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Sudan’s Bashir says protest demands ‘legitimate’

Protests have rocked the country since December, with demonstrators calling on the veteran leader to step down

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses parliament in the capital Khartoum on April 1, 2019 in his first such speech since he imposed a state of emergency across the country on February 22. Bashir acknowledged that the demands of protesters demonstrating against his government were "legitimate' but were expressed unlawfully causing several deaths. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday acknowledged the “legitimate” demands of anti-government protesters, while blaming several deaths on the actions of political groups.

Protests have rocked the country since December, with demonstrators calling on the veteran leader to step down.

They accuse Bashir’s government of mismanaging the country’s economy, leading to soaring food prices and regular shortages of fuel and foreign currency.

“The economic crisis has impacted a wide section of our people,” Bashir told lawmakers in his first speech to parliament since a state of emergency he imposed on February 22 to quell the protests.

“Some of them took to the streets to express their legitimate demands, but some of those gatherings used unlawful ways and destroyed properties.”

Several offices and buildings belonging to Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party were set on fire during early protests.

“Some political groups are trying to use this to enhance hatred among the community because of which we lost many people,” said Bashir, dressed in a traditional white-and-blue robe and white turban.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51 including children and medics.

The protests first erupted in the central town of Atbara on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread.

US ‘troubled’ by detentions

The authorities have set up special courts to investigate violations of the emergency rule, with many protesters jailed for participating in banned rallies.

Bashir imposed a year-long state of emergency but lawmakers have cut it to six months.

In the inital crackdown on protests, security agents detained hundreds of demonstrators, opposition leaders, activists and journalists.

Many of them including senior opposition figures have been released after weeks of detentions.

The United States has regularly criticised the detentions.

“We remain troubled by the government of Sudan’s continued use of extra-judicial detentions in response to the largely peaceful protests in Khartoum and elsewhere,” the US embassy in Khartoum said on its Facebook page on Sunday.

“Incarcerating opposition party leaders, civil society activists, and journalists contradicts the government of Sudan’s call for an open and inclusive dialogue on Sudan’s future.”

On Monday, Bashir adopted a conciliatory tone as he addressed broader issues in Sudan.

“I renew our commitment for a permanent ceasefire and express readiness for a dialogue that can lead to peace,” he told lawmakers.

Since June 2016, Bashir has declared several unilateral ceasefires in Sudan’s three conflict zones — Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile — where government forces have fought armed rebellions for years.

The president has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, allegations he denies.

Bashir launched a national dialogue in 2015 to resolve the insurgencies and overhaul the economy, although most mainstream opposition and armed groups boycotted the talks.

“I’m calling on all those political parties who did not join the national dialogue to get involved in it,” he said.

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North Africa

‘Back at square one’: Sudan protest leaders plan fresh June 30 march

Protests will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power

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'Back at square one': Sudan protest leaders plan fresh June 30 march
(File photo)

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association announced plans to hold a demonstration next week demanding the handover of power to civilians.

Plans for the protest comes after the country’s ruling generals rejected an Ethiopian proposal government.

The protests are planned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the coup that toppled Sudan’s last elected government, and brought former president Omar al-Bashir to power.

Related: Protest leaders in Sudan accept proposal for political transition

A spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, Ismail al-Tag, addressed the media on Monday, calling for marches next week to demand the handover of power to civilians.

“We are calling and preparing for mass demonstrations on June 30 to make sure the military council hears the people’s voice in the streets and the Sudanese people will continue their revolution until it (council) meet their demands and reaches a civilian country”, he said.

Related: Sudan general vows ‘gallows’ for perpetrators of deadly crackdown

Head of the African program at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr. Amany el-Taweel said;

“Yes, we are back at square one because this is not the first time they (military council) cancel the understandings. This is, indeed, the second time, as they cancelled the deal before, right after the sit-in break-up. I believe they are using time and waiting for the African Union’s initiative, especially after the pressure from the street on them decreased due to the break-up of the military headquarters sit-in.”

Sudan’s military rulers on Monday turned down the Ethiopian proposal for a power-sharing deal with the opposition coalition.

The ruling generals said they would prefer a unified proposal from the African Union and Ethiopia.

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National Oil Company warns that any attempt to disrupt the sector would escalate unrest

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations

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Libya's National Oil Company in the capital Tripoli. The Oil company warns against shutdown as it it will escalate conflict

Libya’s National Oil Company has warned that any bid to tamper with the sector could escalate unrest in the country after the parliamentary speaker called for a halt to production. In a statement issued late Saturday, NOC said it “is concerned by recent calls for the shutdown of national oil production”.

“Any deliberate disruption of oil sector operations will severely impact national revenue streams, potentially render NOC in contravention of contractual obligations, and create further division in the country.” Libya has been in conflict since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival administrations vying for power and to control its oil wealth.

The conflict has been exacerbated since April when commander Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country where most oil fields are located, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli. The city is the seat of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while the elected parliament which supports Haftar is based in eastern Libya.

Last week parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh Issa said oil production must cease, accusing the GNA of using oil revenues to finance the militias fighting Haftar, in an interview with an Egyptian news channel.

The country’s oil company, which is headquartered in Tripoli, has repeatedly insisted on its neutral status and refused to be drawn into the conflict. “This crucial source of income to the state, vital to all Libyans, must remain de-politicised and uninterrupted,” NOC said on Saturday.

But it also called for “economic transparency – including the equitable distribution of oil revenues nationally – to be embraced by all parties as an integral element of Libya’s future stability, and any lasting political settlement”. Libya’s oil revenues are managed by the country’s central bank, which is also based in Tripoli.

Both Haftar and the eastern parliament have repeatedly said that oil revenues are not evenly distributed and accuse the GNA of using the funds to finance its militias. Last month UN envoy Ghassan Salame said that Libya – which produces more than a million barrels of oil a day – was “committing suicide” and plundering its oil wealth to pay for the war.

On Saturday he met Haftar to discuss the Tripoli offensive and ways to “accelerate the transition towards reaching a political solution” in the country, the United Nations said.

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Court in Sudan orders authorities to resume internet services

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council

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A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum on June 17, 2019 as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.
A Sudanese woman works at a travel agency in Khartoum as businesses struggle to keep their services going after being hit by an internet blackout.

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan said. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted to hand power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

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