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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Sudan

SUDAN: Print more news, please

Newspapers Khartoum AP While newspapers in the U.S. and other countries are facing dwindling pages and Internet pressures, Sudan is taking a different approach: The government has ordered the nation’s dailies to print more pages.

The strategy seems odd in a country where about half the population can’t read, but the government of President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir says it wants to promote the print media. Naturally, journalists are suspicious, and it appears that the intentions by the Sudanese Press and Publication Council are less about press freedom than making money.

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EGYPT: Cairo scoffs at new Nile water agreement


Egypt, the largest user of Nile River water, has played down the importance of a new Nile Basin Cooperative Framework agreement that could limit how much water flows into the country. 

The treaty, signed Friday by Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, will replace a 1959 agreement that secured Egypt its historic rights of Nile waters (55.5 billion cubic meters of water each year). Egypt and Sudan boycotted the meeting and have filed objections to the agreement.  

The new treaty comes after the collapse of negotiations between the river's source countries, including Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda, and the downstream nations, Egypt and Sudan, during a convention in Sharm el Sheik last month. Egypt, however, is unfazed by the new accord.

"Egypt and Sudan will not be legally committed to any agreements signed in their absence. The new treaty doesn't mean anything to both countries," Moufid Shehab, Egyptian Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, was quoted as saying by MENA news agency.

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EGYPT: Minister rejects Nile sharing deal as experts warn of water shortage


After the recent failure of Nile River nations to agree on water sharing, Egypt has announced it will take whatever steps are necessary to protect its historical rights to billions of gallons of water it needs each year to survive. 

"Nile water is a matter of national security to Egypt. We won't under any circumstances allow our water rights to be jeopardized," Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, told Parliament this week.

The minister's comments came after the Nile Basin Initiative convention in Sharm El Sheik failed to secure a new deal on regulating water shares between six Nile source nations and Sudan and Egypt. Nile source countries include Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The great river flows through them, making up the Blue Nile and White Nile that come together in Khartoum, Sudan, before flowing into Egypt.

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SUDAN: Government and Darfur rebels sign preliminary truce [Correction]

Bashir doha The Sudanese government and the most potent rebel group in Darfur signed a preliminary truce Tuesday, raising hopes that national elections in April may be held without widespread bloodshed.  

The agreement between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was signed in Doha, Qatar, following a weekend of tense negotiations in Chad. Representatives from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa were on hand for the signing.

Upon arriving in Doha, Sudanese President Omar Bashir said, “This agreement is the first step toward lasting peace in Darfur. No bullet will be fired in the region of Darfur.”  

The agreement is expected to stop military raids and impose a ceasefire in the three Darfur states. But solidifying a lasting peace in the war-torn region is jeopardized by internal squabbles and regional politics. A breakaway faction of the JEM refused to acknowledge the agreement, accusing the JEM of reportedly making a secret deal with Bashir over the awarding of government posts.

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SUDAN: Female journalist faces 40 lashes for choice of clothes


A prominent Sudanese female journalist faces 40 lashes for the crime of dressing in a way that contradicts the country's social and religious values.

Lobna Ahmed al Hussein, whose daily column Men Talk often criticizes the Sudanese regime and Islamic fundamentalists for their oppression of women, was charged with violating a 1991 law that forbids women to dress in a manner that causes "public discomfort." She was wearing a loose hijab, top and pants and allegedly wasn't covered in the traditional way of Sudanese women.

The journalist reacted to the charge by sending the media, as well as her supporters, thousands of printed invitations to attend her upcoming trial. Al Hussein said that if convicted she will send similar invitations to her public whipping.

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