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How the civil unrest in Sudan played out

On June 9, police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse demonstrators building roadblocks in the capital

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Civil Disobedience: People protest against Monday's deadly military raid on a nonviolent sit-in in Khartoum, Sudan,

The deadly crackdown by security forces on protesters in Sudan follows a building standoff between the ruling military and demonstrators demanding civilian rule. The unrest started in December 2018, when citizens revolted against a tripling of the price of bread.

In April demonstrators launched a sit-in in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum to demand the departure of the regime of long-time president Omar al-Bashir. He was ousted by the army a few days later, but the protesters remained in place in their thousands to press their demand for the military to cede power.

Sudanese soldiers stand guard a street in Khartoum on June 9, 2019. - Sudanese police fired tear gas Sunday at protesters taking part in the first day of a civil disobedience
Sudanese soldiers stand guard a street in Khartoum on June 9, 2019. – Sudanese police fired tear gas Sunday at protesters taking part in the first day of a civil disobedience campaign, called in the wake of a deadly crackdown on demonstrators. Protesters gathered tyres, tree trunks and rocks to build new roadblocks in Khartoum’s northern Bahari district, a witness told AFP, but riot police swiftly moved in and fired tear gas at them. (Photo by – / AFP)

On June 3 security forces broke up the sit-in, launching a crackdown that left more than 100 dead in just a few days. Here is a summary of events leading up to the military’s move to end the long-running protest.

Talks to settle unrest break down

On May 20, after several breakthroughs, talks between the ruling military council and protest leaders reach a deadlock over who should head a new governing body which should oversee a three-year transition to civilian rule. Protest leaders insist a civilian must head the new sovereign council and that civilians should make up the majority of its members, proposals rejected by the ruling generals.

Sudanese forces are deployed around Khartoum's army headquarters on June 3, 2019 as they try to disperse Khartoum's sit-in.
Sudanese forces are deployed around Khartoum’s army headquarters on June 3, 2019 as they try to disperse Khartoum’s sit-in. – At least two people were killed Monday as Sudan’s military council tried to break up a sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters, a doctors’ committee said as gunfire was heard from the protest site. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Islamist movements back the military in the hope it will keep sharia, Islamic law, in place since a 1989 coup. On May 28-29, thousands of workers in both the public and private sectors strike across the country to pressure the military rulers.

Saudi, UAE, Egypt back military

In late May, the head of the military council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, visits Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. As commander of the country’s ground forces, Burhan is reported to have coordinated the deployment of Sudanese troops within the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in 2015 in Yemen to support the government against Huthi rebels accused of links with Iran.

Related: Police try to quell civil disobedience in Sudan

The three regional powers have thrown their weight behind the Sudanese military for fear of a repeat of the turbulence that followed the Arab Spring in several countries in 2011. Qatar, however, a long-time ally of Bashir but also a friend to Iran and involved in a bitter dispute with Saudi Arabia and its allies, has seen its influence in Sudan wane since the start of the crisis.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C-L) meets with the chief of Sudan's ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C-R), in Khartoum on June 7, 2019.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C-L) meets with the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C-R), in Khartoum on June 7, 2019. – Ethiopia’s prime minister arrived in Khartoum today seeking to broker talks between the ruling generals and protesters as heavily armed paramilitaries remained deployed in some squares of the Sudanese capital after a deadly crackdown, leaving residents in ‘terror’. (Photo by – / AFP)

On May 31, the military council closes down the Khartoum bureau of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, which regularly broadcasts footage of demonstrations. There is no reason given for the order.

Bloody crackdown

On June 3, men in military fatigues move in on the protest camp outside the army headquarters and disperse the thousands gathered there with force. More than 100 have been killed and hundreds wounded since the start of the crackdown, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, close to the demonstrators. Internet connectivity is disrupted.

Sudan's military-protesters clash casualty rises to 13
Sudan’s military-protesters clash casualty rises to 115

A day later the military announces that all previous agreements with protest leaders on the transition are scrapped and that elections will be called “within a period not exceeding nine months”. Protesters denounce a putsch.

Related: Ethiopian leader visits Sudan to lead talks with military, protesters

In Khartoum and across the country, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – paramilitaries with origins in the 16-year-old war in the western region of Darfur – are thought to have been behind the crackdown. They are accused of atrocities, including attacks on hospitals. The international community demands an end to the violence and resumption of dialogue.

Civil disobedience and unrest

On June 5, as gunfire crackles across the capital, the army says it is open to negotiations “with no restriction.” Protest leaders turn down the call for talks with the military council “that kills people”. Saudi Arabia expresses “great concern” at developments and calls for a resumption of dialogue.

A Sudanese man walks towards a barricade made of bricks to block a street for cars in Khartoum's twin city Omdurman on the first day of a civil disobedience campaign
A Sudanese man walks towards a barricade made of bricks to block a street for cars in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman on the first day of a civil disobedience campaign across Sudan on June 9, 2019. – Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters taking part on June 9 in the first day of a civil disobedience campaign, called in the wake of a deadly crackdown on demonstrators. Protesters gathered tyres, tree trunks and rocks to build new roadblocks in Khartoum’s northern Bahari district, a witness told AFP, but riot police swiftly moved in and fired tear gas at them (Photo by – / AFP)

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council and head of the RSF, says the country will not be allowed to slip into “chaos”. Opposition figures are arrested on June 8, a day after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who had travelled to Khartoum as a mediator.

Related: Sudan’s opposition rejects Military Council’s election plan

On June 9, police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse demonstrators building roadblocks in the capital, in response to a call by protest leaders for “civil disobedience” across the country. Markets and shops are closed in several Sudanese towns and cities.

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Malawi’s gay community – a tale of fear and stigma

Most Malawians are Christian or Muslim, with religious education that often describes homosexuality as taboo or a sin.

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Malawi's gay community - a tale of fear and stigma

Fearing persecution after being outed as gay, Adil fled Malawi.

Leaving behind his well-off Muslim family and four-year-old son, he headed for South Africa, where he became a sex worker to survive.

“The laws that we have in Malawi are incriminating. I wanted to get away from here. I had to take my chances,” the 29-year-old told AFP. His full name is withheld for fear of homophobic retribution.

For two years Adil laboured as a male sex worker in the tough streets of downtown Johannesburg, eventually returning home.

His case highlights the problems in Malawi, a holdout in southern Africa where legal liberalisation for gays is otherwise gaining speed.

Botswana this week joined Angola, Mozambique, Seychelles and South Africa on the path towards decriminalising homosexuality, with a verdict by its High Court to scrap decades-old anti-gay laws.

These landmark cases “set an important framework… which will hopefully be emulated elsewhere in Africa,” Anneke Meerkotter of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) told AFP.

But “hopefully” is the key word. Elsewhere on the continent, the picture is quite different.

Last month, Kenya’s High Court upheld laws punishing “carnal knowledge… against the order of nature” by up to 14 years in jail. Chad and Uganda have also introduced or toughened legislation.

‘Unnatural offence’

In Malawi, a conservative religious country, the situation seems particularly entrenched, say campaigners.

Its penal code expressly criminalises same-sex relations as an “unnatural offence”, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last October said Malawi’s laws fuelled a climate of fear, arbitrary arrest, violence and discrimination against gays. Many young people, like Adil, are cast out of their families because of their sexual orientation.

Gay rights burst into the news in 2010 when a couple was jailed for gross indecency after holding the country’s first same-sex public “wedding”.

Then president Bingu wa Mutharika said the pair had committed a crime against Malawi’s culture, religion and laws. He later pardoned them on “humanitarian grounds” after a meeting with the UN secretary general.

When Joyce Banda succeeded him as president in 2012, she promised widespread reforms to the colonial-era legislation and even announced a moratorium on arrests for those breaking laws that criminalise consensual same-sex conduct.  

‘Ignored’

But after Banda lost a 2014 bid to stay on as president, these gains were reversed, say campaigners.

Under Bingu wa’s brother Peter Mutharika, who recently won his second presidential term in office, “this group of people have just tended to be ignored,” gender activist Beatrice Mateyo said.

Activists have been waiting since 2013 for the courts to set a date for a hearing to repeal the anti-gay laws.

“Malawi has several court cases that are lying in the courts and we hope the case scenario of Botswana is also going to inform the legal processes here in Malawi,” Gift Trapence, head of Malawian rights group Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) told AFP.

Mateyo believes religious conservatism has played a core part in perpetuating stereotypes and anti-gay hostility.

Most of the 18 million people in Malawi are Christian or Muslim, whose religious education often describes homosexuality as taboo or a sin.

In 2016, about 3,000 Christians marched through Blantyre and Lilongwe, carrying signs saying “Homosexuality is abomination”. 

“We are seen as a God-fearing nation, so society tends to skew towards religion where you are seen as a sinner… And if you are of a different sexuality then you are perceived as a sinner,” Mateyo said.

People who are not heterosexual, “will rather remain in the closet — hidden.”

“For the very few people that are open, life is very difficult because people tend to label them.”

‘Just want to be safe’

Twenty-eight-year-old Sarah, a lesbian who is also intersex, meaning there is no self-assignment to gender, said everyday tasks in Malawi were like walking on eggshells.

“I’m scared of being attacked, even in public spaces,” said Sarah. “You go to the bank, they look at your ID… you have to prove that you’re this particular sex that was assigned to you at birth.”

Sarah has a three-month-old relationship with a local woman but said, “I cannot take her to the local market to buy vegetables because that’s going to start another issue.”

CEDP, working with activists, set up four drop-in centres in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Mangochi in 2016.

Equipped with a recreation room, gym, large kitchen, medical centre and 24-hour security, the centres support around 2,000 people.

“When we are here, we know each other,” a 27 year-old carpenter who declined to be named told AFP at the centre, his partner seated next to him.

Once a week, he walks 30 kilometres (20 miles) to the Lilongwe drop-in house to collect condoms, thus escaping condemnation by people in his neighbourhood.

Adil returned to Malawi after contracting HIV in South Africa. He was unable to stay there because as an illegal, he had no access to treatment.

The centre has been a haven of hope in Malawi, he said.

“In this space you can wear whatever you want, you can feel any way you want because this is the only safe space that you have.” 

“But out there it is hard.”

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Late Kenyan writer and human rights activist, Margaret Ogola gets Google doodle

After a protracted battle with cancer, the legendary humanitarian, writer, medic and nationalist succumbed to the illness in 2011.

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Late Kenyan writer and human rights activist, Margaret Ogola gets Google doodle

For many Kenyans, reading would not have been as engaging had they not bore witness to the sheer brilliance of Margaret Ogola.

“The River and the Source,” a required reading for the high school leaving national examinations (KCSE) from 1999 to 2004 offered a generation of young Kenyans nostalgia and immersion.

The main protagonist’s father, Chief Odero’s words sums the narrative of the lives of three generations of women in these words: “A home without daughters is like a spring without a source”

Departing from the mainstream narrative of servility, this book projects the spirit of strong African women, while focusing on Luo values and celebrating its cultural mores, from pre to postcolonial times. It won the 1995 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book, Africa region.

Even before authoring her first book, Dr. Ogola was an accomplished woman. She juggled between her job as a pediatrician and the medical field serving in directorial positions at various NGOs focusing on HIV & AIDS at the peak of the scourge in the country.

This was in addition to writing three more books.

Her pertinent words at the Beijing conference in 1995 continue to ring true today as they did when she first spoke them.

In a conversation on the dignity of the African woman, she posits: “Unless we recognize that each individual is irreplaceable (sic) and valuable by virtue of simply being conceived human, we cannot begin to talk about human rights.

The accidental attributes that we acquire such as colour, sex, intelligence, economic circumstances, physical or mental disability should not be used as an excuse to deprive a person of life.”

After a protracted battle with cancer, the legendary humanitarian, writer, medic and nationalist succumbed to the illness in 2011.

On Sunday, 9th June, Google honoured her in what would have been her 60th birthday.

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Kenyans protest bid to build East Africa’s first coal plant

Campaigners argue the project is a costly and damaging venture that defeats the purpose of moving away from coal energy.

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Kenyans protest bid to build East Africa's first coal plant
Greenpeace and environmental activists hold a coffin reading "coal kills" and signs as they demonstrate in Nairobi against the construction of a coal power plant in Lamu on Kenya's coast, on June 12, 2019. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP)

Scores of Kenyans on Wednesday protested against a project to build a coal power station near the Lamu archipelago, a popular tourist spot that includes a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts vibrant marine life.

The power station, which has been in the planning stages for about six years, has faced fierce resistance from activists, local communities, and the National Environmental Tribunal is to rule on June 24 on the fate of the project.

A group of about 200 protesters carrying black coffins emblazoned with white skulls, as well as a miniature chimney spewing smoke, marched through downtown Nairobi on Wednesday chanting “coal is poisonous!”

“There is no need to build centralised dirty sources of energy such as coal to answer Kenya’s energy demands, especially when the country is taking the lead in Africa with an 85-per cent renewable energy base,” said deCOALonize Campaign Coordinator, Omar Elmawi.

“With access to wind, solar, geo-thermal and tidal energy sources, Kenya’s renewable energy potential is cost-efficient and causes no harm to the people and environment.”

Campaigners argue the project is a costly and damaging venture that makes little sense at a time when most of the world is turning away from coal plants and investing in increasingly cheaper renewable energies.

“Countries are divesting away from coal and even China is moving away from coal investment towards renewable energy,” Greenpeace representative Fredrick Njehu commented.

However the government sees it as a way to spur economic growth, create jobs, and ensure Kenya’s energy supply in the future.

The bulk of the $2 billion project is being financed by China and it will be built by Amu Power, a joint venture between a Kenyan firm and Gulf Energy. Construction will be carried out by China Power Global.

Campaigners are also alarmed over Kenya’s rising debt, which currently stands at around $50 billion of which over $6 billion is owed to China.

Activists march in Nairobi, carrying placards bearing messages to denounce plans by the Kenyan government to mine coal close to the pristine coastal archipelago of Lamu. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

Experts have raised serious concerns about the project.

The US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) this week released a report warning that due to a series of miscalculations, electricity from the plant will cost consumers 10 times more than estimated.

Related: Electricity supply from Lamu Power Plant could cost more than originally estimated

The report entitled “The Wrong Choice For Kenya” said the 981-megawatt facility would be a “costly error” for the country, with the 25-year contract requiring payment of $360 million annually even if no power is generated at the plant.

It says that Kenya’s energy demand growth has been much lower than estimated, due to lower than expected economic growth, and that if built the plant would be “grossly underutilised”.

“The government’s own analysis demonstrates that… Kenya’s abundant renewable resources render no new coal generation necessary in the country until 2029, at the earliest”.

Amu Power in a statement Wednesday described the report’s conclusions as “inaccurate” and said the plant would have a utilisation rate of 85 per cent.

It will be the first coal-fired power station in East Africa and will import coal from South Africa until Kenya begins its own mining operations.

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