UN food chief accuses Houthis of diverting Yemen aid for profit

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Women collecting food-aid in Houthi-controlled Sanaa. The World Food Programme, accused the militia of diverting aid away from its intended recipients. (AFP/File photo)
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David Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Programme, called on the Houthis to allow his organization to operate independently. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 18 June 2019
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UN food chief accuses Houthis of diverting Yemen aid for profit

  • David Beasley of the World Food Programme warned aid deliveries to militia-held areas could be suspended later this week
  • UN envoy to Yemen expresses concern over Abha airport attack in Saudi Arabia

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN food agency accused Yemen's Houthi rebels on Monday of diverting food from the country's hungriest people and threatened to suspend food aid later this week unless they immediately implement registration and monitoring agreements.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told the UN Security Council that the agency in late 2018 uncovered "serious evidence that food was being diverted and going to the wrong people" in the capital of Sanaa and other Houthi-controlled areas.
As examples, he said up to 60 percent of beneficiaries at seven centers in Sanaa "confirmed they had not received any assistance" and 33 percent of respondents in the rebels' northern stronghold of Saada received no food in April.
He said WFP has insisted on — and the Houthis finally agreed to — registration and biometric identification of beneficiaries and monitoring in December and January, but the agency has faced roadblocks ever since in implementing the agreements.
Beasley said he wrote to Houthi authorities again asking for action, not words.

“Let me be crystal clear; children are dying right now because of this”, he said
"If we do not receive these assurances, then we will begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely towards the end of this week."
Beasley told the council Monday that the diversions were mainly in Houthi areas. When there are reports in government-controlled areas, he said, "we receive cooperation to address issues."
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. An Arab coalition allied with Yemen's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, Lowcock and many council ambassadors expressed concern at the increase in attacks on Saudi Arabia, especially the recent drone attacks on the airport in Abha in the country's southwest that the kingdom said injured 26 people.

 Griffiths said he was concerned about the attack on Abha airport in south-west Saudi Arabia last week, and civilian infrastructure in southern Saudi Arabia in general.

He also warned that escalating tensions in the region with Iran were hampering the political process in Yemen.

"In the context of wider regional tensions the risks to the political process have never looked more stark," Griffiths said. "I call for steps to be taken to deescalate tensions for the benefit of the Yemeni people as well as for regional security."

An agreement signed in Stockholm in December that focused on a ceasefire in Hodeidah is under increasing strain as regional tensions grow. The US and Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, have accused Iran of attacking two tankers ib the Gulf of Oman last week.

Griffiths said that while there has been progress in a deal to redeploy forces around Hodeidah, there has been little movement on other elements of Stockholm, including the city of Taez and an exchange of prisoners.

The Security Council expressed support for Griffiths and reiterated that there can only be a political solution to the Yemen conflict. A council statement condemned the June 12 attack on the airport in Abha and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.