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UN chief expresses concern over Libya’s fragile political state

Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems – UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

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UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres/ AFP

UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the risk of confrontation in Libya after forces loyal to a controversial strongman announced they were preparing to advance on Tripoli.

“I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation,” the visiting Guterres tweeted from the capital, which is controlled by a UN-backed unity government.

“There is no military solution,” he added.

Dozens of militias have fought for control of the North African country since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

But the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar has emerged as a key player, opposing the government in Tripoli and backing a parallel administration in the east.

Haftar launched an offensive into oil-producing regions of southern Libya in January ostensibly aimed at wiping out “terrorists” and criminal groups.

He has repeatedly expressed his intention to march on Tripoli.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mesmari said at a press conference on Wednesday that “preparations are on the point of being completed… to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.

Unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj called the move an “escalation” and urged Haftar’s forces to “stop using the language of threats”.

He said he had ordered pro-government forces to prepare to “face all threats… whether from terrorist groups, criminals, outlaws and all who threaten the security of every Libyan city”.

The bellicose comments from Haftar’s forces come as the United Nations prepares to convene a conference later this month to hammer out a roadmap for delayed parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems,” Guterres said on Thursday.

“I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country.”

The rival leaders had agreed in Paris last year to hold elections before the end of the year, but that vote never materialised as Haftar’s forces and the Tripoli government grappled for power.

The UN has said Haftar and Sarraj agreed at a meeting in Abu Dhabi last month to make a new attempt to organise the elections.

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Africa News & Updates

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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Africa News & Updates

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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East Africa Politics News & Stories

Bashir to face corruption charges in court next week

The prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations

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Ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir will appear in court next week to face charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency, the country’s acting prosecutor general told reporters on Saturday.

The announcement came more than two months after the military overthrew Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.

Bashir “will appear in court next week following charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency,” Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said, without specifying the day.

He added that the investigation launched against Bashir for the charges had been completed.

On Thursday, an unnamed Sudanese official was quoted by the official SUNA news agency as saying Bashir was facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.

In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds. 

Bashir 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.

Last month, Ahmed ordered Bashir questioned over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.

In May, the prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations, which eventually led to his ouster.

Ahmed also said on Saturday that 41 other charges against “symbols of the ousted regime” were under investigation. 

He did not name the others accused but said most of the charges were related to the “possession of land”.

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