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Demonstrators killed in Sudan as military breaks sit-in2 minutes read

There were multiple reports of the military using force to disperse the sit-in in front of army headquarters

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A Sudanese protester walks past burning tyres as military forces tried to disperse the sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters

Two protesters were shot dead on Monday as forces loyal to Sudan’s transitional military council tried to break up a long-running sit-in in front of the army headquarters, a doctors committee close to the protesters said.

“Two peaceful protesters were killed by live bullets fired at the orders of the Transitional Military Council,” the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Twitter without giving further details.

Gunfire was heard from the protest site, with witnesses reporting a heavy deployment of security forces around the streets of the capital.

There were multiple reports of the military using force to disperse the sit-in in front of army headquarters, where protesters have been camped out for weeks.

“Now an attempt is taking place to disperse the sit-in at the headquarters of the people’s armed forces by force by the military council,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December.

Rallies against the authoritarian rule of Omar al-Bashir led to his ouster in April, but demonstrators have remained to call on the generals to cede power to a transitional authority.

Near the demonstration site, a witness living in the Burri neighbourhood said he could “hear the sound of gunfire and I see a plume of smoke rising from the area of the sit-in.” 

Another resident of the area, in east Khartoum, said he had seen forces in “police uniform” trying to expel the demonstrators.

Britain’s ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, said he had heard “heavy gunfire” from his residence.

The SPA said it amounted to a “bloody massacre”, and called on Sudanese to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council and for people to take to the streets to protest.

Demonstrators had closed off Street 60, one of the main streets in the capital with stone barricades and burning tree trunks and tires.

The SPA had said on Saturday that it had reason to believe the military council was “planning and working to end the peaceful sit-in at the headquarters with excessive force and violence” after three people were killed in incidents on the fringes of the sit-in last week.

Negotiations between protest leaders and the ruling military council have broken down, as the two sides have failed to agree on whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or a military figure.

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UNESCO adds Morroco’s Gnawa culture to list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

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UNESCO adds Morroco’s Gnawa culture to list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
(Photo credit: multiculturalkidblogs.com)

Gnawa culture, a centuries-old Moroccan practice rooted in music, African rituals and Sufi traditions, has been added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

UNESCO announced this via its Twitter account, on Thursday, December 12, 2019.

Gnawa refers to a “set of musical productions, fraternal practices and therapeutic rituals where the secular mixes with the sacred”, according to the nomination submitted by Morocco.

Often dressed in colourful outfits, Gnawa musicians play the guenbri, a type of lute with three strings, accompanied by steel castanets called krakebs.

They practice “a therapeutic ritual of possession… which takes the form of all-night ceremonies of rhythms and trance combining ancestral African practices, Arab-Muslim influences and native Berber cultural performances. The tradition, which includes the veneration of Islamic holy men, dates back to at least the 16th century.

Originally practised and transmitted by groups and individuals from slavery and the slave trade”, today it is one of the many facets of Moroccan culture and identity.

Gnawa was popularised by a festival that started in 1997 in the southern port city of Essaouira. 

Until then, Gnawa brotherhoods had been little known, even marginalised.

Now, they attract waves of fans each year from across the globe to the Gnawa and World Music Festival in Essaouira that highlights a unique mix of musical styles. 

Gnawa groups “form associations and organise festivals” year-round, which enable the younger generation “to have knowledge of both the lyrics and musical instruments as well as practices and rituals” linked to Gnawa culture.

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What’s in it for Africa at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Spain?

The highpoint of the COP25 for Africa is the “Africa Day”, which is slated for December 10

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What's in it for Africa at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Spain?
Participants pose for a family photo within the 2019 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), held in Madrid, Spain on December 02, 2019. Burak Akbulut / AFP

African delegates will seek to push for changes at the 2019 annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, which officially kicked off on Monday, December 3, in Madrid, Spain.

About 29,000 visitors are expected at the conference that holds from 2 to 13 December 2019, including 50 heads of state. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the meeting’s urgency, saying that the climate crisis could soon reach the “point of no return.”

READ: Ugandan children boycott school to march for climate change action

At COP25, delegates from 197 countries are expected to nail down some details left open by the 2015 Paris climate accord, including how carbon-trading systems and compensation for poor countries with rising sea levels will work.

Being signatories to the Paris Agreement, nearly all African countries have shown commitments to enhance climate actions by putting practical measures and building resilience in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

READ: How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy

Like the previous COP summits, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is present in Madrid to support regional member countries through its support to the African group of negotiators and through advocacy to make Africa’s voice heard in the global stage.

The highpoint of the COP25 for Africa is the “Africa Day”, which is slated for December 10, and will focus on concerted global action on climate change to attain a new Africa.

The conference was originally scheduled to be held in Brazil and then Chile, but the election of President Jair Bolsonaro and the protests in Santiago changed those plans. Spain agreed to host last month.

READ: Uganda’s teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action

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Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya

Years of political and economic turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring have worsened hardship in Egypt

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Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian Hanem al-Zanati, 75, stands at the door of her home in the village of al-Nehaya, one of the country's poorest, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

The name of the remote Egyptian village, Al-Nehaya, sounds much like the Arabic word for “the end”, which is sadly fitting, given the grinding poverty endured by most of its people.

Years of political and economic turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring have worsened hardship in a country where one in three people live below the poverty line.

One of them is 75-year-old Hanem al-Zanati, who, sitting under the straw roof of her bare-brick home, talked about life in the destitute settlement of 10,000 people in the remote Upper Nile region.

“All I want is a fridge and a small bed,” she says, as if these objects were fantastic luxuries. Zanati has a broken wrist but said she can’t afford to see a doctor because her husband’s pension comes to just 700 Egyptian pounds ($43) a month.

Nehaya lacks its own health care centre as well as a middle or secondary school, a reliable water or electricity supply or a sewage system. Most people survive on hardscrabble agriculture, growing mostly maize and wheat, here in Assiut province, Egypt’s poorest, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Cairo.

With typical day wages around 80 pounds, or $4, many have abandoned the village in search of better lives in urban centres such as Alexandria and the mega-city of Cairo.

‘Beyond Bad’

Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian Hanem al-Zanati, 75, gestures as she speaks at her home in the village of al-Nehaya, one of the country’s poorest, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Many tourists and investors have shunned Egypt since the upheaval that overthrew long-time president Hosni Mubarak. Since 2014, former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ruled.

A sharp fall in the pound has driven up costs of everyday goods, the pain made worse by austerity measures in line with demands from the International Monetary Fund. There may be simmering discontent but few open expressions of anger in a country with a massive, feared security apparatus and overcrowded prisons.

The poverty rate among Egypt’s 100 million people jumped to 32.5 per cent last year, up from 27.8 per cent in 2015, says official statistics agency CAPMAS. The government has launched family income support programmes such as the 2014 “Solidarity and Dignity” initiative, which targeted more than nine million people. 

In July, Sisi launched another plan for those in most need called “Decent Life”. The residents of Nehaya say state officials from the project came to visit the village, promising to build a new school and to restore old houses. But so far, little has been done and conditions have remained the same, they say.

“Conditions here are beyond bad,” says a 20-year-old public servant in Nehaya’s only elementary school pupils use “dilapidated seats” and there are not enough teachers, she said. 

‘No Progress’

Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian men pose for a picture in an alley at the village of al-Nehaya, one of the poorest in the country, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Near the rickety elementary school building, mayor Gamal Thabet is sitting on a simple wooden bench. “Officials from the ‘Decent Life’ initiative visited, inspected homes and reviewed the demands,” he says. “But nothing has changed so far.”

In the village “there is only one elementary school, and the bakery’s products do not cover the needs” of the population, he said.

Unable to afford transport to schools outside the village, families have long called for the allocation of land to build their own middle or secondary school, he added.

Khaled Abdel Nasser, head of the presidential initiative in Assiut, blamed the delayed aid on red tape. But he insisted the project is on track in Nehaya, saying that “all those in need have been identified… and a plot has been allocated for the school building”.

Elsewhere in the village, 31-year-old Mohamed Mustafa appeared troubled as he stood outside his small grocery shop, where goods lay on dusty shelves.

“My family and I live in a run-down house,” said the father of five, leaning against a window to ease his back pain. “All I need is two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. I get a 400 pound (about $25) in (social) allowances but it is not even enough for my back treatment.”

Behind the village school stands two unfinished buildings, one of them a mosque. A sign asking for donations reads: “with God’s blessing the mosque of Sayyidina al-Hussein is under construction in Nehaya village”.

“There has been no progress in construction for four months,” said one villager. “Nobody has the money.”

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