Sunday, March 2, 2014

US to withdraw military aid to S. Sudan as tension escalates

Saturday 1 March 2014

US to withdraw military aid to S. Sudan as tension escalates

February 28, 2014 (JUBA) - The United States has reportedly taken a decision to withhold its military aid to war-torn South Sudan, despite officials in the new nation saying it had not been notified about the new development.
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A U.S. Special Forces trainer supervises a military assault drill for a SPLA unit conducted in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio November 29, 2013. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
The spokesperson of South Sudan’s foreign affairs ministry told Sudan Tribune on Friday that it has not received any official communication from the US or its affiliated financial institution about reports that the latter had decided to withhold military aid to the conflict-ridden East African nation.
"There is no official communication that I know from the government of the United States notifying the government of the Republic of South Sudan about its decision to withhold any assistance," said Mawien Makol.
The official was reacting to reports that President Barak Obama’s administration had decided to withhold military aid to the new nation and transfer some of that money to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in support of the ceasefire monitoring efforts.
Several officials and activists as well as experts on South Sudan and Sudan testified on Wednesday before the congress that the current developing political and security situation in the two countries require immediate attentions and actions through strong engagements.
Ambassador Donald Booth declared in testimony to a House of Representatives panel that "business as usual" must cease in the case of strife-torn South Sudan.
"As one sign of this", he said, “I would note that our security assistance to South Sudan is not going forward at this time, and that some of it is being re-programmed to support the regional verification mission."
The top US envoy did not, however, specify the amount of US funding being transferred to the ceasefire monitoring and verification initiative being carried out by IGAD, a regional bloc that consists of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia as its seven founding members. Eritrea was admitted in 1993, but was suspended in 2007.
South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, became an IGAD member the same year it joined the United Nations and African Union bodies.
The envoy also did not indicate how much funding for South Sudan’s army and police is being withheld by the US, though the research arm of the US Congress notes that aid to South Sudan’s security sector has totaled more than $300 million during the past 10 years.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Ambassador Booth criticised the performance of South Sudan government, pointing out authorities in Juba "attempted to contain inter-communal violence without fully committing to the hard work of addressing its causes, which include trauma from decades of war, economic disparity, historical grievances between communities, human rights abuses, and political grievances due to real or perceived under-representation."
"On top of this", Booth noted, "the government had also progressively reduced the space for political competition, within and outside the ruling party, and for independent media and civil society voices to be heard.”
He endorsed the efforts by IIGAD, which is presently mediating the talks between the government and the rebels, who defected in mid-December, to try to resolve the conflict in the youngest nation.
"Their premise, one with which I agree, is that the government must not be given the space to return to business as usual with a quick fix and political accommodations for the main protagonists, for the simple reason that this will not bring about a sustainable peace".
Meanwhile, John Prendergast, a leading US human and civil rights activist, also testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on the developing situation Sudan and South Sudan.
Prendergast is a Co-founder of the Enough Project, an advocacy group which aims to prevent, war and crimes against humanity as well as genocide. He told the hearing that mass atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in both countries under the cover of war.
"Although the headlines for the last two months have been dominated by conflagration in South Sudan, conditions in Sudan’s Darfur region have deteriorated, and the [Sudanese] government’s bombing campaigns have intensified in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile", he said.
"The potential for a complete interruption in oil production threatens economies in both countries with implosion and bankruptcy. Conflict has interrupted the planting season, and with the rainy season fast approaching, humanitarian crises are spiraling out of control in both countries," added the activist.
Prendergast argued the US government to consider targeted sanctions as one instrument to create some accountability for the commission of war crimes and undermining of peace efforts.
"The African Union has already put targeted sanctions on the table for South Sudan, and the US should do so as well. If the UN Security Council is not amenable to utilizing this tool, the US should work with interested countries to deploy them in coalition with others”, he said.
Prendergast visited the South Sudanese capital, Juba and Bor one of the areas most affected by the conflict at the beginning of February.
US rights activist Prendergast in South Sudan


Friday 28 February 2014

Turkey seeking strategic relations with Sudan: official

February 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Emrullah Isler announced on Thursday that his Ankara is moving towards the establishment of strategic relationships with Sudan in the coming months and pledged his country’s full support for all efforts aimed at achieving peace and stability in the East African nation.
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Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Emrullah Isler (Turkish Govt website)
Isler said , in a speech at a ceremony in Khartoum to celebrate the official inauguration of a Turkish-funded hospital in South Darfur capital city of Nyala that Ankara attaches great importance to the achievement of peace and prosperity in Sudan.
He noted that Turkey is positively monitoring peace and supporting negotiations in Sudan adding that his country used to undertake an isolationist policy in the past but is now pursuing a policy of openness with all world countries especially Africa .
The Turkish official underscored the continuation of their support to Sudan in economic, agricultural, trade and cultural fields.
Sudan’s 2nd Vice President of Sudan Hassabo Mohammed Abdul-Rahman for his part emphasized the presidency ’s commitment to remove all obstacles facing investments between Sudan and Turkey on the basis of Khartoum’s keenness to establish external relations for mutual benefits with other countries.
"We seek to work a strategic relationship with the state of Turkey, especially in the field of investments in diverse natural resources in Sudan ," Abdul-Rahman said.
He disclosed that they will soon sign new agreements with Turkey in the fields of economic, agricultural, social security and voluntary work .
The VP also praised the work of the Joint Ministerial Commission in enforcing the agreements signed, valuing the exchange of expertise between the two sides.
The Turkey-based Anadolu Agency said that the 11,000-square-meter Sudan-Turkey Training and Research Hospital funded by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) contains 31 polyclinics.
The hospital also has biochemistry, microbiology and pathology laboratories, as well as a blood bank and radiology center.
The radiology center is equipped with advanced imaging devices, including two conventional MR machines –one for mammography and one for tomography – and five for ultrasound treatment.
The ministries of health in both countries inked an operations deal last year to run the hospital jointly for five years. It will also provide training for 50 Sudanese health workers each year.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was supposed to visit Sudan since 2012 to inaugurate the hospital but his trip kept getting postponed for unknown reasons.


Home | News     Wednesday 26 February 2014

Israel begins deporting Sudanese, Eritrean asylum seekers: reports

February 25, 2014 (KAMPALA) - Israel has begun deporting African asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea to Uganda, according to reports by an Israeli news outlet.
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Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa protested in Tel Aviv in January, calling for changes to Israel’s policies on asylum seekers (Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Quoting senior government officials, Haaretz reported that over the past months dozens asylum seekers had either left or agreed to leave Israel for Uganda.
The state does not forcefully deport citizens of Eritrea due to the danger they face in their repressive home country known as the North Korea of Africa, and in the absence of diplomatic relations with Sudan the country is also unable to facilitate deportations of Sudanese nationals there.
However, the government has upped its monetary incentive to Africans to leave under its “voluntary departure” scheme from $1,500 to $3,500.
Eritreans Sudanese are among the largest migrant group, accounting for 80% of the 53,646 asylum seekers from Africa in Israel.
Last June, it emerged Israel’s High Court of Justice had reached an arrangement with an unnamed third country that would agree to accept asylum seekers from Africa.
At the time, the state refused to discuss the arrangement, while the Ugandan government denied the existence of such an agreement.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper said Uganda agreed to the deal in exchange for agricultural technology and arms.
Israel has been reluctant to grant asylum-seekers legal standing within its borders amid fears it would spark a fresh exodus of migrants. The government continues to exert strong pressure on migrants to leave voluntarily by either stalling their claims or keeping them in indefinite detention.
Human rights and advocacy groups say Israel’s actions represent a clear violation of international refugee conventions.
The director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Reut Michaeli, told Haartz last week that as far as her organisation is aware, asylum seekers sent to Uganda will not receive legal status or be issued with documents allowing them to leave if they want to.
However, ongoing uncertainty about their future and the hard conditions at Saharonim and the Holot detention facility, where many asylum seekers are incarcerated means many are electing to leave.
According to government figures, 2,612 migrants from Africa left Israel in 2013 as part of its voluntary departure process. Of those, 1,955 were from Eritrea and Sudan.
There is growing disquiet among asylum seekers themselves in Israel. Earlier this year, hundreds of asylum seekers began a protest march from the Holot detention centre in the desert to Tel Aviv, calling for the release of all the detainees and asking that their asylum applications be processed.
That was followed by a mass rallies in Tel Aviv, in which tens of thousands of African asylum seekers went on strike in protest against Israel’s migration policies, causing widespread disruption to businesses.
In a rare public statement issued during the protests, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) criticised Israel’s policy on African migrants, calling on the government to seek alternatives to its current system of “warehousing” asylum seekers in detention facilities.
The agency also singled out the partial, temporary protection orders granted to asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea for particular criticism, saying the refugee recognition rates of nationals from both countries stood at 70% in other countries.
Israel has granted refugee status to just over 200 applicants since the country was founded in 1948. From 2009 and 2012, when the government took over the assessment of asylum claims from the UN, only 20 claims were approved from the 10,800 submitted. In 2013, Israel examined just 250 out of 1,800 asylum requests and approved none, according to Haaretz.
Meanwhile, Israel’s interior ministry announcedin January that dozens of asylum-seekers, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, had been voluntarily transferred to Sweden, although it later emerged the arrangement was in fact struck following a special request by the UNHCR.
Over the years thousands of African migrants have arrived in Israel on foot after fleeing persecution and oppression in their homeland. Many Eritrean asylum seekers are victims of rape and torture and have survived harrowing ordeals having been trafficked from Sudan to Egypt before escaping to Israel across the Sinai desert.
However, the influx of African migrants has sparked tensions in Israel, with locals blaming them for rising crime levels and altering the Jewish identity of some areas.
A five-metre-high fence constructed by Israel to curb the flow of African migrants was completed in December and has reduced the number of people crossing illegally from 10,000 in 2012 to fewer than 45 last year.
There are reports that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) cross into the Sinai to deteralso potential asylum seekers before they even reach the border.


UN gunships strike Ugandan Muslim rebels in DR Congo

March 1st 2014 at 6.36 p.m.

1 hour ago

This photo taken on May 29, 2013, shows a United Nations peacekeeping mission helicopter flying over a UN basecamp in Goma
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This photo taken on May 29, 2013, shows a United Nations peacekeeping mission helicopter flying over a UN basecamp in Goma (AF

Kinshasa (AFP) - UN gunships targeted a base of the Ugandan Muslim rebel group ADF-Nalu in the eastern DR Congo for the first time Saturday, the UN force said.
The Congolese army had in recent weeks taken the lead in the drive to root out ADF-Nalu, one of the oldest but lesser known armed organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A statement from MONUSCO, the UN mission in the country, said two attack helicopters struck an ADF base northeast of Beni at 1255 GMT.
Beni is a remote town in North Kivu, a restive resource-rich province that borders Rwanda and Uganda.
"This operation, conducted with great precision, helps achieve a clear goal: bringing an end to ADF's recent attacks against the civilian population," said MONUSCO chief Martin Kobler, quoted in the statement.
The FARDC regular army launched its offensive against ADF-Nalu on January 16 and announced in mid-February that it had inflicted severe losses on the rebels.
Backed by a newly-formed UN intervention brigade with an unprecedented offensive mandate, the Congolese army notched up a rare military victory against the M-23 Tutsi rebel group.
The ADF-Nalu was next on the list.
MONUSCO has vowed to help Kinshasa rid the region of the myriad rebel groups running amok in one of the continent's most impenetrable regions.
ADF-Nalu stands for Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda. It is one of the oldest but lesser known rebellions based in North-Kivu and is considered the only Islamist organisation in the region.
The Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group said in a report last year the rebel group had "shown remarkable resilience attributable to its geostrategic position, its successful integration into the cross-border economy and corruption in the security forces".
ADF-Nalu is led by Jamil Mukulu, a Christian convert to Islam, and has never really managed to take its fight against Yoweri Museveni's regime to Uganda.
Some observers have voiced concern that it could become a link in the growing network of radical Islamist groups in East Africa.

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