Six political prisoners have been freed, after President Omar al-Bashir ordered all political detainees to be released.
The release took place on Tuesday. Most of those freed are believed to have been held for more than two months at the Kober Prison in the capital Khartoum in connection with a conference in Uganda.
The conference held in January released a charter for using both armed and peaceful means to end the president’s 24-year rule.
“We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues,” said Bashir.
Meanwhile, the opposition headed by Farouk Abu Issa has said that Bashir’s move to release the political detainees is a step toward genuine talk.
Vice President Ali Osman Taha made an offer last week to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels and opposition political parties to partake in a constitutional dialogue.
The country is in need of a new constitution to replace the 2005 document, which was based on a peace agreement that ended the country’s 23-year civil war.
The peace agreement also led to the country’s splitting up in July of 2011, causing South Sudan to become an independent nation.
- Bashir to release political prisoners (morningstaronline.co.uk)
KHARTOUM – The speaker of the Sudanese parliament, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Tahir, declared on Thursday that the Israeli attack on Al-Yarmook arms factory will not deter his country from continuing its support to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
During an emergency meeting of the parliament’s affairs committee in the capital Khartoum, Al-Tahir stressed that the “Israeli aggression” will not prevent Sudan from fulfilling its duties towards the causes of the Arab and African people.
“If Israel is targeting Sudan because of its stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance, then Sudan will continue down that road as dictated by the religion, history and fate it shares with the Palestinian people” he added.
Israel neither denied nor confirmed responsibility for the airstrike that Sudan says caused the destruction of AL-Yarmook military factory in the capital Khartoum on midnight of Tuesday, 23 October. But it is known that the Jewish state sees the Muslim east African country as an ally of its arch enemy Iran as well as a conduit for arms smuggling activities toward the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Al-Tahir warned that by this attack Israel has rendered itself in “a state of war” with Sudan and that the latter will respond in kind. The parliament later issued a statement condemning Israel for “using high-tech to execute a criminal deed that violated all laws”
For its part, Hamas issued a statement on Thursday condemning the alleged Israeli attack saying it proves that Tel Aviv “continues to violate international laws and international norms, and to exercise state terrorism not only against Palestinian people.” The statement reiterated Hamas’s support to the people and government of Sudan, and praised their backing of Palestinian people and their rights.
In a related development, Sudanese authorities alleged on Thursday that the attack, which Khartoum says was executed by four fighter jets that used high-technology to jam the country’s radars and violated its airspace, could have had worse effects if it was not for their quick response.
The commissioner of Khartoum State, Omer Nimir, said that the competent authorities managed to contain the damage inflicted on the factory and defuse many bombs before they explode.
Meanwhile, Sudanese officials continue to fulminate against the attack which Khartoum also alleges killed two people.
Sudan President Omer Al-Bashir, in a speech before the emergency meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday, accused Israel of targeting Sudan because of its position against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
He also said that the attack’s aim was to weaken Sudan’s defense capabilities and stop its progress in the field of military production.
Sudan claims the factory was only used for the production of light weapons. The country’s media minister Ahmad Bilal Osman said on Wednesday that Israel attacked the factory based upon false intelligence that it was being used for the production of nuclear arms.
A Sudanese opposition daily was shut down in 2010 after it published a report alleging that a military factory in Khartoum was being used to manufacture and supply arms to Hamas, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Al-Shabab in Somalia. Sudan and Iran signed a military cooperation agreement in 2008.
Al-Yarmook is affiliated to Sudan’s Military Industry Corporation (MIC) whose website says it also runs two other military factories, both located in Khartoum. MIC claims its products conform to the international civil and military standards.
The Sudanese president acknowledged that Sudan will not be able to import defense systems to prevent jamming of its radars or counter the high technology with which the attack was carried out. He however said that the only hope is to continue their reliance on “local minds” and support of scientific research in order to reach high military technology.
Al-Bashir promised that the authorities will compensate the citizens who lost properties as a result of the attack, and lauded the joint stand of Sudanese people against the attack that targeted their gains and those of the country as a whole.
Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha told a gathering of supporters in front of the cabinet building in Khartoum following Wednesday’s meeting that “it’s time for this state [Israel] be put in her place”
The leadership bureau of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) also held an emergency meeting that lasted until the early hours of Thursday under the chairmanship of President Omer Al-Bashir.
Following the meeting, the NCP issued a statement urging world powers and friendly states to condemn the attack in the strongest terms and apply international law against the perpetrators.
The statement maintained that Sudan reserves the right to respond to the attack and called on the government to wage an international outreach campaign to condemn it.
- Israeli official: Sudan a “dangerous terrorist state” (Al Akhbar)
- Israel strikes Sudan military facility: minister (Aletho News)
KHARTOUM – Malawi has been forced to cancel hosting of an African Union (AU) summit next month after the continental body insisted that the South African nation allows Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir to attend.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly masterminded in his country’s western region of Darfur.
Malawi, which is a member state of the Hague-based tribunal, asked the AU in May not to invite Al-Bashir to the summit, citing fears of economic consequences after the country was denied $350 million in US aid money over reasons including its decision to host the Sudanese leader at a regional summit in the capital Lilongwe last year.
Kachali Khumbo, Malawi’s Vice-President, said on Friday that his country had received a letter from the AU saying that it had no right to dictate who can attend the summit.
According to Khumbo, the letter stated that the summit would be moved to the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa if Lilongwe insists on barring Al-Bashir.
As a result, “the [Malawian] cabinet has decided not to host the summit” he declared.
Khumbo contended that “much as Malawi has obligations to the AU, it has also other obligations.”
Sudan has already protested Malawi’s refusal to host Al-Bashir and on Thursday demanded that the summit be moved to Addis Ababa.
The AU has issued several resolutions ordering its members not to cooperate with the ICC regarding Bashir’s warrant.
Already countries such as Malawi, Kenya, Chad and Djibouti have allowed Bashir to visit without arresting him though the first two later refused to receive him again.
WASHINGTON – A congressional committee in the United States House of Representatives voted to cut off aid to any state that hosts Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in Darfur war crimes.
The amendment to the fiscal year 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill was pushed for by Frank Wolf who is one of Bashir’s most vocal critics.
“Women are being abused and killed for the color of their skin,” Wolf shouted according to ’The Hill’ website.
“This is a moral issue,” he added and threatened to send gruesome videos of violence in Sudan to any committee member who voted down the amendment.
“One lady she pinched her skin and said, ’I’m black. Get Bashir!’ ” the US Republican lawmaker said.
Wolf’s office released his prepared remarks in support of this provision which he said is necessary to further American interests.
“In a time when the foreign affairs budget is being squeezed, I believe our assistance should be a direct reflection of American values and priorities,” he said.
“Surely we can all agree that bringing a war criminal to justice is in our national interest. Leveraging our foreign assistance in this way sends a powerful message,” Wolf added.
The approval of the amendment does not guarantee that it will be included in the final appropriations bill especially as the Democrat-controlled Senate will produce its own version which will later have to be reconciled with the House version and voted on.
The issue has already drawn concern by some of Wolf’s peers in light of its implications on US foreign policy.
“We all agree that the situation in Sudan is deplorable, that President Bashir must be held accountable for his crimes,” Democratic Representative Nita Lowey said.
She noted that Bashir has visited many countries including Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Chad, Malawi, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“My colleague’s amendment would cut off US funding to all of these countries, some of them strategic allies,” had it already been in effect when the visits were made, Lowey said.
Last March, the US announced that it is suspending $350 million allocated to Malawi through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) citing reasons which included receiving Bashir last year.
This month Malawi’s new president Joyce Banda asked the African Union (AU) not to invite Bashir to this year’s summit hosted by her country for fear of its implications on aid Malawi receives.
The Sudanese president denies the ICC charges and refuses to recognise the jurisdiction of the court which he denigrates as a tool of neo-colonialism by the West.
- US suspends aid to Malawi over governance and receiving Sudanese president (alethonews.wordpress.com)
KHARTOUM – A senior Sudanese official has accused Western countries of waging an economic war against his country and aiding neighbouring South Sudan in its alleged support of Sudanese rebels.
Nafie Ali Nafie, a Sudanese presidential assistant, said while addressing a rally in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday that the West is aware that “the rebels and mercenaries” had destroyed oil facilities in the Heglig area which was captured by South Sudan’s army last week.
“They [Western countries] believe this could weaken the Sudanese economy” he said before adding that the government knows how to run the battle and organise its priorities.
Heglig, which produces half of Sudan’s daily oil production of 115,000 barrels a day, was occupied by South Sudan’s army last week in the most dangerous escalation of military confrontations between the two neighbours since the south gained independence last year.
In his speech, Nafie said that Sudan must talk to its friends in the international arena in order to prevent Western countries from supporting Sudanese rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) via the UN.
His statement appears to be related to international efforts spearheaded by the US to allow aid groups to the country’s border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where Sudan’s army has been fighting SPLM-N rebels since last year.
Nafie went on to dismiss concerns that his government would use the war over Heglig as a pretext to increase repression of dissent but he put a caveat saying that Khartoum will not tolerate “traitors”
“There will be no curtailment of public liberties but traitors are entitled to no freedom” he declared.
Nafie further accused the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF), a rebel coalition including the SPLM-N, of occupying Heglig and then handing it over to the “enemy”, meaning South Sudan.
He described SRF’s supporters as “agents and traitors” and reiterated Khartoum’s commitment not to negotiate with South Sudan’s government.
He further sought to allay concerns that the government would terminate fuel subsidies against the background of losing Heglig’s oil, saying that such actions would only occur within calculated measures.
Sudan admitted this week that the loss of Heglig’s oil will affect government income but government officials said that plans have already been initiated to assimilate the deficit.
WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday revised down its forecast to Sudan’s economy to show a significant shrinkage in 2012.
According to the latest release of the World Economic Outlook (WEO), the East African nation achieved a -3.9% growth in 2011. The figure includes South Sudan only up until July 2011 when the country officially broke into two.
In 2012, Sudan’s economy will contract by -7.3% before improving in 2013 to -1.5% and to 1.7% in 2017.
The loss of oil-rich South Sudan last year meant that Sudan no longer has access to billions of dollars worth of crude reserves. Oil was the main source of foreign currency and revenues for Sudan prior to the country’s partition.
To make matters worse, South Sudan managed last week to take over one of Sudan’s major oilfields of Heglig in South Kordofan through a military occupation that took everyone by surprise. Analysts say that damages to the facilities in the area, which produces half Sudan’s oil, as a result of military operations means that production will not resume anytime soon.
Furthermore, landlocked South Sudan shut down its own roughly 350,000 barrels per day in January in a row over how much it should pay to export crude via Sudan. The latter has built in oil transit fees as part of its budget at the rate of $36 per barrel.
Khartoum has undertaken measures since last year in anticipation of the sharp curtailment in revenues. This includes cutting government spending, partially lifting subsidies and banning a wide range of imports to stop depletion of foreign currency reserves.
But nonetheless, food prices soared to unbearable levels for many citizens prompting limited demonstrations in the Sudanese capital last year. The exchange rate of the Sudanese pound also deteriorated to unprecedented levels amid sharp shortage in hard currency which further fueled price hikes.
The IMF projected consumer prices in Sudan to increase by 23.2% in 2012 and 26.0% in 2013, which is the highest in the Middle East region.
Sudan has turned to a number of friendly nations seeking help to shore up its budget deficits and boost its foreign currency reserves directly or through investments. So far only the Arab Gulf state of Qatar made a $2 billion pledge to assist in the form of buying Sudan government bonds and investments in several economic sectors.
Sudanese officials assert that their country will overcome the loss of oil revenue by exporting more gold and revamping the agricultural sector.
However, this week the Sudanese finance and national economy minister Ali Mahmood Abdel-Rasool said that the 2012 budget as it stands is unsustainable and needs to be amended.
The pro-government al-Rayaam newspaper reported that the Sudanese parliament is poised to approve a second round of lifting subsidies on fuel amid strong objections from the labour union.
- World demands South Sudan pullout of Heglig, end to Khartoum’s air raids (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- South Sudan playing into the hands of foreign states: Bashir (alethonews.wordpress.com)
KHARTOUM – A chorus of regional and international organizations reacted with concern on Thursday to heightened tension between Sudan and South Sudan following the latter’s takeover of Heglig area, urging Juba to withdraw troops and Khartoum to end aerial bombardment of southern territories.
The seizure on 11 April of Heglig oil-producing town by the army of South Sudan from Sudanese forces has created regional and international alarm as the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) strongly demanded that Juba pull out troops and Khartoum cease aerial bombardment.
South Sudan justified its occupation of Heglig, which officially lies in Sudan’s border state of South Kordofan, by saying it was responding to ground and aerial attacks launched by the Sudanese army inside southern territories.
Salva Kiir, the southern president, refused on Thursday refused to heed calls from the UN and AU for withdrawing his troops while his Sudanese counterpart Omer Al-Bashir accused South Sudan of seeking war and vowed to retake the town.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, the AU’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) held its 317 meeting on Thursday and received briefing on the military escalations along the borders between Sudan and South Sudan.
In an ensuing press release, the AUPSC expressed “deep concern” at the situation on the ground and strong disappointment over the failure of both sides to honor the agreements they signed during post-secession talks under the facilitation of AU mediators led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
The AUPSC also condemned in the strongest terms the actions taken by both sides over the last month, saying they “run contrary to all AU and international principles governing relations among sovereign states”
The council has struck a tough tone on South Sudan, describing its takeover of Heglig as “illegal and unacceptable”, citing the fact that the town lies north of the agreed borderline of 1956 between the two countries. It went on to demand the “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of South Sudan’s army from the area.
Similarly, although less intoned, the council demanded that Sudan put an end to its aerial bombardments in South Sudan.
The council also stressed that both sides should make every efforts to protect oil infrastructure in areas of conflict.
A continent away, meanwhile, the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a strongly-worded statement in which it expressed deep alarm over the escalating situation and demanded that both sides refrain from hostile activities.
Susan Rice, the US envoy to the council and its rotating president, on Thursday read out a statement saying that the 15 member council “demands a complete, immediate, and unconditional end to all fighting; withdrawal of the SPLA [South Sudan’s army] from Heglig; end to SAF [Sudan’s army] aerial bombardments; end to repeated incidents of cross-border violence between Sudan and South Sudan; and an end to support by both sides to proxies in the other country,”
The council also demanded that both sides redeploy their troops “10 kilometers” outside the 1956 borderline as well as outside the hotly contested region of Abyei, which has been occupied by Sudan since May 2010.
Furthermore, the council urged the two countries to “immediately establish” a safe demilitarized border zone and stick to a deal they signed last year on joint border monitoring.
The council also called on Al-Bashir and Kiir to “meet immediately” in order to compensate for a summit they were supposed to hold on 3 April but was cancelled by Khartoum following earlier fighting around Heglig.
In a press conference held in Geneva Thursday, the UN’s secretary-general Ban Ki-moon echoed similar concerns and urged both government to cease hostilities immediately and arrange for a summit between Al-Bashir and Kiir.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s UN ambassador, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, warned that his country would retaliate and strike deep into South Sudan if the latter does not comply with calls for withdrawal from Heglig.
“We in the government of Sudan, we will observe closely the behavior and attitude and the reaction of the government of the South for this call,” said Osman. “If they don’t heed it to this call, we will reserve our right to exercise the right of self-defense and we will chase them out; not only that, we will hit deep inside the south.”
His South Sudanese counterpart, Agnes Oswaha, told reporters in New York that her country supports UN calls for end of fighting and was prepared to negotiate with Khartoum.
However, she said that Juba would not order a withdrwal from Heglig unless a mechanism was put in place to guarantee the area could not be used to launch further attacks against South Sudan” and a neutral international force was deployed to the area until the neighbors reached a settlement on the disputed territory.
In Brussels, the European Union has also condemned South Sudan’s capture of Heglig and Sudan’s aerial bombardment of southern territories.
“The move by the South Sudanese armed forces to occupy Heglig is completely unacceptable. So is continued aerial bombardment of South Sudanese territory by the Sudan Armed Forces,” a spokesman for the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Thursday.
The EU’s foreign policy chief called on both sides “to cease hostilities, withdraw forces immediately and stop support of armed groups in the territory of each other”
- South Sudan playing into the hands of foreign states: Bashir (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has accused South Sudan of playing into the hands of foreigners by “choosing the path of war” as border tensions between the two neighbors keep escalating.
“Our brothers in South Sudan have chosen the path of war, implementing plans dictated by foreign parties who supported them during the civil war,” Bashir said on Thursday, referring to the country’s internal conflicts before South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July, 2011.
“War is not the interest of either South Sudan or Sudan but, unfortunately, our brothers in the South are thinking neither of the interests of Sudan or of South Sudan,” Bashir said.
The comments follow three days of heavy fighting between the two sides, in what some fear might lead to an all-out war.
Earlier on Thursday, Sudanese warplanes attacked a strategic bridge near the South Sudanese town of Bentiu.
On Tuesday, South Sudan seized the oil-producing border town of Heglig.
The take-over prompted Sudan to pull out of crisis talks led by the African Union. The talks aimed at resolving the protracted dispute with Juba over oil, border demarcation, contested areas and citizenship issues.
On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir threatened to seize the disputed oil region of Abyei on the border with Sudan if the United Nations failed to pressure Sudanese forces out of the area.
The African Union has expressed deep concern over the escalating security situation on the contested border, calling for a troop pullout from border zones and the resolution of the problem through peaceful means.
- South Sudan and Israel discuss bilateral cooperation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In March this year Frank S. Jannuzi was named Washington DC office head at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). Frank, a former staffer with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is Hitachi International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the most powerful foreign policy pressure group in the world. Over the years, CFR’s membership has included 22 US secretaries of state.
Those on CFR’s Board of Directors today include Robert E. Rubin, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton and special advisor to the Obama Administration; Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State who when on 60 Minutes was asked by Lesley Stahl on the effects of U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it”; Peter G. Peterson, of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who has been pushing for the destruction of Social Security for over ten years; and Penny Pritzker, Chairman and CEO of PSP Capital, who besides being one of Chicago’s wealthiest women is also on the Chicago School Board closing public schools in the poorest parts of the city.
These are names not typically associated with humanitarian causes.
In taking his new position Jannuzi is quoted on AIUSA’s website as saying: “I am thrilled to be joining Amnesty International and look forward to connecting the passion and expertise of AIUSA with the policy-making community in Washington that I know well.”
And how might that work?
In a CFR moderated discussion George Clooney discussed the plight of the Sudanese in the Nuba Mountains who are caught up in the country’s civil war. Not surprising the area includes a proposed pipeline route that will carry oil to a seaport in the north.
So George gets arrested on Friday March 16th, and on Monday the 19th AIUSA begins an email campaign calling for Sudanese President al-Bashir to be brought to justice with the banner: What was actor George Clooney doing in jail, while Sudan’s president and indicted war crimes suspect Omar al-Bashir runs free?
Interestingly, March 16th was the day AIUSA announced Jannuzi’s new position with the organization.
So is AIUSA, along with George Clooney and Hollywood in general, supporting the CFR in their effort to manage the American peoples’ perceptions of Africa for the purpose of furthering their government’s foreign policy objectives in the region?
Why does AIUSA mount campaigns focused on Africa – Kony 2012, Sudan’s al-Bashir, and the investigation of civilian deaths in Libya – but not promote similar campaigns within the borders of the US calling for the arrest of its known war criminals?
And why doesn’t AIUSA mount campaigns to stop US humanitarian crimes before they occur? The Iran war is the next human rights catastrophe that will be unleashed on the world, but AIUSA isn’t trying to stop it. Why not?
Are AIUSA’s commendable humanitarian efforts being used as a screen for the organization’s work in the service of the American empire?