Sudan’s electric rickshaws cut costs, help environment

Sudan’s electric rickshaws cut costs, help environment
Al-Shehab rickshaw factory in Khartoum’s Bahri district. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2022

Sudan’s electric rickshaws cut costs, help environment

Sudan’s electric rickshaws cut costs, help environment
  • With Sudan gripped by a dire economic crisis made worse by political unrest following a military coup last October, the cost of running petrol-oil engines has soared

KHARTOUM: Sudanese entrepreneur Mohamed Samir watches proudly as workers assemble garishly colored rickshaws, unique in the North African nation because they run on electricity in a bid to tackle soaring costs.

In Sudan, three-wheeler vehicles — tuk-tuk rickshaws for passengers, and motorbike tricycles with a trailer attached for carrying goods — have long been a popular and affordable transport. Tens of thousands ply the streets of the capital Khartoum alone.

But with Sudan gripped by a dire economic crisis made worse by political unrest following a military coup last October, the cost of running petrol-oil engines has soared.

“People who use the fuel-run rickshaws are in pain, and they know the value of what we are offering,” 44-year-old engineer Samir said at the factory in North Khartoum.

“We want to offer solutions.”

There is a critical environmental impact too. Smoky petrol-powered vehicles, aside from fueling climate change, cause “significant noise and air pollution,” the UN Environment Programme warned in a report from 2020.

“Emissions from the three-wheelers reduce visibility, cause damage to vegetation and lead to respiratory illnesses in people,” it added.

Samir says the new electric vehicles check three boxes of the UN’s sustainable development goals: The fight against poverty, protection of health and protection of the environment.

“It also makes much less noise,” he added.

Samir faced years of grinding challenges to get his factory up and running, but once he opened, business has been brisk, selling over 100 goods tricycles and 12 passenger rickshaws since last year.

Fuel costs have more than doubled since the coup. On top of that, repeated fuel shortages have left drivers queueing up for hours outside filling stations to top up their tanks.

Drivers complain of earning less than they spend.

That was the key reason fruit seller Bakry Mohamed sold his old petrol-powered tuk-tuk and bought an electric tricycle last year.

“It used to cost more than it brought in,” said Mohamed, who uses his vehicle to carry a stall of fruits through the streets. “Plus, I had to worry about where to find fuel, and where to change the engine oil.”

Mohamed speaks proudly of his new electric tricycle.

“It has been extremely cost-efficient,” Mohamed said. “Now, there are no more fuel queues. I charge it once, and it keeps running the entire week. My daily income doubled.”

Some drivers struggle when they first make the switch, but Samir said there have been no major complaints — and the electric batteries require less maintenance than fuel-run engines.

“It’s new, and they are not used to electric-run vehicles,” he said.

The three-wheelers take about eight hours to be fully charged, with a tuk-tuk tricycle able to cover 80-100 kilometers (50 to 60 miles), while a rickshaw’s range is even further, between 100 and 120 kilometers.

But amid the economic crisis, Sudan’s electricity supplies have suffered too, with frequent power cuts.

In January, the government hiked electricity prices, with households seeing an increase of about 500 percent in the bills.

Yet Samir said the electric rickshaws are still more efficient and far cheaper to run than alternatives.

“The cost of charging the battery remains less than that of the fuel,” Samir said, with a single electric charge costing less than half a liter of fuel.

Others, looking skywards to Sudan’s year-round sunshine, have freed themselves from dependency on the power grid too.

Amjad Hamdan Hameidan, who bought several electric-powered rickshaws, powers his three-wheeler on the go.

“I use flexible solar panels,” Hameidan said. “We place them on top of the rickshaw while driving, and it keeps the batteries charged.”

Samir argues his factory is helping Sudan keep pace in a fast-developing world. “Everything run by fuel will be replaced with electricity sooner or later,” Samir said. “We have the opportunity now to keep up with the rest of the world.”


Turkey says normalization of Israel ties will help resolve Palestinian conflict

Turkey says normalization of Israel ties will help resolve Palestinian conflict
Updated 55 min 40 sec ago

Turkey says normalization of Israel ties will help resolve Palestinian conflict

Turkey says normalization of Israel ties will help resolve Palestinian conflict
  • Mevlut Cavusoglu: Two countries agreed to ‘re-energize’ relations in many areas

ISTANBUL: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the normalization of ties between Turkey and Israel will have a “positive impact” for a “peaceful” resolution to the Palestinian conflict.
In a news conference after talks with his Israeli counterpart, Cavusoglu said the two countries agreed to “re-energise” relations in many areas, including resuming talks on civil aviation.


76 people missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

76 people missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia
Updated 25 May 2022

76 people missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

76 people missing after migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

TUNIS: Seventy six people were missing after a crowded boat of migrants sank off Tunisia on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration said, as the numbers risking the dangerous crossing to Europe increase.
The IOM said 24 people had been rescued from the boat, which had departed from the beaches of Zawara in Libya and sank off the coast of Sfax.
In recent months, dozens of people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya toward Italy.
Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years.


Sweden, Finland delegations in Turkey for NATO talks

Sweden, Finland delegations in Turkey for NATO talks
Updated 25 May 2022

Sweden, Finland delegations in Turkey for NATO talks

Sweden, Finland delegations in Turkey for NATO talks
  • Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week
  • Turkey’s objections have dampened Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s hopes for their quick membership

ANKARA: Delegations from Sweden and Finland were scheduled on Wednesday to hold talks in Ankara with senior Turkish officials in an effort to overcome Turkey’s objections to their historic bids to join the NATO alliance.
Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week in a move that marks one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war in Ukraine — and which could rewrite Europe’s security map.
Turkey has said it opposes the two Nordic countries’ membership in the military alliance, citing grievances with Sweden’s — and a to a lesser extent Finland’s — perceived support to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other entities that Turkey views as a security threat. It also accuses the two of imposing arms exports restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists.”
Turkey’s objections have dampened Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s hopes for their quick membership in NATO amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and puts the trans-Atlantic alliance’s credibility at stake. All 30 NATO members must agree to admit new members.
The Swedish and Finnish delegations are poised to take up Turkey’s grievances with Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal. The Swedish delegation would be headed by state secretary Oscar Stenström while Jukka Salovaara, the foreign ministry undersecretary, would lead the Finnish delegation, Turkish officials have said.
The PKK, which is listed as a terror organization by several of Turkey’s allies, has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, a conflict that has cost the lives of tens of thousands people.
Turkey this week listed five “concrete assurances” it is demanding from Sweden, including what it said was “termination of political support for terrorism,” an “elimination of the source of terrorism financing,” and the “cessation of arms support” to the banned PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia group affiliated with it. The demands also called for the lifting of arms sanctions against Turkey and global cooperation against terrorism.
Turkey said that it has been requesting the extradition of Kurdish militants and other suspects since 2017, but hasn’t received a positive response from Stockholm. Among other things, Ankara claimed that Sweden had decided to provide $376 million to support the Kurdish militants in 2023 and that it had provided military equipment to them, including anti-tank weapons and drones.
Sweden has denied that it was providing any “financial assistance or military support” to Kurdish groups or entities in Syria.
“Sweden is a major humanitarian donor to the Syria crisis through global allocations to humanitarian actors,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
“Cooperation in northeastern Syria is carried out primarily through the United Nations and international organizations,” she said. “Sweden doesn’t provide targeted support to Syrian Kurds or to the political or military structures in northeastern Syria, but the population in these areas is, of course, taking part in these aid projects.”


Palestinian teen shot dead in Israeli raid on West Bank

Member of the Israeli security forces patrol in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Member of the Israeli security forces patrol in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2022

Palestinian teen shot dead in Israeli raid on West Bank

Member of the Israeli security forces patrol in Jerusalem. (AFP)
  • Next week, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City

JERUSALEM: Health authorities said a 16-year-old Palestinian died early Wednesday after being wounded during clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a wave of violence that has persisted for months.
The Palestinian health ministry said Ghaith Yamin was wounded by a gunshot to the head and died at a hospital. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, reported that the clashes erupted when Jewish worshipers, escorted by the military, arrived at a shrine on the outskirts of Nablus city to pray.
At least 15 Palestinians were wounded by live fire, according to Wafa, during the clashes near Joseph’s Tomb, a frequent flashpoint site. Some Jews believe biblical Joseph is buried at the site, while Palestinians say it’s the tomb of a Sheikh.
On Tuesday, Israeli authorities said they have foiled a wide-ranging plot by Palestinian militant Hamas group to shoot a member of parliament, kidnap soldiers and bomb Jerusalem’s light rail system during a surge of violence that has left dozens dead in recent weeks.
The police and Shin Bet security services said in a statement that five Palestinian men from east Jerusalem had been arrested for allegedly planning a shooting attack against far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir and other targets at a time of heightened tensions in the flashpoint city.
The suspects, authorities said, had planned the attacks last month, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, to “destabilize” the area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Authorities said a drone was found, intended to be armed and used in an attack on Jerusalem’s light rail, which sees daily crowds of commuters and tourists.
They identified the plot leaders as Hamas militants Rashid Rashak and Mansur Tzafadi, who “delivered many fireworks, flags and Hamas videos” to east Jerusalem neighborhoods last month during Ramadan. Security forces also seized a camera to be used to photograph “abductees,” cash and other equipment.
The statement did not say how close they came to carrying out the plot. There was no immediate comment from Hamas.
The arrests came at a time of heightened violence between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police in east Jerusalem, much of it concentrated at a contested holy site. Israel also has stepped up military activity in the West Bank in recent weeks in response to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel.
Next week, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Also inflaming tensions is the death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a firefight in Jenin. A reconstruction by The Associated Press lends support to assertions from both Palestinian authorities and Abu Akleh’s colleagues that the bullet that cut her down came from an Israeli gun.
Any conclusive answer is likely to prove elusive due to the severe distrust between the two sides, each of which is in sole possession of potentially crucial evidence.


UN warns Sudan’s future hangs in balance as political stalemate persists

UN warns Sudan’s future hangs in balance as political stalemate persists
Updated 24 May 2022

UN warns Sudan’s future hangs in balance as political stalemate persists

UN warns Sudan’s future hangs in balance as political stalemate persists
  • The organization’s special representative for Sudan stressed the need for dialogue between civilians and the military authorities
  • Volker Perthes also warned of ‘spoilers’ who do not want a peaceful transition to democracy and refuse efforts to find a negotiated solution

NEW YORK: The UN on Tuesday urged the ruling authorities in Sudan to reassure the public that they support dialogue as the only way to reach a political solution to the unrest in the country.

Volker Perthes, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Sudan, said that to get the political transition in the country back on track, the authorities first need to release remaining detainees, halt arbitrary arrests, and lift the state of emergency.

Time is running out for a political solution that can chart a path out of the current situation, he added, which remains precarious and with much at stake, including the country’s political, social and economic stability.

Perthes was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the African country, a few days after another peaceful protester was killed by the authorities. The number of demonstrators killed since the military coup on Oct. 25 last year now stands at 96.

“If the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that those responsible for violence against protesters be held to account,” Perthes said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s latest report on Sudan stated that the lack of political agreement and of a “fully credible” government is affecting the security situation.

The Security Council meeting also came in the wake of armed clashes between Arab and Masalit communities in Kereneik, West Darfur, in April during which, initial reports suggested, 150 people were killed, many more injured, thousands displaced, and homes, a police station, a hospital and a market were burned down.

Perthes welcomed the decision by armed groups and regular forces to accept the Permanent Ceasefire Committee, chaired by the UN mission in the country, as a joint institution to help bring the conflict under control but warned that despite this, “the risk of a new outbreak of violence remains high.”

Although he welcomed the recent release of 86 detainees as an important step toward creating conditions conducive to rebuilding trust, he stressed that at least 111 people are still being held in Khartoum, Port Sudan and other cities.

Peaceful protests continue in Sudan amid public demands for change and the restoration of the democratic transitional process, even as several political parties and coalitions form new alliances and put forward proposals for talks with rivals.

“As Sudan continues to confront further uncertainty, the shared sense of urgency, combined with their vision for a better future, is driving many parties to seek common ground and increasing openness to dialogue,” Perthes told the members of the Security Council.

“There is also a growing recognition of the need for civilian-military dialogue.”

However, he added that some key stakeholders continue to reject calls for face-to-face talks with their counterparts and prefer to participate indirectly. For that reason, on May 12 the UN launched indirect talks to address a number of core issues, including “the term and composition of key constitutional organs, the future relationship between the military and civilian components, and the mechanism and criteria for the selection of a prime minister.”

Once an understanding is reached on such issues, Perthes said a trilateral mechanism that includes the UN, the African Union, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country African trade bloc, will convene for negotiations.

He warned, however, of “‘spoilers,’ who do not want a peaceful transition to democracy or refuse a solution through dialogue. The Sudanese parties should not allow such spoilers to undermine the opportunity of finding a negotiated exit to the crisis.”

The envoy also stressed that the protection of civilians requires the root causes of the conflict to be addressed, including decades of marginalization, land issues, and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

The political stalemate, combined with an economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks, continues to exact a heavy socioeconomic toll on Sudan, where humanitarian needs are incessantly growing amid a 250 percent increase in food prices. According to the UN, the number of people in the country facing acute hunger is projected to double to about 18 million by September this year.

Perthes lamented the fact that the 2022 humanitarian response plan for Sudan has only received “an abysmal” 13 percent of funding, with international donors and financial institutions balking at providing assistance that goes through state systems in the absence of a political agreement to restore constitutional legitimacy.

“While the primary responsibility for these changes lies with the Sudanese stakeholders themselves, I am concerned about the long-term consequences as we watch the further erosion of Sudan’s already fragile state capacity and human capital,” he said.

He also warned that some of the critical assistance from the World Bank Group’s International Development Association 19 that is allocated to Sudan will go to other countries by the end of June if a political agreement cannot be reached in the country by then.

“If a solution to the current impasse is not found, the consequences will be felt beyond Sudan’s borders and for a generation,” Perthes said.