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.”

Iran’s Eslami in Moscow for nuclear cooperation talks – report

Iran’s Eslami in Moscow for nuclear cooperation talks – report
Updated 28 September 2021

Iran’s Eslami in Moscow for nuclear cooperation talks – report

Iran’s Eslami in Moscow for nuclear cooperation talks – report
  • Mohammad Eslami plans to discuss cooperation between the two countries in the nuclear power sector

MOSCOW: Iran’s vice president and head of the country’s atomic energy organization, Mohammad Eslami, has arrived in Moscow for talks with the chief executive of Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom, the RIA news agency cited Iran’s embassy as saying on Tuesday.
Eslami plans to discuss cooperation between the two countries in the nuclear power sector, it said.

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off in three days, here is what you need to know

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off in three days, here is what you need to know
Updated 28 September 2021

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off in three days, here is what you need to know

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off in three days, here is what you need to know
  • Organizers of the Dubai expo hope to attract 25 million visits
  • People with special needs can get a free entry ticket to the Expo site

DUBAI: With only three days until launch, Expo 2020 Dubai is ready to welcome on Oct. 1 visitors to the Arab World’s largest global gathering to date.

Expos are among the biggest international events that take place every five years, where this year’s 191 participating countries, businesses and individuals from across the globe gather to explore, innovate, discuss, and share ideas and experiences.

The UAE became the first Arab country to organize this global event when it beat four other countries – Turkey, Brazil, Thailand and Russia – in 2013 for the right to host Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Expo’s logo is inspired by an ancient ring dating back to the Iron Age, which was recovered from an archeological site discovered by Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Organizers of the Dubai expo hope to attract 25 million visits during the duration of the event, despite the complexities posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Expo 2020 Dubai site covers an area of 4.38 square-kilometers of the Dubai South District, near the Al-Maktoum International Airport. It is also divided into three thematic districts: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

The 15,000- square-meter UAE pavilion, designed by renowned architect and engineer Dr. Santiago Calatrava, will be the biggest while Saudi Arabia’s 13,059- square-meter pavilion comes next.

Organizers have taken precautions to ensure safety and health of participants and visitors to the expo, thus requiring visitors aged 18 and above to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.

Non-vaccinated visitors who have not been tested meanwhile can use the coronavirus testing facility adjacent to the site.

People with special needs can visit the site for free, while their companions would be given a 50 percent discount for their tickets.

Illinois congresswoman slams Iron Dome funding and ‘theft’ of Sheikh Jarrah homes

Illinois congresswoman slams Iron Dome funding and ‘theft’ of Sheikh Jarrah homes
Updated 28 September 2021

Illinois congresswoman slams Iron Dome funding and ‘theft’ of Sheikh Jarrah homes

Illinois congresswoman slams Iron Dome funding and ‘theft’ of Sheikh Jarrah homes
  • Marie Newman tells taxpayers it is possible to change US foreign policy and speak out against Israel’s human rights abuses

CHICAGO: Illinois Congresswoman Marie Newman told constituents on Sunday they “can make a difference” in strengthening US support for Palestinian rights, and to curb excessive funding demands by Israel.

Newman was one of only nine House of Representatives members who voted against a bill last week giving Israel $1 billion to purchase more short-range missiles for its Iron Dome defense system.

Speaking at the Palestine American Club in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Newman urged Americans to target donors who give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Senate’s 100 members as a means of forcing change.

“Start talking to senators. Remember, in Congress, in the House of Representatives, we only have the purse that we can deal with. We (members of Congress) can only say yea or nay to money,” Newman explained, noting that the House addresses funding while the Senate and administration addresses policy.

“So, that is why the Iron Dome vote is important, right? It is to say, ‘No, Israel. You can’t have another billion dollars.’ What we have to do is start talking to people who actually make policy.”

Congress voted on Sept. 23 to separate Israel’s Iron Dome vote from the larger and stalled vote to fund American news. The US already gives Israel $500 million annually for the missile defense system under an agreement signed by President Barack Obama in 2016.

Arab Americans denounced Congress for removing the Iron Dome funding vote from the larger spending bill that remains stalled in partisan, political bickering. Another attempt to pass it may not take place until Thursday.

“Instead of passing a bill to address the immediate and critical needs of the American people in the larger spending bill, Congress put Israel above the American people and removed the Iron Dome funding so Israel would not have to wait the way American taxpayers are waiting and suffering,” said Hassan Nijem, president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce of Chicagoland, which co-sponsored Newman’s appearance.

“It’s shameful when 420 members of Congress vote so quickly to give Israel, a foreign country, $1 billion. But they can’t seem to find the time or the courage to help American citizens overcome their challenges.”

Newman was among nine members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome appropriation. The nine were immediately attacked by Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan on Monday who said they were “either ignorant or anti-Semitic.”

Newman did not address Erdan’s personal attacks, and instead focused on how US citizens can get their government to reprioritize spending to address their needs.

She said that activists need to focus on the corporations, businesses and individuals who donate hundreds of millions of dollars to Senate members who are responsible for defining so-far failed US policy efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

“So, you have to start talking to their donors and you have to start making them realize this is an important humanitarian issue, and that everybody is safer in the region when Palestine is safe and free and able to move, and be healthy and prosperous — everybody will be happier,” Newman said.

Newman said she is also working to reinforce communications between Arab and Muslim Americans and the staff of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing the creation of an Arab and Muslim American Council in the 3rd District.

“We have to start talking to the senators and we have to start talking with the administration.”

Newman also addressed the continued human rights “crisis” in Sheikh Jarrah in the occupied West Bank city of East Jerusalem, where Israel is taking homes and property from Christian and Muslim civilians and giving them to Jewish settler organizations.

“I always like to be very clear that this is home theft. When you steal someone’s house and you are a victim, it is called home theft. It is not right here in Chicago. It is not right in Palestine. It is not right in Montreal. It is not right in Hong Kong,” Newman said.

“So, we put together a letter that typically would only be signed by seven, eight or nine members of Congress. But because my team is amazing, and I decided to do a lot of outreach and to be very tenacious, we had 25 members of Congress sign on to the letter.”

Most of Newman’s remarks addressed the needs of the 3rd Congressional District, explaining that she is supporting an infrastructure bill that would provide economic and educational support to families hard pressed by the nearly two-year long pandemic.

“Roads and bridges bring lots of jobs. On the human infrastructure side of the package, it will bring paid leave, universal child care, two years of community college free for young people, middle-aged people or our elders who want to go back to school,” she said.

The proposed spending bill that remains deadlocked in the House would increase deductions for small businesses and reduce taxes between 5-10 percent. She also said that the spending bill provides funding to improve the nation’s infrastructure to improve the environment, and help Americans facing financial and health difficulties.

A first-term member of Congress, Newman was elected to represent the 3rd Congressional District in November 2020. The district has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic. It was ranked as having the eighth-largest Arab-American population of 50 American congressional districts by The New York Times, and largest concentration of Palestinian-American voters.

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting
Updated 28 September 2021

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting

Tunisian FM tells UN General Assembly that country’s political crisis caused by rival parties’ infighting
  • Parliamentary suspension essential to counter growing threats to the country, minister explains

WASHINGTON: Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi said on Monday that his country is determined to continue on the path to “genuine democracy” and live up to the expectations of its people.

Speaking at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Jerandi said that President Kais Saied’s recent suspension of the parliament, dismissal of the prime minister and shutdown of political processes in Tunisia were intended “to put the country back on the right path toward democracy.”

Explaining the political crisis in the country, Jerandi said that Saied had been forced to take the measures because of political infighting between rival parties and economic turmoil that had plagued Tunisia for years.

He described the situation in Tunisia before Saied stepped in as “dangerous” and a “threat” to the country’s future.

Jerandi highlighted what he described as “deeply rooted political polarization, and a socioeconomic and health crisis,” saying that Saied had taken a “series of exceptional resolutions and measures based on the constitution.”

However, the government’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law remains, the foreign minister said.

“Democracy in Tunisia is an irreversible option,” he added.

Saied ordered the dissolution of the government last July, triggering both supporters and opponents of his measures to take to the streets.

Supporters of Ennahda, the Islamist party that holds a parliamentary majority, condemned the president’s intervention as a “coup,” while Saied’s supporters called it a necessary step to end the country’s political impasse.

Jerandi said that rooting out corruption that has strangled Tunisia in the past is a prerequisite to building a democratic system.

He urged the UN to develop a stronger and more effective multilateral system for international diplomacy and cooperation for the betterment of the younger generation and the youth.

The foreign minister said that his country will always be a positive force for peace and security in the international community.

Tunisia will play an “influential role” in helping neighboring Libya to restore its security and stability, he added.

Speaking about instability in the Arab world, and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, Jerandi said that the international community must use its weight and influence to push for compromise and bring an end to the civil wars in both countries.

He also said international cooperation is needed to combat terrorism and extremism as well as illegal migration.

‘Leave us alone to heal,’ Libya’s UN envoy tells foreign powers

‘Leave us alone to heal,’ Libya’s UN envoy tells foreign powers
Updated 17 min 51 sec ago

‘Leave us alone to heal,’ Libya’s UN envoy tells foreign powers

‘Leave us alone to heal,’ Libya’s UN envoy tells foreign powers
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Taher Al-Sonni highlights the challenges facing Libya and how foreign powers are making them worse
  • In addition to national reconciliation there is a need for international reconciliation between the international community and Libyans, he said.

NEW YORK: Libya’s efforts to heal after 10 years of war will require not only a national reconciliation, but also an international reconciliation between the Libyan people and the global community.
That is the view of Taher Al-Sonni, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, who on Monday reiterated his country’s demand for an end to external interference and the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries.
“Enough is enough,” he said during an exclusive interview with Arab News. “Libyans are tired of 10 years of chaos.
“As much as we talk about national reconciliation, there should also be international reconciliation. As much as we talk about confidence building, there should be confidence building between the international community and Libyans — and that starts with the simultaneous withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, and support for the will of Libyans when they go through the electoral process.”
Libyans have been killed and their country ravaged by thousands of foreign fighters recruited by the rival forces in the country. As long as Libya’s “free will” is held hostage by these armed groups and their foreign sponsors, Al-Sonni said, conflicts will continue to rage in the country at a time when the proliferation of such proxy wars is causing instability across the region.
The rebels who killed Chadian President Idriss Deby in April, for example, were based in Libya, where they amassed money, accessed advanced weaponry and gained battlefield experience as guns-for-hire.
“The challenge with mercenaries is that no one acknowledges their presence,” said Al-Sonni.
The UN-brokered Libyan ceasefire agreement in October 2020 included a call for all 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters to withdraw from the country within three months. But when the UN Security Council discussed ways of repatriating them, observers noted that some council members were fueling the problem.
For example, Russia’s support for the Libyan National Army includes mercenaries from Russian private security company Wagner Group. Turkey, meanwhile, provided transport for thousands of Syrians to fight in Tripoli, paid them salaries and offered promises of Turkish citizenship. Other mercenaries operating in Libya hail from South Africa, the US, the UK, Australia and about 30 additional countries.
Meanwhile, Libyans attempt to navigate this sinister foreign presence as they walk an already tricky path toward national reconciliation, and attempt to consolidate the many small victories achieved in the past year as part of the political process.
These achievements — which paved the way for a ceasefire and the formation of an interim unity government tasked with shepherding the nation toward parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for December — would not have been possible without both Libyans and foreign powers reaching the conclusion that no one could win the war through military might, according to Al-Sonni.
“Everything was tried, and in the end everyone was convinced that there can be no military solution,” he said.
He conceded that all countries in the region are entitled to be concerned about preserving their security and national interests, but added: “You don’t need to intervene and interfere the way you did in order to have a stabilized region (and) boost the economy.
“Libya is a hub between Africa and Europe, East and West. Libyans are known for their modesty. I can no longer say Libya is a rich country, but it does have the means and the resources to come back, and with Libya stabilized we can find win-win deals that will satisfy everyone’s national interests as much as possible.
“So, let’s work together, put the past behind us and start a new phase. And let’s not provide an excuse for terrorism and extremism, which feeds on this chaos and perpetuates the conflict.”
The road to the national elections planned for December has been paved with as much fear as hope among Libyans.
Although the new Presidency Council managed to unify civilian executive bodies, the military remains fractured. Some fear that winners with weapons might start another war.
In the absence of a clear constitutional framework setting out the responsibilities of a new president, “who can guarantee that Libyans will not find themselves in the grip of yet another dictator?” asked Al-Sonni.
“There is a group of people that don’t want to lose the power they have today, so they are maneuvering and finding excuses for the elections not to happen,” he added.
“There are also those who fear losing power by having a high-level executive office, in the form of a president, that might lead to them losing popularity. Some want only parliamentary elections, and think a safer option is to have a steady state and give more time to the constitutional framework to be developed.
“And, finally, you have Libyans on the ground who are fed up with all the attempts of the past and want Libya as a state to have separation of power.
“The challenge in this last one is to have an ‘inclusive’ president, not one who has revenge in mind, because those who have ambitions to be president are all affiliated to a certain group, and so that is scaring people.”
All of the fears people have are valid, said Al-Sonni.
“But what are the alternatives that we have today?” he asked. “If I name all the obstacles that we face today, one would conclude that the risk of the elections not happening is high.”
Even if they do go ahead, he said, challenges will remain — but they at least offer the hope for change and a better future.
“Anyone who thinks elections will solve all of Libya’s problems is naive,” he said. “But we have had a sick patient for the past 10 years and we have been using the same medicine.
“Now we have the option of a new medicine in the form of elections. We are not sure how that will unfold — it’s a 50/50 risk. But a certain level of legitimate representation will get the ball rolling.”
Meanwhile, Al-Sonni said, national reconciliation remains “the foundation for any permanent peace in Libya.”
From the establishment of a High Commission for Reconciliation to the release, albeit symbolic, of some prisoners, there have been steps taken in the right direction.
Al-Sonni stressed the importance of “transitional justice” as a means toward lasting reconciliation and true healing of the nation.
“For there to be a comprehensive national reconciliation, truth needs to be revealed, and apologies issued,” he said.
Although he admitted that the responsibility for reconciliation ultimately lies primarily with the Libyan people themselves, Al-Sonni questioned the lack of useful international support for the efforts.
The ambassador, who was a UN staffer for 17 years and so is familiar with the organization’s methodologies, criticized the UN for adopting a “top-down approach” to Libya, which he said has undermined the role of civil society.
“If you follow all the dialogue that took place, they were all technical discussions that tackled military, political and economical challenges, but there was no national reconciliation track,” he said.
“There is also a lack of understanding of the Libyan context by the international community. For Libya to become a success story, we need to adopt a bottom-top approach, work on civil society and try to get the best of the tribal structure that links Libyans together.
“Some have tried to use our tribal structure as a way to fuel the war. But having tribes is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a golden key, I call it, which can lead us to peace if we use it correctly.”
Inclusivity is another important aspect to the process. Al-Sonni took part in the Sukhairat dialogue in 2015, and was one of the signatories to the final agreement for the formation of a national unity government.
“Not all parties who really had power on the ground were represented,” he said. “Many were completely excluded, such as the ex-regime loyalists.”
He warned that such “exclusion in any post-conflict reconciliation is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. It is a fatal error.”
Exclusion can also happen in the form of centralized governance, Al-Sonni said, which can, for example, cause people living outside of Tripoli, where much of the wealth is concentrated, to feel excluded.
Despite all these challenges, however, Al-Sonni is pinning his hopes on the next generation of Libyan youth.
“The only people who will solve this are our young people,” he said. “They are vocal and much more aware than their elders. The problem is that they still lack coordination and leadership.”
Al-Sonni also addressed allegations of flagrant abuses of human rights in Libyan detention centers. While he expressed regret over the fact that his country has become a place where “innocent people die,” he denied any accusation of systemic torture. Once again he pleaded with the international community to “help us make Libya stable and these issues will be resolved.”
He added: “We’re totally against such violations and we’re working hard to fix the system and protect the most vulnerable. But there is a difference between a government that doesn’t care and one that really tries, and sees this as a priority, but is spread thin with all the other different challenges and has resource problems.
“The problem is the hypocrisy of the West, and their unwillingness to devise a comprehensive solution for the migrant crisis. You cannot blame a country in conflict for what happens within it when it comes to migrants. Migrants who come to Libya aim to continue to Europe. Nobody wants to live in the hellfire of conflict, that goes without saying.”
Condemning the “double standards” of the international community, he said: “They ask us to accommodate those migrants when they know our resources are stretched thin. They ask us to shut down detention centers but they won’t tell us what to do with migrants who enter illegally, or those who are arrested at sea and pushed back to Libya.
“If you really care about migrants, then agree on a quota also and take in some of them.
“The countries that are being most forceful with Libya on this issue are the same ones that are shutting their doors to migrants. One such country literally took in four or five migrants out of the thousands that are trying to cross.
“The problem is bigger: it is EU competition between countries, and we know it. You want to blame us? Blame yourself first.”