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Army overthrows Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir

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President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan in autocratic style for 30 years, was on Thursday overthrown and arrested in a coup by the armed forces.

In an address on state television, Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, announced a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections.

He said Bashir, 75, was being held in a “safe place” and a military council would now run the country. He did not say who would head it.

Seated on a gold-upholstered armchair, Auf announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution. Sudan’s airspace would be closed for 24 hours and border crossings shut until further notice.

The main organizer of protests against Bashir, the Sudanese Professionals Association, rejected the minister’s plans. It called on protesters to maintain a sit-in outside the defense ministry that started on Saturday, a source with the group said.

Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”. A son of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the country’s main opposition Umma Party, told al-Hadath TV that Bashir was being held with “a number of leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group”.

Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and is facing an arrest warrant over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to death of an estimated 300,000 people.

Despite the arrest warrant Bashir defied the court by visiting several ICC member states. Diplomatic rows broke out when he went to South Africa in 2015 and Jordan in 2017 and both failed to arrest him.

The downfall of Bashir follows the toppling this month of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also following mass protests after three decades in power.

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President Buhari congratulates newly elected Isreali Prime Minister

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President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the State of Israel on his victory in the parliamentary election.

President Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Sunday, extended best wishes to the people of the State of Israel in the aftermath of the successful conclusion of the poll.

The Nigerian leader, who also wished them peace, progress and stability, said he looked forward to continue to work with the Israeli Prime Minister to strengthen existing cordial and mutually-beneficial relations between the two countries.

Buhari wished Netanyahu a successful new term in office and prayed that his record fifth term would bring enduring peace and security to the Middle East.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in London. US seek extradition

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The United States has requested the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, British police said, after they arrested him at the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Thursday.

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange was found guilty of skipping bail in the U.K. on Thursday, and faces likely extradition to the U.S., after a dramatic day that began with his arrest at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he had been under diplomatic protections since 2012.

U.K. police confirmed on Thursday that he was arrested “on behalf of the United States authorities” as well as on U.K. charges of “failing to surrender without reasonable excuse.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said that he faces up to five years in prison on charges of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” related to the 2010 leak of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday morning, inviting police officers with a warrant for his arrest into the Central London embassy. Assange first barged past officers shouting “this is unlawful, I’m not leaving,” according to prosecutors, before being handcuffed and bundled into a police van. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno cited Assange’s bad behavior in the embassy as one reason for allowing U.K. police to arrest Assange.

At trial later that afternoon, a U.K. district judge found Assange guilty of skipping bail — a charge for which he had been wanted since 2012 — calling him “a narcissist who cannot see beyond his own selfish interest.”

Assange could be sentenced to up to a year in prison in the U.K. but may be extradited to the U.S. before serving time. “Papers for the extradition proceedings have to be circled within 65 days,” Assange’s barrister Liam Walker told TIME.

Assange, 47, received diplomatic asylum from Ecuador after breaching bail in the U.K. during an investigation into sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden has since rescinded its arrest warrant for Assange, though the case is not closed.

The WikiLeaks founder shot to prominence in 2010 when his site published a cache of leaks from the U.S. military provided by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including videos showing U.S. troops allegedly killing civilians. Assange has argued that he could be arrested by the U.S. if he were arrested in the U.K. or extradited to Sweden.

U.S. prosecutors allege that that Assange helped Manning crack a password to access a government network on Department of Defense computers. Manning then downloaded classified records and sent them to Wikileaks.

“Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. “Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.”

At one point, Manning told Assange, “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Curious eyes never run dry in my experience,” Assange responded, prosecutors said.

In a video posted to Twitter Thursday, the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno criticized Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive” behavior in the embassy, saying it had “led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.” Moreno took office as President in May 2017, replacing Rafael Correa, who had extended asylum to Assange.

“He particularly violated the norm of not interfering in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. Assange had been accused by Ecuador of endangering its standing on the international stage by continuing to participate in releasing leaks on WikiLeaks from the embassy. “The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit,” Moreno said.

Ecuador said Thursday that officials had received a guarantee from the U.K. that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to Reuters.

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 played a role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors said Russian hackers had passed those emails to WikiLeaks in order to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In December 2018, the U.N. criticized what it called the U.K.’s “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Assange. “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable,” a U.N. panel of experts on arbitrary detention said.

“The only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador.”

After Assange’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May thanked the Metropolitan Police and said that Assange’s apprehension proved that in the U.K., “no one is above the law.”

Assange was appearing in court on Thursday.

Police were invited into the embassy on Thursday morning by the Ecuadorean ambassador, police said.

TIME

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Global Oil prices drop

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Oil prices sank about one percent Wednesday after a United States government data showed that the country’s crude stocks unexpectedly rose last week as exports slowed due to a chemical spill at the country’s busiest energy port.

While the global benchmark, Brent crude futures fell 51 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $67.46 per barrel, the US crude, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) dropped 83 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $59.11 per barrel.

United States crude inventories rose last week by 2.8 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 1.2 million barrels, the United States Energy Information Administration said.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, a delivery hub, rose by 541,000 barrels and exports fell 506,000 barrels per day, the EIA said.

A petrochemical tank fire and chemical spill last week along the Houston Ship Channel hampered crude shipments for several days.

The US Coast Guard on Monday reopened portions of the Houston Ship Channel with restrictions on waterways affected by the chemical leak.

Further disruptions to Venezuelan exports helped to limit losses.
The United States had in February announced sanctions intended to produce the most damage possible to the government of President Nicolás Maduro, the country’s oil sector and its state-run oil company, PDVSA.

Washington had in January recognized opposition leader, Juan Guaidó – who is the leader of the country’s National Assembly – as the rightful head of state.
Venezuela’s Congress, which has been stripped of most of its powers by the government, had also described Maduro is a “usurper”.

Washington embarked on an open campaign with Guaidó to oust Maduro.
The White House is trying to make oil revenues directly reach ordinary Venezuelans and bypass the government of Maduro, which owns most of the oil industry through PDVSA.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the sanctions would block $7 billion (£5.4 billion) in PDVSA’s assets and more than $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year.
Reuters reported that on top of US sanctions in January, which banned US refiners from buying Venezuelan oil, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member’s main oil export port of Jose and its four crude upgraders were unable to resume operations following a massive power blackout on Monday, the second in a month.

Oil prices have jumped more than 25 percent this year, supported by supply curbs by OPEC and other major producers, along with US sanctions on exports from Venezuela and Iran.

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Money

West Africa is the least trade integrated region in the world

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The Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, is the least integrated region in the world in terms of cross border trade, a report by the Borderless Alliance group has said.

 

According to the report, the non- application of ECOWAS directives relating to free movement of goods and people, ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, ETLS, and the Common External Tariff, CET, are some of the factors responsible for the low level of trade integration in the region.

Other factors militating against trade in the region include the high cost of transport & logistics, Long delays at ports and borders, harassment along transit corridors, mainly from uniformed services and corruption.

Speaking at a one day workshop on dissemination and launch of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme handbook, Mr Justin Bayili, Executive Secretary, Borderless Alliance said that while Europe recorded 71 per cent in intra-regional trade, Asia recorded 53 per cent, South America 48 per cent against 12 per cent recorded by the ECOWAS region.

Bayili disclosed that East Africa is more integrated than its West African counterpart citing Customs inter-connectivity for the success so far recorded in East Africa.

He said, “We want to make West Africa a borderless border, East Africa is more integrated than West Africa.

“In international trade, there are no restrictions but standards must be met, the same best practices on transit that are applicable in East Africa must be applicable in West Africa.

“Burkina and Togo are inter-connected, Burkina- Cote Ivoire is also inter- connected and this has reduced the cost of trade between these countries.”

He explained that lack of professionalism amongst operators in the ECOWAS trade corridor has also been identified as a problem.

Bayili also noted that some of the issues affecting the ETLS are national issues adding that they must be addressed by national administrations.

Earlier in his opening remark, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said that barriers to trade increase the cost of trade and Africa has the highest cost of transporting goods between origin and destination across all modes of transportation.

He stated: “We must work assiduously to reduce these unnecessary costs by eliminating all the barriers to trade and make our products more competitive in the international market.

“Removing obstacles to intra-regional integration in the ECOWAS sub-region would be particularly beneficial to the small scale traders that conduct cross border commerce within the sub-region.

“The potential benefits include food security, job creation, poverty reduction, increased tax revenues for authorities and long term development outcomes.”

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