Port Sudan container terminal blocked in peace deal protest

A man stands opposite the modern port at the harbour in Port Sudan at Red Sea State February 24, 2014. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 October 2020

Port Sudan container terminal blocked in peace deal protest

  • Politics in eastern Sudan are volatile because of violent tribal tensions that affected Port Sudan and Kassala recently

KHARTOUM, JUBA: Protesters blocked Port Sudan’s container terminal and a road between the eastern city and the capital Khartoum on Sunday to protest against a peace deal signed by the government and groups from across the country, a union official and residents said.
The deal, ratified on Saturday in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, was focused on resolving conflicts in the western Darfur region and southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Groups from other regions also signed, but some in the east say the two factions that participated in the “eastern track” of the peace process do not represent political forces on the ground.
The deal is aimed at ending decades of conflict in Sudan and uniting the country behind a political transition following the ouster of former leader Omar Bashir in April 2019.
However, the two most active groups in the west and the south did not sign, and analysts say that during negotiations, local communities were not widely consulted by military and civilian authorities now sharing power.
Politics in eastern Sudan are volatile because of violent tribal tensions that affected Port Sudan and Kassala recently, positioning by regional powers including wealthy Gulf states, and anger over a long-running economic crisis and the failure of public services.
Workers at the southern port, Sudan’s main sea terminal for containers, and at Suakin port to the south, were on strike over the peace deal, said Aboud El-Sherbiny, head of the Port Sudan Workers Union.
“We demand the cancelation of the ‘eastern track’ and the agreement that was signed yesterday in Juba because this track expresses an external agenda,” he said.
“We will take escalatory steps if this demand is not met.”
The peace talks were mediated by South Sudan whose leaders themselves battled Khartoum as rebels for decades before achieving independence in 2011 and who are still struggling to bring peace to their own country.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir warned that implementing the deal would not be an easy task and urged the international community to lend its support.
“We have no illusion that the implementation of the peace agreement we are celebrating today will be an easy business especially with the economic realities facing Sudan presently,” he said.
“Sudan needs financial resources to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war and floods.”
The economy has suffered from the country’s inclusion on Washington’s terror blacklist, decades-long US sanctions and the 2011 secession of the country’ oil-rich south which deprived the north of three-quarters of its oil reserves.
Economic hardship triggered the anti-Bashir protests and remain a pressing concern — food prices have tripled in the past year and the Sudanese pound has depreciated dramatically.
Recent flooding, which has affected nearly 830,000 people, has worsened the situation.
The government that was led by Bashir for three decades fought multiple conflicts with rebels, including a devastating war in Darfur and the 1983-2005 war that led to the secession of the south.
The final signing ceremony was held in South Sudan’s capital Juba the Mausoleum of John Garang, one of the south’s leaders during the war.
Entertainers from South Sudan and Sudan performed for thousands of guests, many of them Sudanese refugees.
Abdal Aziz, 32, who fled Darfur six years ago and has been living as a refugee in South Sudan said he believed the peace deal would end the conflict.
“It is well known since independence of Sudan there is no stability, there is no social economic development,” he said.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 47 min 40 sec ago

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.