Photograph: Eamonn M McCormack/Getty Images for Doha Film Institute

You have to run for your life’: a film-maker’s take on life in Sudan – podcast

Sudan-based Hajooj Kuka set out to document life in refugee camps. His films include Beats of the Antonov – on war, music and the resilience of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains – and Darfur’s Skeleton, which tells the stories of Sudanese people displaced by conflict. He co-founded the Refugee Club, bringing together artists with similar backgrounds to highlight the plight of displaced people in Sudan.

Photograph: Eamonn M McCormack/Getty Images for Doha Film Institute

A new film, aKasha, is a comedy, despite being set in a conflict zone. “The revolution needs to be fun,” he explains. “You can’t achieve change with just one election – you need to go on and on, and the struggle must be creative, it must be hopeful.”

Sudan must pay billions to terrorism victims, Supreme Court rules

A bombing at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998, as well as one in Tanzania the same year, killed hundreds and wounded thousands.Credit…Agence France-Presse

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reinstated as much as $4.3 billion in punitive damages awarded against Sudan to victims of truck bombs detonated in 1998 outside United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The attacks, conducted by Qaeda operatives, killed hundreds and wounded thousands. Starting in 2001, many of the victims and their family members sued Sudan in federal court, arguing that it had helped Al Qaeda in carrying out the bombings.

After a trial in which Sudan did not participate, Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court in Washington found in 2011 that Sudan had provided crucial assistance to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, its leader.

“Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network,” Judge Bates wrote.“Bin Laden and Al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants. Sudan provided bin Laden and Al Qaeda hundreds of Sudanese passports. The Sudanese intelligence service allowed Al Qaeda to travel over the Sudan-Kenya border without restriction.”

Judge Bates awarded the plaintiffs about $10.2 billion in damages, including roughly $4.3 billion in punitive damages.

Foreign nations are ordinarily immune from suits in American courts. But Congress has made exceptions, including one in 1996 for acts of terrorism conducted by nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Under the 1996 law, plaintiffs were allowed to seek compensation for their losses but not punitive damages, which are meant to punish and deter wrongdoing.

After the lawsuit was filed, Congress amended the law in 2008 to allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in at least some settings. The basic question for the court was whether that amendment applied retroactively.

Sudan appealed the judgment against it on various grounds, including that the punitive damage award was improper. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed, vacating in 2017 the punitive awards.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the Supreme Court on Monday, said it was true that legislation ordinarily applied only prospectively. “This principle protects vital due process interests,” he wrote, and allows people and groups to “rest assured after they act that their lawful conduct cannot be second-guessed later.”

If a federal law is to apply retroactively, Justice Gorsuch wrote, Congress must say so clearly. Here, he wrote, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct.”

Sudan argued that the law failed to authorize retroactive punitive damages sufficiently clearly because the law said only that awards “may” include them. That was enough, Justice Gorsuch wrote.

“This language,” he wrote, “simply vests district courts with discretion to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate in view of the facts of a particular case.”

Judge Bates awarded punitive damages to two classes of plaintiffs, and the ruling on Monday applied to one of them, including United States nationals, members of the military and government employees and contractors. Justice Gorsuch said the appeals court should address whether the second class of plaintiffs, foreign-national family members of government employees and contractors, were entitled to punitive awards.

Justice Gorsuch also left open the question of whether the law was constitutional, saying that Sudan had not addressed it.

“It’s true that punitive damages aren’t merely a form a compensation but a form of punishment, and we don’t doubt that applying new punishments to completed conduct can raise serious constitutional questions,” he wrote. “But if Congress clearlyauthorizes retroactive punitive damages in a manner a litigant thinks unconstitutional, the better course is for the litigant to challenge the law’s constitutionality.”

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh recused himself from the case, Opati v. Republic of Sudan, No. 17-1268, presumably because he had considered an aspect of it when he served on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Sudan criminalises female genital mutilation

There has been a global trend towards banning FGM

Sudan has criminalised carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), making it punishable by three years in jail.

Some 87% of Sudanese women aged between 14 and 49 have undergone some form of FGM, according to the UN.

In Sudan it is common for women to get the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, removed.

FGM can result in urinary tract infections, uterine infections, kidney infections, cysts, reproductive issues and pain during sex.

Girls get cut because of a widespread cultural belief that it is essential for girls’ reputations and future marriage prospects.

But there has been a global trend towards banning the practice.

The amendment to the criminal law was approved on 22 April, Reuters news agency reports.

Under the amendment, anyone who performs FGM either inside a medical establishment or elsewhere faces three years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Presentational grey line

Types of FGM:

It’s estimated one in 20 girls and women in the world have undergone some form of FGM
  • Type one: Clitoridectomy – partial or total removal of the clitoris
  • Type two: Excision – removal of the clitoris and inner labia (lips), with or without the outer labia
  • Type three: Infibulation – cutting, removal of part or all of external genitalia and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening
  • Type four: Any other type of intentional damage to the female genitalia (burning, scraping, piercing)

How the people of Sudan pulled off an improbable revolution

By Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco

When the turbulent and often tragic history of the past decade in North Africa is written, the 2019 pro-democracy revolution in Sudan will likely be considered one of the few bright spots. One of the world’s most brutal dictatorships —- in power for over 30 years —- was overthrown in a massive nonviolent civil insurrection involving millions of Sudanese. In its place is a liberal technocratic civilian administration.

Whether civilian democratic rule will survive the serious challenges still facing the country remains to be seen. But for now a key question is: how did they do it?

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Conditions in Sudan were not auspicious for a successful pro-democracy civil resistance movement. The regime was oppressive, entrenched, and had been successful in its divide and rule tactics when it came to the large and ethnically heterogeneous nation.

In addition, three decades of repressive military rule had largely decimated civil society institutions like labour unions and human rights organisations and the reactionary Islamic leadership had put severe restrictions on women. Over five million Sudanese, including many of the country’s most educated people, had emigrated.

Lastly, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were helping to prop up the military regime. And most of the West had seemingly written off Sudan as a hopeless case.

Yet, starting in December 2018, a movement emerged which eventually brought millions of Sudanese onto the streets. By April 2019, General Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by fellow military officers. Protests continued and, despite hundreds of additional deaths, by August the military stepped down in favour of a civilian-led transitional government.


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There are numerous reasons for the success of this uprising. The key ones range from the regime’s incompetence and the fact that the economy was in a mess, to the way in which the opposition forces organised themselves into a broad-based movement. Another major factor in their success was that they chose to use nonviolent tactics such as sit-ins and demonstrations.

Ingredients of success

A number of factors contributed to the success of the uprising. These included the regime’s weaknesses, as well as the tactics used by the opposition forces.

As far as the regime was concerned, there were at least four factors working against it. These included:

Divisions: To the opposition’s advantage, some of the main elements of the repressive apparatus of the regime — the police, intelligence, military, and special forces — were divided. The opposition did an excellent job of exacerbating those divisions and using them to its own advantage, offering sanctuary for deserting troops, shaming families of the hardline forces, and winning over some junior officers.

Incompetence: The state was in many respects weak and incompetent. The economy was in a shambles. This became particularly marked after the country lost access to oil reserves in the south after South Sudan became independent in 2011. Education, transport, health care, agriculture and other basic infrastructure had deteriorated significantly during its three decades in power.

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Sanctions: international sanctions added to chronic corruption and mismanagement in weakening the economy.

Disaffected youth: Young Sudanese had had enough. They felt they had no future and they had nothing more to lose. Interviews with young people during my visit in January revealed a sense of sheer desperation, a sense that “enough is enough”.

When it came to the movement itself, a number of factors contributed to strengthening its efforts, and making them more effective. Among them were:

Scope and scale: While some civil insurrections have largely taken place in the capital with mostly middle class support, the Sudanese revolution took place all over country, in all regions, with diverse class and ethnic participation. Another key component was the fact that popular resistance committees were active in even the poorest neighbourhoods.

This was in conjunction with the role played by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an alliance of professional trade unions, which played a key leadership role.

Building such a broad coalition of forces was vitally important, given the size and complexity of the country.

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National unity: For decades, the regime had tried to divide Sudanese by North and South, Arab and non-Arab, Muslim and non-Muslim. The pro-democracy protesters recognised that national unity was critical and consciously resisted efforts at divide-and-rule.

One example was the regime’s efforts at the beginning of the uprising to try and blame the uprising in Khartoum on Furs, the people indigenous to the Darfur region. In response, the largely-Arab but multi-ethnic protesters began chanting “We are all Darfur!”. In solidarity, protesters in Al Fashir, the Darfur capital, started chanting “We are all Khartoum!”

The role of women: strong leadership from women helped increase the numbers of protesters by encouraging women to join the protests. It also lent credibility to the protests and better popular perception of the movement and its goals by challenging notions that they were violent and dangerous.

Nonviolent action: In my view, the single most important factor was possibly the decision to stress nonviolent action.

The Sudanese opposition had, on previous occasions, engaged in violent struggles. For example, in 1993 an armed guerrilla movement operating out of bases in Eritrea was launched. But it failed to provoke a more widespread popular uprising and was formally disbanded in 2006. Similarly, protesters turned violent during the civil insurrection of 2013. The uprising was crushed within days after scores of civilian deaths.

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The choice of peaceful protests, sit-ins and strikes made it difficult for the regime to depict the movement in a negative light. And nonviolence meant that the movement attracted sympathy it would have lost through violent tactics. This swelled the number of people coming out onto the streets.

What still needs to be done

There is still much to do to consolidate democracy and civilian rule in Sudan. Though civilians dominate the transitional government, the military and other elements of the old guard are still part of the system.

But the accomplishment of toppling Omar al-Bashir can be a lesson to those struggling for greater political freedom and social justice through the greater Middle East – and beyond.

A version of this article first appeared in Inside Arabia.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of San Francisco

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVER PHOTO: A woman flashes the V for victory sign as Sudanese protesters demonstrate in Khartoum on July 25, 2019. Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Tracing the origins of Darfur’s strife and suffering

Sudanese protesting against the conflict in Darfur.
Marwan Ali/EPA-EFE

By Tsega Etefa, Colgate University

The government of Sudan recently decided to hand over the former president, Omar al-Bashir, to the International Criminal Court to face charges. The reasons lie partly in the history of the Darfur conflict.

Al-Bashir, who was deposed by popular uprising in April 2019, has been accused of war crimes and genocide in the conflict that led to the death of over 300,000 people and displacement of over 2 million.

Darfur is located in the western part of Sudan. It has attracted world attention since non-Arab rebel groups attacked government installations in February 2003. The reasons the rebels, who were mainly from the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit communities, took up arms were said to be marginalisation, chronic neglect by government and the absence of any democratic ways of addressing their concerns.

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During the colonial era – the region was run by Britain and Egypt between 1899 and 1956 – the British neglected Darfur because the region had neither economic nor strategic value. Instead, London focused on the Nile Valley region, which thus received better education, economic and social services.

After independence in 1956, Sudanese political and economic power was concentrated in the hands of the riverine Arabs who’d had access to education during the colonial era. Darfur lagged behind in economic progress, education and health services.

The situation got worse after 1983, when a devastating drought led to famine in 1985 and 1986. The severe drought also pushed many Chadian Arabs into Darfur’s Jabal Marra area, the historical homeland of the Fur people and the greenest place across the Sahel region. The migrants were supported by al-Bashir, who had taken power in a coup in 1989. And Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi recruited Arabs in Darfur to fight Chad’s government, which was dominated by non-Arabs.


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The al-Bashir administration openly sided with the Arabs of Darfur. Government support to the Arab militias strengthened in the early 1990s after the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s incursion into Darfur. The government suspected the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit of supporting the South Sudan rebels.

Conflict in the area escalated, fuelled by the mismanagement of resources, corruption and excessive intervention by al-Bashir’s administration in domestic policies. These worsened poverty, inequality and unemployment in the region.

By 2003 there was a full-blown war in Darfur between the rebels and the army. Contributing factors included the failure to heed villagers’ warnings of imminent militia attacks, a slow response by the local and central government and a lack of basic infrastructure. On top of this, government was reallocating land to the Arabs, including recent arrivals from Chad, without proper local involvement.

The al-Bashir administration unleashed the notorious Janjaweed militia, consisting of North Darfur Arabs, on the region. In the 1990s they had been known for looting and destroying Fur villages, together with the army. People close to the Chad border fled and many others were displaced elsewhere in Darfur, where they still live today.

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From peace to war

Both Arabs and non-Arabs had lived in Darfur for centuries and had considerable peaceful interaction. They had all been marginalised at one point or another by Khartoum even before the colonial period. Since 1956 independence all Darfurians had grievances against the government. But the al-Bashir administration’s divide and rule policy and relying on Janjaweed forces for its counter insurgency strategy brought unparalleled disaster to Darfur.

The strategy made the destruction “deniable”, attributing it to “ancient tribal animosities”.

The effects of the war were devastating. According to the 2004 UN report numerous Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit villages were destroyed. UN staff who visited Darfur in 2004 reported that many Fur villages had been destroyed while those in which Arabs lived remained intact.

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Andrew Natsios, the head of the US Agency for International Development in Sudan, stated in 2004 that the Arab militia had:

looted perhaps as many as 3 million, maybe over 4 million, sheep, goats, camels, from the African farmers who have small herds.

That number has grown since then, representing a loss worth hundreds of millions of dollars to non-Arab Darfurians.

Evidence shows that there was a strong working relationship between the local police and the Janjaweed. There’s also evidence gathered by the UN that many of the local law enforcement agencies were from Arab communities because the non-Arab officers had

left the location due to intimidation from their Arab colleagues and the Jenjaweed fighters in town.

Civilian officials still in charge of towns also cooperated with the army, police and militia.

The fighting created an atmosphere of hatred between civilian neighbours and damaged the area’s long-established culture of tolerance.

The intervention of forces of the African Union and United Nations played an important role mainly in protecting displaced people. Fighting subsided after 2006 but in 2014 the Rapid Support Force (Janjaweed) renewed its attacks on non–Arab villages.

The current situation

After the fall of the al-Bashir administration in April 2019, a ceasefire was agreed. Negotiations began between the Darfur rebels and government headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

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But according to the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission at least 24 people were killed in December 2019 when Arab militia attacked the Krinding Camp, forcing people to flee to the mountains or to nearby towns. There were also reports of similar attacks in other camps of Darfur by Arab militias.

The announcement that al-Bashir will be handed over to the International Criminal Court is a significant step in the right direction. But the peace negotiation process has a long way to go.

Tsega Etefa, Associate Professor of History, Colgate University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Sudan’s tambour star defied death and dictatorship

Once lauded as one of Sudan’s finest musicians, Abu Obaida Hassan faded into obscurity under the Bashir regime and was even pronounced dead. Now he is back – to global acclaim.

The unpaved outskirts of Omdurman, Sudan’s second city, seem like an unusual place to find a musical superstar, but Abu Obaida Hassan is far from ordinary. The frail man in his 60s who holds court in the shaded yard of a squat brick house represents a musical revolution, one that electrified traditional Sudanese music. Stranger still, in the eyes of the Sudanese public he is back from the dead.

In his 70s heyday, Abu Obaida travelled from Merowe, the home of the Shaigiya people and a centre of Nubian culture, to Khartoum, finding fame as a renegade player of a local stringed instrument known as the tambour.

The music of the Shaigiya people focuses on call and response, designed to draw the audience into grand tales of love and heartbreak. Rolling, pulsating drumbeats are overlaid with heartfelt vocals, mirrored back with handclaps and a chorus of voices. As the first Shaigiya artist released on the global stage, Abu Obaida has become an accidental ambassador for both the Shaigiya people and their distinctive musical style.

“I became popular across the world!” he says, laughing in a way that suggests this is what he always wanted. Family members gathered around his bed laugh with him.

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A fixture on the Khartoum music scene during its golden era of the 70s and early 80s, Abu Obaida subsequently faded into obscurity through a combination of misfortune and Sudan’s shifting politics. Things reached the point where, 20 years ago, one prominent Sudanese newspaper pronounced him dead. Rumours of his survival persisted, however, sustained by fans trading his songs through online forums and Khartoum record shops, by sheer devotion to the man who could play the tambour like no other.

‘I was a superstar’: Abu Obaida Hassan enjoyed notable success on the Khartoum music scene. Photograph: Courtesy of Abu Obaida Hassan via Ostinato Records

Abu Obaida says he never went away, but simply receded from public view. His comeback, if you can call it that, is a spectacular one. Ostinato Records, a Grammy-nominated label based in New York and Bangkok, and known for an ability to source rare music from countries affected by war or natural disasters, tracked down Abu Obaida and released his music to the world.

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In just a few years, he went from missing, presumed dead, to global star. His EP sold out worldwide within a week of its release. Ostinato pressed a second batch, which also sold out in Europe.

After his career fell victim to a crackdown on the swinging Khartoum party scene that sustained him, Sudan’s new transitional government is attempting to usher in an age of caring for revered musical icons like Abu Obaida.

“I was nervous initially, because it takes a bit of listening,” says Vik Sohonie, the founder of Ostinato Records, of Abu Obaida’s music. “It’s a new sound – there are no electric guitars or saxophones or anything like that. It’s not an immediately relatable or accessible sound, but people fell in love with it.”

Sohonie’s hunt for Abu Obaida and his records is almost as bizarre as the musician’s supposed return from the dead. Sohonie travelled to Khartoum in 2016, searching for lost recordings by the artist and hoping to learn more about his disappearance from public life. He was helped in his search by Ahmed Asyouti, a local dentist who had posted on TripAdvisor offering his services to tourists.

Asyouti told Sohonie that Abu Obaida was probably dead, but said that together they could find out what happened to him. The quest began with Asyouti getting Sohonie an appearance on Sudanese breakfast television, and helping him to sneak into the grounds of the national radio station, skirting a ban on the entry of foreign visitors.

“Someone at the national radio archives said: ‘I think he’s alive,’” says Sohonie.

Abu Obaida Hassan, centre, with his tambour, to which he added a sixth string. Photograph: Courtesy of Abu Obaida Hassan via Ostinato Records

A hunt through Khartoum’s record-collectors and music aficionados led them to a shop where playing one of Abu Obaida’s recordings sparked a chance encounter. “A guy in the corner of the store said: ‘Oh, you’re looking for Abu Obaida Hassan? His wife is my cousin.’ My first thought was that this guy was messing with us.”

He wasn’t, and the random meeting meant the pair finally found Abu Obaida’s wife, who set up a meeting with the artist. The result was an agreement to release an eight-track EP entitled Abu Obaida Hassan and His Tambour, the Shaigiya Sound of Sudan. The album comes with the warning: “We are not responsible for any addiction issues caused by Abu Obaida Hassan’s Shaigiya sound.”

Vintage Sudanese music is prized across Africa. From Nairobi to Mogadishu, collectors treasure its rich sound of playful synths and violins, often accompanied by piercing vocals and poetic song titles.

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But Abu Obaida’s more unusual sound stands out, even among prominent tambour players of his generation. Part of his unique origin story is his own version of Bob Dylan’s “going electric moment. By adding a sixth string to his tambour, and sometimes wiring it to an amp, Abu Obaida stormed the Khartoum music scene.

“My country was playing my music and I was a superstar,” he says of his moment of notoriety on the Sudanese music scene. “I was a megastar – I couldn’t walk in the street!”

Such was the demand for his sound, he hired a car and toured the concerts and parties that had sprung up across Sudan, riding a wave of his own celebrity and a scene that was fostering artistic talent.

“Morning and evening – parties that went all night!,” he recalls fondly. “At the time I had no idea of my own value. I was at the top, but I didn’t know myself.”


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The implementation of Sharia law in Sudan in the 80s shut down the party scene, and a crackdown on musicians under the 30-year regime of Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in 1989, meant the work dried up. Abu Obaida moved to Saudi Arabia to work with his brother; by the time he returned, his celebrity had faded.

He worked as a carpenter and waited for his fortunes to change. Staying between Merowe and the outskirts of Omdurman, he had no idea that fans of his music had been trying to find him, despairing at his apparent demise.

Popular protests last year overthrew Bashir and brought his long-running dictatorship to an end. In its place is a transitional government, one intending to shepherd Sudan into democracy. The new regime has signalled a desire to care for cultural icons from the pre-Bashir era.

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Sparked by increased local news coverage of the artists’ neglect and poor health, representatives from Sudan’s ministry of culture and members of the public began visiting the homes of golden-era musicians like singer Abdel Aziz El Mubarak and Abu Obaida. Social media campaigns soliciting donations were matched by government offers to pay both musicians’ medical bills, before El Mubarak’s death in early February. Although Abu Obaida is no longer well enough to tour, a stream of musicians and guests travel to his home to hear him play the tambour once again.

Abu Obaida’s family say his return to the spotlight is positive, but that they will remain sceptical until they see support from the government. “We want people to know that he’s a forgotten talent – and such a talent should be cared for,” says Hala Homeida, Abu Obaida’s sister-in-law.

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Asked how she feels about Abu Obaida’s newfound fame, she replies: “The tambour is linked to the Shaigiya tribe, but now it’s viral internationally – this is amazing.”

The first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday on its way to South America (file photo)

Sudan allows former enemy Israel to fly over its territory

Israel says it has begun flying commercial aircraft through Sudanese airspace under an agreement with the Khartoum government.

The first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday on its way to South America (file photo)

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told a group of visiting US Jewish leaders that the first Israeli plane crossed Sudan on Saturday, bound for South America.

He said the new air corridor would cut the flying time on the route by three hours.

Sudan said in early Ferbruary that it had given initial approval for Israeli planes to fly over its territory.

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Mr Netanyahu said Israel was discussing rapid normalisation of ties with its former foe.

Sudan, which has close ties with the Palestinians, has stopped short of referring to improving ties with Israel.

Sudan to investigate Darfur atrocities under Ousted Leader

About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes during the war, according to the United Nations.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, in court in Khartoum on Dec. 14.Credit…Morwan Ali/EPA, via Shutterstock

Sudan has kick-started investigations into the long, bloody suppression of the Darfur region under the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a move aimed at ending years of impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice amid a fragile political transition.

The Sudanese attorney general, Taj al-Sir al-Hibir, said Sunday that the government would look into atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur beginning in 2003, in the first indication that Mr. al-Bashir and some of his allies could face charges related to human rights abuses in Sudan.

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Mr. al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for almost three decades — a tenure marked by human rights abuses, economic decline, and entrenched corruption. He was indicted a decade ago by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over his government’s actions in the Darfur region from around 2003 to 2008.

His rule came to an end in April after a months-long uprising and just over a week ago, the 75-year-old former leader was found guilty of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency and sentenced to two years of detention. He faces other charges including some stemming from the crackdown that left scores of anti-government protesters dead this year and his role in the putsch that brought him to power in 1989.

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Mr. al-Bashir was replaced by a transitional government that is working to put the northeast African nation on a path to a full-fledged democracy and lift it out of decades of diplomatic and economic isolation. The new government is also under pressure to redress the wrongs of the past.

After Mr. al-Bashir was sentenced last week, human rights agencies called on the transitional government to take concrete measures against perpetrators of violence in Darfur. But delivering that justice may prove easier said than done, given that some of Mr. al-Bashir’s most trusted confidants continue to hold prominent positions in government.


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“The transitional government of Sudan must demonstrate that the ongoing transition will not obscure past crimes and will take into account the demands of all populations in the different regions of the country, including Darfur, for long-lasting peace and justice,” Arnold Tsunga, director of the Africa regional program of the International Commission of Jurists, said in a statement.

The Darfur conflict flared when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Mr. al-Bashir’s government, accusing it of economic and political marginalization. About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes, according to the United Nations.

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Sudan’s military has said it will not hand over Mr. al-Bashir to The Hague for trial, even as human rights advocates like Amnesty International have called for his extradition. So while human rights activists have endorsed the notion of regional investigations, they have also expressed concerns.

“The victims in Darfur have the right to justice, and they will be given that justice if al-Bashir is tried in the I.C.C.,” said Amir Suliman, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and co-founder of the nonprofit African Center for Justice and Peace Studies.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited the Darfur region in November and promised that his administration would bring peace and help to the victims. Continuing violence and growing food insecurity there are affecting millions of people, the United Nations says.

Among Mr. al-Bashir’s confidants who remain in power is Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, also known as Hemeti. He is a member of a prominent council tasked with the transition to democracy.

He has been accused of leading a prominent paramilitary force that left a trail of human rights abuse allegations in Darfur. He is also accused of the violent crackdown that left dozens of demonstrators dead in June.

report released this month by the Paris-based organization International Federation for Human Rights in conjunction with the African Center for Justice said Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad still suffered physical and psychological consequences from the war. They feel “forgotten and abandoned,” Mr. Suliman said.

The victims, he said, are looking to both regional and international governments for justice and humanitarian aid.

“We are closely watching to see where this investigation will go,” he said.

The Consequences of Sudan on US terrorism blacklist

If Washington wants to be on the right side of history, it must open the way for Sudan to receive economic support.

A child looks on as the Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok visits a camp for displaced people in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, the Sudanese people have staged a near miraculous revolution, overthrowing the 30-year dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir.

Following mediation led by the African Union and Ethiopia, a transitional government consisting of civilians and military generals is headed by Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist untainted by the decades of corruption and misrule. It is the best compromise: the army, and especially the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, are simply too powerful to be removed from politics in one fell swoop.

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At the UN general assembly in September, and last week in Washington DC, Hamdok made a series of good-faith policy pledges to return Sudan to the club of respectable nations.

Hamdok is charged with the gargantuan task of steering Sudan out of crisis and into a period of economic stability and growth. But what brought the first demonstrators on to the streets a year ago was rampant inflation and the collapse of the wage-earning economy: ordinary people simply couldn’t afford to buy bread or fuel. That hasn’t changed. The economy remains on the slide towards hyperinflation and the people towards possible famine.

Wealthy Gulf states – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – bailed out Sudan with $3.5bn (£2.65bn) worth of cash and commodities earlier this year. That was never enough, given the magnitude of the crisis, and it is running out.

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What Sudan needs is for its debt to be rescheduled and sanctions against it lifted. That will require action by the US to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST). Among other restrictions, inclusion on the list prohibits economic assistance, including loans from the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

International sanctions on Sudan began shortly after the last democratic revolution in 1985, when the International Monetary Fund suspended the country for non-payment of arrears on its debts. Intended to compel fiscal responsibility, that economic shackle condemned the democratic government to failure. So began a catalogue of foreign sanctions, mostly a story of mishap and failure.


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In 1993, the US designated Sudan as an SST. Four years later, it imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions. In 2007, in response to the Darfur atrocities, Washington imposed further measures including individually targeted asset freezes. The measures hurt the regime, but also the people.

The economic and trade sanctions were eased in 2017-18, in a rare example of policy continuity between the Obama and Trump administrations. But the biggest measure remains in place: the SST listing. That basically prohibits anyone from doing business with Sudan without a special licence from the US Treasury; the alternative is prosecution.

And while legitimate business stays shackled, illicit business continues to thrive. Sudanese people call it the “deep state” – at best crony capitalists profiteering from oil and gold sales, and from the security agencies’ lockdown of the financial and telecom sectors, and at worst mafia cartels. Along with their soldiers on the streets, this financial muscle is the power base of the generals.Advertisement

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The military oligarchs’ power will start eroding when exposed to the fair winds of free competition – when sanctions are lifted.

The state department candidly admits that all its main objectives have been met: Sudan isn’t a state sponsor of terror and, indeed, has been cooperating with the US for years; it let South Sudan secede peacefully, and has been assisting in trying to resolve its neighbour’s civil war; and it is committed to democratic reform, and peace with the remaining provincial rebels in Darfur and Southern Kordofan.

But the US has not yet properly recognised the once-in-a-generation achievement of the Sudanese people. Last week, Washington made the symbolic gesture of sending an ambassador to Khartoum and followed up with promises of incremental progress towards normalising relations. But removing the SST listing has been made dependent on Hamdok enacting a series of reforms, which is like sending a boxer into the ring with one hand tied behind his back, telling him: “If you can knock out the other guy, then we will untie your hand.”

If Sudan’s economy slides into complete meltdown and the civilian administration fails, the rug pulled from under Hamdok’s feet will have “Made in the US” written all over it.

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If the US administration – and Congress, which must approve the lifting of sanctions – wants to be on the right side of history in Sudan, it must respond expeditiously to the Sudanese people’s plea.


• El-Ghassim Wane is a former African Union and UN official with responsibilities for peace and security. Abdul Mohammed is chief of staff of the African Union high-level implementation panel for Sudan and South Sudan, speaking in a personal capacity; Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University

Bullets and Love: finding romance in the midst of sudan protests


Bullets, Tear Gas and Love: Romance Blooms in the Midst of Sudan Protests

After decades of rule under a dictator, a wave of exuberance has rippled across Sudan’s capital, the young are reveling in newfound freedoms — to speak, party and find love.


The minivan sped along the Nile, weaving through the evening traffic. The bride sat up front in a pink dress, a sparkling purse on her lap and her feet swaddled in bandages.

The bride, Samar Alnour, was shot twice last month during the tumultuous uprising that toppled Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Now she was on her way back to the protest site, to marry the man who saved her.

Muntassir Altigani, 30, a construction worker, had rushed to Ms. Alnour’s aid as she lay bleeding in the street. Bullets whizzed around them. Like her, he had joined the revolt as a howl against the misrule of Mr. al-Bashir. In the weeks that followed, they fell in love.

“I thought she was very courageous,” he said.

But the revolution is not over.

Listening to music, singing and chanting at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Across Khartoum, young Sudanese are enjoying once impossible freedoms.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Samar Alnour, whose feet were injured in early April during the violent crackdown on protesters, walking toward the sit-in after her wedding.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

The minivan halted on the edge of the protest site where thousands are still camped out at the gates of Sudan’s military headquarters, demanding a transition to full civilian rule. Ms. Alnour, an unemployed 28-year-old college graduate, hitched up her dress as she sat into a wheelchair and joined them.

An uncle pushed her deep into the heaving crowd — past the pop-up cafes with lounging soldiers and flirting couples; past the street poets and speakers, declaiming their dreams for Sudan; and past the dreadlocked musician playing Bob Marley covers.

Trailed by a cheering crowd, she stopped at the spot where she had been shot.

All her life, she said, she had known only Mr. al-Bashir’s Sudan: a cheerless place where corruption thwarted her effort to get a government job. Now a new country — or at least the promise of one — beckoned.

“Before we did not celebrate,” she said. “You couldn’t express yourself, or speak out. Now we feel free.”Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Socializing at one of the many cafes that line the alleyways near the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
The protest area, where thousands gather every night to demand their political rights but also to play. It is the epicenter of the changes rippling through Khartoum.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A soldier holding a protester’s baby.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Revolutionary Sudan has become the site of extraordinary scenes. After decades of airless, joyless rule under Mr. al-Bashir, a wave of exuberance has rippled across the capital, Khartoum, where young Sudanese are reveling in newfound freedoms — to talk politics, to party and even to find love.

The epicenter of these changes is the protest area at the gates of the military headquarters. Women in jeans move about without fear of harassment from the hated public order police, whose patrols have vanished from the streets. Couples mingle easily, some holding hands.

Day and night, teenage boys beat stones against the sides of a railway bridge, in a steady rhythm that has become a kind of heartbeat of the revolution.

Down by the Nile, young people relax on plastic chairs on the grass, sucking on water pipes that were banned by Mr. al-Bashir.

Closer to the water, men swig openly from bottles of araqi — date wine whose consumption is punishable by 40 lashes under Sudan’s Shariah law.

A sweet odor of hashish hangs in the air. Uniformed soldiers, who have vowed to protect the revolutionaries, are among the revelers.

Mr. al-Bashir’s Islamist rule had made Sudan, already a conservative society, unaccustomed to such scenes. A backlash is possible. Yet change is reverberating far beyond the protest area.

Protesters listening to an imam’s sermon before Friday prayers at the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Two newlyweds were mobbed by well-wishers as they walked through the site of the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Protesters sleeping along the train tracks that run by the sit-in.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

One night a young woman in tight jeans rode on the back of a motorbike in southern Khartoum, her hair flowing — a once unthinkable sight, likely to invite arrest.

Now, men in a passing car tooted their horn and made thumbs-up signs. The woman smiled and flashed a victory sign.

“The changes were shocking at first,” said Zuhayra Mohamed, 28, a project manager who defied her parents to participate in the protests. “It’s as if the regime had its arms around our necks for so long, and now there’s something so beautiful.”

But while the old Sudan may be out of sight, it has not gone away.

On a recent morning, dozens of uniformed public order police sat drinking tea under a cluster of trees outside their brightly painted Khartoum headquarters, near the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. They were awaiting orders, a commander said.

And as the protesters celebrated last week, Amer Yousif was being lashed.

The 35-year-old driver had been caught with a bottle of araqi in his pocket on a trip out to buy cigarettes. The next morning a judge sentenced him to 50 lashes, including an extra 10 for aggravated circumstances.

The judge “seemed angered by the revolution,” said Mr. Yousif, lifting his shirt to show a welt on his back.

Protesters looking on as a woman addressed the crowd. The protest grounds are full of small stages, where activists, including many women, have been giving speeches.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
A volunteer stirring a giant vat of soup being prepared for protesters.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Hanging out on motorcycles on Tuti Island, where the two Niles meet.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Another young couple, Mohamed Hamed and Nahed Elgizouli, also met during the protests, but it wasn’t bullets that brought them together but a cloud of tear gas.

Mr. Hamed, a 31-year-old engineer, collapsed onto his knees in downtown Khartoum, his lungs filled with the gas. Ms. Elgizouli ran up to him and rinsed his face with Coca-Cola.

They got to know each other over the following months — congregating at protest sites, sprinting away from armed regime thugs and protesting the death of a mutual friend in detention.

“They beat him to death,” said Ms. Elgizouli, 26, who works for an organization that promotes reproductive health.

Both had fallen afoul of the dreaded public order police before the revolution. Ms. Elgizouli was detained last year as she returned with male friends from a camping trip in the desert. Mr. Hamed was punished with 40 lashes in 2016 for being drunk.

It wasn’t so bad, he said. He bribed the flogger to go easy on him.

Economic collapse didn’t hurt them as badly as it did poorer Sudanese, but they hated the way the Bashir government robbed them of opportunity, and provided regular reminders of their country’s humiliating isolation.

In Sudan, American sanctions mean that Netflix, Spotify and many other internet services are blocked, credit cards don’t work and international franchises are absent. One popular coffee shop in Khartoum is called Starbox, with a version of the Starbucks black-and-green logo.

They watched friends move abroad to make a better life.

“Sudan was like a hell,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “No hope, no freedom, no jokes.”

The couple’s friendship turned to romance during the final push against Mr. al-Bashir in early April. They lay on the ground together as gunfire erupted outside the military compound, and rejoiced when the dictator fell.

Now they hold hands freely as they pass through the crowd. “This is the new Sudan, the one we dreamed of,” Ms. Elgizouli said.

The differences of religion and ethnicity that Mr. al-Bashir exploited to cement his authority are being blurred or erased. A train packed with jubilant revolutionaries arrived from Atbara, 175 miles to the north, last week. On Tuesday a cavalcade arrived from distant Darfur.

“People feel more at peace with each other,” said Ms. Mohamed, the engineer. “There’s a sense of unity.”

Sudan’s new freedoms are fragile, and whether they can endure is unclear. Power-sharing talks between protest leaders and the military, now in their fourth week, have become tense in recent days. Outside the protest bubble, supporters of the old government are waiting and watching.

Some say the struggle has just begun. “It’s like you’re in a dark place and you can see a small light,” Ms. Elgizouli said. “We have a long road to freedom.”

A young protester using his flashlight to look at graffiti depicting the faces of protesters killed in the clashes with the riot police and military before the fall of President Omar al-Bashir.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

Declan Walsh is the Cairo bureau chief, covering Egypt and the Middle East. He joined The Times in 2011 as Pakistan bureau chief, and previously worked at The Guardian. @declanwalsh

A version of this article appears New York edition with the headline: Romance Blooms in Midst of Bloody Revolution.


Sudanese protesters shout slogans during a rally against the government of President Omar al-Bashir in Sana'a.

The stand-off between al-Bashir and Sudan’s protesters intensifies

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir continues to hold the country hostage. While his intelligence chief Salah Abdallah Gosh announced recently that al-Bashir would be stepping down as head of the National Congress Party, the president himself has made no such commitment.

Sudanese protesters shout slogans during a rally against the government of President Omar al-Bashir in Sana'a.
Sudanese protesters shout slogans during a rally against the government of President Omar al-Bashir in Sana’a. EPA-EFE/Yahya Arhab

The crisis in the country continues to deepen. Al-Bashir has declared a state of emergency dismissed the federal government and sacked all state governors. He also subsequently appointed military and security officials to run Sudan’s 18 states, appointed a new state defence minister and reshuffled the army command.

The US, Britain and France have expressed deep concerns, particularly over the nationwide state of emergency. Activists claim that at least 37 people have died since December 2018 when the first protests took place in the Nile-side town of Atbara. Demonstrations have been staged in cities across Sudan, including the capital Khartoum. Though the protests were initially about the high cost of living, including the prohibitive price of bread, demonstrators are now calling for al-Bashir to resign.

All things considered, there are dangers down this road. The Sudanese state is weak after decades of war and sanctions. Removing al-Bashir would do little to change the structure of the state. The country is almost insolvent and it has become harder for him to keep everyone in line. Whoever takes control will need to take control over the security apparatus throughout the country or risk anarchy.

Continued protests could also affect South Sudan. Sudan previously depended on South Sudan’s oil production to boost its own economy and to keep the warring factions in South Sudan in line. Many fear that the South Sudan peace deal will fall apart if al-Bashir is removed. This would leave the world’s youngest nation in a disastrous situation.

But at this stage, if al-Bashir goes the biggest fear is that Sudan could end up like Libya, with militia running the country and a state that comes crashing down into fragments.

Popular uprisings

The protests have led to the further unravelling of a country that’s already fragile economically, politically and socially. Despite waves of government attempts to crack down on protesters, the uprising seems to have gained more strength. Protesters seemed to be spurred on the more the government uses violence to suppress them.

Very few African states have experienced as many post-independence uprisings as Sudan did between 1964 and 1985. These forced the ruling military regimes to step aside. But they failed to herald in new civilian leaders – what followed was simply a re-run of military rulers.

The current uprising has been different. It represents the most sustained challenge to 75-year old al-Bashir’s 30 years in power. Protesters – mostly young Sudanese – have been bold in their attempt to remove the regime. This has included burning the headquarters of the ruling National Congress Party headquarters, breaking into food stores to distribute grain to people, as well as challenging and heckling influential cleric Abdul Hai Yusuf who has been known to be pro-government.

Nevertheless, civilian rule still looks unlikely. This is because the power base is still contained within the army and elites.

The role of the EU and US

Under the Obama administration, US officials claimed that cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts with Sudan had improved. Since then the US and EU have been working hard to rebuild their ties with Sudan by partially lifting sanctions.

In addition, the EU has been working with Sudanese authorities to stem the flow of migrants, while the US has been actively fighting terrorist cells in and around the region.

But getting close to al-Bashir in a bid to solve the migrant crisis and to fight terrorism is simply compromising the legitimacy of the EU and the US when it comes to international human rights abuses. Many of the security forces that the US and EU have trained to fight terrorism and curb migration are the same forces being used to clamp down on protesters.

What next?

There are two probable outcomes for Sudan. First, Bashir could voluntarily resign, hand over power and choose to leave the country. This isn’t a likely option unless he can agree on a safe passage to another country, for example Egypt. This is because he could possibly face being charged by the International Criminal Court.

It’s therefore more likely that he will stay in the country and continue to challenge the uprising by using the state of emergency and suppressing the protesters violently. This will result in more bloodshed and is likely to trigger more violent responses from the protesters. In turn, this could fuel the creation of armed groups, potentially turning the protests into armed conflict.

Under this scenario the already fragile state could be destabilised, leading to massive displacement and immense human suffering.

SOURCE: The Conversation

‘Sudan police shoot at mourners’

Reuters news agency is reporting that police in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, have fired live ammunition at hundreds of people mourning the death of a man killed by the security forces during anti-government demonstrations.

It quotes a witness as saying the 60-year-old protester had died on Friday morning from a gunshot wound sustained on Thursday night.

Reuters says as many as 2,000 mourners gathered at the man’s house the Burri district of the capital.

It’s the same neighbourhood where a child and a doctor were shot dead during protests on Thursday.

SOURCE: BBC Africa

South Sudanese governor works under a tree

Without an office to work in, South Sudan’s Gok State governor Madhang Majok Meen has been forced carry out official duties under a tree.

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South Sudan’s Gok State governor Madhang Majok Meen working under the tree. Photo:


“We are all operating under the trees – the governor and the ministers,” the state’s Information Minister John Madol Panther told Eye Radio. “We don’t have offices completely but we are now constructing (offices).”

He said state ministers are forced to “walk on foot to work” due to the lack of vehicles.

“Sometimes it is difficult when it rains,” Mr Meen said.

This comes after images were shared on Facebook of the governor sat outdoors behind a plastic table, which had a plaque bearing his name.


SOURCE: 

Salma al-Majidi at work.

The Sudanese football team coached by a woman

Salma El Majidi is the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team in the Arab world.

Salma al-Majidi at work.


“I became a coach because there is still no scope for women’s football in Sudan,” El Majidi told an AFP reporter in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref where she trains players of the El Ahly El Gedaref club.

Daughter of a retired policeman, Majidi was 16 when she fell in love with football. It came about as she watched her younger brother’s school team being coached. She was captivated by the coach’s instructions, his moves, and how he placed the marker cones at practice sessions, the AFP report reads.

“At the end of every training session, I discussed with him the techniques he used to coach the boys,” El Majidi said. “He saw I had a knack for coaching… and gave me a chance to work with him.”

Soon she was coaching the under-13 and under-16 teams of El Hilal club in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum. Later she coached the Sudanese second league men’s clubs of El Nasir, El Nahda, Nile Halfa and El Morada.

She is acknowledged by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) as the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team in the Arab world.

“There are restrictions on women’s football, but I’m determined to succeed,” El Majidi said. She had to convince her family first before she could proceed with her dreams. She now dreams of coaching an international team.

Women football

Nowadays, Sudan has only one women’s football team, the Women’s Challenge Team. It was established by a group of young Sudanese women at the Comboni playground in downtown Khartoum in 2001.

The team played its first competitive match in 2006. Eight years later, in 2014, the members, divided into two teams, played a match in Khartoum. They women players were cheered by large numbers of fans, representatives of civil society organisations, and some foreign diplomats.

The team continues to lack recognition of FIFA. In 2012, in response to a question from FIFA regarding the feasibility of creating a women team, the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (a religious order) deeming a women’s football team “an immoral act”.

The coach of the Women’s Challenge Team, Ahmed Babikir, told Al Jazeera in 2015 that Sudan used to have many women’s teams in the past. “We need to go back to that,” he said. “FIFA should not provide the Sudanese Football Association with any funding until they form more women’s teams and support existing ones.”


SOURCE: Radio Dabanga (Amsterdam)

More than 3000 South Sudanese flee border town to Uganda following Tuesday attacks

More than 3,000 South Sudanese fled into neighboring Uganda on Tuesday after government soldiers attacked the border town of Pajok, killing men, women and children indiscriminately, refugees said.

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More than 3000 South Sudanese flee border town to Uganda following Tuesday attacks


The attack by government SPLA forces is the latest to hit southern towns near the Ugandan border as a three-year civil war spreads across the world’s youngest nation.

South Sudan government officials were not immediately reachable for comment.

“If you ran, you got shot. If you got arrested you got slaughtered,” said 35-year-old Lokang Jacky, drawing his index finger across his throat for emphasis.


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Refugees and Ugandan intelligence officials said fighting started at 8:00 a.m. on Monday with a three-pronged assault on the town, which is normally home to 50,000 people.

“The town is completely empty,” a pastor who gave his name as Mondaa said. “If they catch anybody, they will kill them.”

In late March, rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar said they freed prisoners from a jail in another border town of Kajo-Keji around 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital Juba.

But the government disputed this, saying the rebels had raided a prison, freed a number of people it described as prisoners-of-war, then left.


SOURCE: Africa News

South Sudan refugee crisis: The shaking bridge between life and death

For three years South Sudan has Continue reading “South Sudan refugee crisis: The shaking bridge between life and death”

South Sudan artists unites to paint for peace in Juba

After nearly three years of devastating civil conflict, South Sudanese artists have come together to try and get the country thinking and talking about peace, by launching a public art project in the capital, Juba.

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The walls of schools, bakeries, cultural centres and shipping containers have been re-purposed as concrete canvases for the artists:

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It has been organised by the Ana Taban collective (which in the Arabic means “I am tired”), taking its name from a parallel pro-peace movement in Syria.

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An online campaign #SaveTheLastTrain by South Sudanese poet Akol Miyen, inspired this artwork:

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“This is the last train because our chances as a nation our running out,” the group says.

Painting of a gun firing out doves of peace on a shipping container

Chil operates a sewing machine, which is stitching the South Sudan flag back together

The artworks highlight the suffering of children in the civil war. “In the end they are the ones who will have to pick up the pieces and stitch the fabric of South Sudan back together,” the group says.

Sudanese migrant dies during migrant clash in France

A Sudanese migrant has been killed and another injured in a fight near the northern French city of Calais, the AFP news agency is reporting.

It quotes the police as saying that there were clashes between the Sudanese migrants and a group from Afghanistan.

It came after the police pushed the migrants back after they attempted to access the area where they could stow-away on a lorry travelling to the UK.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist

Top 10 richest countries in Africa

Africa is on the verge of being the largest and richest market in The world as the continent swims into the top richest countries in the world.

Continue reading “Top 10 richest countries in Africa”