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Sudan’s military-protesters clash casualty rises to 134 min read

The United States and Britain have called for an end to the crackdown on demonstrators

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Sudan's military-protesters clash casualty rises to 13
Sudanese protesters gesture and chant slogans outside Khartoum's army headquarters on June 3, 2019 after security forces broke up a weeks-long sit-in. A doctors' committee said at least 13 people were killed as gunfire echoed from the protest site outside army headquarters in central Khartoum. (Photo by Ebrahim Hamid / AFP)

Sudan’s military rulers forcefully broke up a weeks-long sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters on Monday leaving at least 13 dead, a doctors’ committee said as gunfire echoed from the site.

Heavily armed security forces in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns were deployed in large numbers all around the capital, while gunshots were heard from the protest site by a journalist.

The United States and Britain called for an end to the crackdown on demonstrators, who want the generals behind the overthrow of veteran president Omar al-Bashir to hand over to civilian rule.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is close to the protesters, updated the death toll  “raising the number of martyrs to 13” in a Facebook statement.

It also reported a “large number of critical casualties” and called for “urgent support” from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations to help the wounded.

The military council has denied multiple reports of their forces violently dispersing the sit-in in front of army headquarters, as protesters took to the streets in towns around the country.

But protest leaders said the site had been cleared of demonstrators.

“The Rapid Support Forces, the army and police and militia battalions dispersed the peaceful sit-in,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the protesters’ umbrella group, said in a statement.

Outside the army headquarters “there is no one, but the pure bodies of our martyrs that it has not been possible to evacuate from the site”.  

‘Bloody massacre’ – 

Sudan's military-protesters clash casualty rises to 13

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December, said it amounted to a “bloody massacre” and hundreds of people had been wounded.

It called on Sudanese to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council.

The doctors’ committee said forces were also opening fire inside the city’s East Nile Hospital and “chasing peaceful protesters”.

It said another hospital near the site of the sit-in was surrounded and volunteers were prevented from reaching it.

Rallies against Bashir’s authoritarian, three-decade rule led to his ouster in April, but protesters had remained outside the army headquarters calling 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.

The military council “did not disperse the sit-in by force,” its spokesman said.

“The tents are there, and the youth are moving freely,” Shamseddine Kabbashi told Sky News Arabia.

Protests erupted in towns across Sudan in response to the violence in Khartoum.

“Now the streets are closed (with barricades made) from stone and the chant is going round ‘Just fall, that’s all, the whole Council’,” a witness in Port Sudan on the Red Sea said.

A witness in Atbara, in northern Sudan, said the city’s roads were closed and “even the streets that link it to other towns.”

‘Heavy gunfire’-

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

The country’s foreign minister condemned “the attack on protesters by Sudanese security forces” and called it “an outrageous step”. 

“The Military Council bears full responsibility for this action and the international community will hold it to account,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote on Twitter.

The US embassy in Khartoum said “security forces’ attacks against protesters and other civilians is wrong and must stop.”

“Responsibility falls on the TMC. The TMC cannot responsibly lead the people of Sudan,” it added referring to the transitional military council.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change announced “the end of all political contact and negotiations with the putschist Council” following the deaths, even as neighbouring Egypt appealed for the two sides to talk.

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.

The rally leaders urged “peaceful marches and rallies” nationwide and for barricades to be put up including in the capital.

Protesters had already set about building a brick barricade and had set tyres and tree trunks alight on one of the main streets in the capital.

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Former Spanish garrison becomes tourist magnet

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Former Spanish garrison becomes tourist magnet
Kite-surfers manuever their kites at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

In the heart of Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kitesurfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.

In Dakhla, an Atlantic seaport town punctuated with military buildings in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, swarms of kitesurfers now sail in the lagoon daily.

“Here there is nothing other than sun, wind and waves. We turned the adversity of the elements to our advantage: that’s the very principle of kitesurfing,” said Rachid Roussafi. 

After an international career in windsurfing and kitesurfing, Roussafi founded the first tourist camp at the lagoon at the start of the 2000s. 

“At the time, a single flight a week landed in Dakhla,” the 49-year-old Moroccan said.

Today, there are 25 a week, including direct flights to Europe.

“Dakhla has become a world destination for kitesurfing,” said Mohamed Cherif, a regional politician.

Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 today, he said, adding they hoped to reach 200,000 annual visitors. 

Tourists watch kitesurfers at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara
Tourists watch kitesurfers at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The former Spanish garrison is booming today with the visitor influx adding to fishing and trade revenue.

Kitesurfing requires pricey gear — including a board, harness and kite — and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities. 

Peyo Camillade came from France “to extend the summer season”, with a week’s holiday costing about 1,500 euros ($1,660). 

Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometre point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region’s history of conflict.

In the 1970s, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed.

A United Nations mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.

Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions. 

‘Good communication’ –

“The secret to success is to develop kitesurfing with good communication focused on the organisation of non-political events,” said Driss Senoussi, head of the Dakhla Attitude hotel group. 

Accordingly, the exploits of kitesurfing champions like Brazilian Mikaili Sol and the Cape Verdian Airton Cozzolino were widely shared online during the World Kiteboarding Championships in Dakhla last month.

The competition seemed to hold little interest for Dakhla’s inhabitants however.

Only a few young people with nothing to do and strolling families found themselves on the beach for the finals.

Just as rare are the foreign tourists who venture into the town of 100,000 residents to shop.

A kitesurfer manoeuvring her kite at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara.
A kitesurfer manoeuvring her kite at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Like her friends, Alexandra Paterek prefers to stay at her hotel, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from downtown. 

“Here is the best place in the world for learning kitesurfing,” said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess. 

On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: “It’s an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure.”

Like many tourists, she was under the impression that the area belonged to Morocco, as the destination tends to be marketed in the travel industry as “Dakhla, Morocco”.

That angers the Polisario, which wants independence for the disputed region and tried last year in vain to sue businesses it said were “accomplices to the occupying military power.”

The independence movement is now focused on challenging commercial deals between Morocco and the European Union that involve Western Sahara, according to the group’s French lawyer Gilles Devers.

Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing. 

Environmental concerns –

On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, “there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism,” said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

“One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs,” said the representative, adding that “pressure from real-estate investors is very high.”

With the influx of tourists, the protection of the environment has become a major concern.

“Everything is developing so quickly… we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater,” said Rachid Roussafi. 

Read: Plastic in crosshairs at UN environment forum

Daniel Bellocq, a retired French doctor, worries for the future of this lagoon, that was “once so wild” that he has kitesurfed in for 20 years.

“There is green algae that weren’t there before, it’s becoming a septic tank,” he said.

Regional councillor Cherif, though, insists the bay is clean, saying: “All the hotels are equipped with wastewater management systems.”

For him, the real threat is from plastic waste, whether it is dropped by tourists or brought by sea currents. 

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Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Tunisian politician allegedly masturbating outside a high school has sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

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Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Read Also: Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition, even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda — Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo, was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But “unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

“I stopped, and I held him to account”.

Breaking taboos 

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women’s rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by law with a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group — ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

“At first, we created a group to defend the young girl who filmed the lawmaker, because she had suffered a lot of criticism and pressure,” said Myriam Bouattour, who heads Aswat Nissa.

“Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists.”

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have “broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia”.

‘Didn’t lift a finger’ 

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi — the woman who called out street harassment — laments the passivity of the police, who “were a few feet away” and did not “lift a little finger” to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly “did nothing”.

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed “the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us”, the initiative includes an app that uses a chatbot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim or witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credit, emp the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to “intimidate and scare the harasser”.

“People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react”, Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as “the financial means allow it”, she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia’s battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure — the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan’s first-ever satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, the country’s ruling body said Tuesday.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s sovereign council, announced the launch of the satellite at a meeting of his top security officials held in Khartoum.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that the satellite was launched on Sunday from north China’s Shanxi Province.

“The satellite aims to develop research in space technology, acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country’s military needs,” a statement issued by the council said.

The spokesman of the ruling body Mohamed al-Fakhi Sulaiman told reporters that “in a few months the satellite would be monitored from Sudan”.

“China launched the satellite as it is a partner in this project.”

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics.

In 2013, the then Sudanese government of now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir established the Institute of Space Research and Aerospace (ISRA) as part of an overall plan to develop space technologies.

Bashir was ousted by the army in April following a nationwide protest movement against his rule of three decades.

The protests were triggered by the economic crisis led by an acute shortage of foreign currency and high inflation.

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