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SHRO-Cairo Women Activists’ Training Workshop


Sudanese Human Rights Organization- Cairo (SHRO-Cairo)

Sudan: A Year after the CPA

June 27, 2006 (CAIRO) — Recently, eleven women activists completed a SHRO-Cairo training workshop. The workshop included 11 sessions dedicated to the discussion of human rights instruments with a special emphasis on the women’s rights.

Interviews made during the sessions discussed further the state of affairs of the country, a year after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM. This report summarizes major points relayed by the interviewed women activists on the issues in question.

Wafa ’Abd al-Rahman: I think the CPA is largely ambiguous. Many provisions are unclear. The Sudanese public is frustrated. People feel their hopes in security, stability, and freedoms have not been accomplished. In addition, the people suffer from deterioration of the basic services that should be normally provided by the State to the populace.

When we talk about education, we find that the once (government’s) free education has virtually passed away. As a result, education is now made available only to the owners of capital, namely the state-managers and the evolving opportunists around them. A student and her/his family live in a shape of fear for if they default in paying the school fees, the student will be subsequently suspended from school.

The ill-planned educational policies of the State led to an emergence of many incomplete colleges or unprepared universities whose major concern is to increase financial income rather than scientific learning.

In the economic side, the Sudanese homestead is not dependent on the house bread winner, any more. Every family member must now find an income to sustain the family as a whole. Although the oil is produced [in a national level], it never reflected in improvements in the living standards of people who are severely hit by high inflation, as well as increasing poverty in their daily life.

This situation produced very serious patterns of immoral behavior that never characterized the persona of Sudanese people in the past. Such pathological phenomena are now evidently exercised in the Capital, let alone the regions or the localities. There is paralysis of the social activities. The downturn of agricultural seasons forced the rural populations to drift into the Capital in pursuit of a better life that is, nonetheless, never made available.

If we view the health side, we will find that the free services of medication are non-existent. The public suffers a great deal to ensure a decent health service although it is originally a basic right granted by State laws. The negativity of the health administrations is also felt because they failed to activate the health services or to promote them to eradicate the prevailing epidemics. The administrations also failed to detect the health hazards (as occurred with respect to the current meningitis and the yellow fever).

In the security side, I cannot find words to depict the level of violations committed against human rights by the security department or its forces. Tortures are endlessly exercised; and the police force terrorizes people, especially the poor ones such as small businesses, by the so-called laws of public order and social tranquility

This is just a little bit of the real picture. We need a greater awareness campaign to awake the citizen that is entirely absorbed in the struggle for living. Still, the day will certainly come when all citizens will become vigilant in a real struggle for the assurance of freedom, tranquility, and stability.

Nuha Osman: We have expected many radical changes after the CPA signing in some areas, for example, the economic, social, and health sectors in correspondence with the political situation and its impact on the public life.

Concerning the economic conditions, the Sudanese citizen still is suffering from the difficulties of providing the basic needs of the social life. This default surfaced in the form of many unacceptable attitudes in our society such as the adoption of unemployment, theft, and prostitution.

The state services with respect to health and education have effectively diminished. In health, there is a steep deterioration in the medicinal services and hospitals, which resulted in the spread of disease, for example, hepatitis, meningitis, and the other undetectable illnesses.

In education, there is so much disorder and a downfall of all educational aspects. This led to the abandonment of school lessons by many students. Education became a commercial process, as we see it in an increasing number of private schools. As a consequence of this, the quality of education has been greatly decreased and is, therefore, unprepared to create the good citizen.

I believe the only hope to make a positive change is when a real democratic shift would be ensured to guarantee the freedom of expression, transparency, and accountability. That is when the law and order will prevail, and the citizens will enjoy the good life.

Ilham Mansour: The general conditions in Sudan are ambiguous. The vision is unclear in different aspects of life. After the CPA, war was ended in the South. A transitional period started up. A new constitution was established. There are provisions of the CPA, however, that have not yet been implemented.

There are real difficulties that hinder the execution such as the non-abrogation of the laws restricting public freedoms and the law of public order. These laws are enforceable up to this day. The issue of the People’s Defense Forces has not been decided upon. The government interacts only with selected parties, whether supporting or opposing it; but the government ignores the major parties like the Umma.

The law of the press and publications is an obstacle. There is not yet any full freedom of expression. Censor is imposed on the press by the National Council of the Press and Publications. The existence of this council in itself is a handicap of freedoms. If you want to issue a newspaper, you must set-up a company for that purpose from the beginning. There are conditions, which I think are put to default the applicant, such as depositing Sudanese Dinars in the amount of 150 millions for the paper, in addition to equipping the paper with all necessary instruments in advance.

Journalists are subjected to a dual trial: one before the Press Council and another before the Judiciary. The complainant might appeal to the Council first, and then invoke the same case before a judge if the journalist is condemned by the Press Council. This exemplified by the case of journalist Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed. The freedom of expression is restricted in the Sudan although it is one of the most important freedoms. Most of the media centers are monopolized by the State, which doesn’t allow fair opportunities to the other viewpoint.

Appointments to the different ranks of the public service are assigned by allegiance [to the ruling party]. There is open intrusion [by the government] in the work and the freedom of the unions. Democracy is entirely absent. A totalitarian system of rule is standing by. There is not any free election, and the appointment of parliamentarians to the National Council is an indicator of non-democracy.

The CPA is enclosed between the government and the SPLM. There hasn’t been any effort done to expand the participation of the other nationalist parties in the CPA. The situation of Darfur is worsened off by the non-transparency of the government that which complicates the crisis.

The government is made of the old elements. The conflicts between the two CPA partners are crystal clear; for instance, the dispute on the National Capital and many other laws.

The relations with some neighboring countries remain unhealthy, including Eritrea, Chad, and Uganda regarding the Lord Army.

The laws restricting public freedoms are strongly enforced. Unlawful detention centers are never abandoned. Tortures continue. The Authority exercises the suppression of people via security bodies. That the latter implements creatively security activities by new forms of torture changes nothing of the old tradition of suppression. It is the same suppression, despite the entry of the country into a new stage of transitional rule by a constitution adopting human rights and public freedoms.

The economic reality is bitter. The vast majority of the Sudanese people are devastatingly engaged in the struggle for living. Although there has been a slight increase in the value of the local currency to foreign currencies, prices continue to escalate, which indicates the existence of a financial inflation.

The government freed itself from all kinds of support to the consumption commodities or the basic services. Because of the negativity of the economic realities in the country, new phenomena surfaced in the social life that never existed with such high levels before. These include the dissemination of public bribery and the embezzlement of the public money, added to other immoral activities that hurt gravely the Sudanese values.

The citizen doesn’t feel any significant change with the influx of oil revenues. The government is interested only in luxury expenditure, for example the construction of colossal buildings and the beautification of streets.

The health conditions are hit by costly drugs and a miserable state of hospitals in dire need of immediate rehabilitation. Alternatively, private hospitals and clinics spread over the land; however, they are not accessible to the ordinary people. In brief, whoever fails to have big amounts of money, will not be able to get the health services. Many patients await their death certificates.

The educational sector has been lagging behind since the start of the Inqaz (Salvation) Era. The beginning was an Arabization of the curriculum at the University of Khartoum, one of the biggest African institutes of high education.

The private education expanded widely with respect to all stages of education, from elementary to university. These private schools are made for the pleasure of families with high financial abilities; hence they contribute to the un-resolvable deprivation of the poor. The changes in the curriculum into political ideologies resemble one of the worst crises of education in the country.

Nuha Ahmed: Since Sudan gained its national independence, it has not yet enjoyed a real democratic rule save for short-lived periods that amounted only to 11 years out of 50 years of independence.

The struggle to which the democratic forces joined ranks with all their party organizations and the civil society associations produced the signing of the CPA between the SPLM and the Salvation regime, together with the NDA agreement with the government.

The provisions of these agreements stipulate a national commitment to the principles of democracy and justice. They guarantee public freedoms and protect the human rights. In spite of this magnificent obligation, the agreements have not been realized in actual reality in any ideal form, as called upon by the democratic and civil society groups. Human rights violations are exercised on a daily basis. Many examples are evident:

- The laws restricting public freedoms are still strong. They were never amended, in spite of the approval of the Interim Constitution 2005 that protects the rights and the public freedoms.

- The so-called public order law continues as it were, a gross violation of the Constitution for it curtails the right to a fair trial.

- The appointment of women to the Judiciary, which was ended by the Salvation government, is not restored although Sudan was one of the first Arab states that ensured such appointments.

- The freedom of expression is continuously curtailed by the Authority. The press is censored and the law of the press and publications represses the freedom of the press.

- The right to free association and assembly, including the right to form unions and labor federations, is strongly censored; for example, the latest farmers’ elections in the Gezira and Manaqil; the elections of the Bar Association; and the elections of the Gezira University. Although the latter is the second largest college in the country, the right of students to create their own union was confiscated since 1994. The students asked for a union; but tens were arrested and many others have been dismissed from school. At the al-Azhari University, the police and the security forces attacked the campus on November 9. Three students were seriously injured. A great many were arrested and terrorized.

The imposition of high school fees forced many students to leave the school, which is a gross violation of the right to education.

The crisis of Darfur is not yet resolved. All forms of violations are exercised in this region. This ascertains the CPA and the Interim Constitution are nothing but ink on paper.

Nura Osman: Regardless of the ended blood shedding in South Sudan and the government claim that the state of emergency has been removed, the public order courts haunt the working women in the low-wage jobs they earn for living in the informal sector.

Irrespective of the frequent speech about freedom, the security organs of the State harass the peaceful associations and curtail the right of unions to assembly and demonstration. The security intervenes in the student elections, as happened at the latest election in the University of Gezira. The students’ union has been suspended for a long time.

The public order apparatus, or what is called the disciplinary police, sacks the civilian residence without lawful warrants of inspection. There are many examples of the sort that ravage the city of Meddani, as well as the other cities of Sudan.

The freedom of the press, which is a basic freedom, is seriously violated by a censor of the nationalist journalists, regardless of the relative freedom that shows up in the writings of some journalists. The right to organize assemblies and to register them is an original democratic exercise. And yet, this right is repressed by the security department. The setting-up of any association, irrespective of its social or cultural objectives, is made possible only by a Registrar whose approval hinges on decisions by the security department.

The government speaks about free education and an enforcement of medication. But the government imposes very high fees on the different stages of education, starting with kindergartens. The so-called reduced costs of medication are indeed very costly with respect to the individual incomes.

This should be added to the escalated increases in the price of meat and vegetables. A kilo of lamb meat costs 16,000 pounds. The same amount costs 12,000 for beef meat. These prices do not consummate with the individual revenues, which disable many people from satisfying the minimum standards of living.

The new system of paying advanced amounts for electricity is now generalized in most cities of the country. The government is planning to apply the same system with respect to water services. This is absurd in a country enjoying abundant drinking water from the River Nile.

With the advent of peace agreements and the participation of the SPLM in the GONU, the People of Sudan expected a radical change in the social life. The situation was has not changed, nonetheless. It continues perhaps for the worst.

Majda Ahmed Mukhtar: Peace was made in the Sudan on the basis of lengthy and tedious negotiations between the government and the SPLM after which they agreed to share wealth and power. Since then, the Sudanese people have auspiciously received the upcoming peace, expecting a delightful future after more than twenty years of a bloody and most destructive war.

The negativities of the war have deeply affected the economic, social and political aspects of life, as well as the health, education, and environment. A serious collapse of the infrastructure and the human rights situation is equally evident.

With the CPA signing, people hoped that these problems would be solved with a radical change, especially in the enjoyment of public freedoms. And yet, there was nothing new but a small margin provided for journalism to keep pace with the activities of the political parties. There is so much desired for the public freedoms, however.

In the economic arena, the Sudanese people confront the hardships of earning a living, although Sudan became one of the oil-producing nations since the late 1990s. It is true the public does not expect a settlement of all problems in a year’s time. But the people hoped that, at least, some degree of economic development would be attained and that clarity would replace the ambiguity of the economic policies.

In the social arena, there are so many reforms awaited to bring life to the social fabric whose genuine values have been negatively affected by the economic status of the country. Reform is urgently needed to restore cooperation and social solidarity in order to remove the spread of bad habits in society.

Health services have deteriorated as much as the other services did. In the light of the CPA, however, people expect a great deal of effort to improve the health services, its administrations, units, and different branches. Besides, the training of personnel, a real move to face out the health hazards and epidemics, and a rise of community awareness should augment the required reform. The citizen hopes there would be a policy return to provide free health services once again, shortly.

The institutes of education have been destroyed like the other institutions of the State by civil war, ill-planning, and mal-administration. A great attention is required to enable education to play its role in the future of the country. The State must correct the overwhelming shortages and the loopholes of the educational system: the low quality of studentship, the lacking of training and rehabilitation of teachers, the misery of school buildings, and the costly school fees.

These factors and the massive influx of people from the war-affected zones to the cities explain the high rate of school leaving. Tens of thousands of children in the age of education are unable to attend schools. Also, the horizontal expansion of universities by the establishment of many colleges in the states led to the low levels of educational standards. The general feature of these institutions is an emphasis on the size of students, rather than quality of learning. The whole thing is based on profit-making, not on the academic or scientific attainment.

Regarding the situation of human rights, gross violations are continuously committed. What should be done, in the first place, is to raise the awareness of people about human rights since many people are unaware of that. When the rights are recognized, it will be possible to protect them. It is important that the gross human rights violations committed in the last period should be accountable for. The victims must be compensated. And justice must prevail.

Iman ’Adil: Thinking about the situation of Sudan, one finds that the country was actually subjected to a reign of dark ages and ignorance that constituted the major cause for the nation’s backwardness in the march towards civilization, advancement, and progression.

This state of affairs, in my opinion, is due to the unfortunate succession of all or most political systems that ruled the land. All political elites were infected with a thirst to authority to maintain their own interests to the total neglect of the basic needs of life for the ordinary people.

The Sudan is very rich in minerals and animal wealth, as well as human resources that should make of it a powerful country, if appropriately utilized. Regionally, Sudan is one of the biggest states in space. Equally importantly, the country is rich in agricultural lands. It is said the share of an individual in Sudan of this agricultural space amounts to 10,000 feddan (hectares).

The first step to establish a civil state based on the respect of rights and freedom is to ensure equality without discrimination by sex or ethnic origin or religious belief. This orientation will ensure a stability of democracy and social justice.

One of the Sudan’s primary problems is the breakdown of the State body into splitting conflicts in between the sectarian forces that had earlier controlled the government since the early days of independence. This led to a foundation of political allegiance to sectarian leaderships, rather than the Homeland.

All the forms of democratic rule the Sudan has known were incomplete democracies that failed to satisfy the needs of people; thus leading to succession by military coup and deference of the civil state.

The June 89 coup of the National Islamic Front (NIF) presented itself as a salvation of the nation. But the coup pushed the country to the other direction: it exercised unprecedented suppression, which extended homelessness to tens of thousands of the state employees who had been irrationally purged from work.

These procedures led to a loss of the most needed national expertise. Added to this, corruption, ill-planning, and mal-administration generated serious repercussions: the heavy burden of earning a normal living affected the competency of the whole society to access to the health, education, and the other human services.

The repressive hand of the Authority, represented by the security apparatuses and the police forces, is free of censor as it continues to curtail the simplest rights of people. The changes thus far announced have not moved beyond the crust. The reason is that the structure of the National Congress ruling party is anti-democratic.

Ikhlas Mustafa: The Sudanese citizens do not possess a clear vision about the CPA. Hence, they are unable to claim or to protect the rights provided for by agreement. Consequently, there is continuity in the violations and the abuses exercised for a long time by the authorities. In practical terms, a policeman is empowered with a sense of superiority above the lay person, although the police authority has been differently codified by the CPA.

There isn’t a non-restricted censor on the press, as existed in the past. There is now some margin of usable freedom. And yet, the cruel economic conditions made of the intellectual class a group distracted from the agenda of expanding this freedom.

The top priority for State business is to provide health, education, and housing for the citizenry. In the health side, there is a horrible deterioration in the conditions of government hospitals that are concerned only for payments of health fees, rather than medication of the patient. The meningitis disease that recently hit the country was confusingly received by the health authorities: many doctors still debate whether the disease in question was meningitis or yellow fever!

The health rules are not implemented. For example, there is a tendency not to enforce the law prohibiting female circumcision. This indicates the loose position of the government in this matter. It is a government that is not moved by the death of a 5-years’ child in an act of female circumcision.

In education, there is not any real interest from the part of the State to promote education or to advance its cause. The growth of private schools is parallel to the decline of government institutions and the withdrawal of the State from the obligations of a free education. The result is that a great many people have been deprived of the basic right to education, which is included in Para 1 of the Universal Declaration.

The incident of suspending 20 students who were not able to pay the school fees from the Sudan University is clear evidence on the profit-making mentality that is now ruling the institutes of education. The State ceased to show any further commitment to student boarding.

In the area of national security, the use of illegal forces for repression (beatings, humiliation, and sequestration of property) characterizes the law enforcement process. Assaulting the privacy of families by the exercise of all forms of abuse and rudeness is daily practiced. Most particularly, the Sudanese girls are dehumanized, as if they resemble a symbol of shame.

Amna Mukhtar: Following the CPA approval, the people of Sudan were optimistic. But the realities are not matching with the popular hopes. There is ambiguity in the vision; and there is un-clarity in the interior and the foreign policies. People are caught in between the feelings of suspicions and optimism, contrary to the sentiments that came with the peace agreement.

After the sudden incidence that caused the death of Dr. John Garang, which is a questionable matter, the dreams of people to exercise the full enjoyment of freedoms and the human dignity have been buried. Many of the old practices that stopped for a little while came to the fore once again, including the public order police and the other suppressive activities.

It is true, however, the security grip was somewhat reduced; but the hidden forms of security, especially with respect to the press and the treatment of political opponents, are unabated. This led to a decrease in the quality of readable materials in the press added to a regrettable reduction in all cultural and artistic activities... Even worst, a frightening retreat has been occurring in the traditions, morality, thought, and politics.

The general trait is a state of frustration amongst the intelligentsia.

In the political arena, it is clear that the unwise policies of the government reflected negatively in the performance of the parties aligned with it, as well as those in the opposition. The polarization, enmity, vengeance, and feverish conflict on the authority and the personal gains of governance, added to the absence of team work activities, inhibit the salvage of the Homeland from these ills. The fight for the seats of power, political influence, or ministries goes on at expense of the wounded population.

All this led to a destined fate of complete chaos that has been drowning the country in a spiral of conflicts and divisions. These too exploded in the marginal regions with armed conflicts. Instead of finding solutions to the problems of the neglected groups by peaceful and just decisions, the government resorted to the use of violence, the same method earlier abusing the North-South conflict.

This same hateful and suppressive militarism, however, will never subdue the Sudanese people, conquerors [throughout history] of the great empires.

The government continues to act arrogantly, using the repressive policy of divide-to-conquer, as it has been doing towards the complexities of governance in a country inhabited by 30 million starving humans - problems that never were resolvable by the government’s decision-makers

The health, education, housing and other services are seriously worsening. The deterioration is indeed dreadful. It is bigger than any words might tell in this speedy interview. It is crystal clear to all sight-seers or those who visit the Sudan.

Briefly, we do not have any services sector. The situation can be explained with respect to the abundance of unknown epidemics and mortalities; the non-existence of health services; the deepening of poverty, beggary, price-rises, prostitution, sexual harassment, frauds and the embezzlement of public money.

The situation is equally explainable by the abandoning of schools; the escalated costs of drugs, school fees, and medication fees; the aggression on the social values; the negligence of culture, the burial of aesthetics, the prohibition of enjoyment and the innocent pleasures of life; the increase in the abandonment of marriage and divorce rates; the increase in the volume of the homeless and the displaced population; the increase in the size of refuge and brain-drain; the escalated suffering of the emigrant people from unfair taxes; and the spread of injustices and a prevailing frustration. These are a few symptoms of a greater crisis.

In the economic and social arenas, there is confusion and deception in the economic and financial activities: suspicious deals take place without regard to the standards of marketing that which led to bankruptcy of the national capital, in addition to the emergence and growth of the parasitic groups that benefit from the pauperization of people.

Every state property was sold out, including our archaeological, historical, and national sites. The wrongful application of privatization and economic liberation policies caused a large-scale destruction in the economic infrastructure of the country, which, I believe, will not be easily resolved even if a free democratic rule is made available. The destruction will take decades of consistent reform.

The pressure is exercised by the ministries of interior and finance upon the citizen who is originally pressed by taxes, fees, the zakat payments, and the other financial burdens that haunt her or him to death. People are now afraid whether they would be sold in a slavery market one day as the country’s landmarks and venerated history have been shamelessly abused. No one exactly knows where [or how] the revenues of all these taxes and zakat monies are spent?

Instead of harassing the poor inhabitants who are engaged by the hardships of life in marginal low-income works; dispossessing them from business, detaining them in torturous centers; or transgressing the public treasury to pauperize them; it is understandable the huge revenue of the State should be strictly used to satisfy the basic needs of people. The embezzlement of public money in this year alone amounted to 5 billion Dinars.

Socially, the commercialism vice, wrongful gain, and frauds; the breakdown of the social fabric as a result of poverty and want; the worthlessness of wages; and the escalation of unemployment... reflected negatively in the treatment of women who in the past were highly appreciated, unlike many women in neighboring societies.

Today, the women are susceptible to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, as well as the schools. Many female job applicants complain from these violations. Also, females are harassed by their teachers in the school.

The selection of Khartoum as the capital of (Arab) culture appeared as a golden opportunity to uplift the low standards of culture and arts - a chance for the government to reconcile with the cultural and humanitarian activities after a lengthy expulsion. This opportunity, nonetheless, has not been properly used.

The cultural season went by in a complete failure. As citizens, we never felt that a mode of cultural movement was coming by. We were expecting a resurrection of the cultural festivities with a return of the musical and artistic creativities that carried them in the past. We expected a rebirth of the aborted rich and fruitful aesthetics. We were completely disappointed.

Contrary to our expectations and hopes, the assault on and the robbery of our historical representations and cultural heritage never ceased to occur. Many historical and cultural sites were converted to a profit-making investment in terms of malls (commercial markets) or banks, etc.

To illustrate, this is what happened to the Graduates Club and the Arab (Egyptian) Club in Khartoum. And now is a turn to the Khalifa Mosque in Omdurman that the government plans on converting to a mall for which purpose the walls of the Mosque have been surrounded with ugly tin-made small shops.

In general, this is a small account of a massive record of destruction. In the states and the remote areas of the country there is continuous robbery and assault on the public treasury side-by-side with the attacks on our historical heritage by shameless methods.

The unabated war on the symbols of art and culture encouraged the collective drifting of artists, singers, musicians, poets, and actors outside the country, in addition to the exodus of many other art, culture, and literacy professionals all over the world.

The latest indicator of the government’s war against arts is the arrest of members of the Igd al-Galad musical band on December 9 by the public order police in a party celebrating the return of a Galad member from the United States.

This government, since it seized the political power, never abated fighting the arts and cultures, or the recreational activities via security organs specially created for the purpose (enforcement of the public order, societal tranquility, etc.).

Nowadays, irrespective of the flowery speech about the so-called peace and democracy, the Authority is determined to suppress our people and society. The public and the private parties, the recreation activities, and the different social occasions are not allowable without some payable security permit signed by the local council jointly with the security department. In addition, the badly reputed bond of good conduct must be signed with the permit!

In short, the situation is a real frustration. The proclaimed [political] release is never genuine because it is only a marginal exhibition.

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