Nile Dam Dispute Spills Onto Social Media

 In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

As Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan struggle to resolve a long-running dispute over Addis Ababa’s mega-dam project on the Nile, some of their citizens are sparring online over their rights to the mighty waterway.

For nearly a decade, multiple rounds of talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum have failed to produce a deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Anxiety has mounted in downstream Sudan and Egypt, which fear for their vital water supplies after upstream Ethiopia declared plans to start filling Africa’s largest dam reservoir in July.

As tensions have run high in the political arena, they have also amped up online.

In one widely viewed video originally shared on TikTok, an Ethiopian woman pours water from a pitcher into two cups representing Egypt and Sudan.

She fills Sudan’s cup to the brim but only pours a trickle of water into Egypt’s, before emptying the water back into the pitcher.

“This is my water. When I give you water, it’s my call, not yours,” she says.

In response, an Egyptian woman created a compilation of the video and one of her own in which she knocks down a dam-shaped block structure with the Ethiopian flag superimposed on it before triumphantly downing a cup of water.

The video had been viewed more than 55,000 times on Instagram by Wednesday.

Social media “platforms are powerful,” said Wubalem Fekade, communications head at the intergovernmental ENTRO-Nile Basin Initiative.

“People on the social media platforms aren’t accountable, so it’s easy to disseminate unverified, incorrect, false, even conspiracy theories,” he said.

But, he added hopefully, “when used creatively and judiciously, they can help defuse tensions”.

-‘Psychological war’-
The online row over the dam has been particularly heated between Egyptian and Ethiopian social media users.

Egypt has long enjoyed the lion’s share of the Nile water under decades-old agreements that were largely viewed by other Nile basin countries as unfair.

On Twitter, Egyptians echoed authorities’ fears that Ethiopia’s dam would severely cut their country’s supply of water from the Nile, which provides 97 percent of the arid nation’s water needs.

“We will never allow any country to starve us” of water, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris wrote on Twitter.

“If Ethiopia doesn’t come to reason, we, the Egyptian people will be the first to call for war,” he threatened.

Egyptian cartoonist Ahmed Diab has weighed in with a drawing of an outsized Egyptian soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, facing a diminutive Ethiopian man with the dam in the background.

“You idiot, try to understand that I care for you… ever heard about the Bar Lev Line?” the soldier tells the Ethiopian, alluding to Egypt’s military strength in referring to the Egyptian destruction of an Israeli defence line along the Suez canal in 1973.

Diab called the cartoon part of a “psychological war”.

“Besides a show of military might and strong media discourse, arts can boost people’s morale,” he said.

For their part, Ethiopians have rallied behind their country’s mega project, set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation.

On social media, they have rejected any conditions of reaching a deal before filling the dam.

Filling the dam should not be held “hostage” to an agreement with Cairo, Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohamed wrote on Twitter.

“If agreement is reached before the filling begins in the coming days, it’s great. If not, the filling should begin and the negotiation shall continue,” he said.

Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, insists the dam will not affect the onward flow of water and sees the project as indispensible for its national development and electrification.

– ‘Healthy discussions’ –
Khartoum hopes the dam will help regulate flooding, but in June it warned that millions of lives will be at “great risk” if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, Sudan raised concerns that water discharged from the GERD could “compromise the safety” of its own Roseires Dam by overwhelming it and causing flooding.

Omar Dafallah, a Sudanese artist, depicted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overseeing the water flowing from the dam through a faucet to fill a jug held by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The drawing also shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with a large water container, waiting in line.

Last month, Egypt also appealed to the UNSC to intervene in the crisis — a move Sisi said underlined his country’s committment to a political solution.

Egyptian lawmaker Mohamed Fouad views the online debate as a way to “break the stalemate” in the diplomatic talks, “so long as they remain within the boundaries of healthy discussions”.

 

AFP

Hundreds Protest In Sudan Over Insecurity

Sudanese demonstrators gesture as they chant during a protest on Sixty street in the east of the capital Khartoum, on June 30, 2020.  ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP
Sudanese demonstrators gesture as they chant during a protest on Sixty street in the east of the capital Khartoum, on June 30, 2020. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

Hundreds of Sudanese held a protest Friday in the Central Darfur state calling on the government to secure their properties following recent incidents of killings and looting, witnesses said.

Last week, unidentified armed men killed three farmers near the town of Nertiti in Central Darfur, triggering the ire of residents who long complained of lack of security in the area.

“We have been here for four days and we will continue our protest until our demands are met,” protester Adam Haroun told AFP on Friday at a sit-in outside a government office in Nertiti.

Mohamed Eissa, another protester, slammed the inaction of security forces saying “they are not carrying out their role to protect the area from gangs”.

Later on Friday, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said a government delegation from Khartoum will visit the region to address the demands of the protesters.

“The demands of our people in Nertiti in Central Darfur are fair and well deserved,” the premier wrote on Twitter.

Darfur was the scene of a bitter conflict that broke out in 2003 between African minority rebels, complaining of marginalisation, and government forces under ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the United Nations.

Bashir was ousted in April 2019 by the military following months of mass protests against his rule, triggered mainly by economic hardship.

He is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court over charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

 

AFP

Inflation Soars To 99% In Sudan As Food Prices Rise

A kitchen worker prepares hot meals at Thava Indian restaurant, at The Gardens, for the daily food distribution in an informal settlement in Tembisa, Johannesburg, on April 24, 2020.  Luca Sola / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A kitchen worker prepares hot meals at Thava Indian restaurant, at The Gardens, for the daily food distribution in an informal settlement in Tembisa, Johannesburg, on April 24, 2020. Luca Sola / AFP

 

Inflation in Sudan jumped to 99 percent because of rising food prices, official figures showed Saturday, more than a year after the country was rocked by protests sparked by bread price hikes.

The inflation rate in April shot up from 82 percent the previous month due to increased prices of grains, meat, milk and bread, according to the Sudanese Central Bureau of Statistics.

Despite Sudan’s political transition, which has raised hopes of more reforms, the economy remains in deep crisis.

Soaring inflation, a scarcity of foreign currency and a huge public debt are among the country’s most pressing challenges.

Many in Sudan still have to queue for hours to buy bread.

A tripling of the price of bread was the trigger for the first street protests against long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir in December 2018.

The mass demonstrations went on for months before the army deposed Bashir on April 11, 2019.

Last month, Sudanese authorities announced an increase in bread prices, meaning one Sudanese pound (about two US cents) now buys only a 50-gram loaf of bread, compared to one weighing 70 grams previously.

Sudan Announces First Covid-19 Case As Man Dies

 

Sudan announced on Friday its first case of the novel coronavirus following the death of a 50-year-old man the night before.

The Sudanese citizen had recently been in the United Arab Emirates, the health ministry said in a statement, without providing further details.

Dozens of COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the UAE.

Sudan on Thursday announced a series of measures against the novel coronavirus.

It closed its land border with Egypt and suspended flights from China, Iran, Italy, Spain, Japan and Egypt, a government statement said.

Sudan would stop granting visas to nationals of those countries and Sudanese were advised not to travel to them.

Mass gatherings have been discouraged, and the government has asked the health ministry and military medical services to prepare quarantine centres.

 

AFP

Sudan PM Escapes Assassination

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 4, 2019 shows Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok smiling during a meeting at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC during an official visit to the United States.  JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived unharmed an assassination attempt using explosives in the capital Khartoum Monday, said his top aide.

“An explosion hit as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s car was driving by but thank God no one was hurt,” said Ali Bakhit, his office director.

A cabinet official also confirmed to AFP that Hamdok had escaped an attack.

Images on state television showed at least two damaged vehicles at the site of the blast in the Kober district, northeast of the centre of Khartoum.

State TV reported that Hamdok’s convoy was targeted but was currently “well and has been taken to a safe place”.

The area was quickly cordoned off by the police.

State-run radio Omdurman meanwhile reported that automatic weapons were also used in the attack and that Hamdok was taken “to a hospital”.

AFP

Grenade Blast Kills Five At Sudan Wedding

 

A grenade detonated by a member of Sudan’s security forces at a wedding party in the capital Khartoum killed himself and four other people, police said late Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the detonation in the impoverished east Khartoum district of Haj Youssef was accidental or deliberate.

The health ministry said 40 people attending the marriage were also injured.

The security situation in the capital remains fragile after last year’s uprising that led to the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April following months of protests against his rule.

AFP

Four Children Among 18 Killed In Sudan Military Plane Crash

 

Four children were among 18 people killed Thursday when a Sudanese military transport plane crashed after takeoff from West Darfur state, an army spokesman said.

The plane crashed five minutes after takeoff from an airport in the state capital El Geneina, after delivering aid to the area, which had been hit by recent deadly tribal fighting.

“An Antonov 12 military plane crashed Thursday night after take off from El Geneina killing its seven-member crew, three judges and eight civilians, including four children, who were on board,” the spokesman Amer Mohammed Al-Hassan said.

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He said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the crash.

Most of Sudan’s military and civilian fleet consists of old Soviet-made aircraft, and the country has suffered a series of crashes in recent years, with the military frequently blaming technical problems and bad weather.

Earlier a military source told AFP the plane had delivered aid to West Darfur which was rocked earlier this week by deadly tribal clashes.

At least 48 people have been killed and 241 wounded in that violence, according to Sudan’s Red Crescent.

It said the armed clashes broke out on Sunday night in El Geneina, and continued until Monday between Arab and African groups, with several houses torched.

AFP

Sudan Sentences 29 To Death Over Teacher’s Killing

 

A Sudanese court on Monday sentenced 27 intelligence agents to death for torturing and killing a protester early this year, an AFP correspondent said.

It is the first time members of the security forces have been condemned to death in relation to the killing of protesters whose movement toppled veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The defendants were found guilty of torturing to death Ahmed al-Kheir Awadh at an intelligence services facility and sentenced to be hanged, judge Sadok Albdelrahman said.

The teacher was beaten and tortured to death after he was arrested in late January by intelligence operatives in Kassala state in eastern Sudan, the judge said.

Dozens of protesters from the capital’s teachers’ association gathered in front of the court in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, carrying pictures of Awadh.

Defence lawyers have two weeks to lodge an appeal against the death sentences.

Sudanese first took to the streets just over a year ago, to protest against high bread prices, but the demonstrations soon turned into demands for Bashir to step down.

The president was deposed in April by the military, but huge protests continued, culminating in a compromise that saw a joint military-civilian transitional council formed in August.

At least 177 people were killed in repression of the months-long protests, according to rights group Amnesty International, while a doctors’ committee close to the protest movement put the toll at over 250.

Many of those killed were the victims of a June 3 massacre outside army headquarters in Khartoum, perpetrated by men in military fatigues.

On the first anniversary of the protests, thousands of Sudanese citizens earlier this month took to the streets of Khartoum and other cities, in order to pay their respects to the “martyrs of the revolution”.

Bashir was on December 14 sentenced to two years in an elderly offenders’ institution after being convicted in a corruption case.

The former president faces numerous other domestic probes, and he has long been wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes, including genocide, related to the conflict in Darfur.

The transitional administration inherited an enfeebled economy, which was battered by years of US sanctions under Bashir, patronage and the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011.

The first post-Bashir budget was unveiled by the government late Sunday. It envisages an increase in the deficit to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, up from 3.3 percent in 2019.

AFP

Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir In Key Dates

Sudan’s deposed military president Omar al-Bashir sits in a defendant’s cage during his corruption trial at a court in Khartoum on December 14, 2019.  AFP

 

Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, who on Saturday was ordered detained in a correctional centre for two years for corruption, ruled his country with an iron fist for 30 years before his ouster in April.

Here are some of his key dates.

– January 1, 1944: Born to a farming family in the village of Hosh Bannaga, north of Khartoum.

– 1973: A soldier from a young age, fights alongside the Egyptian army in the Arab-Israeli war.

– June 30, 1989: As brigade commander, seizes power in an Islamist-backed coup against the democratically elected government.

– 2003: Sends troops and militia to crush a rebellion in Darfur. The conflict claims more than 300,000 lives, according to the UN.

– 2009: The International Criminal Court issues a warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The following year it issues a warrant for genocide. He denies the charges.

– 2010: Elected president in the first multiparty vote since he took power, boycotted by the opposition. Re-elected in 2015.

– 2013: Deadly demonstrations against his government erupt after a petrol price hike.

– April 11, 2019: After four months of protests demanding he quit, Bashir is ousted by the military and detained.

– May 13, 2019: Charged over killings of protesters.

– August 19, 2019: Goes on trial for corruption.

– November 12, 2019: Charged with “plotting” the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

– December 14, 2019: Convicted of graft and “possession of foreign currency”, and ordered to serve two years in a correctional centre for the elderly.

AFP

Sudan’s Al-Bashir Sentenced To Two Years House Arrest For Corruption

FILES) In this file photo taken on August 31, 2019, Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appears in court in the capital Khartoum to face charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds.  AFP

 

A Sudanese court convicted deposed president Omar al-Bashir of graft on Saturday and sentenced him to two years’ house arrest in a social care facility. 

The charges stemmed from millions of dollars received by the toppled strongman from Saudi Arabia.

Bashir, who was deposed by the army in April after months of mass protests against his three-decade rule, appeared in court in a metal cage wearing a traditional white jalabiya and turban for the verdict.

He was convicted of “corruption” and “possession of foreign currency”, judge Al Sadiq Abdelrahman said, charges which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Instead the court, taking into account his age, ordered the 75-year-old to serve two years in a correctional centre for the elderly.

“Under the law, those who reached the age of 70 shall not serve jail terms,” the judge said.

Bashir will serve his sentence after the verdict has been reached in another case in which he is accused of ordering the killing of demonstrators during the protests that led to his ouster, the judge said.

The court also ordered the confiscation of 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) found at Bashir’s home.

The ex-president will appeal the verdict, said one of his lawyers, Ahmed Ibrahim.

Outside the court, several dozen Bashir supporters gathered chanting: “There is no god but God.”

Hundreds more holding banners reading “Down, down the government” marched in central Khartoum where there was a heavy security presence.

Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian and military sovereign council, which is tasked with overseeing a transition to civilian rule.

The authorities announced Saturday the dissolution of professional organisations put in place under Bashir — one of the demands of the protest movement that unseated him.

Saudi ‘donations’ 

Bashir admitted to having received a total of $90 million from Saudi leaders and the trial centred on the $25 million received from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Bashir said the money seized from his home came out of the $25 million.

The funds, he said, formed part of Sudan’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and were “not used for private interests but as donations”.

Bashir’s lawyer Mohamed al-Hassan had said before the verdict that the ex-president’s defence did not see the trial as a legal case, but as a “political” one.

The trial does not relate to charges Bashir faces at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Bashir has been wanted by the ICC for years for his role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against his Arab-dominated government which they accused of marginalising the region.

Human rights groups say Khartoum targeted suspected pro-rebel ethnic groups with a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The Darfur conflict left around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.

After Bashir was toppled, ICC prosecutors requested he stand trial for the killings in Darfur.

Army generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand him over.

But Sudan’s umbrella protest movement, which now has significant representation on a sovereign council that in August became the country’s highest executive authority — recently said it has no objection to his extradition.

Separately, on November 12, Sudanese authorities filed charges against Bashir and some of his aides for “plotting” the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

In May, Sudan’s attorney general said Bashir had been charged with the deaths of those killed during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to his ouster, without specifying when he would face trial.

AFP

 

US Picks Ambassador To Sudan For First Time In 23 Years

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (L), D-NY, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The United States said Wednesday it would name an ambassador to Sudan for the first time in 23 years as it welcomed the country’s new reformist civilian leader.

The United States hailed early steps taken by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to “break with the policies and practices of the previous regime,” which had tense relations with the West.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would appoint an ambassador to Khartoum, subject to Senate confirmation, and that Sudan would restore full-level representation in Washington.

“This is a historic step to strengthen our bilateral relationship,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

In an accompanying statement, Pompeo praised Hamdok’s civilian-led transitional government for launching “vast reforms.”

Hamdok has “demonstrated a commitment to peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, established a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protestors, and committed to holding democratic elections at the end of the 39-month transition period,” Pompeo said.

Hamdok, a British-educated former diplomat and UN official, is the first Sudanese leader to visit Washington since 1985.

However, he had a low-key welcome, meeting the State Department number-three, David Hale, as well as lawmakers. Both Pompeo and President Donald Trump were away on foreign travel.

Hamdok took charge in August after months of demonstrations led by young people that brought down veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir and then a military council that had tried to stay in power.

The protests were triggered by discontent over the high cost of bread and other economic concerns.

The United States had tense relation with Bashir, who took power in 1989 and embraced Islamism, including welcoming Al-Qaeda leader Osama in Laden.

In one legacy that still tarnishes relations, the United States classifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that the new government calls a severe impediment to foreign investment.

US officials, while voicing sympathy for Sudan’s appeals, say that removal of the designation is a legal process that will take time.

Tensions also soared over Bashir’s scorched-earth crackdown in the parched western region of Darfur, a campaign that the United States described as genocide as it urged prosecution of Bashir.

In a sign of the poor relations, the United States has been represented in Khartoum by a charge d’affaires rather than a full ambassador.

AFP

Corruption: Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir To Know Fate On Dec. 14

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses parliament in the capital Khartoum on April 1, 2019 in his first such speech since he imposed a state of emergency across the country on February 22. al-Bashir has since been ousted and is now on trial. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

The verdict in the corruption trial of Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir is to be delivered on December 14, a judge announced Saturday, as his supporters staged a  protest outside the court.

Bashir, who was overthrown by the army in April, has been on trial in a Khartoum court since August on charges of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds — offences that could land him behind bars for more than a decade.

Several hearings have been held, including one on Saturday, in the presence of the deposed leader who followed the proceedings from inside a metal cage.

“It has been decided that on December 14 a session will be held to deliver the verdict,” judge Sadeq Abdelrahman said.

Authorities seized 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) from Bashir’s home, Abdelrahman said at the start of the trial in August.

Bashir said at the time that the funds were the remainder of $25 million received from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The aid, he said, formed part of Sudan’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and were “not used for private interests but as donations”.

Several defence witnesses testified in court, some backing up Bashir’s account.

Against the backdrop of trial in Khartoum, calls have grown from global rights groups, activists and victims of the war in Darfur to transfer Bashir to The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

‘No, No to ICC’

Bashir is wanted by the ICC for his alleged role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003 as ethnic African rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region economically and politically.

Khartoum applied what rights groups say was a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The ICC has accused Bashir of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the vast western region of Darfur. He denies the charges.

About 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

On Saturday, dozens of Bashir’s supporters carrying his portraits held a protest outside the court, vowing to oppose any move by Sudan’s new authorities to hand him over to the ICC.

“We are with you. We will never betray you. No, no to ICC,” chanted the crowd as the former president was brought to the courthouse for the hearing.

“President Bashir represents the whole of Sudan. We have an independent judiciary and if any trials are to be held, they must be held here,” said demonstrator Mohamed Ali Daklai.

“We reject any outside or foreign tribunal. ICC is anyway a political court used by Western countries to pressure the weak.”

Bashir was ousted following nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.

The army generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand 75-year-old Bashir over to the ICC.

 

AFP