Archive for December 17, 2014

June 23, 2014

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy was freed Monday by a Khartoum court, and has rejoined her Christian husband with their two young children, her lawyer and state media said.

State news agency SUNA said the Court of Cassation threw out the death sentence against 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim after defense lawyers presented their case. Her lawyer, Eman Abdul-Rahim, told The Associated Press that Ibrahim left prison and was with her husband. Her 18-month-old son, Martin, had been with her in jail, where she gave birth last month to a second child.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Christian mother, was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian. Sudan’s penal code forbids Muslims from converting to other religions, a crime punishable by death.

Ibrahim married a Christian man from southern Sudan in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father’s religion.

The sentence drew international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it “abhorrent.” The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who had met with the Sudanese Ambassador to discuss Ibrahim’s case, described the release as “a huge first step.” “But the second step is that Ms. Ibrahim and her husband and their children be on a plane heading to the United States,” he added. It’s not clear whether Ibrahim had planned to travel to the United States.

Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, contributing to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power in a 1989 military coup, has said his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone. A number of Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they all escaped execution by recanting their new faith.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, praised the decision to free Ibrahim and called on the government to repeal the laws to help demonstrate to the Sudanese people that their government intends to respect their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.”

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.


KHARTOUM – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has issued a decree banning political parties from holding meetings without permission from the authorities, the official SUNA news agency reported.

The decree comes just a week after Bashir assured a meeting of party leaders they had freedom to operate in the run-up to a “national dialogue” he has promised to hold to address urgent demands for change in his 25-year regime.

“No political party has the right to hold meetings and conferences inside their areas without first obtaining permission from the relevant authorities,” SUNA late on Monday reported the decree as reading.

At the April 6 meeting in Khartoum, Bashir assured party leaders they were free to conduct activities inside or outside their offices, “according to law”.

A day later, however, the Reform Now party said security agents had prevented it from holding a discussion forum and had detained the leader of its student wing, Emad Al-Dien Hashim.

Reform Now was formed in December by Bashir’s ex-adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani after the ruling National Congress Party ousted him.

Critics have said Bashir’s political dialogue is just a way for the elite to hang on to power without properly addressing the country’s problems.

An alliance of small opposition parties has refused to join the dialogue, which Bashir announced in January, unless the government meets several conditions.

These include declaring a ceasefire with the country’s armed rebels, and abolishing all laws that restrict freedoms.

The Revolutionary Front, which comprises insurgent groups from Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, on Sunday rejected participation in the dialogue, describing it as a “farce”.

Source: Middle East Online.


Mon Apr 7, 2014

Sudan is set to free some political prisoners and allow political parties to be active without restrictions as part of national reconciliation efforts.

President Omar al-Bashir made the announcement in a meeting with representatives of more than 50 parties and groups on Sunday, DPA reported.

Bashir said he had given orders to release all political prisoners “who have not committed criminal offenses” and ordered local authorities to allow political parties to exercise their activities inside and outside their headquarters without any restrictions.

Bashir also pledged to help create a suitable atmosphere for a comprehensive national dialog.

The Sudanese leader called on media to contribute to the success of the national dialog.

The release of the prisoners is the latest move by Bashir to push the national dialog forward. It was followed by a December 2013 cabinet shuffle, which analysts said was aimed at calming down protesters, who took to the streets in September after the government slashed fuel subsidies.

Sudan lost billions of dollars in oil revenues after South Sudan gained independence two years ago, taking with it some 75 percent of crude production of the formerly united country.

Sudan has been plagued by running inflation and a weakening currency since then.

Source: PressTV.


31 March 2014

Khartoum — The Sudanese Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani has laid out its view on the national dialogue initiative announced by the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir earlier this year.

Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat)

In a televised address to the nation late last January, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir announced a four-point plan for reform “to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalize national identity”.

He further called on political forces and even rebel groups should they lay down arms to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items to achieve these objectives.

The DUP urged the government to declare general amnesty for the rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile besides allowing public freedoms and declaring an immediate ceasefire as of today as an essential part of the requirements for creating environment conducive for dialogue.

The DUP is a major partner in the “broad-based” government of the National Congress Party (NCP) but its vision has matched with that of the opposition parties which rejected the government’s call for national dialogue.

The DUP stated at a press conference on Monday seven requirements for creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue, calling the government to implement them immediately.

These requirements include releasing political detainees and forming an independent committee in line with international standards to investigate all abuses besides removing the damages and injustices.

The DUP’s spokesperson, Ibrahim al-Mirghani, said they proposed dividing the dialogue agendas into three main categories including national principles, urgent national issues, and the implementation mechanisms, underscoring the need for establishing a national interim government to carry out tasks of the transitional period.

He said the transitional period should be governed by a provisional constitution or a constitutional declaration until drafting the interim constitution and the new elections law.

Al-Mirghani stressed the need for inviting regional and international organizations to monitor the national dialogue process including the Arab League, African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations.

He mentioned eleven agreements to be used as references for the dialogue on top of which is the agreement signed between the government and the rebel SPLM-N in June 2011 besides the New Dawn Charter which was signed by various opposition parties and rebel groups and rejected by the government.

The spokesperson also pointed to the 2005 Cairo Agreement which was signed by the government and the ex-opposition alliance, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as well as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) protocol on the Two Areas.

He further demanded that political parties commit themselves to five requirements including stopping the negative media campaigns besides staying away from setting preconditions.

Al-Mirghani denied inconsistency in their position as partners in the government and their demands from it to meet certain requirements.

“Being partners in the government doesn’t mean we merged with the NCP and it doesn’t prevent us from announcing our own reform proposal”, he added

He asserted his party is still considering a recommendation for pulling out of the government.

Following the September 2013 protests against lifting fuel subsidies, al-Mirghani established a committee to look into whether or not the DUP should continue in the NCP-dominated cabinet.

The panel unanimously recommended that the party withdraw from the government. The decision is not binding however, and the DUP chief can overrule it.

The DUP left opposition ranks and joined the “broad-base” government of the NCP in December 2011, citing the “need to save the country” in the words of al-Mirghani himself.

The decision of one of Sudan’s biggest opposition parties to join the government has created a great deal of internal dissent that saw many members quitting in protest.

Source: allAfrica.


December 06, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Somalia’s parliament voted to oust the country’s prime minister on Saturday, capping a long feud between the president and prime minister, an official said.

Parliament Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari said 153 members voted to oust Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed from office. Eighty members voted for him to stay. The vote took place after several recent rowdy sessions of parliament over the issue. Legislators who supported Ahmed heckled those who voted him out.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud had a falling out with Ahmed and wanted him to vacate his office. Ahmed said he accepted the vote but said he had been diligent in executing his constitutional mandate.

“We must eradicate a culture of impunity, disregard for the law and corruption if Somalia is to make meaningful progress. My administration has been relentless in our pursuit for reform and we leave a solid foundation that carries the hopes and aspirations of all Somalis,” Ahmed said in a statement.

The United States and the U.N., among others, have warned that the political infighting in Somalia is putting at risk the recent security gains made in the country. Nicholas Kay, the U.N. representative to Somalia, said the country needs “unity of political purpose” between its institutions and leaders “and a significant period of stability.” He said leaders need to prevent such political crises and instability in the future.

Security has improved in Somalia in recent years but the federal government remains weak and ineffective and wields little power outside the capital Mogadishu. A recent U.N. Monitoring Group report on Somalia said significant amounts of the federal budget are siphoned off through corruption.

November 20, 2014

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Gunmen shot and killed a Somali-American from Minnesota who had left a well-paying job in the U.S. to help the fledgling city government in Mogadishu, an official and relative said Wednesday.

Abdullahi Ali Anshur, 60, was an engineer helping the Mogadishu government with urban planning and drainage systems. He was killed after armed militants from the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab stopped his vehicle and sprayed it with bullets on Monday, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.

Anshur was buried in Mogadishu on Wednesday. He had left his work in Minnesota to help Mogadishu’s municipal government, said a relative who insisted on anonymity for security reasons. Anshur had held a similar job in Mogadishu more than two decades ago before the Somali government collapsed in the early 1990s.

His daughter in Minnesota, Maryan Ali, said she had just communicated with her father over the weekend, and he told her things were going well. He traveled for work frequently, and was heading from Kenya to Mogadishu.

She said her dad was a noble man, with a kind heart, who worked hard to help whomever he could. “He always encouraged us to work hard and to help whoever you can help … especially your community to better ourselves. He was a great mentor.”

Many Somalis who fled the country’s chaos for the U.S. and Europe have recently returned to Mogadishu to use their expertise to help the country move past decades of war and Anshur’s killing has sent shock waves through that community. One British-Somali man who returned to Mogadishu to open a cafe called Anshur’s death discouraging.

“Insecurity is the biggest threat for now,” said Ahmed Mohamed. A Somali-American in Mogadishu, Hussein Ali, said such attacks leave U.S. and European Somalis scared and disappointed. “It makes many of us contemplate leaving Mogadishu,” he said.

Ali said her father got his bachelor’s degree at the University of Somalia, then got a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the U.S. He graduated from California State University, Fresno, in the mid-1980s, then went back to Somalia to work until the civil war broke out, Ali said.

He managed a public housing unit in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was well-known in Minnesota’s large Somali community. He returned to Mogadishu last year. “What happened to my dad was such a shock to us,” Ali said. “We would never have expected something like that. Life surprises you.”

Al-Shabab, an ultra-conservative Islamic militant group that wants to run Somalia by its strict interpretation of Shariah law, once ruled nearly all of Mogadishu. The group was forced out of the capital in 2011 but continues to carry out insurgent attacks and targeted murders.

In a separate incident, armed assailants shot and killed a freelance journalist in the central Somali town of Galkayo on Tuesday evening. Three journalists have been murdered in targeted killings this year, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists, which condemned the shooting. Journalists face attacks by al-Shabab, government figures and powerful businessmen, the group said.

Ali said many people like her father believe rebuilding Somalia is worth the risk. “They do what they feel like they can do to help rebuild that country to how it used to be, or maybe even better,” Ali said. “That’s the motivation for everybody — don’t just sit around, if you want change to happen, you’ve got to get up and do something.”

Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

9 October 2014

Somalia has closed nine of its embassies due to lack of funds, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdirahman Duale Beyle said Wednesday (October 8th).

Beyle announced in July that the government intended to reduce its diplomatic missions from 37 to 31. He did not name all the embassies closed, but said those in Burundi and Germany were among them, Somalia’s RBC Radio reported.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried out the closures after discussions with the cabinet, Beyle said. He attributed the closures to limited resources for staff at the embassies.

Source: allAfrica.


December 17, 2014

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The men grappled with each other to board the quickly filling bus. Others wriggled in through the windows, scaling the outside, using the large wheels as footholds and leaving scuff-marks on the white exterior with their shoes.

These weren’t refugees fleeing disaster. They were migrant workers in 2022 World Cup host Qatar, fighting to earn a few dollars. The job: Pretend to be a sports fan. Qataris boast they’re mad for sports. The ruling emir of the oil-and-gas rich Gulf nation is so fond of football he bought Paris Saint-Germain, now France’s powerhouse team. Lobbying World Cup organizer FIFA in 2010, his royal mother said: “For us, football is not just a mere game or a sport among many. It is THE sport.”

Pitching successfully in November to track and field’s governing body to host its world championships in 2019, Qatar bid presenter Aphrodite Moschoudi said: “Qatar has a true passion for sports. Everything in our country revolves around sport.”

Or, when passion is lacking, around money. When the world’s second-richest people per capita can’t find time or be bothered to fill their sports arenas, migrant workers are paid to take their place. Thirty Qatar riyals — equivalent to $8 — won’t buy a beer in the luxury waterside hotel in Doha, the capital, where Qatari movers-and-shakers unwind. But for this pittance, workers from Africa and Asia sprint under blinding sun in the Doha industrial zone where they’re housed and surround a still-moving bus like bees on honey. They sit through volleyball, handball and football, applaud to order, do the wave with no enthusiasm and even dress up in white robes and head-scarves as Qataris, to plump up “home” crowds.

The Associated Press squeezed aboard one of three buses that ferried about 150 workers, through dense traffic of luxury cars and past luxury villas they’ll never be able to afford, to be fake fans at the Qatar Open of international beach volleyball in November.

The FIVB, volleyball’s governing body, trumpeted on its website that the tournament, part of its World Tour, “brought out the crowds.” But migrants from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and elsewhere, who work in Qatar as bus and taxi drivers for the state-owned transport company and for other employers, told the AP they were there for money, not volleyball.

Word of payment filtered around their crowded dormitories. At 2:30 p.m., clumps of men on their off-day gathered outside, inhaling dust stirred up by passing forklifts and trucks. Someone spotted the first bus far down the street that cuts through the bleak-scape of construction and piled dirt. The bus filled instantly. A second and third bus — and more frantic scrambling — followed.

Breathing heavily, men squeezed into seats, three on one side of the aisle, two on the other. There were no safety belts and the ceiling fans didn’t turn. One man without a seat squatted on the floor. To shouts of “get down!” he made himself small when a policeman was spotted on the journey.

One by one, from memory, the men reeled off their employee numbers — no names — to a man who methodically shuffled down the aisle, jotting down the details on a crumpled piece of paper. This ensured he’d later know who to pay, workers said.

At the Al Gharafa Sports Club, we disembarked and formed a line. An official in Qatari robes counted us in, with taps on the shoulder. French volleyballers Edouard Rowlandson and Youssef Krou were winning their bronze-medal match as we filled seats, making the arena appear almost full.

“Bizarre,” Rowlandson said when told of the hired spectators. “But we prefer that to playing in front of nobody.” Ahmed al-Sheebani, executive secretary of the Qatar Volleyball Association, rebuffed the AP’s questions, reaching over to switch off this reporter’s voice recorder.

Reached later by phone, FIVB media director Richard Baker thanked the AP for making it aware of the fake fans and said the federation will “seek clarification” from Qatari organizers. “It’s news to us,” he said.

But not to Qatar’s government. A survey of 1,079 Qatar residents published this January by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics suggested that paid fans may be turning Qataris off sport. The ministry said two-thirds of Qataris surveyed did not attend any football matches during the previous season and two-thirds of respondents cited “the spread of paid fans” as a “significant reason” keeping audiences away.

At the volleyball, some for-hire spectators were offered less than others. Security guards and office boys from Kenya said a promise of 20 riyals ($5.50) each drew 40 people onto their bus. A Nigerian manservant said he, too, was getting just 20.

Numerous workers said they regularly make up numbers at sports events. Qatar league football games pay 20 or 25 riyals, they said. A Kenyan said he made 50 riyals at handball. An added bonus: the volleyball arena had free Wi-Fi, allowing workers to get news and emails from home. They pulled out smartphones, ignoring a crowd organizer waving a plastic hand who urged them to clap to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Thirty riyals buys food for three days when you’re eating just once a day to save money for families back home, workers said. And watching sports, some said, is less tedious than whiling away off-duty hours in Doha’s back-of-beyond industrial zone.

“Shaking my body all over … being in the crowd and shouting and dancing” was great fun for Adu, a trainee bus driver from Ghana who gave just his first name. “Being there and getting paid is a plus for me.”

Afterward, the transport company workers waited nearly three hours in the dark, on barren land near the arena, for return buses. Contacted separately later by phone, three of them confirmed they got 30 riyals each in cash, either on the bus back or in their dormitories.

On an hourly basis, that came out at just over $1 per hour.