Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

President of Sudanese Transitional Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) is welcomed by President of South Sudan Salva Kiir (R) at his arrival for the summit to endorse the peace talks between Sudan's government and rebel leaders in Juba, South Sudan, on October 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2019

Sudan peace talks stall as rebel group halts talks over attack

JUBA: Sudan peace talks stalled before they began in Juba on Wednesday as a key rebel grouping said it refused to negotiate with Khartoum, claiming government forces were still bombarding its territory.

Juba is hosting talks between the government of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and representatives from two umbrella groups of rebels that fought forces of now ousted President Omar Bashir in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The talks were launched on Monday in the presence of heads of state from Ethiopia, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The first face-to-face meeting between the adversaries was to take place in the South Sudan capital on Wednesday.

But Amar Amoua, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), told journalists his group would not continue unless the government withdrew from the area of the fighting, in the Nuba Mountains.

“Our coming back to negotiate ... is bound by government decisions to clear all these things,” Amoua, who is representing three different rebel movements, told journalists.

He said that for the past 10 days government forces had continued to attack their territory despite an unofficial cease-fire.

A chief was killed in the Nuba Mountains and several businessmen had gone missing, he charged.

“The government should withdraw its forces and stop ... occupying new areas, we will not allow that,” he said.

Dhieu Mathok, a member of the South Sudan mediation team, told AFP they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints.

“We are still investigating it whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process. Usually in a negotiation these things happen but we are here to resolve the problems.”

Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for the Sudan delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.

“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.

“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole of the region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”

The new peace initiative comes after Bashir was toppled by the military in April.

Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end Khartoum’s conflicts with the rebels.

The years-long bloodshed has left hundreds of thousands of dead and forced millions to flee their homes.

The movement led by Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu says it will not resume talks unless the government releases the detainees, withdraws from the area where they were seized, and declares a documented cease-fire. 

The SPLM-N is a rebel group in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which had ceased all hostilities as a “goodwill gesture” after the overthrow of President Bashir. Al-Hilu’s movement controls significant chunks of territory in the region.

Bangladeshi courts freeing child suspects due to virus risk

Updated 05 June 2020

Bangladeshi courts freeing child suspects due to virus risk

  • On Friday, the total number of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh stood at 60,391, with 811 deaths
  • About 400 children have been granted bail in recent weeks and more than 300 of them have already been reunited with their families

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh have been releasing hundreds of children suspected of committing mostly petty crimes as they try to keep the coronavirus from spreading in overcrowded detention centers, officials said Friday.
The orders for their release on bail came from virtual courts set up by the country’s Supreme Court with the help of UNICEF, officials said.
About 400 children have been granted bail in recent weeks and more than 300 of them have already been reunited with their families, said Natalie McCauley, chief of child protection at UNICEF in Bangladesh.
She said the decision came as public health experts said children living in the country’s detention centers face a higher risk of getting infected, mainly because of overcrowding and poor conditions.
Bangladesh has a protracted system of delivering justice, with some cases for petty crimes taking years to conclude. According to UNICEF, some 23,000 cases involving children under 18 are currently pending with courts across the country.
Saifur Rahman, a special officer of the Supreme Court and additional district judge who is involved with the release program, said the program was crucial as with inadequate staff and utilities in detention centers, it was extremely difficult to minimize the risk of infection from COVID-19.
“In all fairness, maintaining social and physical distancing is next to impossible in such a situation,” he said.
Mohammed Rakib, 15, was accused of beating a man in Dhaka nearly two months ago. A judge from a regular court denied him bail and he was eventually sent to an overcrowded detention center just outside Dhaka that UNICEF says houses nearly 700 children even though it has the capacity for about 300.
Late last month he was finally granted bail through the new virtual court.
“It feels great to be freed and get united with my parents,” Rakib told The Associated Press on Friday. “I am very happy. I have suffered in the jail a lot. That’s a bad place.”
The reunion was special for Rakib and his family as they were able to celebrate the end of Ramadan together.
“His mother burst into tears after seeing our youngest son,” said his father Mohammed Abdul Hakim. “It was a moment of joy. We love him a lot.”
On Friday, the total number of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh stood at 60,391, with 811 deaths. Public health experts say the actual number of the infected people is likely much higher.