Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sudan News Update: President Al-Bashir Threatens to Wage War in South Kordofan

Sudan President Al-Bashir threatens to wage war in South Kordofan, says Abyei will “remain northern”

April 27, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has reiterated claims that the contested oil-producing region of Abyei belongs to the north, and threatened to wage war in the border state of South Kordofan if the newly independent South Sudan opted for confrontation there.

Ownership of Abyei region is claimed by both north and south Sudan, which voted earlier this year to secede in a referendum promised under the 2005’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended nearly half a century of intermittent north-south civil wars.

Abyei’s status was supposed to be decided in a referendum vote in January, but north and south Sudan disagreed on whether members of the north-backed tribe of al-Messriya, whose nomads cross over to Abyei for a few months a year to graze their cattle, should be allowed to vote alongside the south-linked tribe of Dinka Ngok.

In an inflammatory speech he delivered on Tuesday, Al-Bashir laid stress on the north’s ownership of Abyei. "I say it and repeat it for the million times, Abyei is northern and will remain northern," he declared.

Meanwhile, a senior official from Al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has warned that the north would revoke its recognition of south Sudan’s independence if the latter claims ownership of Abyei in its constitution.

South Sudan lays claim to Abyei in its draft constitution, which is due to be adopted after the region officially gains independence in July.

Al-Dirdiri Ahmed, the NCP’s official in charge of Abyei dossier, told the pro-government website Sudan Media Center that his party rejects any mention of Abyei as located within the borders of South Sudan in the region’s draft constitution. He warned that his party would reconsider its recognition of South Sudan state if its new constitution states that Abyei is part of the south.

Al-Bashir, who was addressing a public rally in Al-Mujlad town in South Kordofan, where the NCP will vie in long-delayed gubernatorial and legislative elections due to be held on May 2, threatened that his party was ready to reignite war if the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls South Sudan, thinks of entering war in south Kordofan.

South Kordofan saw violent incidents ahead of the sensitive vote when the paramilitary Popular Defense Forces (PDF), allegedly backed by the NCP’s incumbent candidate in gubernatorial elections Ahmad Harun, attacked El-Feid earlier this month, killing 17 people and burning hundreds of houses.

Al-Bashir said that the SPLM would incur a great loss if it thinks of going back to the square of war in South Kordofan, warning that the movement must submit to the will of ballot boxes “or else boxes of bullets will decide the matter.”

President Al-Bashir and his candidate Ahmed Harun are both wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the background of atrocities committed during a government counterinsurgency campaign in the western region of Darfur, where an eight year conflict killed thousands of people and displaced millions.

Al-Bashir’s statements have sparked a response from the SPLM whose candidate in South Kordofan’s gubernatorial elections, Abdul Aziz Adam Al-Hilu, deplored Al-Bashir speech as a declaration of war.

“We condemn Al-Bashir’s Mujlad speech in which there was nothing but the language of war while we advocate peace,” Al-Hilu said in a press conference, adding that “the head of state who calls for, and preach, war should end Darfur war first.”

Al-Hilu said that his party had been warning the NCP against transforming South Kordofan State into a forefront of war against South Sudan and using the state’s people as fuel for this war.

The SPLM’s candidate went on to accuse the NCP of violating the elections law by engaging in fraudulent practices and using state-resources to support Harun’s electoral campaign, citing as an example the live-broadcasting of Harun’s speeches by the national T.V which is funded for by the Sudanese taxpayer.

South Kordofan’s election was postponed from April 2010 as the country held nationwide elections due to disagreements over the 2008 census and delimitation of geographic constituencies.

Under the CPA, the state is also due to hold popular consultations after the elections in order to decide whether the agreement has met the aspirations of its citizens and resolve any outstanding issues related to the agreement’s implementation.

Sudan ruling party says Gosh’s removal dictated by “internal consideration”

April 27, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – A Sudanese official on Wednesday broke the silence that shrouded this week’s dismissal of the presidential security adviser, Salah Gosh, denying speculations that the latter’s removal was caused by alleged power struggle within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Sudan former presidential security adviser Salah Gosh (FILE)In the first official comment on the removal of Gosh, presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Din told reporters on Wednesday that the security adviser was relieved from his position on account of what he termed as “internal consideration” without going into further details.

Ghazi went on to deny that the sacking of Gosh was an indication of escalated internal squabbles within the NCP. “Salah [Gosh] is an active person in the NCP and was so in all the positions he held, he will remain an active member of the party,” Ghazi added.

Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir on Tuesday issued a decree relieving Gosh from his duties as a presidential adviser for security affairs and director-general of the Presidential Security Advisory (PSA), few days after the security adviser was embroiled in a show of public bickering with the powerful presidential assistant and NCP’s vice-president Nafi Ali Nafi.

Nafi criticized in a radio interview on Friday the dialogue conducted by the PSA with opposition parties, and said it was not sanctioned by the NCP’s leadership, prompting Gosh to retort a day later with assertions that his dialogue enjoys approval by president Al-Bashir and Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha.

Gosh said that Nafi’s statement represents only himself and that his dialogue would not stop unless by direct orders from Al-Bashir.

North Sudan’s ruling party has been engaged in dialogue with two mainstream opposition parties, the National Umma Party of former Prime Minister Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Mohamed Osman al-Mirgahni. The dialogue comes at a time of tension in the domestic political arena due to worsening economic conditions manifested in rising food prices, shortage of foreign currency and rising inflation. Meanwhile, the opposition blames Al-Bashir’s government for failure to keep the unity of Sudan following the secession of the oil-producing south Sudan in a referendum in January.

A Sudanese daily reported this week that Al-Bashir convened a meeting on Sunday between Nafi and Gosh. However, the paper said its sources were not able to confirm the outcome of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Sudan Tribune sources revealed that president Al-Bashir had summoned his security adviser at a late hour on Tuesday and informed him of the decision to relieve from his position, adding that Gosh did not enter into debate with the president and rather said “I hear and obey” then dashed out of the presidential guesthouse in Khartoum.

Gosh confirmed to the pro-government Sudanese daily that he had indeed received a decree relieving him from his duties, but he declined to divulge further details or issue a reaction.

The controversy surrounding Gosh’s dismissal as a presidential adviser mirrors that of his surprise removal in August 2009 from the helm of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), over which presided since succeeding Nafi in 2004.

Darfur mediators hand draft peace agreement, urge Sudan and JEM to make progress

April 27, 2011 (DOHA/KHARTOUM) — Darfur mediator handed today as scheduled a draft peace agreement to the three Sudanese parties participating in the Doha talks to end the eight year conflict in Darfur region. They further called on the Sudanese government and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) make progress in the direct talks.

Al-Mahmoud and Bassole in a meeting with the sudanese parties in Doha (file photo QNA)Joint Chief Mediator, Djirbil Bassole, and Qatari state minister for foreign affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud, announced on 19 April that the draft will be followed by a general conference for Darfur stakeholders to take place on 18-23 May to debate on the content of the agreement.

Delegation from the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) nonetheless, failed to discuss effectively a number of issues and they are yet to agree on the agenda.

"The Mediation has today, Wednesday, 27April 2011, submitted a draft Darfur peace document to the heads of delegations participating in the Darfur peace process in Doha," said a statement put out by Al-Mahmoud and Bassole on Wednesday evening.

The mediation said the parties have to study the peace document and to submit their final observations by 7 May.

However due to the slow progress in their direct discussions, they particularly urged the government and JEM to "continue to negotiate urgently and directly and to submit the outcomes of their discussions by Saturday 7 May 2011 for inclusion in the final draft document."

In their latest meeting on Tuesday 26 April, Khartoum and JEM rebels diverged on what should be discussed in the meetings. The government delegation said disposed only to discuss the draft of the peace agreement stipulating talks should not alter the draft agreement.

The rebels for their part, said the agenda should be determined according to the framework agreement signed last year and the discussion papers circulated by the two parties on the pending issues.

"We can’t accept a document we are not party in its elaboration as a framework for the talks, also we are more concerned by peace more than any deadline," said Gibreel Adam Bilal, JEM spokesperson.

Gibreel told Sudan Tribune that the government does not seek seriously to reach a peace deal with JEM "the government does not want to dialogue with us but they do not want to say that frankly".

Following the return of the Sudanese government delegation to Doha, after its withdrawal from December to mid-February, JEM and Sudanese government did not directly discuss any of the issues included in the agenda of the peace negotiations.

However JEM adopted three from four chapters discussed and agreed by the government and LJM rebels. The group further demanded to discuss the wealth sharing with Khartoum. On the pending issues, the rebels said Khartoum should prove its willingness to reach an agreement over Darfur administrative status in Doha and asked that this issue to top the agenda of the direct talks.

In the Sudanese capital, the National Elections Commission announced that the referendum on Darfur status will take place on the first of July putting more pressure on the rebel delegations.

The other rebel group participating in the talks, Liberation and Equality Movement (LJM) who suffers a recent dissidence rejected the referendum saying should be part of the peace agreement and be held after its signing .

JEM spokesperson said they raised in yesterday meeting the need to include the other rebel groups emphasizing that a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement remains the best option for a durable and viable settlement in Darfur. He said the lesion of Abuja should not be repeated.

The Joint Chief mediator Djibril Bassole announced last week he is called by his government to assume the foreign affairs portfolio and he will resign after the general conference of Darfur stakeholders.

Presidential adviser in charge of Darfur file, Ghazi Salah Al-Deen told MPS from the ruling party today, Amin Hassan Omer, government’s top negotiator is called to Khartoum for consultations on the draft peace agreement.

The Sudanese government said it needs a quick conclusion of the Doha process as it plans to hold an internal process to settle the conflict with the participation of tribal leaders and civil society group.

Also, the head of the AU high level panel on Sudan, Thabo Mbeki will launch a process similar to that of Sudanese government for reconciliation and redemption in Darfur. The panel however is struggling to secure the needed funds for the operation.

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