Sudan’s new Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, arrived in South Sudan on Thursday on his first official visit since becoming premier, declaring “the sky is the limit” for ties between the former foes.
Hamdok, heading an 18-member transitional government following the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, is set to meet South Sudanese President Salva Kiir as well as Sudanese opposition leaders on his two-day visit.
“I am very delighted to be here in my second home, Juba. We are looking for a very strategic, very distinguished relationship between our two nations, and the sky is the limit for this relationship,” Hamdok said upon his arrival.
“We hope to have a very prosperous relationship that will address issues of trade, border issue, oil, free movement of our people between the two countries and all these agenda.”
South Sudan split from the north in 2011 after decades of bloody war with Khartoum, famously becoming the world’s youngest nation.
But just two years later, it plunged into its own internal conflict, with catastrophic consequences.
While tensions remain high between south and north over ongoing border disputes and the transfer of oil to the north, the two nations have increasingly moved to normalise ties in recent years.
Analysts say the two have been pushed together by the grinding war in South Sudan, which has defied several peace attempts, and an economic crisis in Sudan, which was hard-hit by the collapse of the south’s oil industry.
One of Bashir’s last moves before his ouster was to broker a peace deal between President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar — at a time when much of the world had wearied of trying to solve the crisis.
However, the 2018 peace deal has stalled as Sudan has battled its own political crisis in recent months.
Observers are anxious to see if Khartoum’s new government will push Kiir and Machar to advance on the implementation of the deal.
The two men met this week in Juba for the first time in five months, with a power-sharing government meant to be set up by November.
In a further sign of rapprochement between the two countries, Kiir offered in 2018 to mediate peace talks between Khartoum and rebels in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur conflict zones.
The Blue Nile and South Kordofan fought alongside the south for independence, however, were left north of the border in 2011 and have continued their own insurgency against Khartoum.
Rebels in Darfur also waged a long war over marginalisation in the western region.
Hamdok has vowed to end these conflicts which have left thousands dead and millions displaced.
This week, armed groups from those areas held talks in Juba which ended Wednesday in the signing of a deal on “pre-negotiation principles” with Khartoum.
“We assure them and the people of Sudan in general that all the suffering and the killing and marginalisation will end,” said General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, deputy chairman of the Sudan Sovereign Council.
Libyan GNA government suspends talks with Haftar forces after Tripoli port attack
Libya’s internationally recognized government on Tuesday suspended talks hosted by the United Nations to halt warfare over the capital after eastern forces shelled Tripoli’s port, killing three people and almost hitting a highly explosive gas tanker.
The U.N. has been hosting in Geneva ceasefire talks between officers from the Tripoli government and the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar. The two factions have been trying to take the capital in a near year-long campaign, displacing at least 150,000 people.
The talks had been agreed by foreign powers backing rival parties at a summit in Germany a month ago, an event that has not halted a war cutting oil exports by 1 million barrels a day, a Reuters report said.
Western countries have largely watched passively as Libya fell apart since helping remove Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, opening the door for regional powers such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey to back rival camps fighting for control.
The LNA on Tuesday shelled Tripoli port, saying first it had attacked a Turkish vessel bringing weapons but saying later it had hit an arms depot. Three civilians were killed and five wounded, the Tripoli forces said.
The attack came just as the U.S. ambassador Richard Norland was visiting Haftar in the first trip of a U.S. envoy to eastern Libya since the killing of the U.S. ambassador in a raid blamed on an Islamist militia in 2012.
In response to the LNA attack, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said in a statement it suspended its participation in ceasefire talks “until firm responses are taken against the attacker, and we will respond firmly to the attack in appropriate timing.”
“Negotiations don’t mean anything without permanent ceasefire guarantees returning the displaced people and the security of the capital and the other cities,” it added.
Tripoli port is a major gateway for food, fuel, wheat and other imports for the capital, which is home to the internationally recognized government. Heavy artillery fire could be heard at night.
State oil firm NOC said it had urgently evacuated all fuel tankers from the port after a missile struck meters away “from a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker discharging in the port”.
“The city does not have operational fuel storage facilities … the consequences will be immediate; hospitals, schools, power stations and other vital services will be disrupted,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement.
Since January, Turkey has sent several ships carrying arms and heavy trucks to Tripoli and Misrata, another western port allied to the Tripoli government, diplomats say. It has also sent fighters from Syria’s civil war to defend Tripoli.
The LNA is allied to a parallel government in eastern Libya supported by the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Russian mercenaries. France has also given some support.
Eastern ports and airports are out of range of the Tripoli forces and its Turkish drones.
Tuesday’s attack on the port unfolded as officers from the Tripoli forces and the LNA held a second round of indirect talks in Geneva to establish a permanent ceasefire. Both sides refused again to sit in the same room, U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame said.
Salame added that he had received conditions from tribesmen allied to eastern forces to lift a blockade of eastern oil export ports, but said these were quite general and would have to be fleshed out in more U.N.-led talks in Geneva next week.
Maroc Telecom reports $620 million profit
Maroc Telecom, Morocco’s largest telecoms operator, has reported an adjusted profit of $620 million in 2019.
The result was achieved on the back of higher mobile data activity in Morocco and in African subsidiaries, according to the company.
The Telecoms total revenue grew by 1.3% to $3.76 billion.
The company says its customer base rose from 11.1% to 67.5 million citing a growth in demand for its mobile broadband and landlines in Morocco.
Maroc Telecom also says it will pay a dividend of 5.54 dirhams per share, totalling 4.9 billion dirhams.
Maroc Telecom, which is listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris, is 53% controlled by the UAE’s Etisalat, with the Moroccan state owning 22%.
It operates subsidiaries in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic.
Tunisian PM submits list of cabinet nominees, awaits parliamentary approval
PM-designate Fakhfakh submitted a list of cabinet nominees to President Kais Saied, with Nizar Yaich as finance minister, Nourredine Erray as foreign minister and Imed Hazgui as defence minister.
Tunisian prime minister-designate, Elyes Fakhfakh on Saturday proposed the line-up of a new government and then said negotiations would continue after the Ennahda party, the biggest in parliament, rejected it with fears of a new election beckoning.
The proposed government must be approved by the deeply fragmented parliament in two weeks or there will be a new election, a Reuters report said.
Fakhfakh submitted a list of cabinet nominees to President Kais Saied, with Nizar Yaich as finance minister, Nourredine Erray as foreign minister and Imed Hazgui as defence minister.
But with the largest parties either opposed to his coalition or unenthusiastic about its composition, Fakhfakh may struggle to gain the strong parliamentary majority needed for any significant political programme.
The moderate Islamist Ennahda party, with 53 seats, said it would only join a unity government that brings together parties from across Tunisia’s political spectrum.
“This decision will put the country in a difficult situation,” Fakhfakh said in speech.
Heart of Tunisia, the second biggest party with 38 seats, also said it would not back the government after Fakhfakh excluded it from the coalition.
Tunisia faces a series of long-term economic challenges which threaten to undermine public trust in the young democracy, and which demand political decisions that could be unpopular.
Since the 2011 revolution, unemployment has been high and growth low, while the government has sunk further into debt with a series of big budget deficits that foreign lenders demand it bring under control.
Elections in September and October returned Saied, a political independent, as president, and a parliament in which Ennahda held fewer than a quarter of the seats.
Ennahda’s nominee for prime minister, Habib Jemli, proposed a coalition government that was rejected by parliament in a confidence vote last month, giving Saied the chance to ask his own candidate, Fakhfakh, to form a cabinet.
If Fakhfakh’s proposal is also rejected by parliament next week, a new parliamentary election must follow within three months.
Fakhfakh had already promised to name a government that would draw only from parties he considered aligned with the goals of the revolution and committed to rooting out corruption.
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