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What does Sudan’s new negotiation effort of GERD imply?

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Authors: Yeheys Nardos Hawaz and  Chen Xi

Negotiations on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have risen to a new level, with no agreement made between the Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Sudan is currently actively involved in the diplomatic conflict which had seemed between Egypt and Ethiopia. The African Union (AU) has been leading the talks, but efforts are underway to oust the case from the AU. Sudan’s recent and unique stance calls into question the African Union’s effort.

Currently, Sudan called on the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union to work with the African Union to conduct the Nile negotiations. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry African affair team leader in February had also told Khartoum that Saudi Arabia was interested in mediating between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. However, Sudan’s more initial call to the international community does not seem to take into account the diplomatic interests of the Arab League and the Middle East’s influential power. Sudan’s emerging efforts on the GERD have vague implications.

Diverting attention from the border conflict

Sudan is known to be embroiled in a boundary dispute with Ethiopia. This border disagreement was sudden and experienced no former political conflicts. Following the border dispute, it is clear that Sudan’s position on the Renaissance Dam is changing. Sudan’s interest has repeatedly been described as a third-party mission. Despite the Sudanese opposition, the Ethiopian government has repeatedly stated Sudan is engaged in another mission .

The Sudanese government on the one hand is wearisome to show the boundary is unrelated to the Renaissance Dam mediations. While on the one hand, trying to inform the dialogues on the border and the Renaissance Dam is genuinely from Sudan’s political interests but not from foreign forces. Nevertheless, the critical question is how balanced these efforts are.

The Sudanese government’s stance on the Renaissance Dam negotiations before and after the border dispute is different. The suddenness of the frontier is indicative of an intimate connection between the negotiations and the border. Sudanese opposition to the Renaissance Dam in the aftermath of the border dispute, as it has been actively expressing conflicting views, further underscores the relevance of the issue.

Egypt appears to have been relieved by Sudan’s recent involvement in the Renaissance Dam. Moreover, the recent involvement in the Nile diplomatic dialogue, rather than Egypt, seems to conceal the boundary disagreement and, at the same time, look to be trying to cover up a third-party conspiracy as the border dispute has been extremely described as third party’s role. Sudan’s frequent diplomatic affair on GERD seems to continue an attempt to cover the wide accusation of the Ethiopian government on third-party intervention.

Widening diversity rather than narrowing it down

Ethiopia’s idea of the GERD was to resolve Africa’s problems with Africans, which Sudan remain a proponent of. However, It was purely after the border dispute that Sudan’s views became clear. Sudan had mentioned that the AU negotiations were unreliable, as traditional fashion which is no longer feasible.  Efforts to make the issue more global have continued since then and another aspect of this is to show Ethiopia as stubborn in the international relations arena.

Both Sudan and Ethiopia’s efforts to address Africa’s problems in the continent were because they perceived the role of the West as inseparable from pressure. This was noted by the United States effort. It is comprehensible; therefore, that Sudan’s desire is for the international community is presently to put pressure on Ethiopia, not to mediate. This current position seems to be to widen the gap rather than narrow it.

Remarks: Stick to African Union

It is worthier to stay on the continent. It is more capital to solve the problem at home. There is no such thing as self-judgment among each other. External intervention may continue remaining a threat in the future. It is significant to eradicate the negative aspect of Africans who seem unable to stand on their own and are always leaning on support to face challenges.

Sudan’s current position,  keeps a desire to approach things out of Africa. Specifically, inviting foreign powers to the mediation represent not a sign of impartiality. If the GERD negotiations come out of the African Union, it is already possible the reconciliation process will be difficult. Sticking to that option will strain a conflict. This idea needs being cautious as it seems to be in an inconsistent position from the peace process that Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia have repeatedly committed to.

Sudan’s ideological movement can pose an obstacle in other ways. The state is trying to demonstrate international presence, commitment to peace in the region and readiness to cooperate. Nevertheless, considering the foreign powers in the aftermath of the break-up of the US mediations, this call could however terminate the negotiations. Particularly, as Ethiopia’s second-round filling of water approaches, it appears that the negotiations are aimed at advancing the delay of the agreement and denigrating Ethiopia in international relations.

If the Renaissance Dam negotiations continue to be free from interference, it will be more substantial for the development of the three countries and peace in the region. Sudan’s call to the international community, if it had been as an observer, would have demonstrated her determination to negotiate. On top of that, it would not have also undermined the African Union’s institutional negotiating capacity. Therefore, Sudan should reinforce her commitment to overcoming African issues in Africa.

PhD candidate at Jilin University School of International and public Affairs (SIPA)yeheys9918[at]mails.jlu.edu.cn

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Africa

The Transitioning Democracy of Sudan

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Sudan has been the focus of conflict for much of its six decades as an independent nation. Despite being an anomaly in a region crippled with totalitarian populism and escalating violence, the country hasn’t witnessed much economic or political stability in years. While the civic-military coalition, leading a democratic transition towards elections, has managed to subside the fragments of civil war, growing hostility in the peripheries has begun threatening the modest reforms made in the past two years. The recent coup attempt is a befitting example of the plans that are budding within the echelons of the Sudanese military to drag the country back into the closet. And while the attempt got thwarted, it is not a success to boast. But it is a warning that the transition would not be as smooth a ride as one might have hoped.

The problems today are only a reflection of Sudan’s issues in the past: especially which led to the revolution. The civil unrest began in Sudan back in December 2018. Sudan’s long-serving ruler, Omer al-Bashir, had turned Sudan into an international outcast during his 30-year rule of tyranny and economic isolation. Naturally, Sudan perished as an economic pariah: especially after the independence of South Sudan. With the loss of oil revenues and almost 95% of its exports, Sudan inched on the brink of collapse. In response, Bashir’s regime resorted to impose draconian austerity measures instead of reforming the economy and inviting investment. The cuts in domestic subsidies over fuel and food items led to steep price hikes: eventually sparking protests across the east and spreading like wildfire to the capital, Khartoum.

In April 2019, after months of persistent protests, the army ousted Bashir’s government; established a council of generals, also known as the ‘Transitional Military Council.’ The power-sharing agreement between the civilian and military forces established an interim government for a period of 39 months. Subsequently, the pro-democracy movement nominated Mr. Abdalla Hamdok as the Prime Minister: responsible for orchestrating the general elections at the end of the transitional period. The agreement coalesced the civilian and military powers to expunge rebellious factions from society and establish a stable economy for the successive government. However, the aspirations overlooked ground realities.

Sudan currently stands in the third year of the transitional arrangement that hailed as a victory. However, the regime is now most vulnerable when the defiance is stronger than ever. Despite achieving respite through peace agreements with the rebels in Sudan, the proliferation of arms and artillery never abated. In reality, the armed attacks have spiraled over the past two years after a brief hiatus achieved by the peace accords. The conflict stems from the share of resources between different societal fractions around Darfur, Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. According to UN estimates, the surging violence has displaced more than 410,000 people across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021. The expulsion is six times the rate of displacement recorded last year. According to the retreating UN peacekeeping mission, the authorities have all but failed to calm the rampant banditry and violence: partially manifested by the coup attempt that managed to breach the government’s order.

The regional instability is only half the story. Since the displacement of Bashir’s regime, Sudan has rarely witnessed stability, let alone surplus dividends to celebrate. Despite thawing relations with Israel and joining the IMF program, Sudan has felt little relief in return. The sharp price hikes and gripping unemployment which triggered the coup back in 2019 never receded: galloped instead. Currently, inflation runs rampant above 400%, while the Sudanese Pound has massively devalued under conditions dictated by the IMF. And despite bagging some success in negotiating International debt relief, the Hamdok regime has struggled to invite foreign investment and create jobs: majorly due to endemic conflicts that still run skin-deep in the fabric of the Sudanese society.

While the coup attempt failed, it is still not a sigh of relief for the fragile government. The deep-rooted analysis of the coup attempt reveals a stark reality: the military factions – at least some – are no longer sated in being equal-footed with a civilian regime. Moreover, the perpetrators tried to leverage the widening disquiet within the country by blocking roads and attempting to sabotage state-run media: hoping to gain public support. The population is indeed frustrated by the economic desperation; the failure of the coup attempt means that people have still not given up hope in a democratic government and a free-and-fair election. Nonetheless, it is not the first tranche of the army to rebel, and it certainly won’t be the last. The only way to salvage democracy is to stabilize Sudan’s economy and resolve inter-communal violence before leading the county towards elections. Otherwise, it is apparent that Bashir’s political apparatus is so deeply entrenched in Sudan’s ruling network that even if the transitional government survives multiple coups, an elected government would ultimately wither.

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Money seized from Equatorial Guinea VP Goes into Vaccine

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As a classic precedence, the Justice Department of the United States has decided that $26.6m (£20m) seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue be used on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical programmes in Equitorial Guinea, located on the west coast of central Africa.

“Wherever possible, kleptocrats will not be allowed to retain the benefits of corruption,” an official said in a statement, and reported by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Obiang was forced to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various Michael Jackson memorabilia as part of a settlement he reached with the US authorities in 2014 after being accused of corruption and money-laundering. He denied the charges.

The agreement stated that $10.3m of the money from the sale would be forfeited to the US and the rest would be distributed to a charity or other organisation for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, the Justice Department said.

The UN is to receive $19.25m to purchase and administer COVID-19 vaccines to at least 600,000 people in Equatorial Guinea, while a US-based charity is to get $6.35m for other medical programmes in Equatorial Guinea.

Teodorin Nguema has been working in position as Vice-President since 2012, before that he held numerous government positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Known for his unquestionable lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption. He has a fleet of branded cars and a number of houses, and two houses alone in South Africa,

Teodorin Nguema has often drawn criticisms in the international media for lavish spending, while majority of the estimated 1.5 million population wallows in abject poverty. Subsistence farming predominates, with shabby infrastructure in the country. Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Africa

African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter

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The crisis in northern Ethiopia has resulted in millions of people in need of emergency assistance and protection. © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.

The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.

Earlier in August 2021, UN  chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.

August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.

Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.

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