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African Union suspends Sudan until successful civilian transition

AU cites decision as “the only way to allow Sudan to exit from the current crisis.”

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African Union suspends Sudan over unrest | News Central TV
Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone and Chairperson of the African Union Peace and Security Council Patrick Kapuwa (C) speaks during a press briefing where the union suspended Sudan, demanding a civilian-led transition authority to resolve a crisis which has claimed over 100 lives. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

The African Union on Thursday suspended Sudan, demanding a civilian-led transition authority to resolve a crisis which has claimed over 100 lives.

“The AU Peace and Security Council has with immediate effect suspended the participation of the Republic of Sudan in all AU activities until the effective establishment of a Civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow Sudan to exit from the current crisis,” the AU posted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia will launch a mediation effort on Friday, diplomatic sources in Khartoum said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was due to visit Khartoum on Friday to try to mediate between the military and an opposition alliance, a diplomatic source at the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum said.

The source told reporters that Abiy would meet members of the Transitional Military Council and the opposition’s Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces during his one-day visit.

Ethiopia hosts the headquarters of the African Union but it was not clear if Abiy would be acting under AU auspices.

Disputed death toll –

The Sudanese Health Ministry said on Thursday that 61 people had been killed in the crackdown but the opposition put the toll at 108.

The action was led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary force, witnesses said. Troops fired on unarmed protesters then mounted a wider operation crackdown in the following days, they said.

The RSF, commanded by the military council’s deputy leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, was built up from militias that fought insurgents in Sudan’s western Darfur region during a civil war that began in 2003.

The militias are accused of involvement in widespread atrocities in Darfur, and Bashir was indicted in 2009 and 2010 by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide – charges he denies. He is now detained in Khartoum.

Amnesty International called for international action against the military rulers and condemned the RPF for its role in the violence.

“The RSF, the special military force which killed, raped and tortured thousands in Darfur, brings its murderous rampage to the capital,” Amnesty said.

“Reports that bodies have been dumped in the river demonstrate the utter depravity of these so-called security forces.”

The military council has denied the force was involved in any illegal actions and said it was facing a negative media campaign “from hostile parties”. The raid was targeting criminals in an area adjacent to the camp, it said.

Meanwhile, Sudanese authorities have admitted dozens of people were killed when security forces stormed a weeks-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

But doctors said Wednesday that 40 bodies had been pulled from the Nile, sending the death toll soaring to at least 108. 

The military ousted longtime president Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his authoritarian rule.

But thousands of demonstrators had remained camped out in front of the army headquarters calling for the generals to cede power to civilians.

The AU had urged the generals to ensure a smooth transition of power, but the brutal crackdown to disperse protesters Monday saw pressure mount on the AU to hold those responsible for the violence to justice.

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Lifestyle News

Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Lifestyle News

Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb

Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.

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Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a car bomb attack in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on August 10, 2019. - "Two members of the UN mission, one them a foreigner, were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb" in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said. (Photo by - / AFP)

A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.

“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.

An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.

Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.

But bombings and kidnappings have continued.

A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.

A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.

Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”. 

On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.

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Culture & Tourism

Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year

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Egyptian archaeologists restore the coffin and mummy of King Tutankhamun

Egypt displayed on Sunday the gilded coffin of Tutankhamun, under restoration for the first time since the boy king’s tomb was discovered in 1922. The restoration process began in mid-July after the three-tiered coffin was transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, southern Egypt.

“We are showing you a unique historical artefact, not just for Egypt but for the world,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told a press conference at the new museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids.

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year when Egypt’s new mega-museum is opened to the public. The restoration is expected to take around eight months.

The outer gilded wood coffin stands at 2.23 metres (7.3 feet) and is decorated with a depiction of the boy king holding the pharaonic symbols the flail and crook, according to the ministry. In the last century, the coffin has “developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster, especially those of the lid and base”.

Famed British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th dynasty king in Luxor in 1922. Sunday’s announcement comes after the controversy the Pharoah courted in early July when a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact was sold in London for $6 million.

Furious Egyptian officials condemned the sale and asked the international police agency Interpol to trace the artefact which it deems looted.

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