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Protest group calls for nationwide ‘civil disobedience’ in Sudan4 minutes read

The call for “civil disobedience” came a day after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Khartoum

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Street 60 nearly deserted in the capital Khartoum. Hanging placards read in Arabic "Civilian and Peaceful".

A key protest group on Saturday announced a nationwide “civil disobedience” campaign it said would run until Sudan’s ruling generals transfer power to a civilian government.

The call by the Sudanese Professionals Association, which first launched protests against longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, came days after a bloody crackdown on demonstrators left dozens dead in Khartoum and crushed hopes for a swift democratic transition.

“The civil disobedience movement will begin Sunday and end only when a civilian government announces itself in power on state television,” the SPA said in a statement.

“Disobedience is a peaceful act capable of bringing to its knees the most powerful weapons arsenal in the world.”

It was still unclear how the campaign would unfold on the streets, especially in Khartoum where all key roads and squares have been deserted since Monday’s crackdown.

Led by men in army fatigues, the raid on the weeks-long sit-in outside the army complex left at least 113 people dead, according to doctors close to the demonstrators.

The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide in the crackdown, 52 of them by “live ammunition” in Khartoum.

Witnesses say the assault was led by the feared Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia, accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004.

The call for “civil disobedience” came a day after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Khartoum seeking to revive talks between the generals and protest leaders on the country’s transition.

Protest leaders arrested

Sudan’s military council seized power in April after ousting Bashir on the back of months-long protests against his three-decade rule.

Since then, it has resisted calls from protesters and Western nations to transfer power to a civilian administration.

Several rounds of talks with the demonstrators finally broke down in mid-May.

In a bid to revive the negotiations, the Ethiopian premier held separate meetings with the two sides in Khartoum on Friday.

“The army, the people and political forces have to act with courage and responsibility by taking quick steps towards a democratic and consensual transitional period,” Abiy said in a statement after the meetings.

“The army has to protect the security of the country and its people and political forces have to think about the future of the country.”

But three members of an opposition delegation that met the Ethiopian premier were later arrested, their aides said Saturday.

Opposition politician Mohamed Esmat was detained Friday, while Ismail Jalab, a leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), was taken from his home overnight.

“A group of armed men came in vehicles at 3:00 am (0100 GMT) and took away Ismail Jalab… without giving any reason,” one of his aides, Rashid Anwar, told AFP.

He said SPLM-N spokesman Mubarak Ardol was also detained.

Esmat and Jalab are both leading members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella of opposition parties and some rebel groups.

The Alliance, of which the SPA is a key member, was the main organiser of mass protests since December that led to Bashir’s ouster.

Call for international probe

The arrests threaten to further complicate efforts to reconcile the protest movement and the generals.

Following Monday’s brutal crackdown, chances of a quick democratic transition appear remote as protest leaders now insist that talks with the generals can resume only under certain conditions.

“The Transitional Military Council has to admit the crime it committed,” Omar al-Digeir, a prominent protest leader told reporters on Friday after meeting Abiy.

He demanded an international probe into “the massacre at the sit-in” and called for all military forces to be removed from streets across the country.

Digeir said the military council should also restore access to the internet and allow public and media freedoms.

Since the crackdown, Khartoum residents have mostly been sheltering indoors and the streets have been deserted.

RSF members and soldiers on Saturday cleared major Khartoum streets of roadblocks put up by protesters.

Demonstrators had used tyres, tree trunks and rocks to erect the makeshift barricades, which the generals had warned would not be tolerated.

RSF chief and deputy head of the military council, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has warned he will not tolerate “any chaos”.

Some barricades remained in place, witnesses said Saturday, but the protest site at military headquarters was out of bounds.

Troops and RSF paramilitaries surrounded it from all sides to keep demonstrators at bay.

The protest slogans that once rang across Khartoum — “freedom, peace, justice” and “civilian rule, civilian rule” — were nowhere to be heard.

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Nigeria reopens economy, worship centres as flights resume June 21

A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were already violating the lockdown measures and the police seemed to have lost control of enforcement.

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File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari in an address at the State House, Abuja.

The Nigerian government on Monday further announced the relaxing of Covid-19 lockdown that has shuttered the economy for more than two months.

Under the phase two reopening, the ban on the banking sector, religious gatherings and closure of markets were lifted with the earlier national curfew revised between 10pm to 4am, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 announced Monday at a briefing in the capital, Abuja.

A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were violating the lockdown measures with the connivance of some sections of security agencies like the police who were mostly being bribed by commuters and drivers to pass through checkpoints on interstate highways despite the ban on interstate travel.

Most small businesses and worship centres in suburbs of state capitals including the nation’s capital, Abuja were also operating unhindered in what seemed like the authorities had lost control of the lockdown, residents said. The rule on compulsory use of facemask was also being violated as many refused to use such measures except after sighting policemen or local taskforce operatives.

Cabinet Secretary, Boss Mustapha who heads the Taskforce said President Muhammadu Buhari had also approved that domestic flights should resume on June 21 and directed airlines to take between 50 and 70 per cent of passengers on any flight.

The PTF said the aircraft of most airlines were currently being serviced in preparation for the June 21 resumption date for domestic flights.

– Local flights to resume –

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika at the briefing also said the airfares of flights would be proportionate to the current global realities facing the aviation industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The modality of operations by airlines and the passenger numbers will certainly drop and the load factor will also drop. Only 50 or 70 per cent of the passengers should be taken. These are some of the things that we have been looking at”, Sirika announced.

Sirika said the three-week period between June 1 and the resumption date would enable operators to adhere to all the necessary industry regulations, without which they would not take to the skies after being dormant for some time.

“This is because aviation, unlike other sectors, is a highly regulated sector,” he said.

The minister said consultations had been on and would continue between the ministry and industry stakeholders on the best ways to operate profitably while at the same time ensuring the safety of travellers.

Sirika had earlier cautioned owners of private aircraft who had been in the habit of asking for permits to fly within the country despite the restrictions in place to desist, as the restrictions were still in place, except for those on essential services.

Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu at a national briefing of the PTF on Covid-19 in Abuja. Twitter/@NCDCgov

– Banks, markets reopen –

National Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr. Aliyu Sani said the full reopening of the financial sector, restricted opening of worship centres will be granted by the 36 states and capital, Abuja subject to the PTF guidelines.

The announcement injected a new lease of life into big businesses and SMEs that had remained shut over the months.

Banks were given immediate clearance to operate fully. Hotels got the nod to reopen “but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention”.

“The goal of phase two over the next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country”, Sani said.

“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services.

“The nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm to 4am. The purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus”, Dr Sani said.

The government also announced that “all interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.”

– Not yet uhuru on Covid-19 fight –

Despite the new relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown rules, the government said it was “still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.”

“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of the work place or places of worship remains prohibited. In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours”, officials announced.

Schools however remain closed as the federal authorities said they were yet to reach a decision on the matter but made some concessions.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown”, PTF’s Sani said.


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UN condemns use of IEDs against civilians in Libya

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians…,” the UN said.

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A man inspects the wreckage of a car outside the Khadra General Hospital which is dedicated to treating people infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on April 8, 2020, after it was targeted by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned the use of improvised explosive devices against civilians in the southern part of Tripoli, as the armed conflict between the east-based army and the UN-backed government continues.

UNSMIL “is extremely concerned about reports that residents of the Ain Zara and Salahuddin areas of Tripoli have been killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices placed in or near their homes,” UNSMIL said in a statement Monday.

“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians who must be protected under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.

UNSMIL called on all individuals to “seek information and heed security advice to stay away from areas that have not been declared safe to enter by a competent authority or items of unknown origin which may be explosive devices”.

UNSMIL also commended the search and clearance work by Libyan Police and Military Engineers, reaffirming its continued support to Libyan partners, communities, and stakeholders “who are working tirelessly to rid Libya of the threat of explosive remnant of war (ERW)”.

The UN-backed government’s forces accused the rival east-based army of planting mines before withdrawing from conflict areas in southern Tripoli.

Since April 2019, the east-based army has been leading a military campaign attempting to take over Tripoli and topple the UN-backed government.

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Strike looms as public sector wage dispute enters arbitration in South Africa

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The ongoing face-off between workers in the public sector and the South African government continues. According to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), disagreement between the trade unions and government has moved the talks to arbitration for further hearing.

PSCBC General Secretary, Frikkie De Bruin explains that the arbitration hearings will begin by mid-June. An arbitrator will issue an award after the hearings are complete, with the matter potentially heading to court or resulting in a strike if the unions aren’t happy.

Ordinarily, public sector workers make up a third of South Africa’s expenditure. But with the coronavirus lockdown and income reduction, Pretoria seems unwilling to incur more debt.

If not handled carefully to appease the workers, the ruling African National Congress, (ANC) could lose its political dominance in the next local elections.

If no resolution is reached and the workers decide to resolve it an industrial action, it could erode all effort made by the government in the fight against the coronavirus.

The dispute started in February when the government affirmed that it could not fulfil its 2018 agreement on a three-year wage agreement.

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