Tag Archives: North Africa

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…

Algeria protesters begin constitutional reform campaign.

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Protesters demanded radical changes to the entire state system they revile as undemocratic and corrupt.

Algeria launched its campaign Wednesday for constitutional reforms for a “New Republic” that the government hopes will satisfy a popular protest movement — to the apparent indifference of many.

The constitutional changes, a flagship initiative of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are set to be put to a referendum on November 1, the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s 1954-1962 war of independence from France.

“November 1954: liberation, November 2020: change,” the official campaign slogan reads.

But many ordinary Algerians — struggling during a deep economic crisis that has seen unemployment soar — appear sceptical it will make any meaningful difference.

“What change are we talking about? Nothing has changed with these people in power,” said Ali, a former trade union official.

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Popular anti-government demonstrations led by the Hirak — meaning in Arabic, “the movement” — pushed ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power last year.

In a bid to shore up his mandate, Bouteflika’s successor Tebboune pledged to revise the constitution and allow people to approve or reject proposals in a referendum.

But some see the referendum as a cynical way for the government to appear to bring change while maintaining its power. “They want to steal the hopes born from Hirak,” Ali added.

While the referendum was mentioned on radio and television stations, there were no campaign posters seen on the streets of Algiers.

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“Why vote for a project to which I do not have access?” said elderly Algerian Brahim Bahmed, complaining that the “promised broad debate did not take place”.

“It’s hard to imagine popular enthusiasm during the campaign,” said political scientist Mansour Kedidir, noting that ordinary citizens “care more about the precariousness of life than the rhetoric of reform.”

Opposition parties are themselves divided, with some calling for people to vote against the changes, and others to boycott the referendum entirely.

“Abstention risks being… the main winner and a crisis of legitimacy its logical consequence,” said Louisa Dris-Ait-Hamadouche, a lecturer from the University of Algiers.


#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: Morocco signs 10-year military co-op deal with United States

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The United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a 10-year military cooperation deal in Rabat, Morocco on Friday — two days after signing a similar deal in Tunisia as he made his final stop on a North African tour aimed at strengthening the fight against Islamist extremists in war-torn Libya and the Sahel-Sahara region.

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Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Foreign Minister, shared a few words in a public address, “Our long-standing alliance has not only endured the test of time. We have stood side by side throughout the major challenges that shaped the 20th century, and we have transitioned into the 21st century stronger than ever.”

A sentiment which seems to be shared by the States who sees Morocco as a key ally in this terrorist-challenged area of the continent. Esper followed in kind, “Now more than ever, our two nations are working closely together to tackle the challenges of an increasingly complex security environment – ranging from counterterrorism and other transnational threats to regional instability and broader strategic challenges.”

The goal of Esper’s visit was to reinforce mutual cooperation between the two nations as Morocco already hosts the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, “African Lion” — cancelled this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His visit came as talks between Libyan rivals were set to restart Friday evening in Bouznika, near Rabat, according to a Moroccan official.


#Newsworthy…

U.S. defense sec, Mark Esper arrives Tunisia on tour to North Africa.

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US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived Wednesday in Tunisia, his first stop on a North Africa tour where he was set to reaffirm US engagement in the Maghreb region.

As the raging conflict in neighbouring Libya has attracted foreign jihadists and world powers backing rival sides, Washington has increasingly cooperated with the Tunisian military, particularly on counter-terror operations.

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Esper was set to meet President Kais Saied and Defence Minister Ibrahim Bartagi before delivering a speech at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, where over 2,800 American soldiers were buried, most of them killed during World War II.

Washington in 2015 classified Tunisia as a Major Non-NATO Ally, allowing for reinforced military cooperation.

Since 2011, it has invested more than $1 billion in the Tunisian military, according to Washington’s Africa command, Africom.

The US armed forces organised a military air display in March on the southern island of Djerba.

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Tunisia in 2016 denied a Washington Post report that it had allowed the US to operate drones from its territory for missions in Libya against the Islamic State group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

But a court martial in 2017 in a case of sexual harassment by an American officer, reported in the US defence press, publicly confirmed the presence of an American squadron operating drones from within a Tunisian base in the northern region of Bizerte.

This May, the head of Africom said the US would send more troops to the country in light of the deteriorating situation in Libya, triggering an outcry in Tunisia.

Africom later clarified that it was only deploying “a small training unit” that would not engage in combat missions, and the Tunisian government said there were no plans for an American base in the country.

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Esper, during his Tunisia visit, was due to warn of growing Russian and Chinese influence on the continent, according to a US official speaking before the trip.

The other goal of the visit was to reinforce ties and discuss the threat of jihadists such as the Islamic State group, the official said.

Esper was set to visit neighbouring Algeria on Thursday, becoming the first US defense secretary to do so since Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

Esper will then head to Morocco, the other US Major Non-NATO Ally in the Maghreb region.


#Newsworthy..

Tunisia leader, Kais Saied supports hanging amid woman’s murder uproar

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has said he backs capital punishment after public outrage over a woman’s murder sparked calls for executions to restart following a three-decade-long pause.

“Anyone who kills a person for no reason deserves the death penalty,” Saied told the nation’s security council late Monday, according to a video posted by the presidency.

Tunisia carried out its last hanging in 1991, according to Amnesty International, but death by hanging remains on the statute books of the North African nation.

Presidential candidate Kais Saied speaks as he attends a news conference after the announcement of the results in the first round of Tunisia’s presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo

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Convicts have regularly been handed death sentences in recent years — mainly in trials related to national security — but a moratorium on carrying out the punishment has been in place.

“Each society has its choices, we have our principles, and the text is there,” Saied added.

A recent murder revived the debate on the death penalty.

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The body of a 29-year-old woman, who had vanished after leaving work, was discovered last week near a highway that runs from the capital Tunis to the suburb of Marsa.

A man was swiftly arrested and confessed to killing her and stealing her phone, according to the interior ministry.

The justice ministry said that the suspect had previously been accused in an earlier murder case that was dismissed, without giving further details.

“If it is proven that he has killed one or more people, I don’t think the solution is … not to apply the death penalty,” Saied added.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Tunisian leader, Kais Saied condemns resort attack.

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Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday condemned the attack in the coastal resort town of Sousse that killed one security officer and injured another.

Three suspected Islamic militants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives were shot dead by Tunisian forces, authorities said Sunday.

“I do not know the intentions, the arrangements, of those who carried out this terrorist act, but they did not succeed in the past and will not succeed in the future,” Saied said.

Saied spoke to journalists during a short visit to the coastal town.

An Interior Ministry statement said the assailants took refuge in a school after the attack and died in a shootout with security forces.

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The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest that the assailants’ planning may have been faulty.

The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

The story at length
Tunisian forces shot dead three suspected Islamic militants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives, killing one and injuring another in the coastal resort town of Sousse, authorities said Sunday.

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Police officers and forensic workers could be seen examining the site after the attack.

Sousse was the site of Tunisia’s deadliest extremist attack in 2015, when a massacre killed 38 people, most of them British tourists.

An Interior Ministry statement said Sunday that the assailants took refuge in a school after the attack and died in a shootout with security forces.

The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest that the assailants’ planning may have been faulty.

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He also announced the arrest of a fourth suspect who had been aboard the vehicle that rammed the National Guard officers.

Hatem Zargouni, director of security for Sousse, said the assailants stabbed the officers and then fled with their weapons.

The injured officer was hospitalized.

The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.


#Newsworthy…

Talks hold in Morocco amongst rival Libyan administrations

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Delegates from Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and rival eastern-based parliament meet after ceasefire.

Delegates from Libya’s rival administrations met for talks in Morocco more than two weeks after the two sides announced a surprise ceasefire.

The meeting, held on Sunday at the initiative of Morocco, which hosted peace talks in 2015 that led to the creation of a United Nations-recognised government for Libya, kicked off in the coastal town of Bouznika, south of Rabat.

Dubbed “Libyan Dialogue”, the talks brought together five members of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and five from a parliament in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

The discussions were a prelude to a major meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday that brings together the leaders of rival Libyan groups.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in remarks before Sunday’s meeting got under way, said his country was offering Libyans “space” to discuss points of contention dividing them.

“The kingdom is ready to provide Libyans with a space to discuss [issues], according to their will, and will applaud them regardless of the outcome,” Bourita said.

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“Morocco has no agenda or initiative to submit” to the two sides, Bourita added.

A solution to Libya’s crisis must be decided by the Libyans themselves under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, before delegates met behind closed doors.

Beaten back
Libya has endured about 10 years of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The crisis worsened last year when renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar – who backs the Tobruk parliament and is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia – launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

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Haftar was beaten back earlier this year by Turkish-backed GNA forces and fighting has now stalled around the Mediterranean city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields and export terminals.

On August 22, the rival administrations announced separately they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from world powers.

Peter Millett, a former British ambassador to Libya, said the rival sides talking was a good first step, but there is much work to do to achieve lasting peace.

Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs, chairs a meeting of Libya’s rival administrations [Fadel Senna/AFP]

“First of all, it needs the buy-in of broader group of political players – tribal leaders, society leaders, municipal leaders. Secondly, it needs the buy-in from the military factions, particularly Haftar, and it has to be a genuine ceasefire,” Millett told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “Thirdly, it needs the buy-in of the entire international community.”

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‘Foreign players’
Mohamed Chtatou, a professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, said Sunday’s talks were “historic in many ways” and likely touched on possible appointees for a future government and key positions, including head of the Central Bank of Libya, chairman of the National Oil Corporation, and the prosecutor general.

“This meeting is good for the reunification of Libya and bringing the country back on its feet,” Chtatou told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “I’m sure the foreign players are not happy about what is happening because they all have their stakes in Libya. The Libyans want peace and it’s Libyans talking to Libyans – so that is very important.”

Reporting from Tripoli, Noble Reporters Media said the fact that Haftar is not represented at the meeting does not mean he is excluded.

“In fact, the delegation representing the Tobruk-based parliament is considered in one way or another the political arm of Haftar’s forces on the ground. So the Tobruk-based parliament, which is affiliated to the warlord Khalifa Haftar, is now representing Haftar’s view in the meeting in Morocco,” he said.

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Delegates from the two sides will also meet other factions, including political parties and remnants of Gaddafi’s regime, for talks brokered by the European Union and the UN mission (UNSMIL) in Switzerland starting on Monday.

Sunday’s meeting in Morocco coincided with closed-door talks in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, the Turkish presidency said.

During the meeting, Erdogan stated Turkey will “continue to stand in solidarity with Libya’s UN-recognised legitimate government, and reiterated that Turkey’s priority is to restore Libya’s stability, without further delay”, a statement said.

“Libya’s peace and stability would benefit its neighbours and the entire region, starting with Europe,” said Erdogan. “The international community ought to assume a principled stance in that regard.”

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Future settlement ‘complicated’
At a January summit in Berlin, the main countries involved in the Libyan conflict agreed to respect an arms embargo and to stop interfering in Libya’s domestic affairs.

But on Wednesday, the interim UN envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, denounced what she called “blatant” ongoing violations of the arms embargo in the North African country.

According to an interim report from UN experts, “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective” and violations are “extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions”.

Williams said UNSMIL was also receiving reports of the “large-scale presence of foreign mercenaries and operatives” in Libya, adding this complicates chances of a future settlement.


#Newsworthy…

Three Assailants, Officer killed in Tunisia resort attack.

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The attack took place in the coastal resort town of Sousse, where a gunman killed 38 people in 2015.

Tunisian forces shot dead three assailants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives, killing one officer and injuring another in the coastal resort town of Sousse.

Sousse was the site of Tunisia’s deadliest attack in 2015 when a gunman killed 38 people, most of them British tourists.

A patrol of two National Guard officers was targeted in the knife attack on Sunday in Sousse, 140km (87 miles) south of the capital Tunis, said National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli.

“One died as a martyr and the other was wounded and is hospitalised,” he said, adding “this was a terrorist attack.”

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The attackers first rammed the gendarmes with a vehicle at about 6:40am (05:40 GMT).

After the knife attack, security forces pursued the assailants who took the officers’ guns and vehicle through the Akouda district of the city’s tourist area of El-Kantaoui, said Jebabli.

“In a firefight, three terrorists were killed,” he said, adding security forces “managed to recover” the car and two pistols the assailants had stolen.

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The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest the assailants’ planning might have been faulty.

Attackers with knives killed a Tunisian National Guard officer and wounded another before three assailants were shot dead [Bechir Taieb/AFP]

Speaking in Sousse at the site of the attack, he announced the arrest of a fourth suspect who had been on board the vehicle that rammed the National Guard officers.

“These terrorist groups wanted to signal their presence,” he said. “But they got the wrong address this time. The clearest proof of that is that the authors of this attack were eliminated in a few minutes.”

Tunisian President Kais Saied, on a visit hours later to the sealed-off scene of the knife attack, said police were investigating whether it was planned “by individuals or an organisation”.

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Struggling to rebound
The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The ISIL (ISIS) armed group had claimed responsibility for that attack.

Aymen Rezgui, a Tunisian student who trained with Libyan fighters, walked onto the beach of the Imperial Hotel and used an assault rifle to shoot at tourists in lounge chairs. He then continued onto the hotel pool before throwing a grenade into the hotel. He was later killed by police.

The year 2015 was a particularly bloody one with three deadly attacks claimed by ISIL. An assault at the capital’s Bardo National Museum in March 2015 had killed 21 foreign tourists and a security guard. In November that year, a bus bombing in central Tunis had killed 12 presidential guards.

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While the situation has significantly improved since then, Tunisia has maintained a state of emergency.

Assaults on security forces have persisted, mainly in remote areas along the border with Algeria.

Last week, Tunisia’s parliament approved a new technocratic government led by Mechichi, which faces the task of tackling deep social and economic woes in the North African country.

The 46-year-old premier pledged to revitalise the economy, including the crucial tourism sector, which had rebounded after the attacks but has been hit hard this year by the coronavirus pandemic.


#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…

Shut all migrant detention centres in Libya – United Nations

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Report by Antonio Guterres says more than 2,780 people held in centres, with about one fifth of them being children.


United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the closure of all detention centres holding refugees and migrants in Libya, condemning what he described as human rights violations committed there.

“Nothing can justify the horrendous conditions under which refugees and migrants are detained in Libya,” Guterres said in a report submitted on Thursday to the UN Security Council, according to Noble Reporters Media‘s known Agency.

“I renew my appeal to the Libyan authorities … to fulfil their obligations under international law and to close all detention centres, in close coordination with United Nations entities,” he added.

According to the secretary-general’s report, more than 2,780 people were being detained as of July 31 in centres across Libya. Twenty-two percent of the detainees were children.

“Children should never be detained, particularly when they are unaccompanied or separated from their parents,” Guterres said, calling on Libyan authorities to ensure the children are protected until “long-term solutions” are found.

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Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with warring rival administrations based in the country’s west and east battling for power.

Guterres: ‘Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money’ [File: Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

As the country slid into conflict, traffickers have exploited the unrest to turn the North African country into a key route for migration towards Europe, across the Mediterranean. In the past three years, however, crossings dropped sharply due to European Union and Italian-backed efforts to disrupt trafficking networks and to increase interceptions by Libya’s coastguard.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the systematic return of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean to Libya, where they are held in crowded detention centres nominally under the control of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

“The conditions in these centres are crazy,” Alkaol, 17, a migrant from The Gambia, told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media earlier this year.

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“Sometimes you get food, sometimes you don’t. If they give you bread, you eat half and save half. You don’t know when you will eat next. If you don’t have money, your only way out is either escaping or death.

“If they catch people running away, they shoot at you. They may shoot you in the leg, they may shoot you in the head.”

Guterres also cited reports of torture, enforced disappearances, and sexual and gender-based violence in the centres, committed by those running the facilities.

He also mentioned a reported lack of food and healthcare.

“Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money,” he wrote.

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“Migrants and refugees have been shot at when they attempted to escape, resulting in injuries and deaths,” the report said, alleging that some are even “left on the streets or bushes to die” when they are deemed too weak to survive.

In centres where arms and munitions are stored, some refugees and migrants are recruited by force, while others are forced to repair or reload firearms for armed groups, it said.

More than a year after a July 2019 air raid killed more than 50 refugees and migrants and wounded dozens more at a detention centre near Tripoli, no one has been forced to account for the deaths, Guterres said.

The attack followed repeated warnings about the vulnerability of people detained close to Libya’s conflict zones and raised tough questions about whether it was necessary to lock them up in the first place.


#Nnewsworthy…

Storyline: Tunisia cabinet wins confidence vote.

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Tunisia’s parliament has granted its vote of confidence to the new cabinet led by Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi.

A total of 134 deputies voted in favor of forming the cabinet in a vote in parliament which lasted more than 14 hours.

The cabinet would be the third Tunisia has seen since October and the ninth since the revolution that brought down the North African autocratic regime in 2011 and triggered Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

The parliament voted down a previous prime minister-designate earlier this year after a marathon debate.

  • Prime MInister Designate Hichem Mechichi’s Speech-

During his speech to parliament, Mechichi discussed reducing tax evasion and supporting institutions affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mechichi, 46, is a former interior minister and lawyer who studied in Tunisia and France.

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He proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man.

If the government had been rejected, the president Kais Saied would have been obliged to dissolve parliament and call a new election but this surely has been avoided by the confidence vote.

Mechichi, was not nominated by any party but President Saied appointed him as premier last month after Elyes Fakhfakh resigned from the post over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Mechichi’s cabinet should take an oath in front of President Kais Saied later this week.


#Newsworthy…

European Union seeks peace in Libya.

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The European Union’s high representative Josep Borrell held talks in Liba with the warring sides in a bid to find a solution to end the conflict.

Chaos erupted after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, the country has been split between the rival factions: the Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA) and General Khalifa Hafta, who controls the east.

Both sides are backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Fayez Sarraj, head of the GNA, announced a cease-fire on 21 August and called for demilitarising the key city of Sirte and the nearby area of Jufra, which would mean the withdrawal of forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter.

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Previous efforts to secure lasting cease-fires have stalled.

The two sides also agreed on the need of an “effective” international support to the political solution to Libya’s conflict, a statement said.

Hafter’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli.

But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied militias, with heavy Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the city and other western towns.

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The two sides also agreed on the need of an “effective” international support to the political solution to Libya’s conflict, a statement said.

But that may prove difficult with countries split on which side they support.

Turkey, Italy and Qatar are among those who side with the GNA.

Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates back General Haftar.


#Newsworthy…

Khaled Drareni: Protest erupt in Algeria seeking release of Journalist.

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For the second week in a row, hundreds of people took the streets in Algiers in protest demanding the release of Khaled Drareni.

The journalist was sentenced to three years in prison and has since become a symbol of the fight for press freedom.

Imprisoned near Algiers since 29 March, Drareni is due to be retried on appeal on 8 September.

An international campaign of support and demonstrations in favour of his release were recently organised in Paris, New York and Geneva.

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A petition launched in Algeria has gathered some 2,000 signatures from journalists and civil society personalities and Khaled Drareni has received the support of many Algerian artists, such as singer Amel Zen.

In recent months, authorities have accused journalists of threatening the “national interest” and many have been to prison for it.

Reporters Without Borders recently denounced the deteriorating context for press freedom in Algeria

It ranked the country 146th (out of 180) in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, down 27 places from 2015.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Tunisian parliament approves third gov’t within one year.

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Hichem Mechichi confirmed as PM after his technocrat-dominated cabinet wins backing from nearly two-thirds of deputies.


Tunisia’s Parliament has approved Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi’s government – the country’s third administration in less than a year.

Following a 15-hour session that started on Tuesday, Mechichi’s cabinet – dominated by independent technocrats – won 134 votes out of the 217 members of parliament.

A former interior minister, Mechichi replaces Elyes Fakhfakh, whose government stayed in power for just five months before he resigned as prime minister last month after questions over his business dealings.

Mechichi proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man – a first in the country’s history.

The 46-year-old has pledged to enact policies seen as critical to revitalising a tourism-reliant sluggish economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

He gathered the ministries of finance, investment and economy into a single department led by liberal economist Ali Kooli, chief executive of Arab Banking Corporation in Tunisia.

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After the vote, Mechichi said his government would be able to “move forward” provided it was not bogged down in political tensions.

Before the session, which was held amid a tussle for influence between President Kais Saied and the main parties, Mechichi defended his nominations in an address to lawmakers.

He said the deteriorating situation in the country calls for competent figures who can intervene quickly and effectively to find solutions to the various problems and challenges.

“The government formation comes at a time of political instability and the people’s patience has reached its limit,” he said.

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The new government would focus on “social and economic questions and respond to the urgent concerns of Tunisians,” he added.

‘Reform this government’
Tunisia’s Parliament is deeply divided and many lawmakers were angry that Mechichi bypassed the main political factions in building his cabinet.

Mechichi proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man [Riadh Dridi/AP Photo] [The Associated Press]

Mechichi, a lawyer by training, named judges, academics, public servants and business executives to his cabinet.

Ennahdha, the largest parliamentary force, and others had instead demanded a “political” government that reflects the balance of parties and factions in parliament.

But hours before the vote, the self-styled Muslim Democrats said they would back Mechichi “despite reservations”.

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Abdelkarim Harouni, chairman of Ennahdha’s advisory board, said the party would offer its support “given the difficult situation of the country” but would then seek to “develop and reform this government”.

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in 2011, bringing down its longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But it is now mired in social and economic crisis, with the official unemployment rate at 18 percent, and in need of new assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy shrank 21.6 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period last year, due to the coronavirus crisis.


#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…