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Sudan’s latest leader pledges national reform

General Burhan took the helm of Sudan’s transitional military council on Friday after General Awad Ibn Ouf quit

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Sudanese demonstrators march with national flags as they gather during a rally demanding a civilian body to lead the transition to democracy

Sudan’s second new military leader in as many days vowed Saturday to ‘uproot’ deposed president Omar al-Bashir’s regime and release protesters, in a bid to placate demonstrators demanding civilian rule.

“I announce the restructuring of state institutions according to the law and pledge to fight corruption and uproot the regime and its symbols,” General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said, a day after he was sworn in to head Sudan’s new ruling military council.

He also ordered the release of all prisoners jailed by special emergency courts and the immediate lifting of a night-time curfew imposed by the council earlier this week.

Career soldier Burhan took the helm of Sudan’s transitional military council on Friday when his predecessor General Awad Ibn Ouf — a close aide of ousted veteran president Bashir — quit after little more than 24 hours in power.

Burhan also pledged Saturday that individuals involved in the killing of protesters would face justice.

His initial announcements indicated he wanted to show the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets that he is not part of the regime’s old guard and was genuinely committed to reform.

The new leader also on Saturday accepted the resignation of the head of the feared National Intelligence and Security Service, Salah Abdallah Mohammed Salih — widely known as Salih Ghosh — the military council announced.

Salih Ghosh had overseen a sweeping crackdown led by NISS agents against protesters taking part in four months of mass demonstrations that led to the toppling of Bashir in a palace coup by the army on Thursday.

Demand for civilian rule

Dozens of protesters were killed and thousands of activists, opposition leaders and journalists arrested.

The police said Friday that 16 people had been killed in live fire in Khartoum alone over the previous two days as NISS agents led a desperate last stand for Bashir before the army intervened.

A photograph published by state news agency SUNA had shown Burhan talking with protesters outside army headquarters on Friday, before his elevation to the top job.

Khartoum erupted with joy when Ibn Ouf tendered his resignation on Friday night barely 24 hours after taking the oath of office.

Car horns sounded as jubilant crowds streamed out of their homes chanting: “It fell again, it fell again”.

But the organisers of the mass protests called on demonstrators to keep up their week-old vigil outside army headquarters.

Ibn Ouf had served as Bashir’s defence minister right up to the president’s downfall, after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

A former military intelligence chief, Ibn Ouf remains under US sanctions for his role in the regime’s brutal response to an ethnic minority rebellion which erupted in the western region of Darfur in 2003.

Bashir himself came to power in a 1989 Islamist military coup, which toppled an elected government led by Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Burhan is a career soldier who comes with less baggage from Bashir’s deeply unpopular rule than Ibn Ouf.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), whose grass-roots membership of doctors, teachers and engineers have spearheaded the nationwide protests, hailed Ibn Ouf’s departure as “a victory of the people’s will”.

But it demanded that Burhan swiftly “transfer the powers of the military council to a transitional civilian government”.

“If this does not happen we will continue with our sit-in in front of the army headquarters and other towns,” the SPA said in a statement.

‘Violating the constitution’

Bashir remained in custody and his National Congress Party on Saturday called on the military council to release arrested personnel.

“We consider (the) taking of power by the military council as violating the constitution’s legitimacy,” the NCP said in a statement.

“The NCP rejects the detention of its leaders, among them its acting president” Ahmed Harun, it added, calling for their immediate release.

Outside the Middle East, the formation of a military government to replace Bashir has met with widespread criticism.

The African Union said Bashir’s overthrow by the military was “not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people”.

The European Union urged the army to carry out a “swift” handover to civilian rule.

Former colonial ruler Britain said that the two-year transition announced by the military “is not the answer.”

“We need to see a swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Members of the military council have sought to reassure foreign diplomats about its intentions.

“This is not a military coup, but taking the side of the people,” the council’s political chief Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin told Arab and African diplomats at a meeting broadcast on state television on Friday.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has long standing arrest warrants against Bashir for suspected genocide and war crimes during the regime’s brutal campaign of repression in Darfur.

But the military council has said it would never extradite him or any other Sudanese citizen.

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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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Business News

Morocco’s Sole oil refinery struggles to stay afloat

A self-declared “national front” is leading the charge to salvage refining company SAMIR

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morocco's oil refinery SAMIR struggle for survival

Three years after it was liquidated for racking up billions of euros worth of debt, Morocco’s sole oil refinery and the one-time economic flagship is struggling to attract a buyer and survive. A self-declared “national front” – comprising employees, economists and union leaders – is leading the charge to salvage refining company SAMIR, while a trade court desperately seeks a new owner.

They face a tough battle, including a court deadline of July 18 to seal the refinery’s fate. The firm was liquidated in 2016 after it was unable to honour some four billion euros ($4.5 billion at current prices) in borrowing. The refinery was set up in 1959 by the Moroccan government and sold in 1997 to the Corral group, a Saudi-Swedish enterprise that holds a majority stake of more than 67 per cent.

Work at the refinery, which had a capacity of more than 150,000 barrels a day, had already wound down a year before it was dissolved. But nearly 800 employees remain on the payroll, albeit on slashed salaries scratched together from company coffers and creditors.

The workers’ fate now hangs in the balance, according to staff representative Houcine El Yamani, who has spearheaded efforts by the “national front” to salvage the facility. “We have made tremendous efforts” to pressure the state into reviving SAMIR since work stopped in 2015 at the plant in Mohammedia, between Rabat and the economic hub Casablanca, El Yamani said.

Such efforts include sit-ins and press conferences.  “We still have hope of finding a solution,” he added. A “national front” report submitted last year to Moroccan authorities denounced the 1997 privatisation of the refinery as a “big sham” and the sale to Corral as “totally lacking in transparency”.

“The Corral group did not respect any of the terms of the contract (including pledges to invest funds to develop the refinery), dragging the sole national refinery into an infernal spiral,” said the report. The drop in global oil prices in 2014 affected SAMIR, but the “national front” says bad management was the main factor behind the firm’s woes, as debts mounted and attempts to satisfy creditors failed.

Sold to scrap

After its liquidation in March 2016 by a Casablanca court, a committee of trustees was set up to find a buyer and safeguard jobs for employees. “Around 30 international groups showed an interest,” but nothing materialised, El Yamani said.

The “national front” also said the government could have been more pro-active. “In the absence of any government action, the refinery’s assets risk being sold to scrap by the kilogramme,” the coalition of employees, economists and union leaders said in its report.

Minister of Energy and Mines, Aziz Rebbah, dismissed claims that the government has no interest in salvaging the oil refinery. “We have nothing against it,” he said. “If a buyer comes forth we will examine the proposal,” he added. Morocco is totally dependent on oil imports and the winding up of SAMIR’s operations has left the North African country more reliant than ever on imports of refined oil products.

A report earlier this year by the International Energy Agency noted that “the closure of the country’s only refinery… has clear implications for the security of oil supply” in Morocco. The court that liquidated SAMIR three years ago has extended a deadline to keep the refinery open a dozen times.

The last extension expires on July 18, when SAMIR will know if it has a buyer or if it will be sold “in bits and pieces”, according to Moroccan media reports. As the battle for SAMIR’s survival plays out, another legal fight is underway between the refinery’s main shareholder, Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, and the government.

Al Amoudi – who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2017 as part of a vast anti-corruption campaign – is demanding $1.5 billion in compensation from Morocco over SAMIR’s demise, according to Moroccan news website Media24.

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Business News

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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