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Mauritius swears in new president
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Port Louis – Rajkeshwur Purryag became the fifth president of the Republic of Mauritius when he was sworn into the largely ceremonial post Saturday.

He was elected Friday during a special parliamentary session after his predecessor Anerood Jugnauth resigned in March following open conflict with Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam.

The row erupted when the leader of the opposition in parliament, Paul Berenger, announced the creation of a new opposition alliance headed by Jugnauth.

Ramgoolam himself asked Jugnauth to either deny the statement by the opposition, or, in the case of confirmation, to resign, arguing his new role was incompatible with a position as head of state.

Vice President Monique Ohsan Bellepeau filled in until Purryag, 64, the former president of the National Assembly, was sworn in Saturday in the presence of both Ramgoolam and Berenger.

Purryag and Ramgoolam are both members of the Labour Party.

An attorney by training, Purryag has worked in politics for 36 years, holding several ministerial positions as well as acting as deputy prime minister. He became speaker of parliament in 2005.

Mauritius is an archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean that gained independence from Britain in 1968.

It has since been considered a stable democracy and has sustained economic growth to make its 1.2 million inhabitants among the richest in Africa.

Best known for its top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination, Mauritius recently made headlines after a honeymooner from Northern Ireland was strangled in January 2011 in her luxury hotel room.

– AFP

 

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Rwanda cut off from US military aid over conflict in DRC
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Reuters in Abidjan ,guardian.co.uk,

Rwanda denies UN reports that it is backing rebels in Democratic Republic of the Congo as US cuts aid for this year

Former US president Bill Clinton with the Rwandan president and Chelsea Clinton in the Kayonza District in Rwanda last week. Photograph: Cyril Ndegeya/AP

Former US president Bill Clinton with the Rwandan president and Chelsea Clinton in the Kayonza District in Rwanda last week. Photograph: Cyril Ndegeya/AP

The US government has said it will cut military aid to Rwanda, citing evidence that the central African country is supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda has denied reports by United Nations experts and rights groups that it is backing eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in fighting that has displaced over 260,000 people since April.

But in a significant step by one of Rwanda’s staunchest allies, the US state department cited evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels in announcing the military aid suspension.

“The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a state department spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.

“We will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Military Financing funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers.

These funds will be reallocated for programming in another country,” she said.
Washington has stood by Rwanda in the past despite the tiny nation’s long history of involvement in wars in vast neighbouring Congo.

Rwanda’s foreign minister has previously said reports of its involvement in Congo fighting were “disingenuous” and a bid to make Rwanda a scapegoat for its neighbour’s problems. Officials in Kigali were not immediately available for comment on the US aid cut.

Renner said Washington was in the process of assessing whether further steps should be taken in response to Rwanda’s actions in Congo.

She said the United States would continue to help Rwanda support peacekeeping missions.

Rwanda has a major peacekeeping presence in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Although the amount of cash being withheld is small, analysts said the move clearly signalled Washington’s displeasure.

“The US government has been a longstanding ally of the Rwandan government. This step, even if symbolic, is emblematic of a shift in perception – if not necessarily in aid – in Washington,” said independent Congo expert Jason Stearns.

Rwanda sent its army into Congo, then called Zaire, in the mid 1990s, ostensibly to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled there after the 1994 genocide.

A decade of conflict followed, in which Rwandan forces helped Congolese rebels topple the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

They then fell out with the rebels they initially backed, sparking a war that sucked in other neighbouring armies and officially ended in 2003.

The current rebellion comes after three years of generally improved relations between Kinshasa and Kigali since the latter helped end a 2004-9 eastern Congolese uprising, which Rwanda was also accused of backing.

The leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreed at a meeting this month to allow a neutral force to be deployed in Congo to defeat each others’ rebels, but the plan’s details have not been announced yet.

• The web headline and standfirst were amended on 22 July 2012 to correct our abbreviation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC – formerly Zaire; we call its neighbour Congo-Brazzaville.

 

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S.Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma elected to AU top job
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By AFP

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran of the fight against apartheid who has served in the cabinet of every South African president since Nelson Mandela, now takes the top African Union job.

PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma speaks during a press conference on July 15,2012 following the opening of the African Union summit by Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma speaks during a press conference on July 15,2012 following the opening of the African Union summit by Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Elected by the 54-member pan-African bloc in Ethiopia on Sunday, she becomes the first woman to head the AU Commission.

An experienced diplomat, Dlamini-Zuma, 63, is known for her competent management and stern personality.

A doctor by training, she was health minister when Mandela became the country’s first black leader.

She went on to be foreign minister for a decade, earning praise for her shuttle diplomacy to end the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But her critics found fault with her “quiet diplomacy” towards neighbour Zimbabwe, during a crisis that saw President Robert Mugabe evict thousands of white farmers from their land in 2000.

Her former husband President Jacob Zuma named her interior minister.

Although that was seen as a demotion, she won plaudits for turning around a ministry mired in gross mismanagement to achieve the first clean audit in 16 years.

In her campaign to win the pan-African bloc’s top job, she vowed to work at making it “a more efficient and effective organisation.”

And while she may have defeated the incumbent, French-speaker Jean Ping of Gabon, she has refused to be labelled as an English-speaking candidate.

“I am not Anglophone, I’m Zulu,” she said.

Once she got to work in the post, she added, she would be “implementing programmes… agreed upon by everybody” rather than “consulting the Anglophone and the Francophone.”

Dlamini-Zuma has the backing of the predominantly English-speaking southern African region and is the first person from the region to hold the top Commission job since the AU was created a decade ago.

“She takes her work very seriously,” said Prince Mashele, an analyst at the Centre for Politics and Research, who worked with Dlamini-Zuma’s ministry when she was foreign minister.

“She has the rare quality of putting up very good administrators,” Mashele added.

But she has raised eyebrows with her unsmiling demeanour.

“I thought she could do better if she was a little more affable,” said Mashele.

Born January 27, 1949, in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, Dlamini-Zuma took up politics in high school.

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Incensed by Fallacies and Fabrications, Jean Ping will fight for African Union Office till The End
July 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Africa: Press Statement By Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

press release

Addis Ababa — Press Statement by Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, in response to an article titled, “At Last, SA may get its woman into AU post,” published in The Sunday Times of South Africa, on Sunday, 8 July 2012:

My attention has been drawn to an article which appeared in the Sunday Times of South Africa in its edition of 8 July2012, to the effect that I paid a visit to South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012, where I purportedly indicated my intention to withdraw from the race for re-election to the post of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The paper further claims that I want “a guarantee that I will be deployed somewhere else when (I) leave office.”

Jean Ping says he will fight to the finish

Jean Ping says he will fight to the finish

I am incensed by such an outright fallacy and fabrication, because nothing could be further from the truth. I am, and remain a candidate for re-election as chairperson of the African union Commission, as I have not been withdrawn by my country, Gabon, and my region. I fully intend to stay in the race until the very end and hope to earn the renewed trust of our Continent’s Leaders when they meet at the 19th AU Summit, scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, on 15 and 16 July 2012.

Furthermore, I wish to affirm that I have not been to the Republic of South Africa since the Global African Diaspora Summit, which took place in May 2012. This means, therefore, that I was not in South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012, as claimed by the Sunday Times. As a matter of fact, on that day, I was on a mission to Kampala, Uganda, where I had the honour of being received by His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda. I had gone there from Chad, where I was on 4 and 5 July 2012 and had also had the honour of being received by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Chad, who is the current Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). These facts are authentic and verifiable.

The allegation that I was in South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012 purportedly to seek some kind of “deal” that would facilitate my withdrawal from the race for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission, or “a guarantee that (I) would be deployed somewhere else when (I) leave office,” are totally false, baseless and frankly annoying.

These fabrications by some elements in the South African media are not new. The Sunday Times article is simply the latest in a series of malicious lies and innuendoes which constitute part of a whole strategy to tarnish my hard-earned reputation and destabilize my campaign for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

It is also, no doubt, designed to cast some doubts about my strength of character and to undermine support from a wide range of Member States keen to re- elect me.

For the record, I wish to mention just a few of such mendacious allegations which have been circulating in the media since the campaign began last year.

1. I was first accused of having indicated to the South African authorities that was not interested in seeking re-election.

2. It was further suggested that my country, Gabon, was not supportive of my candidature.

3. When these two lies were debunked, attention was then shifted to my supposed inability to handle the situations in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya, when it is well known that it is the Government of South Africa which impeded ECOWAS’ efforts to settle the Cote d’Ivoire crisis timeously and the same Government that voted in favour of resolution 1973 that authorized the bombing of Libya.

4. In December 2011, another South African Newspaper, Business Day, published an article in which it was alleged that the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Mrs. Catherine Ashton, had expressed support for my opponent’s candidature. This false allegation was immediately refuted by the EU.

5. It has also been alleged that I have not managed the Commission properly during my tenure, when there is evidence to prove that a lot of reforms in the administrative and financial areas have been carried out during the last four years.

6. Furthermore, a day or two before the election in January 2012, another malicious rumour was spread in Addis Ababa, alleging that I had collapsed and was unconscious, thus implying that my health was failing and therefore I was medically unfit (and would be unable) to serve another four-year term in such a demanding high-profile position. As is evident, I have continued to discharge my responsibilities without let or hindrance, as rigorous as they have been.

7. Just before the January election also, it was maliciously alleged that I am under the influence of France and that France teleguides the affairs of the Commission by remote control. No evidence has been provided to support this allegation and there is nothing in my conduct at the AU that remotely supports that allegation.

On the contrary, I have fully implemented all AU decisions, including on Libya, which were in contradiction with the position of France.

8. Recently, it has been suggested that France is funding my campaign, including provision of an aircraft for some of the trips I have made, some of which were in fulfillment of my official duties. This is absolutely untrue. The fact is that it is my Government and my personal resources that have sustained my campaign.

9. I have been accused falsely of having illegally established the Panel of the Wise.

Unknown to them, the Panel of the Wise was provided for under the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council. It was put in place by my predecessor long before I assumed my post. What was done in Kampala, Uganda in July 2010 was to renew the composition of the Panel.

10. Attempts have also been made to tarnish my image and sow seeds of discord between me and my Government, as well as other Member States that support me by spreading rumours that I have been behind the destabilization of some states.

May I seize this opportunity to re-state categorically and unequivocally that I am running for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission. I am in the race because I believe in the African Union and would appreciate the opportunity to finish the work we have been doing in the last four years. I am still in this race and gratefully look forward to the wholesome support of the majority of the Leaders of AU Member States.

Furthermore, I would like to emphatically underscore that I have the full support of the Gabonese Leader, H.E. President Ali Bongo Ondimba, his Government and the Gabonese Nation. The President of Gabon has provided me with an aircraft to fly around the Continent and meet with African Leaders and talk to them about my vision for the African Union and how I intend to continue to lead the Commission, if re-elected.

The President has also sent Envoys to a number of AU Member State, to campaign for my re-election. For all these, I am grateful to President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the Gabonese Government and Nation for their unwavering support.

I am also grateful to the Leaders of the majority of AU Member States who voted for me last January and whose support I continue to enjoy.

Finally, let me end by affirming that I am the Candidate of Gabon and Africa, and have not received any financial or other support from any non-African Power.

This election is an African Union matter and will be decided only by African Union Member States.

I refuse to lower the moral threshold for this campaign and hope that all involved in the election will also conduct a clean and decent campaign that brings honour to Africa and sets a great example of democratic competition for the entire Continent.

Addis Ababa,

10 July 2012

Jean Ping Chairperson

African Union Commission

 

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Special Report: The wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan
July 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Rebecca Hamilton Reuters *
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the mid-1980s, a small band of policy wonks began convening for lunch in the back corner of a dimly lit Italian bistro in the U.S. capital.

After ordering beers, they would get down to business: how to win independence for southern Sudan, a war-torn place most American politicians had never heard of.

They called themselves the Council and gave each other clannish nicknames: the Emperor, the Deputy Emperor, the Spear Carrier. The unlikely fellowship included an Ethiopian refugee to America, an English-lit professor and a former Carter administration official who once sported a ponytail.

The Council is little known in Washington or in Africa itself. But its quiet cajoling over nearly three decades helped South Sudan win its independence one year ago this week.

Across successive U.S. administrations, they smoothed the path of southern Sudanese rebels in Washington, influenced legislation in Congress, and used their positions to shape foreign policy in favor of Sudan’s southern rebels, often with scant regard for U.S. government protocol.

“We never controlled anything, but we always did try to influence things in the way we thought most benefited the people of South Sudan,” said Roger Winter, now an honorary adviser to the South Sudan government and one of the group’s original members, who dubbed himself the Spear Carrier.

The story of the Council has not been told before. For a Reuters series chronicling the first year in the life of South Sudan, the group’s main members spoke for the first time about how they came together and what they tried to achieve. They pinpointed key moments when peace could have slipped away. Some expressed disappointment at the compromises America made to broker the creation of South Sudan. One idea shines through: Independence was far from inevitable.

“I actually think it was a miracle we got something,” said Winter.

Nationhood has many midwives. South Sudan is primarily the creation of its own people. It was southern Sudanese leaders who fought for autonomy, and more than two million southern Sudanese who paid for that freedom with their lives.

President George W. Bush, who set out to end Africa’s longest-running civil war, also played a big role, as did modern-day abolitionists, religious groups, human rights organizations and members of the U.S. Congress.

But the most persistent outside force in the creation of the world’s newest state was the tightly knit group, never numbering more than seven people, which in the era before email began gathering regularly at Otello, a restaurant near Washington’s DuPont Circle.

A CHARISMATIC REBEL

In 1978, Brian D’Silva, a young student in agricultural economics, began pursuing a doctorate at Iowa State University. There, he studied alongside an intensely charismatic southern Sudanese man named John Garang, who had begun dreaming of a democratic Sudan.

After graduation, D’Silva went with Garang to Sudan to teach at the University of Khartoum. An uneasy peace held between Sudan’s predominantly Arab Islamic north and largely Christian south. The divide stemmed from colonial times, when Britain encouraged Christian missionaries to evangelize the south. The British considered splitting the country in two, but ultimately handed a unified Sudan to a small Arab elite in Khartoum, who tried to impose Islamic law throughout the country.

A 1972 agreement had given southerners semi-autonomy. That fragile deal began unraveling in 1979 after Chevron discovered oil in the south; the north did not want to lose control over the newly found riches.

D’Silva returned to the United States in 1980 to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Three years later, his old schoolmate Garang, a conscript in the Sudanese army, led a mutiny of southern Sudanese soldiers. His group would become the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), which led the fight for southern autonomy.

Roger Winter visited Sudan in 1981 for a non-governmental outfit called the U.S. Committee for Refugees. Upon his return, the former Carter administration official sought out Sudanese who were based in Washington. Key among them was respected legal scholar Francis Deng, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“A man with a ponytail came to see me,” recalled Deng, who is now the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

Deng hails from Abyei, a fertile area straddling north and south Sudan. He thought Winter must be some “wealthy hippie-type” who wanted to give money to the rebels. When Winter explained that the best he could do was disseminate information, Deng suggested that the American public needed first-hand accounts of people affected by the war. He called a cousin in the rebel movement to ensure that on future visits, Winter would have access to all the so-called liberated areas – the parts of Sudan held by the rebels – where he could gather direct testimony on the impact of the war. By the mid-1980s, these three future Council members – D’Silva, Deng and Winter – were working in the United States as proxies for John Garang. Over six feet tall and more than 200 pounds, the rebel leader had a laugh – and a personality – that filled a room.

“You meet Dr. John, you get converted,” said Winter, who first met Garang in 1986. The three men quickly discovered the size of the task ahead of them. In 1987, D’Silva tried to bring a delegation from the SPLM to meet officials in Washington. But standard procedure at Foggy Bottom was to maintain relations with the recognized Sudanese government in Khartoum and ignore the rebel movement. D’Silva received a phone call from an official instructing him that no meetings should be arranged on any government-owned or -leased property.

ENTER “THE EMPEROR”

According to Deng, many in Washington associated the rebels with the Soviet-backed government in neighboring Ethiopia, leaving the SPLM on the wrong side of the Cold War. “It took a lot of hard work to remove the prejudice against John Garang,” Deng said.

As D’Silva, Winter and Deng tried to get the southern rebels through doors in Washington, a wayward college graduate in search of a cause was traveling in the Horn of Africa. By the early 1990s, John Prendergast had decided his calling was to help win better U.S. policies for Africa.

At the time, the circle of people in Washington who cared about the Horn of Africa was small. Prendergast soon ran into Winter, and the pair began briefing journalists, urging them to cover the conflict and putting them in contact with the rebels.

Human rights campaigning was very different from today. The idea of Western groups advocating in a coordinated way on behalf of foreign causes – as they had during the British-led anti-slavery campaigns in Belgian Congo more than a century before – had only recently been rekindled by the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

For the few Americans who had heard of Sudan at all, “the south was a black hole,” said Winter, the refugee-rights organizer.

It was about this time that the Council’s future Emperor made his entrance. Ted Dagne was a 14-year-old Ethiopian in 1974 when a Soviet-backed military junta seized power. Dagne’s older sister, a student leader, was among the first to be executed by the new government.

“After that, there was a (target) on our family,” said Dagne, drawing a cross in the air.

By the time Dagne was 16, both he and his older brother had been imprisoned and tortured. Dagne was subsequently released, but his brother was executed and Dagne’s own prospects for survival looked slim. One morning he donned his sister’s T-shirt and his brother’s jeans and shoes, keepsakes for an unknown future, and told his parents he was going out for groceries. It was the last time he saw them.

With the help of a Somali man who pretended to be his father, Dagne crossed the border into Somalia. Eventually he reached Djibouti, and subsequently joined a generation of people fleeing communist lands who were granted asylum in the United States.

Dagne got through college by working two jobs – answering phones from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and an afternoon shift at a Lincoln Memorial souvenir kiosk. By 1989 he had earned a masters degree, acquired U.S. citizenship and was working on African affairs at the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan policy-analysis arm of the U.S. legislature.

AN EYE-OPENING VISIT

That year, Winter took two members of Congress to meet Garang on one of his visits to rebel-held areas of Sudan. The trip had a big impact. One of the visitors, Viriginia Republican Frank Wolf, said he still remembers a question put to him by a Dinka woman named Rebecca.

“She said to me, ‘Why is it that you people in the West are very interested in the whales but no one seems to be interested in us?'” he recalled. “It was an eye-opener, and I became very sympathetic toward the southerners.”

After that, D’Silva, Deng, and Winter finally managed to get a delegation led by Garang on an official visit to Washington.

Wanting to ensure the group from his homeland made a good impression, Manute Bol, the 7-foot, 7-inch sensation for the Golden State Warriors basketball team, offered to hire a limousine to take Garang’s delegation to Capitol Hill. Winter told them this was a bad idea.

“I explained to them, you can’t go to the Capitol building in this and then go in and talk about starving people!” Winter recalled. The visitors switched to an old bus that blew out gobs of black smoke as it sputtered to Congress.

It was on that visit to Washington that Dagne met Garang for the first time. More than any other member of the Council, Dagne formed an intense friendship with the rebel leader. There were periods in the years ahead in which they spoke by phone every day, Dagne says.

By the early 1990s, the group’s work was starting to pay off. Dagne was seconded from the Congressional Research Service to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, where he began to build allies for the southern Sudanese cause.

Congressional staffers are supposed to be neutral, but it was an open secret that Dagne’s allegiance lay with the southerners. “Ted was very suspicious of the Sudan government, and so I became very suspicious,” said former Democratic Senator Harry Johnston, who headed the subcommittee.

“I pushed the envelope quite a lot,” Dagne acknowledges.

In 1993, for instance, Dagne drafted a congressional resolution stating that southern Sudanese had the right to self-determination. He passed his draft to Johnston, who reviewed it and then presented it to his colleagues in Congress. The resolution was not binding, but it passed unanimously. It was the first time any part of the U.S. government had recognized the right of the southerners to determine their own relationship to the Sudanese government.

By the mid-nineties, five men – Dagne, Deng, D’Silva, Prendergast and Winter – were meeting regularly at Otello’s. Prendergast had been nicknamed the Council Member in Waiting because he liked to challenge the Emperor. Deng was referred to as the Diplomat, marking him as the least strident of the group. D’Silva, the most serious among them, went without a nickname.

The group was united by a respect for Garang. The men acknowledge that his SPLM fighters committed horrific crimes during the war, and say they often had highly critical conversations with Garang. But they say they never doubted that they backed the right side.

“You have these well-trained guys in Khartoum who are murderers and never keep an agreement,” said Winter. “How do you treat them equally?”

MODERN-DAY ABOLITIONISTS

Crises in Somalia and Rwanda were absorbing most of America’s attention in Africa. But the southern Sudanese cause soon got a boost from an unlikely quarter.

In 1995, Christian Solidarity International initiated a controversial program in Sudan called slave redemption. The Zurich-based human-rights organization began paying slave traders for the freedom of southerners captured in raids by government-backed militias from the north. Christian Solidarity took journalists and pastors from the black evangelical community along on their missions, and stories of modern-day slavery filtered into church congregations and the U.S. media.

The group drew fire for fueling a market for slavery, but it had a big impact in the United States. American schoolchildren began raising money to free slaves, and members of Congress started getting letters from their constituents. “Americans are divided on just about every issue imaginable, but we are an abolitionist nation,” said Charles Jacobs, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, which led the U.S.-based outcry.

Dagne’s network of southern Sudan allies in Congress solidified. He organized trips into SPLM-held areas for bipartisan delegations, including Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Frist and the late New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Payne.

Seeing the human impact of the war firsthand, the lawmakers grew as skeptical of Khartoum as the Council was. For Frist, a surgeon, a key moment was seeing personnel at a field hospital in southern Sudan having to flee a government bombing raid to nearby caves during the middle of an operation.

“Why, I asked myself?” Frist recalled. “No answer except the government in Khartoum’s goal to create terror.”

For meaningful change, however, the executive branch needed to get on board. This was tough as long as the State Department focused on maintaining a working relationship with Khartoum.

In 1993, though, the United States linked a car bomb at the World Trade Center in New York to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Islamic fundamentalist living in Sudan. Khartoum was added to the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A chance encounter at a Princeton University conference on Somalia provided the Council its next break.

Among the speakers was Susan Rice, a young Rhodes Scholar who was gaining influence in the State Department as the senior director of African affairs. Rice and Dagne took the train back to Washington together, talking U.S. policy on Africa for the four-hour journey. Rice soon became an informal member of the Council, dropping in occasionally for lunches at Otello. Rice, currently the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., declined to comment for this article.

Prendergast, who also met Rice at the conference, applied to work for her. In his job interview, he says, he told her that Khartoum was “too deformed to be reformed,” a view that had long been espoused by the southern rebels. Rice hired him.

A LITERARY POLEMICIST

Rice successfully urged the Clinton administration to place comprehensive sanctions on Sudan, prohibiting any U.S. individual or corporation from doing business there. This shift brought the official U.S. position closer to the Council’s.

By the late 1990s, Washington was not just providing humanitarian assistance to the southern Sudanese. It was also giving leadership missions and training, as well as $20 million of surplus military equipment to Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea, who all supported the southern rebels. Prendergast said the idea was to help states in the region to change the regime. “It was up to them, not us,” he said in an interview.

But the regime was hard to shift. Thanks to a pipeline built by the Chinese linking the southern oil fields to the Red Sea, Sudan began exporting oil in 1999. Now Khartoum had a new source of revenue to fund its fighting.

The Council’s Deputy Emperor, Eric Reeves, joined in 2001. Reeves was a professor of English literature at Smith, a small college in Western Massachusetts. He had no background in Sudan. But after reading about the humanitarian conditions in the south and attending a lecture Winter gave at the college, Reeves became the Council’s most prolific writer. He published hundreds of opinion pieces and blogged detailed reports brimming with moral outrage against Khartoum.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, Rice and Prendergast left the State Department and joined think tanks. That left only USAID policy adviser D’Silva and congressional researcher Dagne on the inside track. Suddenly, though, the Council’s cause became a White House cause.

On the second day of his presidency, Bush directed senior staff to focus on bringing an end to the war in Sudan. Bush declined to comment on what drove him to home in on Sudan. But a pillar of his support base, evangelical Christians, was imploring him to take up the cause. They had long been concerned about the persecution of Christians in southern Sudan.

One influential evangelical, the Rev. Franklin Graham, recalls pushing the future president to focus on Sudan during a breakfast meeting they had in Florida two days before the presidential election.

At the urging of religious groups, Bush also appointed former senator and Episcopalian minister John Danforth to be his envoy, tasking him with helping to unlock ongoing negotiations between north and south.

Evangelical groups suddenly found journalists turning up on the doorstep. “People wanted to hear what we wanted to say,” said Deborah Fikes, spokeswoman for the Midland Ministerial Alliance, based in Bush’s hometown of Midland, Texas.

Fikes started working with the Sudan embassy and went to Khartoum to meet those in the government she believed were moderates. That didn’t impress the Council, who accused her of naiveté. “She didn’t know what the hell she was doing,” said Reeves.

Fikes dismisses the criticism. “I didn’t have a career or an agenda. When you look at Christ, he was misunderstood,” she said.

“DAMNED IF WE DO?”

After his time in the Carter administration, Winter had vowed never to work in government again, preferring the less bureaucratic non-government sector. But USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios convinced him that Bush was going to make peace in Sudan a priority. Winter agreed to return to government. With his new role as an adviser to Danforth, the Council was back at the center of Sudan policy.

As with Dagne, it was an open secret that Winter was biased. Danforth says he asked for Winter’s help because of his detailed knowledge. Winter himself felt tension with many of the diplomats he was now working alongside. “The State Department was used to working with Khartoum,” Winter said.

Progress came that summer, when Khartoum’s chargé d’affaires in Washington, Ahmed Khidir, flew to Danforth’s home in St Louis, Missouri. Khidir had just one question, Danforth recalls: “Are we damned if we do and damned if we don’t?” In other words, if Khartoum agreed to peace, would it still be a pariah to the U.S. government?

The answer mattered. Ever since the rulers in Khartoum had taken power in a 1989 coup, their ability to maintain control depended greatly on patronage networks. Because the United States had effectively black-listed Sudan, Khartoum had to rely on loans from non-Western nations and revenue from the south’s oil fields to fund these networks.

To sign a pact in which they risked losing the oil-rich south, northern leaders needed an alternative source of income. Normalizing relations with Washington would be a sure pathway back to the international financial system.

After consulting with Bush, Danforth told Khidir that Washington looked forward to normalizing ties. “That was an important message,” Danforth said in an interview. Khidir couldn’t be reached for comment.

The biggest breakthrough, however, came not as the result of diplomacy or advocacy, but of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

When Bush told the world that Washington would “pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism,” the U.S. relationship with Khartoum changed overnight. Sudan had expelled Al Qaeda leader bin Laden in 1996, but it worried it might be a U.S. target. Washington suddenly found itself with enormous leverage over Khartoum, which the Bush administration used to push for a peace agreement.

Almost all the key issues that would end up in a landmark 2005 peace deal between Khartoum and the SPLM were agreed in the first five months of 2002. Most surprisingly, Khartoum agreed to let the southerners hold a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan.

THE COUNCIL, CLOONEY & CONGRESS

By 2003, though, progress stalled. Reports of U.S. overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan diminished Khartoum’s fears of becoming a future military target. And the U.S. government approach to Khartoum started to fracture.

The CIA had issued glowing reports about Sudan’s cooperation in the “War on Terror” and supported Bush’s promise of normalized relations. On the other hand, events in Sudan took on a life of their own.

As it became clear that southerners were getting a new deal, people in Darfur, in west Sudan, wanted one, too. The civil war had been framed as a north-south or Muslim-Christian conflict. The truth was that southerners were far from the only group suffering under Khartoum. Other marginalized groups included the religiously diverse populace of the Nuba Mountains and mixed northern-southern populations in the Blue Nile and Abyei.

As the Darfuri rebellion escalated, Khartoum moved to crush it. The Council immediately saw the parallels between Khartoum’s response and previous atrocities in the south. But shifting the U.S. focus to Darfur could jeopardize the peace agreement for the south.

Dagne consulted Garang, who encouraged him to introduce the Darfuri cause to the U.S. lawmakers backing the southerners. The Council stepped in; over the coming years they would be among the most crucial actors in cementing the previously unknown Darfur region in the imagination of the American public.

Prendergast, at the time working at an independent research group, became a key player in the founding of the Save Darfur movement. He spent weeks at a time talking about Darfur on college campuses and working with actor George Clooney, who became an advocate for the cause. Reeves and Rice, then a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, wrote op-ed pieces. At USAID, Winter and D’Silva organized visits for State Department officials so they could see the violence firsthand. And after interviewing Darfuri refugees, Dagne worked with Rep. Payne on a resolution calling the atrocities genocide.

Dagne was by now an expert at getting his congressional allies to insert pro-southern provisions into sure-to-pass bills on unrelated topics. Using this approach he had succeeded in exempting rebel-held areas of southern Sudan from U.S. sanctions.

His Darfur genocide resolution, though, needed no such maneuver. Growing public outrage ensured it passed the House and Senate unanimously.

PEACE – AND A BLOW

In January 2005, as fighting in Darfur continued, Khartoum finally concluded a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south. Garang invited Dagne and Winter to dinner at his home in Nairobi, Kenya, to celebrate.

Seven months later, the south Sudanese leader died in a helicopter crash. Garang’s death was a huge blow to the south Sudanese project, but the Council rallied around his successor.

Salva Kiir, who had spent his career on the battlefield, is as understated as Garang was garrulous. Before Kiir’s first meeting with Bush, the Council gathered in his Washington hotel suite for an informal briefing, just as they had been doing since Garang’s first visit to Capitol Hill.

After the peace pact was signed, Winter retired from government. D’Silva remained at USAID and Dagne at the Congressional Research Service, while Prendergast founded his own advocacy organization. Rice, after Obama won office, joined the new administration as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

But the momentum ebbed as fractures opened up in the new administration.

Retired Air Force General Scott Gration, the president’s new envoy to Sudan, wanted closer engagement with Khartoum. Gration didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But in interviews in 2009, he argued that without resetting the relationship, Khartoum had no incentive to let the southerners vote on independence. He thought that making sure the independence referendum happened on time should be the overriding objective. Rice maintained vocal skepticism, believing that Khartoum’s treatment of troubled areas outside the south, like Darfur, warranted continuing condemnation.

A lengthy and acrimonious policy review ran through late 2009. In the end, it recommended that Darfur, north-south peace, and counter-terrorism cooperation should all be given equal priority. But disagreement around the details meant there was no consensus on how to pursue all three objectives. The first 18 months of Obama’s term slipped away in a bureaucratic stalemate.

Finally, in the summer of 2010, Obama called his Sudan team into the Oval Office. The president said he would not allow a return to bloodshed between north and south, according to Denis McDonough, chief of staff at the National Security Council at the time.

SHOWDOWN WITH BIDEN

Momentum returned. Vice President Joe Biden, due in South Africa for the World Cup, was tasked with urging leaders across Africa that the independence referendum must go ahead. Some African countries feared that southern independence would establish a precedent for secessionist movements in their own states.

Meanwhile, Sudanese preparations for the referendum had stalled. Khartoum and Juba couldn’t agree on the makeup of a steering group handling the logistics of the vote, and Khartoum was dragging its feet in releasing funds promised for the poll. The south had been urging Washington to push Khartoum to fulfill its promises.

At a meeting in Nairobi, Biden told Kiir the South Sudanese themselves had to make sure the vote happened.

“‘I don’t care about what Khartoum is or is not doing,'” he said, according to Cameron Hudson, who attended as a member of the National Security Council. “‘We can’t want this more than you.'” Kiir’s office declined to comment on the meeting.

Throughout the fall of 2010, the National Security Council’s McDonough chaired meetings of a dozen Sudan policymakers every evening, often to midnight. They debated what incentives to offer Khartoum in exchange for letting the south go.

One important call was over what the north needed to do to trigger these incentives: Was holding the referendum enough? Or should the rewards be tied to the completion of other outstanding issues, such as border demarcation and oil flow?

Ultimately, the group concluded that they could not force the parties to agree on anything beyond holding the referendum. The U.S. decided to push for the vote to go ahead as scheduled. It began on January 9, 2011. The final tally showed that 98.8 percent of voters chose independence for southern Sudan.

Speaking before the U.N. Security Council six months later, on the day South Sudan joined the world community, Rice promised that the United States would remain a “steadfast friend.” Washington pledged $370.8 million in aid for the new country in the six months following independence alone.

OFF TO JUBA

The unresolved diplomatic issues have come back to haunt the region.

In January, Kiir shut down the southern oil industry, accusing Khartoum of having stolen 1.7 million barrels of South Sudan’s oil from a cross-border pipeline. Khartoum said it only confiscated what it was owed in pipeline fees. Other unfinished business – the border, and the fate of regions such as Abyei and the Nuba Mountains – has sparked new violence.

Still, the current U.S. envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, argues that even in hindsight, it was right for the U.S. to push for the referendum to be held on time.

Members of the Council have mixed views on the legacy of the peace agreement.

Prendergast, Deng and Reeves – none of whom were in government when the agreement was created – are pessimistic, believing that other troubled areas in Sudan should have been more seriously attended to.

D’Silva wonders whether the agreement would have been better implemented had Garang survived.

Winter and Dagne – who were closest to the creation of the final pact – are more sanguine, saying the independence of the south alone justifies the agreement. Previously, the north-south clash was a domestic dispute which the world could ignore. Now it is a conflict between two states, and the south has its own army to defend itself.

“All the other issues are minor once you have your sovereignty,” Dagne said.

One evening in January, Dagne headed to Dulles International Airport outside Washington to catch a flight to Juba. He had left his Congress job and was off to take up a role as special adviser to South Sudan’s President Kiir. Leaving behind his family and a secure U.S. government position, he was returning to the continent he left 31 years earlier.

On his iPhone, Dagne carries a recording of a message Garang left him less than 24 hours before he died. “Hi, Nephew, this is Uncle,” it begins.

Dagne scrolled through farewell messages from Council members.

“South Sudan could not be more fortunate,” wrote Reeves. “I salute you… you are…the Emperor.”

(Editing by Eddie Evans and Simon Robinson)

*Culled from http://www.chicagotribune.com

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Mali: How the West Cleared the Way for al-Qaeda’s African March
July 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

With the world’s attention elsewhere, Islamists and al-Qaeda have seized a vast area of northern Mali

David Blair*

A few days after desert gunmen swept out of the Sahara and captured Timbuktu, the city’s conquerors broadcast a message over its radio station.

“We are going to welcome some foreigners,” the inhabitants of this ancient trading centre in northern Mali were told. “Do not be afraid when you see them: we must all welcome them.”

A convoy of Land Cruisers duly arrived, laden with bearded fighters clad in sand-coloured turbans and robes. These were not rebels from the local Tuareg tribe, who had claimed credit for the fall of Timbuktu, but international jihadists from across the Muslim world including Algerians, Nigerians, Somalis and Pakistanis. This multinational

Graphic-showing-the-areas-of-Mali-which-are-now-controlled-by-AQIM-al-Qaeda-in-the-Islamic-Maghreb

Graphic-showing-the-areas-of-Mali-which-are-now-controlled-by-AQIM-al-Qaeda-in-the-Islamic-Maghreb

parade drove home a harsh message: a new state had been born under the effective rule of al-Qaeda. Bewildered townspeople, who had only seen Tuareg insurgents up to that point, realised its true significance.

“We first saw the foreigners when they were in our city,” said Mousa Maigar, who witnessed the arrival of the column. “How they entered our country, we don’t know.”

Almost unnoticed by the outside world, a branch of al-Qaeda has seized a swathe of Africa covering more than 300,000 square miles. “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM) and its allies have taken over an area of the Sahara more than three times the size of Britain, complete with airports, military bases, arms dumps and training camps.

Ever since the September 11 attacks, Western counter-terrorism policy has been designed to prevent al-Qaeda from controlling territory. Yet that is exactly what AQIM has now achieved.

Its new domain covers the regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal in northern Mali. This area is already serving as a base for training and recruitment. But AQIM’s new domain also lies across a trans-Saharan smuggling route employed to run cocaine to Europe. The movement will have every opportunity to profit from drug trafficking.

Already, equipment that was supplied to combat al-Qaeda has fallen into the hands of its fighters. Before the capture of northern Mali by Islamists in April, America had given military vehicles and satellite communications technology to the country’s army. In particular, the US supplied six counter-terrorism units with 87 Land Cruisers, along with satellite phones and navigation aids. AQIM fighters are now using these American donations, according to a serving soldier in the Malian army with decades of experience in the north.

Five of the six specialist military units abandoned their equipment and fled when AQIM and its allies advanced, he said. “The Islamists are the masters today,” he added. “They have all the equipment that we left in the field.”

In addition to these assets, AQIM has also inherited the stores abandoned by Mali’s army, including artillery, rocket launchers and large reserves of small arms and ammunition. AQIM controls the civilian airports of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, along with one of the region’s biggest military airbases at Tessalit, near the northern border with Algeria.

“It pains my heart that I have relatives in the north who are suffering day by day and it is not in my military capacity to help them,” said the soldier. “I am helpless.”

Mali’s army had little chance of preventing the loss of two thirds of the country. After Col Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall last year, Libya’s military stockpiles were thrown open to all-comers, turning the country into the world’s biggest source of illegal weapons.

Both AQIM and the Tuareg rebels from northern Mali seized their chance: they soon outgunned the national army.

Gaddafi had also recruited thousands of soldiers from Mali; one brigade of the old Libyan army consisted almost entirely of Tuaregs. These battle-hardened troops returned to their homeland after he was overthrown, taking their weapons with them. They duly became the backbone of AQIM and the Tuareg rebellion.

When Britain and France went to war to topple Gaddafi, they were inadvertently clearing the way for al-Qaeda to take control of a swathe of the Sahara. At first, AQIM allowed Tuareg rebels to take the lead, helping them to capture Mali’s three northern regions in April. Since then, AQIM has thrust the insurgents aside and become the dominant force in the area, acting through an offshoot known as “Ansar Dine”, or “defenders of faith”.

They have no viable opponents: Mali’s official government has simply collapsed. A military coup toppled President Amadou Toumani Touré in March. An interim leader, appointed to supervise new elections, was then left for dead by a mob that raided his office. He now lies in a hospital bed in France, leaving no one in charge in the capital, Bamako.

Even if Mali had a functioning government, the army lacks the military capability to retake the north. So far, AQIM’s leaders can take comfort from the fact that no outside force threatens their control. “If you have a vast unpoliced, ungoverned area, you can do what you like in it,” said a Western diplomat in Bamako. “The fact is that two thirds of the territory of a sovereign country is not under the control of the government.”

The original inhabitants of AQIM’s new domain have been trickling away. More than 181,000 people have entered refugee camps in neighbouring countries, with another 160,000 fleeing to southern Mali.

Mr Maigar fled Timbuktu last Thursday after Ansar Dine razed eight of the city’s 16 mausoleums and broke down the entrance to the Sidi Yahya mosque dating from 1400. “When they destroyed the mausoleums, that affected me personally. We cannot live with the terrorists in the city,” he said.

Al-Qaeda’s allies have imposed the rigours of Sharia, banning alcohol and music, blocking the local television signal and preventing radio stations from broadcasting anything but official announcements and Koranic verse.

Earlier, Mr Maigar witnessed the flogging of a man and a woman in Sankore Square in Timbuktu, allegedly for having sexual intercourse outside marriage.

Djenebou Traoré, 48, left the city in May after two men came to her door and demanded to know whether any of the women inside were unmarried. They would be handed to the new overlords for compulsory “marriage”.

AQIM’s priority appears to be consolidating its control, rather than striking targets beyond the country’s borders. Officials warn this could change. “This could ultimately be the base to attack Europe,” said the diplomat.

*Culled from , Telegraph 11/7/12

 

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Dr Ramphele’s remedy for South Africa
July 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

By  Andrew Harding*

Another sullen debate about the president’s penis. Another cheerless ANC policy conference.

More shrill contradictions from the government about nationalisation. And the familiar, hoarse shouting match about who owns the least of South Africa’s economy.

The blare and frenzy of this country’s gloriously feisty political culture can sometimes get, well, a little gruelling.

But fear not. There is an antidote.

I met her last week in a modest office block overshadowed by a cloud-cloaked Table Mountain just outside Cape Town.

 

Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele

Mamphela Ramphele is among South Africa’s most prominent and well-respected public intellectuals – which is another way of saying that she talks with great passion and even greater common sense about the way forward for this restless country.

You can read her biography here and perhaps note, or even lament, the fact that academia and other pursuits have kept her away from high political office.

In her own calm, forensic way, Dr Ramphele is a ferocious critic of the ruling ANC – each blow delivered with a gracious smile and a surgeon’s acuity.

“The key issue of the ANC is not a lack of policies,” she said, dismissing the recent policy conference out of hand.

“The key problem is leadership and capacity to govern. Is it possible to have a liberation movement transforming itself into a democratic governing party?” she asked.

“There were glimpses of it during the Mandela administration… but the rest of the ANC, quite frankly, from the very beginning was more about taking control and… stepping into the shoes of the former colonizer.”

“What we have currently is a corrupt, unaccountable government,” which is trying to follow East Asian developmental state models, she declared.

She added: “Look at who runs those countries and see who is in government – engineers, accountants, lawyers, highly technically capable people” with performance targets to meet. Whereas in South Africa – and here she slowed to choose her words carefully – “you don’t have a critical mass of competent civil and public servants.”

‘Subjects to citizens’

But if Dr Ramphele is tough in her judgements on President Jacob Zuma and his team, her real preoccupation is with the ruled, not the rulers.

“We liberated ourselves as South Africans by coming together… from the churches to the schools to the private sector, and that is what unseated the apartheid government. Not guns,” she said of the long struggle against white-minority rule.

Now she says she is “disappointed and frustrated” that people have forgotten how to work together.

“Post-colonial South African citizens continue to function as subjects. Their mind-set is ‘those in authority know best, they will tell us what to do, they will decide when this or that happens.'”

“And so you have cycles of people waiting and praying, and when nothing happens they wait some more and then at some stage the cup runs over and then they burn and loot, and go back to the waiting business. So that kind of ‘subject mentality’ is what needed to have been addressed in a systematic way so they could make the transition from being subjects to citizens,” she said.

“For us to be effective shareholders of South Africa Inc. we have to understand what it means to be a shareholder.”

Powerful, not invincible

So much for the diagnosis. Dr Ramphele moves on to the remedies, which, for now, come in a box marked “Citizens Movement for Social Change” – a new coalition with an ambitious agenda.

The organisation aims to champion, defend and generally spread the word about South Africa’s constitution, partly through a grass-roots education campaign, but also by challenging government on policy issues and, more controversially – and with the help of another group called Freedom Under the Law – to contest the authorities in court.

“We believe that the easiest way for people to understand what power they have is to demonstrate it,” said Dr Ramphele, explaining the decision to challenge the recent reappointment of a controversial figure, weighed down by serious criminal allegations, as crime intelligence chief.

“Only in a culture of impunity would a government be able to think they could get away with choosing someone facing serious charges, to have those charges dropped and be given a key sensitive position. I mean it’s inexplicable that they could have thought they could get away with it,” said Dr Ramphele.

But the court challenge – a saga that is still unfolding – seems to have worked.

“Now they know they have to watch,” she said. We are in a sense teaching by example and people can see that [politicians are] ‘Ha – powerful but not invincible.”

My time was up. Dr Ramphele’s next visitors were queuing up outside the door, and just a few miles to the east, Cape Town’s gang-infested suburbs were erupting into a new spasm of violence. Before leaving, I asked her about the endless rumours that she might finally be lured into joining a political party.

“They are looking for a box to put me in,” she said, with a laugh. “And there is no box to put me in.”

*Culled from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa

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Mysterious fatal crash offers rare look at U.S. commando presence in Mali
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Craig Whitlock*,

In pre-dawn darkness, a ­Toyota Land Cruiser skidded off a bridge in North Africa in the spring, plunging into the Niger River. When rescuers arrived, they found the bodies of three U.S. Army commandos — alongside three dead women.

What the men were doing in the impoverished country of Mali, and why they were still there a month after the United States suspended military relations with its government, is at the crux of a mystery that officials have not fully explained even 10 weeks later.At the very least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actionsagainst al-Qaeda affiliates.

The Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the missions, although it has spoken in general about plans to rely on Special Operations forces as a cornerstone of its global counterterrorism strategy. In recent years, the Pentagon has swelled the ranks and resources of the Special Operations Command, which includes such units as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, even as the overall number of U.S. troops is shrinking.

At the same time, the crash in Mali has revealed some details of the commandos’ clandestine activities that apparently had little to do with counterterrorism. The women killed in the wreck were identified as Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the soldiers, according to a senior Army official and a U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the incident, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is conducting a probe of the fatal plunge off the Martyrs Bridge in Bamako, the capital of Mali, said it does not suspect foul play but has “not completely ruled it out.” Other Army officials cited poor road conditions and excessive speed as the likely cause of the 5 a.m. crash.

U.S. officials have revealed few details about the soldiers’ mission or their backgrounds, beyond a brief news release announcing their deaths hours after the accident.

In many countries, including most in Africa, Special Operations forces work openly to distribute humanitarian aid and train local militaries. At times, the civil-affairs assignments can provide credible cover for clandestine counterterrorism units.

But in Mali, U.S. military personnel had ceased all training and civil-affairs work by the end of March, about a week after the country’s democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup.

The military’s Africa Command, which oversees operations on the continent, said the three service members killed were among “a small number of personnel” who had been aiding the Malian military before the coup and had remained in the country to “provide assistance to the U.S. Embassy” and “maintain situational awareness on the unfolding events.”

Megan Larson-Kone, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy in Mali, said the soldiers had stayed in Bamako because they were “winding down” civil-
affairs programs in the aftermath of the coup while holding out hope “that things would turn around quickly” so they could resume their work.

Two of the soldiers, Capt. ­Daniel H. Utley, 33, and Sgt. 1st Class Marciano E. Myrthil, 39, were members of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, which is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

For two months after the crash, the U.S. military withheld the identity of the third soldier killed. In response to inquiries from The Washington Post, the Army named him as Master Sgt. Trevor J. Bast, 39, a communications technician with the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir.

The Intelligence and Security Command is a little-known and secretive branch of the Army that specializes in communications intercepts. Its personnel often work closely with the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees missions to capture or kill terrorism suspects overseas.

During his two decades of service, Bast revealed little about the nature of his work to his family. “He did not tell us a lot about his life, and we respected that for security purposes,” his mother, Thelma Bast of Gaylord, Mich., said in a brief interview. “We never asked questions, and that’s the honest truth.”

Haven for Islamist militants

U.S. counterterrorism officials have long worried about Mali, a weakly governed country of 14.5 million people that has served as a refuge for Islamist militants allied with al-Qaeda.

With only 6,000 poorly equipped troops, the Malian armed forces have always struggled to maintain control of their territory, about twice the size of Texas. Repeated famines and rebellions by Tuareg nomads only exacerbated the instability.

About six years ago, the Pentagon began bolstering its overt aid and training programs in Mali, as well as its clandestine operations.

Under a classified program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of U.S. personnel and contractors were deployed to West Africa to conduct surveillance missions over the country with single-
engine aircraft designed to look like civilian passenger planes.

In addition, the military flew spy flights over Mali and other countries in the region with ­longer-range P-3 Orion aircraft based in the Mediterranean, according to classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

In what would have represented a significant escalation of U.S. military involvement in Mali, the Pentagon also considered a ­secret plan in 2009 to embed American commandos with ­Malian ground troops, diplomatic cables show.

Under that program, code-named Oasis Enabler, U.S. military advisers would conduct ­anti-terrorism operations alongside elite, American-trained ­Malian units. But the idea was rejected by Gillian A. Milovanovic, the ambassador to Mali at the time.

In an October 2009 meeting in Bamako with Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, deputy chief of the Africa Command, the ambassador called the plan “extremely problematic,” adding that it could create a popular backlash and “risk infuriating” neighbors such as Algeria

Furthermore, Milovanovic warned that the U.S. advisers “would likely serve as lightning rods, exposing themselves and the Malian contingents to specific risk,” according to a State Department cable summarizing the meeting.

Moeller replied that he “regretted” that the ambassador had not been kept better informed and said Oasis Enabler was “a work in progress.” It is unclear whether the plan was carried out.

</fb:like></span><span id=check-twitter> Since then, however, security in Mali has deteriorated sharply. After the coup in March, extremist Muslim guerrillas in northern Mali declared an independent Islamist state. They have imposed sharia law and have begun enforcing strict social codes that include compulsory beards for men and a ban on television.

In the fabled desert city of Timbuktu, al-Qaeda sympathizers have destroyed ancient mausoleums and attacked other shrines as part of a religious cleansing campaign. Western aid workers have abandoned the northern half of the country after a string of kidnappings.

Thousands of Malians have fled to refu­gee camps in neighboring countries.

A fatal plunge

The three soldiers riding through Bamako in April had rented their 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser from a local agency, according to written statements provided to The Post by the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.

Bast was in the driver’s seat and was headed south across the Martyrs Bridge. Preliminary investigative results determined that he lost control of the Land Cruiser, which broke through the bridge’s guard rail and landed in the river below.

Also in the vehicle were three Moroccan women, according to the Army’s statement. Contributing factors in the accident, the Army said, were limited visibility and “a probable evasive maneuver on the part of the vehicle’s driver to avoid impacting with slower moving traffic.”

The soldiers died of “blunt force trauma” when the vehicle landed upside down in the shallow river, crushing the roof, the Army said.

The Special Operations Command said it could not answer questions about where the soldiers were going, nor why they were traveling with the unidentified Moroccan women, saying the matter is under investigation.

Larson-Kone, the embassy spokeswoman, said the soldiers were on “personal, not business-related travel” at the time, but she declined to provide details. Officials from the Africa Command also said that they did not know who the women were, but they added in a statement: “From what we know now, we have no reason to believe these women were engaged in acts of prostitution.”

Coincidentally, the incident occurred less than a week after President Obama’s visit to a summit in Cartagena, Colombia, where U.S. military personnel and Secret Service agents became embroiled in a scandal involving prostitutes.

Little details not adding up

At least two of the soldiers in Mali had been trained as communications or intelligence specialists.Bast, the master sergeant, was a ham radio hobbyist who originally joined the Navy before switching to the Army several years ago. An Army spokesman described him as a “communications expert” and said he was posthumously given the Meritorious Service Medal but declined to say why.

Myrthil was a native of Haiti who joined the Army two decades ago. Military officials released virtually no details about his service record.

Utley, the captain, was a Kentucky native who joined the Army in 2002 to work as a signals and communications officer but later transferred to the Special Forces.

Friends said he had expected to deploy to Afghanistan last summer but received last-minute orders to go to Africa instead. His Mali assignment was scheduled to end this spring but was extended, they said.

Three weeks after the coup, on April 11, Utley sent a brief e-mail to a friend from college, Chris Atzinger, to report that he was all right and that he would write more later.

Atzinger said he and other friends of Utley’s were frustrated that the Army hasn’t given a clearer explanation of how he died. “Those little details don’t seem to add up,” Atzinger said. “All of us are resigned to the fact that we won’t ever know.”

Utley, a graduate of the University of Louisville, was a McConnell Scholar, part of a leadership program named after Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader. Less than a week after the fatal crash, McConnell gave a eulogy to Utley on the Senate floor, calling him “an American hero and patriot.”

Gary Gregg, director of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, called Utley a star student and “just a terrific kid.” But he said the official account of the crash didn’t make sense.

“It seems really dubious that six people died in a single-car accident. It’s just very fishy,” Gregg said in a telephone interview.

Dana Priest and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/world

 

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How 1 Man Derailed 20 Years of Democracy in Mali
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI* Associated Press

SEGOU, Mali July 7, 2012 (AP)

On the morning three months ago when the fate of Mali was irrevocably changed, Mamadou Sanogo awoke in the house here where he and his wife had raised six children, including a 39-year-old son, now a captain in the nation’s army.

It was still dark outside. The elderly man got up and turned on the TV, setting the volume to low so as to not disturb his sleeping wife, according to relatives and friends. What

April 1, 2012 file photo, coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo addresses the media at his headquarters in Kati, outside Bamako, Mali. The ease of the junta's takeover in March, just six weeks before a presidential election, shows how quickly the course of a nation in this part of the world can change, despite or even partly because of funding and training from the U.S. It also underscores how fragile democracies remain in Africa, and how the fate of an entire country can still be bent by the ambitions of a single man. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

April 1, 2012 file photo, coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo addresses the media at his headquarters in Kati, outside Bamako, Mali. The ease of the junta's takeover in March, just six weeks before a presidential election, shows how quickly the course of a nation in this part of the world can change, despite or even partly because of funding and training from the U.S. It also underscores how fragile democracies remain in Africa, and how the fate of an entire country can still be bent by the ambitions of a single man. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

he saw next made him shake her awake. “Come see what your imbecile son is doing,” he yelled.

Instead of the normal newscast, they saw a group of soldiers huddled in front of the TV camera. It took them a moment to recognize their son, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who was announcing that the military had overthrown the government of Mali.

If the coup was a shock to his parents — his mother subsequently fainted — it seems also to have come as a surprise to Sanogo himself, who by all accounts had no plans for it. Perhaps most of all, it was like a bucket of ice water over the heads of Mali’s 15.4 million people, who saw two decades of democracy collapse in just a few hours into what is rapidly becoming an ungovernable hole and a haven for al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

The ease of the takeover, just six weeks before a presidential election, shows how quickly the course of a nation in this part of the world can change, despite or even partly because of funding and training from the West. And it underscores how fragile democracies remain in Africa, and how the fate of an entire country can still be bent by the ambitions of a single man.

“This is considered a thing of the past in Africa. If you look at the video, it looks like a caricature of a 1970s coup,” said Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This is why this is so tragic and disappointing — the trend for this kind of ham-handed power grab has been, fewer and fewer.”

Mali is a landlocked nation twice the size of France that has long taken pride in its democratic track record, despite chronic poverty and repeated rebellions in the north.

In the past decade, the U.S. alone has poured close to $1 billion into Mali, including development aid as well as military training to battle an al-Qaida offshoot in the north. In doing so, the U.S. unwittingly also helped prepare the soldiers for the coup: Sanogo himself benefited from six training missions in the U.S., the State Department confirmed, starting in 1998 when he was sent to an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga.

He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Just a few weeks before the March takeover, Sanogo made a trip to Segou to say goodbye. He’d been accepted into a peacekeeping training course abroad and was due to leave sometime in April, said his cousin, Salif Sanogo.

What happened next is described by those who know him as an “accidental coup.”

It started at the Kati military camp, where Sanogo lived in a decrepit housing unit with cement walls and a tin roof, just 10 kilometers (6 miles) over a barren hill from the presidential palace.

Sanogo, an English-language teacher at a military college, had failed several exams in officer school, according to Lt. Col. Oumar Diawara, an officer also stationed at the camp. However, because of his training in the United States and because he spoke and taught English, he gave off a worldly air. The rank-and-file soldiers looked up to him because he frequently socialized with them, unlike other officers who adhered to the strict hierarchy of military life.

Sanogo, officers said, was among the instructors fired last fall at a military college where five recruits died in a widely publicized hazing incident. He was sent back to Kati, said Diawara.

“He was there with no function,” he said. “He had absolutely nothing to do.”

In the meantime, anger was growing at the corruption that had spread like a tumor across the arteries of Mali’s government and military: In recent years, the country dropped from No. 78 out of 182 countries to No. 118 on Transparency International’s index tracking corruption.

In the military, generals sat in lavishly decorated offices while soldiers were routinely sent to the battlefield without proper boots. Earlier this year, an entire company of several dozen soldiers was wiped out after fighting a new rebellion in Mali’s north without enough ammunition.

The troops at Kati started to plan a march to protest how the government had handled the rebellion. At around 1 p.m. on March 21, Minister of Defense Gen. Sadio Gassama came to the Kati barracks to ask them to call it off.

Soldiers who were present said the general talked down to them, and the crowd became angry. The mutiny erupted when the minister’s bodyguard shot into the air in an effort to push back the mob.

“The minister spoke in a way that was not polite,” said George Coulibaly, a civilian who lives in the Kati camp and accompanied the soldiers during the coup. “He said things like, ‘You want to march? You’re a bunch of uneducated people. I’ll educate you.'”

The renegade troops stoned the defense minister’s car as his driver floored the gas to get away. They forced the doors of the armory and emptied it out. Then they began hunting down the other officers, nearly all of whom fled or hid — except Sanogo, whose recent dismissal as an officer had given him credibility with ordinary soldiers.

The crowd, led by Sanogo, initially planned to march to the palace to dress down President Amadou Toumani Toure, said several soldiers. Instead, the president fled. They found themselves inside the seat of government.

“Our objective was not a coup d’etat,” said Lt. Samba Timbo, one of the leaders of the putsch. “Not at first.”

By late afternoon, around 100 soldiers had arrived at the state television station. They sent the employees home, and television screens across the country went black.

“The presidential palace fell in their laps,” said the cameraman who helped them broadcast their first message, and who requested anonymity for his safety. “For two hours, not a single person, not a single interlocutor, tried to contact them to see what they wanted. To negotiate. It was after that they got the idea for a coup.”

By the time Sanogo’s father turned on the TV the next morning in Segou, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of the capital, the intentions of the soldiers had become clear. So had their leader.

When his mother saw him on TV, she at first refused to believe it was her son, called “Bolly” by friends and family. Shaken, she left the house and crossed a sandy courtyard to the home of his cousin, Salif Sanogo.

Salif Sanogo was brewing his morning tea on a bed of charcoal when she knocked. “She asked, ‘Is it true? Is it true that Bolly did this?'” recalled the cousin. “We said, ‘Yes, Ma. It’s true.'”

She screamed. She got hysterical, and then she fainted. They carried her in and fanned her until she woke up.

If Sanogo’s parents were initially mortified, they quickly became used to their new status. Just days after the coup, visitors started to line up outside their house on Road 270 in Segou.

In the capital, the soldiers were looting government buildings. A businessman with ties to the junta estimates that they raked in between $2 and $3 million in the first three days after the coup, from government safes they pried open.

Most of the ministries no longer have computers. And the normally 1 1/2-hour-long evening news hour is now just 40 minutes because all but a few of the cameras at the state television station were stolen.

Even while Sanogo said the army had only seized power to address rebellion in the north, the rebels took advantage of the confusion to seize half the country. Among the groups that invaded the north is Ansar Dine, or “Defenders of the Faith,” an Islamic faction with ties to al-Qaida.

In the capital, Bamako, Sanogo and his men quickly made themselves at home. The captain held court from the office of the Zone 3 commander at Kati, a rundown colonial structure that became increasingly well-equipped. Each week, construction crews poured cement, updated the electrical wiring and hauled in new office chairs, their metallic legs still covered in plastic.

Months later, the future of both Mali and Sanogo remains uncertain.

A poll of 1,100 residents of the capital found that after the initial shock, about 60 percent were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the coup because it put an end to a regime viewed as corrupt.

“Our democracy? It was a facade,” said 54-year-old Soumara Kalapo, who took part in pro-coup demonstrations after the putsch. “Our democracy needed this coup so that it could right itself. … It was a democracy run by, and benefiting, a mafia.”

But in his last blog post before leaving Mali for the U.S., anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse lists the disastrous consequences of what happened, including the suspension of more than a billion dollars in aid, the closing of Bamako’s flagship Grand Hotel and the government’s loss of control of half its territory. Last month, Islamic fundamentalists announced that they now hold the major towns in the north.

“In the 90 days since the coup, it’s hard to look at any area and see anything good,” said Whitehouse, an assistant professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. “Some of us were looking for a silver lining. Months later, we can’t see any reason for hope.”

After countless diplomatic interventions, a round of sanctions and a library’s worth of condemnations from world leaders, Sanogo finally agreed to step aside on April 6. But the young captain continued to meddle in state affairs until May, when he signed a second agreement promising to leave in return for the status of a former head of state. A diplomat versed on the matter said that status includes a salary of $9,000 a month, more than 30 times the salary of an army captain.

The former head of the national assembly, Dioncounda Traore, took over as interim president of a transitional government. In May, a mob of pro-Sanogo youth forced their way into his office and beat him. Traore was evacuated to France for treatment on May 23, and has not returned since.

Even the Wikipedia entry on Mali is confused about who is now in charge. In the box naming the head of the government, the online encyclopedia lists both Sanogo, as chairperson of the military junta, and Traore, as acting president.

Repeated attempts to speak to Sanogo for this article were unsuccessful.

On Wednesday, the body representing nations in western Africa sent notice that it does not recognize Sanogo’s status as a former head of state, and threatened sanctions against him if he continues to obstruct the return to constitutional rule. But diplomats say businessmen are still waiting in front of the former commander’s office to see him, with the customary suitcase of cash, a sign of his enduring influence.

Those around him still call him “Le President.” And a framed portrait on the wall shows Sanogo, a green beret cocked to one side, next to the title, “Head of state.”

*Culled from Associated Press

 

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One year on, South Sudan struggles to survive
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Feuds over boundaries and oil-pumping fees deprive South Sudan of revenue and bring it close to war with Sudan one year after independence.

By Scott Baldauf*

One year ago, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation. Today, it has oil wealth it can’t ship to market, impoverished citizens it can’t seem to feed or house, and a feud with Khartoum it can’t seem to end.

A woman carries water through the flooded Jamam refugee camp at the Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 2. Refugees are fleeing from the heavy seasonal rain that recently flooded the Jamam refugee camp and gravely expanded the risk of illness. Adriane Ohanesian/Reuters

A woman carries water through the flooded Jamam refugee camp at the Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 2. Refugees are fleeing from the heavy seasonal rain that recently flooded the Jamam refugee camp and gravely expanded the risk of illness. Adriane Ohanesian/Reuters

Turning the landlocked but oil rich South Sudan into a functioning country was never going to be easy, of course. But doing so in the midst of an economic dispute with its neighbor and rival, Sudan – a dispute over how much money South Sudan should pay Sudan to pump oil through Sudan’s pipelines and out to international markets – has been crushing. If South Sudan was a baby, it has been deprived of nutrition for the first year of its life.

More dangerously, South Sudan and Sudan have come close to launching a full-out war, as Sudanese jets bomb villages inside South Sudanese territory, and as South Sudanese troops invaded to take control, briefly, of Sudan’s last giant oil-producing town of Heglig. Both nations claim the Heglig fields and lingering boundary disputes continue to keep these two nations on war footing.

Talks between Sudan and South Sudan resumed Thursday in Addis Ababa, and the United Nations has given the two countries two months to resolve their differences. A previous round of talks ended last week, with no progress.

South Sudan is not the first nation to be born in the midst of conflict, of course. The United States broke away from Britain for very similar reasons as South Sudan had for breaking from Sudan: the sense that the colonial masters were profiting more from America’s natural wealth than Americans were. But just as America’s independence was very nearly snuffed out by much better armed and prepared British troops in the Revolutionary War, so South Sudan is paying dearly for its disputes with Khartoum.

More than 400,000 people of South Sudanese descent have moved to South Sudan since 2010, and hundreds of thousands more remain in Sudan proper. Many of these people have no housing, no regular access to running water or sanitation, or to adequate health care. There are not enough schools to accommodate the children of these newcomers, and not enough jobs for the young men and women who left behind a better economic life in the cities of the north.

“The foundation of a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan can be strong only if we invest in the country’s youngest citizens. They need to be everyone’s priority so that the next generation can play an active and meaningful part in building this new nation,” said Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF representative in South Sudan, in an e-mailed statement. “The children of this country deserve a better future and it is critical that long term predictable investment is available and translates into real gains for them.”

As bad as things are, the West is not going to abandon the new nation that it spent so much time and political capital in bringing to life. Food aid keeps the poorer citizens of South Sudan alive, UN and private aid groups have fanned out across the countryside in white SUVs to help South Sudan develop the capacity to build a sustainable economy, manage its resources, and govern itself.

But the economic reality check of running a country has been a shock. Inflation for fuel and food prices in February shot up 21 percent from the same time last year, and then another 80 percent in May, according to Oxfam International. Inflation like that puts ordinary foodstuffs out of the price range of even those South Sudanese who do have savings; today 9.7 million are facing food shortages.

“The jubilation of independence is now tempered by the reality of a daily struggle to survive,” said Helen McElhinney, Oxfam policy adviser, in an e-mailed statement. “Some people are living on one meal a day and double the number of people are in need of food aid compared to last year. Refugees are enduring dire conditions in border camps with not enough water to go around.”

South Sudan’s rulers – all of them members of a former rebel army, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, turned political party – note that they have the people’s support, and they will finish the task they set out to do. (More than 95 percent of South Sudanese voted for secession in a referendum held in January 2010.)

The question is whether South Sudan can hold itself together until an acceptable deal can be worked out with Sudan. Indeed, this is the same question that Sudan itself is faced with. Losing South Sudan meant the loss of 75 percent of Sudan’s proven oil reserves, and Sudan has responded with cutbacks in subsidies and other austerity measures that have sparked street protests by Sudanese university students in recent weeks. On Thursday, officials from both countries met in Addis Ababa to begin discussions over boundary and oil-revenue disputes.

In the meantime, South Sudanese officials remain defiant.

“We’re not going to collapse, we’re going to survive until the problem of oil is resolved,” said Atem Yaak Atem, a government spokesman, according to Agence France Presse.

*Culled From Christian Science Monitor

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Sudan, S. Sudan adopt ’strategic’ approach to resolve disputed issues
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

July 7, 2012 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) – Sudan and South Sudan’s delegations in Addis Ababa endorsed with some optimism a new strategic approach to facilitate quick progress in the stalled talks when they resume next week, the two parties announced.

The two parties left Addis Ababa on Saturday as the discussions have been postponed until 12 July to allow South Sudan’s negotiating team to attend the first anniversary of the country’s independence.

South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum (L) sits alongside Sudan’s Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (2nd L), Sudanese spokesman Omer Dahab (2nd R) and mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki (R) as they announce that both countries have agreed to improve ties and cease hostilities during the latest round of talks in Addis Ababa on July 7, 2012 (Getty)

South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum (L) sits alongside Sudan’s Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (2nd L), Sudanese spokesman Omer Dahab (2nd R) and mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki (R) as they announce that both countries have agreed to improve ties and cease hostilities during the latest round of talks in Addis Ababa on July 7, 2012 (Getty)

Also, the chief negotiator, Thabo Mbeki, arrived in Khartoum where he met President Omer al-Bashir to discuss the prospects of the talks in the upcoming weeks as the parties are tied by a United Nations (UN) resolution demanding that they conclude the process before the 2 August 2012.

Briefing the media after his arrival in Khartoum, Sudan’s defence minister who chairs the Sudanese delegation to the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, Abdel-Rahim Hussein spoke with certain optimism about the comprehensive strategic approach.

He told reporters that this approach is based on three principles: 1. Commitment to the non-aggression pact. 2. Non-interference in the internal affairs. 3. Transparency and good faith in their joint cooperation to resolve the outstanding issues.

“As members of South Sudan’s negotiating team, we strongly believe that the comprehensive strategic approach, which was also endorsed our President [Salva Kiir] will offer new solutions to resolving the outstanding post-independence issues,” Pagan Amum told a media briefing on arrival from Addis Ababa.

The new approach, he added, will mainly focus on the establishing a demilitarized buffer zone along their troubled border restarted, in addition to others as mandated by both the African Union (AU) roadmap and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2026.

The implementation of security arrangements agreed by the two countries since November last year was a key issue to pave the way for comprehensive solution for the outstanding issues. However, the difference over a map demarcating the buffer zone hampered the process.

The issue of the presence of rebel groups from both sides is seen, in Khartoum, as main factor obstructing efforts to build confidence and break the deadlock in the talks.

Abdel Rahim said this approach will allow the two sides to address security issues and to coordinate their efforts on the political, diplomatic and security fields and to take tough decisions on the basis of common interests of the two countries.

Speaking about the UNSC resolution 2046 and the delay in the talks as the deadline of 2 August is approaching, Hussein said the aim of the decision was to prevent the escalation of violence and war between the two countries.

He pointed out that the new strategy decreases the tension and the purpose of the resolution is achieved.

Meanwhile, Amum blamed the AU mediation team for the delay in the talks saying it did not invite the two parties early enough for resumption of discussions.

“Up to now, the two delegations have not yet been invited to discuss the key outstanding issues between them and this may negatively impact on the fast approaching deadline,” Amum said.

He said the next round of talks will require renewed ’positive thinking’ and ’tough decisions’ if a viable solution is to be reached on resolving the issues at hand.

Speaking to the media in Khartoum after his arrival, Mbeki congratulated the two sides for reaching this strategic approach.

He stressed that it will allow the two parties to tackle the outstanding issues taking into account the deadline determined by the AU roadmap and the resolution 2046.

The Elders, an independent group of global leaders, on Friday expressed concerns about the deadline for ending the talks, encouraging the two parties to expedite the process that could witness two viable states living side by side with each other.

BASHIR SALVA KIIR MEETING?                                           

The minister Abdel-Rahim however told reporters that the presidential summit might not take place as expected on the sidelines of the AU meeting.

He pointed out that the necessary arrangements have not yet being done, but he stressed that the preparations were taking place to hold it.

Mbeki also minimised the importance of such summit for the time being. He said such meeting should be organised after good preparation, adding it should not be for consumption through the media but only to reach radical solutions to the disputed issues.

*Courtesy of Sudan Tribune

 

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Tanzania probes Iran oil tankers re-flagging allegations
July 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Tanzania is seriously investigating allegations that it re-flagged Iranian oil tankers in defiance of sanctions.

A US congressman alleged last week that up to 10 Iranian oil tankers had been re-registered in Tanzania.

But the East African nation’s foreign minister said so far there was no evidence to suggest this was true and he appealed for help with the probe.

The US and the European Union have just tightened sanctions on Iran over concerns about its nuclear programme.

On Sunday, a complete European Union oil embargo on Iran came into effect – in response to US legislation, which sanctions any entity that deals with Iran’s Central Bank.

Tanzania’s neighbour Kenya on Wednesday said it had cancelled plans to import crude oil from Iran following threats of sanctions.

Flags of convenience

Howard Berman, who chairs the US House of Representative’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote to President Jakaya Kikwete last Friday about his concerns that Tanzania had allowed National Iranian Tanker Company vessels to re-flag.

“If Tanzania were to allow Iranian vessels to remain under Tanzanian registry, we in the Congress would have no choice but to consider whether to continue the range of bilateral US programs with Tanzania,” the US politician warned.

In a briefing to journalists on Thursday, Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said that if any Iranian ships had been re-flagged, they would be removed from Tanzania’s shipping register.

But he had received assurances from the Iranian embassy and a shipping agent in Dubai that no Iranian ships have been re-flagged.

“We’re calling on the international community, particularly the United States and European Union, to determine whether or not the statements… are correct or not,” Mr Membe said.

“If it is confirmed that the ships flying Tanzania’s flag are indeed from Iran, we will take steps to deliberately obliterate the registration.”

The BBC’s international development correspondent Mark Doyle says the use of so-called flags of convenience is common, though controversial, for legitimate trade.

But the flags are also sometimes flown as a way of trying to hide the origin of vessels and their cargo.

On Wednesday, Sierra Leone’s government said it would ban any ships flying its flag from violating international sanctions.

The move came after reports that two ships, using a Sierra Leonean flag of convenience, had carried Syrian oil products against the aims of US and European sanctions imposed to try to prevent President Bashar al-Assad’s access to foreign exchange.

*Culled From BBC Africa

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