Sudan Shifts To Managed Currency Float Amid Economic Crisis

West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.
West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.

 

Sudan announced Sunday it was ditching its fixed exchange rate and adopting a managed float, in line with an IMF programme but at the risk of fanning already-smouldering discontent.

The move aims to stem a flourishing black market that has seen the local pound recently trade at around 400 to the dollar, while the official rate was fixed at 55 pounds to the greenback.

It is expected to substantially devalue the official exchange rate towards black market levels, sending prices higher even as citizens grapple with an inflation rate that topped 300 percent last month.

The transitional government has decided to undertake policies “aimed at reforming and unifying the exchange rate system by applying a managed flexible exchange rate system,” the central bank said in a statement.

Closing the yawning gap between the official and black market exchange rates is central to a reform programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund last year.

READ ALSO: Djokovic Beats Medvedev To Win Ninth Australian Open

The central bank said its policy shift, which follows the recent appointment of a new cabinet tasked with tackling the economic crisis, is “imperative” to help achieve stability.

It is one of several painful IMF mandated reforms, which also include reducing costly subsidies, aimed at securing debt relief and attracting investment following the April 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Newly-appointed finance minister Gibril Ibrahim urged citizens to tolerate the impact of the policy change, saying in a press conference on Sunday that it “will require a high patriotic spirit” and “cooperation”.

Ominously for Sudan’s transitional authorities, protests have already flared in recent weeks in several areas over the skyrocketing prices, alongside bread and medicine shortages.

Sudan’s economy was decimated by decades of US sanctions under Bashir, mismanagement and civil war, as well as oil-rich South Sudan’s 2011 secession.

– Cushioning the blow –

The finance minister and the central bank governor, Mohamed al-Fatih, said the exchange rate policy shift will be cushioned by international donors financing a project aimed at supporting poor families from Monday.

The programme offers $5 dollars per month each to around 80 percent of the country’s 45 million population.

In January, the IMF said it was “working very intensively” with Sudan to build the preconditions for debt relief.

The US recently removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist, another move Khartoum hopes will unlock debt relief and aid.

The central bank governor said Sudan has begun applying a dual banking system, instead of solely Islamic banking, in a move allowing international banks to operate in the country.

The exchange rate policy shift comes amid concern that Sudan’s level of foreign currency holdings are approaching exhaustion.

If the central bank is to be successful in drawing transactions away from the black market, then reserves need to stand at around $5 billion, Mohamed el-Nayer, a Sudanese economist, told AFP.

Authorities have not lately disclosed the level of reserves.

Asked if the country had enough reserves, the Ibrahim replied that funds had lately been received, but did not specify the origin or amount.

But the recent bread shortages — and also of fuel — point to the possibility of “severely lacking” foreign reserves, the economist Nayer said.

Bashir’s fall nearly two years ago came after months of protests against his autocratic rule that were triggered by his cash strapped government effectively trebling bread prices.

In October, Sudan signed a peace deal with rebel groups that observers hoped would end long-running conflicts in the country’s far-flung regions.

Last month, the government approved this year’s budget and it is aiming for inflation of 95 percent by end-2021.

Israel Hails New First In Relations With Sudan

West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.
West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.

 

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has led a delegation to Khartoum, a spokesman said Tuesday, months after Sudan and the Jewish state struck a deal to normalise ties.

The Monday visit marked the first time an Israeli minister headed a delegation to the African state, Cohen’s office said.

Sudanese state media did not report the visit.

The Israeli intelligence ministry said members of the delegation met head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Defence Minister Yassin Ibrahim for talks on “diplomatic, security and economic issues”.

“A first-ever memorandum on these topics was signed between the Sudanese defence minister and Cohen,” it said.

The sides also discussed “deepening intelligence cooperation”.

“The Sudanese authorities briefed the Israeli delegation on their progress on cancelling the law boycotting Israel, and amending the law imprisoning Sudanese migrants, including to Israel, who return to Sudan,” the ministry added.

Sudan agreed to normalise ties with Israel in October last year and an Israeli delegation visited Khartoum the following month.

READ ALSO: UK Unemployment Hits 5.0% On COVID-19 Fallout

On January 6, Sudan signed the “Abraham Accords” normalising ties with Israel, making it the third Arab country to do so after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last year.

Morocco also normalised its ties with Israel in December.

Khartoum signed the accords less than a month after Washington removed it from its “state sponsors of terrorism” blacklist as part of a quid pro quo.

But protests against normalisation have continued in Sudan. On January 17, dozens of protesters gathered outside the cabinet office in Khartoum and burned the Israeli flag.

Until last year, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab countries to have recognised Israel, in bilateral peace deals struck decades ago.

Other Arab governments refused to normalise relations until Israel reached a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and its other neighbours.

Cohen said his visit to Khartoum “laid the foundations for many important collaborations that will help Israel and Sudan, boost regional stability, deepen our ties with Africa and lead to more agreements with states in the region”.

UN, AU End Peacekeeping Mission In Darfur

Sudanese children walk past an armoured vehicle of the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in Kalma Camp for internally displaced people in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, on December 30, 2020.

 

The United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur is set to end 13 years of peacekeeping in the vast Sudanese region on Thursday, even as recent violent clashes leave residents fearful of new conflict.

Fighting erupted in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which responded by recruiting and arming notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed.

A total of 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.

“The last day for UNAMID is tonight at midnight,” said UNAMID’s team leader in Darfur office Islam Khan. “UNAMID will not have any protection mandate after December 31, 2020.”

The mission said the Sudanese government “will take over responsibility for the protection of civilians in the area.”

Darfur’s bitter conflict has largely subsided in recent years and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir — wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and other alleged crimes in the western region — was deposed last year.

But the country’s transitional government is fragile, and ethnic and tribal clashes still periodically flare, including clashes last week that left at least 15 people dead and dozens wounded.

Darfuris, many of whom remain in teeming camps years after they fled their homes, have held protests in recent weeks against the mission’s imminent departure.

“The lives of Darfuri people are at stake, and the United Nations should reconsider its decision,” Mohamed Abdelrahman told AFP on Wednesday at Kalma camp in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

He is among hundreds who staged a sit-in outside the mission’s headquarters at the camp.

‘Big trouble’ ahead

Protesters held up banners reading: “We trust UN protection for IDPs (internally displaced people),” and “we reject UNAMID’s exit.”

The UN said that the phased withdrawal of the mission’s approximately 8,000 armed and civilian personnel will begin in January and be completed inside six months.

Longtime Kalma resident Othman Abulkassem fears the troops’ departure signals “big trouble” for Darfuris, leaving them at risk of further violence.

UNAMID spokesman Ashraf Eissa sought to allay those fears.

“We understand the concerns of the Darfuri population especially IDPs and other vulnerable groups, but the situation has improved a great deal over the past few years,” Eissa told AFP.

“The responsibility now lies with the transitional government and the Sudanese people themselves to enhance peace and security in Darfur.”

A UN political mission — the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) — will be installed in Darfur after UNAMID’s departure.

It will be tasked with assisting Sudan’s transition, peace-building, and aid disbursement.

Following last week’s clashes, Sudanese authorities said government troops will be deployed to the region to contain any violence.

On Thursday, acting foreign minister Omar Qamareddine said UNAMID “contributed to acheiving peace.”

“It’s true that its tenure was marred by some obstacles but it was, overall, good,” the minister told a Khartoum press conference, adding that the deployment of government troops across the region will be completed by March.

But many are sceptical.

“If the protection of internally displaced people is assigned to the government forces, it will be like handing Darfuris to the forces that committed massacres and rape against them,” said 25-year-old Darfuri Intisar Abdelhay.

Thousands of Janjaweed militiamen were incorporated into Sudan’s powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, whose head Mohamed Hamdan Daglo is a key figure in the transitional government.

The Janjaweed stand accused by human rights groups of carrying out widespread killings and rapes as part of a broader campaign of “ethnic cleasing” in the early years of the conflict.

‘No peace yet’

Bashir was deposed by the army in April last year following unprecedented mass protests against his iron-fisted rule.

In August 2019, the military rulers who ousted him agreed a precarious power sharing transition with civilians.

The transition government has pushed to build peace with rebel groups in all three of Sudan’s main conflict zones, including Darfur.

But two rebel groups refused to join the deal, including the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction led by Abdelwahid Nour, which is believed to maintain considerable support in Darfur.

Clashes still flare in the region over land and access to water, mainly pitting nomadic Arab pastoralists against settled farmers from non-Arab ethnic groups.

“There is not yet full and comprehensive peace in Sudan,” said Kalma resident Mohamed Hassan.

“And until there is, we are against the end of the UNAMID mission.”

 

AFP

Sudan, Ethiopia Start Border Talks One Week After Clash

A handout picture provided by Sudan’s Prime Ministers office on December 20, 2020 shows Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L) meeting with his Sudanese counterpart Abdalla Hamdok on the sidelines of the 38th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Djibouti.  (Photo by Office of Sudan’s Prime Minister / AFP)

 

Sudan and Ethiopia started talks Tuesday to demarcate their border, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s office said, one week after a deadly clash in a disputed area.

The delegations were led by Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen, and Sudan’s minister in charge of the cabinet, Omar Manis.

Hamdok and his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed had on Sunday agreed on the talks on the margins of a Djibouti summit of regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

The two-day talks in Khartoum come a week after Ethiopian forces reportedly ambushed Sudanese troops along the border, leaving four dead and more than 20 wounded.

Sudan has since deployed troops to the Al-Fashaqa border region, the site of sporadic clashes.

READ ALSO: France Rewards Frontline COVID-19 Workers With Citizenship

The most contested region there is a 250 square kilometre (100 square mile) area where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land on territory claimed by Sudan.

The area borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, where fighting broke out last month, causing tens of thousands of Ethiopians to flee and cross into Sudan.

Sudan and Ethiopia share a 1,600-kilometre (nearly 1,000 mile) border.

In 1902 a deal to draw up the frontier was struck between Great Britain, the colonial power in Sudan at the time, and Ethiopia but the agreement lacked clear demarcation lines.

The last Sudan-Ethiopia border talks were held in May in Addis Ababa but another meeting scheduled for the following month was cancelled.

Meetings on border demarcation were previously held between 2002 and 2006.

Addis Ababa has been keen to downplay the recent deadly border incident, saying it did not threaten the relationship between the two countries.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Addis Ababa told AFP Ethiopian security forces had “repelled a group of (Sudanese) low-ranking officers and farmers, who had encroached on Ethiopian territory”.

AFP

US Removes Sudan From Terrorism Sponsor Blacklist

A Sudanese man waves a banner showing the national flag colours of Sudan during a protest in the capital Khartoum. PHOTO: Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP

 

The United States has formally removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist, its Khartoum embassy said on Monday, less than two months after the East African nation pledged to normalise ties with Israel. 

The move opens the way for aid, debt relief, and investment to a country going through a rocky political transition and struggling under a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

US President Donald Trump had announced in October that he was delisting Sudan, 27 years after Washington first put the country on its blacklist for harbouring Islamist militants.

READ ALSO: Six Killed, 24 Abducted In DR Congo Attack

“The congressional notification period of 45 days has lapsed and the Secretary of State has signed a notification stating rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” the US embassy said on Facebook, adding that the measure “is effective as of today”.

In response to the move, Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — who doubles as the head of the Sovereign Council, the country’s highest executive authority — offered his “congratulations to the Sudanese people”.

“It was a task accomplished… in the spirit of the December revolution”, he said on Twitter, referring to a landmark month in 2018 when protests erupted against dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir was deposed by the military in April 2019, four months into the demonstrations against his iron-fisted rule and 30 years after an Islamist-backed coup had brought him to power.

 

– ‘Global siege lifted’ –

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also welcomed Washington’s move in a post on Facebook, noting that it means “our beloved country… (is) relieved from the international and global siege” provoked by Bashir’s behaviour.

The removal of the designation “contributes to reforming the economy, attracting investments and remittances of our citizens abroad through official channels” and creates new job opportunities for youth, the premier said.

As part of a deal, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from the twin 1998 al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and a 2000 attack by the jihadist group on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast.

Those attacks were carried out after Bashir had allowed then al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden sanctuary in Sudan.

Sudan in October became the third Arab country in as many months to pledge that it would normalise relations with Israel, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The transitional government’s pledge came amid a concerted campaign by the Trump administration to persuade Arab nations to recognise the Jewish state, and it has been widely perceived as a quid pro quo for Washington removing Sudan from its terror blacklist.

But unlike the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan has yet to agree a formal deal with Israel, amid wrangling within the fractious transitional power structure over the move.

 

– Cracks in transition –

The first major evidence of engagement between Sudan’s interim authorities and Israel came in February when Burhan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda.

In late November, a spokesman for the Sovereign Council, comprised of military and civilian figures, confirmed that an Israeli delegation had visited Khartoum earlier in the month.

Seeking to downplay the visit, council spokesman Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman had said “we did not announce it at the time because it was not a major visit or of a political nature”.

Sudan’s transition has lately displayed signs of internal strain. Burhan last week blasted the transitional institutions, formed in August 2019 after months of further street protests demanding the post-Bashir military share power with civilians.

“The transitional council has failed to respond to the aspirations of the people and of the revolution,” Burhan charged while also lauding the integrity of the military.

Trump sent his notice to remove Sudan from the terror blacklist to Congress on October 26. Under US law, a country exits the list after 45 days unless Congress objects, which it has not.

Families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks had called on lawmakers to reject the State Department’s proposal, saying they want to pursue legal action against Sudan.

AFP

Trump Plans To Remove Sudan From State Sponsors Of Terrorism

Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Monday he was ready to remove Sudan from a US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, a major goal of Khartoum, after a compensation deal over past attacks.

“At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump said that Sudan’s year-old transitional government had agreed to a $335 million package to compensate US victims of attacks and their families.

“Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list,” Trump said.

Sudan is one of four nations branded by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism along with Iran, North Korea, and Syria — severely impeding economic development, with few major foreign investors willing to run afoul of US laws.

Sudan has been seeking for years to remove the designation, a legacy of former dictator Omar al-Bashir’s welcome of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

The conflict-ridden nation experienced a historic shift last year as Bashir was ousted in the face of youth-led street protests and a civilian-backed transitional government was later installed.

While Trump has the authority to remove Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, both the administration and lawmakers have been seeking a package that would compensate victims and families over attacks — namely Al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Trump administration, seeing leverage as it eyed removing the designation, has also leaned on Sudan to recognize Israel, following the lead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

-AFP

Lawyers Walk Out Of Sudan Ex-President’s Trial In Protest

Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir (2nd L) gestures as he arrives to a hearing in his trial in the capital Khartoum, on October 6, 2020, along with 27 co-accused over the 1989 military coup that brought him to power. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

 

Most lawyers for Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir and other defendants walked out of his trial over a 1989 coup in protest at alleged bias on the part of the prosecutor general.

Dozens of lawyers, in a hearing broadcast on Sudanese television, left the courtroom after the prosecutor, Tagelsir al-Hebr, read out the charges.

Bashir and the 27 others face accusations of undermining constitutional order and use of military force to commit a crime, Hebr said.

Defence lawyer Abdelbasit Sebdarat said that Hebr had made the same accusations even before taking up the post of public prosecutor.

“He lodged these complaints as an ordinary citizen. Now, as he is prosecutor general, we object to him reciting the charges,” the lawyer said.

Presiding judge Essam Ibrahim responded that “whoever wants to leave, they can”, and adjourned the trial to October 20.

The 28 defendants stand accused of plotting the 1989 Islamist-backed military coup that brought Bashir to power.

Proceedings have been repeatedly delayed, with Tuesday’s hearing the sixth since the trial opened in July.

Bashir ruled with an iron fist for 30 years until his overthrow on April 11, 2019 following unprecedented youth-led street demonstrations.

If convicted, Bashir and his co-accused — including former top officials — could face the death penalty.

Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict since 2003.

Sudan’s transitional government has agreed that Bashir would stand trial before the ICC.

However, in an August peace deal with rebels, the government agreed to set up a special court for crimes in Darfur and that Bashir should also face that court.

AFP

US Seeks Breakthrough On Sudan Before Election

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama(not shown) deliver statements to the press, at the Department of State on February 4, 2020 in Washington,DC. Eric BARADAT / AFP

 

With weeks to go before US elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is racing to make a breakthrough with Sudan that he hopes could also benefit Israel.

Sudan’s new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognize Israel — a major cause for President Donald Trump’s electoral base.

“The United States has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that compensation is finally provided to victims of the 1998 Al-Qaeda-backed terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,” Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators that was confirmed by congressional sources.

“We also have a unique and narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan that has finally rid itself of the Islamist dictatorship that previously led that country.”

Sudan is one of four nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, severely impeding investment as businesses worry of legal risks in dealing with the country.

The designation dates back to 1993 when then strongman Omar al-Bashir welcomed Islamists including Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, which carried out the embassy attacks that claimed more than 200 lives.

Washington had been gradually reconciling with Bashir, who agreed to independence for mostly Christian South Sudan.

But Sudan was transformed last year when Bashir was deposed following a wave of youth-led protests. British-educated economist Abdalla Hamdok has become the new prime minister with a reformist mandate in a transitional arrangement with the military.

– Question for Congress –

Sudan’s delisting has been held up by a dispute over a package of some $335 million that Khartoum would pay as compensation to victims’ families and survivors of the embassy attacks.

Completing a compensation package “is one of the highest priorities for the Department of State,” a spokesperson said.

In his letter, Pompeo said it was “very likely” that an agreement on claims and on delisting Sudan from the terror blacklist would be completed by the end of October — days before the November 3 election.

But Congress also needs to pass legislation to provide Sudan immunity from further claims.

Senate Democrats are divided in part because the draft package would provide more money to US citizens than Africans, who made up the bulk of the victims — an arrangement some call discriminatory but others say is realistic and in keeping with precedent.

Some lawmakers also want further discussion on compensation for other attacks by Al-Qaeda, notably the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

Why the sudden push by Pompeo, who in his more than two years as America’s top diplomat has rarely seemed preoccupied by Africa?

Sudan has hinted at a willingness to engage Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in February met Khartoum’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last month recognized Israel, a coup for the Jewish state and a signature foreign policy win for Trump.

Pompeo briefly stopped in Khartoum in late August in the first visit there by a US secretary of state in 15 years.

Hamdok demurred in his meeting with Pompeo, saying that his transitional government, which is set to rule until 2022 elections, did not have a mandate to normalize relations with Israel — in what would be a major about-face for a country until recently considered Islamist-run.

But some observers believe there can still be forward movement on relations with Israel, especially with the prospect of removal from the terror blacklist.

AFP

Will Sudan’s Peace Deal With Rebels Work?

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) holds up the document of the signing between the rebel groups and the government during the singing of the Sudan peace deal with the rebel groups in Juba, South Sudan, on August 31, 2020. – Akuot Chol / AFP.

 

Sudan’s government and rebel forces have agreed a landmark deal aimed at ending decades of war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.

After an initialling ceremony on August 31, rebel commanders and the transitional government, which took power after the toppling of hardline ruler Omar al-Bashir last year, are set to sign a “final” deal on October 2.

– Who are the rebels? –

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is a coalition of five rebel groups and four political movements.

They come from the vast western region of Darfur, at war since 2003, as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in the country’s south.

Rebels there took up arms in 2011 following a pause in the wake of Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

– What does the deal promise? –

The agreement deals with peace, justice, rights and the “fair distribution of authority (and) wealth.”

Sudan’s rebels are largely drawn from minority groups that chafed from marginalisation under Bashir’s regime.

The deal promises to end discrimination, including by making minority languages official.

It also protects freedom of religion, so that Christians and followers of local religions can worship in peace in the mainly Muslim nation.

– What happens first? –

Fighting stops. Both sides have agreed to a permanent cease-fire.

Rebel fighters will be slowly incorporated into joint units with government security forces.

Timelines have been set for the training and establishment of integrated forces.

– How is power shared? –

Rebels will get three seats in the sovereign council, the transitional government’s top body.

They will also get a quarter of cabinet posts and a quarter of seats in the 300-member transitional parliament.

Women must make up at least 40 percent of government posts at all levels.

Rebels will also have a role in state governments.

Local authorities will operate with autonomy from Khartoum, raising their own taxes and managing the natural resources of their regions.

– Who faces trial? –

Old government leaders, not rebels.

The deal provides for an amnesty for political leaders and rebel commanders.

But ex-officials of the former regime must stand trial — including Bashir.

The former strongman, already jailed for corruption, is on trial along with several former ministers for seizing power in a 1989 coup.

The deal calls for the formation of a special court for crimes in Darfur, where fighting killed 300,000 people.

Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the western region.

The government agreed in February that Bashir should face the ICC, but domestic hearings may come first.

– What will holdout rebels do? –

If rebels fight on, the deal could be derailed.

One wing of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) has refused to lay down arms.

Its leader Abdelwahid Nour has lived abroad for several years, including in Paris, but he is understood to have retained support on the ground.

Another key rebel force, led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, also rejected the August deal, but days later Hilu signed a separate agreement with the government.

A veteran guerilla fighter who leads a faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), he had long fought for a secular state to replace the Islamist regime of Bashir.

Hilu’s stronghold in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan has a significant Christian community among its mainly non-Arab population.

Under the separate deal, his forces will retain their guns for “self-protection”, until Sudan’s constitution is changed to separate religion and government.

It is unclear whether Hilu will take part in the signing ceremony on October 2.

– How will it help refugees? –

Millions of Sudanese were forced from their homes by the war, either becoming refugees in neighbouring nations or living in squalid camps within Sudan.

The deal provides for their voluntary return home, with full rights like any other Sudanese citizen.

Aid groups will also get access to the areas where they are returning.

During the conflict, humanitarian agencies were often blocked from large areas with acute needs.

– Will it work? –

Analysts are hopeful, but many have seen similar deals crumble before.

Turning rebels into regular troops brings together old foes in often uneasy joint forces.

Building peace and trust after so long at war takes time.

As people return home after years away, there are fears of fresh conflict if the current occupants refuse to return the property.

Clashes have erupted in Darfur in recent weeks.

Still, the deal is “a hugely significant sign of progress,” said Jonas Horner, from the International Crisis Group think tank.

“But it is also far from comprehensive and only represents a first step towards peace,” Horner added.

“Significant hurdles remain in the way of its implementation.”

AFP

Sudan Declares Three-Month State Of Emergency After Floods Kill Almost 100

Sudanese boys make their way through a flooded street at the area of al-Qamayir in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, on August 26, 2020. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

Sudan on Saturday declared a three-month national state of emergency after record-breaking torrential floods that cost 99 lives.

“A nationwide three-month state of emergency has been announced as Sudan is considered a natural disaster zone,” the interior ministry said on social media.

Floods caused by more than a month of heavy rains have killed 99 people, injured 46, and left 100,000 damaged properties in their wake, one of the worst natural disasters in decades, according to state news agency SUNA.

North Darfur in the country’s west and Sennar state in the south were among the hardest-hit areas.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan from June to October, and the country faces severe flooding every year.

“The Blue Nile has reached an all-time high since records began more than a century ago,” said the irrigation and water ministry last week.

The latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan said Thursday that over 380,000 people had already been “affected” by this year’s floods.

The whole flooding season in 2019 affected 400,000 people, according to an OCHA spokesperson.

AFP

Sudan Government, Rebels Meet To Implement Peace Deal

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) holds up the document of the signing between the rebel groups and the government during the singing of the Sudan peace deal with the rebel groups in Juba, South Sudan, on August 31, 2020. – Sudanese leaders and rebel commanders agreed on August 31, 2020, on a “historic” peace deal, a crucial step towards ending 17 years of conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Akuot Chol / AFP.

 

Sudan said Wednesday that government and rebel leaders had met to begin implementing a deal that aims to end a war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

Rebel commanders from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the transitional government met face-to-face on Tuesday, one day after striking the deal, state news agency SUNA said.

“This was the first joint meeting after the inking of the accord,” said Alhadi Idris, the head of the SRF rebel coalition, SUNA reported.

“We discussed in this meeting what will happen going forward,” Idris said, adding that there were “still issues related to the timeline to implement the deal”.

The SRF, founded in 2011, is an alliance of five armed rebel groups and four political movements from the vast western region of Darfur, and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“Our priorities now are economic progress and humanitarian issues related to people displaced by the conflicts,” said Minni Minawi, who leads a faction of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement.

Monday’s peace deal covers issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting.

It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of the fighters into the national army.

Sudan’s transitional government, which took power after the April 2019 ouster of hardline leader Omar al-Bashir, has made forging peace with rebel groups a priority.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict, where fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the UN.

The former president, who is in jail in Khartoum convicted of corruption, is now on trial for the 1989 coup in which he grabbed power.

Sudan’s rebels are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of the government in Khartoum under Bashir.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Tuesday that the deal “creates a new Sudanese state, and remedies all injustices of the past”, as he appealed to two rebel holdout movements who refused to take part.

Previous peace accords in Sudan, including one signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another signed in Qatar in 2010, have fallen through.

AFP

Sudan Rebels Agree Key Peace Deal

West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.
West Darfur State is one of the states of Sudan, and one of five comprising the Darfur region.

 

Sudan’s main rebel alliance has agreed a peace deal with the government aimed at ending 17 years of conflict, official news agency SUNA said Sunday.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an alliance of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, inked a peace agreement with the government late on Saturday.

A formal signing ceremony is planned for Monday in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, which has hosted and helped mediate the long-running talks since late 2019.

Senior government officials and rebel leaders “signed their initials on protocols on security arrangements” and other issues late Saturday, SUNA reported.

However, two key holdout rebel forces have refused to take part in the deal.

The final agreement covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes due to war.

It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several ministers flew to Juba on Sunday, the news agency said, where he met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

– ‘Start of peace-building’ –

Hamdok said that finding a deal had taken longer than first hoped after a initial agreement in September 2019.

“At the Juba declaration in September, everyone expected peace to be signed within two or three months, but …we realised that the questions were of one great complexity,” Hamdok said.

“However, we were able to accomplish this great work, and this is the start of peace-building.”

The rebel forces took up arms against what they said was the economic and political marginalisation by the government in Khartoum.

They are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of successive governments in Khartoum, including that of toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

About 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations.

Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, following unresolved issues from bitter fighting there in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

Forging peace with rebels has been a cornerstone of Sudan’s transitional government, which came to power in the months after Bashir’s overthrow in April 2019 on the back of mass protests against his rule.

Two movements rejected part of the deal — a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdelwahid Nour, and a wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), headed by Abdelaziz al-Hilu.

Previous peace accords in Sudan, including one signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another signed in Qatar in 2010, have fallen through over the years.

AFP