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Friday, 20th September 2019
6:13:56pm

East Africa

Ethiopia rejects Egypt's plan for operating giant dam on the Nile

Ethiopia on Wednesday rejected a proposal by Egypt to operate a $4 billion hydropower dam the Horn of Africa country is constructing on the Nile, further deepening a dispute between the two nations over the project.

In a press conference in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Sileshi Bekele, minister for water, irrigation and energy described Egypt’s plan including the volume of water it wants the dam to release annually as “inappropriate.”

“The proposal from Egypt was unilaterally decided...(it) didn’t consider our previous agreements,” he said.

“We can’t agree with this...we will prepare our counter proposal.” 

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), announced in 2011, is designed to be the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts.

The two nations disagree over the annual flow of water that should be guaranteed to Egypt and how to manage flows during droughts.

Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its fresh water and it wants the GERD’s reservoir to release a higher volume of water than Ethiopia is willing to guarantee, among other disagreements.

“An Egyptian expert can’t control our dam,” Sileshi said and described the Egyptian plan as a potential violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. 

Sileshi did not say how much water Ethiopia wants to release, but Egypt wants the dam to release a minimum of 40 billion cubic metres of water from the GERD annually.

Following construction delays, Ethiopia has said GERD will start power production by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.

-Reuters

Kenya becomes 3rd African nation to introduce world's first malaria vaccine

Kenya on Friday added the world’s first malaria vaccine to the routine immunization schedule for children under two, becoming the third country in Africa to roll out the vaccine for the disease that kills one child globally every two minutes.

Malaria is a top killer of children under five in the East African nation, and the vaccine is critically important to its efforts to combat the disease because other measures such as mosquito nets have not proven adequate, the director general of Kenya’s health ministry, Wekesa Masasabi, told Reuters.

“We still have an incidence of 27% (malaria infection) for children under five,” Masasabi said before Friday’s launch of the vaccine in the western county of Homa Bay.

The Homa Bay programme was the government’s first step toward creating awareness of the new vaccine, he said.

African nations Ghana and Malawi launched their pilot programmes of the vaccine earlier this year. Kenya plans to roll out the vaccine to eight of its 47 counties over the next two years, Masasabi said.

Malaria can be eradicated within a generation, global health experts said in a major report last weekend that was commissioned by The Lancet medical journal. The Lancet report contradicted the conclusions last month of a malaria review by the World Health Organization, and its experts urged the WHO not to shy away from this “goal of epic proportions”.

Malaria infected about 219 million people in 2017, killing around 435,000 of them, the vast majority babies and children in the poorest parts of Africa.

Due to ongoing transmission, half the world’s population is still at risk of contracting malaria.

-Reuters 

Sudanese tribes sign peace deal after deadly clashes in Port Sudan

Representatives of the Beni Amer and Nuba tribes in Sudan’s Red Sea state signed a reconciliation deal on Sunday under pressure from the country’s most prominent military commander after clashes that triggered a state of emergency and left at least 16 dead last month.

Sudan is embarking on a three-year transition after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in April and faces challenges including simmering insecurity in several regions and a deep economic crisis.

The clashes broke out in the country’s main sea gateway of Port Sudan, also used by South Sudan to export oil, shortly after the signing of a power-sharing deal between Sudan’s military and civilian groups.

The Beni Amer and Nuba tribes have also clashed in the past.

Sunday’s deal was signed after General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a member of Sudan’s new Sovereign Council, threatened to expel both sides from the country if they refused to commit to reconciliation. 

“If you didn’t agree, I swear to Almighty God that we will deport both (sides),” Dagalo, also known by his nickname Hemedti, said at a ceremony on Port Sudan, eliciting loud applause from the audience of locals and army and government officials.

“We need a radical solution to the problem. Its cause is the existence of outlaws and weapons. Anybody should be accountable, no one is above law.”

Hemedti, who is also head of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, asked both sides to surrender their illegal weapons “tonight” and vowed to work on solving the lack of water and electricity supplies in the state.

After tribal representatives signed the deal, Hemedti apologised for his earlier tough language. 

“We are in a new era of real change,” he said. “We need to move our country towards citizenship and the rule of law and peaceful coexistence.”

The Sovereign Council is the highest body in a transitional structure that includes a technocratic government named this week.

-Reuters 

Sudan PM to announce new cabinet 'within 48 hours'

Sudan's new premier will unveil the first cabinet since veteran leader Omar al-Bashir's overthrow within 48 hours, the country's ruling body said on Tuesday, after the transition process was hit by delays.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a seasoned UN economist who took up the job last month, was supposed to announce a cabinet on Wednesday of last week under a post-Bashir roadmap.

But the announcement was postponed as he mulled the nominees proposed by the umbrella movement which led months-long protests against Bashir and the generals who ousted him in April.

Last Tuesday, Hamdok received a list of candidates including 49 nominees for 14 ministries. 

"The cabinet announcement will be made within a maximum of 48 hours," Sudan's sovereign council said in a statement.

The joint civilian-military ruling body held talks with Hamdok on Tuesday about the reasons for the delay.

The premier explained it "is because he wants to form a government that is more representative of states across Sudan," the council said.

Hamdok also wished to ensure "gender balance", it added.

Sustainable peace 

The meeting with Hamdok also tackled the issue of forming a commission tasked with peace talks with armed groups.

On August 17, the Forces for Freedom and Change protest movement and the generals officially signed a power-sharing deal outlining their vision for Sudan's three-years transitional period.

It included forging peace with insurgent groups in the country's far-flung regions within six months.

Hamdok has vowed to "end war and bring about sustainable peace" in Sudan.

Rebel groups from marginalised regions including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan state waged long wars against Bashir's forces.

On Saturday, four rebel groups from Darfur said they will be "negotiating with transitional authorities with a unified vision," without elaborating.

In its statement, the council said it will hold further talks with Hamdok on Wednesday.

The postponement of the cabinet announcement was not the first delay in Sudan's transition from decades of authoritarianism.

The line-up of the 11-member sovereign council was held up for two days over differences within the opposition camp, before it was finally revealed on August 21.

-AFP

Flash floods kill six, one missing in Kenya's Hell's Gate park -authorities

Flash floods killed six people at Kenya’s Hell’s Gate National Park and left one person missing after their tour group was swept away, the state-run wildlife authority said on Monday.

The incident occurred on Sunday in the Rift Valley, some 69 km north west of the capital, Nairobi, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on its Twitter account.

“Six bodies of the flash flood victims have been recovered, having one tourist missing. The search and rescue operation continues as we reach out to next of kin to share details of sad incident and plan together next course of action,” KWS tweeted on Monday.

KWS had earlier put the number of the dead at four.

Naivasha Sub-County Commissioner Mathioya Mbogo said the seven who were swept away were all Kenyans and six had visited the park from the western city of Kisumu. 

“Those swept away were two minors, two women, two men and the local guide,” he said.

KWS had said earlier the victims included five Kenyan tourists, a local guide and a non-resident whose nationality was not disclosed. KWS said the gorge in park was closed to the public on Sunday after the incident. 

The park is famous for its gorges, cliffs and steam plumes from geothermal activity underground, and in areas adjacent to it, the steam is harnessed to generate electricity.

The park has also been used as a location for films like Tomb Raider II:Cradle of Life, according to the Kenya Film Commission.

Gorges in the park are prone to flash floods and have in the past killed visitors. In 2012, floods killed seven who were part of a church group on a trek.

-Reuters

Sudan's ex-president Bashir's corruption trial to seek bail

The lawyer for Sudan’s ex-president Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Saturday that he will request that Bashir be released on bail as his trial on corruption charges continues.

“We are going to ask today that he be released on bail because this is an ordinary case,” Ahmed Ibrahim told reporers outside the courtroom.

Bashir is charged with illicit possession of foreign currency and accepting gifts in an unofficial manner.

During the hearing, the judge asked for the bail request in writing, and said his office was open to receiving it at any time. 

Bashir acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a police detective told the court on Monday.

Bashir weathered multiple rebellions, economic crises, U.S. sanctions and coup attempts until he was overthrown by the military in April after mass protests against his 30-year rule.

His trial is seen as a test of how serious authorities are about trying to erase the legacy of his rule.

Bashir did not speak during Saturday’s hearing. 

A group of about 150 Bashir supporters staged a protest near the courtroom, chanting “We stand united behind our leader” and holding signs saying “The trial of the president is the trial of the nation.”

Bashir was also charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters. He has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

On Wednesday, Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and sovereign council were sworn in, marking the formation of a transitional government that will run the country for three years and three months, according to a power-sharing agreement between the military and the main opposition coalition.

-Reuters

Sudanese army and civilians seal interim power-sharing deal

Sudan’s main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final power-sharing deal that paves the way for a transitional government, and eventually elections, following the overthrow of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

Tens of thousands of people of all ages took to the streets of the capital Khartoum in celebration, with many heading towards the newly renamed Freedom Square, once the site of many of Bashir’s rallies.

Stability in Sudan, which has been grappling with an economic crisis, is seen as crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.

One of Sudan’s top generals, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is deputy head of the military council, and opposition alliance representative Ahmad al-Rabie had initialed the agreement on Aug. 4 and were the main signatories on Saturday.

Those in the room clapped and cheered and an orchestra played a patriotic song.

“I invite everyone to make this day a new stage of getting over the bitterness of the past and looking towards the future,” Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the military council, said at the end of the ceremony.

Also present were African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who helped broker the accord, and representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all of which see themselves as influential in Khartoum.

“The coming period will be a test for us, no one will be excluded,” said leading opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected premier. “We will open the door to everyone to participate in Sudan’s celebration.”

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) has ruled Sudan since April, when the military deposed Bashir following months of protests against his rule during which dozens of demonstrators were killed.

The TMC and the main opposition alliance, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), have been negotiating the power-sharing deal since then, but continued unrest, during which more protesters were killed, delayed an agreement.

Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), some of whose members have been accused of involvement in killing demonstrators who have repeatedly turned out in huge numbers to press for political progress.

Many people stood outside the RSF headquarters in central Khartoum, playing revolutionary songs and chanting at soldiers. Abdallah Ahmed, 24, said: “We have achieved our civilian government, and we have defeated the Islamists.”

SOVEREIGN COUNCIL

In a speech during the ceremony, Mohammed Nagy Alassam, a leader within the FFC, emphasized the need for an investigation and justice for those who were killed, particularly during the violent dispersal of a protest site in the capital Khartoum on June 3. 

“The martyrs are still with us, they are with the revolutionaries,” spectators in the room chanted.

State television showed dozens of people lined up outside the convention centre where the signing ceremony was held, waving Sudanese flags and flashing peace signs in celebration.

A train carrying hundreds of protesters from Atbara, where the uprising began on Dec. 19, arrived in Khartoum in celebration and was met by cheering crowds.

The full make-up of a new sovereign council, which will run Sudan during a three-year transitional period leading up to elections, will be announced on Aug. 18.

But TMC spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi told Sky News that Burhan, Hemedti, and Lieutenant General Yasser Al-Atta were among those selected.

Under Saturday’s accord, the council will have five members each from the two sides plus a civilian agreed by both. It will name Sudan’s new premier based on a nomination by the FFC.

The agreement also provides for a 300-member legislative assembly to serve during the transitional period, and a cabinet of technocrats.

The main challenge for the new government will be an economic crisis stemming from a shortage of foreign currency, resulting in a cash crunch and long lines for fuel and bread. 

“The next period has its challenges: lifting Sudan from the list of so-called state sponsors of terror, the large debts ... and lessening the burden on the economy with the support of our brothers and friends,” Mahmud Dirir, Ethiopian mediator in the negotiations, told a press conference.

Sudan’s economy has suffered since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking the lion’s share of its oil resources. Economists say foreign investors and banks are put off by Sudan’s continued designation by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia would continue to assist Sudan, minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir told the press conference.

Bashir is wanted for war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region by the International Criminal Court, and is awaiting trial in Sudan on corruption charges.

-Reuters

Sudan to launch historic transition to civilian rule

Sudan's military rulers and protest leaders on Saturday are scheduled to sign a landmark deal reached after a bloody uprising which is meant to pave the way for civilian rule.

The ceremony will make official a constitutional declaration inked on August 4 between the country's Transitional Military Council and the opposition coalition of the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The deal brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilise against president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.

The deal brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides, with protesters celebrating what they saw as the victory of their "revolution" and generals taking credit for averting civil war. 

While the compromise meets several of the protest camp's key demands, its terms leave the military with ample powers and its future civilian government with daunting challenges.

With Saturday's official signing of the transitional documents, Sudan will kick off a process that will include important immediate first steps.

The composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council is to be announced Sunday, followed two days later by the naming of a prime minister.

On Thursday, protest leaders agreed to nominate former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister.

The veteran economist, who stepped down last year as deputy executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, is to be formally selected on August 20, a statement said.

The cabinet is to be unveiled on August 28, with the newly-appointed ministers due to meet the sovereign council on September 1 for the first time.

Elections must be held after the 39-month transitional period that began on August 4.

Just paper? 

Until then, the country of 40 million people will be ruled by the 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will - the deal makes clear - be dominated by civilians.

However, the interior and defence ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.

The move towards civilian rule could lead the African Union to lift a suspension slapped on Sudan in June after a bloody crackdown on a sit-in in Khartoum.

The legislative body to be formed within three months will be at least 40 percent female, reflecting the significant role played by women in the protest movement.

The paramilitary force and intelligence services blamed for some of the worst abuses under Bashir and against the protesters are to be brought under the authority of the army and sovereign council respectively.

With many issues still unaddressed, however, observers warn that describing the latest events as 'successful regime change' would be premature.

"Political dynamics will matter more than pieces of paper," said Rosalind Marsden from London's Chatham House think tank.

"The biggest challenge facing the government will be dismantling the Islamist deep state... which took control of all state institutions and key sectors of the economy, including hundreds of businesses owned by the military-security apparatus."

Whitewashing 

The rise of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo - who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and became deputy head of the military council that seized power from Bashir - as Sudan's new military strongman is causing some concern.

He has close ties to Gulf monarchies, has amassed huge wealth since wresting control of gold mines in western Sudan and was a leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia accused of a genocidal campaign in the Darfur region.

The fate of deposed ruler Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over Darfur, is also unclear.

He is due to appear in a Khartoum court on corruption charges on Saturday.

Some within the protest camp feel the power-sharing deal did not do enough to curb the powers of the military and guarantee justice for demonstrators killed by security forces.

The whitewashing in recent days of walls that bore some of the many murals painted during the protests has been seen as a bad omen.

"The signals we are getting tell us that there is no real change, no real freedom," graffiti artist Lotfy Abdel Fattah told AFP.

Various rebel groups from marginalised regions such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan will be absent from Saturday's ceremony.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front that unites these movements backed the protest movement but rejected the constitutional declaration, demanding representation in the government and more guarantees on peace talks.

-Reuters

Somalia's al Shabaab hits military base, deaths on both sides

Militant Islamist group al Shabaab struck a Somali government military base on Wednesday with car bombs and gunfire in a battle that both sides said caused multiple deaths to the other.

Witnesses said some local residents were also killed by stray crossfire during the mid-morning attack on the base in Awdheegle, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab is fighting the weak, U.N.-backed Somali government and its international allies in a quest to impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law. The Horn of Africa nation has been riven by civil war since 1992, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

General Yusuf Rage Odowa, commander of operations in Somalia’s army, said troops had repelled the jihadists in Awdheegle. “The forces knew the cunning of the militants and so they foiled the attack,” he said, adding that various of the attackers’ corpses lay at the scene while others were captured.

Captain Hussein Ali, a military officer from a nearby town, said soldiers behind sandbags had successfully stopped the car bombs from reaching the base, in an agricultural district along the Shabelle River, by firing to detonate them.

“There are casualties from al Shabaab and government forces, but we have no exact figure,” he said.

JOURNALIST KILLED

The al Qaeda-linked group said it had killed 50 soldiers and only suffered two losses of militants who drove the car bombs. Army vehicles were burned, it also said. 

Al Shabaab and government officials routinely give different versions and casualty figures for attacks.

Among those killed was a journalist working with the army’s radio station, the Federation of Somali Journalists said.

The attack came after Somali government forces had last week captured most parts of Awdheegle district.

“We heard two huge blasts and gunfire from the direction of the Somali military base. I saw several soldiers running away from the base to escape but we cannot know how many were killed,” elder Aden Abdullahi told Reuters from the scene.

Shopkeeper and mother-of-four Halima Farah told Reuters that government troops were in control of the town after the attack.

“We have now come out of the houses,” Farah said by phone.

“We believe both the militants and government suffered great losses of lives today but we cannot see their casualties. Stray bullets killed people in their houses,” she added, saying a relative of hers died after being hit in the head.

Al Shabaab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds. But its fighters frequently carry out attacks in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of an African peacekeeping force.

-Reuters

Ethiopia to hold national election next year

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition said on Friday it will hold a national election next year, defying worries over security and displacement in the Horn of Africa country that had led some to speculate the election might be postponed.

The executive committee did not give a date for the poll. “The executive committee have decided the election to be conducted next year,” committee member Getachew Reda said.

An attempted coup in June by a rogue militia in the northern Amhara region had raised doubts over the ruling party’s ability to ensure security, while an increase in ethnic violence across the country made some query whether the election would be held.

But opposition parties are keen to avoid any delays despite outbreaks of ethnic violence that have contributed to the displacement of 2.4 million Ethiopians.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has rolled out a series of political reforms since coming to power last year, including unbanning many political parties, releasing political prisoners and journalists and welcoming home exiled rebel groups.

But tensions within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has ruled with an iron grip since 1991, have risen following the failed coup.

In a rare public feud this month, two of its four ethnic parties traded barbs over who was responsible for the violence. 

After decades of harsh rule, Abiy’s reforms have created new freedoms but old grievances and disputes have resurfaced, while local power-brokers seeking to build support by securing power and territory for their ethnic groups have been emboldened.

Waves of unrest in different parts of the country have forced further postponement of a long-delayed national census.

-Reuters

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