area, had been largely peaceful before Machar fled the capital again last July.

The town had an estimated population of 300,000 before the July crisis began, but 60-70 percent of the population had fled by September.

Civilians from Yei and other areas poured into Uganda, with 320,000 arriving as refugees by the end of 2016, 80 percent of them women and children. About 180,000 more were registered in Uganda by the first week of February 2017.

Many people were trapped by the fighting, and others were attacked on the road as they fled. But the SPLA helped ethnic Dinka civilians – the same ethnicity as President Kiir – to move to the capital, providing military and civilian vehicles to transport them, the report said.

Citing data from South Sudan’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, the report said 46,000 Dinka civilians, mainly from Yei, had registered in Juba from July to December 2016.

The violence has continued in Yei, with rebel forces attacking the town and killing at least four government soldiers this week.

In other areas, government forces killed civilians last month, according to an international team monitoring the failed ceasefire. The team released five reports on Friday.

One report said men in military uniform and plainclothes killed at least 29 people this April in the northwestern town of Wau after targeting non-Dinka residents.

In the border town of Pajok, “Government Forces had indeed deliberately and in cold blood killed a number of civilians,” another report said. The death toll was likely to be much higher than the official toll of 16, the report said.

Domic dismissed the suggestion that government troops had killed civilians.

“The SPLA doesn’t target citizens and the report …is biased because it didn’t take the other aspect of rebel commanders who become tribal commanders mobilising their own youth, give them weapons to come and fight against the government,” he said.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)