Sudan’s premier sacks provincial governor after protests

Sudan's prime minister Abdalla Hamdok. (REUTERS)
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Updated 14 October 2020

Sudan’s premier sacks provincial governor after protests

  • A military-civilian government now rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022

CAIRO: Sudan’s prime minister on Tuesday sacked the governor of an eastern province, less than three months after his appointment, the state-run news agency reported.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s decision to fire Saleh Ammar, newly appointed governor of Kassala province, came amid sporadic protests against his appointment — protests that at times have turned deadly.

Ammar was named governor of Kassala in July, when Hamdok appointed civilian governors for the country’s 18 provinces. The move was seen at the time as a key step forward in Sudan’s transition to democracy.

But the protesters, who opposed his appointment on tribal grounds, barred Ammar from entering Kassala, so he remained in the capital, Khartoum. The protests escalated in August, when at least five people were killed and over three dozen were wounded.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow former autocratic President Omar Bashir in April 2019. A military-civilian government now rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022.

Ammar had claimed, without offering evidence, that supporters of Bashir were behind the protests. The prime minister did not immediately name a replacement for Ammar.  

Later Tuesday, Ammar’s sacking triggered new protests in Kassala. Footage circulated online showing protesters blocking roads and setting tires ablaze. No casualties were reported.

The Beni Amer tribe, from which Ammar hails, rejected his dismissal. 

Several activists also criticized the sacking, warning of widespread chaos in eastern Sudan amid tribal tensions. Award-winning novelist Hamour Zyada said the decision showed the transitional government’s weakness in fighting those who opposed Ammar’s appointment.

Elsewhere in Sudan, more than 4,500 people in South Darfur province have been displaced in the past week by ongoing clashes between factions of a rebel group boycotting a recent peace deal between the transitional government and a rebel alliance, according to the UN migration agency.

The fighting between factions of the Sudan Liberation Army–Abdel-Wahid Nour erupted earlier this month in the Sharg al-Jabal area, the International Organization for Migration said.

The transitional government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups, singed a peace deal earlier this month, capping torturous talks that had been underway in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, since late last year.

Abdel-Wahid’s group rejects the transitional government and has not taken part in the talks. It criticized the deal, saying it was “not different from” other previous deals that did not end the wars.

Sudan’s largest single rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu, was involved in the talks but has yet to reach a deal with the government.

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

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.