August 8, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese authorities’ decision to confiscate Sunday and Monday editions of the independent Al-Ahdath newspaper was in retaliation for disclosing a planned meeting between president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and Blue Nile governor Malik Agar last week, Sudan Tribune has learned.
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) gave no reason for its move which was considered a new setback for already faltering press freedom in the country.
Bashir’s visit to Blue Nile state was to discuss with Agar, head of SPLM-North, ways to end the fighting in South Kordofan between Khartoum and units from the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) led by former deputy governor Abdel Aziz al-Hilu.
However, the meeting was called off for reasons that are not quite clear though Agar said that he declined it over disagreement on what capacity Bashir would be meeting with him.
Sudanese officials have initially denied Al-Ahdath’s report on Bashir-Agar meeting when it was published. It was the only daily in Sudan to reveal the scheduled meeting.
Later officials in the ruling party acknowledged plans for a Bashir-Agar meeting but insisted that it is related to affairs of the Blue Nile state and that South Kordofan is not on the agenda.
The Sudanese government likely saw the report as embarrassing to Bashir who publicly rejected an African Union (AU) brokered accord on South Kordofan signed by one of key aides with Agar in late June.
Bashir even berated his negotiators for signing the agreement and instructed the army to continue its military campaign to crush rebellion and arrest al-Hilu so he can face trial.
However. the fighting has been dragging on for over two months with neither side being able to achieve a decisive victory.
Last week al-Hilu’s forces claimed to have defeated SAF forces near the state’s capital of Kadugli. The SPLA in South Kordofan also released what it claimed to be images of ammunition and vehicles they managed to gain in their fighting with SAF.
The photos also showed parts of an SAF plane that SPLA said it downed in the course of the fighting.