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Protesters and army generals sign power-sharing deal in Sudan2 minutes read

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said the agreement was a “historic moment” for Sudan.

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Protesters and army generals sign power-sharing deal in Sudan
Sudanese deputy chief of the ruling miliary council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (R) and protest movement Alliance for Freedom and Changes leader Ahmad al-Rabiah shake hands after inking an agreement before African Union and Ethiopian mediators in Khartoum early on July 17, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Sudan’s protesters and ruling generals Wednesday inked a power-sharing deal, paving the way for a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since president Omar al-Bashir was deposed in April. The two sides initialled a document called the “Political Declaration”, after intense talks through the night over fine details of the agreement.

The deputy chief of the ruling military council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – who initialled the deal on behalf of the generals – said the agreement was a “historic moment” for Sudan. Ibrahim al-Amin, a key protest leader, said: “Today, we completed the political declaration.” “For the constitutional document we will resume talks on Friday,” he told journalists.

The landmark power-sharing deal, which was agreed on July 5, has been brokered by African Union and Ethiopian mediators after intense negotiations between the protest umbrella group and ruling generals. The overall accord stipulates that a new transitional civilian-military ruling body be established, in a bid to end the country’s months-long political crisis.

The governing body will have a total of six civilians and five military representatives. The six civilians will include five from the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change. A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of the transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.

That body is to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration that will govern for just over three years, after which elections would be held. The breakthrough accord came after a political deadlock that gripped Sudan since the generals ousted Bashir in a palace coup in April, on the back of months of nationwide mass protests against his iron-fisted three-decade rule.

Tensions climaxed on June 3 when armed men in military fatigues stormed a longstanding protest camp in Khartoum, shooting and beating crowds of demonstrators in a pre-dawn raid. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded, triggering international outrage, although the generals insisted they did not order the violent dispersal of protesters.

Talks to fine-tune the details of the deal since July 5 had been postponed several times at the request of protest leaders.

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption
(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on December 10, 2019 shows file photos of then newly appointed Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia attending a congress session in the capital Algiers on September 4, 2017 and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal giving a press conference on March 09, 2017 in Tunis. (Photos by RYAD KRAMDI and FETHI BELAID / AFP)

An Algerian court has on Tuesday sentenced two former prime ministers to a long jail term in the first of a series of high-profile corruption trials launched after longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests in April.

The court ruling came just two days to Algeria’s presidential election to replace ousted Bouteflika

Former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, who were both close to the ousted president, were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years respectively.

It was the first time since Algeria’s independence in 1962 that former prime ministers were put on trial.

The state prosecutor had sought 20-year prison sentences for the two ex-premiers.

In all, 19 defendants were tried on charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges in the nascent vehicle assembly industry.

-‘Nepotism and favouritism’

The Algerian automotive sector got its start in 2014, via partnerships between foreign groups and large Algerian corporations, many of which are owned by businessmen linked to Bouteflika’s entourage.

One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run abroad, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years. Two other former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were handed 10-year terms.

Businessman Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria’s main employers’ organisation, was sentenced to seven years.

And three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants — Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi — were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years respectively.

The prosecutor denounced a sector dominated by nepotism and favouritism, describing businessmen who “managed front companies while benefiting from undue tax, customs and land benefits”.

The automotive scandal cost the treasury more than 128 billion dinars (975 million euros), according to the official APS news agency.

Defence lawyers boycotted the trial, alleging the proceedings were “politicised” and impacted by a climate of “settling scores”.

The defendants protested their innocence and spent the trial shifting blame among themselves.

Before the court retired to deliberate, former prime minister Sellal broke down in tears and begged for leniency, saying, “I don’t have much time left to live.”

In closing remarks Sunday, the prosecutor said the trial sent the message that Algeria had changed this year and that “we are here to apply the will of the people”.

– ‘Children of the system’ 

But the high-profile prosecutions have done little to win over the protesters, who have continued to take to the streets since Bouteflika’s resignation, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence.

Many fear the trials are little more than a high-level purge in a struggle between still-powerful regime insiders, rather than a genuine effort to reform the state.

The military high command, which has long wielded power from behind the scenes, has now been forced to take a visible, frontline role in government — but has rejected the demands of protesters and civil society for sweeping reforms. 

It has paid little attention to popular calls to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Instead, the army has pushed for a swift election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only route to resolving the political crisis.

While no opinion polls have been published, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.

The five candidates in the poll have run low-key campaigns.

All are considered “children of the system”, having either supported Bouteflika or participated in his government — two as ministers and two as prime ministers.

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North Africa Politics

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest

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Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
Algerians wave a national flag from a balcony as they watch anti-government demonstrators march in the capital Algiers on December 6, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algerians are expected to come out en masse on Thursday and cast their votes in the widely opposed presidential election. There have been protests against the presidential election spanning a period of 9 months. Algerians are protesting because they see the election as the regime ploy to hijack power. 

Though no opinion polls have been published, observers predict high voter apathy in Thursday’s election. This is not surprising judging from a widely-held view by the voters that the political system is rigid and uncountable.

Overseas polling booths for expat Algerians opened Saturday, but have been almost empty. The few who cast their votes face a barrage of insults from angry protesters.

Direche, of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), said that despite being traditionally conservative and close to the regime, today the diaspora “is mobilised against the election”.

Read: Protesters march against December general elections in Algeria

The outcome of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s February announcement of a fifth term bid was an unprecedented nationwide protest that forced the 82-year-old to resign. 

Protesters continued with their weekly rallies, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962.

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
An Algerian student holds a placard reading in Arabic, “student against the elections”, during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on December 9, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

The military high command which has wielded power from behind the scenes was forced to take a front-line role in government but refused to bow to pressures from protesters calling for reforms.

The regime has also refused to yield to demands to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Rather, the army pushed for an election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only way to resolve the political crisis.

A previous poll set for July 4 was abandoned for lack of viable candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s term technically ended five months ago.

A caretaker government, appointed by Bouteflika two days before he quit, remains in post, led by his longtime ally Noureddine Bedoui.

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Relief International says gunmen attacked office in north of South Sudan

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Gunmen attacked our office in north of South Sudan -Relief International
People gathered at Relief International premises in Sudan (Photo credit : https://www.ri.org/countries/sudan/)

An international aid organisation, Relief International, on Monday said that a group of armed men stormed its premises in northeastern South Sudan, assaulting and injuring five staff members.

Relief International said the attack took place on Sunday in a field office in Upper Nile State.

“Multiple gunmen, armed with assault rifles, pistols and knives, invaded a staff compound. During this assault, five of our staff were assaulted and sustained injuries,” the agency said in a statement.

“We have relocated our team to safety, and they are receiving all necessary care,” said Nancy Wilson, Relief International Chief Executive Officer
“They endured a senseless act of violence in the course of their assignment providing life-saving care to the refugee community in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.”

Read: Fighting between South Sudanese government and NAS rebels near Juba

Humanitarian workers have been repeatedly targeted with at least 115 killed since the country was plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The unrest has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions.
A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held but efforts to form a power-sharing government have been repeatedly delayed.

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