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Main opposition group in Sudan rejects the general strike call

Sadiq Al-Mahdi said any such decision should be taken by a council of leaders of the protest movement.

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Sudan's top opposition leader and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi

Sudan’s main opposition group and supporter of the protest movement on Sunday rejected its call to stage a two-day general strike, in the first sign of a rift within the movement negotiating the launch of civilian rule. Talks between leaders of the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and army generals who seized power after ousting autocrat Omar al-Bashir last month are deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body — a civilian or soldier.

In a bid to step up pressure on the generals, the protest movement has called for a general strike starting Tuesday, but the National Umma Party, a key backer of the movement, rejected the measure. “We reject the general strike announced by some opposition groups” in the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the National Umma Party said in a statement.

“A general strike is a weapon that should be used after it is agreed upon by everybody,” Umma said. “We have to avoid such escalated measures that are not fully agreed.” The National Umma Party led by former premier Sadiq Al-Mahdi said any such decision should be taken by a council of leaders of the protest movement.

Such a council was still not in place and “will be composed in a meeting on Monday”, it said. It was Mahdi’s elected government that Bashir, who himself was deposed on April 11, toppled in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. In a recent interview, Mahdi warned protesters not to “provoke” the army’s rulers as they had been instrumental in ousting Bashir.

Talks still deadlocked

Minutes after Umma’s statement, another key member of the protest movement, the Sudanese Congress Party, said the strike will go ahead as planned. It said the strike was a new measure “to complete the mission of the revolution, which definitely will achieve its victory”.

The military toppled Bashir after months-long protests across Sudan led by the Alliance for Freedom and Change against his iron-fisted rule of three decades. But the generals who seized power have resisted calls from protesters and the international community for civilian rule.

Thousands of demonstrators remain camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum demanding that the generals step down. Talks between the generals and protest leaders remain deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body to oversee the formation of a civilian administration – a soldier or civilian.

Protest leaders insist a civilian must head a new sovereign council and that civilians should make up the majority of its members, proposals rejected by the ruling generals. The new ruling body when finalised is expected to install a transitional civilian government for three years after which the first post-Bashir election would be held.

Before suspending talks last Monday, the two sides had agreed on several key issues, including the three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers coming from the protesters’ umbrella group.

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South Africa’s openly HIV-positive judge retires

Edwin Cameron, 66, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago

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South Africa's openly HIV-positive judge retires
Edwin Cameron. (AFP)

A South African Constitutional Court judge and gay rights activist who openly disclosed his HIV status retired on Tuesday.

Edwin Cameron, 66, who hung up his gown after 25 years of serving as a judge, won widespread praise for spearheading the fight for people with HIV two decades ago when the infection rapidly spread under what he called the “AIDS denialism” of the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

He revealed his status in 1999 more than a decade after he contracted the virus.

He stirred up the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban with a speech detailing his own infection and how he was fortunate to be able to afford to buy antiretrovirals when treatment was so expensive and only accessible to the well-heeled.

“I have survived a pandemic many have perished living under,” he said at a special Constitutional Court sitting held in his honour in Johannesburg.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — 19 per cent according to the UN AIDS agency — with more than seven million people living with the virus.

The country now has the largest state-sponsored anti-retroviral programme in the world, serving 2.5 million people.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng paid tribute to Cameron as “a brave and bold man” and for his catalytic role in mobilising authorities to roll out a mass ARV programme.

“When HIV and AIDS attracted stigma, he stood up and declared openly: ‘I am HIV positive’.”

“He could have chosen to mind his own business and care less about (others but) for the sake of the suffering masses, he not only spoke, but he acted.”

Openly gay, Cameron “helped secure the express inclusion of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution,” according to his official profile.

In 2006, South Africa became the sole African nation to allow gay marriage and it has become a haven for African homosexuals who flee persecution at home.

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo city

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district

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Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe's Bulawayo city
Zimbabwean anti-riot police patrol the streets of Harare. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Troops and police were out in force in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday to prevent a planned opposition march, days after brutally dispersing a similar banned protest in Harare.

Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district and most of the high-density suburbs. 

Using a loudhailer, police warned people against joining the demonstration, called to protest deteriorating economic conditions.

One of the city’s usually busy areas, the precincts of Tredgold Magistrate Courts, where illegal forex changers ply their trade, was cordoned off by police.

Police have also set up checkpoints on most roads leading to the city centre.

Zimbabwean police banned the protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after they violently dispersed protesters who had defied a similar order in Harare on Friday. 

The MDC is challenging the ban in court.

READ: Zimbabwean police fire tear gas to dispel opposition protesters

The protesters are angry over the country’s floundering economy and the jailing of a well-known government critic, tribal chief Felix Ndiweni. 

The chief who is highly revered in the western Matabeleland region of the country, was last week jailed for 18 months for allegedly destroying a villager’s property.

Police fired teargas and beat up several demonstrators in Harare on Friday after they gathered in a square where the protest had originally been scheduled to start.

Friday’s protests were the first since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by more than 100 per cent sparked nationwide demonstrations in January which left at least 17 people dead and several injured when soldiers opened fire.

Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, and then won disputed elections in July last year vowing to revive the economy.

But Zimbabweans say things have gone from bad to worse with shortages of bread, fuel, medicines and other goods and the skyrocketing cost of living. 

According to the UN, about five million Zimbabweans, or a third of the population, are in need of food aid.

“We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe, the UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva on Friday. 

“We urge the Government to find ways to engage with protesters, and to refrain from the use of violence”, it further stated.

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Teenager with albinism found dismembered in Burundi

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river

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Burundi teenager with Albinism found dismembered

15-year-old teen with albinism found dismembered one week after going missing

Case is first of such killing in Burundi for 3 years

Over 20 Burundians with albinism have been killed since 2008

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday. Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals. 

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home. Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania – where such attacks are the most prevalent – has fuelled such killings in border areas.

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