Sudan halts direct Darfur-Uganda flights- UN

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The Sudanese government has asked African Union/U.N. peacekeepers to halt direct flights between its troubled region of Darfur and Uganda, said the mission’s spokeswoman.

The request to end direct flights between El Fasher in Darfur and Entebbe in Uganda came as relations between Sudan and Uganda appeared to deteriorate over the conflict in South Sudan.
“The Khartoum government has asked us not to fly directly between El Fasher (in Darfur) and Entebbe. They’ve asked us to reroute our aircraft to go through Khartoum,” Susan Manuel, spokeswoman for African Union/U.N. peacekeepers (UNAMID), said., Reuters reports.

Ugandan officials have expressed strong support for their newly independent neighbour South Sudan, which has been embroiled in a dispute with Sudan over oil transit fees, border demarcation and citizenship.

The dispute escalated into border clashes in late March, prompting Uganda’s chief of defence forces to say “we will not sit by and do nothing”.

Sudan denied the decision to end direct flights between Uganda and Darfur had anything to do with politics and said UNAMID had been informed about the new rule before the latest escalation of diplomatic tension with Uganda.
“They were asked to direct their international flights through Khartoum a few weeks ago,” Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman El-Obeid Morawah said.
“It is due to Sudanese civil aviation regulations. Political elements didn’t have a factor in the decision.”

Entebbe serves as the regional administrative and logistical hub and rest centre for U.N. peacekeepers and also includes a training centre for them, Manuel said.

For the past year, the mission has been flying about four times a week each way.

Last Wednesday, passengers in El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, were told to disembark because they did not have permission to fly to Entebbe, Manuel said, adding flights were not expected to resume for several days.

Uganda has accused the Khartoum government in the past of supporting Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army which now roams a remote jungle straddling Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Benjamin, on a visit to Kampala on Monday, said his country, which gained independence last July, was counting on Uganda’s support in its conflict with Sudan.
“Uganda has a responsibility … as a member of IGAD (regional group) they’re supposed to look after this baby,” he said.

Morawah has criticised Uganda’s position.
“Uganda’s comments are an uncomfortable indication that they are trying to widen the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan and turn it into a regional conflict,” he said.

The border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan had raised fears of renewed war between the two neighbours, but violence appears to have eased after the African Union and United Nations imposed a deadline for the two to stop fighting and return to talks.