Sudan’s veteran opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi called on Friday for an “objective” international investigation into last week’s deadly crackdown on protesters, after the ruling military council rejected such a probe.
Mahdi’s call was backed by top US envoy Tibor Nagy, who urged an “independent and credible” investigation into the June 3 killings.
Thousands of protesters who had camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum for weeks were dispersed in an operation which left dozens dead.
The crackdown followed the collapse of talks between protest leaders and generals, following the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.
The generals had repeatedly pledged they would not disperse the sit-in, but on Thursday admitted that “mistakes” had been made.
Mahdi, speaking after attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, condemned the operation.
“The protest’s dispersal was wrong. There should be an independent international investigation into it,” he told AFP.
“It’s important that the probe is objective and not biased in favour of the authorities.”
Mahdi’s elected government was toppled in a 1989 coup led by Bashir, who then ruled for three decades before being ousted in April following mass protests.
‘Independent and credible’
Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, also called for an investigation.
“The USA believe very strongly there has to be an investigation which is independent and credible which will hold accountable those committing the egregious events,” he said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, after a two-day visit to Khartoum.
Along with the newly-appointed US special envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, Nagy met with military council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday.
The June 3 crackdown left about 120 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to doctors linked to protesters, while the health ministry put the death toll at 61.
The protest movement has also called for an international probe, something rejected by the military council.
“We do not accept an international investigating committee. We are a sovereign state,” council spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi told reporters late Thursday.
Expressing “regret” over the crackdown, Kabbashi said the plan had been to clear an area close to the sit-in — but “excesses happened”.
He said the military is carrying out its own inquiry, whose findings are to be released on Saturday.
‘Harsh and unacceptable’
On Friday, worshippers at the mosque linked to Mahdi’s National Umma Party appeared frustrated with the generals’ version of the crackdown.
“The way the sit-in was dispersed was harsh and unacceptable,” said Salim Gebril, a university professor and member of the National Umma Party.
“They (the military rulers) keep saying they are looking forward to reaching an agreement (with the protest leaders) but their tone sounded as if they may take another route.”
Another worshipper, Abdelrahman Amir al-Tom, found the military council’s statement to be “extremely disappointing”.
Protest leaders and generals have now agreed to resume talks after mediation led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Mahdi believes the mediation “may have a positive impact,” and may help both sides overcome the differences.
“In the end, the military council cannot rule, that is clear, and civilian forces cannot talk about a future without the participation of the military council,” the former premier said.
Army arrests 5 suspects for planning attacks in Algeria
The suspects “planned attacks against peaceful protests across different parts of the country”
The Algerian army has arrested five suspects for planning “attacks” against anti-government demonstrations that have started in the country since February 22, the defence ministry said on Sunday. The suspects “planned attacks against peaceful protests across different parts of the country”, it said in a statement, adding they were arrested in “anti-terrorist” raids last week in the Batna region southeast of the capital Algiers.
It identified the suspects as “terrorists”, a term Algerian authorities use to describe armed Islamists who have been active in the country since the early 1990s. Algeria has been rocked by months of protests since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced in February he would run for a fifth term.
He quit office but protesters have kept up the mass demonstrations, calling for an overhaul of the “system” and departure of key Bouteflika-era figures. Interim president Abdelkader Bensalah has proposed a “neutral” national dialogue, without the involvement of the state or the military, to prepare for new presidential polls.
His proposals, backed by powerful army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah who has emerged as the country’s key powerbroker since Bouteflika’s departure, have failed to calm protesters. Massive rallies continue to be held weekly on Fridays in Algiers and other key towns.
In recent weeks, police have detained dozens of demonstrators – releasing them at the end of the Friday rallies. Observers say the detentions and other measures including heavy police deployments are meant to discourage protesters from taking to the streets.
Sudanese demonstrators mourn dead protesters, demand justice for June 3 victims
Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed by men in military fatigues on June 3 in a pre-dawn raid that reportedly killed over 100
Sudanese protesters lit candles and released balloons in Khartoum as thousands rallied across the country to mourn dozens killed last month in a brutal raid on a protest camp, correspondents reported.
Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed by men in military fatigues in a pre-dawn raid on a sit-in outside army headquarters on June 3.
Saturday’s commemorative rallies came as mediators said talks between generals and protest leaders to discuss the finer details of a recently agreed power-sharing accord had been postponed to Sunday, at the request of protest leaders.
They were previously scheduled for Saturday evening.
The protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, had called for marches — dubbed “Justice First” — across the country on Saturday to mark 40 days since the raid.
Demonstrators who had camped outside military headquarters for weeks demanding civilian rule were shot and beaten, triggering international outrage.
Chanting “Blood for blood, we won’t accept compensations,” crowds of protesters marched in Khartoum’s northern district of Bahari, a protest hotbed since demonstrations first erupted in December against the then regime of now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Many lit candles and some floated balloons, while hundreds bathed the area in a sea of light — holding their mobile phones aloft as torches, while chanting revolutionary slogans, a correspondent reported.
Hundreds also gathered on nearby open ground, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule.”
“We must take what is ours, we must free Sudan from its past. We want civilian rule now,” said Abdelqadir Omar, an English teacher at a rally in the Al-Sahafa area of the capital.
Waving a Sudanese flag, an 11-year-old boy said reportedly:
“All the mothers were crying in their homes when their children were killed”.
‘Justice for Martyrs’ –
Groups of protesters sat in circles around Sudanese flags and candles in several neighbourhoods as the sun set over Khartoum.
Earlier, security forces had closed all roads leading to the presidential palace and deployed along the road leading to the airport.
Hundreds rallied and waved Sudanese flags in Omdurman — Khartoum’s twin city — while crowds also marched through the streets of Port Sudan, the country’s main economic hub, witnesses said.
Protesters rallied in the eastern cities of Madani and Kassala and in the central city of Al-Obeid, witnesses told reporters by telephone.
Many protesters reportedly carried banners that read: “Justice for Martyrs” while others held photographs of demonstrators killed in the June 3 raid.
People also took to the streets of Atbara, where the first rally against Bashir’s government was held on December 19 in response to a decision to triple bread prices.
The protests in December swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against the autocrat’s iron-fisted three-decade rule.
Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11, five days after the protesters had first massed outside army headquarters.
Protesters continued their sit-in, demanding that the generals themselves step down, ahead of the brutal dispersal on June 3.
The military council insists it did not order the raid, which according to the protest movement killed more than 100 and wounded hundreds in just one day.
But after intense mediation by the African Union and Ethiopia, a landmark power-sharing deal was reached earlier this month that aims to set up a joint civilian-military governing body.
‘Real partnership’ –
The new governing body aims to install a transitional civilian administration for a period of just over three years.
The agreement stipulates that the new governing body will be presided over by a military nominee for the first 21 months, and by a civilian for the last 18 months.
“We are not an enemy of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of the ruling military council, told a rally in Nile State, broadcast on state TV.
“We are in a real partnership.”
Dagalo is also the commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces which protesters and rights groups allege carried out the June 3 raid.
Football match win over Cote d’Ivoire inspires protests in Algeria
The protest movement is also demanding the establishment of independent institutions to oversee fresh elections
Crowds of Algerians defied a massive police deployment Friday to protest against the government, buoyed by the national football team’s qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.
After celebrating all night their side’s defeat of Ivory Coast on penalties, Algerians flooded the streets of the capital, Algiers to once again press their demands for an overhaul of the country’s political leadership.
Mass protests forced longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in early April, but demonstrators have kept up the pressure, calling for all regime insiders to step aside.
The protest movement — now in its 21st week — is also demanding the establishment of independent institutions to oversee fresh elections.
Calling for a “civilian -not military- state” the demonstrators flooded the streets of central Algiers, despite the deployment of large numbers of police from early morning.
Long lines of police vans were parked on either side of the road where protesters marched, significantly reducing the space available for demonstrators.
Engine oil was poured on steps, railings and other areas where protesters have been known to gather, reporters said, apparently to keep them at bay.
Police also detained a dozen demonstrators for no apparent reason, as in past rallies, reporters said.
“There is a clear will (by the police) to stop peaceful marches in Algiers,” tweeted Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, known by its French acronym LADDH.
He denounced an “impressive police deployment” which he said included “roadblocks” at the entrances to the capital to check the identities of protesters, carry out searches and detain demonstrators.
Protester Aicha Sahli said “I’m fed up with a government that is imposing itself on the people.”
“The authorities must understand that we refuse elections (organised) by the kings of fraud,” she told reporters.
Friday’s protest comes as interim President Abdelkader Bensalah remains in post, in the absence of elections after his mandate expired on Tuesday.
Bensalah, last week, called for a national dialogue without the involvement of the state or the military to pave the way for presidential elections, after polls planned for early July were scrapped.
Algerian army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the country’s key power broker since Bouteflika stepped down, backs Bensalah.
On Wednesday, Gaid Salah said that Bensalah’s proposal was a “sensible approach” to end Algeria’s crisis, adding that elections should take place as soon as possible.
He also warned against portraying Algeria as a nation that was no longer a “civilian state”.
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