US official lands in Sudan to support democratic transition

US official lands in Sudan to support democratic transition
Samantha Power landed Saturday, July 31, in Khartoum, aiming to support Sudan’s transition to democracy. (File/AP)
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Updated 31 July 2021

US official lands in Sudan to support democratic transition

US official lands in Sudan to support democratic transition
  • Samantha Power is set to meet with top Sudanese officials including Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan
  • She will also travel to Sudan’s western region of Darfur where she said she investigated atrocities in the its civil war in the 2000s

CAIRO: The US official who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide landed Saturday in Khartoum, aiming to support Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy before traveling to Ethiopia to press the government there to allow humanitarian aid to the war-torn Tigray region.
Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, is set to meet with top Sudanese officials including Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government.
She will also travel to Sudan’s western region of Darfur where she said she investigated atrocities in the its civil war in the 2000s.
“I first visited Sudan in 2004— investigating a genocide in Darfur perpetrated by a regime whose grip on power seemed unshakeable. I couldn’t imagine Sudan would one day be an inspiring example to the world that no leader is ever permanently immune from the will of their people,” Power wrote on Twitter upon her arrival in Khartoum.
Power’s visit to Khartoum is meant to “strengthen the US Government’s partnership with Sudan’s transitional leaders and citizens, explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy,” USAID said.
Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy and is ruled by a military-civilian government after a popular uprising led to the military’s ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in 2019. The Khartoum government, which seeks better ties with the US and the West after nearly three decades of international isolation, faces towering economic and security challenges that threaten to derail its transition into chaos.
The US official would also meet with Ethiopian refugees in Sudan who recently fled the conflict and atrocities in the Tigray region which borders Sudan.
Since the Tigray war began in November, tens of thousands of Ethiopians have crossed into Sudan, adding to the country’s economic and security challenges.
Power’s five-day trip will also take her to Ethiopia as part of international efforts to prevent a looming famine in Tigray, a region of some 6 million people that has been devastated by the months-long war.
Power will meet with Ethiopian officials “to press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country,” USAID said.
The world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade is unfolding in Tigray, where the US says up to 900,000 people now face famine conditions and international food security experts say the crucial planting season “has largely been missed” because of the war.
Ethiopia’s government has blamed the aid blockade on the resurgent Tigray forces who have retaken much of the region and crossed into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, but a senior official with the US Agency for International Development this week told the AP that is “100 percent not the case.”


Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 6 sec ago

Yemeni woman turns home into school

Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi (L) gives a lesson to children sprawled across the floor of her home in the rural area of Muhib, in the southern province of Hodeida, on September 1, 2021. (AFP)
  • Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis
  • Borrell ‘underlined once again the great importance of a quick resumption of the Vienna talks’ at a meeting with Iran’s top diplomat

AL-TUHAYTA, Yemen: Yemeni teacher Amina Mahdi gives a science lesson to children sprawled across the ground at her home in a remote village in the southern province of Hodeidah.
For these boys and girls, learning at Mahdi’s sun-scorched compound is their only opportunity for an education in the small rural area of Muhib in the Al-Tuhayta district.
She had already been teaching children to read and write before the outbreak of the impoverished country’s devastating war in 2014.
“What pushed me toward teaching was the high rate of ignorance in the village and that children were deprived of an education,” Mahdi told AFP.
With dozens of children to tend to, Mahdi has divided them into three groups based on age, teaching each class for two hours a day.
Other than learning how to read and write, the children also get lessons in maths and science.
But Mahdi said her house, with hundreds of books piled on a single shelf, is not really equipped for teaching. “There is lots of damage from the sun and heat,” she said, wearing an all-black niqab.
Yemen’s war pits the government against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 2,500 schools in the country are unfit for use, with some destroyed and others turned into refugee camps or military facilities.
UNICEF has estimated that 2 million children were without school even before the coronavirus pandemic, a further systemic shock which it warns has likely propelled the number even higher.
“We wouldn’t have been able to read, write or learn if it weren’t for Miss Amina,” one of the pupils, Ibrahim Mohib, told AFP.
His father, Mohammed, said he had no regrets sending his three children to learn at Mahdi’s home.
“They were taught there from the first until the fourth grades, and thank God for (Mahdi) striving to teach them,” he said.
Mahdi said she hopes to get some form of help to teach the children.
“I ask all those who are charitable to bring joy to these children ... and offer aid to establish a real school,” she said. “My small home is not good enough, and it has become a public place where I am no longer comfortable.”


Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
Updated 37 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
  • Saudi Arabia remains the top donor of humanitarian aid to its war-torn neighbor
  • Saudi, Yemeni govts call for pressure on Houthis to choose UN-led political solution to conflict

NEW YORK:  Saudi Arabia, the US, the EU and other nations announced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of additional humanitarian and development aid for Yemen at a high-level meeting at the UN on Wednesday. 

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, supervisor-general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, announced that Saudi Arabia will provide an additional $90 million in humanitarian aid for war-torn Yemen.

“Over the last six years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided more than $18 billion to support Yemen,” he said. “This year alone, Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen with more than $848 million.” 

The latest pledge means Saudi Arabia is once again the largest donor of aid to Yemen. But “monetary donations alone won’t alleviate the crisis in Yemen,” Al-Rabeeah warned. 

“Unless we work together to end the conflict and minimize the obstructions of aid delivery, the situation will continue to worsen,” he added.

“Ongoing aggression by the Houthi militias against the UN and international NGOs only adds more misery to the Yemeni people.”

Al-Rabeeah expressed the Kingdom’s desire that the international community support its political plan “to put an end to the conflict and bring long-lasting peace to all Yemenis.”

The US promised an additional $290 million in donations for 2021, while the EU announced that it will donate a further €119 million ($139.65 million), which the bloc’s Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said is a “joint humanitarian and development aid pledge.”

She added that “in the immediate term, our support will help families access food and basic commodities,” and that “in the long term, the EU seeks to help Yemen build a bridge from crisis to recover.” In this, she said, “investing in youth and women will play a critical role.”

Canada, Qatar, Sweden and Brazil together pledged additional donations worth over $120 million, some of which will be provided to UN bodies such as the World Food Programme to assist their operations in Yemen.

In total, around $600 million in additional humanitarian funding was announced at the UN meeting.

That money will be used to ensure that food security, sanitation, healthcare and education continues to be delivered to as many Yemenis as possible.

But while the aid provided by the international community will alleviate some of the hardship facing the country’s 29 million people, world leaders repeatedly made clear that a political solution to the conflict is the only way to truly end the humanitarian crisis.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, and it was plunged into civil war when the Iran-backed Houthis overthrew the UN-recognized government in 2015. Since then, famine and conflict have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.

Yemen’s Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned on Wednesday that “despite the generous contributions of the international community, including the UN-led Humanitarian Response Plan, the humanitarian crisis witnessed by Yemen is still the largest and most urgent in the world.” 

He blamed the Houthis for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, citing their assault on the city of Marib as an example of how they perpetuate the suffering of Yemenis — in this case by preventing the supply of household fuel to people across the country.

“Marib is the main source of household gas in Yemen … The continued brutal attacks by the Houthi militias on Marib exacerbate human suffering,” Bin Mubarak said.

He warned that a continuation of the Marib offensive could force thousands of internally displaced Yemenis who had sought safety in the city to seek refuge overseas.

“All humanitarian efforts provided by the different (UN) agencies won’t end the suffering of the Yemenis unless this war stops,” he said.

“Therefore, I’d like to call upon the international community to exert more effort on the Houthi militias and their supporters to give up the option of war and engage in a peace process that’s led by the UN.”


Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections
Updated 22 September 2021

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections
  • Hamas is a long-standing rival of the Palestinian Authority
  • Hamas, which was furious by Abbas's general election postponement, said Wednesday that it "would not be part of... fragmented municipal elections"

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, said Wednesday it would not participate in municipal Palestinians elections set by the Palestinian Authority for December unless a general election is also called.
Hamas is a long-standing rival of the PA, based in the occupied West Bank, and had supported the decision to hold Palestinian legislative and presidential elections in May and July.
But president Mahmud Abbas in April indefinitely postponed those votes, which would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
Abbas cited Israel’s refusal to guarantee voting in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.
But Palestinian experts said Abbas balked out of fear that Hamas would sweep the polls, in a repeat of 2006 results that the president’s Fatah movement did not accept.
Hamas, which was furious by Abbas’s general election postponement, said Wednesday that it “would not be part of... fragmented municipal elections.”
“The right solution is to hold comprehensive elections” for the Palestinian presidency, Palestinian legislative council, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), municipal bodies and trade and student unions, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told reporters.
Those votes could happen “simultaneously or according to a nationally agreed timetable,” he said.
“If that is plan, we are ready to participate.”
The municipal elections called by the PA would take place in 387 localities throughout the West Bank and Gaza on December 11, and then in 90 other places at a later date that has yet to be set.
Of the 477 voting sites, just 11 were in Gaza.
Hamas’s rejection of the process would make voting impossible in Gaza, an Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by the Islamists since 2007.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union but is seeking to bolster its legitimacy through election wins and by joining the PLO, a group of Palestinians factions recognized by Israel and the international community.


Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers
Updated 50 min 36 sec ago

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers
  • The provisions come almost two months after his initial power grab
  • Under the current system, most of the executive power was in the hands of the government

TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied took exceptional measures on Wednesday that strengthen the powers of his office at the expense of the government and parliament, which he will effectively replace by ruling by decree.
The provisions, laid out in a series of decrees published in the official gazette, come almost two months after his initial power grab.
Under the current system, most of the executive power was in the hands of the government and the measures announced by Saied clearly tip the balance in favor of the presidency.
“Legislative texts will be promulgated in the form of decrees signed by the President of the Republic,” one of the articles stipulates.
A second article says that “the President shall exercise executive power with the help of a Council of Ministers chaired by a Head of Government.”
“The President of the Republic presides over the Council of Ministers and may mandate the Head of Government to replace him/her,” says another.
Saied, a political outsider, came to power in 2019 on a wave of public outrage against political parties widely seen as corrupt and self-serving.
On July 25, Saied sacked the government, suspended parliament, removed lawmakers’ immunity and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
He has since renewed the measures, and has not responded to calls for a roadmap for lifting them.
Saied has repeatedly insisted his actions are in line with the North African country’s post-revolution constitution, under which the head of state can take “exceptional measures” in case of an “imminent danger” to national security.
Street protests in early 2011 toppled longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking a string of “Arab Spring” revolts across the region, and setting in motion a Tunisian transition to a parliamentary democracy solidified by a 2014 constitution.
Tunisia has won praise for that transition but, more recently, many citizens feel their quality of life has worsened in the face of grinding economic, social and political crises, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, before his latest move, Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party said that Saied’s measures to extend his powers risked setting in motion the “dismantling” of the state.
Ennahdha formed the largest bloc in parliament before the president’s shock actions.
Several hundred protesters, many of them Ennahdha supporters, marched through central Tunis on Saturday to demand a return to parliamentary democracy.


Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 
Updated 22 September 2021

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 
  • King Abdullah also called for an international effort to help the Lebanese people recover from the humanitarian and economic crises in the country
  • In his address to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, he asked for more global action to help refugees and to tackle the effects of the climate crisis

NEW YORK: A global partnership is critical to the efforts to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told his fellow world leaders on Wednesday.

In a prerecorded message on the second day of the high-level Annual General Debate at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, he said the recent war on Gaza was a reminder that the status quo in the Palestinian territories is untenable.

He also highlighted the critical role of the UN’s Refugees and Works Agency in providing life-saving assistance to 5.7 million Palestinian refugees suffering as a result of what he described as “one of the longest-standing conflicts in modern history.”

“How many more homes will be lost?” the king asked. “How many more children die before the world wakes up?”

He added that the key to “genuine security” for both sides is a two-state solution that leads to the establishment of an “independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state” where Palestinians can live “side-by-side with Israel in peace and security,” based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Jerusalem is at the heart of this peace,” said King Abdullah. “Billions of people around the world hold this holy city dear.

“I believe Jerusalem’s holiness to Muslims, Christians and Jews can, and must, bring us together. With international help, the Holy City can be not a cause of division but a symbol of unity for all to see.”

He vowed that his country will continue to work to preserve the legal status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites under Hashemite custodianship.

The king also talked about Lebanon, where a dire humanitarian and economic catastrophe has left millions living in despair and “family tables without food.”

He called on the global community to work together to develop a “well-planned, well-executed international response.”

“In this time of great need, we owe the Lebanese people our full support to enable them to rise from this crisis,” he added.

In addition, he called on the international community not to forget the millions of refugees in need around the world or the countries that host them, including Lebanon.