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US sends fire experts to help Kenya investigate airport fire

August 9, 2013 (NAIROBI) – The US state department has sent two military fire experts to help the Kenyan government investigate the cause of Wednesday morning’s fire that gutted the transit area at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), leaving travellers stranded and flights diverted.

Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation, quoted a US state department official as saying two American fire experts had already arrived in the country to assist the Kenyan authorities.

In addition to the fire experts, the newspaper also reported that the US is providing equipment to Kenya to help restore regular flights at JKIA.

On Wednesday, the head of Kenya’s anti-terrorism police unit ruled out terrorism as the cause of the fire.

The Kenyan media reported on Friday that during an inspection of repair work being carried out at the airport, president Uhuru Kenyatta also ruled out terrorism as a possible cause of the fire.

In the aftermath of the fire, US president Barack Obama, along with several other regional presidents called Kenyatta to offer words of encouragement and support.

Domestic flights have since resumed at the airport.

“We are determined that normal operations resume at the airport quickly, and are glad to see that a partial reopening has already taken place, with successful domestic flight operations”, Kenyatta was quoted by the Kenyan media as saying.

JKIA serves as a key hub for travellers from Africa en route to Europe and other parts of the world. The fire left many travellers stranded, with Uganda saying as many as 500 passengers bound for Kenya at its Entebbe international airport were also affected by the incident.


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US welcomes extension of AUHIP mandate

August 3, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The United States has welcomed the African Union (AU) decision to extend the mandate of its High Level Implementation Panel on North and South Sudan (AUHIP) for more six months.

JPEG - 32.7 kbPresident Omar al-Bashir (R) walks out with Thabo Mbeki (L) and President Salva Kiir after a meeting in 2011 (Reuters)

A ministerial meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on 29 July extended the panel’s mandate until January after its chair Thabo Mbeki had presented the panel’s “final” report, surveying its work from October 2009.

The AUPSC said recent deterioration in relations between the two countries, necessitated the extension of the AUHIP mandate.

“We commend the tireless efforts of the AUHIP and its members, former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as the continuing valuable role of the Chair of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UN Special Envoy Haile Menkerios and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA)”, partly reads a statement from the US embassy in Khartoum.

The US, in the statement, strongly urges Sudan and South Sudan to seize the opportunity presented by the AUHIP’s efforts and to fully and unconditionally implement all aspects of the 27 September agreements as the basis for normal and productive relations.

It further expressed concerns over the humanitarian crises in Sudan and South Sudan, pledging its full to the AUPSC in calls for both governments to facilitate humanitarian access to affected populations.


Meanwhile, the US also underlined its support for the people of Abyei and the approach outlined by AUPSC, which sets out a meaningful path towards determining Abyei’s final status in accordance with agreements already signed by both parties.

“We note in particular the proposal by the AUPSC calling on the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to meet, with the facilitation of the AUHIP, to resolve their differences in this regard, with a view to urgently establish the Abyei Referendum Commission and conclude decisively the investigation into the May 4 attack on a UNISFA [United Nations Integrated Force for Abyei] convoy, killing Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief Kuol Deng Kuol and a UNISFA peacekeeper,” the statement notes.

Last month, the Misseriya Arab tribe renewed their rejection of the AU proposal for holding a referendum in the disputed oil-producing region this October.

This proposal would effectively make the majority of voters come from the Dinka Ngok tribe, aligned with South Sudan thus putting the Arab Misseriya nomads, who spend several months yearly in Abyei grazing cattle, at a disadvantage.

A referendum initially scheduled for January 2011 to decide the fate of the Abyei border area failed to take place over disagreements between Khartoum and Juba about who is eligible to participate in the vote.


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US lawmaker urges Obama to fill Sudan’s special envoy post

August 2, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – A key lawmaker in the United States House of Representative sent a letter today to president Barack Obama urging him to quickly choose a special envoy for Sudan which has been vacant for effectively almost five months.

JPEG - 29.3 kbU.S. Representative Frank Wolf (Reuters)

In December 2012, the White House abruptly announced the resignation of special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman, who held the post since March 2011.

No reason was given but sources attributed Lyman’s resignation to health reasons. His departure was effective last March according Larry André who is Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan at the U.S. State Department

“I have written you on more than one occasion about the persistent vacancy of the Sudan Special Envoy post, which has been unfilled for nearly five months. This is indefensible given the current state of affairs in Sudan,” US Rep Frank Wolf said in his letter sent to Sudan Tribune.

Last May the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he plans to appoint an envoy to Sudan and South Sudan but his pledge has yet to materialize.

A coalition of Sudan activist groups in Washington known as Act for Sudan sent a letter to Kerry last March imploring him not to nominate former US ambassador to Khartoum Timothy Carney for the job citing what they perceived as his sympathetic views with the Sudanese government.

They recalled Carney’s testimony in 2009 at the U.S. Congress in which he voiced his opposition to efforts aimed at isolating Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He proposed instead to defer the ICC warrant, sending an ambassador to Khartoum and removing Sudan from the state department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Rep. Wolf in his letter also chided Obama for seeking to remove language in a bill he authored that would punish countries receiving Bashir by cutting off U.S. aid.

“Last year I offered an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill which would have cut non-humanitarian foreign assistance to any nation that allowed Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an internationally indicted war criminal, into their country without arresting him. The amendment was adopted with bipartisan support by voice vote,” he wrote.

“Sadly that support never materialized. In fact your administration actively sought to remove this language from the final bill. Meanwhile, Bashir remains free to travel where he pleases, and the people of Sudan see no end in sight to their suffering and U.S. policy is in tatters. The FY 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which just last week passed out of the full committee, included language consistent with the amendment I offered last year. In seeking to isolate Bashir, our options are limited but far from nonexistent,” he added.

Wolf underscored that Sudan’s issue “has historically been a bipartisan issue” and recounted Obama’s campaign promises in this regard.

The U.S. administration came under fire this year for inviting Sudanese presidential assistant and vice chairman of ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Nafie Ali Nafie.

Later the invitation was revoked in the wake of Bashir’s decision to shutdown down pipelines carrying oil from landlocked South Sudan saying that the latter continues to back anti-Khartoum insurgents.

The African Union has managed to convince Bashir to delay the closure so that mediation committees can work on verifying claims of rebel support by both sides.


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