Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sudan Update: Merowe Dam Under Construction; SPLA to Rejoin Unity Government; US Envoy Resigns

Merowe Dam: Pearl of Nile in Sudan

News Article by XINHUA posted on December 24, 2007 at 22:47:21: EST (-5 GMT)

Khartoum, December 23, 2007 (XINHUA) — Alongside a highway on the top of a some 10-km long dam, there is a wide lake with different kinds of boats running on the blue water, attracting a great number of domestic and foreign tourists.

The dream for the Sudanese in Merowe in Northern Province is becoming reality as the Chinese-built multipurpose Merowe Dam project is foreseeing its completion in the near future.

Invited by the dam management group CCMD JV, a Xinhua team arrived in the dam construction site to see its progress.

The project, called by people as "Pearl of Nile," is a second dam built on the Nile River succeeding Aswan Dam of Egypt and the largest hydropower station under the construction both in Sudan and in Africa.

The dam, measuring 9.5 km by length and reaching a maximum height of 67 meters, is structured into a powerhouse and the main dam, which consists three types of sub-structure: a CFRD dam ( concrete-faced rockfill dam), ECRD dam that is built on riverbed with concrete cut-off-war embedded into bedrock for 4m and a concrete gravity dam.

With a reservoir capacity of 8.3 billion cubic meters and an irrigational extent reaching as far as over 400 km and covering an area of more than 66.67 hectares, the dam project can benefit more than 3 million local people.

Equipped with 10 generating units, the dam has a total installed capacity of 1.25 million kilowatt, two-fold of existing capacity in the whole country.

During a recent tour to Merowe, Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir affirmed that the lack of electricity would be solved when "the national project" of the Merowe dam is completed.

"In our aspiration to solving Sudan’s problems, we realized that one of the biggest problems we faced was power," the Sudanese president said, adding that "the amount of power currently being generated meets only a fraction of the requirements of the Sudanese people."

With a determination to construct a high-quality Merowe dam and set an exemplary profile for China’s hydropower in overseas construction, China’s SINOHYDRO Corporation and China International Water & Electric Corp. (CWE) won the awards of contracts for the project and formed the management group CCMD JV on May 20, 2003.

Despite a variety of formidable challenges encountered, the project was formally commenced by the end of November 2003.

The construction of main work started in early December 2003 and has achieved five milestones in succession: completion of first stage cofferdam on March 31, 2004; passing river flows through spillway on Nov. 30, 2005; second stage of river closure on Dec. 31, 2005; raising the entire dam water-front structure prior to flood season and laying a solid foundation for the final success of the project.

Meanwhile, CCMD JV has set up auxiliary facilities required for the execution of the dam project, including pontoon bridge, crushed aggregate sieving system, concrete batching plant, temporary power plant, integrated processing plant, mechanical workshop and laboratory, and Chinese and employer’s camps.

"When I came here in Merowe in the first batch of the construction team, there was nothing except barren land of desert and a nearby small but very backward village," a Chinese manager told Xinhua.

"But now you can see what a great change has taken place. I’m proud of being a member of the dam construction," he said, pointing at the main body of the dam and the powerhouse, which is near completion.

From his fingers, Xinhua correspondents saw that the Merowe Dam is demonstrating its new outlook with rapid progress as standing lofty above the world-renowned Nile River with a length extending for some 10 km.

According to CCMD JV, some 88 percent work of the dam construction has been over and the whole work is estimated to be completed at the end of next year.

More than 2000 Chinese staffs, along with the same number of Sudanese, have overcome adverse natural conditions and extremely shortage of resources by relying on their diligences and wisdom.

A China Hydropower City was built on the river side near the dam with full furnished camp facilities like accommodation, canteen, supermarket, hospital, swimming pool, basketball/tennis courts and club.

In early morning wind, Muslims were praying while others busy preparing for a get-together to enjoy their Eid al-Adha feast as CCMD JV allows a five-day vocation for the 2000 Sudanese employees to celebrate one of the most important holidays of the Islamic calendar.

"We Sudanese are eager to see the completion of the dam which will surely play a great role in our national construction and development because power is a key factor for economic production, " said Mohamed Hassan Elsheikh from the Dam Implementation Unit, the employer of Merowe project subordinate to Sudan Water Resource and Irrigation Ministry.

Calling Xinhua correspondents and other Chinese friends to take a picture with him on a newly-built bridge with Chinese assistance near the Merowe city, Elsheikh drew a bright future for local development.

Following the completion of this bridge and the dam highway, there is a connection of transport from Khartoum Port to other northern cities via Merowe, which is more convenient to link Sudan to Egypt’s Aswan, making a new tourist route between Sudan and Egypt, he said.

The Sudanese engineer, meanwhile, praised China for its sincere assistance and cooperation, saying that Sudan has benefit a lot from China’s real cooperation and assistance in recent years.

"We Sudanese can see great changes in economic and social development with the help of the Chinese, especially in oil, electricity and transport sectors," he said.

Sudan's SPLM to rejoin gov't after Christmas

News Article by XINHUA
posted on December 24, 2007 at 23:52:02: EST (-5 GMT)

KHARTOUM, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Sudanese First Vice President and Chairman of the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Salva Kiir Mayardit announced on Monday that ministers of the movement would rejoin the central government in Khartoum after the holiday of Christmas.

"The constitutional post holders from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) will resume their activities in the Government of National Unity immediately after the Christmas and the two partners had overcome the crisis," Mayardit said in an address to the Sudanese people on the occasion of the Christmas eve.

"There will never be a return to war," Mayardit said, adding that the two partners of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) had agreed to press ahead with the implementation of the agreement.

He called on the Sudanese citizens to show the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness and work together to boost peace that had been realized in the country, stressing the importance of unity of ranks for facing the challenges of development and realizing peace all over the country.

The SPLM, which signed the CPA with the government led by President Omer al-Bashir on Jan. 9, 2005, announced on Oct. 11 a suspension of the participation of its eight ministers in the government, accusing its peace partners of procrastination in implementing the agreement.

This is the most serious political crisis for the Sudanese Government of National Unity since it was established following the signing of the CPA.

Fighting breaks out on north-south Sudan border

News Article by REUTERS
posted on December 24, 2007 at 23:53:44: EST (-5 GMT)

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Militias supported by Khartoum's army have attacked southern Sudanese soldiers near the north-south border killing dozens of people, southern army officials said on Monday.

"Combined forces of the Murahaleen and the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) supported by elements of SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) attacked," said James Hoth, a major-general in the former rebel southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Hoth said the first fighting lasted for most of Saturday morning, after the armed group attacked an SPLA battalion on foot. "They were repulsed, (then) yesterday they attacked again. (Now) our people are expecting them to attack again."

Hoth said the SPLA believe the attack was due to local tensions. "Somebody told them that we have gone beyond the border; that we are in the north," said Hoth. "They told the Murahaleen that we will not allow people to go to the south."

The northern Sudanese Armed Forces denied they or the PDF took part in any attack.

"This is a tribal issue. The nomadic Misseriya tribe had confrontations with some members of the SPLA which then escalated into clashes," the army spokesman said.

The Murahaleen are drawn from northern nomadic tribes and access to southern pastures is vital for their cattle. Numbers of dead are not confirmed but SPLA spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol said soldiers at the scene told him 70 people had died.

"Many deaths. More than 20 on our side and more than 50 from the other side," said Kuol. The northern army spokesman said they had reports of two Misseriya killed and 11 from the SPLA.

Hoth told Reuters that although tension had been building along this border area, Saturday's attack had been a surprise.

The SPLA signed a peace deal with Khartoum in 2005, ending decades of north-south war that claimed 2 million lives. Northern militias, including the PDF and Murahaleen forces, were mobilized by Khartoum in the south to support its war efforts.

Under the deal armed groups had to join either the northern or southern army.

The fighting follows a political crisis that threatened the 2005 peace deal.

The former southern rebels walked out of the national coalition government in October accusing the northern National Congress Party of not implementing key parts of the deal, including demarcating the north-south border where many of Sudan's oil fields lie.

In November Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir called for the PDF to rearm, a move that sparked concern from the SPLA.

The former rebels have said they planned to rejoin government on December 27 after weeks of talks.

The north-south conflict, which forced at least 4 million people to flee their homes, was Africa's longest.

US Special Envoy to Sudan Resigns

By Matthew Lee
The Associated Press
Friday 21 December 2007

Washington - President Bush's special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, resigned Friday and was replaced by a former U.S. diplomat to the United Nations amid questions about the administration's policies toward the vast African nation.

Also Friday, the State Department's top diplomat for refugee crises announced her imminent departure. Ellen Sauerbrey, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, who has been criticized for the handling of Iraqi refugee admissions, said she would be leaving the post soon.

By law, Sauerbrey, a former Republican politician whom Bush named as a "recess appointment," bypassing a tough fight for Senate confirmation, cannot stay in the position after Congress returns in mid-January from its holiday break unless she is re-nominated and confirmed.

"It has been a great privilege," she said in a farewell e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

Natsios, the Sudan envoy, had overseen the administration's push to end the violence that the United States calls genocide in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region and worked to maintain a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.

The White House announced that Natsios, a former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, would step down after just over a year on the job, during which officials said he was frequently frustrated by internal bureaucratic battles in Washington over the direction of Sudan policy.

"The president is grateful for Andrew's service to the administration and for his dedication to the cause of peace in Sudan," Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. "He has served admirably in this position."

Natsios, who will return to academia, is to be replaced by Richard "Rich" Williamson, an attorney, former ambassador and senior Republican party official in Illinois, who is close to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, the statement said.

"The United States continues to lead international efforts to deploy a large and effective peacekeeping force to Darfur, and implement the north-south peace agreement, while providing for the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations across Sudan," it said. "The president ... is deeply grateful for Ambassador Williamson's willingness to help work for peace throughout Sudan."

Several officials and Darfur observers said he had been frustrated by bureaucratic infighting within the administration over Sudan policy and recently informed Bush and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten of his intention to resign. Others noted he had accepted the job for a one-year tour.

In addition, since Natsios was appointed to the position in September 2006 he has had to deal with intransigence on the part of both the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels in negotiating the deployment of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.

In a conference call with reporters, Natsios did not dispute there had been internal debates but said he had told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September that he would have to leave the job by the end of the year due to teaching commitments at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

He also warned that the shaky north-south peace agreement could unravel, shattering chances for a settlement in Darfur and splintering Sudan into a collection of warring regional entities.

After news of the resignation became public, Darfur advocates called for the White House to appoint a full-time envoy to deal with the crisis that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million since 2003, when the region's ethnic African rebels began fighting the Arab-dominated Sudanese government and its militia allies.

"The president should appoint a full-time envoy answering directly to him, and end the crippling turf battles once and for all," said John Prendergast, co-chair of the Enough Project, which fights genocide and crimes against humanity, and a board member of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Prendergast said Williamson is a "hard-nosed negotiator" who cares deeply about the plight of the Sudanese people and might be more able than Natsios to break through the bureaucracy to make a mark on Sudan policy.

Earlier this week, Congress passed legislation that would allow states, localities and private investors in the United States to cut their investment ties with Sudan.

The legislation adds to sanctions already in place that are meant to pressure against the Khartoum government into ending the violence in Darfur region of the country, but the Bush administration has expressed concerns about Congress authorizing state and local divestment policies in the foreign policy arena.

Bush, however, is expected to sign the bill.

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