Cairo, Oct 18 (AP/UNB)— Sudan's largest single rebel group Friday held its first round of direct peace talks with the country's transitional government, despite an earlier boycott following a military crackdown.
The new transitional government and other rebel leaders kicked off talks Monday in South Sudan's capital, Juba, aimed at ending Sudan's years-long civil wars. The talks come in the wake of an August power-sharing agreement between the army and a pro-democracy movement following the overthrow of autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir.
The Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, had canceled talks with the government that were scheduled for Wednesday after the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces set up a checkpoint and detained 16 people in South Kordofan Province. Three people were later released. The group said others were attacked but didn't provide details.
The Rapid Support Forces are led by Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, a member of the Sudan's transitional Sovereign Council, who also leads the government delegation to the Juba talks.
On the resumption of talks, Ammar Amoun, head of the SLPM-North movement's delegation, told reporters late on Thursday that the government had taken "positive steps to correct earlier mistakes."
Following this week's attacks, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, declared a nationwide cease-fire on Wednesday.
The SLPM-North had vowed earlier not to resume the talks unless the government released the detainees, withdrew from the area where they were seized, and declared a documented cease-fire.
"We asked mediators to follow-up with the government until all flaws are addressed," Amoun told reporters Thursday. "However, this should not prevent us from going back to the negotiation table."
In a three-hour meeting, the two parties discussed prospects for peace in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces, where SLPM-North controls significant chunks of territory.
Achieving peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebel groups to revive the country's battered economy through slashing the military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. Transitional authorities have set a six-month deadline for making peace with the rebel groups.
Meanwhile, separate talks are being held with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of several other rebel groups from restive western Darfur, as well as the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.
SRF spokesman Osama Said told The Associated Press that he expects a deal with the government soon.
The government "has demonstrated a strong political will and understanding of issues like co-existence, citizenship and the importance of eliminating all aspects of marginalization," said Said.
Earlier, Sudanese authorities have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
Bilene, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Unofficial results in Mozambique's elections point to sweeping victories for the ruling Frelimo party and President Filipe Nyusi, prompting some analysts to question the credibility of the polls and warn that the lopsided result may prolong the country's instability.
Mozambique's electoral commission has not released any official results yet, but the Sala da Paz consortium of Mozambican civil society organizations said it projects that Nyusi won 71% of the vote, far ahead of 21% for Ossufo Momade, leader of the Renamo opposition party. The estimates are based on the group's calculations of results posted outside polling stations.
The Frelimo party, in power since the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, looks set to dominate the parliamentary elections and may win most of the 10 provincial governor positions, according to the civic group, the Center for Public Integrity.
Renamo's Momade is in a tight race for governor of Nampula, Mozambique's most populous province, according to unofficial results.
The reports of a landslide victory for Frelimo come despite a tightly fought campaign, where large rallies suggested Renamo's popularity, especially in central and northern Mozambique.
However, the Oct. 15 elections were marked by restrictions on observers and several reports of suspected ballot stuffing with some people apprehended carrying backpacks with ballots marked for Frelimo.
The European Union's observer mission criticized many aspects of the election, including lack of independent monitors of the vote-counting process.
"The absence of national observers in almost half of observed polling stations did not contribute to the transparency of the process," said chief EU observer Sánchez Amor.
The apparent magnitude of Frelimo's win was criticized by some independent analysts.
"A crushing electoral victory for Frelimo and president Filipe Nyusi ... will divide the country and push a lasting peace further away," said Nathan Hayes, analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. "Frelimo victories in the historical opposition strongholds of Sofala, Zambezia, Manica, Nampula and Tete provinces ... would be a serious setback for the country's peace process and multiparty democracy."
If Renamo rejects the election results, it would be a severe blow to efforts to establish peace across Mozambique. A peace accord between Renamo and the government was signed in August, but an estimated 5,800 armed rebels loyal to Renamo have not yet turned in their weapons. A group purporting to represent those rebels have already warned that they will not disarm if they do not view the election as fair.
Port-Au-Prince, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Haiti's embattled president has been forced to hold a private ceremony amid heavy security for what is usually a public celebration of one of the country's founding fathers.
Jovenel Moïse and other officials appeared Thursday at the National Pantheon Museum in downtown Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of armed police officers closed down the surrounding area as protesters demanding his resignation began to gather nearby.
Moïse did not speak and left after the brief ceremony to commemorate the death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, whose rule ended in 1806 following a military revolt. Protesters had prevented Moïse from visiting the site where the ceremony is usually held.
Anger over corruption, inflation and scarcity of basic goods has led to large protests that began five weeks ago and have shuttered many businesses and schools.
Khartoum, Oct. 16 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan on Wednesday issued a constitutional decree declaring cease-fire in all parts of the country.
The constitutional decree stated that the declaration of the cease-fire came "to prepare the atmosphere for achieving peace and security in all parts of Sudan."
The decree instructed all concerned authorities to immediately implement the cease-fire as of the date of its issuance.
The constitutional decree came hours after the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)/Northern sector, led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, announced suspension of negotiations with Sudan government until all the movement's demands are responded to, including declaration of cease-fire and release of the movement's detainees.
South Sudan's capital Juba has been hosting peace talks between Sudanese government and armed groups from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.
Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement, and the SPLM/Northern sector are participating in the talks with the government.
Maputo, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Vote counting continues Wednesday in Mozambique's presidential and parliamentary elections, after isolated incidents of vandalism and violence tainted a generally peaceful night of tallying the ballots.
One person was killed by police dispersing a crowd at a voting station after the polls had closed in the northern port city of Nacala, according to local reports.
Leading opposition figures had urged their supporters to stay and monitor the vote counting, despite official announcements that only accredited observers and polling station staff could remain at the premises after hours.
Another crowd refused to leave a polling station in Maniamba, in northern Niassa province, leading to a scuffle with police in which ballot papers were destroyed, according to local radio reports.
Pre-marked ballot papers were discovered in several incidents up and down the country, according to the civic group, the Center for Public Integrity. In all cases the ballots were marked in favor of the ruling Frelimo party, it said.
A senior opposition politician, Renamo's national spokesman Jose Manteigas, was arrested in Inhambane, in southern Mozambique, in an apparent dispute over his accreditation to observe the voting process, according to local reports.
Results could take days to be announced. The National Election Commission will not release partial results during the counting process as it had done in the past, said commission head Sheik Abdul Carimo, according to the newspaper, Canal de Mocambique.
In the previous elections in 2014, the election commission held press conferences every few hours to announce the results as they came in. The commission decided announcing preliminary results in this election, Carimo said, because they "can create various negative interpretations."