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Sudan generals meet protest leaders in final talks on ruling council

The composition of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations.

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Sudan generals meet protest leaders in final talks on ruling council

Army generals and protest leaders are on Wednesday expected to finalise the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for three years, the thorniest issue in installing civilian rule.

The protest movement that brought down president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of iron-fisted rule is demanding a civilian-led transition, which the generals have steadfastly resisted since bowing to their demands and toppling the autocrat.

The latest breakthrough came despite the talks being marred by violence that left six people dead on Monday at a sit-in held by protesters outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.

Wednesday’s crucial negotiations are due to start at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), said Khalid Omar Yousef, a leader from the protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

“The announcement is expected after midnight,” he told reporters.

The current talks began on Monday and the two sides have since agreed on an overall civilian structure, including a three-year transitional period for the full transfer of power to a civilian administration.

They have also agreed that parliament be composed of 300 members for the transition, with 67 per cent from the alliance and the rest drawn from other political groups.

The first six months of the transition would be devoted to reaching peace accords with rebels in war zones including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The United Arab Emirates, which according to analysts backs the ruling generals, hailed the agreement on a transitional period.

It “puts Sudan on the road of stability and recovery after years of Bashir and (Muslim) Brotherhood’s dictatorship,” its minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gragash, tweeted.

‘All powers with cabinet’ –

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have offered $3 billion in aid for Sudan.

The composition of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations, with the two sides so far offering different make-ups of the body which is expected to take all key decisions concerning national issues.

The generals want it to be military-led, while the protesters insist on a majority civilian body.

“We vow to our people that the agreement will be completed fully within 24 hours in a way that it meets the people’s aspirations,” said General Yasser al-Atta, one of the members of the current ruling military council.

The new council is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election after the three-year changeover period ends.

The protest leader, Yousef downplayed the role of the proposed ruling council, insisting Sudan would have a powerful cabinet.

“All powers will be in the cabinet’s hand, which will be formed by the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” he said.

“Only the ministers of defence and interior are going to be with the military.”

He reiterated the protesters’ demand that the “majority of the (sovereign) council members must be civilians”.

Tensions have soared this week as deadly violence erupted at the site of the long-running sit-in protest outside the army complex in Khartoum.

The shootings that killed five protesters and an army major on Monday came a day after protesters blocked a key avenue in Khartoum, which the generals said was “totally unacceptable”.

Blames and optimism –

The United States blamed the army for the deaths.

They “were clearly the result of the Transitional Military Council trying to impose its will on the protesters by attempting to remove roadblocks”, said its embassy in Khartoum.

“The decision for security forces to escalate the use of force, including the unnecessary use of tear gas, led directly to the unacceptable violence later in the day that the TMC was unable to control.”

The United States has consistently called on the military council to transfer power to civilians.

The protest movement, after initially blaming the militias of the former regime for the bloodshed, later accused the military council.

“We put the whole responsibility on the military council for what happened yesterday because it’s their direct responsibility to guard and protect the citizens,” said Mohamed Naji al-Assam, a prominent figure in the movement.

Thousands of protesters remain camped outside the military complex in central Khartoum awaiting the outcome of the ongoing talks.

The sit-in has become the focal point for the protest movement, overtaking the near daily demonstrations that had been held across Sudan while Bashir remained in power.

“We are optimistic about the agreement,” said protester Mohamed Adam, referring to the transitional period accord.

“It represents victory for the Sudanese people over the remnants of the former regime.”

Business

Austerity measures force Egypt electricity hike

Electricity prices were raised by an average of 26 percent last July and by 40 percent in July 2017.

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Austerity measures force Egypt electricity hike

Egypt’s electricity minister announced a further price rise Tuesday, the latest in a series of austerity measures aimed at getting the country’s economy back on track.

The latest price hike, which is due to come into effect in July, is tied to a $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund that Cairo secured in 2016. 

“The overall increases do not exceed 14.9 per cent,” Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said at a press conference.

Electricity prices were raised by an average of 26 percent last July and by 40 percent in July 2017.

The economy of the Arab world’s most populous country has been hit by political instability and security threats since the 2011 uprising that ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt enforced a tough reform programme to fix the economy shortly after general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office in 2014.

Living costs have soared, both due to subsidy cuts on essentials such as fuel and on the back of Egypt in 2016 devaluing its currency.

Unemployment has decreased slightly, but wages remain woefully low.

Earlier this month, the IMF praised Cairo for “achieving macroeconomic stabilisation” and said it was on track to disburse the final $2 billion of the bailout loan.

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North Africa

Sudan protest leaders threaten strike action if transition talks fail

Protest leaders had reached agreement with the ruling military council on the other main aspects of the transition.

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Sudan protest leaders threaten strike action if transition talks fail | News Central TV
Madani Abbas Madani, a Sudanese protest leader, speaks to the press in the capital Khartoum on May 8, 2019. - Sudanese protest leaders threatened to launch a nationwide strike after accusing the country's military rulers of delaying the transfer of power to a civilian administration. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Sudanese protest leaders called on their supporters Tuesday to prepare for a general strike after talks with the country’s military rulers stalled on who will lead an agreed three-year transition council.

Protest leaders had reached agreement with the ruling military council on the other main aspects of the transition.

But early on Tuesday, the generals who overthrew veteran president Omar al-Bashir last month baulked at protesters’ demands for a civilian head and a civilian majority for an agreed new sovereign council to lead the transition.

“In order to achieve a full victory, we are calling for a huge participation in a general political strike,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which took the lead in organising the four months of nationwide protests that led to Bashir’s ouster.

“The strike is our revolutionary duty and the participation in the sit-in … is a crucial guarantee to achieve the goals of the revolution.”

Protest leader Madani Abbas Madani told reporters the preparations for a “general political strike and civil disobedience” were already underway.

“Whenever we will decide on applying these plans, we will make an announcement,” said Madani, a prominent leader of protest umbrella group the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The two sides launched what had been billed as a final round of talks on the transition late on Sunday.

The military council has faced pressure from Western government and the African Union to agree to a civilian-led transition -the central demand of the thousands of demonstrators who have spent weeks camped outside army headquarters in Khartoum.

When talks broke up early on Tuesday, neither side said when they would resume.

Protest leader, Siddiq Yousef told reporters they had been suspended.

“The main point of dispute that remains is concerning the share of representatives of the military and the civilians in the council and who will be the head of the new body,” the two sides said in a joint statement.

The military council has been pushing for its chairman, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to head the new sovereign council but protest leaders want a civilian.

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North Africa

Sudan: Military and protest leaders ‘dispute’ over leadership of transitional council

The military council is still insisting that the president of the sovereign council should be from the military

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Sudan: Military and protest leaders 'dispute' over leadership of transitional council
Spokesman of the Sudan's Transitional Military Council Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi (L) and Sudanese protest leader, Madani Abbas Madani during a press conference in Khartoum on May 20, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim Hamid / AFP)

A “dispute” over who should lead Sudan’s new governing body was the key sticking point in overnight talks between army rulers and protesters, a protest leader said Monday.

The latest negotiations were launched Sunday evening following international pressure to install a civilian-led administration -a key demand of thousands of demonstrators who have spent weeks camped outside Khartoum’s army headquarters.

Hours of meetings into the early hours of Monday ended without agreement, but the ruling military council announced the talks would resume Monday evening.

A prominent protest leader who was involved in the Sunday night talks said they had revolved around who would lead the new governing body.

“The dispute over the presidency of the sovereign council and participation between the civilian and military still exists,” said Satea al-Haj, from the umbrella protest movement the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The Alliance, which led the nationwide campaign that toppled longtime autocrat, Omar al-Bashir last month, has been at loggerheads with the military over the make-up of the new body, set to rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period.

“The military council is still insisting that the president of the sovereign council should be from the military,” he said.

“They are justifying it by saying the country faces security threats.”

The protest movement insists that the head of the body should be a civilian and that the council should have a majority of civilian members, a demand backed by major world powers, al-Haj said.

“The international community and the African Union will not accept to deal with a military government,” he added.

“The people (of Sudan) also want a civilian government.” 

However, he said Sunday night’s talks were “positive” overall, and the ruling military council has said they will resume at 9:00 PM (19:00 GMT).

Military council spokesman, Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi said the “structure of the sovereign authority” had been discussed during the night and that a “final deal” would be agreed later on Monday.

Previous rounds of talks have seen the generals and protest leaders agree on key issues including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament dominated by lawmakers from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The new governing council is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election following the three-year transitional period.

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