Sudan – US Sanctions Lifted

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The move will give Sudan access to the global banking system but President al-Bashir remains a war crimes suspect. Sudan stays on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The United States (US) announced on October 6th that it would end its toughest economic and trade sanctions against Sudan in a week’s time, citing progress the Khartoum government has made in fighting terrorism and easing humanitarian hardships.

Sudan has also agreed not to seek arms deals with North Korea, Deutsche Welle noted.

Human rights groups opposed the deal but it was a process that was started under former President Barack Obama.

The sanctions, which included a trade embargo and other penalties, essentially cut off Sudan from most of the global financial system for the past 20 years.

Explaining the end of the sanctions, US officials said the authoritarian regime had maintained a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and other old flashpoints.

However, President Omar al-Bashir remains a war-crimes suspect. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide charges for allegedly orchestrating a mass killing in Darfur.

And Sudan is still on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Syria and Iran. This means the US ban on weapons sales remains in force, as do restrictions on US aid.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said it was looking forward to building “a normal relation with the US, but wants its name to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as there is no reason to have Sudan in that list.”

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President Omar al-Bashir listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – CC 2009


International support

On September 4th, Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hamed Momtaz told Reuters that his country had “fulfilled all the necessary conditions relating to the roadmap” set out by the US, and therefore expected the sanctions to be lifted.

Khartoum had already won significant international support for this claim, with Israel and Saudi Arabia busy lobbying on its behalf. And back in July, the United Nations (UN) Country Team in Sudan called for Washington to take a “positive decision” on the sanctions, saying there had been a “marked improvement in humanitarian access over the past six months.”

However, civilians in Darfur still face “violence and criminality”, the UN’s then-head of peacekeeping told the Security Council in January. Hervé Ladsous pointed in particular to the “widespread proliferation of weapons and the inadequacy of law and justice institutions.”


‘Progress’ on human rights?

Human rights activists have warned that lifting the sanctions will embolden Sudan and other states to continue committing atrocities, according to IRIN.

There is little evidence of a major improvement in the country’s human rights record, even though this is one of five areas of progress cited by Washington in justifying the lifting of the sanctions.

In a recent report, the US State Department cited “attacks on civilians by government and other armed groups in conflict zones” as well as extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape, all committed with impunity by intelligence agents.

Reducing internal wars was another US benchmark, but armed conflict continues to simmer in the regions of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, where humanitarian access remains very restricted. It seems the US decision to lift sanctions is more closely linked to Khartoum’s role in global counter-terrorism and its recent cutting of ties with Pyongyang.

Commenting on the decision, John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said the Trump administration should now create a completely new policy framework which aims to address the core issues that led the regime to be sanctioned in the first place.

This new policy framework should be tied to a new set of smart, modernised network sanctions that spare the Sudanese public and target those in power responsible for mass atrocities, he said.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SUDAN: Humanitarian Push
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21747A–21747B

SUDAN: ‘Closed Chapter?’
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21491A–21492C

SUDAN: Darfur Security Assessment
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21480A–21481B

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Ethiopia – Oromo Unrest

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With longstanding grievances still unanswered, this year’s Irreecha festival could be fraught with tensions, says Human Rights Watch.

Ethiopian government and security officials should act with restraint and take concrete steps to prevent injuries and deaths at this year’s Irreecha festival on October 1st, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on September 19th.

Many people, likely hundreds, died in a stampede at last year’s festival, triggered by security forces’ use of teargas and obstruction of exits.

The festival, attended by massive crowds, is the most important cultural festival to Ethiopia’s 40m ethnic Oromos, who gather to celebrate the end of the rains and welcome the harvest.

HRW found evidence that security force personnel not only triggered the stampede that caused many deaths but subsequently shot and killed some members of the crowd.

Dozens of witnesses said they believed this was an intentional planned massacre by the government. HRW has seen no evidence of that, but the perception, coupled with the past two years of brutality, makes this year’s Irreecha a potential flashpoint, HRW said.

Tensions were already high ahead of the 2016 festival following a year of protests against the government and security force aggression that left more than 1,000 people dead and tens of thousands in detention.

Anger at the Irreecha deaths triggered unrest across Oromia as mobs of youths destroyed or looted government buildings and private businesses. On October 9th, the government announced a far-reaching state of emergency that codified vague and overly broad restrictions on basic rights and was only lifted in August 2017.

The government has expressed condolences for the deaths but has stated that security forces were not armed, despite photographic and video evidence to the contrary.

The prime minister congratulated security forces for their efforts to “maintain peace and order.” Government officials also have stated repeatedly that the situation was exacerbated by “anti-peace” elements in the crowd.

“Last year’s tragedy was triggered by the government’s botched effort to control the event,” Horne said. “This year, the government should consider whether a much lighter security force presence would best serve to minimise the potential for violence.”

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Oromo boys in Ethiopia – CC 2012

The warning came as a conflict that had been raging for months between Oromia and Somali regional states escalated in September in violent confrontations.

Demonstrators accuse a police unit of carrying out killings and human rights abuses against the Oromo people, while the government has blamed the clashes on a border dispute between the neighbours.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has called on major stakeholders to assist the government to achieve a durable peace among the feuding parties.

Desalegn reiterated that federal security officers had been deployed to secure areas in the troubled spots. He was speaking at a meeting with community elders, tribal and religious leaders at his office on September 16th, the state-owned Ethiopia News Agency reported.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which is affiliated with the government and is “in no sense independent”, according to HRW – had been deployed to investigate rights violations in the conflict.

Head of Oromia Regional State Lema Megersa said the conflict is the result of criminal activities of individuals and does not represent the people and governments of the regional states.

Government spokesman Negeri Lencho said Somali Regional State put the death toll at more than 50, while Oromiya Regional State said only 18 people died, The Reporter said on the 16th.

(HRW 19; BBC News Online 13/9; Shabelle Media Network 17/9; BBC Monitoring 17/9)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin: 

Ethiopia – State of Emergency Ends
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 8, pp. 21546B–21546C

Ethiopia – Arrests and Protests
Political, Social and Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21509A

ETHIOPIA: State of Emergency Extended
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21402C–21403C

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South Sudan – Cholera Epidemic


The threat of an uncontrollable outbreak looms large as the rainy season progresses. 

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has called for rapid action to prevent a cholera epidemic in South Sudan; more than 18,000 cases, including 328 deaths, have been reported in the country since June 2016.

The IOM warned that the number of cases and deaths is likely to increase significantly as the rainy season approaches, which will leave as much as 60% of the country inaccessible by road, hindering the delivery of important services.

IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon said that a combination of factors including the rainy season, the movement of displaced persons and the ongoing conflict in the country, means that the disease is becoming increasingly difficult to contain.

“If you are maybe infected with cholera or someone in your family, if you come in contact with this and then you move to a different part of the country, you are also bringing the infection with you,” Headon said.

The scale of the problem in South Sudan is said to be unprecedented, with more than 7.5 million people dependent on humanitarian aid. Headon said that IOM and partners are promoting cholera vaccination campaigns, distributing cholera kits, repairing boreholes and conducting hygiene promotion campaigns, reported Voice of America (VOA). 

On July 28th the World Health Organisation (WHO) also launched a vaccination campaign. The WHO received 500,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine and between July 28th and August 3rd carried out a vaccination campaign in four high risk areas: Tonj East, Kapoeta South, Kapoeta North, and Kapoeta East.

Children collecting water, South Sudan – CC 2014

Since April 2017 around 2,500 new cases have been recorded, a significant increase on previous months. Persistent drought has also led to the drying of water points, leading to populations in some regions relying on contaminated water, reported CISA

Speaking on July 19th, WHO epidemiologist Joseph Wamala said, “South Sudan has suffered from several major cholera outbreaks in the last four years. Following other successful oral cholera vaccine campaigns, WHO and partners can make a real difference in controlling the outbreak.”

However preventative measures are difficult as the country continues to grapple with ongoing conflict which emerged in 2013, pitting President Salvir Kirr against and his former deputy Riek Machar, with the ethnic Dinka, loyal to Kirr, clashing with the Nuer, allied to Machar.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, many of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The United Nations (UN) children’s charity (UNICEF) estimates that 900,000 children in South Sudan need psychological help, with at least 150,000 living in camps

“South Sudan has a generation of traumatised children, but there aren’t enough therapists – neither in Juba, nor in remote local communities,” explained Duop Dak, one of the country’s few practicing psychologists, reported Reuters.

The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued a statement on August 10th, following a visit to the capital Juba, urging President Kirr to include the opposition and rebels in national dialogue. The conflict, tensions and factional violence is only exacerbating the risk of a deadly epidemic.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin: 

SOUTH SUDAN: Fresh Offensive Against Rebels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 7, Pp. 21517B–21518B

South Sudan – Graft Claims Denied
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 6, Pp. 21484B–21484C

SOUTH SUDAN: Humanitarian Relief Impeded
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21410A–21411A

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Egypt – ‘Tribal’ Coalition

An organisation of tribes in the North Sinai, in cooperation with the army, aims to counter the Islamist threat.

In the North Sinai, a number of ‘tribal’ groups have taken up arms against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS aka Daesh), after Islamist militants attacked the Tarabin, a key Sinai tribe, which prompted them to form a coalition in collaboration with the Egyptian army.

In mid April ISIS reportedly attacked two pick up trucks belonging to the Tarabin, and abducted two people. The following day the Tarabin besieged Rafah’s Al-Barth market and arrested two members of the group.

A week later ISIS attacked Tarabin youths killing four, subsequently prompting the Tarabin to capture and burn alive an ISIS member.

On April 29th the Tarabin invited North Sinai tribes to meet, where they formed the Sinai Tribes Union (STU), led by tribal chief Abdul-Majeed al-Mene’I from the Sawarkeh, the largest tribe in the Sinai region.

Other tribes include the Rumeylat, the Tiyaha and the Fawalhriyeh. Since the formation of the STU both sides have engaged in attacks, and a young Tarabin businessman named Salem Abu Lafi was killed.

However, some warn of negative consequences in the long run. “All expected scenarios of Sinai tribes carrying arms are dangerous, because the confrontation with Daesh could turn into revengeful armed conflicts among tribes… and this could get out of the Egyptian state’s control,” security expert and former intelligence officer Mahmoud Zaher told Qatari Al-Arab daily.

North Sinai Map

Further, an Egyptian appeals court overturned on May 4th death sentences for 25 people over deadly tribal clashes in the country’s south, ordering a retrial. The men had been convicted of taking part in 2014 clashes in the southern Aswan province that killed 28 people.

Tribal reprisals are common in the rural south. In 2014 a long-standing rivalry between the Bani Hilal, an Arab tribe, and the Dabudiya, a Nubian tribe, flared after a man from one sexually harassed a woman from the other.

The two sides had sought to resolve tensions with a reconciliation meeting, but it degenerated into a firefight that killed three Bani Hilal members. (© AFP 4/5 2017; BBC Monitoring 17/5)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EGYPT: Church Bombings
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21401C–21402C

EGYPT: Christian Exodus
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21364C–21365B

EGYPT: Military Gains, Militant Retaliations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21292B–21293B.

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DR Congo – Worrying Signs


With crucial elections at the end of the year there are concerns of an increase in politically motivated violence.

As the sporadic and fragmented violence continues in the country, United States (US) officials have stated that the situation will only deteriorate if President Joseph Kabila does not step down later this year, during elections scheduled for November.

According to ambassador Thomas Perriello speaking on February 10th, “If the DR Congo chooses the path taken by Burundi, the scale of human suffering could dwarf what we have seen next door,” reported the East African.

There are concerns as Joseph Kabila has already served his two constitutionally granted presidential terms and has made no indication as to whether he will step down; it was a similar situation regarding presidential term limits that sparked violence in neighouring Burundi.

There have been fears of a return to the 1998-2003 ‘African World War‘ which saw nine countries engaged in conflict, particularly considering violence ongoing in neighbouring Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.

In DR Congo there are plans for protests on February 16th by coalition group Citizen Front 2016 in an attempt to pile pressure on Kabila. There had been earlier attempts to hold pro-democracy rallies, but they were stalled due to the withdrawal of a key supporter, the Catholic Church.

Previous protests have been often brutally repressed and the opposition leader Charles Mwando Simba has urged workers to keep away from work and parents to avoid taking children to school on the day of the protest, reported the Daily Nation.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently commented that President Kabila seems set on clinging to power and has pursued a violent crackdown on those calling for credible and fair elections in November.

The US is also considering targeted sanctions, particularly assets freezes, in an attempt to deter Kabila from further repression, and to encourage him to step down from his post in accordance with constitutional law.


Joseph Kabila – CC

According to another HRW report, a number of key countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have narrowed the sphere for criticism of the government, particularly DR Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland and Angola.

The 659 page World Report 2016 detailed widespread pressure on rights activists, journalists and opposition members in many African countries. It documented how in January 2015 the DR Congo security forces brutally repressed demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa leaving 38 dead.

Security forces also targeted friends and acquaintances of injured opposition members as they visited them in hospitals. Activists have been detained for months without charge, including many members of a youth organisation.

In addition to concerns over politically-motivated violence and reprisals, DR Congo is also currently dealing with multiple rebel insurgencies.  In eastern DR Congo the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group, has been committing widespread atrocities.

Self-proclaimed community militia (‘Mayi Mayi’) have also proliferated as a response to rural insecurity. These are mainly sporadic and community organised militias, but have also formed more organised groups.

Some of the worst recent violence has taken place in Lubero, North Kivu, where locals have been caught between a Mayi Mayi rebel group, who are ethnically Nande, and the FDLR, who are predominately Hutu. The violence has been linked to attempts by a local Nande tribal leader to stop the return of Congolese Hutus, who he claims are trying to “conquer” Nande.


The Allied Defence Forces (ADF), a largely Islamist Ugandan group, continue to be active in the Beni area of North Kivu province, particularly in the Rwenzori mountain areas. In Beni the ADF has coordinated attacks on both the army and the United Nations (UN) mission (MONUSCO) leading to the deaths of over 500 civilians since 2014.

In Ituri province, the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI) rebel group also continues to commit serious human rights abuses. In Nyunzu in former Katanga province ethnic Luba fighters attacked a displaced person camp on April 2015, targeting members of the pygmy Batwa community.

There are concerns that these conflicts are taking on increasingly ethnic overtones and continue to be fuelled by the huge trade in illegal minerals and resources. Many multinational companies are often unable to track the origins of minerals in supply chains, particularly rare metals, reported the International Business Times.

Tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold are central to the production of high-tech goods and are the main sources of revenue for rebel groups in the country, generating estimates of around US$185 million a year, reported the East African.

However there have been some recent attempts by companies such as Intel to cut conflict minerals from their supply chains, with legally binding provisions in force since 2011 in an attempt to stop the financing of rebel groups. Campaigns group Global Witness provide a useful collection of resources on the mineral trade in DR Congo.

It is the increasingly politicised situation in DR Congo, with multiple rebel groups engaged in widespread often ethnically-motivated atrocities on civilians, the huge trade in illegal resources, and worries over the attempt of President Kabila to claim a third term, which have generated concerns that DR Congo will follow the same path as neighbouring Burundi but with possibly much more devastating consequences.

Find out more in the African Research Bulletin today

DR Congo – National Unity Bid
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.Page: 20855B

DR CONGO: Ethnically Motivated Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, 20859B–20860C

DR CONGO: Political Opponents Harassed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20820B–20821C

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