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Sudan generals meet protest leaders in final talks on ruling council4 minutes read

The composition of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations.

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Sudan generals meet protest leaders in final talks on ruling council

Army generals and protest leaders are on Wednesday expected to finalise the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for three years, the thorniest issue in installing civilian rule.

The protest movement that brought down president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of iron-fisted rule is demanding a civilian-led transition, which the generals have steadfastly resisted since bowing to their demands and toppling the autocrat.

The latest breakthrough came despite the talks being marred by violence that left six people dead on Monday at a sit-in held by protesters outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.

Wednesday’s crucial negotiations are due to start at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), said Khalid Omar Yousef, a leader from the protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

“The announcement is expected after midnight,” he told reporters.

The current talks began on Monday and the two sides have since agreed on an overall civilian structure, including a three-year transitional period for the full transfer of power to a civilian administration.

They have also agreed that parliament be composed of 300 members for the transition, with 67 per cent from the alliance and the rest drawn from other political groups.

The first six months of the transition would be devoted to reaching peace accords with rebels in war zones including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The United Arab Emirates, which according to analysts backs the ruling generals, hailed the agreement on a transitional period.

It “puts Sudan on the road of stability and recovery after years of Bashir and (Muslim) Brotherhood’s dictatorship,” its minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gragash, tweeted.

‘All powers with cabinet’ –

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have offered $3 billion in aid for Sudan.

The composition of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations, with the two sides so far offering different make-ups of the body which is expected to take all key decisions concerning national issues.

The generals want it to be military-led, while the protesters insist on a majority civilian body.

“We vow to our people that the agreement will be completed fully within 24 hours in a way that it meets the people’s aspirations,” said General Yasser al-Atta, one of the members of the current ruling military council.

The new council is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election after the three-year changeover period ends.

The protest leader, Yousef downplayed the role of the proposed ruling council, insisting Sudan would have a powerful cabinet.

“All powers will be in the cabinet’s hand, which will be formed by the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” he said.

“Only the ministers of defence and interior are going to be with the military.”

He reiterated the protesters’ demand that the “majority of the (sovereign) council members must be civilians”.

Tensions have soared this week as deadly violence erupted at the site of the long-running sit-in protest outside the army complex in Khartoum.

The shootings that killed five protesters and an army major on Monday came a day after protesters blocked a key avenue in Khartoum, which the generals said was “totally unacceptable”.

Blames and optimism –

The United States blamed the army for the deaths.

They “were clearly the result of the Transitional Military Council trying to impose its will on the protesters by attempting to remove roadblocks”, said its embassy in Khartoum.

“The decision for security forces to escalate the use of force, including the unnecessary use of tear gas, led directly to the unacceptable violence later in the day that the TMC was unable to control.”

The United States has consistently called on the military council to transfer power to civilians.

The protest movement, after initially blaming the militias of the former regime for the bloodshed, later accused the military council.

“We put the whole responsibility on the military council for what happened yesterday because it’s their direct responsibility to guard and protect the citizens,” said Mohamed Naji al-Assam, a prominent figure in the movement.

Thousands of protesters remain camped outside the military complex in central Khartoum awaiting the outcome of the ongoing talks.

The sit-in has become the focal point for the protest movement, overtaking the near daily demonstrations that had been held across Sudan while Bashir remained in power.

“We are optimistic about the agreement,” said protester Mohamed Adam, referring to the transitional period accord.

“It represents victory for the Sudanese people over the remnants of the former regime.”

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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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North Africa

Libyan Coast Guard rescues 315 illegal migrants

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, IOM said earlier Monday.

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FILE PHOTO: This picture taken on October 1, 2019 shows rescued migrants sitting on a pier next to a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the capital. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

The Libyan Coast Guard has rescued 315 illegal migrants, bringing them back to the capital Tripoli, the United Nations Higher Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

“Today at dawn, Libyan Coast Guard returned to Tripoli 315 refugees and migrants after being intercepted/rescued at sea aboard several boats,” the UNHCR tweeted Monday.

“Two people lost their lives and their bodies were recovered. UNHCR partner IRC (International Rescue Committee) was on site to provide urgent medical care to all survivors,” the UNHCR said.

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said earlier Monday.

The IOM reiterated call for ending returns of rescued migrants to Libya and establishing a safe alternative disembarkation mechanism.

After the fall of the late leader Gaddafi’s government in 2011, Libya became a preferred point of departure for thousands of illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores.

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Business News

Algeria to invest $3 billion in solar power, free up gas export

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The Coronavirus pandemic is proving to be the motivator for more economic diversification. An example of this, is Algeria’s plan to invest further in renewable energy and generate more electricity. The country intends to invest at least $3 billion dollars in this endeavor.

These new photovoltaic solar plants will generate a combined production capacity of 4000 mega watts (MW). The electricity will be consumed locally and excesses sold. The move will enable more gas to be sold externally.

Recently, Algeria lost its main gas supply destination due to cheaper alternatives with more supplies.

Currently, gas is used in generating about 98% of total electricity production in Algeria. But recent development has been encouraging Algiers to increase its exports of gas and crude oil, which are the main sources of Algeria’s revenue. Solar generated electricity makes up the remaining 2%.

Algeria’s Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerrad’s office announced the development on its website following a meeting of the government.

“In addition to meeting national demand for energy and preserving our fossil resources, this project will allow us to position ourselves on the international market,” it said in a statement.

It gave no details on where the electricity might be sold abroad or how much the proposed plants would contribute to domestic supply.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global movement restriction has influenced the drastic drop in crude oil and gas sales affecting countries like Algeria. The past two weeks has seen a gradual rise in price but Algeria like many other OPEC members have announced plans to seek foreign loans in 2020 for the first time in years to fund what they called “strategic projects”.

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