Items filtered by date: Thursday, 13 June 2019
The top U.S. diplomat for Africa on Wednesday joined an international effort to press Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition toward a deal on a transition to democracy two months after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.
 
An Ethiopian envoy has said that the military and opposition groups have agreed to resume talks on the formation of a transitional council that collapsed after the violent dispersal of a protest sit-in on June 3.
 
Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, met on Wednesday with the main opposition coalition and held talks with Sudan’s acting Deputy Foreign Minister Ilham Ibrahim.
 
Before the meetings, the State Department said Nagy was going to urge the parties to work toward an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations. The United States also on Wednesday named veteran diplomat Donald Booth as its envoy to Sudan.
 
After meeting Nagy, the main opposition coalition said that it would only participate in indirect talks and it would impose other conditions.
 
“We have informed the Ethiopian prime minister that we refuse to have direct negotiations with the transitional military council,” said Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces.
 
“The point of contention between us is clear and our terms are clear; we are talking now about issues of transition to civilian rule and the rights of martyrs.”
 
The bloodshed has drawn expressions of concern from world powers including the United States, which imposed sanctions on Sudan under Bashir over its alleged support for militant groups and the civil war in Darfur.
 
Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.
 
The military council has been bolstered by support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which between them have offered $3 billion in aid.
Published in World
Former Argentine minister Jose Lopez will spend the next six years in jail after he was caught by police trying to hide bags stuffed with $9 million in cash at a Buenos Aires convent, a Buenos Aires court ruled Wednesday.
 
The case became emblematic of the country’s corruption and first emerged when Lopez, 58, was caught red-handed tossing 160 suitcases and duffel bags over a wall into the garden of the convent.
 
An 80-year-old Catholic nun, Sister Celia Ines Aparicio, who was charged with complicity in the case, was acquitted.
 
Lopez was part of a group of officials who were close to late president Nestor Kirchner and his successor and wife Cristina Kirchner.
 
Lopez and his former boss, ex-planning minister Julio de Vido — who has also been jailed for corruption — managed the federal government’s public works projects under the Kirchners (2003-2015).
 
His wife, Maria Diaz, was given a two-year suspended sentence for complicity in the case.
 
A former deputy minister for public works, Lopez is also suspected of embezzlement in two other corruption cases.
 
He has been held in preventive detention at Ezeiza prison outside Buenos Aires.
 
Kirchner, now a senator who is running for vice-president in October’s elections, is currently on trial for corruption dating from her two terms as Argentina’s president from 2007-2015.
Published in World
Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, on Wednesday said the United Nations Security Council had “failed to live up to its responsibilities” in conflict prevention.
 
Addressing members of the council at its 8546th meeting in New York, Robinson berated “certain permanent members” of the Council for wrong use of their veto powers.
 
She said the abuse was more apparent during votes on resolutions aimed at conflict prevention.
 
The meeting was convened to discuss how best to better utilise the tools at the disposal of the UN and the council for a more effective and efficient multilateral approach to conflict prevention and mediation.
 
Robinson spoke as Chairperson of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela to promote good governance and ethical leadership.
 
She said: “Over the decades, the Council – and, particularly, its five permanent members – has failed to live up to its responsibilities.
 
“It has favoured realpolitik or short-term power stratagems rather than meeting the solemn commitments outlined in the UN Charter.
 
“Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the repeated use of the veto by certain permanent members on resolutions aimed to prevent mass atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on civilians.”
 
Robinson urged the Council to approach the issue of conflict prevention and mediation in the “spirit of inclusive dialogue and willingness to work for compromise and consensus in the interests of peace.”
 
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke in similar vein, calling for improvement in the working methods of the Council.
 
“Faced with complex, multi-faceted and gravely serious challenges, it is profoundly irresponsible that politicians collude in or deliberately stoke illusions for their own gain.
 
“This is in full knowledge that no one country, however powerful, will be able to meet the global challenges on its own,” Ki-moon said.
 
The former UN chief called for unity and cooperation among members of the council especially in the area of conflict prevention and mediation.
 
He added: “When the Security Council can cooperate and speak with a strong common voice.
 
“This strong, common voice is needed more than ever at this current time, when the deceptive allure of populism and isolationism is growing across all continents, from North and South America to Africa, Asia and Europe.
 
Earlier in his remarks, incumbent UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said conflict prevention and mediation were two of “the most important tools at our disposal to reduce human suffering”.
 
Guterres also urged the Council and all member states “to strive for greater unity so that prevention and mediation efforts are as effective as possible”.
 
This, he noted, is “the only way to meet our responsibilities to the people we serve”.
 
“When we act early, and are united, we can successfully prevent crises from escalating, saving lives and reducing suffering – fulfilling the most fundamental mandate of the United Nations,” he noted.
 
To this end, he told the chamber that the UN was working with various parties to conflict, together with partners for peace, in regions and countries across the world.
 
He noted some “encouraging signs”, such as the constitutional transfers of power in Mali and Madagascar, and the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
 
Others, according to him, are the revitalised agreement in South Sudan; and, after decades of dispute, “the designation of the Republic of North Macedonia to be internationally recognised”.
 
The UN Security Council consists of 15 member states. These are categorised into five permanent members; namely Russia, United Kingdom, France, China and the United States.
 
Published in World
The alleged shooter of David Ortiz has been arrested along with four others in a group offered nearly $8,000 to kill the former Boston Red Sox star.
 
They were to kill him at a Dominican Republic bar, the authorities said on Wednesday.
 
The arrests came as Ortiz, 43, recovered in a Boston hospital following a second round of surgery on Tuesday, according to his family.
 
The family said he was sitting up and had taken a few steps.
 
The plot to kill Ortiz, a national hero in the Dominican Republic, was more complex than initially thought.
 
It involved two men on a motorcycle working with two other groups of people in cars, National Police chief Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte told reporters.
 
Dominican Republic Attorney-General Jean Alain Rodriguez identified Ramon Martinez Perez as the man suspected of jumping off the back of a motorcycle on Sunday night and shooting Ortiz in the torso.
 
Bautista said the group was offered 400,000 Dominican pesos ($7,830) to carry out the contract killing.
 
“It didn’t just involve two people, more people took part,” Bautista told a press conference, adding that another man linked to the plot nicknamed “The Surgeon” remained at large.
 
Ortiz, widely known as “Big Papi,” is a sports legend in Boston.
 
He was legendary for his role in three World Series baseball championships as well as his profane but inspiring remarks in the days after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
 
He retired in 2016 after hitting 541 career home runs, which ranks 17th all-time in Major League Baseball.
 
Ortiz was shot while seated at an open-air nightclub in Santo Domingo, the capital of his native country.
 
Ortiz’s friend Jhoel López, a television host, was wounded in the leg in the shooting.
 
The Dominican Republic has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with most homicides committed during robberies, according to the U.S. State Department.
 
Police quickly arrested the suspected motorbike driver, identified as Eddy Féliz García, who was detained and beaten by bystanders at the scene.
 
The high-profile attack on Ortiz drew attention to a string of deaths of U.S. citizens in the Dominican Republic in recent months, as well as violent assaults.
 
Ortiz underwent a first round of surgery in Santo Domingo late on Sunday before being flown the following day to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, where he underwent more surgery.
 
A trauma and acute care surgeon was leading the team treating Ortiz, his wife, Tiffany Ortiz, said in a statement on Wednesday.
 
On Tuesday “and this morning, David was able to sit up as well as take some steps,” she said on Wednesday.
 
“His condition is guarded and he will remain in the (intensive care unit) for the coming days, but he is making good progress towards recovery.”
 
Féliz appeared in court on Tuesday evening, charged with being an accomplice in the attempted murder of Ortiz.
 
His lawyer, Deivi Solano, told reporters outside the court that the judge had agreed to postpone a hearing until Wednesday afternoon.
 
Justina García, the mother of Féliz who remained in custody, told reporters the charges against her son were a “lie.”
 
“They can’t link it to him because he is not a criminal,” she said.
 
Solano said his client did not shoot Ortiz, but works as a motorcycle taxi driver and may have unwittingly driven the shooter to the scene, a media outlet reported.
 
Ortiz played 20 MLB seasons, spending his first six years with the Minnesota Twins before joining the Boston Red Sox.
Published in World

Sudanese security forces violently removed a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, on June 3.

In addition to brutally beating the pro-democracy protesters, government troops also fired on the demonstrators. Early numbers suggest that at least 61 people died during the week, though that number may grow in the coming days.

The deadly violence occurred after months of citizen protests against the violent and repressive rule of the longtime ruler of Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir. Sudan’s military removed him from office on April 11.

Soon after the coup, talks began about the transition of power to civilian rule. There were high hopes among democracy advocates that a new civilian government would soon take control of the state.

As scholars of armed conflict, we believe that such reforms are likely to be put on hold following this episode of government repression. The findings from our forthcoming research on coups around the world suggest that this state-sponsored brutality may just be the start of a more deadly crackdown.

A brief history

Since coming to power through a military coup in 1989, al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist. The government routinely engaged in widespread atrocities as a way to cripple dissent.

This violence was largely directed at the disenfranchised southern and western portions of the country, in Darfur and what is now South Sudan. Political power is largely concentrated in the areas surrounding Khartoum.

After years of international economic sanctions in response to those human rights abuses, in 2018 large groups of citizens in Khartoum, as well as in municipalities surrounding Khartoum, began to demonstrate and call for al-Bashir to step down from power.

Though the military initially responded by violently suppressing the protests, the Sudanese Army finally acquiesced to popular demands and arrested al-Bashir.

This recent escalation of violence is not the first instance of indiscriminate violence by the new military junta in Sudan. On May 15, soon after the April coup, military forces opened fire on protesters in Khartoum.

Sudanese Americans rally outside the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 8, 2019, in solidarity with pro-democracy protests in Sudan. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Perceived threats

Our research suggests that there may be greater violence against Sudanese civilians in the coming weeks.

We study when and where governments respond to threats through the use of state-sponsored violence – specifically, killings by the government. Potential threats to government control may be external, such as rebel attacks, or they may be internal, such as military coups.

A government’s perception of these threats is intimately tied to their control of the capital city. When governments believe that there is a risk that they may lose control of the capital, we have found that government elites respond with the use of greater targeted violence toward civilians.

While coups themselves are rare events, the threat of a coup, and leaders’ behavior to avoid it, are more common in fragile states. Leaders who are concerned about being unseated may purge the capital of perceived dissidents as the possibility of a coup emerges.

This was the case in the 1960s and the early 1980s in Guatemala, as the Guatemalan government killed thousands of suspected dissidents when they believed the risk of a coup was greatest. Similarly, the Derg regime in Ethiopia killed over 10,000 people in the late 1970s, when the government felt threatened by the growing terrorist campaign inside Addis Ababa.

The risk of a coup

With data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, we can identify where governments around the world have used force against civilians and also where rebel activity took place between 1989 and 2018.

We also used machine learning methods, including those employed by CoupCast, the premier scientific model for forecasting coups.

With this, we could predict the risk of a coup occurring, relative to other countries.

Scholars have found that the risk of coups is tied to major shifts in economic and political stability. Weak civil society, unregulated political competition and economic downturns all contribute to a rise in the potential risk of a coup. Coups often happen in bursts, so the time since the last coup matters, too.

As the estimated risk of a military coup rises, our models show a significant increase in government-sponsored violence. This is particularly true in parts of the country close to the capital.

When the risk of a coup is high, governments engage in more targeted killings of civilians in capital cities, as well as the surrounding district. Within the capital, a 1% increase in coup risk results in 20 additional civilian deaths by government forces a year.

Additionally, nearly all civilian deaths within the capital take place in countries in the top 25% of coup risk.

What this means for Sudan

The risk of a coup within Sudan has increased since al-Bashir’s forced exit from office, as compared to the days leading up to his ouster.

This is largely because past coups increase the risk of future coups, a fact that is not lost on the perpetrators of coups d’état.

Less than two months since the removal of al-Bashir, pro-democracy advocates within Sudan have called on the new regime to hand over power to a civilian government. Negotiations on a possible transitional power-sharing government have ended with no agreement, and demonstrators have increased their demands for the government to hand over power.

Our models suggest that, as the perceived internal threat grows within Sudan, protesters – particularly those in the capital – are at risk of being brutally suppressed, with violence only escalating.

The civilians killed on June 3 may just be the start of a more violent campaign.

 

[ Thanks for reading! We can send you The Conversation’s stories every day in an informative email. Sign up today. ]The Conversation

Eric Keels, Research Fellow at the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy, University of Tennessee and Joshua Lambert, Ph.D Candidate in Security Studies, University of Central Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Economy
Oil prices surged on Thursday after a unit of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy reported a tanker being gutted by fire in the Gulf of Oman near the Iranian coast.
 
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy, put out the alert early on Thursday. It did not elaborate but said it was investigating.
 
Tanker Front Altair was on fire, an official at the U.A.E. port of Fujairah and a person with knowledge of the matter said. It wasn’t immediately clear what the cause of the fire was.
 
According to Reuters two tankers have been evacuated after an incident in the Gulf of Oman and the crew are safe, four shipping and trade sources said on Thursday.
 
The sources identified the tankers as the Marshal Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous.
 
US Fifth Fleet have also confirmed receiving distress calls from two ships attacked in Sea of Oman, and were providing assistance to the two oil tankers.
 
“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman,” said a statement from the Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain.
 
“US naval forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 am. local time and a second one at 7:00 am,” the statement said.
 
“US Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance.”
 
Reports of a tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman followed the earlier sabotage attacks on vessels near the Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs and located just outside the nearby Strait of Hormuz.
 
Brent crude futures were up $2, or 3.3%, at $61.97 a barrel by 0646 GMT.
 
The incident comes as Iranian media claimed that there had been an explosion in the area targeting oil tankers.
 
Thursday’s maritime alert comes after what the U.S. has described as Iranian attacks on four oil tankers nearby, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Iran has denied being involved.
 
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on May 29 that naval mines “almost certainly from Iran” were used to attack the tankers off the United Arab Emirates last month, and warned Tehran against conducting new operations.
 
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 multinational nuclear pact with Iran and reimposed sanctions, notably targeting Tehran’s key oil exports.
 
Published in Business
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