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Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military

Strike action grounds airport and bus terminal services in Khartoum

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Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military
Passengers wait outside the departure terminal at Khartoum airport on May 28, 2019 as aviation professionals take part in a two-day national strike to step up pressure on the ruling military council. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Hundreds of passengers at Khartoum airport and the Sudanese capital’s main bus terminal were stranded Tuesday as protesters began a two-day national strike to pile pressure on the military to hand over power to a civilian administration.

Leaders of an umbrella protest movement remain at loggerheads with army generals, who seized power after ousting president Omar al-Bashir last month, over who should lead a new governing body -a civilian or a soldier.

The new governing body is expected to install a transitional civilian government, which in turn would prepare for the first post-Bashir elections after a three-year interim period.

In a bid to step up pressure on the ruling military council, the Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement has called for a two-day general strike starting on Tuesday.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Khartoum airport as scores of employees at the facility went on strike, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule,” an AFP correspondent there said.

Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military

Many employees carried banners or wore badges that read “We are on strike”.

Sudanese airlines Badr, Tarco, and Nova suspended flights on Tuesday, although some international flights were still scheduled.

Passengers were also stranded at Khartoum’s main bus terminal as hundreds of employees observed the strike.

Many carried banners reading: “Today, tomorrow no buses as we are on strike”.

“I have to travel to Gadaref to be with my family for Eid, but I’m not angry as I understand the reason for the strike,” traveller Fatima Omar said as she waited with her children at the bus terminal.

‘Still no breakthrough’-

Protest leader, Siddiq Farukh told AFP that the strike was a message to the world that Sudanese people “don’t want the power to be with the military”.

Another prominent protester, Wajdi Saleh, told reporters late Monday that there was “still no breakthrough” in negotiations but the protest movement was ready to negotiate if the generals offered fresh talks.

“We hope that we reach an agreement with the military council and won’t have to go on an indefinite strike,” he said. 

Protest leaders had said medics, lawyers, prosecutors, employees in the electricity and water sectors, public transport, railways, telecommunication and civil aviation were set to take part in the strike.

They said actions in the telecoms and aviation sectors would not affect operations.

But the protest movement’s plan has been dealt a blow after a key member, the National Umma Party, said it opposed the plan as there had been no unanimous decision for a strike.

Umma and its chief Sadiq al-Mahdi have for decades been the main opponents of Bashir’s iron-fisted rule, and threw their weight behind the protest movement after nationwide demonstrations erupted in December.

Mahdi’s elected government was toppled by Bashir in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Civilian rule ‘only solution’ –

Protester, Hazar Mustafa said a civilian government was the only solution to Sudan’s problems.

“We see the military council as part of the former regime. We don’t see it upholding any rights and building a just state,” she said.

The army ousted Bashir in April after months of protests against his autocratic rule, including a sit-in by tens of thousands of protesters outside Khartoum’s military headquarters.

But the generals, backed by key regional powers, have resisted calls from protesters and Western governments to hand over power to civilians.

Thousands of protesters remain camped outside army headquarters, demanding the generals step down.

Ahead of the strike, the chief of the ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo toured Khartoum’s regional allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt and the oil-rich Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seen as backing the generals, even as the United States leads Western calls for a swift transition to civilian rule.

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

But negotiations stalled as protest leaders insisted a civilian must head the new sovereign council, with civilians making up the majority of its members, a proposal that has been rejected by the military.

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Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor

Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum

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Fallen Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir was Sunday seen in public for the first time since being ousted, as he was driven in an armed convoy to the prosecutor’s office. The former strongman, who ruled his northeast African nation with an iron fist for three decades, was toppled on April 11 after weeks of protests against his reign.

Dressed in a white traditional robe and turban, Bashir rode in a heavily-armed convoy from the notorious Kober prison in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to prosecutors’ office to face charges of alleged corruption.

Prosecutor Alaeddin Dafallah told reporters after Bashir left the office that the ousted president had been informed that he was facing charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally.”

Meanwhile, a top general from the country’s new ruling military council vowed that those who carried out a deadly crackdown on an iconic protest site that left dozens dead earlier this month would face the death penalty. “We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the ruling military council said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“Whoever committed any fault” will be held accountable, Dagalo added. Thousands of protesters who had camped outside Khartoum’s military headquarters for weeks were violently dispersed by armed men in military fatigues on June 3, according to witnesses.

More than 100 people were killed that day in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement, while the health ministry put the nationwide death toll at 61.

‘Regret’ for crackdown

Protesters and witnesses accuse the feared paramilitary group led by Dagalo, the Rapid Support Forces, of carrying out the assault on demonstrators. Demonstrators and US officials have called for an independent probe into the crackdown.

On Thursday, the military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi expressed “regret” over the crackdown. But the council insists it did not order the dispersal, saying it had actually planned to purge an area near the protest camp where people are said to sell drugs.

“The planning of the operation of Colombia (area) was done by military and security authorities,” the council said in a statement late Saturday. “We assure you that the council is keen to investigate minute by minute facts through its investigation committee.”

Brigadier Abderrahim Badreddine, a spokesman for the investigative committee, told state television Saturday initial findings indicate that “officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces” had entered the sit-in without any orders from their superiors.

As calls for an independent probe grew, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Khartoum on Sunday where the military council said he met its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Bashir had swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. When he imposed a state of emergency on February 22 in a bid to quell protests that erupted in December over the spiralling costs, Bashir issued a decree making it illegal to possess more than $5,000 in foreign currency.

But in April, military council chief Burhan said more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence after he was toppled. A team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds

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GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya

GNA leader proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene

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The head of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord announced Sunday a new political initiative and elections in a bid to move the conflict-wracked country beyond eight years of chaos.

“I present today a political initiative for a way out of the crisis (involving) simultaneous presidential and legislative elections before the end of 2019,” GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj said in a short speech broadcast by Libya al-Wataniya TV, without specifying a date for polls.

He proposed a forum that would be attended by “influential national forces on the political and social scene, and supporters of a peaceful and democratic solution” to Libya’s crisis. Sarraj’s GNA holds Tripoli, but strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army holds the east and much of the south of the country.

The LNA launched an offensive to take the capital in early April, but counter-attacks by forces loyal to the GNA have resulted in a stalemate on the southern outskirts. Sarraj said his proposed initiative would take place with support from the UN mission in Libya.

“Our army and the forces which support it have given a lesson in bravery to (Haftar) and to his militias,” Sarraj said. “His army has been broken, likewise that of his triumphalist entry to Tripoli that he presented as a two-day walk,” he added.

The two camps have so far refused to negotiate a ceasefire. The GNA is demanding that Haftar’s forces retreat to their previous positions, in the south and east. “We are confident that our forces are capable of repulsing the aggressor and of him sending him back to where he came from… victory was our ally, thank God,” Sarraj said.

He alleged that Haftar is seeking to “undermine the democratic process… and to re-establish a totalitarian regime; that of an individual and a single family”. Haftar meanwhile claims he is fighting “terrorists” and refuses to retreat.

Fighting since April 4 has killed 653 people, including 41 civilians, while more than 3,500 have been wounded — more than a hundred of them civilians — according to the World Health Organization.

The UN says more than 94,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces -Sisi

According to Sisi, Egypt is supporting “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives.”

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Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces -Sisi | News Central TV
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said yesterday, that Egypt will always support the Libyan troops loyal to the General Khalifa Haftar.

Following his meeting with the Libyan parliament speaker Aqilah Saleh in Cairo the Egyptian capital, Sisi said, “Egypt’s position on supporting the Libyan National Army in its campaign to eliminate terrorist groups across Libya will never change.”

Saleh is currently on an indefinite visit to Cairo where he is holding meetings with Egyptian officials.

Sisi noted that his country was supporting what he described as “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives,” stressing that the will of Libyans “must be respected.”

During a meeting in Tunisia on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia called for “an immediate ceasefire,” adding that there was “no military solution to the crisis in Libya.”

In April, Haftar forces launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar’s campaign has, thus far, failed to achieve its primary objective, even after several weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli. Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.

Libya has witnessed serious political unrest since 2011 when long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.

Two rival seats of power have since emerged in the country, the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition, and the other one on the eastern part of the country, which is affiliated to Haftar.

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