US names envoy to find ‘peaceful political solution’ in Sudan: official

The US State Department nominated experienced Africa hand Donald Booth as a special envoy to Sudan on Wednesday, pictured on March 25, 2015. (AFP/File)
Updated 12 June 2019

US names envoy to find ‘peaceful political solution’ in Sudan: official

  • Booth, 65, knows the country well, having served as Obama administration’s special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan
  • Between 2005 and 2013, Booth served as US ambassador to Liberia, Zambia and then Ethiopia

WASHINGTON: The US State Department nominated experienced Africa hand Donald Booth as a special envoy to Sudan on Wednesday, hoping he can help craft a “peaceful political solution” between the military rulers and groups seeking civilian rule.
The nomination comes nine days after government troops and paramilitaries cracked down on protesters outside army headquarters in Khartoum, killing more than 110 and wounding hundreds over several days.
Booth, 65, knows the country well, having served as the Obama administration’s special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan over 2013-2017.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Booth is already at work, traveling with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy to Sudan “to engage with the parties.”
Between 2005 and 2013, Booth served as US ambassador to Liberia, Zambia and then Ethiopia.
As special envoy to the two Sudans, Booth visited Khartoum numerous times and helped maintain a measured level of relations with the regime of president Omar Al-Bashir, who was under indictment for genocide by the international criminal court.
Bashir’s ousting by the military on April 11 after three decades of rule sparked a nationwide movement calling for a civilian government.
But talks on the composition of a new governing body broke down and on June 3 the military launched a bloody assault on thousands of protesters, drawing international indignation.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the attacks on civilians.
On June 5, Washington likewise criticized the violence, calling on Sudan’s military leaders to “desist from violence” and agree to “a civilian-led transition that leads to timely elections and free expression of the will of the Sudanese people.”
Nagy was headed to Khartoum to press the military on those demands.
But the administration of President Donald Trump was under pressure to do more.


Rohingya refugees running scared from coronvirus tests

Updated 1 min 8 sec ago

Rohingya refugees running scared from coronvirus tests

COX’S BAZAAR: Rohingya refugees infected with coronavirus are fleeing quarantine in their Bangladesh camps because they fear being transferred to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal, community leaders said Thursday.
At least two infected refugees have gone missing since testing positive for the virus after the first COVID-19 death was reported Tuesday, they said.
About one million Rohingya — most of whom fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 — are packed into camps along the Bangladesh border, and the coronavirus has become the latest cause of misery.
Aid agencies have long warned that the virus could cause chaos in the overcrowded camps, where social distancing is virtually impossible.
So far only 29 infections have been detected, although 16,000 Rohingya are in quarantine zones within the camps.
It was not immediately clear how many tests have been conducted in the camps, but a senior health official said two people who proved positive had “fled the isolation hospital.”
He added that only 20 refugees agreed to be tested in the past two days because they believe those infected will be sent to Bhashan Char island in the Bay of Bengal.
“It has created mass panic,” Nurul Islam, a community leader, told AFP.
Bangladesh authorities have long wanted to establish a camp for 100,000 people on the isolated island, and have already sent 306 Rohingya there.
“The Rohingya are petrified,” the health official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We have told them they won’t be sent anywhere.”
Some 500 isolation beds have been prepared in the camps, but most are empty because so few confirmed cases have been found, according to the official.
The first Rohingya fatality from the coronavirus was announced only Tuesday, and health officials say they desperately need to increase testing to see how widespread the virus may be.
But Khalilur Rahman Khan, the government administrator of one camp block, said doctors told him refugees were reluctant to participate.
Several Rohingya leaders said the transfer of the 306 refugees to Bhashan Char had sparked rumors that anyone with coronavirus would be sent to join them.
“People are scared to go for virus tests,” said Abu Zaman, a community leader.
Mohammad Shafi, a camp neighbor of the refugee whose death was announced Tuesday, said people who had coronavirus symptoms such as fever and aches insisted they only had seasonal flu.
“I tried to reassure them that this a curable disease and most people will recover, but many don’t believe it,” he said.