Sudan’s Bashir says ready for 2-month ceasefire for talks

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday he was ready for a two-month ceasefire with rebels to allow national dialogue talks to take place to address the country’s myriad problems, offering insurgents an amnesty.

Bashir, who is wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, announced the talks in January 2014 to resolve conflicts in Sudan’s border regions and has been trying to persuade rebels to attend the talks in Khartoum.

“We announce our readiness for a comprehensive ceasefire for a period of two months until this dialogue has been completed in a healthy atmosphere,” Bashir said.

“We renew the full amnesty for those bearing weapons who wish to take part in the dialogue,” he said, but added that “anyone who bore arms and killed will not be released”.

The 71-year-old was addressing the general assembly for the national dialogue, announcing the talks would start on October 10.

“We call for a stop to the war and this position is not the result of weakness, and we are advocates of peace and the biggest obstacles to this is the rejection of other parties in the war to engage in free dialogue,” Bashir told members of the assembly.

Insurgents from Darfur and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) from the Blue Nile and South were due to meet the African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki in Addis Ababa on Friday to discuss the dialogue.

The rebels did not immediately comment but they, along with Sudan’s mainstream opposition, have previously said they will not take part in the dialogue as the atmosphere is not conducive for the talks.

Darfur erupted into conflict in 2003 when mostly black, African rebels mounted a campaign against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, saying they had been marginalised economically and politically.

The SPLA-N rebelled Bashir in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in 2011 for similar reasons.

Some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur alone and nearly 2.5 million forced to flee their homes, the United Nations says.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Bashir for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and on genocide charges connected to the Darfur conflict.

Thousands more people have also been displaced in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Photo Credits : AFP

Trial opens of Christians accused of crimes against Sudan

Two South Sudanese pastors went on trial Tuesday in Sudan on accusations of spying and crimes against the state, for which they could receive the death penalty, their lawyer said.

Yat Michael and Peter Yen were arrested during visits to the Sudanese capital Khartoum in late 2014 and early 2015, respectively.

Michael was detained when he delivered prayers at a Protestant church.

At the opening of their trial, prosecutors called for them to be convicted of crimes against the state and the constitution, as well as crimes of hatred, inciting ethnic hatred, espionage, and disrupting public order.

“Their mission is to preach the Christian religion, and there is nothing in Sudanese law against this,” said their lawyer, Muhannad al-Hussein.

The two pastors, who appeared in court wearing blue robes, were taken back to prison at the end of the hearing.

South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011, has a population that is mainly Christian or animist, while most Sudanese are Sunni Muslim.

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ICC hands Bashir case to UN after Sudan fails to arrest leader

Sudan has failed to arrest its long-time leader Omar al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes, the International Criminal Court ruled on Monday, referring the matter back to the UN Security Council.

Bashir, 71, is wanted by The Hague-based ICC, the world’s only permanent court, for his role in the western Sudanese region of Darfur where insurgents rose up in 2003 in an ongoing conflict that has left more than 300,000 people dead.

He faces five counts of crimes against humanity including murder and torture, three of genocide and two of war crimes including attacking a civilian population.

The ICC in 2009 and 2010 issued two warrants against Bashir, but he continues to travel across the African continent despite a legal obligation by ICC member states to arrest him.

Sudan itself has not signed up to the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, but has been a member of the United Nations since 1956.

The Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC for investigation in a 2005 resolution and Sudan, as a UN member is therefore obliged to cooperate, the tribunal judges said.

“The chamber considers that Sudan not only disregarded the 2009 and 2010 requests related to its obligations to cooperate in the arrest and surrender of Omar al-Bashir,” they said.

Khartoum also failed to inform the ICC why it could not carry out the arrest.

“This course of action calls upon the Security Council to take the necessary measures they deem appropriate,” the judges said.

The judges however warned that if no action was taken, the Security Council would never achieve its goal to end impunity for the world’s worst suspected offenders.

Bashir, who is gearing up for an April election expected to return him to office, last month accused the ICC and Western powers of “hounding” him.

He claimed the ICC was part “of the tools used to destabilise Sudan”, and said there never was a genocide in Darfur.

Apart from Bashir, four other Sudanese including a rebel leader is also on the ICC wanted list.

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UN-AU mission in Sudan’s Darfur cuts 770 jobs

The UN-AU mission in Sudan’s Darfur (UNAMID) will cut 770 civilian jobs, it said on Saturday, as it faces pressure from Khartoum to withdraw from the war-torn western region.

“The total number of posts cut in real terms is 770,” UNAMID said, adding that both Sudanese and international staff will be affected.

The decision was made after a strategic review of the mission, the statement said, and was unconnected to calls from Sudan’s government for the mission to leave.

UNAMID deployed in 2007 to protect civilians and secure humanitarian aid, four years after ethnic insurgents rebelled against Khartoum, complaining of marginalisation.

It currently employs 4,110 civilians and also has around 15,000 military and police peacekeepers in the region.

UNAMID’s relations with the government have deteriorated over its attempts to investigate a report that Sudanese troops raped more than 200 women and girls in a Darfur village last October.

The government slammed the mission as weak and demanded that it prepare an exit strategy.

A first round of talks on its departure ended on February 19, and more are scheduled for March.

Some 300,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced by the fighting in Darfur, the UN says.

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Sudan’s Bashir says he will step down if beaten at polls

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Thursday he would stand down if he is voted out at polls in April, as he launched his campaign which he is widely expected to win.

“I will leave but by the ballot box,” Bashir told a rally in Wad Madani southeast of Khartoum, where he was launching his campaign for the presidential election.

Sudan’s mainstream opposition is boycotting the election.

“The Sudanese people hold power and choose who governs and represents them through the ballot box,” he told the cheering crowd on the outskirts of Wad Madani, in Jazira state, a farming area.

Bashir, 71, also criticised his opponents who have said they will boycott the April 13 legislative and presidential elections.

He said there was no place for those seeking power through “conspiracies or foreign allegiance, whether they meet in Addis Ababa or Paris”.

Various groups opposed to his government, including political parties and armed rebels, have signed agreements in the Ethiopian and French capitals.

Standing on a metal stage in front of the supportive crowds, Bashir gave few concrete details of his programme for another term in power.

People arrived in buses from throughout Jazira region to attend the rally, many wearing the traditional gleaming white Sudanese robes and turbans, and waving Sudanese flags and pictures of Bashir.

The ruling National Congress Party started its own campaign for the elections on Tuesday.

Bashir did not attend Tuesday’s launch because he was in the United Arab Emirates, flouting an International Criminal Court indictment for alleged war crimes in the western region of Darfur, where his government has been battling insurgents since 2003.

The career soldier seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup and won an election in 2010, which the opposition also boycotted and observers said failed to meet international standards.

Photo Credits : AFP

South Sudan rivals agree ceasefire deal

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar late Sunday signed a deal to end more than 13 months of fighting in a civil war that has left tens of thousands dead, an AFP reporter saw.

“Complete cessation of hostilities in South Sudan is expected as of this morning (Monday),” Seyoum Mesfin, a negotiator from the regional IGAD bloc, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa where the ceasefire deal was signed.

The two leaders have signed –- and then broken –- at least six previous ceasefire agreements since fighting began in December 2013.

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Sudan minister vows to defeat rebels after fruitless talks

Sudan’s defence minister said Friday a new army offensive would defeat rebels in the war-torn Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions, days after peace talks in Addis Ababa ended without result.

Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein said the campaign “will put an end to the insurgency on all fronts,” state news agency SUNA reported him as saying.

Hussein was addressing troops near the town of Nyala in the Darfur region, where the government has been battling insurgents since 2003.

Khartoum is also struggling to quash an insurrection in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Hussein did not say if the operation had already started.

Peace talks between the government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North, which operates in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, ended without result on Tuesday.

The UN Security Council said Thursday it regretted the “absence of a final agreement, and urged both sides to participate in further negotiations in January.

Since the close of the African Union-mediated talks in Addis Ababa, there has been a rise in reports of violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

SPLM-N spokesman Arnu Lodi said Thursday the movement’s forces had captured two garrisons less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) from South Kordofan capital Kadugli.

SPLM-N troops “inflicted heavy losses in men and equipment” on Khartoum’s forces, Lodi said.

He gave no indication of SPLM-N casualties, and the Sudanese military could not be reached for comment Friday.

Fighting erupted in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in 2011 when former rebels from the SPLM-N took up arms against Khartoum, complaining of discrimination by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government.

Attacker kills two soldiers guarding Sudan’s presidential palace

An attacker with a knife killed two soldiers guarding a gate at Sudan’s presidential palace before being shot dead by other troops on Saturday, the president’s press secretary said.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was not in Khartoum’s Republican Palace at the time of the attack, press secretary Emad Ahmed told Reuters.

“A little while ago someone attacked soldiers who guarded one of the gates of the palace and (the soldiers) fired on him,” Ahmed said.

“(He) did not respond to calls to stop and was shot dead. Two soldiers were killed during the attack by someone who seemed to be suffering from a mental illness,” he said, adding that an investigation was under way.

Bashir, 70, was at his official residence in another part of Khartoum at the time of the attack, the press secretary said.


More than 200 women raped in Sudan

More than 200 women and girls were collectively raped in their village on Friday evening, reportedly by Sudanese soldiers belonging to a military garrison south of El Fasher in North Darfur. 80 of the victims were schoolgirls, 105 were unmarried girls. The other victims were married women.

The residents of Tabit have not been able yet to transfer the wounded to other towns or medical centres. One of the elders in Tabit village told Radio Dabanga that the commander of the military garrison, located half a kilometre north of Tabit, came to the village on Friday morning, claiming that one of his soldiers went missing on Thursday evening. He gave the villagers until sunset to retrieve the missing soldier.

“We were caught by surprise when soldiers surrounded Tabit at 8 pm,” the village elder told. “They beat the people with rifle butts and chased all of the men outside the village. Then they started to rape about 200 women and girls, which lasted from Friday evening until 4 am on Saturday.

 “They also prevented us from transferring the wounded to El Fasher city, the Unamid base, or to Shangil Tobaya,” the witness stressed.

He appealed to the human rights and humanitarian organisations, as well as the United Nations, to save the village and bring the perpetrators and those involved in the event to the International Criminal Court.


“I am not going anywhere”, Sudan’s Al Bashir says

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will stand for re-election next year, an aide says, despite previous claims that he would quit after 25 years in power.

He was chosen ahead of four other candidates by the ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) decision-making council, Ibrahim Ghandour said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted him for genocide in the Darfur region. He denies the charges.

Critics say Mr Bashir, 70, leads one of Africa’s most repressive regimes.

He seized power in a coup in 1989, and has won three elections since then.

The African Union (AU) has backed Mr Bashir in his rejection of The Hague-based court’s indictment.

It argues that as a serving head of state, he enjoys presidential immunity.

Sudan does not recognize the court.