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The Sudanese government cannot afford to be confused on Israel | Israel



On August 18, just a few days after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel declared their intention to normalise ties, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Haidar Badawi, announced that his government too is “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel.” The move by Khartoum was seen by many as a major win for the UAE, which is known to be supporting Israel’s normalisation of ties. However, the Gulf state was not necessarily the intended audience for this unexpected announcement.

It is well-understood that the number-one foreign policy objective of the transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is to convince the United States to rescind Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terror (SST) designation, which presents a significant obstacle to the country in accessing foreign aid and dealing with its enormous national debt. Regionally, this means supporting the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Trump administration’s key allies.

It could well be that the limited push-back the UAE received from the international community for normalising its ties with Israel, and Washington’s vocal support for the move, motivated Sudan to follow suit. However, Sudan does not have a reasonably stable political leadership or a resilient economy like the UAE, and this gamble to secure support from the US and its regional allies could, very easily, not pay off.

Worryingly, it increasingly appears that the August 18 announcement on Sudan’s intention to normalise ties with Israel was not even part of a cohesive governmental strategy, but a unilateral move by senior military figures in the chimeric transitional government.

Just a day after the announcement, Sudanese acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din “dismissed Haidar Badawi from his position as spokesman and head of the media division” at the ministry for making “unauthorised” comments – a clear indication of divisions within the transitional government over relations with Israel.

And this was not even the first time that Sudan’s part-civilian, part-military transitional government struggled to hold a united front on Israel.

In February, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s sovereign council, a joint civilian-military transitional body that has been governing the country since August 2019, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda. The meeting was denounced by Prime Minister Hamdok as something that happened without his knowledge and, if he were in a position to give it, his consent. In reality, it is unlikely that he did not know of it, even if he was not in favour of it.

If the civilian government’s denials on normalisation were aiming to gauge the public mood while a foreign policy position on Sudanese-Israeli relations is developed, then February’s confusion should have sufficed. This latest episode signals deeper fractions within the transitional government, which imperil Sudan’s transition.

Hamdok says his government “has no mandate” to normalise ties with Israel, and a decision can only be made after the end of the transitional period. Nevertheless, the ostensible end-goal of normalisation, rescission of the SST designation, still appears to be the leading foreign policy objective of his government. The current confusion has done little to instil public confidence that the transitional government can act as one, or indeed deliver SST rescission.

With ongoing protests calling for the transitional government to be reformed and, crucially, less power to be afforded to the military, this misstep on clarity about the relationship with Israel is one the civilian wing of the transitional government led by Hamdok could ill-afford.

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, the civilian coalition backing the transitional government and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led last year’s revolution, have both been vocal about their objection to normalisation with Israel. Badawi’s assertion that the Sudanese government, military and civilian, is gearing up to normalise relations with Israel, did not help Hamdok’s hand with these groups. Meanwhile, by denying that any formal attempts towards normalisation are being made, the civilian government also caused many in Sudan who view improving relations with US allies in the region as a path towards SST rescission to lose trust in its ability to do what is necessary to address Sudan’s acute economic woes.

Now Hamdok’s government is either being framed as a mendacious cabal that is trying to obfuscate the details of a deal that is in the making or an incompetent and powerless body that lacks a well-defined foreign policy.

The military components of the government, meanwhile, not only appear to have a well-developed foreign policy strategy, but are also flaunting their ability to ignore the rules. Just a few days after Badawi’s announcement, and swift dismissal, for example, the deputy head of Sudan’s sovereign council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen in the UAE to discuss security arrangements. According to media reports, during the meeting Dagalo told the Israeli official that “the Sudanese condition for reaching a normalisation agreement is that Israel starts working to remove Sudan’s name from the US list of the states that sponsor terror.”

The military, it seems, is neither concerned about “mandates” nor feeling under pressure to align its foreign policy with that of the civilian government. As the two key regional allies of the Sudanese military, Egypt and the UAE, have already normalised their ties with Israel, the military leaders likely believe the benefits of normalisation would outweigh the risks. Nevertheless, moving closer to Israel can also cause significant drawbacks for the military, which was once the cornerstone of Sudan’s anti-Israel stance. The military’s recent about-turn on the issue could cause its leaders to be perceived domestically as pawns of their powerful foreign backers, impeding any notion of sovereign policy-making.

The problems that the transitional government’s bifurcated stance towards normalisation with Israel can cause for the country became ever more obvious during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Khartoum. Though billed as an unprecedented show of US support for the transitional government, its timing and key focus on Israel frustrated many who had hoped that it would deliver some concrete pledge from the US before the November elections. That the prospect of rescission was floated with a presumptive price tag to the tune of $330m, for a country currently in economic freefall, did not surprise many who are familiar with Trump’s mercenary brand of foreign policy.

Hamdok’s insistence that normalisation would not occur until further administrative and bureaucratic elements were in place for the transition showed new political courage not often seen before and proved that the prime minister had the mettle to stand up to the Trump administration and the UAE. This was a rare domestic coup for Hamdok, though it remains a perilous gamble.

Sudan’s discombobulated stance on normalisation sets up a hazard for both parts of the government, civilian and military. But the risks are higher for Hamdok’s government, which still insists that it is not seeking normalisation.

If normalisation happens de facto and without the prime minister’s input, it will most likely be a security arrangement. In such a scenario, SST rescission and economic gains may not follow normalisation and could give Islamists fodder to stoke anti-government sentiment. All this could delegitimise Hamdok’s government but leave the military unscathed and in the good books of its regional backers.

Sudan’s fledgeling civilian government is nowhere near stable enough to be able to weather the political turmoil that could arise from a confused and seemingly unintended, yet serious, rapprochement with Israel.

Banking its political cache on either normalisation with Israel or standing up to the US and regional powers and yet still promising SST rescission could prove reckless. Not pushing through with normalisation, even though it remains on the table, and continuing to dig its heels in could prove more destabilising to the civilian government’s relationship with the military. Hamdok and his government find themselves in a catch-22 situation. If SST rescission does not follow this political risk after all, the civilian government could be plunged further into a political crisis that it, so far, seems to plan on fixing mostly through SST rescission itself.

And therein lies the true gamble for the civilian wing of the government, which has far more to lose, and is playing against a stronger opponent, both domestically and abroad. Its attempts to delay taking a decision on the issue risks strengthening the accusations of indecisiveness and inertia it is already facing.

By not learning from the public response to February’s meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu, which was followed by pushback less on the meeting itself and more on the confused messaging on the meeting from the prime minister, the civilian government may have missed an opportunity to consolidate its position domestically as well as soothe leaders in the UAE, a key supporter of Sudan’s military. Doing so would go some way in resolving the power imbalance within the government.

With all the government’s hopes pinned on SST rescission, there is no guarantee that the US would not follow through with a delisting with the military, rather than civilian, leadership. Despite the US Department of State’s repeated assertions that it supports the civilian government, the recently announced sanctions list for those who undermine Sudan’s transition is extremely opaque. The civilian government’s backtracking may have risked its position within an already confused American foreign policy: it would do well not to take this administration’s unwavering support for the civilian government for granted.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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