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Bashir toppled, detained as defence chief denies he resigned3 minutes read

A transitional military council would replace Bashir for two years

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A picture dated November 25, 2018 shows Sudanese Defence Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf in Khartoum. - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power and detained by the country's army, Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf announced on state television on April 11, 2019. Bashir, who ruled with an iron-fist since he swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has been removed after months of deadly protests across the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir did not resign. He was ousted, the army said in a broadcast on Thursday, following months of anti-government protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

“I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf said in a sombre televised address to the nation.

A transitional military council would replace Bashir for two years, he said, adding that the country’s borders and airspace would be shut until further notice.

The veteran leader, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, was one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. He is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Since early morning huge crowds of jubilant Sudanese had begun thronging squares across the centre of Khartoum on Thursday as the army promised an “important announcement”.

Chanting “the regime has fallen,” thousands poured into the open ground outside army headquarters where defiant protesters have braved tear gas to keep up an unprecedented sit-in now in its sixth day.

The protests, which erupted in December over the government’s tripling of the price of bread, were the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s long rule.

The security agency also announced it was freeing all political prisoners.

Army vehicles carrying troops were seen deploying across the centre of Khartoum from early Thursday.

Troops raided the offices of the Islamic Movement, the ideological wing of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, witnesses told AFP. And martial music was played on state television as soldiers ordered the TV to halt its normal programming.

Outside army headquarters, dozens of joyful protesters climbed on top of landcruisers and armoured vehicles that had been posted to protect them from intervention by other branches of the security forces.

Braving the searing 42 degree Celsius (108 degree Fahrenheit) heat, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers in the crowd.

– ‘Political detainees freed’ -Sudan’s feared intelligence service said it was freeing all the country’s political prisoners, state media reported.

“The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said.

But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, protesters stormed NISS buildings after the releases failed to materialise, witnesses said.

Protesters approached the NISS building in Kasala demanding that officers free their prisoners, a witness told AFP by telephone from the city.

“But NISS officers fired in the air after which protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment inside,” he said.

Protesters chanting slogans against Bashir also stormed an NISS building in Port Sudan, a witness said.

The raids on NISS buildings came despite a call by protest organisers for demonstrators to refrain from attacking government figures or buildings.

“We are calling on our people to control themselves and not to attack anybody or government and private properties,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), the umbrella group that is spearheading the protest movement, said in a statement.

“Anyone found doing this will be punished by law. Our revolution is peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.”

– ‘It’s enough’ -“We had enough of this regime — 30 years of repression, corruption, rights abuses, it’s enough,” said one protester at the sit-in.

Demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling headquarters complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.

There has been an often festive mood at the sit-in, with protesters singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs.

The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the NISS since they began camping outside the complex on Saturday, protest organisers say.

Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.

“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside army headquarters.

Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.

“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition,” the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.

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North Africa Politics

Algeria recalls its ambassador in France over airing of films on protests

Algeria’s interior ministry said films including two broadcast on Tuesday, while “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of freedom of expression, are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions” including the army.

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Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algeria plans to “immediately” recall its ambassador from France for consultations after documentaries about the North African country’s anti-government protest movement were aired on French public television, officials said Wednesday. 

The interior ministry said films including two broadcast on Tuesday, while “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of freedom of expression, are in fact attacks on the Algerian people and its institutions” including the army.

Citing the “recurrent character” of such programmes on French public TV, it singled out two documentaries broadcast on Tuesday by France 5 and the former colonial power’s Parliamentary Channel.

Unprecedented mass protests rocked Algeria early last year to demand the departure of veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sparked by the ailing 82-year-old’s announcement that he would stand for a fifth term.

In April 2019 he resigned, and in December, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on an official turnout of less than 40 percent. Analysts say participation was considerably lower. 

Mass protests against the ruling system only halted when the novel coronavirus arrived in Algeria earlier this year.

Despite the movement suspending demonstrations since mid-March, a crackdown has continued against regime opponents and independent media.

– ‘Malicious and lasting intentions’ –

The films cited by the Algerian ministry had sparked fierce debates on social media. 

“Algeria, my love”, aired by France 5, told the story of the Hirak protest movement through the eyes of five Algerians in their 20s from across the country. 

Directed by French journalist of Algerian origin Mustapha Kessous, it broke with a number of taboos and highlighted sociocultural divisions driving the movement, triggering heated discussion on social networks.

The second film, “Algeria: the Promises of the Dawn” was broadcast on France’s Parliamentary Channel.

In its statement, the Algerian ministry cited what it said were “malicious and lasting intentions on the part of certain circles, which do not wish to see peaceful relations between Algeria and France after 58 years of independence”.

France Televisions, which owns France 5, declined to comment on the Algerian announcement on Wednesday evening.

France and Algeria have often had tense ties since Algeria won independence in 1962 after eight years of war.

In early April, the French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt, was summoned to the foreign ministry after statements on the France 24 satellite news channel about Chinese medical aid.

Earlier in the year, Tebboune had called for “mutual respect” in Franco-Algerian relations, saying his country “will not accept any interference or tutelage” from abroad.

He was referring to statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron early on in the Hirak protest movement, calling for “a transition of reasonable duration” — remarks seen by Algiers as “interference” in its internal affairs.

In recent weeks, the Algerian government has repeatedly blamed “foreign” NGOs for influencing Algerian media outlets aiming to damage state institutions.

Last month, authorities blocked three news websites that had covered the protests.

Algeria ranks 146 out of 180 countries on RSF’s world press freedom index for 2020.

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East Africa Politics News

“I have not killed any Tutsis”, Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga tells court

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

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A wanted poster with a photograph of Felicien Kabuga is displayed at the French Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes (OCLCH) in Paris on May 19, 2020. © Benoît Tessier, REUTERS

Arrested Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga has told a French court that the international charges against him are lies, affirming his innocence at the resumed hearing on Wednesday.

Asked if he understood the charges made against him by a United Nations tribunal, Kabuga dismissed the chargesheet as full of “lies”.

“All of this is lies. I have not killed any Tutsis. I was working with them”, Kabuga told the court through an interpreter.

Kabuga, who was arrested near Paris earlier this month after more than two decades on the run, is accused of financing and arming the ethnic Hutu militia that slaughtered over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

France has not disclosed when and how Kabuga who had a $5m US reward on his head, entered France.

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, accused of being a financier of Rwandan genocide, had stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

His ability to hide to evade an international manhunt for more than 20 years has raised questions over whether he had accomplices in foreign countries.

“It is difficult to imagine he could have escaped into French territory without the help of accomplices in such places,” Patrick Baudoin of the International Federation for Human Rights said.

The International Federation for Human Rights has supported survivors in the prosecution of other Rwandan genocide suspects living in France.

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Health

Algeria insists on hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment

WHO said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

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Algeria has disclosed plans to continue the use of hydroxychloroquine in tackling the coronavirus, despite the discouragement by the World Health Organization that has suspended clinical trials of such treatments following a study which showed that the drug caused more harm than good.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the North African country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he said.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official said on Monday.

Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by some Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.  

Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing COVID-19 hospital deaths.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since February 25.

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