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Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal

Bashir faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court

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Sudanese ex-President Bashir got $90 million from Saudi royals -Investigator
Sudan's deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant's cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. - Bashir has admitted to receiving $90 million in cash from Saudi monarchs, an investigator told a Khartoum court today. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Omar al-Bashir received $90 million in cash from Saudi royals, an investigator told a court at the opening Monday of the deposed Sudanese strongman’s corruption trial.

The former President, who was forced from power by months of protests in April after 30 years in power, sat in a metal cage wearing a traditional white gown.

His relatives chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) as proceedings got underway in the Khartoum court where he arrived in a huge military convoy.

Bashir faces a raft of charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur war but Monday’s trial is over graft allegations.

READ: Former president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Large amounts of cash were found at this residence after he was toppled and the investigator said the case brought forward to the court probed some of that money.

“The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,” investigator Ahmed Ali said.

According to him, Bashir had said he also received two previous payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

“This money was not part of the state budget and I was the one who authorised its spending,” the investigator quoted Bashir as saying.

Sudan’s deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant’s cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on August 19, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Bashir had said the Saudi money was exchanged and spent and that he could not remember how nor did he have documents providing further details, he added.

READ: Sudan to begin trial of former leader Bashir August 17

Bashir looked calm during the nearly three-hour session, which a photographer and correspondent attended. The next hearing was scheduled for August 24.

Darfur crimes –

In May, Sudan’s prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

London-based rights watchdog, Amnesty International has warned, however, that the corruption trial should not distract from his Darfur indictments.

“While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged the country’s new transitional institutions to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute, a move that would allow for his transfer to the international tribunal.

The Hague-based ICC has for years demanded that Bashir stand trial, and has renewed its call since his fall.

The head of Bashir’s defence team, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, said in July that the ousted leader’s trial had no “political background”.

“It is an absolute criminal case with a baseless accusation.”

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.

Sovereign Council –

The trial comes as the composition of the joint civilian and military sovereign council that will steer the country of 40 million through a 39-month transition was due to be unveiled on Monday.

The line-up had been expected to be announced on Sunday but it was delayed after one of the five nominees put forward by the opposition alliance representing protest leaders turned down the job.

READ: Sudanese leaders sign historic deal for civilian rule

Sudanese ex-President Bashir admits receiving $90 million from Saudi royal
Sudan’s protest leader Ahmad Rabie (2nd-R), flashes the victory gesture alongside General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (C), the chief of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), during a ceremony where they signed a “constitutional declaration” that paves the way for a transition to civilian rule, in the capital Khartoum. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members including six civilians and five from the military. 

It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.

The council will oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration including a cabinet and a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the Darfur atrocities and Bashir’s international arrest warrant had conferred on it.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable, however, within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.

One of its main causes is the omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

And it remains unclear how the transitional institutions will tackle the daunting task of pacifying a country plagued by several conflicts, including in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

READ: Sudan’s new sovereign council faces delayed unveiling

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North Africa Politics

Former Tunisian President Ben Ali dies in exile aged 83

Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against Islamist extremist

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Former Tunisian President Ben Ali dies in exile
(Photo by Fethi Belaid / AFP)

Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died Thursday in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia’s foreign ministry told reporters. He was 83.

“We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago,” the ministry said, without giving further details. 

His lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, confirmed the news, citing family members and Ben Ali’s doctor.

Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against Islamist extremism, but faced criticism for muzzling the opposition and his reluctance to embrace democracy.

Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices snapped. 

In late 2010, the self-immolation of a young trader sparked major protests that rocked the country and sparked a deadly clampdown.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011.

His rapid departure sparked a string of similar uprisings across the region, toppling Egyptian and Libyan strongmen Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi.

Pyjamas in exile –

In mid-2012, Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in jail for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.

Little information has emerged on his life in exile.

Photos posted on Instagram in 2013 showed the former strongman smiling in striped pyjamas. 

Rumours of his death had circulated several times in recent years. 

A week ago, Ben Salha said the former President was in a “critical condition”, before denying reports that he had died. 

Former Tunisian President Ben Ali dies in exile
A partial view of the King Faisal hospital in Jeddah where former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali died on September 19, 2019. – Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died today in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia’s foreign ministry told AFP. (Photo by – / AFP)

“He is not dead, but his state of health is bad. He has left hospital and is currently being cared for at his home — his condition is stabilising”, the lawyer said at the time.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said last week that on humanitarian grounds Ben Ali could return to die in his own country — “like every Tunisian” — should he wish to do so.   

Ben Ali is survived by six children; three daughters by a first marriage and two daughters and a son by Leila Trabelsi.

A career soldier, Ben Ali took power on November 7, 1987, when he toppled Habib Bourguiba, the ailing father of Tunisian independence who was by then reported to be senile.

Tunisians, including Islamists, hailed his bloodless, non-violent takeover.

He went on to make Tunisia a moderate voice in the Arab world while Western governments viewed him as an effective bulwark against extremism despite criticism of his slow move toward democracy.

Ben Ali was also sentenced in absentia to misappropriating public funds and ordering the torture of army officers who allegedly led a coup attempt against him.

Tunisia on Sunday held a presidential election, in which two outsiders — law professor Kais Saied and detained media mogul Nabil Karoui — made it through to a second-round run-off. 

The country’s first post Arab Spring democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, died in July aged 92, bringing the first round of the presidential polls forward by several months.

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Op-Ed

First 100 days in office, what’s in it? (Opinion)

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days.

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The first 100 days

Recently, Nigerians have been pulling out scorecards and more to try and calculate the performances of their governors and the president after their first 100 days in office. Newspaper headlines had these elected officials and those who worked for them sharing achievements of their first 100 days. 

But why and when did the first 100 days become any kind of benchmark? Many of us don’t even know the history behind the concept of the first 100 days. So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. 

How it started?

The concept is believed to have its roots in France, where “Cent Jours” or hundred days, refers to the period of time in 1815 when Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris from exile and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. 

It became a key benchmark in America during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt became president in 1932, taking leadership of an America that was extremely battered and was attempting to crawl out of the Great Depression, which followed the crash of the stock market in October 1929. 

Jide Sanwo-Olu also celebrates first 100 days in Office
A cut-out portrait of Nigeria’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu (L), and a portrait of his running mate, Obafemi Hamzat, are displayed along a road on March 6, 2019, in the Ikoyi district of the country’s largest city. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Pay Attention: 189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

He campaigned and won on the idea of a “new deal” for Americans that would see them through and past the hard times. Now, in order to tackle the issues facing the American economy at the time, he pushed through over a dozen pieces of major legislation during the first 3 months of his tenure. The first measures of the New Deal are referred to as the first 100 days. 

So therein lies the historical background of the first 100 days. But should it still apply in the 21st century? Can the first 100 days really show you the direction and possible outcome of any administration? Those are the questions we must answer individually as citizens. However, the way and manner the first 100 days is bandied about in Nigeria, simply makes you wonder what the big deal is. 

First 100 days records in Nigeria

Let’s start with President Muhammadu Buhari. According to his party, his second term’s first 100 days have gone well. The National Chairman of the APC said appointing ministers earlier than he did in 2015, having the 2020 budget prepared, and even engaging various professional groups have been the achievements of the first 100 days.

In Lagos, Governor Jide Sanwo-olu said the executive order declaring an emergency on traffic management and transportation and rehabilitation of atrial roads were achievements in his first 100 days.

In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde, listed some of his achievements to be cancellation of all levies paid in Oyo public schools, going to Benin Republic for collaborations in the agribusiness sector and also having a 27 year-old commissioner. 

Buhari's First 100 days
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (C) looks on during the African Union summit at the palais des Congres in Niamey, on July 7, 2019. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Pay Attention: Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari’s February election win

Each of these gentlemen claim more achievements in their first 100 days, but should we keep the first 100 days as a benchmark along the timeline of an administration?

The 100 days – is it enough?

As citizens of Nigeria and residents of various states, what do we think the first 100 days can tell us about any administration? 

Oftentimes, it appears there is a race to rack up “achievements” or grand gestures on the way to the first 100 days, but what happens after that? Using about 3 months to judge administrations that have 48 months to fulfill their mandate seems a bit pedestrian. 

We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or caught up in the noise around the first 100 days. Governance is a continuous journey, yes, with milestones along the way. But with the way we have elected officials holding programs, writing speeches, etc on their first 100 days, one would think it was more than that. 

The bar in Nigeria many would say has been set low, some would even argue that the bar is underground at this point. What we as citizens need to realize is that the bar is wherever we want it to. When we start to demand better, make those seeking our vote accountable to their campaign promises, and hand out consequences when they don’t meet our expectations, the bar will rise. 

And when the bar rises, we’ll find that the first 100 days loses some of the glamour around it.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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North Africa

2 candidates claim first round wins in Tunisia elections

Turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls

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Tunisia elections: 2 candidates claim wins

Two anti-establishment candidates in Tunisia’s election claimed Sunday to have won through to a runoff, hours after polling closed in the country’s second free presidential poll since the 2011 Arab Spring.

In a sign of voter apathy, especially among the young, turnout was reported by the elections commission (ISIE) to be 45 percent, down from 64 percent recorded in the 2014 polls. Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and expert on constitutional affairs who ran as an independent, claimed to be in pole position.

He finished “first in the first round,” he said, citing exit polls ahead of preliminary results expected to be announced on Tuesday. There was also an upbeat atmosphere at the party headquarters of jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui, behind bars due to a money laundering probe, as hundreds of supporters celebrated after he also claimed to have reached the second round.

Other prominent candidates in the first round included Abdelfattah Mourou, heading a first-time bid for Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Ennahdha insisted it would wait for the official results. 

“Only the elections board gives the results,” said Ennahdha MP and Mourou’s campaign director, Samir Dilou. “I do not doubt the work of the polling institutes, (but) it is not their role to impose a certain truth on the public,” he told reporters.

Chahed’s popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living. The prime minister has also found himself having to vehemently deny accusations that Karoui’s detention since late August was politically inspired.

Tunisia Elections: citizens cast their votes
Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Detained but undeterred; Nabil Karoui’s campaign continues in Tunisia

‘Where are the young?’

“Young people of Tunisia, you still have an hour to vote!” ISIE head Nabil Baffoun had urged before the close of Sunday’s vote. “We must leave our homes and vote – it’s a right that we gained from the 2011 revolution which cost lives,” Baffoun added, visibly disappointed by the turnout.

However, he later said that the turnout of 45 percent was “an acceptable level”. At polling stations visited by journalists, there was a high proportion of older voters, but few young people. The election followed an intense campaign characterised more by personality clashes than political differences. 

It had been brought forward by the death of 92-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in July and whose widow also passed away on Sunday morning. Essebsi had been elected in the wake of the 2011 revolt that overthrew former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Publication of opinion polls has officially been banned since July. Some of the 24 hopefuls who contested the polls tried to burnish anti-establishment credentials to distance themselves from a political elite discredited by personal quarrels. Another independent candidate was Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat running for the first time, although with backing from Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party.

The long list of active runners was trimmed by the last-minute withdrawal of two candidates in favour of Zbidi, although their names remained on the ballot paper. But Karoui’s detention, just 10 days ahead of the start of campaigning, has been the top story of the election. Studies suggested his arrest boosted his popularity.

A controversial businessman, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest. But his detractors portray him as a would-be Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier who they allege partly owns his channel.

On Friday, an appeal for the Tunisian mogul’s release from prison ahead of the election was rejected, his party and lawyers said. The polarisation risks derailing the electoral process, according to Michael Ayari, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Tunisian voter queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city
Tunisian voters queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Marsa city, northeast of Tunis, Tunisia, to elect the Tunisia’s president in a first-round vote of the presidential elections, on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Read: Tunisia decides: Voters head to polls in test on democracy

‘Divisive’ candidates

Isabelle Werenfels, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, called the vote a democratic “test” because “it may require accepting the victory of a polarising candidate” such as Karoui. Distrust of the political elite has been deepened by an unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rise in the cost of living by close to a third since 2016.

Jihadist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector. Around 70,000 security forces were mobilised for the polls. The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.

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