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Political factions in Sudan gather in Cairo with little chance of reconciliation



Rival political groups in Sudan joined the first formal peace talks in Cairo on Saturday, nearly 15 months after hostilities started, but they acknowledged there was little chance of a speedy conclusion to the conflict.

The army-aligned Democratic Bloc declined to meet in combined sessions with the Taqaddum faction during the conference, claiming that the latter was sympathetic to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF did not come, nor did the army.

Since it broke out in April 2023, the Sudanese conflict has resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 10 million people, hunger warnings, and waves of ethnically motivated violence that have been primarily blamed on the RSF.

This week, the force that moved across the state of Sennar resulted in more displacement. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army leader, responded by declaring that talks with the RSF or its backers would not take place.

“The stark deterioration in the humanitarian situation and the catastrophic consequences of this crisis, call on all of us to work immediately and sustainably to stop military operations,” said newly-appointed Egyptian foreign minister Badr Abdelatty.

The end of last year saw the breakdown of US-Saudi Arabia-sponsored talks between the army and RSF in Jeddah.

A coalition of armed organizations, civil society, and pro-democracy parties called Taqaddum has demanded that the war end. Multiple armed group leaders are fighting for the army-aligned Democratic Bloc.

At the beginning of the conference, the principal attendees were seated at opposite ends of the auditorium, despite Egypt’s ability to use its power to bring the gathering together.

The sole agreement reached by the two political groups was to establish a tiny subcommittee to draft a final communique demanding an end to the war, which three leaders of the Democratic Bloc who were fighting alongside the army refused to sign.

“We told them [the Egyptians] not to have high ambitions for this meeting,” Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim told Reuters. He along with Darfur governor Minni Minawi and Sovereign Council deputy Malik Agar did not sign the communique.

“Given the situation on the ground, if we sit and eat and drink and laugh with the people who are allied and partners in the crimes that are happening we would be sending the wrong message to our citizens and our soldiers,” he said.

He continued by saying that unless the RSF leaves civilian areas by a deal reached in Jeddah last year and the United Arab Emirates stops providing material support to the RSF, an end to the conflict is not likely. Despite the UAE’s denials, U.N. experts have stated that allegations of such backing are plausible.

Abdalla Hamdok, the head of Taqaddum and a former prime minister, denied any connection between the alliance and the RSF, stating he was waiting for the army’s approval before the meeting.

“A crisis this complicated and deep is not expected to end in one meeting… The lesson is for us to be patient and to build on anything positive that comes out of it,” he told Reuters, echoing sentiments from diplomats at the meeting.

Tom Perriello, the Special Envoy of the United States, expressed optimism that the momentum from the meetings on Saturday will continue into next week’s meeting, which is one of several related efforts that the African Union has called.


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Kenya’s Ruto sacks cabinet amidst protests in major win for protesters



In response to pressure from widespread protests that have produced the greatest crisis of his two-year government, Kenyan President William Ruto dismissed his entire cabinet on Thursday, with the exception of the foreign minister.

After beginning peacefully, the youth-led demonstrations against the proposed tax increases descended into violence, resulting in at least 39 deaths during altercations with the police last month. A few protestors briefly invaded the parliament before Ruto decided against the new levies.

“I will immediately engage in extensive consultations across different sectors and political formations and other Kenyans, both in public and private, with the aim of setting up a broad-based government,” Ruto said in a televised address to the nation, adding that he would announce additional measures later.

In addition, he fired the attorney general but claimed that this had no bearing on the deputy president’s position.

Kenyans had been requesting significant cabinet changes, seasoned anti-corruption activist John Githongo told Reuters.

“Let us see what happens now if the new ministers deal with big issues around corruption and just the arrogance and excess of his administration and the fact that a lot of Kenyans died during the demonstrations,” he said.

“Hopefully this should temporarily calm things.”

Ruto finds himself torn between a beleaguered populace reeling from the rising expense of living and lenders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressuring him to reduce deficits. He suggested borrowing more money and cutting spending in approximately equal proportions last week to close the nearly $2.7 billion budget deficit left by the removal of the tax rises.

Although the government has no outstanding debt, many claim that Kenya is likely to miss its IMF targets as a result of the tax rollback. For the fiscal year that began on July 1, the estimated budget deficit is currently 4.6% of GDP.

Dismissing so many cabinet members, according to Ojango Omondi, a community organizer from the Social Justice Centers Working Group in Nairobi, was a “move towards justice,” but activists would want to see who Ruto chooses to replace them.

“It’s one thing to dismiss, the second is to ensure that the people that will be chosen in the cabinet are accountable to the constitution and the rule of law,” Omondi said.

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South Sudan’s president dismisses 6th finance minister since 2020



Four months into the position, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, has fired the finance minister, the sixth person to hold the position since 2020, according to state-run television.

The report stated late on Wednesday that Kiir did not explain the dismissal of Awow Daniel Chuong, who was appointed in mid-March of this year. Economist Marial Deng has been selected to take over as finance minister in Kiir’s place.

Due to intercommunal violence, South Sudan’s economy has been under strain recently. Since the civil war that lasted from 2013 to 2018, revenue from crude oil exports has decreased, and more recently, export disruptions have occurred because of the conflict in neighbouring Sudan.

The governor of the central bank, James Alic Garang, declared in May that the foreign exchange reserves of South Sudan had reached all-time lows.

This year, the International Monetary Fund predicts that consumer price inflation will soar to 54.8%.

After South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, Kiir was elected as the country’s first president.

In December, the nation is scheduled to elect a president, members of the legislature, and regional delegates.

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