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U.S. lifts sanctions on Sudan, ending two decades of embargo

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The United States permanently lifted a raft of sanctions on Sudan Friday, saying the African nation had begun addressing concerns on fighting terrorism as well as human rights abuses against civilians in the country’s Darfur region.

The decision to lift the sanctions and end an economic embargo against Sudan comes after the Trump administration last month removed it from the list of countries whose citizens are subject to travel restrictions. Sudan was the only country that was removed.

But the decision leaves other sanctions in place for the time being, including those against individuals with arrest warrants related to atrocities committed during the conflict in Darfur. And it does not remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a removal ardently sought by Sudan. A separate review is underway on that designation.

The change reflects a strategy shift in how to bring about reforms in Sudan, where President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has clung to power since taking office in a military coup in 1989. Instead of relying solely on the punishment of sanctions, the new strategy is to use relief as an enticement to encourage more changes.

The sanctions relief also was part of a push to enlist more countries in an effort to isolate North Korea diplomatically. A State Department official said that while it was not an explicit condition, Washington told Khartoum that an “absolute, vital part of the relationship” going forward is full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions related to North Korea.

A U.N. report last year found that Sudan had purchased air-to-ground missiles in 2013 in a deal with a front company for Pyongyang’s main military contractor, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which has been under U.N. sanctions since 2009.

The lifting of sanctions rescinds measures imposed in 1997 related to terrorism concerns and others put in place in 2006 in connection with the conflict in Darfur. The sanctions were temporarily eased in January just before President Barack Obama left office, citing the same progress the Trump administration noted. In July, President Trump extended the review for three months, angering the Sudanese who stopped some lower-level meetings with U.S. officials in retaliation, but maintained contacts between senior officials.

A State Department official familiar with the decision said the administration will continue pushing Sudan to make more progress, including paving the way for 2 million internally displaced people who fled the fighting in Darfur more than a decade ago to return home safely.

“We see this as an important milestone, but one on a road that’s going to take a lot longer to get to where we want to go in Sudan,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under State Department guidelines.

“It’s a real marker, taking what had been a very bad and difficult relationship in a new and positive direction. It doesn’t mean there isn’t much to do. There’s a lot to do yet. This is a productive first step.”

Sudan routinely shows up as a country of particular concern on State Department reports assessing human rights and religious freedom. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face genocide charges related to the Darfur conflict. Muslims are an overwhelming majority, and Christians who remained in Sudan after South Sudan declared independence in 2011 are closely watched. Many of those with means are fleeing the country, seeing little future there.

But U.S. officials believe Sudan has made progress in counterterrorism since the days when Osama bin Laden lived there in the early 1990s. Officials in Sudan say that since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Sudanese have been cooperating with U.S. intelligence.

The State Department official said Sudan has cooperated in countering militants inside Sudan and throughout North Africa, by helping deter attempts by terrorists to transit through the country.

U.S. officials also have seen progress on the humanitarian front. The government has announced unilateral cease-fires in areas where the Sudanese army has been fighting rebels, and created more access for humanitarian aid to get to displaced civilians.

There also are geopolitical factors. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have urged the United States to ease up on Sudan, to encourage it to distance itself from Iran. And while Sudan has by all reports stopped sending arms and material support to rebels in South Sudan, Washington wants to encourage a regional effort to end the fighting there that has prompted the biggest wave of refugees since the Rwanda genocide.

Some human rights activists have worried sanctions relief will prolong Bashir’s reign. And last week, members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noting Sudan’s “historical support of international terrorism.” They urged him to make sure American victims would be compensated before lifting sanctions.

But even the Obama administration, in temporarily lifting the sanctions in January, recognized sanctions alone have not been effective.

“For far too long, Washington promoted a policy of punishment only,” said Zach Vertin, a former diplomat who worked on Sudan issues during the Obama administration. “It failed for two decades. Everyone agrees that transformational change in necessary. This is a dreadful government.

“Khartoum still wants many things from Washington,” Vertin said. “Now the administration is in a good place to extract further gains. The administration should make clear if Khartoum wants to continue the path to normalization, it should continue progress in the identified areas and undertake a long overdue process that leads to a political transition.”

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Briefing Room

US Targets Islamic State in North Eastern Somalia

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WASHINGTON / PENTAGON / LONDON — A U.S. airstrike has targeted Islamic State in northern Somalia, defense officials told VOA Friday.

The strike resulted in at least one casualty, a U.S. defense official said, without elaborating on the target of the attack.

The chairman of the town of Qandala, Jama Mohamed Qurshe, told VOA Somali that several missiles hit a base for IS militants at Buqa village, 60 kilometers south of his town in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

“According to the information we are getting from the ground, six missiles hit the militants’ base in the mountainous area. Local residents and pastorialists were shocked and fled from the area,” Qurshe said.

He said that prior to the strike, residents reporting hearing airplane sounds.

Details of the strike are still not clear due to the remoteness of the area, which locals said was only accessible to the militants; however, local officials and residents suspect the airstrike targeted the group’s senior leaders and perhaps even its top leader.

The pro-Islamic State faction in northeastern Somalia is led by Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, a former al-Shabab cleric who pledged his allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2015. In 2016, the U.S. State Department designated Mumin as a global terrorist.

Since the emergence of the IS faction in October 2015, the militants have claimed responsibility for at least four deadly attacks in Puntland.

In late October of last year, the militants briefly seized Qandala, before they were driven out by Puntland’s government.

No cutoff in funding

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has denied reports that it is planning to cut funding for the Somali government.

Somali media reports said the U.S. might reduce funding because unnamed Somali officials helped facilitate the October 14 truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people.

There were also reports that linked the alleged cut to an internal State Department finding that the department’s Africa Bureau is failing to ensure that U.S. funding is not diverted to al-Shabab militants.

In an email, a State Department official told VOA the reports were “incorrect.”

“Reports of funding being suspended to the Somali army due to alleged facilitation of the bombings by Somali officials are incorrect,” the official wrote. “The United States continues to provide extensive support to Somali security forces in their efforts to combat al-Shabab.”

On Wednesday, the Daily Nation, a leading newspaper in Kenya, quoted a report from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General. The report said the Africa Bureau had not established policy and procedures for identifying and mitigating terrorist financing risks for its programs in countries where militant organizations like al-Shabab and Boko Haram operate.

In his email, the State Department official said, “The United States prioritizes transparency and accountability in its partnership with Somalia, echoing one of the top priorities articulated by President Farmaajo upon his taking office earlier this year.”

“We have communicated conditions for U.S. security assistance to the federal government of Somalia, which includes enhanced measures to ensure proper oversight of our support,” he added.

Meanwhile, Somali leaders and the governors of Somali states are meeting for the fourth straight day in Mogadishu, in an effort to agree on implementation of a joint security plan.

The government is said to be preparing for a major offensive against al-Shabab.

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Somali News

Egypt’s Sisi stresses unity, sovereignty of Somalia

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi stressed on Wednesday his country’s firm stance towards the unity and sovereignty of the Somalia.

Sisi’s remarks came during a phone call with his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, state-run MENA News Agency reported.

During the phone conversation, the two leaders discussed means of enhancing joint ties besides promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism and extremism.
They also reviewed the latest developments in Somalia and the efforts of the Somali government to restore security and stability so as to fulfill the aspirations of the Somali people in achieving development.

For his part, Farmajo lauded the Egyptian stance backing his country and the support it offers in attaining stability.

He further voiced his keenness on continuing the high-level coordination and consultations with Egypt pertaining to various issues of common interest topped by combating terrorism and bolstering joint cooperation in various domains.

Egypt and Somalia have been facing rising waves of terror acts carried out by Islamist groups that left hundreds of civilians, army personnel and policemen dead.

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Opinion

Opinion: Reasons Why Somalia’s president Farmaajo is becoming Africa’s Most Popular Beloved President

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Suud Olat is Minnesota Based freelance journalist and refugees advocate founder of Refugees Forum and Advocacy.

Ever since his historic election in February as a President of Somalia Mohamed A  Farmajo has been a subject of public fascination. At first, his war on graft promised to cleanse the state of corruption, while his patriotic thrift inspired millions of Somali people.

Despite terrorism attacks recently the deadly  on October 14,2017 president vows to eradicate Alshabab terrorists out of Somalia declaring full preparations for large-scale offensive against Al-Shabab..

Months ago he turns down $80m to cut ties with Qatar

He has been offered $80 million in exchange for his agreement to sever diplomatic relations with the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

President Farmaajo improved rapidly Somalias relations to the rest of the world we all know all sovereign states in today’s world are interdependent regardless of how small or big are. What guides each sovereign state in relation to others or even international organisations is the foreign policy, whose one of the main contents is about diplomacy.

President Farmaajo has prioritize building strong relations nations like Turkey. Much credit to Turkeys had played a key role and take a lion share on supporting Somali people. Weeks ago Turkey opens military base in Mogadishu to train Somali soldiers. Turkeys’s biggest overseas military base. As Experts and political analysts say Diplomacy is to a nation what brain is to a person. President Farmaajo”.quickly,appointed,capable,competent,good and able prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre Despite in office less than a year he gained widespread public support for several innovations, including halving the size of the cabinet and seeking to increase transparency in government.

Still despite major terrorist attacks government has made long strides in creating a peaceful Somalia, making  to be named Somalia’s prime minster among ’most influential politicians in Somali’s history. Government efforts at advancing national reconciliation, anti-corruption measures, and socio-economic and security sector reforms in Somalia were cited as the reasons for the government progress a truth that is globally acknowledged, and which earned massive confidence Somali people and the mainly government donors and friends international community .

However, Somali government has also faced numerous external setbacks that prevented holding the entire

Somalia in control, especially from Al Shabaab, which had conducted terrorism attacks both in Somalia and  in Kenya. Now government is putting up measures aimed at curbing the insecurity challenges. The neighboring governments, of Djibouti,Kenya and Ethiopia on the other hand, are trying now to assist Somali Federal government in eliminating Al Shabaab once and for all, and this is worth mentioning.

Somali Federal government has also faced internal setbacks- conflicts among with the Somali regional leaders on the issue regarding , the recent federal government neutral position on the Arab Gulf crisis which most corrupt regional leaders try to undermine federal government leadership neutral positions.

While majority of Somali are happy with the current political situation in Somalia. Recently, President of Somalia recently joined with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutress and other world leaders in Kampala, Uganda at the major refugees in the region donor Confrence were historic Somali President generously donated 100,000 US dollars. And have also ordered foreign affairs and internal ministry to review numerous occasions previous government signed past agreements on the voluntary repatriation of the half a million Somali refugees in Dadaab camps. The assumption was that Somalia was eventually standing on its feet.

Knowing  unilaterally Kenya government ordered for the closure of Dadaab camps  after adjournment of the tripartite agreement, which had met an outcry from the international community. Still, the Somali refugees are receiving an orgy of threats from the Kenyan government.

Federal Government of Somalia set up  plans and committees to collaborate the UN refugees agency UNHCR and regional governments especially Jubaland were most refugees returning. Assuring Federal government to ensure the safety of the refugees upon their return back to Somalia, although that seems impossible if the current insecurity and terrorism attacks continue.

To keep Somali people dreams alive and real the only way out for the president to meet the expectations of the Somali people. while being very careful in making decisions was who will he appoint a prime minister although mistakes are the order of the day in politics, repeating the same mistakes will have surely cost the government to lose trust among the people. President Of Somalia knew that the nation needs a strong prime minister who knows how to solve the Somali problems since he was  previously being tested the waters of politics. He had chosen as a prime minster Hassan Khayre a qualified; patriot, intellectual, bureaucrat, who feels the pain of the people. Although it’ was  difficult to know such a person. President Farmaajo seek suggestions from the Somali intellectuals, religious groups and even  fellow politicians. A knew path avoid culture of future infighting between prime minster and president which had hindered in the past administrations as well on clan basis, competitiveness the core of the prolonged Somali conflicts.

Considering the fact that the Somali youth are entitled to take part in making political decisions, and his campaign pledges

May he Rest In Peace Abbas Siraji was among the cabinet young minister ever in the history of Somalia on May 3, 2017 gun men with government uniforms gunned and killed minster Abass down town Mogdishu. Speaking at the UN general assembly Somalia prime minister uses Abass Siraji as a role model and good example for the Somali youth.

Upon getting vote of confidence from

Somali parliament prime minister Hassan Kheyree government has made remarkable progress. strong support from the Somali people. Although the killing of Abass  immediately met with anger and solidarity protests from the general public and from many lawmakers. Now Somali government now gain trust among the Somali people. And the government approval getting up day by day.

Vast administration experience.

c) Government strictness and familiarity with the protocols of classical democracies.

d) His diplomatic demeanor.

e) completed its first monthly payment of stipends to government soldiers, and it has also initiated the implementation of a biometric register for the security forces within a window of four months. This was a great achievement that had proved Somali Federal government seriousness and its capability to make Somalia stable.

f) On  dispatching a high level federal delegations defuse clan-based tensions in several regions. This way has returned back the cordiality among different Somali clans, paving way for peaceful relations.

g) To improve transparency in the government, cabinet ministers fully disclosed transparency and signed a code of ethics.

h) An Anti-Corruption Commission with the power to carry out formal investigations and to review government decisions and protocols was also established so as to monitor public officials more closely

i) Unnecessary trips to abroad have been fully prohibited and all travels required the Premier’s consent.

j) On the war front, his tenure managed to secure control of 90% of Mugadishu, the capital of Somalia.

With his  Excellency, President Farmaajo administration creates unique protocols that will definitely make sure Federal government to fulfill the promises it had made to the Somali people. We hope that President farmaajo and the Somali prime minister, to keep this momentum and address refugees issues more closely Dadaab will be a dead story and for Somalia will regain peace and stability, and the refugees will then return back to their country.

Suud Olat is Minnesota Based freelance journalist and refugees advocate founder of Refugees Forum and Advocacy.

Follow him on Twitter @SuudM or email him SuudOlat@gmail.com

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