Category Archives: North Africa – Republic Of The Sudan

Sudan economic crisis thickens.

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The exchange rate policy shift comes amid concern that Sudan’s level of foreign currency holdings are approaching exhaustion.

Sudan announced Sunday it was ditching its fixed exchange rate and adopting a managed float, in line with an IMF programme but at the risk of fanning already-smouldering discontent.

The move aims to stem a flourishing black market that has seen the local pound recently trade at around 400 to the dollar, while the official rate was fixed at 55 pounds to the greenback.

It is expected to substantially devalue the official exchange rate towards black market levels, sending prices higher even as citizens grapple with an inflation rate that topped 300 percent last month.

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The transitional government has decided to undertake policies “aimed at reforming and unifying the exchange rate system by applying a managed flexible exchange rate system,” the central bank said in a statement.

Closing the yawning gap between the official and black market exchange rates is central to a reform programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund last year.

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The central bank said its policy shift, which follows the recent appointment of a new cabinet tasked with tackling the economic crisis, is “imperative” to help achieve stability.

It is one of several painful IMF mandated reforms, which also include reducing costly subsidies, aimed at securing debt relief and attracting investment following the April 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Newly-appointed finance minister Gibril Ibrahim urged citizens to tolerate the impact of the policy change, saying in a press conference on Sunday that it “will require a high patriotic spirit” and “cooperation”.

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Ominously for Sudan’s transitional authorities, protests have already flared in recent weeks in several areas over the skyrocketing prices, alongside bread and medicine shortages.

Sudan’s economy was decimated by decades of US sanctions under Bashir, mismanagement and civil war, as well as oil-rich South Sudan’s 2011 secession.

– Cushioning the blow –

The finance minister and the central bank governor, Mohamed al-Fatih, said the exchange rate policy shift will be cushioned by international donors financing a project aimed at supporting poor families from Monday.

The programme offers $5 dollars per month each to around 80 percent of the country’s 45 million population.

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In January, the IMF said it was “working very intensively” with Sudan to build the preconditions for debt relief.

The US recently removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist, another move Khartoum hopes will unlock debt relief and aid.

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The central bank governor said Sudan has begun applying a dual banking system, instead of solely Islamic banking, in a move allowing international banks to operate in the country.

The exchange rate policy shift comes amid concern that Sudan’s level of foreign currency holdings are approaching exhaustion.

If the central bank is to be successful in drawing transactions away from the black market, then reserves need to stand at around $5 billion, Mohamed el-Nayer, a Sudanese economist, told AFP.

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Authorities have not lately disclosed the level of reserves.

Asked if the country had enough reserves, the Ibrahim replied that funds had lately been received, but did not specify the origin or amount.

But the recent bread shortages — and also of fuel — point to the possibility of “severely lacking” foreign reserves, the economist Nayer said.

Bashir’s fall nearly two years ago came after months of protests against his autocratic rule that were triggered by his cash strapped government effectively trebling bread prices.

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In October, Sudan signed a peace deal with rebel groups that observers hoped would end long-running conflicts in the country’s far-flung regions.

Last month, the government approved this year’s budget and it is aiming for inflation of 95 percent by end-2021.

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#Newsworthy

Inflation tops 300% as economic crisis deepens in Sudan.

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Protests have flared in recent weeks in several parts of Sudan over skyrocketing costs of living.

Sudan’s inflation rate has soared above 300 percent, officials said Monday, posing a major challenge for a newly-appointed government tasked with tackling an economic crisis that has triggered recent protests.

“The annual inflation rate reached 304.3 percent in January, compared to 269.3 percent in December,” the Central Bureau of Statistics said in a statement, attributing the rise to price hikes including on food.

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Protests have flared in recent weeks in several parts of Sudan over skyrocketing costs of living.

Sudanese authorities have blamed the sometimes violent demonstrations on supporters of ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019 following mass youth-led protests triggered mainly by economic hardship.

Last week, Sudan swore in a new inclusive cabinet with the aim of rebuilding the country’s economy, which was decimated by decades of US sanctions, mismanagement and civil war under Bashir.

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The new government appointments included veteran rebel leader and economist Gibril Ibrahim as Sudan’s finance minister.

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since Bashir’s ouster.

It has been struggling with a severe economic crisis characterised by a galloping inflation, chronic hard currency shortage, and a volatile black market.

The crisis has been exacerbated further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The government hopes Sudan’s recent removal from the US blacklist as state sponsors of terrorism would allow for debt relief and bring in much-needed foreign investment.

Last month, the government said it hopes to bring inflation down to 95 percent by the end of the year.

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#Newsworthy

Sudanese seek justice two years after protest erupts

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But experts have said they fear far more of the government could be affected, including US intelligence bodies, given the ubiquitousness of the SolarWinds security software.

Hackers broke into systems used by top US Treasury officials during a massive cyberattack on government agencies and may have stolen essential encryption keys, a senior lawmaker said Monday.

Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Finance Committees, said after a closed-door briefing that the hack at the US Treasury Department “appears to be significant.”

Dozens of email accounts were compromised, he said in a statement.

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“Additionally the hackers broke into systems in the Departmental Offices division of Treasury, home to the department’s highest-ranking officials,” said Wyden.

“Treasury still does not know all of the actions taken by hackers, or precisely what information was stolen.”

The US government admitted last week that computer systems in multiple departments were penetrated by attackers who hacked in through widely used security software made by the US company SolarWinds.

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Members of Congress briefed by US intelligence, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr, have all said Russians were behind the hack.

So far officials have said the hackers broke into computers at the State Department, Commerce Department, Treasury, Homeland Security Department, and the National Institutes of Health.

Wyden said that the Internal Revenue Service had said there was no evidence that they had been compromised or data on taxpayers taken.

But he sharply criticized the government for not taking stronger measures to protect its systems.

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The government “has now suffered a breach that seems to involve skilled hackers stealing encryption keys from (government) servers,” he said.

That has happened despite “years of government officials advocating for encryption backdoors, and ignoring warnings from cybersecurity experts who said that encryption keys become irresistible targets for hackers.”

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#Newsworthy

Sudan PM welcomes Rebel leader back to Khartoum after peace deal.

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Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, following unresolved issues from bitter fighting there in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok welcomed rebel leaders to the capital Khartoum on Sunday, as crowds celebrated what they hoped was the end of war following a landmark peace deal.

“We have been looking forward to this day,” Hamdok said as he greeted the leaders, according to a broadcast by the official news agency SUNA.

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“Today we are taking the first steps to put an end to the suffering of our people.”

It was the first time the leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel and political groups, had come to the capital since the signing of an October 3 peace agreement in neighbouring South Sudan.

“We have come to put the peace agreement into effect on the ground,” said Minni Minawi, who leads a faction of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement, according to SUNA.

“We must work to assume responsibility and abandon the political quarrels to move towards democracy.”

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The peace deal is hoped to end decades of fighting, including the war in the western Darfur region that erupted in 2003.

The United Nations estimates at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million were displaced in the Darfur conflict.

“This is the first time in Sudan’s history we reached a deal that truly addresses the roots of the Sudanese crisis,” said Hamdok.

Jubilant crowds packed a central square in Khartoum, chanting and carrying banners to celebrate.

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The SRF — founded in 2011 — is an alliance of armed rebel groups and political movements including from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Sudan’s transitional government seized power after the April 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar al-Bashir, following unprecedented street protests against his rule.

Bashir has been jailed in Khartoum’s high security Kober prison and was found guilty last December of corruption.

He is currently on trial in Khartoum for his role in the 1989 coup that brought him to power, and has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused of genocide in Darfur.


#Newsworthy…

Rebel group, Sudan sign ‘peace deal.’

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Sudan’s transitional authorities and a rebel alliance signed on Saturday a peace deal agreed in August that aims to put an end to the country’s decades-long civil wars, in a televised ceremony in Juba.

“The next biggest challenge is to work with all local and international partners to preach the agreement and its benefits,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tweeted on Friday upon his arrival in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.


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Reaching a negotiated settlement with rebels in Sudan’s far-flung provinces has been a crucial goal for the transitional government, which assumed power after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

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Sudanese civilian leaders hope the deal will allow them to revive the country’s battered economy by slashing military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.

Saturday’s official signing in Juba sealed the peace deal reached in late August between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups.

The summit was attended by South Sudan President Salva Kiir, whose own country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of civil war. The head of Sudan’s sovereign council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and his deputy Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, also attended the ceremony. Dagalo, the commander of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, signed the agreement along with rebel leaders.

The deal would grant self-rule for the southern provinces of Blue Nile, South Kordofan and West Kordofan, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press. Rebel forces would be integrated into Sudan’s armed forces.

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The Sudan Revolutionary Front, centered in the western Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, is part of the pro-democracy movement that led to the uprising against al-Bashir, but the rebels didn’t fully support the military-civilian power-sharing deal. That deal includes a six-month deadline for achieving peace, which ran out in February.

Sudan’s largest single rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-North led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, was involved in the talks but has yet to reach a deal with the government.

Al-Hilu has called for a secular state with no role for religion in lawmaking, the disbanding of al-Bashir’s militias and the revamping of the country’s military. The group has said if its demands are not met, it would call for self-determination in areas it controls in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.

Al-Hilu attended Saturday’s ceremony and met with Hamdok and Kiir to discuss the ongoing talks between his movement and the government, according to Hamdok’s office.

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Another major rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Army, which is led by Abdel-Wahid Nour, rejects the transitional government and has not taken part in the talks.

Nour’s movement criticized the deal, saying in a statement it was “not different from” other previous deals that did not end the wars.

The Sudanese communist party, which is part of the protest movement that helped topple al-Bashir, also denounced the deal as a “true threat to Sudan’s integrity and future.”

The party said in a statement Thursday that the deal would “create tensions and new disputes” because other rebel groups and victims of the civil war did not join these talks.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: French Bank under investigation for ‘hand’ in Sudan war crimes.

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French authorities have began probing banking giant BNP Paribas which is accused of aiding war crimes allegedly committed in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The bank is accused of ignoring sanctions against Omar al Bashir, who was overthrown as Sudan’s leader last year.


#Newsworthy…

Nile Flood: Almost 100 Lose to Death in Sudan.

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On Sudan’s Tuti Island, where the Blue and White Nile meet, the highest river waters since records began have left locals trying to hold back the floods.

Residents are filling bags with sand and small stones to try and stop the waters, which has washed away thousands of homes.

“Three days ago the water invaded my house around midnight,” said Swakin Ahmad.

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“We were knee-deep in it. My husband and I, with our five children, fled… carrying a few things in our hands.”

Every year during the rainy season the river floods, and the people of the island expect the waters to rise.

But this year has seen waters rising to record levels.

The level of the Blue Nile has risen to 17.57 metres (57 feet), the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said this week, breaking all records since measurements began over a century ago.

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Heavy rains forecast
Government civil defence officials say that seasonal floods have killed 94 people, injured 46 and destroyed or damaged over 60,000 homes across Sudan during the current season.

But many fear the worst is yet to come.

Heavy rains are forecast to continue through September, both in Sudan and upstream in neighbouring Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile.

“Young people tried to rescue things from my house,” Ahmad said. “But it was hopeless, because they had water up to their necks and could not see anything.”

Residents have set up homemade barrages to block the water, but their efforts have been engulfed by the rising river.

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The army has been sent in to help them.

Iqbal Mohamed Abbas, who welcomed many of those forced from their homes at her educational centre, described “the courage with which young people tried with simple means to slow down the flood.”

“I am proud of these young people who came to try to stop the Nile with their bodies,” Abbas said.

Sudan’s water ministry predicts that this year’s flood is larger than that of 1998, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes in several states and displaced more than a million people.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that over 380,000 people have already been affected across the country.


#Newsworthy…

1989 Coup: Judge adjourn trial of ex-Sudan leader, Hassan al-Bashir.

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Sudan’s trial of ousted president Omar al-Bashir over the 1989 coup that brought him to power was adjourned Tuesday to September 15, the presiding judge said.

The session, which was broadcast on Sudan TV, was held amid tight security as Bashir, 76, and other co-accused regime figures stood behind bars in the courtroom.

After procedural questions and debate about coronavirus precautions in the courtroom, the presiding judge declared the hearing was “adjourned to September 15”.

Bashir came to power in 1989 on the back of an Islamist-backed coup that toppled the elected government of prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

He stayed in power for 30 years before being overthrown on April 11, 2019 after several months of unprecedented, youth-led street demonstrations amid dire economic hardship.

If convicted, Bashir and others could face the death penalty.

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The trial comes as Sudan’s joint civilian-military transitional government is pushing a wave of political and social reforms and on Monday agreed a peace deal with most rebel groups.

Sudan’s former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir smiles as he is seen inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Sudan August 31, 2019. REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH

The new authorities in February also agreed that Bashir should stand trial before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Bashir was indicted by the ICC over the Darfur conflict that erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms, accusing Khartoum of political and economic marginalisation of their region.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict.

SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Sudan govt signs peace deal with Darfur Rebels.

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Agreement provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and integration of their fighters into the national army.


Sudan’s government and the main rebel alliance agreed on a peace deal on Monday to end 17 years of conflict.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, signed the peace agreement at a ceremony in Juba, capital of neighbouring South Sudan, which has hosted and helped mediate the long-running talks since late 2019.

The final agreement covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of war.

It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.

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The deal is a significant step in the transitional leadership’s goal of resolving multiple, deep-rooted civil conflicts.

About 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations.

Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, following unresolved issues from bitter fighting there in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several ministers flew to Juba on Sunday, the official news agency SUNA reported, where he met South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

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Hamdok said finding a deal had taken longer than first hoped after an initial agreement in September 2019.

The rebel forces took up arms against what they said was the economic and political marginalisation by the government in Khartoum.

They are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of successive governments in Khartoum, including that of toppled strongman, Omar al-Bashir.

The rebel groups that signed the agreement include the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Minni Minawi’s Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), both of the western region of Darfur, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Malik Agar, present in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: Sudan rebels agree key peace deal.

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Sudan’s main rebel alliance has agreed a peace deal with the government aimed at ending 17 years of conflict, official news agency SUNA said Sunday.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an alliance of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, inked a peace agreement with the government late on Saturday.

A formal signing ceremony is planned for Monday in Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, which has hosted and helped mediate the long-running talks since late 2019.

Senior government officials and rebel leaders “signed their initials on protocols on security arrangements” and other issues late Saturday, SUNA reported.

However, two key holdout rebel forces have refused to take part in the deal.

The final agreement covers key issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes due to war.

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It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several ministers flew to Juba on Sunday, the news agency said, where he met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir.

– ‘Start of peace-building’ –

Hamdok said that finding a deal had taken longer than first hoped after a initial agreement in September 2019.

“At the Juba declaration in September, everyone expected peace to be signed within two or three months, but …we realised that the questions were of one great complexity,” Hamdok said.

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“However, we were able to accomplish this great work, and this is the start of peace-building.”

The rebel forces took up arms against what they said was the economic and political marginalisation by the government in Khartoum.

They are largely drawn from non-Arab minority groups that long railed against Arab domination of successive governments in Khartoum, including that of toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

About 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since rebels took up arms there in 2003, according to the United Nations.

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Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile erupted in 2011, following unresolved issues from bitter fighting there in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

Forging peace with rebels has been a cornerstone of Sudan’s transitional government, which came to power in the months after Bashir’s overthrow in April 2019 on the back of mass protests against his rule.

Two movements rejected part of the deal — a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdelwahid Nour, and a wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), headed by Abdelaziz al-Hilu.

Previous peace accords in Sudan, including one signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another signed in Qatar in 2010, have fallen through over the years.


#Newsworthy…