Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as protesters call for more rallies

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir waves to his supporters during a rally at the Green Square in Khartoum on January 9. (Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2019

Sudan’s Bashir to visit Egypt as protesters call for more rallies

  • Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday will be his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19

KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will travel to Cairo for talks with his Egyptian counterpart, state media reported Saturday, as protesters called for more nationwide demonstrations against his government.
Bashir’s visit to Cairo on Sunday will be his second trip abroad since deadly protests erupted at home on December 19.
On Wednesday, he met Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a trip to the Gulf state.
“President Omar Al-Bashir will travel to Cairo on Sunday for a one-day visit,” Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported.
“He will hold bilateral talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and also discuss regional issues that concern the two countries.”
Bashir’s visit was also confirmed by Sudan’s ambassador to Cairo, Mahmoud Abdel Halim.
Protests erupted in Sudan last month after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
The rallies swiftly mushroomed into nationwide calls for an end to Bashir’s three decades in power, as protesters clashed with security forces.
Officials say 30 people have died in the violence, while rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed including medics and children.
The Sudanese group that is leading the protest campaign has called for more rallies over the next few days, including night-time demonstrations on Saturday.
Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has remained steadfast in rejecting calls to resign.
While the spark for the first protests was the rise of bread prices, anger has been mounting for years over worsening economic hardships and deteriorating living conditions in Sudan.
That ire has now spilt onto the streets as protesters chant their main slogan calling for “freedom, peace, justice.”
Bashir has blamed the economic woes on the United States.
Washington lifted its trade embargo on Sudan in October 2017 after two decades of bruising economic punishment, but that failed to revive the country’s financial situation.
Experts say cash injections from the Gulf states, led by wealthy Qatar, have helped stave off economic collapse.
There was no announcement, however, of any financial assistance from Qatar for Bashir during his latest visit.
Egypt, which has deep historical ties with Sudan, has called repeatedly for stability in its southern neighbor.
“Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which is integral to Egypt’s national security,” El-Sisi told a top Bashir aide who visited Cairo earlier this month.
Relations between Cairo and Khartoum had deteriorated sharply in 2017 over territorial disputes and accusations from Bashir that Egypt’s intelligence services were supporting opposition forces fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.
But in recent months the two governments have ironed out their differences, with Sudan lifting a 17-month ban on Egyptian agricultural produce.


Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree

Updated 21 November 2019

Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree

  • In the Western Sahara, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing
  • "Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you’d easily hear how intelligent they are,” says herder

DAKHLA, Western Sahara: In the Oued Eddahab desert in Western Sahara, Habiboullah Dlimi raises dairy and racing camels just like his ancestors used to — but with a little help from modern technology.
His animals roam free in the desert and are milked as camels always have been, by hand, at dawn and dusk.
When camels “feed on wild plants and walk all day, the milk is much better,” said the 59-year-old herder, rhapsodizing about the benefits of the nutrient-rich drink, known as the “source of life” for nomads.
But Dlimi no longer lives with his flock.
He lives in town with his family. His camels are watched over by hired herders and Dlimi follows GPS coordinates across the desert in a 4X4 vehicle to reach them.
He is reticent when asked about the size of his herd. “That would bring bad luck,” he said.
He prefers to speak of the gentleness and friendliness of the animals he knows like his own children.
“Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you’d easily hear how intelligent they are,” he said.

A camel is silhouetted against the sunset in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, on Oct. 13, 2019. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)


"The desert knows me"
Dlimi comes from a long line of desert dwellers from the Ouled Dlimi tribe.
As tradition dictates, he lists his ancestors going back five generations when introducing himself.
“I know the desert and the desert knows me,” he said.
Like elsewhere, the nomads of Western Sahara are settling, following a shift from rural to urban living.
“Young people prefer to stay in town,” Dlimi said, and herders now mostly come from neighboring Mauritania, whose desert north is traversed by caravans of up to a thousand camels.
Even they “often demand to work in areas covered by (mobile phone) network signal,” he added.
The population of the nearby town of Dakhla has tripled to 100,000 in 20 years, with growth driven by fishing, tourism and greenhouse farming encouraged by Morocco.
In this part of Western Sahara, development projects depend entirely on Rabat.
Morocco has controlled 80 percent of the former Spanish colony since the 1970s and wants to maintain it as an autonomous territory under its sovereignty.
The Polisario Front movement fought a war for independence from 1975 to 1991 and wants a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
The United Nations has been trying to negotiate a political compromise for decades.
Like many in his tribe, Dlimi has family members on the other side of the Western Sahara Wall separating the Moroccan controlled areas from the Polisario controlled areas.
He favors loyalty to Morocco while others back independence, he said.
Tribal affiliation trumps politics, though.
“Tribes are tribes, it’s a social organization,” he said. “There are very strong links between us.”
To “preserve the past for the future,” Dlimi started a cultural association to conserve traditions from a time when there were no borders and “families followed the herds and the clouds.”

A camel herder guides his flock in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara on Oct. 13, 2019. (AFP / FADEL SENNA)


The irony
While Dlimi loves the desert, he does have one complaint: “The camel dairy industry is valued everywhere in the world except here.”
Camel milk is trendy with health-conscious consumers and the lean meat is excellent, Dlimi claims.
Today though, it is small livestock farming that is the main agricultural focus, in response to what non-nomadic Moroccans tend to eat.
The 266,000 square kilometers (106,400 square miles) of Western Sahara under Moroccan control hosts some 6,000 herders, 105,000 camels, and 560,000 sheep and goats, according to figures from Rabat.
In other arid countries, including Saudi Arabia, intensive farming of camels has taken off.
But, while Moroccan authorities have undertaken several studies into developing Western Sahara’s camel industry, these have not so far been acted upon.
Regardless, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing.
“Some say that Saharans are crazy because when they have money they spend it on four feet,” Dlimi jokes.
For him, 20,000 dirhams ($2,000) spent on a camel is a safe investment.
But it is also a consuming passion.
His Facebook page and WhatsApp messages are filled with talk of camel husbandry techniques, research and racing.
Racing “is a pleasure and it pays,” Dlimi said.
Since the United Arab Emirates funded construction of a camel racing track at Tantan, 900 kilometers (560 miles) to the north, racing animals have appreciated in value and can sell for up to 120,000 dirhams, according to Dlimi.
To train his racing camels, Dlimi chases the young animals across the desert in his 4X4.
The technique has made him an eight-time champion in national competitions, he said.
But camels can be stubborn, Dlimi stressed, telling of how he once sold his best champion for a “very good price,” but the animal refused to race once it had changed hands.