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Bashir toppled, detained as defence chief denies he resigned

A transitional military council would replace Bashir for two years

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A picture dated November 25, 2018 shows Sudanese Defence Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf in Khartoum. - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power and detained by the country's army, Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf announced on state television on April 11, 2019. Bashir, who ruled with an iron-fist since he swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has been removed after months of deadly protests across the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir did not resign. He was ousted, the army said in a broadcast on Thursday, following months of anti-government protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

“I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf said in a sombre televised address to the nation.

A transitional military council would replace Bashir for two years, he said, adding that the country’s borders and airspace would be shut until further notice.

The veteran leader, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, was one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. He is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Since early morning huge crowds of jubilant Sudanese had begun thronging squares across the centre of Khartoum on Thursday as the army promised an “important announcement”.

Chanting “the regime has fallen,” thousands poured into the open ground outside army headquarters where defiant protesters have braved tear gas to keep up an unprecedented sit-in now in its sixth day.

The protests, which erupted in December over the government’s tripling of the price of bread, were the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s long rule.

The security agency also announced it was freeing all political prisoners.

Army vehicles carrying troops were seen deploying across the centre of Khartoum from early Thursday.

Troops raided the offices of the Islamic Movement, the ideological wing of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, witnesses told AFP. And martial music was played on state television as soldiers ordered the TV to halt its normal programming.

Outside army headquarters, dozens of joyful protesters climbed on top of landcruisers and armoured vehicles that had been posted to protect them from intervention by other branches of the security forces.

Braving the searing 42 degree Celsius (108 degree Fahrenheit) heat, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers in the crowd.

– ‘Political detainees freed’ -Sudan’s feared intelligence service said it was freeing all the country’s political prisoners, state media reported.

“The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said.

But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, protesters stormed NISS buildings after the releases failed to materialise, witnesses said.

Protesters approached the NISS building in Kasala demanding that officers free their prisoners, a witness told AFP by telephone from the city.

“But NISS officers fired in the air after which protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment inside,” he said.

Protesters chanting slogans against Bashir also stormed an NISS building in Port Sudan, a witness said.

The raids on NISS buildings came despite a call by protest organisers for demonstrators to refrain from attacking government figures or buildings.

“We are calling on our people to control themselves and not to attack anybody or government and private properties,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), the umbrella group that is spearheading the protest movement, said in a statement.

“Anyone found doing this will be punished by law. Our revolution is peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.”

– ‘It’s enough’ -“We had enough of this regime — 30 years of repression, corruption, rights abuses, it’s enough,” said one protester at the sit-in.

Demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling headquarters complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.

There has been an often festive mood at the sit-in, with protesters singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs.

The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the NISS since they began camping outside the complex on Saturday, protest organisers say.

Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.

“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside army headquarters.

Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.

“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition,” the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.

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North Africa Politics

Libya’s GNA suspect new military escalation by Haftar-led forces

Videos circulated on social media in recent days show columns of LNA military vehicles trucking towards Tripoli.

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Photo credit: AFP

Libya’s UN-recognised government said Saturday it feared forces led by strongman Khalifa Haftar were prepping a new “military escalation” in their months-long push to take Tripoli.

Deadly fighting has rocked the capital’s outskirts since Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive on April 4 to take the city from the Government of National Accord.

The GNA said on its Facebook page it was “concerned over reports, confirmed by the UN and the media, on preparations for a new military escalation”.

The United Nations mission in Libya said in a tweet Saturday that it was “doing its outmost with all local and foreign actors to avoid military escalation and to ensure protection of civilians”.

Videos circulated on social media in recent days, some by a pro-Haftar television channel, show columns of LNA military vehicles trucking towards the south of the capital. The footage could not be independently verified.

Haftar’s campaign to wrestle Tripoli from pro-GNA forces has left nearly 1,093 people dead, including 106 civilians, and over 5,750 wounded, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.

The fighting has also forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. 

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Campaign against corruption begins in Zambia

We can’t have few people that are getting rich and the majority are poor. – Laura Miti

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Campaign against corruption in government begins in Zambia

Hundreds of people wearing yellow T-shirts rallied on Saturday in Zambia’s capital Lusaka – to kick start a campaign against corruption in President Edgar Lungu’s government.

The protesters – led by prominent anti-graft activists Laura Miti and musician Pilato (also known as Chama Fumba) – picketed outside the parliament, singing anti-government songs and waving yellow cards.

“This is just the beginning of our yellow card campaigns,” Miti, who is the leader of a non-profit organisation Alliance for Community Action, told the jubilant crowd.

“We will not accept the country to be destroyed while we watch. 

“We can’t have few people that are getting rich and the majority are poor. This country is rich but the problem is how it is governed,”  she said.

She claimed that some ministers owned more than 40 houses each while most Zambians live in squalor. 

Demonstrators carried placards denouncing poor standards of education and plans to reintroduce deputy ministerial posts through a constitutional amendment.

“We are saying to (president) Lungu we are tired,” said Miti.

Both Miti and Pilato were arrested last year for picketing outside parliament over the procurement of 42 fire engines at a cost of $1 million each, seen as emblematic of the corruption fostered by Lungu.

During the protest on Saturday, Pilato warned: “if we refuse to defend Zambia today, there won’t be Zambia tomorrow”.

Lungu became president in 2015 after the death of President Michael Sata and was re-elected in 2016, but his administration has been dogged by accusations of graft.

In January 2018, foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba resigned in protest, citing “swelling” corruption in government ranks “perpetrated by those who are expected to be the solution.”

The former minister for social services, Emerine Kabanshi, is due in court next month for corruption charges over allegations that led Britain to suspend aid to Zambia last year.

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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained

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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry
Former South African president Jacob Zuma. (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL / AFP)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Friday withdrew from testifying to an inquiry into corruption during his rule, complaining of bias, before later agreeing to return at a future date.

In the corruption scandal popularly referred to as “state capture”, Zuma is alleged to have overseen mass looting of state assets during his nine-year tenure.

Zuma on Friday morning pulled out of the inquiry, with his legal team saying their client would no longer participate as he had been “treated as someone who was accused.”

But after behind-the-scenes discussions, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who is chairing the investigation, announced an agreement had been reached between parties.

“The former president will come back at another time that will be arranged,” Zondo announced. “The discussions have resulted in an agreement.”

Zuma said he was “happy” that a compromise had been reached.

READ: Zuma to testify at South Africa’s graft probe

“No one should have a wrong impression that the raising of the concerns was just done in order to disrupt the processes, these were genuine concerns,” he added.

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained that earlier questioning was effectively a court cross-examination.

Zuma had dismissed all accusations made against him by previous witnesses to the inquiry.

He replied to many questions at the inquiry by saying he did not remember or was unaware of meetings and conversations that other witnesses had mentioned.

Possible prosecutions –

On Monday, the first day of his testimony, Zuma gave a rambling address saying he was the victim of conspiracies and years of “character assassination”, and accusing foreign intelligence agencies and spies of working against him.

He also said he had received multiple death threats and attempts on his life.

Zuma, 77, was ousted by the ruling ANC party in 2018 and replaced by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to clean up the government.

He was not legally summoned to attend the inquiry, but was invited to reply after being implicated in graft by several previous witnesses.

The inquiry is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta business family and state-owned companies.

READ: Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified

The Indian-born Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai.

One witness, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene testified that Zuma pushed policies on nuclear power and aviation that were designed to benefit the Gupta family.

“Mr. Zuma and his legal team are in effect asking to be excused from the application of the rules,” the inquiry’s lead lawyer Paul Pretorius said.

“If the questions are detailed and if the questions are difficult… so be it.

“We are not only entitled, but obliged to ask those questions.”

Zuma was forced to set up the commission in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman.

It has been holding hearings since last year and is due to complete a report next year that may lead to criminal prosecutions.

Zuma has also been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to a 1990’s arms deal made before he became president.

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