Sudan appoints new defense chief amid tensions with Ethiopia

Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin, left, takes the oath as minister of defense in the presence of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, center, in Khartoum. (AP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Sudan appoints new defense chief amid tensions with Ethiopia

  • The country is on a fragile path to democracy after former President Bashir was overthrown last year

CAIRO: Sudan on Tuesday swore in a new defense minister more that two months after the death of the former defense chief and amid tensions with neighboring Ethiopia.

Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin was sworn in before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, according to a statement from the council. Yassin came out of retirement to take the position.

The ceremony was held in the capital Khartoum.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the country’s Chief Judge Neamat Abdullah attended the ceremony, the statement said.

Yassin replaced Gen. Gamal Al-Din Omar, who died in March of a heart attack in neighboring South Sudan, while taking part in peace talks between his country’s transitional government and rebel groups.

Yassin told reporters after the ceremony he would support Hamdok’s government and work hard to “achieve the goals ... of the transitional period.”

Born in 1958 in Khartoum, Yassin, a career army officer, studied at Sudan’s military academy, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in military science from Jordan’s Mutah University. He retired in 2010, according Sudan’s official SUNA news agency.

The swearing-in came amid tensions with neighboring Ethiopia over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.

At least one Sudanese army officer and one child were killed in an attack on Thursday by an Ethiopian militia group in Sudan’s eastern Al-Qadarif province, according to Sudan’s military. Another Sudanese officer and three civilians were wounded in the incident, according to the Sudanese statement.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow former President Omar Bashir in April last year. A military-civilian government now leads the country to elections in less than three years.

The transitional administration faces towering challenges, including the dire economic conditions that fueled the protests late in 2018 that eventually led the military to remove Bashir. Sudan’s economy has been battered by decades-long civil wars and international sanctions.

Achieving peace with armed groups is crucial for the government as it would allow a reduction in military spending, which takes up to 80 percent of the budget, the prime minister has said.

Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades, and while a rebel alliance has joined the pro-democracy coalition, it said last month that it should be represented in the transitional government.

The August power-sharing deal has called for the government to reach a peace agreement with the rebels within 6 months. This deadline was not met and both sides agreed to extend the talks to reach a deal.

Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

Updated 6 min 46 sec ago

Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

  • The vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit through Beirut port
  • Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs

TRIPOLI: Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli is readying its harbor to temporarily replace that of Beirut, which was levelled in last week’s massive explosion, officials said Thursday.
Tripoli port’s capacity is smaller than the capital’s, through which the vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit.
A fire at Beirut port on August 4 caught a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, causing an explosion that devastated swathes of the city and killed at least 171 people.
Immediately after the disaster, Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council ordered that the port of Tripoli be prepped for “import and export operations.”
“The port of Tripoli can stand in for Beirut on a temporary basis, for the time it will take it to be operational again,” Tripoli port director Ahmad Tamer told AFP.
The smaller ports of Saida and Tyre can also contribute to the effort but their capacity is limited and does not allow for bigger vessels to dock.
Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs and the UN’s World Food Programme has warned that the destruction of the main port could worsen an already alarming situation.
Lebanon’s economic collapse in recent months has seen it default on its debt, sent the local currency into free-fall and poverty rates soaring to near third world levels, all amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tamer said seven ships that were on their way to Beirut on the day of the gigantic explosion immediately rerouted to Tripoli, where they unloaded their cargo.
Tripoli had already undergone major upgrade works in order to accomodate increased traffic expected in connection with the reconstruction effort needed in neighboring, war-ravaged Syria.
Tamer said that before the explosion Tripoli port was only functioning at 40 percent capacity, processing two million tons of imports per year, with a capacity to absorb a maximum of five million tons.
The port director said that he wanted to launch a plan to increase work at the port and hire more employees in order to process more than its current rate of 80,000 containers a year.