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Ethiopian leader visits Sudan to lead talks with military, protesters

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed hopes to reach fruitful agreements for Sudan’s AU re-admission.

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Ethiopian leader in Sudan to lead talks with military, protesters | News Central TV
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C-L) arrives at Khartoum international airport on June 7, 2019. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed arrived in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum Friday to broker talks between the ruling generals and protest leaders after a deadly crackdown by security forces this week.

Abiy arrived at Khartoum international airport and headed for a series of meetings with the ruling generals, a correspondent reported from the airport.

The Ethiopian premier was scheduled to meet protest leaders later.

“We have received an invitation from the Ethiopian embassy to meet the Ethiopian prime minister at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and we will go,” prominent protest leader Omar al-Digeir told reporters.

On Monday, Sudanese security forces launched a deadly crackdown on a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters in which more than 100 people were killed, according to the protest movement.

Officials have put the death toll at 61 nationwide, but protest leaders say death toll has topped 100.

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East Africa Politics News & Stories

Bashir to face corruption charges in court next week

The prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations

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Ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir will appear in court next week to face charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency, the country’s acting prosecutor general told reporters on Saturday.

The announcement came more than two months after the military overthrew Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.

Bashir “will appear in court next week following charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency,” Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said, without specifying the day.

He added that the investigation launched against Bashir for the charges had been completed.

On Thursday, an unnamed Sudanese official was quoted by the official SUNA news agency as saying Bashir was facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.

In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds. 

Bashir swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. 

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Last month, Ahmed ordered Bashir questioned over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.

In May, the prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations, which eventually led to his ouster.

Ahmed also said on Saturday that 41 other charges against “symbols of the ousted regime” were under investigation. 

He did not name the others accused but said most of the charges were related to the “possession of land”.

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At least 50 killed from fighting in eastern DR Congo

The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia.

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At least 50 killed from fighting in eastern DR Congo | News Central TV
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At least 50 people have been killed in violence in Ituri, a volatile province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), governor Jean Bamanisa Saidi said Thursday.

“As of the day before yesterday, we had a figure of some 50 (dead), but it’s true, we are aware that there are other cases,” he told reporters.

Other sources said the toll could be 60 or more than 70.

The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia, and causing many people to flee their homes, the sources said.

The cause of the flareup was not immediately clear, but it occurred in a region where tens of thousands died in clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups between 1999 and 2003.

The deputy head of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, General Bernard Commins, told a press conference on Wednesday that the two communities had suffered fresh violence.

A Hema leader, Pilo Molondro, told reporters that 49 deaths had been recorded since the start of the week, and “all communities are in mourning.”

A head of the Lendu community, Joel Mande, said: “We have recorded 40 deaths since Monday, after a trader and his colleagues were killed. The toll could reach 60.”

But an NGO source said that from Saturday to Tuesday alone, “more than 72 people were killed in around 10 localities in Djugu and Irumu.”

Okapi, the radio station run by the UN’s MONUSCO, said 38 people had been stabbed to death just in the village of Tche.

Ituri and the neighbouring province of North Kivu on the DRC’s eastern border are struggling to roll back an epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August 1.

Related: Ebola cases cross the 2,000 mark in DR Congo

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Ethiopia struggles to stem ethnic tensions threatening hunger

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors

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More than a year after his house in southern Ethiopia was razed to the ground, his coffee plantation destroyed and cattle were stolen, Teketel Memheru is still too terrified to return home. The 22-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes by Ethiopia’s ethnic clashes in a burgeoning domestic crisis the Ethiopian government is battling to contain.

“I witnessed a neighbour of mine hacked to death and another neighbour was burnt alive in his house. I’m scared to go to farm my agricultural plot for fear of attacks,” said Teketel, an ethnic Gedeo who says he came under attack by Oromos – the country’s largest ethnic group.

A man receives aid distribution as Internally Displaced People ( IDP ) on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia.
A man receives aid distribution as Internally Displaced People ( IDP ) on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia. – More than a Million people have been displaced due to ethnic conflict in southern region of Gedeo state and west region of Oromia state. Nearly 1,400 households were affected in Gedeo alone. (Photo by Yonas KIROS / AFP)

Officials insist that what became the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis in 2018 is under control and that more than a million people have returned to their homes. However, those working on the ground – speaking anonymously to avoid a government backlash – say the displaced are being forcibly returned. They warn that the dire humanitarian conditions are only set to get worse.

“Peace is not restored, I didn’t meet a single person who wants to return under these conditions. People are really scared. It will get more difficult,” an aid worker said. The worker said that in May local officials and soldiers had entered the camps and ordered people to leave. Most people, however, had just disappeared once again into a fatigued host community and were living in utter “misery”.

In addition, hunger levels had become a “catastrophe”. “We believe levels of violence and displacement will continue,” said the worker.

Related: Dozens killed in Ethiopia ethnic clashes -Regional official

Reforms open Pandora’s box

Since coming to power in April 2018 after two years of anti-government unrest, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – himself an Oromo – has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors. He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, and an easing of control has seen Ethiopia jump 40 points in the 2019 press freedom index.

Internally Displaced People due to Ethiopia Ethnic Tensions sits in front of his house burned during an ethnic conflict on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia.
Teketel Memhiru an Internally Displaced People ( IDP ) sits in front of his house burned during an ethnic conflict on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia. – More than a Million people have been displaced due to ethnic conflict in southern region of Gedeo state and west region of Oromia state. Nearly 1,400 households were affected in Gedeo alone. (Photo by Yonas KIROS / AFP)

But the loosening of the reins has had a dark side, as years of tensions between ethnic groups who are divided into nine autonomous regions, have boiled over – usually over land and resources – leading to deadly violence in the country of over 100 million people. One of the hotspots is along the borders of the Gedeo district and West Guji in Oromia.

The verdant, rolling hills of this southern region, are where some of the world’s best coffee is grown. It is also the most densely populated part of the country, with residents facing a critical shortage of farmland. Tensions have long existed between the groups, but last year the Oromo of West Guji attacked the Gedeo living on their side. The clashes led to the world’s largest displacement crisis, with over a million mostly ethnic Gedeos displaced, according to government figures.

Similar violence erupted in 2017 between Somalis and Oromos in the southeast Somali region, also displacing around one million people and leaving hundreds dead. And last month dozens of people were killed in clashes between residents of northern Benishangul Gumuz and Amhara states.

“None of these conflicts is entirely new, but several of them have flared at a larger scale than we’ve seen in the past,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s senior Ethiopia analyst. He said there were multiple factors at play stoking tensions.

Abraham Dembi displaced due to Ethiopia's Ethnic tension waits on line to receive aid distrubution on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia.
Abraham Dembi an Internally Displaced People ( IDP ) waits on line to receive aid distrubution on May 20, 2019 at Cherqo village, Southern Ethiopia. – More than a Million people have been displaced due to ethnic conflict in southern region of Gedeo state and west region of Oromia state. Nearly 1,400 households were affected in Gedeo alone. (Photo by Yonas KIROS / AFP)

These include the weakening of the once all-powerful ruling EPRDF as a result of years of protests and infighting, an economic slowdown that has hit the poor hard, and a shake-up of the security apparatus under Abiy. “There has been a loosening of control which has led existing disputes to take on a new dimension,” said Davison.

Add to this a poorly functioning ethnic federal system, opportunities presented by the political transition, and competition for resources in an impoverished nation. Abiy’s opening has led to ethno-nationalists staking different claims, but at the same time, he is loath to lean back on the repressive tactics once used to deter and crack down on inter-communal violence.

“Abiy has been clear his government is disinclined to use past methods and send in police or soldiers to apply lethal force and conduct mass arrests on the spot.”

We have seen no peace since Ethiopia’s ethnic clashes

Ethiopia’s Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil last week said that all displaced people would be returned to their homes by the end of June, and officials have denied forcing anyone to return.

However in the town of Yirgecheffe, a stadium housing thousands of displaced people were cleared out by police ahead of a visit by journalists in late May, another aid agency official said on condition of anonymity.

A group of people displaced due to the ethnic tensions in Ethiopia pose in front of their shelter on May 20, 2019 at Qercha village, southern Ethiopia
A group of people Internally Displaced People ( IDP ) pose in front of their shelter on May 20, 2019 at Qercha village, southern Ethiopia. – More than a Million people have been displaced due to ethnic conflict in southern region of Gedeo state and west region of Oromia state. Nearly 1,400 households were affected in Gedeo alone. (Photo by Yonas KIROS / AFP)

“The government pushing people to return to their home communities prematurely will only add to the ongoing suffering,” the US-based Refugees International said in May. According to World Vision, only 145,516 people have returned home from Gedeo and hundreds are still lining up for food aid.

“There’s a concern that there hasn’t been anything like sufficient reconciliation to be confident about the safety of people returning home,” said Davison. Teketel is one of the lucky ones, having managed to set up a small shop in Cherqo village in Gedeo. But he longs to return home to farm his land.

Related: Ethiopia begins electricity rationing following water levels drop

“We have seen no peace since Abiy came to power. Peace is the most important thing for a human being, not only to farm, but also to cultivate and eat what is farmed.”

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